From time to time, I’m put in the potentially awkward position of either corroborating or dispelling an assertion made by a client’s previous trainer or past or current sport coach. The following recent exchange documents one such occasion.
Client: If I wasn’t a swimmer, what would you recommend for my workout schedule (besides your recommended strength training)?
Me: Other than swimming, the aerobic activities that best integrate the three most important principles (minimal impact, fluid rhythm, arms and legs recruited simultaneously) include:
Bike with arm sweeps or hammer curl + military press
Cross-country ski training. (To see, click here.)
Versa Climber. (To see, click here.)
And, of course, many of the floor exercises we do (crawl, sweep kick, mountain climber, etc.)
Thinking of integrating some other activities and dialing back the swimming a little?
Client: The thing about swimming: the coaches kind of mess with our heads and tell us things like, "Swimming three times a week will only maintain your current speed. Swimming four times a week will help improve your speed. Swimming more than that will make you an awesome swimmer!"
Is this true? I don't know. But I feel a self-pressure to swim at least three times a week so as not to fall behind the other swimmers who are at my speed. I just want to know my options in the event I get bored with swimming (which I will — I get bored of all my workouts after a time) and decide to do something else.
Me: How do I put this politely? That’s nonsense. It’s a near-sighted, ill-informed point of view too many sport coaches share, along with a very heavy bias for their particular sport. It’s actually a sticking point for many competitors because, losing a balanced fitness profile by focusing on a single discipline, they get to and then past a point of diminishing returns far sooner than is necessary.
Evander Holyfield was 178 pounds when he turned pro as a boxer. He strength-trained, did plyometrics, managed a spotless diet and got ten hours of rest a day. He'd sleep seven hours at night and take a three-hour nap between fitness training in the morning and sparring in the afternoon/evening. He'd get daily massages and stretching and generally eschewed many of the conventional boxing training traditions like running for miles, chopping wood for strength, sparring hundreds of rounds, etc. Holyfield is a hall-of-fame bound heavyweight champ who beat contenders in the 225-250 pound range and knocked out Mike Tyson. He’s also considered to be perhaps the fittest boxing champ of all time.
Many world-class marathoners routinely roll back their weekly mileage close to the race and shift to low/no impact activities like swimming and some of the other exercises I mentioned before to continue to raise their cardio threshold but give their legs a much-needed recovery.
There are similar stories throughout sports, but old school coaches aren’t hearing it because it’s counter to what they learned when T-Rex ruled the earth.
Ultimately your enjoyment is more important than your performance. But balance, variety and rest are keys to both.
Want more useful information on how to eat well and get in shape? Contact Dan at http://trivalleywellness.com/