EVENT PREPARATION AND TAPERING @ THE INJURY CLINIC
As touched on in our earlier blog post on managing your load around the lure of many events (trail run, marathon, triathlon, tough mudder, cycling etc.), it is best to consider picking just one and give yourself a good 6-10 months to prepare. This allows you to reach PEAK performance at that event, and assists in preventing injury, and ensuring you reach your goal and come away ready for whatever may be next.
Too often we see athletes with blinkers on; always looking and striving for peak performance and results every training week. It’s important to look at the big picture and understand that you’re putting in the hard training hours to compete at your best for the key event you chosen (ideally 6-10 months prior!).
Now, don’t get me wrong, it is ok to have 2-3 events leading up to your major event as ‘training competitions’; But, they’re not going to be events where you should be aiming to peak your performance. It will be too early in the process, and this can often lead to an increased injury risk because the athlete is always trying to do more and more!
So what should you consider when preparing for an event….
1. GET YOURSELF A WELL DESIGNED AND THOUGHT OUT STRENGTH & CONDITIONING PROGRAM!
“No matter what you are trying to do, STRENGTH is going to underpin all athletic tasks” – DR Paul Comfort
Too often strength is the last thing athletes/coaches consider when preparing for an event, when realistically strength training should be the first. If you want to be more powerful and explosive you need to be strong first. If you want to become more efficient with your running and improve your gait you need to be strong. If you want to be injury free and tolerate the load/volume you are putting yourself through in your weekly training you need to be strong! Putting in at least a month of strength training before you start a run/cycle/swimming/pre-season program will just set you up for long term success and an uninterrupted preparation for your event.
2. SET OUT YOUR WEEKLY TRAINING PLAN OR MICROCYCLE
Mapping out when you will be training (day &/or morning/afternoon) and what type of training you will be doing on each day (Strength training, long run, interval running, cycling, swimming, REST DAYS! etc.) will help manage your load and ensure you are able to recover between sessions to get the most out of them. This will also help plan for events and when you need to start tapering. It also helps when holding yourself accountable that you are doing everything possible to achieve your goal.
3. DIET & NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM A QUALIFIED DIETITIAN
Whether looking at week to week training and energy availability, or enhancing recovery and therefore the quality of training sessions, diet & nutrition plays a significant role for athletes of all sports and ability levels.
TAPERING – WHAT IS IT?
Tapering for an event basically means reducing your volume, intensity or resistance so that your training that week doesn’t negatively affect your performance. Tapering is often done a little differently when reducing gym load versus sport-specific load.
Event tapering for running, swimming, cycling etc. can start anywhere from 1 week out from the event to 2-3 weeks out and it depends on what sport you are and how you are training (intensity/volume, etc). With strength training you should start tapering the week of the event and you should have your last gym session anywhere from 4-7 days out from your event. This is due to;
You want to bring the strength/power/speed adaptations into the event, this taper week is all about maintaining those adaptations throughout that week transitioning it into performance to the event.
You also don’t want this session to be too grueling in volume so that you don’t present with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOM’s) like symptoms and can’t compete your highest level due to muscle soreness.
So when you get to your last gym session before your event you should reduce volume! (Sets, repetitions), Not the intensity! (weight lifted, tempo). Your body will get used to the volume of your gym program so therefore backing off the volume of your program near the event will not affect your body status in the days after but will hold the strength adaptations you have been training into your muscles.
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