Yeah. Take a number & join the club.
Of course everyone wants the secret to being the best athlete. So, after spending time each day reading research articles, books, and blogs, I think I finally have the secret and a few tips that will help you focus and truly become the best athlete you can be.
Are you ready? Sitting down? Okay good. Here we go....
The BIG SECRET is this....
There is NO Quantum Leap.
Essentially this means there is NO SECRET, There IS ONLY SCIENCE. Sure, TALENT, and WORK ETHIC are important, but the amount of Talent & Work Ethic required, and which trumps the other, is still debatable.
I write this because lately as I try to sift through the piles of information that are so readily available via the internet and social media, there is an enormous amount of articles on athlete development that try to sell you on one variable, one exercise, one program, or one supplement that is going to suddenly make it all come together and have you rise to the top of you game. It's sold to you as if this one thing is going to magically and suddenly make everything else you've been doing work 10x better and instantly put you at a peak performance.
Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but this is exactly a definition and example of what is referred to as a 'Quantum Leap' philosophy (which is nicely discussed in Jeff Olson's 'The Slight Edge'). And it's bullshit. There is no "one thing." There certainly are better and smarter ways to train and go about getting the results you are looking for, but ultimately it is going to be the end product of a number of variables coming together to get you there. Learning what these variables are, why they are necessary, and how to make sure they are integrated & manipulated appropriately in your training to meet your goals, well, to me that is more or less the "secret sauce" to be searching for. But the truth is, it's not a secret at all, it's just putting the science into practice. And that is where finding a Performance Coach comes into play. Working with someone who knows how to assess your needs and then create a program to meet them in a way that is efficient, effective, and minimizes your risk of injury or over-training is invaluable.
We've all seen the quotes and catchy motivations, things like:
"Hard work trumps talent when talent doesn't work hard."
There certainly is no substitute for a solid work ethic, but let's call it that. Let's not call it 'working hard' because the reality is there is a point where working harder won't get you there, it will actually start taking you farther away. Instead, let's call it dedication, work ethic, commitment, passion...usually it is a mix of all of them. And don't get me wrong, you will work hard in the process, but all too often it seems that the athlete's gut reaction is to do more. More hours in the gym, more sets, more load, more running more sparring.
More is simply more. More is not Better. Better is Better. The idea that simply working harder will get you where you want to go has it's limits. We often see athletes, both amateurs and Pro's, who go over the edge and end up resulting in injury or a decline in performance. This is very apparent in the UFC, with certain camps gaining a reputation for breaking down fighters.
So as an athlete, what is required to be great in your sport? That's kind of a loaded question, because while there are some things that transcend across athletics in general, there are many that are dependent on the particular sport itself. Certainly things that are intrinsic to the specific athlete need to be considered - things like talent, commitment, work ethic, and prior experience all matter, but these are harder to influence beyond maybe encouragement and motivation.
Genetics? Eh, maybe. But those are what they are and while things like nutrition and training effect genetic expression, it would seem that genetics is not something we can significantly manipulate, you will simply just gain access to that which you already inherently posses.
Demands of the sport also need to be considered, as this will dictate many of the physical and mental demands of training in order to maximize characteristics important to that sport. Strength, endurance, speed, power, agility, flexibility, reaction time, balance / proprioception all will have to be manipulated in training to meet the demands of the sport. It is probably easy to see from that short list that training a Triathlete will be much different than training a Track & Field athlete performing the Hammer Throw, which will be much different than training an Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Different sports, different demands, different requirements for training.
This is why 'one-size-fits-all' training has significant limitations. Sure, for a beginner who has a very young training age, you will see improvement from doing almost any type of program. But the higher up the ladder you go, the less responsive the athlete are going to be to that type programming. The program needs to fit the demands of the sport, but also needs to be based on the individual assessment of the athlete and what their specific needs are on a day to day basis. Yes, needs change, which means you have to be able to recognize and identify what those changes are in order to keep the athlete on track in their progression.
A common theme you see thrown around is the notion of "Train Smarter, Not Harder." What does this mean?
In my mind, it starts with having an end goal your are training for, then setting short & long term goals based on the results of the athlete evaluation and timeline for each block of training up to the end goal, which is usually a competition or start of a camp. Each piece of the training program is meant to meet the prioritized needs, and should consist of training methods that will provide the most benefit with the least amount of exposure, or what is referred to as the 'minimum effective dose.' A common thread woven throughout this entire process is the monitoring of the athlete on a daily basis to assess their response to training, level of recovery, and readiness for each subsequent training day. Also factored into the program is the athlete's skills work. For a Boxer or MMA athlete we must take into account how many grappling, striking, and sparring sessions they are doing with their coaches. These skills sessions are often physically and mentally demanding, which means they are another source of stress that adds volume to the system.
Is it possible to actually "train smarter, not harder?" Absolutely. But it requires planning, it requires buy-in of the athlete and the coaches, and it requires constant communication and dialogue between skills coaches, performance coach, and medical staff.
It is this interplay of personnel and variables that will get you to be the best athlete you can be. Certainly there are a number of other disciplines we could add into the discussion -- nutritionist, sports psychologist...you get the idea. It won't be just adding a dead lift, squatting (or not squatting), HIIT training, long duration low intensity training, using this powder, using that drink, stretching (or not stretching) that will make it happen.
Integrated. Comprehensive. Needs-based. Monitored. Tailored. These are all the key words that will make the most difference!
Athletes Physiotherapy - Las Vegas, NV
Thank you for stopping by the Athletes Physiotherapy Blog! Kristopher Bosch founded Athletes Physiotherapy in Las Vegas, NV. He is a Father, physical therapist, athletic trainer, pilates teacher, & perpetual student!
EDGE Mobility System
John Rusin - StrengthDoc
Sue Falsone - S&F
Systemic Dry Needling