2017 starts now! (or, “Sport Psych Periodization”)

2017 starts now! (or, “Sport Psych Periodization”)

photography: Oscar Bravo

“My 2017 season starts now!” is a line you likely read repeatedly after the 2016 CrossFit Games. Maybe in the week after, the next day, or even the evening of the event.

To be honest, this really doesn’t resonate with me. When I read something like this I’m not quite sure whether to be skeptical or dismayed. Skeptical because the veterans should know how impactful the Games stimulus is on the athlete, and dismayed because the rookies are heading towards the all too familiar pattern of: make the games; have the time of their life; dive headlong into next season without recovery; burn out before the next Regionals.

Now, remember, this is just my take. And of course, it’s entirely possible that the mindset of a true champion is the mindset of, “no time off, no easy days, and no slacking.”

However, I would consider the following:

We accept the idea of “cycling” in and out of hard training. I’ve also lectured about periodized nutrition and periodized recovery. So, what about periodized focus? Cycling sports psychology?

Athletes are familiar with the idea of “periodization” when it comes to exercise programming. We need intense training, but also physical recovery time, during each day, from week to week, within a training cycle, and across the year. I would argue the same undulating wavelike approach is just as important when it comes to one’s mindset and focus.

Taking time to enjoy life, appreciate art, love others, set goals, build self efficacy, commit to excellence, and develop discipline – all valuable avenues for one’s focus, perhaps every day, and/or perhaps with different emphasis through the year.

So, let the record show Lucas Parker’s official statement for next season’s training:

“2017 starts now!”

This stands in contrast to the more eager post-Games proclamations. Which approach is correct? Technically, neither is… 2017 truly starts momentarily after 11:59 p.m. December 31 2016.

photography: Oscar Bravo

photography: Oscar Bravo

Of course, the point here is the marked shift in focus. Some athletes seem to be able to sustain laser focus every single day. Personally, I want a break. I believe seasonal athletes need a refractory period, so that they can regroup and peak for their next performance.

I haven’t really trained in well over a month.

Am I out of shape now? Yes. But in the span of 6 years of CrossFit Games, having around 6 months of down-time is actually quite reasonable (even minimal).

Maybe I’ll talk more about focus, recovery and downtime in another post. For now, here are my immediate plans for training. I’ll be spending the new cycle working on the following benchmarks:

CHINUPS: max reps

  • To improve my muscular endurance, give the shoulders a break from swinging, and avoid overuse of the more typical pronated hand position.

FRONT SQUAT: max weight

  • Aside from leg strength, I want to work on my rack position and postural strength.
  • I’ll be utilizing the SquatStrong program: a 6 week cycle that involves 2 sessions per week. The mixture of dynamic and heavy sessions will develop my athleticism and power in a more useful way than a typical powerlifting program.

6000m ROW: time-trial

  • I want to develop more aerobic power, capacity, and physical durability.

In 6-7 weeks, I’ll retest all these and reflect on my training. Of course, I will be incorporating other exercises like presses and running, but I feel that 3 benchmark tests is plenty to focus on for marked improvement.

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