Training for race season

Training for race season

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Photo by Tyler Mitchell
Photo by Tyler Mitchell

Training for race season

By Amanda Nayfield

With Ski to Sea around the corner, many hopeful racers are starting to implement training strategies. To optimize your performance and ensure a healthy, injury-free race, it is important to understand a few basic principles of training. These principles can be applied to training for any type of athletic goal, from paddling fastest down the Nooksack River to climbing Mt. Baker.

1. Individuality: This principle speaks to who we are genetically and how our bodies respond to training. Some of us have more fast-twitch muscle fiber and respond better to high intensity training, while others have more slow-twitch endurance fibers and thrive on low-load, long-duration workouts. Most of us are drawn to sports that fit our genetic makeup, but we can in fact shift the ratio of muscle fibers with our training. Determine your goal (power, endurance or some combination) and create a training program that honors your individual strengths, but pushes you toward your goal.

2. Specificity: It is important that your training is sport-specific. In other words, if you want to be a stronger biker, you had better be biking. Cross training is healthy and important, and many activities that get your heart rate up can help with overall cardiovascular health, but sport-specific training is key. By working the muscle groups associated with your athletic goal, you build tissue resilience and adaptations important for performance and injury prevention.

3. Overload: This is one of the most important principles, and it needs to be applied to all components of training (cardiovascular, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility). In order to make gains, you must stress your body beyond what is normal or comfortable. For example, if you work as a forester and hike 6 miles a day, you must increase the distance, frequency or intensity of hiking over a period of weeks to become a better hiker. Hiking 6 miles is your norm, and you must stress your body beyond that baseline if you want to improve. Remember, there is a delicate balance to this principle: challenge yourself, but don’t over-train into exhaustion or injury.

4. Adaptation and Progression: Over time, your body will make physiological changes and the amount or type of workout that once provided an overload stimulus will become easy, and therefore ineffective. It is important to recognize this point in your training and progress using the “FIT” principle: Modify the Frequency, Intensity, and Time (FIT) of your workouts to keep them challenging.

5. Recovery: The importance of rest and recovery cannot be emphasized enough. The overload principle is designed to stress your body, and it is essential to give your body the time and energy it needs to rebuild and recover. Most gains and adaptations occur during the recovery phase, and if you cut yourself short on this one you risk overtraining, leading to poor performance and likely injury. Part of recovery is cross training and varying your exercise routine. In addition to complete rest days, make sure you throw easy days and weeks into your training program.

6. Reversibility: If you don’t use it, you lose it! After achieving your goal, work on a maintenance program to prevent reversibility.   x