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Thread: Peak At Right Time?

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    Peak At Right Time?

    Often hear people say, "Peak at the right time." It always puzzles me.

    How can you control yourself not to peak at a competition, any competition, in the hope of not peaking at a wrong time?

    When is the right time to peak? The Worlds? The Nationals? The GPF? Or just any competition, and every competition?

    I know that many skaters gradually add the jump difficulties into their programs as the season goes. Somehow it seems this is not quite all what "peak at the right time" regarded.

    Is "Peak at the right time" just a luck? Is it managable? Or is it an afterwards analysis on where a skater has peaked?
    Last edited by Bluebonnet; 12-16-2010 at 10:02 AM.

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Thanks for bringing this up as I've often wondered this myself. Is there really anything to this business of "peaking at the right time?"

    I'm sure many skaters hope to improve as the season progresses and perfect their programs and jumps by the most important competitions at the end of the season. That makes logical sense to me and we saw that last season with Mao, Joannie, Mirai and Rachael. They struggled at first - in different degrees, not so much Rachael but at the very very beginning she did - but by the Olympics they were awesome.

    But if a skater is on from the get-go is there honestly a danger that they will go downhill? (not counting injuries like what happened to Rachael of course.) Last year, Yuna was near perfect at TEB and though she had a couple of stumbles she pretty much maintained her momentum throughout and there was no talk of "peaking" from her camp...

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I have wondered about this, too. It almost seems like people feel it is a good thing to fall down four times in your first event of the season, to get the falls out of the way so you can skate flawlessly later on.

    But I have heard skaters mention how difficult it is to "peak" once a month, every month, for six months, as would be the case of a sketer who does three Grand Prix events, makes the Grand Prix finals, then does his/her nationals, then Eropeans or Four Contintnents, then Worlds. There isn't enough down time between events to get proper rest, but still get back up to speed for the next event.

    On the other hand, it is not so hard if you can hold back, pace yourself, then maintain top conditioning at the end for two or three tough events in a row.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebonnet View Post
    Often hear people say, "Peak at the right time." It always puzzles me.

    How can you control yourself not to peak at a competition, any competition, in the hope of not peaking at a wrong time?
    Don't overtrain, especially early in the season?

    I'm no expert on training techniques, so I can't speak to details.

    When is the right time to peak? The Worlds? The Nationals? The GPF? Or just any competition, and every competition?
    I think it depends on the skater's situation. E.g., Lysacek was not aiming to peak at 2009 or 2010 Nationals -- he was aiming for Worlds and Olympics. He was confident that he could qualify for 2009 Worlds and 2010 Olympics with a less-than-peak performance at Nationals, and it turns out he was correct.

    Michelle Kwan and Alexei Yagudin, for example, would have been in the same position for much of their careers.

    But for a skater who is less confident that less than their best will be enough to place high enough at Nationals to move on, they have to aim to do their best at Nationals. Then if they do get assigned to another event after Nationals, they need to adjust their training afterward to try to peak again at that event, whether it's two weeks later or two months later.

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    ^ Interesting... I've thought about Evan's example too. But he did win the GPF final. I'm thinking in his case, he was in perfect shape all along and just decided to test the quad at nationals because he knew he could afford a mistake or two.

    I can't imagine that most skaters don't aim to skate perfectly at all of their GP events. But if they don't they probably give themselves a break, as it's often the first time they are performing a program competitively.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    There's a training plan for peak performance (and now software as well for tracking). You adjust your peak timing to match up with when you need to peak (so if you have to go through Regionals, you set that as your peak time versus Nationals/Worlds). All coaches follow some version of this for their competitive skaters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Layfan View Post
    ^ Interesting... I've thought about Evan's example too. But he did win the GPF final. I'm thinking in his case, he was in perfect shape all along and just decided to test the quad at nationals because he knew he could afford a mistake or two.
    Yes, Evan did win the GP final, but I don´t think that he was faultless in that competition. I remember thinking towards the Olympics and thought it was good that he was not perfect, yet.

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mskater93 View Post
    There's a training plan for peak performance (and now software as well for tracking). You adjust your peak timing to match up with when you need to peak (so if you have to go through Regionals, you set that as your peak time versus Nationals/Worlds). All coaches follow some version of this for their competitive skaters.
    Thanks - so what does that mean? Longer training hours the closer you get to your target "peak time?" More time spent on jumps?

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    I never believed in this "peaking" stuff. A skater is expected to lay blood and guts on the ice at every competition. When Brian Joubert had that undefeated season, did he worry about "peaking"?

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    Well, I don't skate but I compete with horses and we aim to have them "peak" for specific competitions. We will still have several shows before/in between our big ones, or end of the year finals and we aim for them to be their fittest and mentally fresh for the big competitions. We still show up at every competition prepared to do our best and win, but the horse may not have been as thoroughly fit or trained as if he'd be for Finals or a big show. If we competed at that same level all year round, for the smaller, qualifying shows, most of the horses would be burned out and/or sore by the end of the year. I'd imagine that is the same for all athletes. There are times throughout the season we'll aim to have them at their peak, then let them down and by that I mean instead of training at full out, we'll still exercise them but not as long/hard, do other kinds of training exercises, whatever, then slowly brig them to their peak for the next big show. I know Michelle Kwan used to speak about it and always thought it was similar to our programs-breaking it down so you aren't always performing at your absolute maximum, work on weaknesses or parts of your programs Vs blowing yourself out doing EVERYTHING and several run throughs daily.

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    Peak performing conditions are impossible to maintain over a period of time. I would think skaters confident about their selection and participation at the later more important event(s) need to pace themselves but those fighting for such opportunity or a podium position in possibly their last competion don't have such luxury or concern. As the importance and prestige of the events escalate into the end of the season, the elite skaters don't want to be worn out early.

    These elite skaters have 2 or 3 competition practices in the GP series while they prepare for the later half of the season. These are opportunities to test out their programs and get judges' feedback so they would adjust their element techniques and program components for higher scores later, e.g. raising the spin and footwork levels.

    Another major aspect of competition preparedness is mental. I would say it is the most important aspect and deciding factor among the top skaters whose skills are on par with each other. The skater's mindset before the music starts already determines the outcome in most cases. The mental readiness is also something they work on during the progress of the competitive season.

    Obviously, Chan used the early competition to test out and practice his new quads and ambitiously raised level of program difficulty. In the first 4 programs in competition, he filled in the gaps one by one, getting each new jump done even as they got their turns in failing. By the GPF, the progams were not perfect but all the gaps had been filled. The high scores he got along the way must be reassuring that he was on the right course and in the direction the judges wanted. I find his progress and process fascinating and my interest stays high in obsering his progress in the rest of the season.

    Abbott is one of the best skaters in the world but not a top competitor. He lacks the mental toughness to perform to a necessary level at major international competitions. His comfort zone, physically and mentally, is at his home country/continent. Thus he often "peaks" at the Nationals which unfortunately is not the last or most prestigeous event he participates in. His learning curve in mental readiness is just not fast enough to match his abilities and age and maybe his competitive career span. Of course, he still has time and opportunities to get over this obsticle to his ultimate achievement which would be lovely to see him accomplish.

    The mental states of the 3 top Japanese men are interesting and quite certainly the determining factor in thier ranking so far. Takahashi usually paces himself to peak at the last event as he knows he will be there. This confidence shows from the early more error prone competitions, helping him acquire those high PCS, which are in turn confidence boosters.

    Oda, I hope he gets his counting mistakes out of the way early in the season to never happen again at a World Championship! His focus after the first 3 competitions should be on winning the LP and the competition. Maybe he shouldn't go all out in the SP but to chase the gold in the LP. Who knows? Maybe he and his team will figure this out. As glimpsed from his interview I linked before, he was somewhat intimidated by Chan and also pre-conceding on his PCS in general. So he didn't exactly have the highest confidence. 3 silvers is nothing to sniff at but I'm sure his goal is different so hopefully what he takes from these earlier experiences may help him peak at the right time.

    Kozuka has the skills to win. But, as with all skaters, he needs to be a winner in his mind before he can manifest such reality. His early success this season must have been confidence building but his mental state might have been badly affected by his accidental crashing with Takahashi. Daisuke needs to recuperate physically whereas Koz needs to recuperate mentally.

    Some people say timing is everything. We will see eventually who peaks at the climactic end of this season. But the process is just as exciting to watch.
    Last edited by SkateFiguring; 12-16-2010 at 02:30 PM.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layfan View Post
    Thanks - so what does that mean? Longer training hours the closer you get to your target "peak time?" More time spent on jumps?
    There are different times when you should be focused on elements and certain times when you should be focused on program and stamina. It needs to be tweaked by the skater/coach knowing how long it takes the skater to be prepared for those things but overall, it's a case of time off, elements (jumps, spins, turns, etc), new choreo, building up to the new program, and then polishing. Off ice has a plan to go with the on ice periodization training.

    PB, a skater expected to lay blood and guts on the ice at every competition is likely to have a very short carreer. Look at how Joubert is suffering now!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by PolymerBob View Post
    I never believed in this "peaking" stuff. A skater is expected to lay blood and guts on the ice at every competition. When Brian Joubert had that undefeated season, did he worry about "peaking"?
    One has only so much blood and guts to lay. In the most easily understood sport of sprinting, you may think it's about running all out for that short distance to reach the lamp post first. For the elite runners, it's meticulous accounting of every single step and each fraction of a second.


    Quote Originally Posted by Layfan
    Thanks - so what does that mean? Longer training hours the closer you get to your target "peak time?" More time spent on jumps?
    Peak training in most sports is very comprehensive and holistic these days, including diet, endurance, strength, specific skills, etc., as well as psychological preparedness. Some athletes, including skaters, eventually realize the necessity of such holistic approach, just as most athletes do cross training nowadays. It is also often sport specific. I forget the details, but it's been found and tested that in speed skating, the skaters would actually train hard and then lay off training completely for certain number of days before competition to bring out their peak performance.

    Of course, such peak training and preparation for a competition is and should be very individualistic, according to each athlete's body, skills, and psychological makeup.

    Peak performance is an extremely important issue to athletes. For skaters, it's not just about peaking on a certain day. The 4 1/2 minutes on ice is all they have to show a lifetime of training.
    Last edited by SkateFiguring; 12-16-2010 at 04:38 PM.

  14. #14
    chillyfranz
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    Best peaking is no definitive answer. But skater who approach every competition consistently, whether it be like a training run trough and not skating for results always move forward, at least in the mental preperation. Once skater breaks this mental mindset disaster can ensue. Peaking is more mental condition, although some physicall components can play a role I think.

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    Thank you so much, everyone, especially gkelly, MKFSfan, and SkateFiguring! These explanations make a lot of sense to me.

    So the peaking time is controlled or try to be controlled by training progress and mental preparation. There should be a "peak at a right time" if a skater is well prepared. If a skater peaked at a wrong time, it'll mean either the training regimen was wrong or the said skater has less mental toughness. Also, the skaters who aimed later competitions, such as the Worlds, would pace themselves in the preparation for the early competitions because nobody could be 100% at the best all the time. They would be 100% at the best at their most important competition they choose. Some aimed the Nationals, some aimed the Worlds.

    Therefore, the tough skaters, like Lysacek and Plushenko, hardly have had peak at wrong time. They almost always peaked at right time, and controlled their own destiny.



    At this top level, I would think that skaters training regimens are all throughly thought, and carefully arranged. The training plan should be correct, and the training rarely goes wrong unless there's injuries. So what's left? The mental toughness. The skaters who has peaked at wrong time are mentally not tough enough. (Set aside those skaters who have only had this much to give and have reached their own potential.) They supposed to skate better this time than the last time, they didn't, even though they very much wanted to, and they did everything they could to help to peak at the right time. All the "peak at wrong time" should not happen because nobody wants it to happen.

    So in the end, the "peak at right time" is, for most skaters (since the most skaters are more or less headcases) uncontrolable. It's a luck. All we could do is to hope for the best next time.
    Last edited by Bluebonnet; 12-17-2010 at 02:41 AM.

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