Tapering and sustaining peak fitness – E3Coach Seires

Here we are at the last of the articles, not the simplest of pieces to finish on but I hope to make it as clear and simple as I can.

Please remember that this is a method to deal with peaking in race season and you are all individuals and therefore will find that different things work best for you. This is a good place to start as it works on basic general human physiology.

We have gone through our solid base season, worked into some lower intensity intervals and then progressed into our speed work, which again let me say means volume has dropped and recovery has become a more important part of our training.

The first point to make is on our taper… For XC we can be looking at a 3-4 day taper before a race and what this means is we can drop away volume and the amount of intensity we have in a week. We never rest the day before the race start but the day before the day before. If Sunday is our race then Friday is the day of feet up with Saturday being a short session, high cadence with 3 approximately 60 second race efforts. Why do we do this? The old school of thought was; rest the day before, but studies done by the Australian institute for sport showed that there was a lag time to full arousal on race day as our minds and bodies were in a sedentary state, hence we inject a little bit of life the day before to prepare our minds and bodies for what is to come.

This approach is nearly the same for a stage event or a 24hr…We would taper for 10 days to 2 weeks and the length of the session on the day before will increase but intensity intervals will be at a lower level.

How our peak holds can depend on how well we have followed the previous few phases, a solid base will allow you to recover quicker. We need to look back to setting A, B and C races as these will also determine when our peak is. For an XC rider, we can say National Point Series and National Championships can be the main focus. If we commit as much to the regional races as well, we may need to add a period of base training and recovery during the season as this will make race season longer than 3 months.

After a race we need an easy recovery flush on the Monday with some stretching. The next day is a day off, followed by steady rides. If we have a race the following weekend, then depending on the seriousness of the race, we can start to add some intensity back in by Thursday.

The quality of our recovery will allow us to pick up again and race hard, believe it or not riders who just race hard all year round don’t tend to improve! They normally level out or sometimes even drop off, our bodies cannot be at race level 12 months of the year. Don’t be afraid to pick races that you just use to practice, hold back a little and save for the race that matters, tour de neighbourhood or national champs? Or Cape Epic you choose.

A time to reflect:

Writing this series of articles has given me a great chance as a coach to review and reflect on some of my own coaching methods and also to look at what else is going on in the world of MTB coaching. It is very easy in any job to just go along with the flow but I believe it’s a coach’s responsibility to make sure they are flexible and are always looking at ways to improve what they do so they can give even more to their athletes.

I have seen recent posts from riders about how they train and race and these are always great to read but we must remember, as athletes, that we cannot always apply what works for one to another… This is where a coach works out what is working and what’s not working. We can pick up magazines and see stuff saying ‘you must train this way if you want to be fast’ etc….. It’s really not that simple, it’s a generalised article then people just go and apply it to their training and wonder why it’s not working?

With my job I get to write for many endurance sports, from road cycling to triathlon, all of which help me to learn as a coach and pass this on to my athletes.

As part of my job I am always looking at what happens across other sports and not just endurance sports, so recently I enjoyed watching I AM BOLT, a legendary and truly amazing athlete, but I was surprised by his lack of drive to train and that at a push he would do two sessions a day, very hard ones mind, then have weekends away just partying or chilling.

Now his coach was smart and realised that if he did not let him have fun and chill he would no longer love running and so would stop, so by letting him have fun he loved his running and so when he did train and race, as we all know, it was fast.

Now, more recently we have the Sports Personality of The Year International award going to Michael Phelps… What can you say? His technique is not a standard taught stroke and if you tried to teach others to swim as he does, it will not work (believe it or not American swim schools did try and cope with his swim technique!!)

The above are just two athletes who work very differently to other athletes.  Over the last 12 years I have worked with over 250 different endurance athletes across all the endurance sports and not 2 athletes have been identical, they have all been unique and so as a coach we must adapt to them.

This leads to a question I get asked a lot and was recently asked in an interview piece by Sports Physio Scott Cornish for Evans cycles.

“a coach is a big investment to make on my training”

Let’s think about that one, we spend thousands on bikes, kit, Garmin GPS, training camps, races and so on, so investing in a coach that can get the best out of you, the athlete, so you can get the most out of that bike and kit is surely a good and in comparison cheap investment for your sport? I will leave you to ponder that one.

Thank you to all who have read this series, it has been great fun and I look forward to 2017 and writing some more.

Other posts in this series

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