What a phrase! We’ve all heard it. I know I have on more than one occasion from an elite athlete either during training or in competition as the event wore on; they never wore out. They were so gifted and in such great shape that they seemed to be able to go “all day”.
As we mentioned last week, conditioning is the glue that holds the program together. Before we get to the how, we will touch on the why and some of the what.
As a coach, I make a point of telling my athletes that there is no halftime adjustment for fatigue. Once fatigue sets in, no energy drink or “second wind” will save you. Several words are used to describe the same physical state: conditioning, fitness, stamina, endurance. It doesn’t matter–six of one thing, half a dozen of the other.
Once athletes tire, they trend downward. Fatigue diminishes all those other traits worked so hard to gain in the offseason. Visible signs of fatigue in competition can even be a strategic advantage for the opponent. The moment they see you sucking wind, they can adjust to exploit your weakness.
There is a consensus among athletes that, for the most part, they hate conditioning. Don’t let that attitude be a part of your culture because it’s definitely not going to be a part of your program. Establish a culture where athletes embrace conditioning. Make sure they understand conditioning gives them the edge. Make darn sure they understand their opponents are working toward the same edge. You want to be able to run ”all day, baby.”
For example, think about fueling your car. You always prepare to have enough fuel for where you’re going. When you’re low on fuel, you plan to get more before you run out and get stranded. If you ever ran out of gas, I’m confident the experience would teach you to never let it happen again.
No athlete wants to get near the end of competition and run out of gas. If you get tired, you get beat. Be in the best shape you can possibly be in!
From lifting, to running, to jumping, we will account for conditioning in the program. It should be designed to effectively get the desired results without detracting from other training elements. Everything being connected means each component has an impact on the others.
Let’s cover some basic conditioning principles that will continue to guide our direction.
This is where it gets delicate. It will sound like I am contradicting myself when I talk about how you don't have to train as much as you think you do. Some part of you may think you need to and/or can do more. Resist the thought. We have to keep in mind youth athletes aren’t fully mature. This will come down to trusting the training.
Like I’ve mentioned, overtraining is preventable. What we know is that once your body is exposed to a stressor, it remembers what it feels. It will be necessary to revisit the same stressor no more than once per week. Furthermore, another objective for conditioning is the unknown. In sports you never know when competition will go into overtime, extra time, extra-innings or whatever would lengthen the competition.
The lesson coming out of this is going to be that the “everything is connected" principle won’t go away. Your program must account for practice time, the number of days that you practice, competition(s) as a max effort, and recovery day(s). The demand of the sport will create the demand for the program. Then, when those needs are met you can use your discretion as you fill in the rest.
It’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Next week we are going to talk about designing the speed portion of your program.