Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Peak Performance and Daily Readiness

From the elitevolleyballperformance.com website a while back. I am Batman so I post when I want to... :

One of the more recent programming concepts, which in itself has been practiced outside of the scientific literature and research for many years, is the concept of flexible non-linear periodization. This essentially means the program will include more variation in intensity and volume over a training cycle and within each training week. As part of this progamming some sport scientists and coaches advocate doing a pre-assessment of power and speed and then modifying the training session as necessary based on the athlete's level of performance in that test.

"Time is not the click of the clock. It is the everlasting now." - Anonymous

The primary issue I would like to address here is that in most coaching situations you do not get that day, time, and opportunity back! If an athlete performs poorly on the power and speed pre-assessment in my experience they are far more likely to continue doing so for weeks on end. While modifying the workout is certainly necessary what is not necessary is eliminating the training focus from the session. In this way we are looking at the execution of each training session evaluated for its specific performance, relative to our peak performance, and based on how the athlete approached the session (e.g. feeling tired/flat, sore, unenthusiastic). If the athlete is only capable of 90% of their maximum but we can execute that 90% with great consistency through the session, given the appropriate steps are taken to improve their readiness, then we can still make progress (even if that progress will not be reflected on a 1RM Chart).

So the better strategy is to modify the session and still do our best to continue to teach, have the athlete continue to learn, and address the necessary quality (speed, skill, strength, stamina, and suppleness in their infinite amount of variation). In this way peak performance instead becomes evaluated over the long-term and specific to periods where we have the expectation that peak performance should be achieved. Being proactive in this way is a far better strategy than being poorly reactive to the realities of day to day training variation and readiness.

"Don't move until you see it." - Bruce Pandolfini (Master Chess Coach in the film 'Searching for Bobby Fischer')

 As I have gained more experience in dealing with a high degree of variation in the athlete's readiness to train I have learned that pre-assessment is important but far more important is what measures we may take in the warm-up to improve their readiness to its daily maximal state. For this reason our general and specific warm-up protocols have become far more detailed than I initially believed they needed to be. You often see rigidity in the warm-up protocol and coaches are simply waiting to get to "the real work" and daydream right through this period. This negatively affects the athlete's concentration on the execution of the warm-up and this period offers significant learning opportunities for the athlete if the coach can help the athlete focus better.

For our training program the warm-up period is coached intently and we attempt to take advantage of the crossover effects of both the general and specific exercises and drills that aid learning and development. The transition from general to specific is improved in its fluidity if this can be executed efficiently. If we do not see the things we want to see happening, including what happens on the pre-assessments used, we will not move forward with the training session until we can make the necessary correction. Until we see it. In this way we are attempting to ignite a fire every day and see just how brightly it may burn.

There are parts of every training session that I consider to be more necessary for each athlete and these become a definite priority for the day (referred to in the programming as the stable-linear components) and there are other parts of the program that I do not have a problem varying more from day to day (referred to as the rotational and/or variable components). In this way we have the requisite stability and mobility necessary to strike harmony in the program and avoid treating each athlete like some sort of robot (who will automatically perform or not perform based on tests that in 99% of coaching situations always challenge abilities that still require significant coaching in order to master).

Approach each session with the idea that physical or mental limitations are going to limit this session's productivity and you will find plenty of reasons to stay where you are as an athlete and never make progress. Instead approach every training session with the idea that you have to make the best of now and you will find that training becomes far more productive.