At Dai we prioritize educating our client-athletes on the why of training. This empowers and helps them connect the dots and ultimately motivates more effective training. We also strive to help them to understand there is not one silver bullet to improved fitness and performance. But it’s consistently practicing healthy “habits” (good sleep, hydration, and nutrition) as well as following a comprehensive balanced training program with stability-mobility work in addition to endurance sport specific structure that drives results.
We try to help our clients think of fitness as a long-term lifestyle vs the pursuit of short-term training to tick off a bucket list event. While the training event is the destination, it’s the learning opportunities along the way that provide the value. An effective training program is developed over a year rather than a short few months leading up to a goal event. An experienced coach will develop a training program in phases, each phase building on the previous one and each with its own specific objectives to achieve the individual athletes goal.
Each new year of periodized training begins with a few weeks of true rest and regeneration at the end of the competitive season. This is the time of year to do what sounds fun and feels right. Keep moving but do what inspires you, take license and mix it up. Remember why you do it, for the love of it, not out of obligation. This phase is as valuable for its mental regeneration as physical, it is the key to mentally digging deep, in season, when it counts. It’s vacation from the demands of a structured training program.
Following the rest-regeneration phase, we move in to the transition phase (often referred to as ‘off-season’ but this term is misleading), an opportune time for improving weak links in strength, stability-mobility and performance. The objective is to build a strong, injury-proof (and illness-proof) body that is prepared for the upcoming season. A structured, phased strength program in the gym is a priority, and bike/run/swim endurance days are higher volume/lower intensity with high fun factor, (endurance days =adventure, exploration). Nutrition plays a key role in these phases, changing as the training does to support the needs of the body.
Transition season is an ideal time experiment with what foods work well for your body, to develop new habits, and to train the body to be more efficient, increasing the body’s ability to use fat for fuel as well as carbohydrate and thus providing more options from which the body can source it’s energy when race season comes around. While the intensity of workouts is low, reducing the carbohydrate content of the diet (eliminating grains is the simplest method to do this; while grains have high energy density, they are much lower in nutrient density than vegetables/fruits which can provide sufficient carbohydrates for many individuals), increasing the fat content (olive oil, coconut, avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish, grass fed meats), and increasing the variety and volume of vegetables (and fruit) is the strategy. A diet with a high plant content will also help build a strong immune system that is ready for the increased intensity demands of the next phases of training.
After the transition phase is complete, we move in to the preparation phase, which is focused on simulating the demands of the individual’s goal event. We train specific physiologic, metabolic, muscular and mental aspects to meet those demands. In this phase, sport specific, higher intensity workouts become the priority. Once we hit competition season, the groundwork is set, and we focus on racing and resting and fine-tuning fitness with structured, high intensity work.
Carbohydrate needs are higher for both preparation and competition phases of training so some athletes will need to add more energy dense grains, however many will find that carbohydrates from starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips etc) are sufficient and that their bodies can thrive without the need for additional carbohydrate sources. Recovery from training sessions and races is a priority during these phases of training so timing meals both pre- and post-training is of much higher importance than during transition phase where energy requirements and recovery were less of a focus.
For a more detailed dive into this topic, you can check out this replay of Julie and Sian’s presentation on the in’s and out’s of phasing training and nutrition to optimize individual performance.