Train to Race
BUILD THE SKI RACER & OPTIMIZE THE ENGINE
Raising active ski racers in today's busy world can be challenging as ski racers become more involved in ski racing. During this stage, ski racers feel more pressure to perform. The responsibility taking care of the details off-hill and away from the training and competition venue falls on the ski racer. Parents and coaches are there to support and help to ensure that ski racers get plenty of rest and regeneration time with the increasing demands from sport participation and their social lives. The ski racer is held accountable to make smart health and wellness choices.
- After adolescent growth period
- Dependent on skiing skills & fitness
- Club through Provincial Team Level
Sleep & Regeneration
It's crucial at this stage to ensure that ski racers do not overtrain because their bodies can be more susceptible to injury. The establishment of a sleep routine is essential; these routines carry over into the demanding Race to Win stage and will assist in managing the added stress of travel fatigue and jet lag.
A ski racers total sleep requirement is the key to the foundation of post-exercise recovery and regeneration (PERR).
Changes in mood, concentration, motivation, endurance and recovery this can hurt performance and put the ski racer at risk for overtraining/under-recovery and can a result of a lack of sleep or cumulative sleep debt.
- 8 to 10 hours per day.
- +30-minute nap between 2 pm and 4 pm
- Ensure a comfortable sleep environment at home, when travelling and competing.
- Monitor for competition stress and anxiety which can result in insomnia.
- Initiate a regular napping strategy.
- Monitor for excessive sleepiness & fatigue.
- Observe for sleep disorders.
- Maintain a regular sleep/nap routine.
- Get early morning light exposure for 30 minutes daily.
- Monitor for a delayed sleep phase indicating difficulty falling asleep and waking up for school.
- Maintain regular nutrition routines; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Remember to "break" the "fast."
- Reinforce the importance of a sleep routine.
- Avoid technology (screen time) before bed.
- Monitor cumulative sleep duration. Be aware that sleep debt equals <9 hours per night or <56 hours per week.
- Strategies for getting enough sleep include napping.
- Monitor caffeine intake.
- If the ski racers sleep is poor, seek help.
Sleep logs can be used to determine current behaviours and evaluated with the intent to develop training and recovery routines to match the sleep requirement.
DO NOT TRAIN WITH AN UNRESTED MIND AND BODY!
In the Train to Race stage, recovery and restoration time becomes a formal part of the periodized training plan. As ski racers seek to improve their performance, modifications in training frequency, duration, and intensity are required. Adjustments can occur at various times and are dependent on the phase of training, i.e., competition phase or prep phase, to ensure that the ski racer has time to recover and adapt to the training load. Appropriate daily load and fatigue monitoring can aid in the detection of adaptation to the training program by the ski racer and minimize the risk of developing non-functional overreaching, illness and possible injury (Halson, 2014).
At this stage, the number of variables monitored increases in coordination with their increased participation in sport. Coaches and ski racers should maintain a daily record of activities including the estimated workload, duration and intensity. Coaches should review daily training loads and adjust the loads to fit the individual ski racer to ensure the ski racer is being provided with the correct stimulus to create positive adaptations while ensuring there is ample time for rest and regeneration.
Ski racers should also complete a simple questionnaire at the beginning of each day as part of their daily routine. Monitoring questions should measure the level of enjoyment, level of energy expenditure, nutrition, hydration, soreness, stress levels, self-esteem, quality of sleep, illness and injury. Coaches should check in with their ski racers at the start of each training session to ensure their ski racers are well-rested, hydrated and fueled for the training and competition bout scheduled.
Ski racers are encouraged to understand the impact of their choices outside of the training and competitive arena. Ski racers are educated on proper regeneration strategies and restoration strategies including stress management techniques and should be encouraged and held accountable to follow the best approach that works for them individually to ensure they are physically and mentally prepared for the next training bout or competition.
Ski racers should have a light snack and water available at the end of the training session to refuel. In this stage, ski racers should be taking more responsibility for their refuelling and regeneration as part of becoming an athlete.
Creation of post-ski day routines can aid ski racers in the development of a relaxation and regeneration routine in preparation for a good nights sleep. The recovery routine should include a short, active recovery exercise along with some light stretching.
NutritionA well-fueled ski racer will have the nutrients and energy they need to perform in ski race or training. Coaches and parents should continue to educate and reinforce with their ski racers the positive benefits of healthy eating habits including refuelling and maintaining hydration before, during and after training and competition. Ski racers should learn the essential tips on sport nutrition so they can eat like a champion and fuel themselves properly to become a performance ski racer.
- Eat meals as a family as often as possible and use Canada's Food Guide to help you plan healthy meals that the family can eat together.
- Plan meals ahead of time help to ensure you have all the required ingredients to prepare a healthy meal in your allotted time frame.
- Plan and pack healthy meals and snacks to take to the ski hill to eat during and after training.
- Ski racers are encouraged to have a full water bottle of water with them at all times. Cold weather is dehydrating. Encouraging ski racers to sip on a warm, water - light electrolyte drink or tea will help to maintain hydration throughout a day on the slopes.
- Trust that your ski racer knows how much they need to eat. Listen and respond to signals of hunger and fullness.
Encourage ski racers to learn how to read nutrition labels along with learning how to prepare basic meals on their own.
RELATIVE ENERGY DEFICIENCY IN SPORT (RED-S)Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) is a condition that can affect skiers of any age and sex. RED-S occurs when an imbalance in energy intake and energy output has detrimental effects on bone health, menstrual function (female), metabolic rate, immune function, cardiovascular health, and psychological health. (Mountjoy et al., 2014).
Sport performance lags when available energy stores are low. For ski racers during this stage of development, it's vital to assess intake needs and adjusting intake to meet the energy needs of training and competition.
Decreased energy intake can promote the development of osteoporosis resulting in reduced bone growth, weakened bones, reduced peak bone mass, increased susceptibility to stress fractures and premature osteoporosis. Stress fractures can lead to the loss of participation in on-snow training and competition for long periods.
Ski racers with RED-S are at an increased risk for injury, decreased endurance, and reduced muscle strength, along with reduced coordination, impaired judgement, irritability and depression (Mountjoy et al., 2014).
In female ski racers, poor and inadequate energy intake can also lead to delayed menarche and other irregularities due to the decrease in estrogen. Parents and coaches must be on the watch for girls who are now more susceptible to low moods, which can lead to depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. Iron levels should be checked by a medical professional and monitored if required.
At the end of this stage, ski racers should be educated about the use of performance enhancement substances and their possible side effects. Research supports a balanced diet as a legitimate means to top performance.
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) does not promote the use of supplements but recognizes that athletes often use them. Read the CCES supplement message to protect your ski racer against an anti-doping rule violation if they are using nutritional supplements.
In the spring of 2014, the CCES conducted a study of youth between the ages of 10 and 18 to determine the attitudinal drivers that set youth on the path to using performance-enhancing substances to assess associations between beliefs and drug use.
They found the strongest associations were observed in three category areas: steroid acceptance, social technology and self-image.
Common triggers to use performance-enhancing substances include; "If a close friend offered me a drug that would make me do better in sports, I would try it" or "It is okay to try steroids once."
WHILE MANY YOUTH ARE UNSURE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS OF MOST LISTED SUBSTANCES, THEY ARE CONFIDENT THAT ENERGY DRINKS, CAFFEINE, AND ALCOHOL HAVE SIDE EFFECTS (CCES, 2014).
A quarter of Canadian youth stated that in the past 12 months they had taken vitamin and mineral supplements to help them do better in sports. Energy drinks, protein supplements, and caffeine were also popular substances. Most commonly, Canadian youth do not think that vitamin and mineral supplements, protein supplements, caffeine, and asthma inhalers will not hurt them if used. They are more wary of creatine supplements, narcotics, thermogenics, nitric oxide boosters, cannabinoids, and alcohol.
Among those youth who say they have used steroids to perform better at sports or change the way they look. There are a variety of sources of the drug; for those looking to perform better, friends, the internet, teammates and even parents are familiar sources and for those who want to change the way they look, friends of a friend or teammates are most common, followed by coaches and close friends. (CCES, 2014)
Ski racers can prevent most injuries by being physically fit and literate, and by wearing the appropriate and adequately adjusted equipment for the activity including ski racing and training. A ski racer's most important tool is his/her body, doing what they can to defend it against injury is vital! Ski racers should seek to maximize their results without putting themselves at risk of injury by following a few simple steps:
- Spend time completing a proper warm-up.
- Adapt and set up equipment to match the needs of the ski racer.
- Stay hydrated, it's crucial to replace lost fluids and minerals.
- Ski racers should listen to what their bodies are telling them; go hard when there is energy!
- Recovery is as important as preparation
Risk factors for injury include:
- Physical fitness, ski racers need to be fit enough for the challenges presented during training and competition.
- Are the ski racers coming back from injury?
- Properly fitted and adjusted ski equipment. Poorly functioning, poorly fitting, or improperly adjusted equipment can cause more harm than good.
- Protective equipment including properly fitted helmets can prevent head injuries.
- Skiing while fatigued and not taking enough breaks for rest or stopping when tired. Often only a short break at the top of a course that includes a short warm-up routine is all that is needed.
- Skiing outside of the skill level and comfort zone of the skier. The level of challenge is dependent on the skier’s current technical and physical capabilities or inabilities. Proper course setting to match the experience level of the ski racer correctly is vital. Exposing skiers to activities significantly higher than their abilities can result in frustration, failure, a decline in motivation along with increasing the chance of injury.
- Skiers should be well rested, hydrated and fueled before arriving at training. Proper hydration and nutrition throughout the day will decrease the risk of injury.
- Changing snow conditions can affect ski racers depending on their ability level. Check in to see how they feel about the terrain and snow conditions.
Injuries can be prevented through the creation of well-planned training sessions led by professional coaches.
Planned training sessions should include the following activities:
- A proper introduction to the activity and skills ahead of the training session.
- A warm-up that includes supervised physical fitness movement preparation.
- Well, planned skill progression is matching the skill and development age of the ski racer.
- Course and terrain inspection.
- A proper cool down.
- Debrief with the ski racers to gain feedback on the session in preparation for the next training or competition bout.
In a study conducted by Müller, et al. on long term athletic development in ski racing they found no single fitness parameter responsible for determining the risk of injuries, a comprehensive fitness regimen starting at a young age is crucial for coping with the physical requirements of alpine ski racing and minimizing the rate of both traumatic and overuse injuries (Müller et al. 2017).
Possible injury prevention measures should concentrate on core strength, neuromuscular control, reactive strength training and limb (a)symmetry (Steidl-Müller et. al. 2019, Müller, et. al. 2017).
While it is a challenge to raise active ski racers, it's not impossible to create a balance between participation in sports, family time, social time and education.
MAINTAINING A BALANCED FAMILY LIFE THAT FOSTERS THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTHY HABITS INCLUDES:
- Scheduling family time and activities where the family can be active together.
- Ensure that everyone in the family has time for rest and regeneration.
- Finding a balance between school, sports, and encourage ski racers to participate in other sports as desired.
- Working in partnership with your ski racer to develop a simple monitoring routine to assist ski racers with their recovery between training and competition bouts.
- Allow time for social interaction with other ski racers and friends in an unstructured environment like the park or ski area.
- Reduce screen time.
- Getting involved, as a parent, through volunteer activities at the ski racer's club.
Managing the 24 hours in a day is a regular challenge, and the way a ski racer balances their time (studies, competition, training and social life) can have an impact on your sports results. Watch the following video to gain some tips to help you manage your time better, ensure conditions are met to achieve the desired results.
EDUCATION BALANCE VARIES BETWEEN GRADES 11 & 12 AND INCLUDES SOME OF THE FOLLOWING PREVENTATIVE ACTIVITIES:
During this stage, ski racers begin to investigate their post-secondary options including university, completion of a gap year, attending a technical/trade school, or work-study.
The choice that a ski racer will make is largely dependent on their:
- Academic goals
- Athletic goals
- Career goals
In grade 11 and 12 (FIS U18) ski racers are faced with finishing up their secondary schooling and require the time away from ski racing to prepare and take Provincial exams for graduation. This does make scheduling and attending some key race events challenging at times. Each school and ski racer is different; it's essential for the coaches, parents and teachers to be aware of the individual ski racers goals and aspirations on and off the snow. Coordination and collaboration between skiing, school and parents is a critical success factor.Now is the time to be realistic about future plans to ensure inclusion of post-secondary school requirements. Review the education plan with the coach to ensure both athletic and academic goals are achievable. Develop a personalized plan for grad that meets admission requirements. Usually a combination of school and online.
Grades are part of the process to reach the outcome goal of academic success. Ski racers should view school like they see a sport where homework equates to training and exams compare to competitions. To be successful academically and athletically, ski racers must prepare before taking the test. Success never comes easy; it requires hard work and careful planning and preparation to succeed in sport and school.
- Encourage active study breaks where the ski racers can complete a little physical activity from 5 - 15 minutes. Activities can include preventative and mobility exercises, core exercises, a spin on a bike, or a quick run around the block to raise the heart rate.
- Encourage the use of a student planner or calendar to assist with maintaining balance.
- Encourage the ski racer to communicate with their teachers; parent communication should reinforce the student contact when necessary.
- Provide appropriate notice for school absences.
Finding the right balance between sport and education is a permanent challenge for a young athlete. Take a look at this video which offers some advice on reaching your objectives.
Lastella, Michele & Vincent, Grace & Duffield, Robert & Roach, Gregory & Halson, Shona & Heales, Luke & Sargent, Charli. (2018). Can sleep be used as an indicator of overtraining in athletes?. Frontiers in Physiology. In press. 10.3389/fphys.2018.00436.
Müller L, Hildebrandt C, Müller E, Fink C and Raschner C (2017) Long-Term Athletic Development in Youth Alpine Ski Racing: The Effect of Physical Fitness, Ski Racing Technique, Anthropometrics and Biological Maturity Status on Injuries. Front. Physiol. 8:656. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00656
Steidl-Müller, Lisa & Hildebrandt, Carolin & Raschner, Christian & Müller, Erich. (2019). Challenges of talent development in alpine ski racing: a narrative review. Journal of Sports Sciences. 37. 601-612. 10.1080/02640414.2018.1513355.