Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Developing a Training Plan-Part 1

I have been working on this post for a few days, so it should sit well with Gwen's post about conditioning for Ultimate.

I have found that having a good training plan keeps me motivated and on track. It adds focus and reminds me of why I am doing what I am doing during each particular phase. This post will go into the basics about developing a training plan. Part 2 will add some specifics.

A good plan begins with good goals. Gwen quickly got to what I think are the two primary goals of a good plan for Ultimate:

1) Increase aerobic capacity- This means develop a solid base. It also means testing yourself close to your Anaerobic Threshold(AT). Some aspects of strength are here as well.

2) Increase speed, power, and explosiveness- Mostly anaerobic work, but some strength.

Once you have identified your goals, you need to look at the time period in which you have to work, and where your peak(s) will be. This is your training period. If you are in college right now and don't have a plan, this means that your training period begins today and your peak will be somewhere in late April. For me, my training plan begins on Dec 1 of each year, and concludes on Nov 30 of the next year. I have two training peaks, one in May and one in October. I do the double peak because I want to be ready to compete in tournaments in the summer. I found that without the early peak, I was susceptible to injuries because my body was not ready for the rigors of early season tournaments.

The next step is to divide your training period into phases. I identify my phases as follows:

1) Base- The focus is on increasing aerobic capacity and strength.
2) Intensity- Works on AT, speed, and strength.
3) Peak- Speed, power, agility.
4) Season- Focus is on supporting playing Ultimate
5) Rest

I find it convenient to allocate 4 weeks to a phase, but this can be tweaked if you are crunched for time. So beginning on roughly Dec 1, my phases are: Base1, Base2, Base3, Base4, Intensity1, Intensity2, Peak1, Intensity3, Intensity4, Peak2, Season1, Season2, Rest.

Now it is time to figure out how much time you want to spend training. Rob Sleamaker, author of "Serious Training for Endurance Athletes", calls this your Year Hours. Apparently, Olympic Nordic skiers can spend 700-1000 hours per year training. I found my peak (not including time spent playing Ultimate) to be about 250 hours per year. I have tweaked this metric now so that it does not include strength training. I only map out my aerobic and anaerobic work with my year hours, and for this year I am planning on 110 hours.

We now need to combine year hours and the phases. We need to allocate percentages to each phase. This is the first acknowledgement that our metrics are intensity and time (not distance and rate). Base periods will receive more time than peaks, for example, but the intensity of peak phases will be much greater. Each phase is given a percentage of the total year hours. My allocation is as follows: Base1(11%), Base2(12), Base3(12), Base4(11), Intensity1(9), Intensity2(9), Peak1(6), Intensity3(7), Intensity4(7), Peak2(6), Season1(5), Season2(5), Rest(0).

Next comes monthly periodization, which is important. This can be tweaked during your training period or phase to accommodate unanticipated changes in your schedule. In general, though, you want to maintain consistency with periodization. Each week of a phase receives a percentage of total workload of the phase. A common and effective allocation is: Week 1 (23%), Week 2(26%), Week 3(29%), and Week 4(22%). As you can see, periodization increases your workload as you proceed through each phase, and then gives you an "easy" week to rest up for the next phase. Building your capacity is achieved through slow and steady change.

I find it helpful to organize my plan with a spreadsheet. After entering a few formulas, I type in my year hours and all of the above numbers are calculated. So, at this point we have:

-A defined Training Period broken up into phases
-Total Year Hours
-Each phase is allocated a percentage of the Total Year Hours
-Each phase is periodized

If you have actually followed along, you should be able to calculate how much time you will spend for each week of your training period.

For example, to calculate the amount of time for my first week of my training period: (Total Year Hours(110) x Base1 %(.12)xWeek1 % of Base1(.23))= 2.78 hours. Just a reminder, for me, this number does not include strength training.

The next post will go into intensity levels and how to allocate specific workouts to specific parts of the training period.


Sideline Engineer said...

This the first good adaptation of the mesocycle system for Ultimate that I've seen, thanks! The training period split is very helpful. Most Ultimate players I've worked with don't understand the value of building a base before beginning higher intensity work. Any chance of getting the spreadsheet you use for this?

Also, the XC details on snow conditions are appreciated by more than one reader. If only we had some snow here...

gcooke said...


I will upload my spreadsheet to my website and post that link on the next installment.

Thanks, G

jscott2 said...

Do you wear a watch when you ski/run and keep track of the time you actually spend? I realize this isn't the most complicated aspect of your training regimen, but I'm curious. Watching the clock instead of battling with myself during a workout would definitely detract from the fun of it. Do you find that?