As we draw to the end of the season, it’s easy to start thinking about getting the feet up and having a few weeks off. Here’s a little food for thought though as you think about when to start your off season and pre season training. You’d be surprised at how quickly training effects can be reversed.
In the first couple of days, hormone levels will be effected negatively effecting mood states. By days 3-5 muscles start to lose elasticity and aerobic qualities can drop by up to 5%. At just over a week, VO2 max can drop by up to 10%. 10 days without training and your metabolic rate will drop meaning you’ll have to drop the amount you eat or you’ll start to put on weight.
Getting up to 2 weeks you’ll see changes in muscle tone and the amount of work your heart can do can drop up to 15%. At the start of week 3 loss of muscle mass and strength will occur along with a drop in your cell’s ability to create energy. By the end of that third week your VO2 max can drop by up to 20% and by the end of the 4th week you can lose 10-15% of lean muscle mass to be replaced by a nicely padded increased fat mass.
That’s a lot of scary numbers but these only apply if all training is stopped completely. It’s important at the end of the season to mentally recover from the stresses and strains of a competitive season, but this doesn’t mean that all training should stop though. This will reduce the chances of detraining and mean you start at a higher level of performance when you get back into full preseason training.
Last week was a great learning experience. I spent time during the races observing the logistics of competition and the athletes I coach as well as the races themselves. It was also enjoyable, nothing quite beats a blue sky day in the mountains, couple that exciting sport and catching up with friends and colleagues and it doesn’t get much better (having my skis with me would have topped it off).
I thought I’d give a bit of an insight here into a ski racer’s competition day. It actually starts the day before with a captain’s meeting where details of the next day’s race are distributed amongst the coaches, this will include race times, start details, weather reports and officials. Due to weather the downhill race while I was there was cancelled and the slalom part of the super combined event (slalom and super g combined) brought forward a day. This presents a number of challenges. Those arranging their travel to arrive the day before the scheduled super combined missed it, different skis need to be prepped (the majority of the athletes will prepare their own skis, 2 pairs to be used on race day) and altered recovery time from training.
On race day it was up at 6am ish (8′oclock race start) for breakfast, last minute prep and packing and down to the hill for around 7am. Skis and kit were unloaded from the van and taken over to the finish area. Then it was ski boots on and take kit and race skis to the top of the hill. Prior to race there was time for a couple of warm up runs, these don’t take place on the race course as it was been meticulously prepared the night before. The weather was warm and the snow soft so it was salted the previous night to try and firm it up. Also before the start the athletes were given a window of time to inspect the course, this involved sideslipping down the side of the course to view gate layout and snow conditions. There is no standard ski race course layout, it is at the discretion of the person setting the course at each race and so the inspection is vital.
Once inspected it was back to the top of the hill to race. Start orders are dependent upon FIS points, the better the points the earlier you start the first run. As the racing goes on the more skiers who ski the course, the more it deteriorates and the warmer it gets the more the consistency of the snow changes. This means that the condition of the course the athlete skis can be radically different from what they have inspected, the next time they see it is when they’re trying to ski it as fast as possible. This is just one of the things that makes the sport so challenging, the mental preparation and adaptability is massively important.
From a strength and conditioning point of view, timings and logistics of warm up and preparation are difficult. The early start, cold temperatures, being in ski boots and importance of inspection provide challenges. Working closely with the psychologist is very important to make sure that any physical preparation fits in seamlessly with the mental routine which is most definitely a game changer.
It’s kind of strange that with the weather starting to warm up over the last week or 2 that I’m spending most of my time on or around snow. After 2 weeks in France on holiday with my skis and snowboards (where it was actually warmer than in England, cue the face tan), I’m heading to Meribel this week to catch the British ski Championships and see how a number of the athletes I work with get on in the competition.
I enjoy watching sport live and often it’s not until you do that you can fully appreciate it’s demands and the skills and abilities of the athletes that compete. You always learn a lot through observation and how athlete’s react to certain situations can be useful when it comes to coaching. Sport is always more enjoyable when you have some vested interest and I can assure that my voice will be heard on the hill shouting for those I’m working with out of the start gate.
It is also going to be an opportunity to meet with technical coaches, other support staff, athletes and parents to review the season so far and start to plan the pre-season schedule, aims and objectives. It’s not very often that everyone is able to be in the same place at the same time so making the most of that time is important, hence why I won’t, unfortunately, have my skis with me on this occasion.