Nobody said it was going to be easy…
Many of you sailors know that feeling, you start the event well but on the 3rd day you are so tired the brain stops functioning, from there it spirals down until the rest of the event. Unfortunately, this is a very common situation to many sailors, luckily it can be easily avoided.
It is not only about being a winner and performing at the “money time” it is about a systematic approach to your training.
Many coaches think their sailors should always be happy, happy sailors will lead to good sailors, so let them rest a lot, don’t get them exhausted etc.
The fact is that at a 5-7 day sailing regatta by day 3 even the happiest sailor feels miserable, they are tired physically from long days on the water and they are tired mentally from the excitement of racing (regardless of how talented or fit they might be) and the decline in performance becomes obvious, of course this decline also occur to the other competitors, so how can we get an advantage?
The answer we use at TopLevel Sailing is by training as we race (even push a bit harder during training)
We aim to keep our sailors functioning under extreme fatigue, the more your athletes get used to pushing themselves physically and mentally when they are tired the more you increase the likelihood that they will be able to perform better at the final stages of an event.
It must be emphasized here that we prepare for Peak Performance regattas slightly differently to training regattas. For a Peak performance regatta we will always taper training to suit the critical elements of the venue, then have a rest before the regatta so we start with an optimum mental condition. For a training regatta we want to develop toughness and resilience. This blog is about training regattas, or about the program for development sailors, not the elite who will want to enter world championships, Olympic Games and some other regattas in the best possible mindset.
An average training block will usually last 2-3 weeks, our days start early in the morning with an intense fitness session, followed by a long session on the water (sometimes even 2), usually after 3-4 days the sailors will start asking for a day off, which is rarely given to them as we explain the importance of learning how to perform under such terms, we will usually train for 7-10 days straight with the only variable of a day off fitness once a week to allow some recovery (no need for a full recovery as long as your fitness will have enough variations in it so there is a slight different focus every day).
You would be surprised to know that your athletes body will fully recover after a single day off (your muscles have evolved in a manner that allows them full recovery within 24 hours of rest), Of course nutrition has a big part in that recovery, but this is a subject for a separate blog.
Whilst we do have the conventional approach to peak performance regattas, for a development sailor, or a senior (elite) sailor in a training phase, the training block will conclude with a big regatta (or even a small one) there is no real need to tone down the pace of training in the lead up to an event except for the obvious physical training switching to cardio and injury prevention fitness in the final 3-4 days leading to an event.
Realistic simulation of the physical and mental conditions of a sailing event is not always possible during training but the closer you are able to simulate them the better tools your sailors will develop to confront them under a real regatta pressure, It is OK to keep your sailors tired and feeling miserable, most of the time they have not even begun to understand how hard they can push themselves, allow them that personal development and off course allow them the realization that if they choose to be a professional sailors their life is going to be far from easy if they wish to fulfill their potential. The need to perform at or near optimum levels after the “third day blues” set in is critical for any sailor’s success, and we recognize the need to adopt a Rocky approach and push everything to the limit in a training phase.
At TopLevel sailing we aim our training methods in allowing our sailors the correct individual personal development of tools to allow them to deal with the reality of a sailing regatta to their maximum abilities, We acknowledge that what may work for a certain sailor may not work for another one and we acknowledge that they must feel on a daily basis the way they will feel at the final stages of a regatta to allow the evolution of their talent to a complete performer, and a tough one.