The end of a season is always a strange time for me. There have always been conflicting ideas about what one should do, as an athlete, and as coach. Do you take time off to rejuvenate the body, or do you take all the fitness you have gained over the last year and start plowing into new skills? Or even just increasing your strength? For the most part I have always been a believer in the later. As a gymnast I couldn’t wait to get in the gym and work on new skills. I was so bored of doing routines and was excited for the things to come. Even in cycling I have a hard time staying off the bike when the season is over. The time, or miles might decrease considerably, but I still get out there and puts around.
This year I am going to try something new. I am going to make my athletes take time off. At least a week, some will be longer. In an effort to decrease injury, and allow these girl’s young bodies to fully recover from the long hard season. They are going to do almost nothing in the gym. One athlete of mine took the last week totally out of the gym, and for the next month will just do basics and conditioning. She had a tough season fighting injury, and her own mental roadblocks. Last week was more of a time for her to decide if she was going to stick it out for this last season. I was really happy to see she wanted to stick it out.
It can be hard to ask privately trained athletes to take time off. Their parents pay a lot of money for a service, and some could view taking it easy as not getting their money’s worth. But I think they, and I, have to think of it as a whole process. Not just a month of light training, but how this month of light training plays into the rest of the season. In cycling, the pros and those wily old riders who know what is what, say that, “To go fast in July, you need to go slow in December”. This is because your body can only take so much at a time. You cannot continually break it down.
I had a talk with my dad about this idea a few months back. He used to race bikes when I was a kid, back in the early 90’s. When he saw me seriously racing again this past year, it lit a fire under his butt, and he got back on the bike. He called me one day to tell me about his ride and said he went faster on his route than he had ever gone, something like 19 miles per hour. I told him that he was going faster than I ever do for an entire training ride. He was amazed that I road so slow but had been rising through the categories in USA cycling. I asked him about his intervals that he was doing, (he had never really done them before) he said the first few were really good but by the end he was having trouble. He also said that he was riding pretty hard between intervals. When I explained to him that he was going too fast between intervals he all of a sudden realized why he was so good at time trials back in the day, but never had the “jump” to be really competitive in crits or road races. He was wearing himself out before he was able to do his workouts correctly.
So it stands to reason that if I take my girls back into the gym as soon as we get back from nationals and start training hard for new skills, they will wear down, be too tired, and perhaps get injured because of it.
I think this idea scares people more than anything. How can not doing something lead to being better at that same thing in the long run? I think most coaches and athletes would rather error on the side of doing too much, rather than doing less and perhaps being perceived as lazy. You have to be very secure in your abilities and your plan to pull it off. You don’t want to go into something like this not knowing when you will start, how to build up again, and what is expected at each juncture. Otherwise you may wait too long and not give yourself enough time to train your new skills properly. This also means that you and your athlete(s) must know what it takes to learn these skills. If you don’t know the steps to learning a Jeager, you might not know how long it should take to learn, how many steps are involved, and how long each step should take.
As a coach these are things that I have picked up on over the years. I give myself more time on some skills than others because I am not as seasoned at coaching them. While others I know how many turns a girls needs to take, what each turn should look like, and when it is time to move on.
As we move into next season I am excited for what is to come. I will have a new set of athletes to work with, new goals to achieve, and always something to learn. The goal is to always be improving, never settle for 2nd best, but accept what is there. The future looks bright, and I can’t wait to get there.
p.s. I am out in Boise this weekend for my level 9s Western Championships. Good luck girls.