Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pre-Season Conditioning

How’s your pre-season conditioning going?  I just finished up the second wave (8-day cycle) of the first round of my pre-season conditioning (PSC) phase and feel really good.  I enjoy the extra work that’s involved this time of year:  increased frequency of Plyometrics, Balance Work, Olympic Lifts and even the Metabolic/Conditioning aspects are fun too.

I can tell from recent Twitter/Facebook video posts that a lot of other athletes around the globe are in PSC mode as well.  To be totally prepared for the snow season one needs to be at peak levels in strength, endurance, speed, power, balance, agility/coordination and mental focus, especially for competition settings.  If you’re not addressing all these needs in your PSC program you need a new program and maybe a new coach. 

I’ve observed a few common errors in PSC work and thought I’d share them with you while you still have time to adjust your training before you get out on the snow.

#1 – Focusing too much on one aspect of training.

It’s easy to get carried away with the thought that one needs to do crazy amounts of plyometrics, or conditioning sessions to get ready for the season, usually at the expense of strength and power.  As mentioned before, there are many aspects that need to be at peak levels to ensure top performance on the snow.  Your PSC should match those needs.  For example I use 3 weight training days, 1 plyometric day, 1 metabolic day and a few other ‘cardio’ days mixed in on occasion during each training wave.  Every necessary element is addressed and is given an appropriate amount of focus and effort (no one aspect is more important – they all are).      

Bottom line – if your coach has you focusing too much on only one aspect of training leading up to the season, you’re missing out.

#2 – Wasting time doing things in training not directly applicable to your sport.
Are You Training for This Sport?
I was watching a video where the participants were doing a parkour-style ‘challenge’ and I was wondering how many times I encounter a scenario where I need parkour skills out on the mountain.  The only thing I could think of is when I do a handplant, and that’s about once a month, ha!

Now is it ok to do that kind of challenge as a fun way to develop a little competition between athletes?  Yes.  Is it possible to develop spatial awareness/balance skills from this challenge?  Yes.  Is it worth risking injury right before the season starts to do this kind of stuff?  NO!

I can think of many other training activities that can accomplish those same results (competition and spatial awareness/balance), are completely sports specific and have a direct transfer to our movements on the snow.
Or Are You Training for This Sport?
Bottom line – it’s acceptable to occasionally participate in these kind of activities, but they can’t be used as your main mode of training.  You don’t want to waste precious gym time doing things/developing skills that you will never encounter on the snow.

#3 – Participating in high-risk activities that result in relatively low performance rewards.

The last thing any athlete wants is to get injured during training especially right before the season (not that getting hurt at any time is ideal).  And as much as I like them, box jumps for example, can be a high-risk activity.  Obviously the risk is greatest when using tall boxes.  Is it impressive to jump up onto a 48” box?  Yes.  Can you appropriately develop skills/performance by using lower boxes?  Yes.
Open Frame Box Jumps Can Be Risky
The kind of box you use also has an impact on safety.  Open framed boxes are more dangerous when you miss a jump compared to soft impact (solid) plyo boxes.  Aerobic steps are just shaky in general.

In my last plyo session I finished up by performing 3 sets of 10 reps to a 42” box.  That’s a lot of reps for that height, but I had soft impact (solid) plyo boxes at my disposal.  In the process, I missed 2 jumps and since the equipment is much safer and user friendly, I had no adverse results and just kept going.   If I had missed using an open frame box I would have been toast.
Soft Impact (Solid) Boxes Are The Safest Option
Bottom line – consider the equipment available for plyometrics and adjust height and effort accordingly.  Also avoid super-high rep Olympic lifts (they’re designed for low reps and explosiveness anyway) or any lifting effort where maintaining form becomes an issue (lower the weight or reps or both).

There are many other elements (nutrition, recovery, lift speed rates, etc.) to apply during PSC training which is why it’s so important to have an experienced Coach developing your program and guiding you through the training sessions.  If you’re not confident that you’re on the right PSC path this year, feel free to contact me for a consultation and I can give you an expert appraisal concerning your PCS training.  Better to find out now that you need to adjust your program rather than in the starting gate on your first race day.

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