Athletes are a lot of fun to work with and I really enjoy training them.
Unfortunately, they are fed a ton of bad information and do not know what to ignore or listen to. Most of the time this info comes from their coach, who may be awesome at what he or she does, but is not qualified to prescribe strength and conditioning programs.
Since the fitness industry is very accessible and most coaches and parents have a background in it (both good and bad), they believe that they are qualified to give such advice. They do not realize that what they are doing will probably cause more harm than good.
It is important to remember that when someone feels strongly about a belief, trying to dismiss that belief only makes them feel stronger about it.
Should Athletes Go on Long Distance Runs?
The simple answer: no. The complicated answer: continue reading.
Sometimes I need to compromise my opinion due to sport coaches and conditioning tests. I will go out of my way to talk about the danger of long distance running and get the athlete on board with me only to mention that their conditioning test is a 3 mile run. This is a terrible indicator of who is in shape or not but whatever.
I am a big believer that we should train towards the test but there are ways around it in this case.
One of the big arguments that floats around is that if the sport consists of repeated short sprints, then that is what should be trained. The missing part of that phrase is …then that is what should be trained as we get closer to the preseason.
When we are looking at year round periodization, aerobic training has a place for athletes. A good aerobic system will allow the athlete to have the capacity to continue working hard but also allow recovery from sprinting bouts faster.
The time to train aerobically is the early off season. Developing this base level of aerobic training will help to add layers to the athlete’s preparation. Once we get 2-3 months away from the season then we must work towards becoming more anaerobic.
I still do not believe that the method here should be long distance running. The early off season is a good time to give the body a break from the beating it takes. Running on a treadmill will not provide that break.
Aerobic intervals would be the best way to develop the aerobic system while simultaneously getting other benefits. You could perform a resistance training circuit for 20-30 minutes and that would provide neuromuscular benefits in addition to training aerobically.
The best tools for aerobic intervals include: jump rope, sleds, slideboard, bike, kettlebells, med balls, and low level sports activities. I have done some conditioning with a basketball player that consisted of dribbling intervals.
The best way for an athlete to train aerobically is to use some kind of interval format and only pick long distance work if you really enjoy it. Otherwise there will be a ton of better benefits from pushing a sled up and down a turf for 20 minutes.
The best time to train this system is early in the off season. It will not only give the athlete somewhat of a break from the grueling season that just ended, but also provide a base layer of conditioning to build off of. The athlete will then be able to train for repeated jumps, sprints, shots, etc. and have a fighting chance to improve.
Athletes must ditch the idea that in order to get ready for their season all they need to do is start running 5 miles a day. That is cross country; not field, court, or ice sports.
The better way to train for sport as the season gets closer is to get as close to the demands of the game as possible. Usually this consists of sprinting with a decent break and repeating those efforts. Athletes should also focus on getting as strong as possible in the off season because it will then to less effort to run, jump, shoot, throw, pass, and any other skill you can come up with.
Running slow, for a long time will not make an athlete faster. Running fast must be trained by running fast. Distance running does not accomplish this goal.