Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Creating a training plan can be confusing and overwhelming. How often should you be training and how much? As Irish dancers, we don’t get an “off-season” typical of other sports. However, dancing and training at high intensities year-round doesn’t allow your body the rest it needs, leading to everything from peaking at the wrong time to overuse injuries (like stress fractures). So how do you plan out the season and create your own Irish dance training plan?
Let's first look at the big picture with PERIODIZATION
Periodization, the strategic implementation of specific training phases that optimizes a dancer’s peak performance at the appropriate time of year, is key(1)! The classic model of periodization is broken up into different cycles:
Macrocycle: extended training period, typically a year
Mesocycle: 1-4 months
Microcycle: 5-30 days
A macrocycle contains several mesocycles, and a mesocycle contains several microcycles.
Let’s do an example outlining each cycle in preparation for a competition, let’s say the North American Nationals. In a macrocycle from April through June, one mesocycle would be one month - and each mesocycle would be dedicated to a different aspect of training. For example, April (mesocycle 1), you could focus on breaking down your steps, drilling and putting 2 steps together, May (mesocycle 2) would be practicing whole steps and beginning full runs, and June (mesocycle 3), would be practicing full runs of your dances and tapering. Within each mesocycle, the microcycles would focus even more on each technique you’d like to improve and how specifically you plan to improve it. Let’s say each microcycle is two weeks. Each of those microcycles should be devoted to improving one technique - through completing strengthening exercises specific to that technique and focusing on maintaining that technique through the entire mesocycle. For example, in Mesocycle 3, Microcycle 1, you would do a full run of your dances with most of your attention devoted to maintaining your turnout through your entire dance.
It’s important to note each cycle additionally emphasizes a specific fitness component and phase of training.
Preparatory Phase: overall, non-dance specific, strength and conditioning exercises that are high volume, low intensity and develop a base for upcoming high-intensity training.
First Transition Phase: between preparatory and competition phases that denote a change of training intensity and volume.
Competition Phase: dance-specific training that is high intensity, low volume. Training at this phase may change slightly depending on a dancer’s goal to peak for one competition (higher intensity) or a competition season/maintenance period (moderate intensity for an extended period of time).
Taper Period: the competition phase includes a taper period that is a reduction in workload, prior to a major competition, to maximize performance.
Second Transition Phase: active rest that allows your body to recover from the competition phase.
Creating training plans for your Irish dance seasons is a great way to not only hold yourself accountable for your training, but remain healthy, rested, and injury-free.
Looking for a place to start with your training plan? Check out the Target Training Online Institute for the Preseason Training Guide and 3-Month Training Plan. These 4 months of training are carefully designed to guide you through each phase of training to help you peak at just the right time! Not on the Online Institute? Your first month of training with the Trainer subscription is FREE with the code 1MONTHFREE.
1. Siff, MC. Supertraining (6th ed.). Denver, CO: Supertraining Institute, 2003.