11/16/15

Preparing for base phase training



There are many names to describe the phase that occurs between the end of a racing season and the start of more structured, specific training stress. 

For the sake of the masses identifying with this blog topic, I used the word "base" phase in this blog post but as you may know, we use the word "transition" as well as "foundation" to describe the first phase after the off-season.

Other coaches have different names for this phase. For example, Matt Dixon with Purple Patch Fitness uses the word "post-season".

The transition (base) phase of training is critical to athlete development. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, preparation for an event is more than just putting in the miles.

As athletes, we are always developing and we are always training in some capacity.
In order to maximize fitness, season after season, it is important to follow a periodized training plan that allows for progression. There must be specific emphasis on peak season training as well as the training to start the season.

Within Trimarni, we create plans that are organized in a way that our athletes are developing skills, endurance and strength before progressing with more intense or longer training.

Therefore, it is important that coaches and athletes see each phase of training as a progression from the previous phase. 

A periodized training plan sets you up for a great performance at your most important events throughout the season. 

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With the off-season emphasizing little to no activity for many athletes, with a combined freedom to indulge a bit more than normal, it is extremely important that you are taking the right steps to prepare your body for your next phase of training. 

I often relate to the transition phase as the beginnings of building a house. No matter the size of the house, the price of the house or the builder of the house, every single house requires a strong foundation.  Without a strong foundation, the house will break apart overtime.

Would you buy a house if the builders rushed through the foundation? How would you feel if the house you have desired to live in for the next 10 years was built by construction workers who liked to take short-cuts, just to get the final product done faster than their competitors?

Regardless of how many years you have been training as an athlete in your sport of choice, we all need an off-season and we all need to follow that part of the season with a return to the basics, addressing weaknesses and of course, laying down the foundation to which upcoming training stress will be placed onto the body. 

For many athletes, the off-season is a challenging time in that an athlete either does too much or does too little. And for many athletes, there is an uncomfortable feeling relating to diet, body image and lack of structured activity.
It's really hard to get the off-season right but maybe that's because there is no right way. But you do need an off-season.
Every athlete is different and the goals of the off-season for one athlete do not have to match the goals of another athlete. Also, each season may follow with a different off-season. This year, I returned to light structured training after 3 weeks of an off-season (after Kona) but in 2014, I took 6 voluntary weeks off with very little exercise. 

So as you think about your next phase of training and perhaps, begin to get excited to train with more structure again, I find it extremely important to encourage you to make sure that your body is in great health before you begin training again.
You do not have to have race day fitness or a race day body image when you finish your off-season but you should be in good health before starting your next phase of training.

Although a mental and physical break are necessary for a smooth progression from one season to the next, it is important that you see the off-season as an integral part of your athletic development. We don't want to make the off-season too long as you do not lose all that you gained in the previous season. And when your off-season is over, it is important to have a smart return to training by building your foundation as you focus on getting stronger before trying to get faster, before going longer.
Not just training where you left off with high volume or high intensity.  

Regardless of what your off-season looks like or what you call your first phase of training post off-season, it is important that you set yourself up for a great start to next season with the following off-season tips:

-Even with the holiday season approaching, it is important that you address your daily diet. Every day, you should be focused on eating a wholesome diet to help nourish your body and keep your immune system in optimal health.
-Now is a great time to work on your relationship with food and your body when the training stress is low. Do not overlook how important it is to maintain a healthy relationship with food and your body throughout the season.
-Be sure to stay hydrated....with water, all day, ever day.
-Focus on good sleep habits and good stress management.
-As you approach your first phase of training (foundation/transition phase), you should not feel as if your training is extremely structured right now. Exercise to maintain a comfortable level of fitness but your lifestyle should not look like you are in peak training (early season is not the time to make sacrifices in life just to train).
-Create a positive workout environment. Be sure your workout space at home is ready for consistent training, you have reviewed pool lane availability times, you consider the days that are best for certain workouts, you are prepared emotionally and mentally for more structure in your day-to-day life (and you have communicated this with your spouse/significant other) and you are ready to make investments to train smarter.
-If you are dealing with any niggles/injuries/sickness - address it, consult a professional and take care of it now. 

As an athlete, you likely live a very structured life and you like to have a plan. 
Preparing for your upcoming season is more than just following a plan and checking off workouts.
There's a lot that you need to focus on between workouts to ensure consistency in training with a healthy body.

As you give your mind and body a break from training, your health is top priority in your off-season.

As you approach your first phase of training, be sure you are prepared for it.
Take care of your body now so it will take care of you next season.