Training Periodization within Elite Sailing Schedules [39]

Planning is something we at OPEX pride ourselves on. It is what creates the pathway to success for anyone to reach their full potential in the sport of sailing. Our sailing schedules largely dictate the amount of time that can be allocated for training and the periodization of that training in crucial for proper lead up to the peak events.

There are two scenarios most elite sailing athletes fall into; either professional or Olympic. On one hand, professional sailing athletes who compete in sailing as a career frequently book events back to back in multiple different classes to ensure financial security through the year. Their training plan must be based on seeing long-term success and progress towards sustaining a high level of athleticism throughout their career.

On the other hand, Olympic sailing athletes have key events through the year (World Cup Events, World Championships, Trials, Games) that they spend weeks, months, and years preparing to peak for. Olympic athletes may look at their career in 4-year time spans where planning and periodization of training may look different from year 1 to year 4 based on their experience and goals. Both of these types of sailing athletes have different schedules and require different periodization of planning based on their goals.

It is very important for each of these types of sailing athletes to plan their year with regards to their sailing and fitness training to aid in reaching their full potential in the sport.

Why plan? Without it, an athlete would be just guessing and would not have a true vision as to where they sit and what approach can take them to their ultimate goal. Whether that goal is to be injury free, become as asset on a professional team, or be on the winning Olympic team, the plan is integral toward the success of that goal.

There is no right answer when it comes to the periodization or phasing training… as the method selected is not one size fits all.

The key for a coach is to know the individual characteristics of the sailing athlete. This ultimately dictates how an athlete’s training schedule should be planned and prepared to meet their appropriate goals.

The first step in figuring out your yearly plan is to understand what competition goals you have. Once you have identified where those competitions lie within your year, you can work backwards in developing a periodized training plan for both your fitness and sailing training that will aid in progressing you toward your goals.

The length and timing of your training cycles are dependent on a few critical components:

  1. The goal and aim (the date of the competition to work back from)
  2. The athlete’s function (i.e. – the physiological requirements of the sailing class and position the athlete chooses)
  3. Lifestyle (capability to take on the necessary training to compete in the “sport”)
  4. Training age (the amount of weight training experience you have), biological age, and sailing experience in a specific class or position.

As the year progresses each sailing class culminates in a World Championship event (whether you’re professional or Olympic driven) and after that event you should have the next year’s plan in order to get right to developing your training for the next year’s goals.

In our CCP coaching program, James FitzGerald teaches phasing and periodization through these principles.

  1. Accumulation
  2. Intensification
  3. Pre-Competition
  4. Competition
  5. Recovery

For every sailing athlete whether they are professional or Olympic they should implement the following periodization planning design within their sailing year to progress their supporting fitness and train their specific sailing functional requirements in an effort to see continued adaptation throughout their year. The important thing to remember is it is all very individual specific and the ability for that athlete to see long-term success in the sport depends on appropriate planning through many years of training.

One of the biggest struggles I hear sailors mention is they go months without gym training and don’t know how to work it all together. It is usually the case that these sailors have one or more of the following associated faults:

  1. They lack a proper training plan
  2. Their expectations are too high for their current level of experience
  3. Their lifestyle will not support training
  4. They don’t have a coach to help frame a proper training plan
  5. They choose to compete in too many events and don’t have the training age or experience to see continued adaptation in training with their schedule

Again, your training plan must be based on your current level of experience. If you jump ahead too soon, or have not put in the proper level of training prior, you are severely limiting your ultimate potential.

So the big question:

Are YOU planning or guessing?

Share your thoughts on fitness training in the sport of sailing, successes and mistakes that you have learned the hard way, or any questions you have.

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