If you’ve ever felt a big lull or let-down after a big event, you understand there is an ebb and flow to the competitive life cycle. You’ve spent so much energy preparing that you can feel very wiped out, emotionally and physically.
Planning your dog’s recovery as well as your own from a major event is just as important as planning to peak for the event.
There is a sport science called periodization, and it has to do with planning to peak for major events, as well as how to progress training at the most efficient level to maximize improvement while preventing injuries and burn-out.
Burn-out and injury is a very real concern for athletes (both human and dog), particularly when there isn’t a really defined off-season, which in agility doesn’t exist because there are major events year round, so you have to create one. You have to pick and choose which events you will focus on, so you can also plan your rest periods.
Peak and rest
Part of the process is the rest and recovery phase. The amount of time you take-off depends on where you are at in the competitive cycle or season. You can really only peak twice, three times a year at most. Generally you would take time off after each event, the most time off after the biggest major event on your competitive calendar.
Ways of lightening the load
There are physical, mental, and technical aspects to taking a rest, which apply to not only your annual competitive calendar, but also your weekly and monthly schedule. Sometimes you don’t have time for a full break, but you can do things for you and your dog like:
- light fundamentals in your sport – not really a break at all, but a serious reduction in intensity and volume of work at least reduces pressure such as simple fundamental handling drills
- just touch on skills to maintain them – rather than working at them daily to try to improve them
- cross-train another sport – a technical break from agility, but depending on the demands, may not be a physical or mental break, although you may be working different muscle groups
- just do some light fitness – remember the days of just enjoying taking your dog for a walk or a run? 🙂 The closest thing to a true break, vary the physical demands to work different muscles groups and stay generally fit. A light workout also cleanses toxins and lactic acid out of your body, and refreshes you.
- make sure you are eating and sleeping well
- meditate and clean your mind out
- have some fun – go to a movie, read a book, spend time with a significant other, connect with people and do some things completely outside of your competitive life.
- remember who you are, not what you do – there’s a big difference.
It’s harder to stay at the top
It is harder to stay at the top than it is to get there in the first place, believe it or not. The sustained effort and the careful planning required to maintain an extremely high level of performance is a monumental task.
Most people can make one big burst to get to a certain level, but they often exhaust themselves in the process. Those who stay at the top truly understand the need for rest and recovery. Make sure to build it into your training plan.
It’s as important as practice, and sets you up for your next peak to be higher than the last.
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