Understanding a Training Plan
Not every sporting program can be accommodated by a calendar. However, for an individual to have the chance to achieve performances that tax their potential to the fullest, it is necessary to have training experiences (sport specific)which allow appropriate developments to occur. If an athlete is unable, or is unprepared to train for a sport in the best manner possible (periodised/progressive training plan), then he or she cannot perform to the level that is possible with full training.
In paddling, dedication to the sport is even more important. Because its activities are so unnatural, the position and nature of its movements very uncommon, and the demands of its activities so unique, a greater level of activity participation is required than in more “normal” sports. If an athlete was a runner, then walking and moving in an upright position has some commonality with the running action. The load on the circulatory system, the muscles exercised, and the types and scope of everyday activities are remotely associated with running. Everyday activity serves as a low grade stimulation of the broad spectrum of basic attributes associated with running. However, similar everyday stimulation does not occur with paddling. To all intents and purposes, when a paddler is not paddling, the adaptations of paddling totally lack stimulation and undergo a level of inactivity that is equivalent to bed rest. Such an assertion may be questioned by many coaches who believe in “cross-training” and the value of doing non-paddling activities to benefit paddling . However, the research evidence is very clear that training effects are very specific and for an unnatural sport such as paddling there is very little benefit, if any, from doing activities other than paddling. To concluded that paddling “strength” is best achieved by repeated maximum exercises that duplicate as closely as possible the skill of paddling. The most appropriate exercise that they suggested was a series of maximum sprint paddling efforts. I like to think that for the benefit of overuse of the paddling muscles and boredom some useful cross training such as swimming or running for cardio-conditioning and paddling stroke specific strengthen work is of value to the “on water training plan”.
To achieve the highest levels of paddling performance, it is crucial that athletes follow a periodised /progressive loading training plan and it is assumed that an athlete will be able to take part in the full training program. If the training program cannot be accommodated as a full-training plan then the coach/athlete will have to reduce parts of the training plan requirements with the understanding that an athlete’s potential performances will be reduced by the degree of compromise that occurs.
There are five phases of a Training plan:
- transition phase;
- basic preparatory phase;
- specific preparatory phase;
- precompetition phase; and
- competition phase.
A complete training program is planned. The habit of vague planning and then constructing the content of training sessions as they occur is no longer adequate. It now remains for coaches and athletes to plan the way principles and characteristics of training can be used in a year-round program, one that is built on known principles, and one which should not be altered in any drastic manner once it is implemented. Alterations should be guided by objective test and performance results, as well as by careful athlete-involved discussions. A commitment must be made not to panic in an attempt to change a training program by suddenly altering the loadings of volume or training intensities. Sudden shifts in training regimens are stressful for athletes, and those stresses, plus the obvious inconsistency that develops from sudden changes, may be harmful to an athlete’s development, outweighing the benefits that might be gained from change.
The Relationship of Basic to Specific Training
Sport theorists often have talked of basic and specific training concepts. Generally, it has been conceded that basic training should precede specific training if best performances are to be achieved. There have been few other guidelines or principles offered on the subject. However, from practice and sports science there recently have emerged more principles that give better directions for planning the physical conditioning of athletes for particular performances. Several hypotheses and principles are explained below.
Basic preparatory training should have several objectives. The purposes of basic training are to:
- develop fully all undifferentiated physiological capacities;
- prepare the musculature of the body in a totally balanced manner (e.g., in strength training both agonists and antagonists are developed); and
- establish the basic qualities of the intended specific movements (e.g., sprinters should perform some explosive exercises and participate in activities that concentrate on speed of movement).
Basic preparatory training takes much more time to complete than specific training. Basic preparatory work requires attention to more capacities and musculature than specific training. Those extra requirements demand a longer period of training. Also, basic preparatory work usually functions in a change training mode, that is, capacities are changed from a lower level to a higher level of function. When all capacities are fully developed, they then can be programmed in maintenance mode, which usually means at least a 50 percent reduction in training volume for each trained capacity. In comparison, specific training only requires particular activities that transfer directly to the competitive milieu as well as maintenance of the basic preparatory altered states. Specific training effects occur much faster than basic training effects because they are simpler in terms of the complexity and diversity of factors being trained.
The greater the amount of basic preparatory training, the better will be the specific trained effects. Ultimate competitive performances will be governed by the amounts of specific and basic preparatory training. Specific trained effects are limited because of their restrictive nature. Basic trained effects are quite extensive even though not all their effects will directly influence competitive performance. However, the sum of the two sets of effects will be greater than either alone. It is a coaching error to concentrate only on basic capacities (e.g., focusing on maintaining VO2max qualities right up to the important performance). It is equally erroneous to forgo basic preparation and only do specific training. In that case, the physical basis for performance will be far from optimal and so, competitive performances will be compromised accordingly. It is generally hypothesized that the greater the basic preparatory period:
- the longer will be the period that a peak performance can be sustained;
- the better will be the ultimate specific performance; and
- the greater will be resistance to injury.
All general physical capacities should be fully trained prior to commencing specific training. A large portion of specific training involves the reorganization of existing physical capacities into refined performance. The brain discriminates the level of capacities and the portions of the musculature that are needed to perform a technical task. With discrimination training, there is a constant discarding of unwanted resources which results in improvement in performance efficiency. As specific actions are developed, athletes become aware of specific “feelings” associated with particular movements. When those feelings are associated with improved or successful performances they are reinforced. This leads to an athlete’s perception of what a “good” performance feels like. For example, one often hears talk of a “grooved” swing in golf, or a “flowing smoothness” in running and in swimming, a “feel” for the water.