keep your eye on the prize and remember that your goal is to peak your performance for Games competition
be realistic with the goals you have from your program and allocate time accordingly
-recovery from training in the form of nutrition, sleep, and stress management are necessary for a successful program
-develop skills that make you more efficient at the games and have a high carry over to a variety of your performance goals
With the regionals in the rearview mirror and the Games scheduled for July 21-26, I thought it’d be a good time to share tips for peaking for the Games. Peaking for sports performance is a mix of science and art. For any serious athlete, they’ll need a detailed program designed to elicit the proper amount of stimulation and adaptation to the various athletic/physiologic characteristics needed for performance. Likewise, although there are an increasing amount of disposable tools that I’m a fan of and use like measuring heart rate variability and barbell velocity, there’s a bit of an art to understanding when to push more or hold back some in the training camp. Peak to early or too late in the training camp and your performance suffers.
Don’t Leave It All In The Gym – the WODs are a fun part of Crossfit that initially motivate many people to take up the sport. The competitive nature of them, also drive many to push themselves to a boundary they might’ve previously thought unreachable. This can be beneficial in most situations but for an athlete seeking to prepare for an event this can also sabotage their training efforts. Going all out in every training session places an immense amount of physical stress on a person’s ability to recover and increases the likilihood that they may “burn out” from mental fatigue as well. It’s important to consider the WODs in the context of days, weeks, and months and how it’ll impact the rest of your training routine. Will going all out in your WOD to put up the best score leave you with adequate time to recover for your next training session the next day? Will it leave you in adequate condition to optimally train before you transition to a different phase of your program? This isn’t to say that you should phone in your workouts either, training with all out intensity every session isn’t optimal but in a good program you will need a few sessions (the amount varies by individual) where you use it as a litmus test to push yourself a bit, both for the mental and physical confidence of knowing you can dig deep into your resevoir when things get challenging.
Set Realistic Goals – a flaw in programming for Corssfit events that some people have is that the timing of their goals isn’t realistic to their short term needs. Having a large aerobic base or high maximal strength levels are certainly beneficial attributes that would undoubtedly improve event performance. But mid-season it isn’t the smartest allocation of time to work on adding 100 lbs to your squat as an example. The building of these baseline foundations should be done in the offseason. A well developed program will be designed to improve various athletic attributes necessary for performance but in the context of the total event.
Recovery – recovery from training is what enables one to peak for an event. As you introduce progressively more intense stimuluses to your training routine, your body becomes stressed and begins to adapt. For the adaptation to occur, all facets of recovery should be in order for optimal benefits. This includes controlling nutrition, sleep schedule, and stress management. Your diet should have an adequate caloric amount to fill all your energy demands with out being excessive to the point that you accumulate extra body fat which could hinder performance for most people. Your sleep schedule should be in order and you should be getting an adequate amount of rest where you feel ready to perform the next day. There have been various studies linking sleep depravation to reduced performance. And lastly stress management is necessary to keep hormonal balance in order.
Skill Development – I believe skill development is a beneficial allocation of time. While it’s difficult to predict what exact events will be on the Games, event specific skill development work is of great benefit for any program. Specifically things that have a high return on investment. Olympic lifting technique work as an example can be of benefit on the day of the Games because more efficient technique will require less energy ultimately improving your overall work rate. Gymnastic work especially is of great benefit because things like handstands require high amounts of technique. An additional benefit with the gymnastic work is that it can be trained more frequently, as the intensity does not need to be high for benefits to take place and the mastery of body control transfers over to virtually every athletic endevaour. As was mentioned earlier in the article even with skill work it is important be smart with the allocation of time and have realistic goals. There should be an emphasis on skill development in the overall scheme of a program but not to the detriment of any other training modality.
Summary: Use a program designed to leave you peaked for the Games to perform optimally. This means taking into account the intensity of each individual training session in the context of your overall program. Having realistic and often times measurable performance outcomes that you can expect during each phase of your program. A well designed recovery plan that enables you to progressively adapt throughout your training camp. And an emphasis on event specific skill work that has a high carry over to competition.