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Last weeks were quite busy for me as a coach. There were a lot of start-ups, flights, a training camp in Lanzarote with the belgian paralympic team and also a team meeting with AWT-Greenway (where I met a lot of athletes for the first time).

All athletes are relatively fresh again after their yearly rest period (approximately 3-4 weeks without specific training, read as full rest without a specific training program). It's now time to build up their 'shape' after the long rest period. Studies* showed that

performance is likely to decrease by about 3-5% after 3 to 4 weeks of detraining. These decrease is different between individuals, therefore the usage of ranges. It’s hard to give you a concrete number since we they’re all so different.

Most important Physiological effects of 2-4 rest weeks:

  • VO2max, 4-10% ↓

  • Blood volume, 5-10% ↓

  • Heart rate, 5-10% ↑

  • Stroke volume, 6-12% ↓

  • Muscle Glycogen, 20-30% ↓

Everyone's motivated (some a bit more than others) and everyone's ready and are eager to start with the training again. Therefore, starting up athletes isn't so easy as it seems. You have to find the right strategy to start up an athlete depending on the experience, age, training history and shape of the athlete.

First tip: Make goals. Training without a specific goal in mind, is like fishing without bate. Meaning useless and ok, maybe you can per accident catch a fish that swims against your hook and got stuck with his fin, but that's only when you have some luck. In training, luck is an unreliable factor which you have to avoid as much as possible. Use therefore SMART goals. Which are:

  • Specific – target a specific goal for improvement.

  • Measurable – quantify an indicator of progress.

  • Achievable – create realistic and also attainable goals.

  • Relevant – the importance of choosing goals that matter

  • Time-bounded – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Second tip: All athletes are really motivated and for most athletes even over-motivated, which leads sometimes to overtraining according to what you planned. So sit together and run over the build-up (and wanted progression) that you designed. Use therefore a year calendar with a planned training volume (or at least training accents) on it so athletes know the exact how there build up phase will look like.

After the goal setting and the discussion of the year plan its time to start training again. The body hasn't been active for a while, so it's important to start easy, with an absolute maximal of 10hrs of total training (specific and a-specific training). Keep besides the volume, also an eye on the intensity. Which stays in the first weeks in the recovery / endurance zones.

After the first week is done, it's time to analyse the first trainings and for sure to check if your planned training zones are still useable. Read as, if the heart rate correlates with the speed and/or power.

* Source: Review: Medicine and Science in Sports - Exercise and Sports Medicine

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