The Truth about ‘Peaking’

Posted by Latif Thomas


It’s Championship Season and, if you’re a coach, you’re hoping you’ve put your athletes in position to have their best performances during this small window of ‘win or go home’ meets. So at this time of year, I get a lot of questions about peaking.

-What are the best workouts to get athletes to peak?
-How long can you hold a peak?
-What are you favorite peaking workouts for X event group?

All fair questions. But if you’re asking them, you’re missing the mark. So here are 2 things you need to know about ‘peaking’ your athletes, regardless of event group:

  1. There are no magic ‘peaking’ workouts.

If you’re looking for the perfect workout that’s going to pluck a huge PR out of the legs of your athletes, you’ve already lost. Because ‘peaking’ starts the first day of practice.

Large drops in time (or gains in height/distance) stem directly from the workout and skill progressions you’ve taught during the Preparation phases and early Competitive phase. If you have a 12 week season, it’s what you do in the first 8 (or so) weeks that set the flight path for your peak. If you didn’t specifically design your progressions in a way that facilitates optimal execution during Championship Season, it doesn’t matter which elite coaches you steal ‘peaking’ workouts from. It won’t matter.

Running the type of sprints/hurdles/jumps program that performs at a high level year after year takes a consistent commitment of time and effort on the part of the coach. Ubiquitous success also requires thought, planning and, yes, some money too.

Generally speaking, you can hold a ‘peak’ for 1-3 weeks, depending on the length of your Prep Phases. In my experience at the HS level, I think it’s reasonable to hold a ‘peak’ for roughly 2 weeks. If you do the math and time it right, that means you can get 2-3 meets with big PRs before you need to reload. But there are no magic workouts late in the season if you didn’t run good progressions early in the season. Just like there are no good jumps in the long jump if you didn’t run a good approach.

You just have to study the patterns to know which progressions to use, when to use them and how to teach them.

2.    “The hay is in the barn.”

Whether you spend 35 hours a week designing and implementing your training program or make up workouts on the way to practice, at this point, there’s nothing you can do. Results to come are directly proportional to your coaching knowledge combined with your ability to inspire your kids to work hard every day.

Either way, that’s in the rearview mirror now.

So, what are the best ‘peaking’ workouts?

It doesn’t really matter. The work is already done. Your athletes are either in shape or they’re not. It’s not a high school final exam. You can’t cram for it at the last minute and pull a good grade out of your behind.

Last Friday night, we competed at our Division III State Championships. We did our one core workout for the week on Tuesday. Monday we jogged and stretched. Same for Wednesday. Premeet on Thursday. That was it.

RELATED: Here is the system I use to start peaking my sprinters on the first day of the season.

For the most part, I asked the kids what they wanted to do on Tuesday. Why? Because it didn’t really matter what they did. For most of them, they’ve been building toward this meet since late November. Others since September. In my opinion, the most important thing for them at this point was their own personal belief that they were ready to run fast times or jump high/far.

I was confident that my progressions had gotten them in shape. I was confident that they had worked their asses off all season. So if an athlete believed running 150s out of blocks would best prepare them for their race, I was cool with that. I just had to make sure they were run fast and done with full recovery.

Ultimately, both my boys and girls 4x200m relay teams broke the school record. The boys broke the meet record and took 1.2 seconds off of the school record. The girls dropped almost 2 seconds (1.88 to be exact) in 3 weeks.

Not because of some magical coaching performance or because we did anything fancy for ‘peaking’ workouts. Mostly because I spent the last 10 days or so drilling into their heads that their personal Beliefs were the only thing preventing them from running faster times.

So, how can I sum up this article? At this point of the season, your kids are either in shape or they’re not. But the most important workouts have already been run. All you can do now is get inside their heads and get them to believe they’re capable of running their goal times. Because they hay is in the barn. So just back off with all the workouts and let your kids rest a up so they feel light, fresh and fast. Give them at least 48-72 hours between their last workout and their Championship Meet and don’t over think one workout when you’ve been training six days per week for the last three months.

More 200 Meter Training

Here is a video of my boys school record/meet record 4x200m relay. We’re the team with the white uniforms, starting in Lane 5.

To your success,

Latif Thomas

P.S. Want to learn all of this first hand? The 2013 Complete Track & Field Clinic (July 18-21, 2013 at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island) will teach athletes and coaches exactly what you want to know! Registration begins Monday, February 18, 2013 and spots are limited!


Latif Thomas - Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic at Harvard University, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics across the country, Latif has true passion for the sport and it definitely shows. Over the past 19 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All-State, and New England Champions in sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he can count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter.

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