Last week, Skyd introduced our panel of training professionals and elite level athletes (Tyler Kinley, Lindsay Hack and Samantha McClellan) for our training topic of the month. If you have follow up questions, please ask them in the comments. We have encouraged our panelists to respond there.
And now for the questions and responses:
1. Matt wants to know:
What are your thoughts on the aerobic, anaerobic training spectrum? Obviously Ultimate is played in short bursts of sprinting with lots of running and occasional rest thrown in, but repeated many times over the course of a tournament. What sort of track workouts do you run to maximize your performance on the field, long runs to improve your endurance over a tournament, short sprints to work on explosiveness during a single point, somewhere in the middle?
The perfect answer to this question would win a national championship. Fact is, I don’t have it. Nor do I think one answer works best for everyone– peoples’ games differ, from the position they play (handler defender, downfield primary cutter, deep cutter, handler), to the amount they play (Florida-style, playing every single point vs. deep team of specialists playing 2-6 points per game as a defender).
All that said, I’ve seen the benefits of working on speed first and gradually extending the duration of speedwork over a season so that by the end, the top speed can be maintained and recovered at the optimum levels. I’ve also seen the benefits of extended distance medium-high-speedwork, for instance 600s, 400s, 300s, and 200s in set times and rest intervals that are incredibly challenging.
My personal belief is that the mentality you gain from doing the track workouts you believe in far outweighs the slight edge doing the “right” workout might give, regardless of whether its a hair better than what they’re doing. Believing you have an edge is 50% of why you should kill yourself on the track.
I come from an old school running philosophy that miles spread out intelligently make a huge difference. Before ultimate, I ran and who I have become as a runner is largely based on the PAAVO mentality (google if if you like…). The PAAVO mentality of training consists of a super endurance day (long run), a short ppm (pace per mile), a recovery run, a long ppm (pace per mile), a recover run, and a time trial. Now, I fully recognize that ultimate is not running, so things have a changed a bit but the outline basically stays the same.
General outline of week:
Endurance Day: 4 mile trail run
Short PPM: sprint workout (more anerobic) that starts off earlier in the season with smaller total distance, increases and peaks about 2 weeks before regionals, then tapers back down
Recovery Day: 3 mile run or 30 minutes swim (I am not a natural swimmer, but the older I get the more I realize that running everyday is not the nicest thing for MY body)
Long PPM: Aerobic agility (40-40-40s – 120s – 50s – etc – See Vision of a Champion by Anson Dorrance)
Recovery Day: 3 mile run or 30 minute swim
WEEKEND -> Ultimate
I used to cater my track workouts to try and be the fastest player out there at the end of the day on Sunday. Now, I think of them as I want to be the player that has the largest field of vision at the end of the day on Sunday because my heart rate is lower than anybody else’s. Especially as an O line player it is rarely the fact that we get out ran or out juked…it is more that we make bad decisions because we are tired.
As is true for many athletes trying to compete at the top level, in order to excel, one must have it all: strength, speed, explosiveness, and endurance. Yes, this is a tricky balance when it comes to training, so each person must focus on their weakest points and train specifically for the aspects of their game that they are most lacking. For example, I come from a track and cross country background. My endurance is such that I don’t mind playing savage for an entire tournament. However, strength and explosiveness are two areas of my game that I work on constantly. I weight train at least three days a week, and when my body is free from injury, I try to do a lot more plyometric work to prepare as best as I can for the moments in a game when you need that quick burst of speed or that instant reaction to lay out. Personally, I love track workouts and do a lot of 400 work in the beginning of the season. Doing 12x400s with a 90 second recovery was one of my favorite track workouts and I still like to start a season with that workout. Trying to maintain top speed for the minute it takes to run a 400 not only builds speed, but builds the endurance needed to be able to maintain that top speed for an extended period of time. As the season progresses, my track workouts start becoming shorter and faster, with longer rest periods between intervals so my muscles get used to moving as fast as they possibly can, now that the endurance base is already in place.
2. Wes asks:
What is the best way to care for sore muscles after a hard weekend of ultimate or an intense workout session? I’m speaking primarily to sore leg muscles. I have heard ice baths can do wonders, but I’m wondering if there is a better way to treat and care for my legs. Any recovery methods to make sure that they are always in tip top shape, ready for high performance would be greatly appreciated. Also, how often should ultimate player be stretching on a regular basis (on and off the field)? I’m not sure if I should be stretching all the time (like 3x a day) or just when I warm up to practice/play.
My recommendations, based on personal and teammates’ experiences over the past 10 years:
– Ice baths are as good afterwards as they are bad during. 100% worth it. Will only realize it the next day though.
– Foam rolling. Similar story to ice baths– excruciating, then wonderful.
– Endurox/other recovery powders– I’ve found these to be surprisingly effective. Try a few out, see which one(s) work for you.
– Sportstick – same deal as foam rollers.
I never found leg drains (lying on back, legs up against a wall) to be effective.
As for stretching, more = better, on off days. Before performance I don’t recommend static stretching, and some studies have shown prolonged static stretching actually makes you slightly weaker. For that reason, and because they are boring, I prefer dynamic stretching. As for off days, the more flexible you are the better you will perform. And, a good stretch should last 30 seconds, with good attention to breathing.
Wow, when I turned 30 and was practicing in heat indexes of 110+ I had to find new ways to recover, that is for sure!
First, ice baths are by far and away the best way to get your legs to recover from an intense weekend of ultimate or a really hard workout. I take them almost every night at nationals. No recovery drink will ever substitute.
That all being said, I have found lately that I need a little something more. Maybe it is turning 30. Maybe it is how much my diet has changed the more I have educated myself on the nasty truths about processed foods (read: I eat less meat and very little to no dairy). Therefore, I have been experimenting with protein shakes and whatnot after tough workouts. I have found Muscle Milk to be swallowable. Between that and ice baths my legs are ready to go again in about half the time.
Ah, stretching. First of all, if you have asymmetries (ie. your hip flexors are significantly tighter than your glutes or your right hamstring is significantly tighter than your left hamstring) you should probably warmup up and spend a little time “evening yourself out” before you play. This will help prevent injury. Yoga is amazing and it is wonderful because it really is not stretching. It emphasizes joint mobility and symmetrical joint mobility. In a perfect world, I would go to yoga 2x a week to manage and prevent injury and to maximize strength. Sometimes a really tight muscle can inhibit (turn off) the muscle on the opposite side of it. For instance, the hip flexor. Such a wonderful muscle we use during sprinting, and lunging to throw. But, it gets really tight on the right side for us righties. Then, when it is really tight you can never get to your glute max to contract completely. Then, since you cannot use your glute max to extend your hip (read sprint), you use your back. Your back muscles are supposed to be mostly postural – not power generating. So….you skip the glutes, use your back, and presto! Injury.
Massage. My legs this season have been in massive knots following each of the tournaments in which we have played. This past weekend, I felt pretty beaten up after 7 games against some of the top teams in the country. Unfortunately, I did not do a proper cool down run nor stretch after the last game, and that exacerbated the problem. The next day, it took 2.5 hours of deep massage to get my legs unknotted. Granted, it felt like my legs had sustained a 12 round boxing match for about 24 hours after the massage, but once that wore off, I felt completely back to normal.
The key is getting your muscles back in line (unknotted), getting the lactic acid out of the muscles, and giving your muscles the rest they need to repair the damage done while playing. This can be achieved in many ways, such as a very long extended cool down and stretching or a massage, as aforementioned. Ice reduces inflammation, so if you are injured you should absolutely be icing your injured body parts as soon as you possibly can, following playing.
As to the question about how often you should be stretching, flexibility is an entire aspect of your fitness that you should be focusing on, on a regular basis. Improved flexibility reduces the risk of injury, and so should be worked on any time your muscles are warm enough to stretch them. Every time you work out and break a sweat, use the opportunity to stretch your warm muscles. You will be amazed at the difference if this becomes a habit in your regular workouts.
3. Pon asks:
Should I train for strength in the off season only? If so, when should I switch to plyometrics? 4-6 weeks before the start of tryouts?
“Train for strength,” to me, means lifting to build your strength as your main focus. Yes, this should be in the offseason. However, lifting can, and should, occur throughout the season. A good base of strength from which to begin plyometrics is squatting 1.5 times your bodyweight (as reps, not as your maximum). Many experts say 4-6 weeks is a good period for a cycle of lifting for strength or power (plyos), and if you were to be able to rep 1.5 X bodyweight in the squat 6 weeks out and transitioned into a more plyometric workout for those next 5 weeks with a tapering week (or two) to see the benefits I think you’d be in great shape. Sadly, this has you peak at tryouts which is good in one sense– making the team– but not so good in that you have a good 4-5 months before the series. Oh well.
I like Tyler’s answer.
No. Strength training should be incorporated in your in season training as well. Plyos are also something you can incorporate both off season and in season. The key is to make sure your off season training is sufficient enough that you have a strong base from which to taper off as the season nears an end. You do not want to stop strength training at the beginning of the season, but rather continue as you were in the off season, with only a slight adjustment to allow for rest following tournaments and exhausting practices.
4. Melissa Witmer invokes editorial privilege for the final question:
Do you guys do anything special or different in the 2-3 weeks leading up to nationals? What role does your physical preparation play in your mental game?
2-3 weeks out is when you begin, or plan to begin, your taper. A good taper consists of maintaining the intensity of your training but decreasing the volume. Thus, your central nervous system, and your “feel” for the game, get practiced at the level and speed they need to be, but your body is not torn up to the extent it usually is at practice or at the track and is able to fully heal in preparation for your peak. Also key is using visualizations during your training– how it applies to what you want to do on the field. Finally, warm up for all these trainings as if you were warming up for the biggest game of the tournament– perfect practice makes perfect, and creating a ritualized warmup can take the pressure off at that crucial moment.
I don’t know if this will make the blog, but I get my shit together. I sleep. I plan and have homework (yes, I am still in school) done way ahead of time. I spend more time with my teammates because I want to be with them and we can not get enough of each other. I visualize. I visualize a lot. I use recovery runs to visualize. I minimize stress. I read. I read about sports and success in sports. My workouts emphasize quality, not quantity and I try to tap into all my senses (feel the disc hitting my hands – hear the catch – see the disc – smell the fall air – etc). Sounds crazy, but it works. I do a physiological overview. How are the legs feeling? How is my breathing? How are my arms feeling? Injuries in check? I do an assessment. I go over in my head what I am doing well at this point in the season and focus on those skills. If I find I am not doing something well, I either QUICKLY figure out a way to correct it or just forget about it. Now is not the time to focus on negatives. I reflect on prior “golden moments” – moments when I was in the zone and played some of the best ultimate of my life. I reflect on my team’s core values and why are here and why we play this game. And then, I take the field with some of the best teammates anyone could ever buy and have the time of my life…
So long as my physical preparation is where I want it to be, heading into nationals, the 2-3 weeks leading up to the tournament become more of preparing mentally. I am focused on fine tuning parts of my game, and figuring out what I personally need to be focusing on when I play. I like doing research on my opponents and figuring out what I am going to need to do to dominate them. Getting massages on a nearly weekly basis becomes slightly obsessive for me, so that I feel that I am as physically ready as possible. I will continue to lift, but will not do anything too heavy or exhausting, as I want my body feeling a little pent up and ready to burst with energy.
Oh yeah, and I stop drinking alcohol…