My blog has been silent for the past few weeks, but I have not been hibernating. In fact, I have been quite active since my last blogpost on January 23rd. Here is a brief update on what I’ve been up to:
Over the years, training more, training longer and harder has been the main recipe for elite athletes and coaches to keep improving and get ahead of the opposition. For those interested in finding out how much and how hard elite athletes actually train, just have a look at my past posts entitled Swim training camps, Athletes and coaches on a mission, or my recent publication Olympic preparation of a World-class female triathlete.
But some of us do not view training just as the time an athlete is exercising physically and mentally, but as a cycle that includes both, the time of exercise and the time needed to recover from and assimilate the stimuli provided by the exercise. In other words, training is a cycle including training time and recovery time. In the past decade or so, the importance of recovery for elite sports performance has been widely recognized, and reference training centers and sport federations have invested significant financial resources in recovery facilities and expert personnel. Such facilities usually include cold and hot water pools and baths, as well as relaxation areas, and recovery experts continuously emphasize the importance of sleep for recovery, as you can see in my post Sleep, the key to recovery and training adaptation.
The year 2013 is coming to an end, and along with it I leave behind 12 months full of lights and shadows. The year that brought my return to professional cycling, once again with Euskaltel Euskadi, also brought the unexpected disparition of such a special and historic team, a true classic of the professional peloton. What started as a new era for the team, characterized by its internationalization and the search for excellence in its approach to the challenges of the World Tour, in which the team was guaranteed to continue for at least four years, ended with the unexpected and inexplicable dismantling of the team. In the bright side remain the feeling of a job well done, the training camps in La Vila Joiosa and Sierra Nevada, the laboratory and field tests with implicated and professional riders, the relationships with them and all my other teammates, the hard earned and well deserved team victory in Euskaltel Euskadi’s very last major stage tour. On the downside, of course, the tragic accident that took away the life of our colleague and friend Rufino, the team’s disparition and the way it occurred, leaving little margin for the riders to guarantee their continuity in the professional ranks, and practically every single sport director, trainer, masseur, mechanic and all the rest unemployed.
Philippe Hellard, Marta Avalos, Christophe Hausswirth, David Pyne, Jean-Francois Toussaint, Iñigo Mujika.
The aim of this exploratory study was to identify the most influential training designs during the final six weeks of training (F6T) before a major swimming event, taking into account athletes’ evolution over several seasons. Fifteen female and 17 male elite swimmers were followed for one to nine F6T periods. The F6T was divided into two sub-periods of a three-week overload period (OP) and a three-week taper period (TP). The final time trial performance was recorded for each swimmer in his or her specialty at the end of both OP and TP. The change in performances (ΔP) between OP and TP was recorded. Training variables were derived from the weekly training volume at several intensity levels as a percentage of the individual maximal volume measured at each intensity level, and the individual total training load (TTL) was considered to be the mean of the loads at these seven intensity levels. Also, training patterns were identified from TTL in the three weeks of both OP and TP by cluster analysis. Mixed-model was used to analyse the longitudinal data. The training pattern during OP that was associated with the greatest improvement in performance was a training load peak followed by a linear slow decay (84 ± 17, 81 ± 22, and 80 ± 19 % of the maximal training load measured throughout the F6T period for each subject, Mean ± SD) (p < 0.05). During TP, a training load peak in the 1st week associated with a slow decay design (57 ± 26, 45 ± 24 and 38 ± 14%) led to higher ΔP (p < 0.05). From the 1st to 3rd season, the best results were characterized by maintenance of a medium training load from OP to TP. Progressively from the 4th season, high training loads during OP followed by a sharp decrease during TP were associated with higher ΔP.
On the 7th of October I gave a keynote lecture at INSEP (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) in Paris entitled “Planning for Rio 2016: Long- and Short-Term Periodization Issues”.
As you can see, the lecture is in French and the slides are in English. I gave this lecture during a conference entitled “Training Periodization: Deep-Root Cultural Heritage and Innovative Paradigms”. If you are interested in this topic, you can read the conference program in pdf and watch the videos of all the other lectures and presentations.
The following extracts from Hitchcock & Hitchcock’ 1860 book Elementary Anatomy and Physiology for Colleges, Academies and Other Schools, which I wrote about several times before, are so good and pertinent 153 years later that I could not resist the urge to post them here.
As you will see, no comments are really needed…
Over the past ten years I have had the great opportunity and the honor of coaching the best female athlete the Basque Country has ever produced. And I say the great opportunity because she was at first a not yet developed triathlete full of potential, but in addition to the necessary natural gifts, she also had an unequalled work ethic. When these two qualities meet in a single athlete, the possibilities of achieving great results multiply, and that was also the case this time: in adition to her 7th place at the 2012 London Olympic Games and her silver medal at the European Championships, she has finished in the top ten of 43 official international races over the years we have worked together. The number of victories and podium finishes at lower level events is of course almost countless.