Beast Mode OFF: Training versus Testing

Any fitness and athletic related goal can be yours if you're willing to sacrifice. Practice or play the game every day. Run and stretch and hit the weights. Go hard or go home. Give 110% each and every workout. Pain is weakness leaving the body and sleep is for babies.

Truth is:

For serious athletes (and definitely their parents and coaches), the pendulum has swung too far. The all things high intensity approach is absolutely not ideal for long-term health and athletic development.

Everyone needs a test. And a rest.

An objective goal or considerable challenge makes the pursuit of health and fitness immeasurably more interesting than simply showing up to "workout" or having a desire that your team will "win the division."  

Run a 5K or 40 yards in under X minutes or Y seconds.
Throw 85 mph.
Perform 5 strict pull-ups.
Gain 15 pounds of muscle.
A 3-minute "Fran"  [Recognized in Crossfit circles]
Deadlift twice your body weight.
20 Rep Squat your body weight.

I'm all for goals and tests. But herein lies a common mistake.

There are problems with making the workout the test and the test the workout, especially for high level athletes.

AMRAP (as many reps as possible) or as many ANYTHING as possible is fine for a test. But it's not a great idea in terms of physical preparation, especially for a particular sport that demands a specific fitness and skill set.

Newbies get away with pushing full tilt multiple times per week. They can add resistance to their one- or 10-rep max lifts without running themselves into the ground. But that lasts only for a while. When intermediate and advanced athletes push themselves in a test too frequently, progress stagnates or they get injured.

Image result for fitness motivation
Actually, no...life is not so linear..

...+ rest + rhythm + appropriate coaching + a supportive environment and nutrition 
+ genetics compatible with the sport + good fortune in timing and opportunity + ...= more probable success
Once you are reasonably fit and strong, the best way to get faster and stronger is not simply adding more weight, more mileage, more reps, more more more. Progress is rarely linear in any facet of life. Strength training and conditioning is not rocket science. But the pursuit of high level performance demands a little tact and planning.

This is especially important for athletes who are looking to use the weight room in order to improve on the athletic field. Hard work is certainly in order! But going full throttle too frequently and treating each workout like a competition will work against you in terms of performance and being prone to injury.

Learn from my mistakes:

For years I did one intense set of 20 REP SQUATS on every Saturday. Week in, week out, it was a few warm-up sets, then one horrifically awesome set of 20 reps.

If one set does not sound like a big deal to you, then you need to get acquainted with 20-rep squats HERE.

The weekly Squatting Deathmarch ritual would continue until I faced an interruption like vacation or some type of injury. Did 20-rep squats "work?" Yes. I built up to some fairly ridiculous weights in this feat. And they were a big part of how a busy professional maintains a fit and strong physique with only two workouts per week. The experience wasn't all bad.

But in time, Saturday nights became relatively worthless and Sundays were hangover day even though I drink very little. I realized that this 20 Rep Squat routine had became a test and I was pushing my limits far too frequently.

Through reading and experience (learning the hard way), I realized that there is a better way.

This wet wash rag is precisely what it feels like to have
Beast Mode On for too long, too often.

These days, I squat with a fair amount of intensity, awfully hard by the standard of an average gym-goer. But 20-rep Squats come up only once every three to four weeks. Or we do them for a span of 8 to 10 weeks and then take time altogether away from it.

Right now I'm in the middle of a different squat challenge that I hereby label the Mazel Tov Squat Challenge. I'll leave the details for another time. The important note is that the intensity work has been cycled and will peak to achieve a near superhuman physical feat. I will train for the test, do the test, then back off for a while.

And the fitness journey and high intensity work is absolutely fun when you feel like a beast instead of a wet wash rag because you planned intelligently. The few clients that I train and I attempt to pin this down to a science.

There are a few important steps:

-Invite some friends along on the journey.
-Trash talk
-Plan (lay out the short and mid-term goals) and then implement the build-up.
-For a few days before the test, taper outside and other training activities. 
-On the day of the event, wear your p.r. shirt, warm-up well, put on the -right- song, and let her rip full throttle!

Do you see how much more fun this is than droning through workout DVDs or mind-numbing "cardio?" Can you imagine what it's like to arrive on "game day" feeling prepared and eager instead of banged-up and flat?

Athletes and fitness-minded people need to remember that the magic is in the process.

-Value the process.
-Be systematic in your training (rather than random).
-Be consistent.
-Be patient. 
-Give it your all and go HARD on the day of the test.

For better or worse - there will be some degree of transformation. In the mean time, whether or not the initial goal is actually achieved, you will have learned about yourself and achieved something remarkable to apply toward your event and your life.

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