Competitive Edge

Elite Scene: Then, Now, Next

By J.D. Downing

Training Planning

By Bryan Fish, Head Coach, CXC Skiing

The yearly training plan is the most challenging training plan step, so I hope we can help you merge all those thoughts, ideas and training theories into one progressively flowing blueprint (map) for the whole year. To do this, you need to understand your training priorities during each portion of the year. It is important that your yearly plan be structured, yet flexible. The goal of the yearly plan is to develop fitness to, and through, the competition season, but also to provide some latitude for those unexpected events.

This method breaks the year into four-week periods starting each week on a Monday and concluding on Sunday. This means there are 13 periods during the year, with 28 days in each period. Many documents use a four-week progression, commonly including the following:

Week 1 – High intensity and low volume

Week 2 – Moderate intensity and moderate volume

Week 3 – Low intensity and high volume

Week 4 – Restoration and evaluation week – relatively low intensity and low volume

We propose a new weekly progression and periodization.

Week 1 – Hard week (28 percent of the total period training)

Week 2 – Easy week (22 percent of the total period training)

Week 3 – Harder week (30 percent

of the total period training)

Week 4 – Easier week (20 percent of the total period training)

Igor Badamshin, CXC’s high performance advisor, proposed this method during the spring of 2006. I have slightly modified the original percentages based on two years of application with the CXC Elite Team athletes and the understanding that most athletes need to organize their training around work or school.

This progression – a hard week followed by an easy week – stems from the theory of super compensation. Super compensation refers to the ability of our bodies to adapt to, and eventually overcompensate for, the stress of exercise. The body can adapt to small amounts of stress and then recovery is necessary. This is the basic premise for hard days followed by easy days.

We are taking super compensation to an extreme with our CXC Elite athletes. We typically have a hard week followed by an easy week. A hard week means total volume increases at every intensity level. For example, a 20-hour week may be followed by a 10-hour week. The training percentages stay the same, so the 20-hour week has twice as much strength, intensity and distance as the 10-hour week.

My experience is that the traditional four-week progression and periodization may not provide increased stress or ample recovery from week to week. Training load is a combination of intensity and volume. For example, a three-hour jog at Level 1 provides a training load of three [1(intensity) x 3(time) = 3 (training load)]. However, a 30-minute session of Level 4 intervals has an overall training load of 2. Sure, the two workouts are very different physiologically, but the overall load on the body is somewhat similar. Therefore, weeks one through three have a similar overall load on the body even though the physiological aspects are different.

The body needs to be stressed more and then allowed to recover, so I suggest the following monthly outline.

In periods (weeks) 1-8, have a weekly volume that is 28 percent in week 1, 22 percent in week 2, 30 percent in week 3 and 20 percent in week 4.

During periods 9-13 change the weekly volume to 30 percent in week 1, 20 percent in week 2, 30 percent in week 3 and 20 percent in week 4.

Race weekends land on the weeks with only 20 percent volume, or the athlete only races in one event during a week that contains 30 percent of your total period volume.

One size does not fit all when it comes to individual training plans. Different training backgrounds, individual strengths and weaknesses, total time availability, and ability and skill all play a role in an individualized training plan. Nonetheless, this yearly overview provides a strong representation for planning a training program throughout the year.

Training is a balance between aerobic distance, strength and intensity training. In my opinion, there is never a time of the year when training completely stops in any one of these three major types of training. It is important to recognize that each type

of training has countless variations of specific workouts. It is necessary to develop training progressions in all three – distance, strength and intensity training – for performance gains.

The human body plateaus after 6-10 weeks of doing the same workouts at the same load; therefore we will change our training at least every four weeks to ensure this does not occur.

Some times of the year include more emphasis on one type of training than another and specificity in these workouts becomes more and more important as time draws closer to winter.

Each workout should have a specific goal. It is important to have a general understanding of why you are doing a specific workout. For example, a common flaw of distance training is to train at too high of an intensity. The goal of distance training is to improve aerobic efficiency. Going at harder paces recruits the anaerobic system, as well, and therefore doesn’t attack the aerobic capacity to same extent as slowing down and training for a longer duration.

A well-designed training plan provides small increases to the body, then allows the body to recover, so it is ready for another small increase. Recovery is an extremely important component in training.

Don’t wait until you get to the race season to figure out you did too much or didn’t do enough. Testing and performance evaluations are also important. We need to occasionally test ourselves to ensure we are improving. It is important to conduct general fitness tests at the start of the year to develop a baseline that can be used to kick off the new training year.

You can learn more about training planning and many other aspects of training by signing up for CXC Academy at

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