Test what you have your athletes prepared for – nothing else

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Strategic Development Coach Aram Lemmerer

It is winter season, and most competitive athletes are facing various tests. A national coach I know personally, has installed so called “test weeks”, which are to be done roughly every 6 weeks during the winter season. These weeks consist of a full 2k on the erg, a 6k, short sprints, and a 1-hour-all-out test.

What may seem interesting about such testings at a first glance, turns out to be in fact useless, and even worse; counterproductive for the development of athletes – physically as well as mentally.
I have asked myself the following, very simple questions:

  1. What are we trying to build during the winter?
    1. Low – Medium endurance capacities, in order to cope with high intensity loads in the spring and summer. If we were doing high-intensities all year round, we’d burn our athletes.
  2. How much sense does it make to test something, for which I have not prepared my athletes? How much sense does it make to train between 1mml and 4mml (= below anaerobic threashold levels), and then do lots of high intensity stuff during testing?
    1. No sense at all. This is like studying Latin, and then to write the exam in Ancient Greek.
  3. Is there a negative side-effect besides wasting time?
    1. Yes #1: The Pyhsical side:
      1. We are losing the week before the test week, as athletes are trying to be ultra fit for a challenge, they have not been prepared for.
      2. We are also losing the week of the test-week itself – who is able to do serious training when your body is way beyond its limit?
      3. And finally, and only if the athletes are in an overal superb state of health, we only need one week, maybe two weeks to recover from the nonsense we have done.
    2. Yes #2: The mental side:
      1. There is a significant correllation between physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion – both, in positive as well as in negative ways. If I prepare my body for what is to come, I also prepare myself mentally for that. If I demand from myself (body and mind) things I have not prepared myself to do, it sends the signal of danger, both to my body and to my mind.
    3. Yes #3: The injury side:
      1. As such tests lead to extraordinary states of distress, tension and feelings of overload. The consequences are injuries and illness – both of which lead to much longer loss of valuable training time.
    4. Yes #4: The loss of athletes side:
      1. Frustration, illness and injuries are a guarantee that ambitious athletes will sooner than later quit pro sports. A consequence, which could have been avoided from the start.

Athletes have to learn to trust their coaches, their training concept and themselves

My personal point of view is the following one:

“Test what you are prepared for”

My athletes probably do more in terms of loads and intensities than many others, however, their bodies and minds are always prepared for what is to come. This is one of my fundamental principles of strategic athletes’ development. If I prepare my athletes during training to be good at doing 30 minutes of 3mml – I also test that. The tests however, differ, as I work primarily with lactate, heart rate, percieved load, and watts.

Have a good winter training,

Aram

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