Re-Examining Peaking

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We’re in the thick of the championship season for many high schoolers and collegiate athletes. High school coaches often have to deal with conference championships, districts, regionals, state championships and possibly a national meet. Collegiate coaches are dealing with conference championships, NCAA regionals, NCAA championships and then possibly USATF Jr or Sr championships. These lengthy championship seasons can pose problems for many coaches….how do you keep an athlete in ‘peak’ performance for 4-8 weeks? While it does take some proper planning and preparation, it’s not as impossible as many would have you believe. The first step involves a re-examination of what a performance peak really is. I’ve stopped using the idea that a peak can only last a single day or two. While there are certainly ups and downs in performance capacity throughout the entire year these fluctuations should never be so wild that one could totally ‘miss’ a peak if the preparation leading up to the competition is appropriate. Likewise, there’s no physiological basis for a person only being able to be at top performance for a single day or two. The longer you are expecting the championship season to be, the longer you need to prepare beforehand. Short preparatory periods equal short periods of peak capacity. Also, returning for carefully planned ‘maintenance doses’ of certain training stimuli can go a long way in holding on to fitness while minimizing excessive fatigue during the main competitive period. Here are some more thoughts on the subject from a presentation of mine at the 2008 Olympic Trials Super Clinic.

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