I’m going to repeat that title for posterity:
THERE IS NO PERFECT TRAINING PLAN.
There’s not a perfect training plan for roller derby athletes. There’s not a perfect training plan for powerlifters. There’s not a perfect training plan for competitive eaters.
It just doesn’t exist.
Perhaps you’ve been laboring under the illusion (consciously or not) that if you JUST FOUND THE PERFECT TRAINING PLAN all of the skills you’re struggling with would fall into place. Or you’d suddenly make your team’s all-star roster. Or your adult acne would clear up.
But it just doesn’t exist.
Because there IS no perfect training plan.
There are 2 ways you can choose to react to this news:
- Frustrated. Annoyed. Angry. Homicidal. “What do you MEAN there’s not perfect training plan? What’s the fucking point, then?”
- Elated. Excited. Like a weight has lifted off your shoulders. “Thank fuck. I can stop being afraid that I’m somehow failing every time I step into the gym.”
One of those ways will benefit you and the other one won’t. I don’t want to give it away, but if you want to have success in your training — off-skates or on — then you should try to cultivate mindset number two.
The other way lies madness.
(Seriously though. Aiming for perfection when perfection doesn’t exist will drive you up the wall.)
So you’re bubbling with elation and excitement and ready to take on the first sledgehammer slinging, rope climbing, crawling through the mud, obstacle course training style you see.
Whoa. Pull back on the reins there.
Just because there isn’t a PERFECT training plan doesn’t mean that some methods of training aren’t better than others. Especially for specific goals. Or certain times of the season.
And there are boatloads of research about the training best suited for specific types of athletes.
For all that roller derby is unique in a lot of ways, it’s just a sport. It has elements of other sports that already exist and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for a lot of the training goals roller derby athletes have.
In taking some cues from other sports, your effective training plan should take into consideration these elements:
Specifically what part of your season you’re in and what you need to be primarily focused on during that time. Whether you’re intensely practicing in the run-up to a tournament or just fucking around in your off-season matters. Not just because of the number of practices you attend, but because your goals are likely different.
In-season goals often focus on specific performances ON-SKATES so that you can be a productive and effective member of your team.
Off-season goals usually focus on physical qualities like strength, speed, power — those things that, if improved, will aid you in pushing your on-skates skills during the next season.
Roller derby athletes as a whole tend to have an “If more is good, a lot must be better” mentality. This is true when it comes to practice attendance, training days, and duct tape. “A lot is better” is only true of one of those things all of the time. And it isn’t the number of training days you’re doing.
While a lot of training days MIGHT be good, it’s 100% dictated by what you’ve done before that and what you’ll do after that.
Periodization is basically breaking your season (or year or some other span of time) up into periods, then determining which type and amount of training fit best into that period given your goals or other commitments.
This method of planning your training is critical for athletes because the commitments of our season fluctuate so much. You might go from prepping hard for tryouts to a month or two of relative leisure to set up for a tournament that could make or break your season.
Strength is important. But when it comes to changing directions quickly, absorbing big hits, or avoiding niggling back and hip pain, stability is where it’s at. Your core needs to be able to brace and absorb impact from multiple different directions in multiple different planes.
If you’re stuck for training ideas to improve your game, include some core stability work.
The reason you can’t plow stop well or hold your ground when you get hit might just be a matter of an energy leak through an unstable core. Those aches in your hips might be due to instability in your hip flexors or glutes (parts of your core). Put this in your program. Whatever it is that you’re training for.
I wanted to call this section “collect and analyze your data,” but that sounded less appealing than a general call to do assessments. So do some assessments.
We use them in roller derby for a reason. They give us a picture of how and where we’re improving so we can target our training toward shoring up our weaknesses and solidifying our strengths.
THE SAME IS TRUE OF YOUR TRAINING.
Periodically re-assess where you are in relation to your goals and ask yourself if the training your doing is actually getting you there.
- If it’s getting you there and you’re happy with the pace, keep going. It’s working! You can always tweak intensity or volume a little at a time to keep the gainz train coming, but it’s not necessary right now.
- If it’s getting you there but it’s slow going, identify what skills or qualities you need to bring up to make those improvements. Then double down on training those areas.
- If it’s not getting you there, it’s time to reassess. Is your training actually focusing on the qualities or skills you want? Have you been consistent? What might be missing?
While there is no perfect training plan, constant assessment and adjustment can make your training plan as close to perfect as possible for YOU.
You may, as Tyler Durden puts it, be the same decaying organic matter as everyone else. But when it comes to the training plan that works for you, you are a unique snowflake.
Embrace the mindset of a scientist to build the right training program for you and your goals. Assess constantly. Look at failure as feedback. Keep showing up even if the results aren’t quite what you expected.
Sometimes they’re better.
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