The Plan: Purpose, Goals, and Phases

Before I start going into the details of my off-season training, it’s important to identify the purpose of the off-season and make sure the goals are clear. I could serve myself well to just head into the gym every other day and do a few sets of this and a few sets of that and then hit the treadmill and call it a day. That would work to keep me healthy. After all, any exercise is better than no exercise.

But this is not the purpose of the off-season. Anyone can do that, but you’re an athlete! That approach to training seriously misses the opportunity presented. Training in the off-season has one purpose: create the best possible you of the year (hopefully this is the best you of your life). For any sport, the best you means achieving peak performance by the beginning of your competitive season. Each sport has a different set of goals for how to achieve this.


Figure 1: Hierarchy of training

So let’s see what peak performance means for roller derby (or rather what it means to me). In the simplest of terms, we can divide roller derby qualities into quickness, power, and conditioning (sounds a lot like many sports out there!). These are the basic qualities of a good (derby) athlete. Each of these things represents an aspects of physical performance that can be improved upon in the off-season, but not all at the same time. If we look closer at each aspect, we will see that there is a hierarchy (see Figure 1) and an overlap in the training used to achieve these goals. Strength training is the foundation of athletic performance. From it, we improve our overall potential in any sport. This overall potential is so important and so strenuous that the off-season must invest at least half of it’s time first to improving an athlete’s strength and build muscle. This is the time of the year where an athlete is best equipped to handle the amount of rest required of strength training. Strength gains then carry over into increased power. Increased power can then carry over to increased speed. Some people might say that, in terms of weight lifting, strength and power are synonymous. I won’t argue with that, but I would like to separate them in the context of sports performance because they can represent two different types of training.

But what about conditioning? It’s all by itself in that little circle. To which I reply, “Yeah? So?” Conditioning has virtually nothing to do with your body’s overall potential. It is, rather, a measure of your body’s efficiency in converting stored energy into sports performance. For this reason, conditioning will play a part throughout the entire off-season, but with varying levels of emphasis. For instance, the importance of making steady, continuous strength gains early in the off-season will be so important that conditioning should only be done to the extent that it is not affecting your body’s ability to rest and recover from the strenuous exercise. The best conditioning couldn’t even be held throughout the entire off-season. It’s very important to derby success, but it can be picked up near the end of the off-season and maintained through the competitive season. The point I’m making is that the when of off-season training is as important as the what.

Now, with the purpose of off-season established and our goals understood, planning becomes much simpler. In order to prepare for the 2014 derby season, the off-season will be divided into 3 Phases. Phase 1 will focus almost entirely on strength training, Phase 2 will work on converting strength gains into powerful sport-relevant movements, and Phase 3 will work to improve speed and conditioning.

Through my next series of posts I’ll be going into detail over the programs that I’ve selected to satisfy each of these Phases as well as the modifications I made to them in order to suit my purpose and fit my schedule. I’ll also be looking at how I can quantify the success of my off-season training.

Thanks for reading!

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