“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Chinese Proverb
The other day I had a client come up and tell me that they are officially a size 6. I was like, “Cool, what were you when you started?” Six years ago she was a size 12. That got me thinking about a post I put up on my Instagram @SynfullyFit about how the longer it takes to do something, the easier it is to maintain.
The opposite seems to be true as well. The quicker it takes to do something the harder it is to maintain. It’s kind of like when someone does a crash diet, they may lose the weight initially, but it usually comes right back up, and up, and up. My client played the long game, but in this case it was the long loss, and because of it she will have an easier time maintaining it.
Regarding athletic development, the long game has an athlete building up parts of their athleticism over a long period of time instead of trying to accomplish everything in a condensed period. Unlike fat loss, where you usually gain it back shortly after a crash diet; trying to “crash” develop an athlete will usually end up with the athlete crashing and burning. First the body is not good at adapting to multiple or competing demands at the same time. For example trying to develop top speed and cross country endurance isn’t going to end well.
So how does this apply to sports? Focusing only on developing pitching, hitting, swim stroke or other sport specific skills, leaves you open to injury, decreased athleticism, and performance degradation as the season wears on. You just don’t have the strength to maintain.
When you are young, you may display very good speed, strength or power attributes. You may be able to run for a long time, pitch fast, or hit far, because they are relative to your body. Smaller kids are faster because they have less mass to move. Bigger kids can hit farther because they have the mass behind the swing. However as smaller kids grow, their light weight which was an advantage is gone and they need to rely on strength and power. The bigger kids may still have the mass behind the swing, but the pitching gets faster and they don’t have the strength/power to swing fast enough to hit and when they do, they don’t have the speed to run the bases adequately.
The same hold true for the opposite as well. An athlete who only works on strength and speed will not have the necessary sport specific skills to use all that strength, power and speed. This is why you want a solid, all encompassing, long term development plan that blends both your sport specific skills, with athlete specific development.
Don’t get me wrong there are times, or cycles, when an athlete will focus more on one attribute over another, but you have to intelligently program that, and have built up the foundation and enough of a gain in the other areas so as not to get yourself out of whack.
For example, the early off-season is a good time to work on more strength. The late off-season, more power and beginning sport specific skills. Pre-season transition over to more sport specific skills, power and and energy system development. In-season is for maintenance.
Get your athletes playing the long game, so they can play their game for a long time.