If one were to look at a variety of differing athletes, throughout all sports and at all levels over the last 10 years, it would be evident that the “conditioning” element of elite competition and performance has taken huge strides in its development and growth. It seems that as the information age continues to evolve and mature more and more knowledge regarding the means to and the efficiency and effectiveness behind high performance is becoming readily accessible. Nowadays the fitness industry is stricken with research, opinions, beliefs and even myths behind the most successful ways of becoming “the ultimate conditioned athlete”.
A simple online search into the world of conditioning results in one having to treacherously navigate through a labyrinth of available resources. Even the word “conditioned” is used rather loosely these days. The meaning behind the word “conditioning” or being in a “conditioned” state could be a complete debate on its own. For the sake of this piece I would like to consider the term “conditioned” to be: a state of optimal physical, emotional, nutritional and psychological wellbeing creating for an athlete the ideal opportunity to successfully perform their particular role, within their particular sport, at a consistently high level, while avoiding injury. It is naïve to believe that consistency stems only from being conditioned as there are many other facets of competition that can affect an athlete’s performance, however achieving levels of the ideal conditioned state will give athletes a greater opportunity to find success within their sporting spheres.
Modern day athletes are becoming stronger, faster, more accurate, more resilient and smarter every day. Empirical evidence based research, as well as scientific research, is indicating that key factors such as strength, power, agility, speed, overall fitness and body composition all play a crucial role in determining the performance of an athlete. Frequenting the gym a few times a week, completing regular cardio sessions coupled with some stretching no longer cuts it if athletes are wanting to reach higher levels of completion. Although athletes may have been training more intensely and more focused than this for a while now it is definitely safe to say that “conditioning” has become a scientific art, an art that requires complete dedication; carefully thought out, educated and calculated consideration; along with an unquestionable level of patience, perseverance and dedication. The conditioning side of your performance as an athlete needs to be given serious consideration and it is important to understand that every sport and every athlete is different, in a multitude of ways, and will therefore require and respond more positively to different training methods and techniques. In my opinion, I believe the following are important starting points to consider when looking into your conditioning regimes.
•Start by carefully considering the level that you are currently competing at or are striving to complete at and what the expectations (physically, emotionally and psychologically) are of you as an athlete at this level. Try identifying the top performers at your level and understanding the elements of these athletes that make them successful. This will help you understand some base line conditioning elements important for reaching higher performance levels.
•Complete a personal performance profile whereby you identify your own physical, emotional and psychological strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness is key for developing your own conditioning regime. Compare your strengths and weaknesses to the top performers within your sport.
•Share the above information with industry professionals such as a personal trainer for physical conditioning and a health coach and / or a sport psychologist for emotional and psychological conditioning. Each one of these professionals will have expertise in assisting you as an athlete in developing specific programmes aimed at achieving a heightened level of conditioning.
•Start creating, with these professionals, a conditioning routine aimed at targeting development within the physical, emotional and psychological demands of the sport in question.
•The timing of the conditioning is something very important to consider. For physical conditioning athletes need to consider where they are at within their sports seasonal cycles. Off-season, pre-season and in-season programmes will all differ. The psychological and emotional training that accompanies this physical training will also differ according to seasonal cycles.
Conditioning programmes need to be carefully considered and athletes must make use of the fitness industry professionals available in order to ensure they achieve the holistic programming that the modern day sporting arena now demands. The quality of conditioning programmes will definitely determine the opportunities that athletes give themselves in achieving success.