Chapter #3 - The Art of Conditioning!
No matter what sport you play, conditioning plays a key role in the level of your performance. In an evenly matched game, the team that is better conditioned will have the competitive advantage over their opponent. Hence, many athletes and coaches seek to "outwork" their competition by performing an array of conditioning drills, runs, and exercises with no real purpose or design. Unfortunately, it takes not only hard work but also SMART work to truly achieve peak performance!
The goal of this chapter, then, is to show you how to not only work hard in your conditioning, but how to also work smart. I hope this segment will be beneficial to you in conditioning your athletes, or yourself!
RULE #1 - Know Why!:
When a basketball or soccer player tells me that their coach wants them to go for a 45 minute run three days a week for pre-season training, I immediately ask why in the world would you want to do that? You want to increase your speed, explosive power, and lateral movement but you're running 45 minutes, 3 days a week!?
Though there is a time and place for most conditioning drills, you have to take into account what sport you or your athlete is preparing for before selecting a mode of conditioning.
The time, intensity, and movements performed during the training session should closely match that of the sport. For example, hockey is a sport that requires a series of short and powerful bursts. Rather than going for a long, slow run then, short and fast hill sprints or stair runs with moderate recovery are a better choice. Basketball is a sport that requires lateral and multi-directional movements mixed in with bouts of vertical jumping. Hence, agility drills, plyometrics, slideboards, and conditioning that requires change of direction are all better choices than going for a run.
RULE #2 - More is NOT always better!
Running yourself or your athletes into the ground day in and day out is not always a wise move. Of course there are times to push it to the limit, but not every day. Set goals and allow proper rest & recovery during and in between conditioning sessions.
Also, if you find yourself getting weaker in your lifts or never having "legs" in your workouts, you are probably overtraining and need to lower the volume of your conditioning. Don't compromise all your gains in strength and power!
RULE #3 - Set Challenges and Competitions:
Whether it's a goal time for a 300yd shuttle, or the first one to the top of the hill, you'll get more out of yourself and your athletes if there is healthy competition involved. By nature, athletes are competitive, adding this element to your conditioning sessions is fun and adds an edge. For young athletes, it teaches them how to be compete and builds mental toughness.
RULE #4 - Have Fun, Play Games:
A huge component of fitness and conditioning should be "games" or "freeplay." Go play touch football, pick-up basketball, tennis, squash, capture the flag, ultimate frisbee, or handball. In addition to being extremely fun, these types of games provide useful cross-training; they introduce movements and skills that you may not use when you play your sport or during orthodox conditioning drills.
You may do up to twenty 30 yard sprints in a game of frisbee and add the skill of catching, throwing, and defending - there's your conditioning. So who cares if you aren't "good" at some of these games; forget structure and go have fun!
RULE #5 - Always Warm up!
This one should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. The many benefits to warming up - increase bloodflow, excite nervous system, increase elasticity of connective tissue to name a few - are just too great to skip. The problem is that many athletes and adults HATE the warm-up.
WELL TOO BAD, I say! Go warmup!
I don't care how you do it - run, skip, shuffle, crawl, medball - as long as you do something.