Conditioning is Confusing

Recently I'm learning that there are so many misconceptions about conditioning. There's the idea that you just gotta go til you puke, and then keep going. Then there's the idea of running mile after magnificent mile. To top it off there's the idea that you shouldn't condition at all, cause... well, train slow be slow.

I've bought into each of these views at one point or another in my own training.  The first gave me night terrors, the second bored me to death, and the third... Well it got hard playing even a couple of games of basketball.

First off, there's so much more complexity to conditioning then puking or running mile after mile, because our bodies are pretty complex. And second off, conditioning done right won't make you weak, but actually maybe even stronger because you're recovering better after workouts.

Bottom line is this; conditioning is important. We just got a lot of confusion that needs to be cleared up.

The problem is not just the confusion but how we approach each sport. Take for instance, a sport like baseball. How could conditioning possibly be important? You're barely moving the whole time. Well this is true, but what happens to our power, when we start to get fatigued? Well it starts to decline. Our Athletic Trainer Matt Repa has talked about how when an athlete gets tired, their mechanics break down and injury is more likely.  While it's not a cure all, a better conditioned athlete will recover faster from bouts of explosive display, and as a result be able to reproduce said bouts much more often and safely. 

There's something in our body called ATP or adenosine triphosphate, it's the chemical that tells our brain "hey this person is about to do something awesome" and as a result we then put on impressive displays akin to Usain Bolt outrunning a bullet train.

In order to produce ATP a midst physical activity our body relies on several different energy systems. I like how MMA Trainer Joel Jamieson classifies them best... Aerobic, Anaerobic lactic, anaerobic alactic. To make it clearer think of aerobic as conditioning, anaerobic alactic has pure power, and anaerobic lactic as everything in between.

Well in order to be a better athlete all three of these need to be in working order. Many athletes are really good at training the anaerobic systems, or so they think, because well it's easy, and it looks cool expressing pure power and doing a bunch of crazy circuits.  The problem is, these systems exhaust ATP very rapidly, and if these are the only systems you rely on then you're in trouble. 

So while aerobic energy system training is extremely boring and mundane it's also the longest lasting.  Meaning when this bad boy is up and running (no pun intended) then our body is actually able to better restore the ATP and when we get to those moments of extreme athleticism we're ready to go. 

From a performance standpoint this sounds pretty cool, right? Well from an injury reduction standpoint it's even better. Because the better our aerobic system operates not only can we express power more often but as I alluded to earlier, our body can also recover between bouts of said power expression.  And recovery is the backbone of performance.  If you can't recover even in the midst of competition your setting yourself up for injury. 

This is just a very brief and basic overview of conditioning, and our energy systems needed in sport. I definitely just skimmed the surface today, and there's still so much more to go into, which I will do. I just hope this is starting to teach you why you need to train your aerobic system regardless of your sport.  And over the course of the next few blogs I'll cover how to do so in the safest and most effective way possible.