By Trent Finlayson
Preparing for the year’s biggest amateur water-ski event can be an overwhelming task. You need to spend as much time on the water as possible – this you’re aware of. But without a concrete plan to guide you through the summer, much of your training may be in vain.
Peaking isn’t an option at this time of year. Create a plan to will put you where you need to be in time for Nationals without adding stress.
Focus on Technique
Six weeks out from the tournament, approach skiing from a purely technical standpoint. At this point, don’t define your skiing by the scores you achieve in practice. While this is hard to do, it’s important if you hope to make any real changes or refinements to your skill set. In slalom, concentrate on making my midpasses (32/35 off) consistent and comfortable. In tricks, focus on small clusters of tricks in sequence. In jump, spend 25 percent of water time open-cutting, away from the jump.
Build Strength and Stamina
Don’t push yourself to the limit on every pass, but do ski yourself to exhaustion during this period. Working on all three events, do four sets a day, six days a week. Continue to build strength and stamina while reinforcing positive mechanics on the water. By maintaining this pace through the two-week period, you’re training your body to perform under stress, which will be useful down the road.
Rest is paramount during this phase. Try three days of skiing followed by one day of rest. The high-volume training during this phase demands discipline when it comes to the rest day. To avoid potential injury, stick to my planned rest days, regardless of how badly you want to be on the water. This is where most skiers allow themselves to waver from their plan. Your day off should be your reward for hard work, so embrace it.
Three to four weeks from the event, begin to push yourself to find longer distances in jump – just not every set. This period is fun because you’re still working on technique, but you’re beginning to see the rewards.
During this period, blend intensities. As the week progresses, begin to do more tournament-style sets. Aim to perform at about 75 percent for technique-building sets, establishing a footprint to maintain as you begin to go harder. Look to peak at about 90 to 95 percent as this portion of training winds down, leaving your maximum for the last few weeks before Nationals.
Keeping skiing as much as you can physically handle because you still have plenty of time to rest. However, start to cut back on gym work. Now that you’re beginning to ski harder, it’s important to listen to your body and rest as needed. This is the time of year we are the most susceptible to injury. You’re beginning to tire and starting to push your limits. Ski every other day, if your schedule allows.
Go for Scores, Stay Focused on Technique
As this two-week block progresses, start to pay more attention to daily scores, comparing them to your ultimate goals. However, it’s important not to allow yourself to compromise the technical aspects of the skiing you’ve been honing. At this time, it’s common for skiers to begin to feel anxious about their performances, but remember, there is still a long way to go. Keep your technical and mental cues in mind as you begin to look for better practice scores.
The final two weeks leading up to the event are the easiest. The hard work is over; now it’s time to enjoy skiing.
Regardless of how you’re skiing, it’s time to trust that the work you put in all season has left you prepared. Even if your scores have not been stellar in recent weeks, rest assured you’re on the right path. Every skier’s season has peaks and valleys, so these last two weeks are about hitting your peak.
Free Your Mind
You want to begin to shift your focus away from the physical components of skiing and start skiing mentally. Stop concerning yourself with the minute details of your technique and allow yourself to ski more by feel. You want to begin to simulate your tournament mental state, where feeling is everything.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity
In these final two weeks, you want to seriously decrease the amount of time you spend on the water. At Nationals, you’re looking for one great round, so spending a lot of time on the water now isn’t to your advantage. Rest is an important component of these final days.
In this period, commit to taking tournament-style sets. Run through the line lengths you intend to run, then finish your set whether or not you’re tired. Keep the intensity high, but the frequency low. The final set before you leave for Nationals is an easy, longer-lined rhythm set just to relax and feel things out before you pack up and leave.