How to Peak Correctly for Your Season

Follow this strategy to make sure you are in the best possible shape at the most important time.

Most athletes don't actually strive to remain in peak condition at all times. Staying in peak condition is grueling and requires lots of devotion and sacrifice. Most athletes will retain and develop some base level of skill, speed, stamina and strength, but they don't need to push their body to the absolute limit on a regular basis, so they adapt their athletic capabilities to the level of activity they want to maintain and figure out how to peak.

However, when they begin to prepare for competition, they change up their routine to increase performance and improve results. There are good ways and bad ways to increase your training to learn how to peak. Athletes will often be inclined to train by setting new personal records or focusing on developing the wrong skills. They may exhaust themselves trying to squeeze too much training into a short time or by trying to ramp up exercise all at once.

Athlete with Trophy

Amp up your strength training

When you need to improve in order to peak, trying to improve your speed or run longer distances right off the bat won't bring you the improved performance you seek. To make any significant improvement, you need to rely on strength training to develop a strong base for other skills.

For example, your speed is limited by the force you can expel from your muscles. By developing stronger muscles in your legs, you increase the force with which you can push off the ground, ultimately helping you make significant gains in your running times. Strength training can also increase your jumping performance and your endurance. A strong endurance runner who doesn't train heavily on hills might struggle with a hill-heavy route, no matter how many times he runs it, if he doesn't work on strengthening his calf muscles.

Younger male athletes looking to improve their performance should begin strength training weeks before an event, while women and older male athletes should maintain strength training year round and increase it before an event to peak at the right time. Trying to rush the strength training will only tire out your muscles and leave you unable to recover and make the necessary gains.

Develop your endurance with multiple reps and HIIT

When you're getting ready to prepare for a competition, you need to keep in mind what the actual structure of the competition will look like. If it's a multi-day event where you compete multiple times, you may be inadequately preparing if you're focusing on doing something well just once. In other words, you need to practice not just by beating personal records, but by incorporating multiple reps into your training. After strength training, you must work on developing your stamina. Start incorporating multiple reps into your training and think about reproducing a record multiple times in a row. If you reached a new personal best, for example, try to repeat it multiple times before tapering down your exercise. Then try to reach that personal best over multiple training sessions.

Use high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, to improve your performance. This means practice improving your personal record performances just before your event by exerting a lot of effort in a short amount of time. As a runner, for example, now is the time for sprint training: Take a 30- to 60-second run as fast as possible, and repeat it once or twice. Lift the most you can, and do two to three reps an exercise per session.

Focus on big bursts of energy expelled very quickly to develop a new peak for your body to push to. Be careful when you're doing this exercise, as you're more prone to injury and need to ensure you recover between workout sessions. And when you are exercising in your local gym, always read the waiver of liability. You may suffer an injury at the gym, but that doesn't mean the facility is going to be liable in the eyes of the law.

Decrease exercise just before your big day

You may be tempted to spend the days before you head to your competition or event getting in last bouts of exercise. This doesn't work, and instead leads to a tired and poor performance the day of competition. Instead, you should taper your exercise down in the days leading up to your event. For a major event, a tapering period of between 21 and 28 days works best. For less significant competitions, you only need a few days, between one and five, to fully recover for the event.

By slowing down your exercise ahead of your competition, you ensure that your body gets a chance to fully recover from the amped up training you've put it through. This means that when you hit the field, floor or water on competition day, your body will be in the best shape it can be.