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Developing Training Plans for Athletes

Training Plans are dependent on the rules and regulations that govern each sport
In many sports the rules are reviewed and modified on an annual basis. In some sports, like figure skating, there are a series of major changes that transform the sport dramatically. One such example is figure skating.

       The USA Olympic Committee has established four training centers located in:
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado; includes a state-of-the-art sports medicine and sport science center, an athlete center, including a dining hall and two residence halls. There is housing, dining, recreational facilities and other services for up to 557 coaches and athletes at one time in the complex.
  • Lake Placid, New York;  biathlon, bobsled, figure skating, ice hockey, luge, skiing and speed skating. In addition, boxing, canoe and kayak, judo, rowing, synchronized swimming, taekwondo, team handball, water polo and wrestling also train at the site.
  • Chula Vista, California;  sport venues and support facilities for nine Olympic sports: archery, canoe/kayak, cycling, field hockey, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis, and track & field,
  • Marquette, Michigan;  The program based on the campus of Northern Michigan University is the only Olympic Training Center program dedicated to provide Olympic aspiring athletes, primarily in non-NCAA sports, the opportunity to continue their educations while training to represent the USA at the Olympic Games.
       Other official U.S. Olympic/Paralympic training sites include - Oklahoma City and Edmond, Oklahoma, Carson, California, Birmingham, Alabama, Pettit National Ice Center in West Allis, Wisconsin. USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center at the Karolyi Ranch (Bela and Marta Karolyi) is the home for the Women’s Artistic, Sport Acro, Rhythmic, Tumbling and Trampoline and General Gymnastic Programs is located 60 miles north of Houston, Texas, and the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center 

       Many athletes prefer to train at these Olympic centers because of the rigorous specificity of the training and excellent support systems. As an Olympic training center, drug testing of athletes is mandatory. The centers provide access to experts in the fields of sports medicine; strength and conditioning; psychology, physiology and nutrition assistance; and performance technology.

The Sport of Figure Skating has Evolved
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 needs to be a much greater 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 or 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.

      Phase three or Building 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.

      Phase four or Peaking occurs immediately prior to 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.

      Phase five or Competition is when 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.

      Phase six or Relaxation/Off Season concludes the end of a season of training. 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.

      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 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:

An Example of an Annual Training Plan

Constructing an Annual Plan

Low and No Test Training Plan

Short and Long Term Training Plan

Advanced Training Plans

A Periodized Plan for Novice, Junior, and Senior Skaters

Training In Women

Over Training Athletes


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 for Athletes
Evaluation of Training
Age Training Guidelines
Components of Training Plan
Stages of Acquiring New Skills
Strategies for Training
Strategies for Competing
Fitness Training & Sports
Advanced Training
List Daily Training Tasks
Construction of a Training Plan
Developing An Annual Training Plan
Principles of Global Training
Competitive Training
Starting to Seriously Train
Skating Environment
Peaking Performance
Benefits of Cross Training
Principle of Varying Training
Varying Training Improves Results
Approaches to Training
Approaches to Jump Training
Transferring Knowledge & Skills
Aerobic Activities
Anaerobic Activities
Exercises to Develop Coordination
Off-Ice Activities For Skaters
Fitness and Conditioning
Off-Season Conditioning Activities
Tips for Long Distance Traveling
Mental Barriers to Training & Competing
Mental Considerations for Athletic Training
Mental Considerations of Training
Mental Strategies for Training
Endurance Training Activities
Flexibility Training Activities
Body Weight Exercise Training
Weight Training Activities
Brian Grasso Articles
Evaluation Assessment

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