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Developing Training Plans

ISU Changes has influenced the sport of figure skating competitions and training programs
       Acquiring figure skating skills has evolved considerablely since the ISU dropped figures from the competitive structure, Figures were a low empact part of the sport and executing figures for 2-4 hours a day did not cause the damage to the knees and ankles which are resulting from the same time practicing jumps and spins.

       There is now more emphasis by coaches, of beginner to elite skaters, to introduce skaters to a systematic training program whose emphasis is minimizing injuries while maximizing results.

       Periodization - The division of training into stages or phases, each with a different and specific focus, to make the process more manageable for the athlete and parents to contemplate and explore alternative, less expensive off-ice training approaches to augment the more expensive on-ice training.

       There are several approaches to training figure skaters which use different terminology to accomplish the same goals. The following is one example of a multiphase training program:

Training Stages:
  • Training to Train  To rush the training process only sets up the athlete for acquiring poor technique and/or overuse injuries.
  • Training to Compete  Some athletes increase their practice schedule and intensity of your training when their body is not capable of handling the stress without major setbacks.
  • Training to Win  It is important for the athlete to know they have not reached the stage of training to win, but are still at the Train to Compete stage. It is highly desirable to work with coaches who make sure you learn and build on a solid foundation of good form, technique, and training plus training strategies that include the necessary recovery and periodization phases.
       Tudor Bompa is considered the ‘Father of Periodization’. During the 1940s the Russian scientists tried dividing the training year into different training periods. Previously, the conventional training concept widelu used was to maintain the a constant stress of performing the same workouts week in and week out, all year long.

       In the early 1960s Bompa refined these ideas to describe periods of training that involved periods of rest  to let the body recover from strenuous exercise. This cycling of exercising resulted in an increase in total strength levels. His vision of periodization involves variables such as:
  • Frequency (how ‘often’ you train)

  • Duration (how ‘long’ you train at one session)

  • Volume (how ‘much’ you train in a given week or cycle)  

  • Intensity (how ‘hard’ you train at any practice session).

       Six phases are usually involved in developing an annual training plan. There are variables which change within each phase.  The following is an example of a typical plan:
Phase How long? Frequency Duration Intensity Volume
Phase 1 -
4-8 weeks High Short-Medium Very little Low
Phase 2 -
12-24 weeks High Medium- High Moderate Moderate to High
Phase 3 - Building 4-8 weeks Moderate-High High Heavy Moderate
Phase 4 - Peaking 3-5 weeks Moderate Short Heavy Low
Phase 5 - Peaking 1 week Moderate Short Heavy Low
    Phase 6 - 
   Relaxation -
Off Season
2-8 weeks

       Phase one is called Preparation or Prep. The period of time can range from three to six weeks long. It involves increasing aerobic activities at a low heart rate. It is designed to prepare the body for the rigors of an intense training program. This time can be well spent by working on drills. Practice sessions are shorter in duration and lower in intensity, but scheduled at frequent intervals. The volume for this cycle is low.

       Phase two is called the Base and can last anywhere from twelve to twenty four weeks. This phase is designed ramp up the aerobic fitness of the body to start key training sessions that mark the start of the official competitive training season. The Base Phase usually consists of three to four week ‘sections’ with up to six sections within this phase. The number of blocks you have in this phase is dependent on the level of individual training skills with an emphasis on the continued increase aerobic capacity while improving your skill levels.

       The intensity in this cycle remains low or non-existent, while the frequency may drop, and the duration of your longer workouts keeps extending itself. The volume in this cycle starts out low, but will eventually be the highest of the year as you get closer toward the end of your base phase. Once the Base Phase is completed and you get closer to your your first open competition, you are ready to proceed to next stage - the Build Phase.

       The third or Building Phase increases in intensity while lowering the practice volume. The schedule may keep the same or drop off in duration during this phase to avoid over training. The key to this phase is ‘interval’ training. The intervals can be multiple practice performances of a free skating, free dance or pair program, compulsory dance, MITF element, etc. In this phase, the volume is consistent, the intensity high, and your duration for your long workouts should be at an all year high. This phase lasts about four to eight weeks and comes as you "peak" for a qualifying competition.

       Peaking is the Phase immediately before a competition. It can be difficult to plan, schedule, and accomplish especially when a series of competitions are necessary to qualify for the final, season ending championship. It is especially hard if there are two (pairs and dance) or even more people (synchro or Theater on Ice) that must peak together if winning championship performance is to be achieved.

       Competiting is the Phase for which the athlete has spent his or her entire season training to enter and hopefully to perform their very best.

       No athlete can maintain the peaking phase indefinitely. When the final competition ends, skaters should take time off to relax. For top world and Olympic skaters, contractual obligations may require them to perform in tours that require 6 to 8 weeks of shows which delay and short the "downtime" between the end of one competitive season and the start of training for the next season.

       Relaxation or Off Season is the final phase of the season's training program. The athlete may use the time to catch up with school work or take care of job related work that requires urgent attention. Some athletes may participate in fun activities (boating, fishing, golfing, etc.) with family and friends in their off season.

Strive to be the best you can be!
       Everyone wants to perform at their best. It may seem contradict conventional ideas about training, but cutting back allows our body to physically, mentally, and emotionally rest and restore itself. The volume of practice is reduced, but the intensity remains high of a brief duration. Different athletes will find this approach is a personal choice that suits them. This decision must be one that the athlete(s) totally support and embrace.

       Allowances in a training plan must factor into the equation when winter competitions involve travel in cold climates which can experience weather related delays. Travel problems can cause elevated stress levels. Another stressor is when travel crosses time zones. Training at one altitude and competing at another can also require acclimation to avoid a skating performance from being affected.

       After the last competition of the season, the athlete moves into the fifth phase - Relaxation, in which they take some time off from skating to recharge their physical body and power down their heightened mental and emotion state.

       The Transition Phase for some athletes is take a few days to a few weeks to physically and emotional recover. For school children it usually means completing makeup assignments and taking tests they missed while participating in competitions.

       Skaters, coaches, and parents need to start organizing your plans for the upcoming season. This starts by determining when and where the first competition of the next season will start. Dates varied depending if a Winter Olympics is held in which case all of the qualifying competitions are held earlier. 

       The second season using of this regime is easier as everyone concerned has some experience and adjustments can be made in the contents and length of the various training phases.

Recommended Reading



The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Developing Training Plans

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