The definition of a Mesocycle:
“Part a training programme that lasts between 1 and 3 months. It usually consists of a number of microcycles and focuses on the development of a particular training component, for example, the development of general aerobic fitness in the pre-season stage of training.”
Mesocycle for Dragonboating
As Dragonboat training varies with each team’s style and individual’s goals, there is no set training programme that everyone has to obide by. Though there are some ‘ideal’ Mesocycle programmes that top dragonboat teams have been using leading up to State and National titles during a season.
Below is a sample training program used by the Hong Kong Island Paddle Club (HKIPC). They have explained it in quite some detail and may take you some time to read through, but it is worth the read:
The basic concept is that a weekly micro-cycle varies intensity from one day to the next allowing us to balance hard work with recovery time. Macro-cycles prescribe increasing levels of intensity week to week in order to achieve specific performance goals within a 4-8 week period. Our bodies tend to respond best when stressed and then are allowed to heal. The healing process is what makes us perform better in the next cycle.
The three main Macro-cycles are:
- General Fitness Preparation
- Strength and Endurance Development
- Speed Development and Race Preparation
General Fitness Preparation (4-8 weeks)
The objective of this Macro-cycle is to create a performance base. Development is to be more general allowing for a broad range of distances and variety in exercises during this phase. Work should never-the-less be more specific than in the off-season and focus of paddling related activity to build up local muscle endurance ie. the muscle groups which will be used for racing.
a) General Aerobic Conditioning
Work in the boat will focus on low intensity, larger volume exercises such as steady state intensive paddling sessions mixed with longer extensive sessions if training seeks to develop marathon abilities. Work should be comfortable but strong earlier in the cycle but should progress to uncomfortable and fast paddling. The cycle will end with a level of intensity which borders in painful ie. Maximal Aerobic work.
There are two objectives for this Cycle. To improve our the general cardio-vascular potential such as cardiac stroke volume, VO2 max. etc. and to increase capillary density in our paddling muscles. This will provide the staying power for races even as short as 500m.
Alternative sessions to the boat would be running, swimming, kayaking or rowing (boat or ergometer) as long as it’s working to the same level of intensity and duration. Effort should be made to raise anaerobic threshold levels and to achieve maximum aerobic functioning.
b) Base Strength Development
Muscle mass should increase (hypertrophy) and base strength should be developed in the gym for all muscle groups (see section 2.2 for dryland strength development — Hypertrophy Phase). Even a simple routine of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and dips at home can go a long way in developing a base strength that can contribute to better paddling performance.
A small amount of resistance training in the boat is good at this stage as long as the resistance level is also low eg. dragging a tire or having 1/2 of the boat paddling for 50-60 strokes.
Strength and Endurance Development (2 cycles @ 4 weeks each)
This Cycle seeks to make improvements to paddling strength and specific race endurance. Neuromuscular recruitment is important, so effort both in the boat and during dryland training should be intense striving to ‘feel’ for maximum resistance during a paddle stroke. Speed work should begin in the later stages of the cycle.
The Paddling Programme includes two Strength and Endurance Macro-cycles allowing for a period of transition. The second Cycle starts from a lower level of intensity builds to a higher level much faster that the first Cycle. The purpose for this is achieve a better balance between aerobic and anaerobic conditioning exercises which are taken to greater extremes in the second Cycle.
a) Aerobic/Anaerobic Endurance Training
The range of work should begin with Anaerobic Threshold training and advance to Lactic Tolerance training later in the Cycle. The emphasis is on intense interval sessions at least once a week alternating with intensive steady state paddling on other days in the week. Close attention should be paid to heartrates during activity to ensure that work is targeting the appropriate intensity. This is air-sucking, heart-pounding, rubber-leg kind of work, so don’t expect improvement if your going for an easy jog.
b) Maximal Strength Development
The initial Cycle should accompany the dryland Strength Phase (see section 2.2) and the latter Cycle should correspond to the Maximum Strength Phase of the Dryland Weight Training Programme. The level of resistance in the boat should also be increased during resistance training sessions. Care should be taken to avoid back to back strength training sessions ensuring that proper recovery time is allocated.
Race Preparation (4 weeks)
This is the Cycle where speed becomes the main feature, converting the strength gains which were made in the earlier Cycles to power. Maximal intensities will be stressed with a duration of work which is closer to the actual race. Race rehearsals will be conducted where all of the trained aspects will be put together for a specific target performance. Smoothing out the transitions from utilization of one energy system to the next is the goal in discovering the optimum racing pace.
a) Race Specific Aerobic/Anaerobic Conditioning
Maintenance of aerobic conditioning is important in this Cycle both in the boat and on land. Longer distance steady state paddling sessions will provide recovery activity for extreme lactic tolerance training. Specific endurance for the sprint race distances is the goal to the extent that there may be some decrease in long distance endurance.
Interval training on land should continue to stress improvement to VO2 max. and anaerobic thresholds.
Strength work should focus on converting absolute strength to power. Fast contractions and less load should replace maximum loads early in the Cycle (see section 2.2 – Power Phase). Acceleration drills and maximum speed exercises will be carried out in the boat the stress maximum application of power throughout the race distance. Endurance of strength is important and is best to be improved in the boat, paddling.
Critical to top performance is tapering down activity to limit damage to muscles and let our bodies recovery for a race event. It does not mean that work stops all together, particularly for sprint races. Generally the density of practices is reduced, but is replaced by extremely high intensity work for short duration to maintain speed. Alactic activity is stressed, limiting extreme work to 15-20 seconds in order to prevent accumulation of toxins. Low volume is also a must to avoid over-stressing central energy stores.
The duration of the Taper Cycle if difficult to determine. Where the density of training high ie. 10 to 12 sessions per week then typically the taper is longer, perhaps 2-3 weeks. For a lower density training of 3-4 sessions per week, the taper probably needs only 1 week.
Combined with proper nutritional preparation, the end result is a performance peak.
If anyone else has a Mesocycle training programme for their team, I would love to hear about it – simply leave your comments below.