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Fencing Training Goals and Periodization
The fencing season in most US fencing divisions presents significant problems in the periodization of training for competitive fencers. Fencing is now a year-round sport, with competitions throughout the months, and in some cases opportunities for fencers to fence at a meet within driving distance every weekend. In this environment, planning a periodized training program requires a close fit between the individual fencer’s goals, desire to win, and the overall structure of a club or sale training program.
Classic periodization creates four levels of training cycles:
- Super macrocycles – multi-year cycles to prepare for events that occur less often than once a year; The Olympic quadrennium is an example.
- Macrocycle – a single training cycle covering a year (in some cases two macrocycles may be appropriate).
- Mesocycles – a number of training cycles, up to 6, within a macrocycle.
- Microcycles – weekly training cycle.
The structure of the training cycles is logically linked to the main competitive events in a fencing year. What those main competitive events are depends on the fencer’s level and goals. For an elite athlete working to make a national team, each of the events in the selection process is a key event. In this athlete’s program, the typical A2 Division event is irrelevant and valuable only to the extent that it serves as a training event. Actual events vary by weapon and age group, but include North American Cup circuit events, Summer Nationals, and select World Cup and Grand Prix events. For a senior fencer, this is a minimum of seven events that give points for the national points list, culminating in the World Championships, the event in which the fencer must perform the strongest. For a handful of top elite fencers, this is a single macrocycle, with individual mesocycles for each target event.
For most goalkeepers, however, just qualifying for the Junior Olympics or Summer Nationals is a tall order, much less succeeding in the event. For a cadet fencer this could be two macrocycles with the Junior Olympics as one and the Summer Nationals as the second. But these macrocycles require performance in a qualifying event that is maximal for the average athlete, riding at least two mesocycles. The challenge is to identify, from the wide range of tournaments available, events within the macrocycle that will serve as important preparation for both qualifiers and national events and that can serve as targets in the mesocycle.
This is further complicated by the need to achieve the appropriate classification to qualify for the desired event. For example, I coached a Canadian fencer, resident in the United States, whose goal was to be able to fence in a Division 1 event. She earned her C classification in a Division 3 event, but did too late to be able to enter a Division 1 Cup circuit tournament (a C is the minimum classification for entry) before returning to Canada.
What does this mean for the trainer who uses period training? First, the coach and goalkeeper must have a well-understood and mutually agreed upon goals, and these goals must be long-term, strategic goals, supported by seasonal goals. Objectives guide the overall design of the training program.
Second, the trainer and keeper must select events that logically contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the training program. Not every tournament deserves a maximum effort. Some tournaments should be skipped altogether or treated only as training events for the goalkeeper to use to work on specific problems (bearing in mind that understanding that medals or rankings are not the goal may be difficult for some athletes).
And third, sufficient time must be allowed between key tournaments for the training process to work. If a fencer trains 5 days a week and fences weekend competitions, it is possible to develop a complete microcycle between competitions, including time for rest and recovery. However, if a fencer only trains one or two days a week, it is very difficult to vary the length, intensity and composition of training sessions to make any significant progress. This is true even if one of the many alternative periodization models is chosen: conjugate, concurrent, skill/strength, or multi-rate.
All of this means that both coach and athlete must understand their goals and work together to find the best approach to training that meets competitive goals within the realities of the club environment, time available and fencing ability. to train. Periodization training is a complex approach to training with a proven track record of improving the performance of athletes. It is also a method that requires both the coach and the athlete to understand and be committed to its implementation.
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