CNU TFXC Training Theory
Annual & Seasonal PlanNing
Annual planning takes into account the four seasons of the academic year and the different opportunities and demands in each. Summer is a great time to increase training volume/capacity, raw strength, and other general athletic qualities as outside stresses are generally at their lowest of the year and competitions are farthest away. School and competition seasons are stressors that challenge recovery, so training needs to be more focused and specific. Championships require peak performance, so all training and recovery factors leading up to them must be carefully managed.
Each Championship Season causes a build-up of stress both physically and emotionally that must be accounted and managed so that each season continually improves upon the previous.
Each Championship Season is broken into four phases (General Preparation, Specific Preparation, Competition, Championship/Peak) followed by a Transition or Post-Season Phase to set up the next cycle.
General Preparation Phase
This phase is where you establish your athletic base for the season. The younger your training age (number of years of organized training), the longer your General Prep Phase should last. It is extremely important to include a thorough flexibility program during this phase. Fitness elements may include a greater degree of cross training. The key is to be consistently very active while focusing on the foundational elements required for your general athletic development.
Specific Preparation Phase
As the first competitions draw nearer, the preparations become more specific to the needs of your events. Emphasis shifts to lots of drill/pace work and generally establishing the foundations for the key elements of your events. This is the time to translate your general fitness and athleticism in to TFXC readiness.
In some literature, the General Prep and Specific Prep phases are often described as “Training to Train”.
Once we enter the competition phase of the season, the training schedule changes to accommodate meets and travel. Getting sufficient rest is imperative not only to allow your body to recover and build from your training, but also to be well prepared mentally and physically for competition.
Training elements become more competition-specific and more intense with those intensities varying with experience/tolerance. Technical work starts connecting individual drills into movement complexes and pace work incorporates more variations.
In the Competition Phase, we are “Training to Compete”.
Peaking is a process of further shifting the training load (the product of volume and intensity) towards the highest intensity efforts of the cycle and therefore decreasing the volume of training. This allows you to sharpen your skills and readiness for the Championships. A full peaking cycle may require a few weeks to allow your body to recover from the fatigue of earlier training phases, maximize stored substrates (energy sources), and acclimate to the stresses of very high intensity work.
The length of the peaking cycles will depend on several factors, including priority Championships opportunities, training ages, external stressors, etc. Longer peaking cycles also require longer transitions, so they must be balanced with the overall goals of the particular training stages for each athlete. Shorter peaking cycles preserve training reps and minimize wear and tear on your systems. The training intensity still increases, but to a lesser extent so that you can maintain a higher workload and consistency with technical execution. This also allows you to start into the next Competition Phase sooner.
Those athletes focused on Nationals will start their peaking phases later than those pointing towards Conference. “Surprise Qualifiers” will stretch their peaking phase from the Conference Championships on to the National Championships.
With more recovery time between reps, mental preparation and focus techniques will be emphasized and rehearsed. Physically and mentally, the Championship Phases are about “Training to Win”.
It is extremely demanding physiologically and psychologically to taper to a high competitive peak. Further, it is impossible to build on a peak (by definition) and nearly impossible to sustain a peak for more than a few weeks. After the Cross Country and Indoor Championships, we have two to three more months of training and competition before the next Championships. In order to have any hope of continuing to develop and improve through the subsequent seasons and be ready to challenge again at the Championships meets, we must reset our bodies and prepare to get back to normal training. The transition process includes a reduction in training intensity and longer recovery time between training sessions before gradually rebuilding the training volume.
This is a return to “Training to Train”.
After your final Championship Season of the year, the first order of business is to recover mentally and to give your body the necessary rest so that it is ready to start the pre-season General Prep Phase with vigor, health, and anticipation for another even better year. Fully recovering injuries/issues is a top priority (along with planning any training elements required to keep the issue(s) from returning). A slow return to moderate activities follows before starting back into structured training.