Training our high school athletes into spring
Apart from snow sports, the two most popular sports for high school and youth athletes in the Valley are soccer and lacrosse. Vail has a strong tradition in both sports, but oftentimes athletes aren’t properly prepared as they enter the preseason, making them prone to injury. This is partially due to being in a colder, snowy environment in the winter and early spring months. Another reason is that many athletes transition quickly from alpine sports, (which require a relatively fixed ankle position), to the demands of soccer or lacrosse, where ankle mobility, toe-off and foot energy are necessary elements.
So for athletes, what is the best way to prepare for next season? There are many schools of thought as to what method is most effective. The very word “preseason” implies that the bulk of preparation takes place immediately prior to the official season. However, for the very dedicated, next season begins the moment that the current season ends.
At Dogma Athletica, we think a more systematic approach is necessary to achieve maximum performance. By administering workouts with the right amount of intensity, volume and technique at certain periods, athletes can sustain a high level of performance for an entire season. If an athlete is training correctly, preseason should take less physical demand than the off-season. Practices and structured workouts can command more energy than the actual games, and the competitive season should result in fewer injuries.
Most collegiate and professional athletes’ training regimens are based on the “periodization principle.” According to this, an athlete should not expect to maintain peak performance all year long; our bodies are not meant to sustain such a high intensity for that length of time. This is where periodization comes into play. Training the body’s cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems while ensuring the athlete is getting adequate rest will enable the athlete to excel when it matters most.
Periodization is broken down into five main phases: Recovery (active rest), off-season, preparation, preseason and competition.
The active rest phase focuses on recovery. During this time, muscle tissue and joints heal from the trauma of the previous season.
Off-season is the time for new muscular and cardiovascular development. This phase targets type I, slow-twitch muscle fibers. Improving strength is achieved by loading type I muscle fibers with increased amounts of protein (vis-a-vis training with less sport-specific exercises), thereby increasing muscle endurance.
The ensuing preparation phase works to increase explosive strength and power. This phase targets type II, fast-twitch, muscle fibers. Whereas type I muscle fibers are aerobic, type II fibers make use of both aerobic and anaerobic metabolic systems. Type II muscles create great force that can only be sustained for a short burst of time. Off-season and the preparation phase develop both metabolic systems, improving the athlete’s endurance as well as explosive strength. These key components improve the athlete as a whole.
The preseason phase is all about sport-specific skills. In this phase, training volume is decreased while intensity is enhanced to simulate the demands of competition. Thanks to the body’s previous gains in muscular and cardiovascular fitness, the athlete is prepared to train efficiently for their chosen sport.
Finally, during the competition phase, maintenance is key in preserving the athlete’s foundation of movement, body awareness and health. Workouts in the competition phase are considered to be high quality but low quantity, meaning the athlete completes fewer workouts each week, but those few workouts are extremely structured.
Look for two additional installments on sport-specific and periodization training for the Valley’s high school athletes soon.
Exercise physiologist Rod Connolly is the owner of Dogma Athletica in Edwards. Starting Monday, March 17, Dogma Athletica will be offering specific-sport coaching for the area’s high school athletes. This coaching will be based on the periodization principle, proper nutrition and work with Dogma trainers and collegiate soccer player Emily Lybarger. Contact Anne at Anne@DogmaAthletica.com for more info.