Peaking for a major event is one of the trickiest things to get right. Finding the right balance between volume, intensity and rest is a challenge faced by every athlete and coach. This is when coaching becomes more of an art than a science. Finding the balance involves knowing your athlete well and trusting yourself and the athlete needs to have trust in their coach and the program.
As a sprint coach, I start to look at the athletes recovery after each session about 4 weeks before competition. Making sure that they have recovered sufficiently after each session and that they are ready for the next. I consistently ask for feedback and look for signs of fatigue in their running mechanics. If the athlete appears tired and is running poorly we may modify the session or in extreme cases abandon the session and have another rest day. Its a fine line between having more rest and doing another session. The extra session may just tip the athlete over the edge and leave them flat and tired and take even longer to fully recover. We all suffer with the thought and worry of “have I done enough”. Did that little injury and time off cost me? Did that cold or flu and a few days off ruin my preparation?
Trying to cram more track session in right up until the last minute will not have any benefit as you will just turn up to competition tired and lethargic. If you have had a good pre comp phase the peaking phase will just be the icing on the cake. Unfortunately it is also very easy to peak to early.
How often have you seen an athlete run his best time in a meet or at training leading up to the major event.
We suffered this fate last year when we one of our athletes ran his best time before the Australian titles. We completed a very tough session about 10 days before the Australian Champs and he ran a PB in the session. However it just left him tired and flat for the major meet. As a coach it was my mistake I got it totally wrong. :-(.
To work out our peaking phase I typically work backwards from race day. I write down in a note pad or a printed out calendar page the actual race day, then I work backwards with all the training days available.
I start with separate list of all the sessions I would like to include during this phase leading up to the last 1 days that I block out.
I then start to fill in the calendar with the sessions I feel the athlete needs and what will work best for them. I usually have more session on my list than I can fit into the training period and I quickly cull my list. Sometimes I will rate my sessions in a matter of importance. Marking them with 3, 2 and 1 stars.
My next step if I am struggling to decide between a few different sessions is to sit down with each athlete and get their feedback.
One thing I like to promote to athletes throughout the training year is to think about which sessions bring them on the most.
I find you can do this with seasoned athletes as they will have a very good feeling as to which training sessions bring them on and which sessions aren’t that important. You will often find they will know which sessions leave them feeling confident and ready to race. You can’t do this with inexperienced athletes they just wont have enough experience. After running for many years, I always knew if I could complete a particular training session and I felt good, I was ready to race. On the flip side, if I failed to hit my target times it would destroy my confidence even if I was in race shape. You need to be careful that your athlete is feeling pretty fresh when you try what I like to call “marker” sessions. You want them to hit their targets and walk off the track feeling confident and good about themselves.
As part of our peaking phase we will also do plenty of race modelling. This is one area that I have found to give athletes huge confidence come race day. Especially 400m / 800m runners. Knowing that they can walk onto the track and be positioned in any lane and run their own race is a huge confidence booster.
Things to focus on during the peaking phase.
1. Eat well. Eating clean fresh food will not only keep you weight down but help you recover between sessions. There is plenty of good eating advice on the internet now.
2. Hydrate. Make sure you rehydrate before and after training sessions. This means drinking enough fluid throughout the day before you get to the track.
3. Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping at least 7-8 per night and 9-10hours one night per week if possible.
4. Keep alcohol to a minimum.
5. Try not to sit to much on your training days. If your job involves a lot of sitting take regular breaks and get up and walk around and stretch.
6. Recover in between training session. Go for a walk and stretch in front of the TV. Check out Sanfrancisco Crossfit on You Tube for great mobility and stretching routines.
7. Recover, recover, recover… Recovery starts the moment your session finishes.