To generate peak power…
To generate peak power in aerobic events (events which are >1 minute in duration) the focus must be on retaining full range of motion (i.e. rotation) which is fully disassociated from breathing.
To generate peak power in anaerobic events (events which are <1 minute in duration) the focus must be to leverage the rhythm and amplitude of the breathing cycle to accelerate through the full range of motion.
Physical training without training in breathing is not training, it is an attempt to cause an athlete to tolerate the strain of performance mindlessly and dependent on emotion as fuel.
Physical training coupled with breathing retraining ensures that the athlete remains aerobic, focuses on technique, channels the energy of the event (as opposed to being emotional about the event), successfully executing competition strategy.
Many athletes & coaches spend endless amounts of time developing anaerobic conditioning – i.e. hard training – with little consideration for flexibility, breathing patterns, or developing a dynamic core. The hope is that if enough time is spent at all-out efforts irrespective of how that effort is generated then this training can be carried over to performance in competition. The challenge for inexperienced athletes and coaches, is that hard/anaerobic training offers false positive results: athletes on occasion have managed to rise to the national and international level of competition, doing so with a limited repertoire of skill and strategy, getting away with a single strategy of go out hard, hope to hold on, pray no one can catch you so that you can win. The false positive of the ‘win’ is that no one dares mention the health deficit accrued by body and mind using this methodology to train and compete.
If you assess only the reward side of the equation (especially over abbreviated time periods), then this is the methodology to embrace…. why not? Who doesn’t want instant results?
If you equally evaluate the risk side, then you will find that the physical, mental, and emotional health costs and risks associated with excessive amounts of anaerobic training, especially when imbalanced by lack of rest and recovery outweigh the reward. Anaerobic training is one tool in the training toolbox, one to be used respectfully, with knowledge, with appropriate recovery (in and out side of training sessions), but not as an overriding training philosophy.
First, the cost of instant results… the health costs of prolonged anaerobic training are rarely discussed, but that doesn’t mean they do not exist. Unfortunately the belief for many is that the value of winning, even if it comes at a cost of long term mental or physical health is worth it. Instead of arguing the point, I simply suggest reading the (auto) biographies of any number of Olympians and World Champions and learn of the price some have paid to achieve their victories. After reading their stories, your perspective on how truly victorious they were may change, as the price paid may not be commensurate with their achievement (no matter how amazing). We forget that the podium, the glory which it brings is merely a fleeting moment of time, but life… life lasts much, much, much longer and we have to decide in what shape we want our body and mind for the long haul. Endorsement deals, sponsors, and brand representation do not last a lifetime, your body and mind need to.
An athlete or coach may reply that their sport doesn’t have risks or ‘side effects’, I beg to differ… not all side effects are visible. Many side-effects, especially mental and emotional ones are invisible but that doesn’t diminish their severity. Physical signs and symptoms can remain undiagnosed or subclinical because medicine and health care professionals have yet to appreciate the intensity that athletes train and compete and the level coaches push, and that these intensities when sustained do in fact cause dis-ease. A confounding factor is that many times an injury in one dimension doesn’t necessarily remain in that dimension (hence making cause-effect relationships or at least correlation difficult to identify). Case in point, ask the spouses of NFL players who suffered concussions (a physical injury) during their career, who today suffer from memory loss, even early onset dementia (an impairment in mental health). The declining quality of life that many NFL players suffer starting as early 40 is an old story turned new, but one which is swept away as quickly as possible; we are obsessed with having our sport, no matter that we use and discard athletes as if they are disposable, meant purely for our enjoyment and entertainment. In other cases, life altering diseases can also occur due to the stress of training as it has the ability to trigger dormant genes uncovering with them a variety of medical conditions. Today with athletes accelerating the push on their body and mind by using stimulants and supplements either to augment their performance or to recover from injury (e.g. concussions), there is little room for error. But is anyone considering or caring about the long-term health consequences of short-term ‘well-intentioned’ decisions? Across almost all aspects of life today we are realizing that a myopic viewpoint further narrowed by quarterly result ‘Wall St’ thinking is not viable nor sustainable for our environment, our food chain, the availability and cleanliness of water, our economy, and most importantly our own individual health. Question is… does anyone care?
Another rarely discussed fact of training is that many who are coaches today, were athletes yesterday. When you ask these coaches if they are still actively playing or training for the sport, many respond that the mere thought of getting into the pool, stepping onto the track, gym or field to train brings back bad memories, reminding them of only trying times, of the disapproval coming from their coach, some will share that just the thought of training makes them sick to their stomach. Wait a second… these athletes turned coaches who cannot look back on their years of training, who continue to carry anger, frustration, disappointment, who are unable to return casually to the sport are now coaching a new generation… how? With the same go-hard or go-home attitude, that you can never do enough to be good attitude that left scars on them as age groupers? Why? Why is there no reflection, evaluation, thought going into improving the experience with the desire of taking training to a level where athletes have greater opportunity? Mindless training for years – hard anaerobic training with a lack of technique development – in my opinion leads to coaches who train their athletes with equal mindless repetition… and the cycle repeats over and over. The athlete who escapes this vicious cycle and succeeds is not a byproduct of effective coaching, that athlete is the exception and has figured out how to succeed despite the poverty in coaching.
Despite mounting evidence, our belief remains that all exercise is healthy. We have yet to fully recognize that how we exercise is as important if not more important than other factors, and if exercise incorrectly – like almost everything in life – then it can be a source of problems as opposed to its current acceptance as a cure-all.
Second, between countless hours of training sessions, coaching advice and competitions on Youtube the opportunity to study competitor techniques and strategies is endless. The opportunity exists to incorporate the technique and tactics of opponents, develop offensive and defensive maneuvers against their style, prepare for every play imagineable. It doesn’t stop there because everyone who seeks to win is studying everyone else simultaneously inventing new strategies leading to countless more hours of Youtube videos. In an ever changing environment, athletes must train to be able to rapidly adjust in their sport. A static mindset results in a static body: unresponsive both in training and competition. A dynamic mindset opens the body to being equally dynamic able to incorporate new training concepts and to apply them into competition. GSP (Georges St Pierre) rose to becoming the three-time World Welterweight Champion in MMA (mixed martial arts) because he was constantly adding a new style of movement or fighting to his portfolio leaving his opponents literally unable to plot against him. To have one strategy and to hope that no one will figure it out, that one strategy will take you through heats, from early rounds, all the way to finals is naive (and a reflection of mindless training). In an era of innovation and change, there is only one strategy: one of equal innovation, constant change.
Uni-dimensional training and competing (i.e. hard, harder, and puke) is archaic, and athletes and coaches who continue using this methodology are setting themselves up to be non-competitive, risking irrelevancy and extinction. Our current belief is that only through anaerobic training can we strive for the top end of our performance. Not true. Aerobic training as proven by the massive base which top international athletes obtain is the source of World Record potential – both at long and short distances. The issue for our instantaneous, ‘low hanging fruit’, zero attention span culture is that aerobic training doesn’t yield results over night, thus the true origin of athletic potential is not recognized. Since, anaerobic training provides next-day results – although limited in magnitude and arriving with numerous deleterious side effects for our health – it is instead accepted as the panacea for all those desperate to prove that they are fit or healthy.
Aerobic conditioning which grows from free flowing flexible movement timed with breathing is built upon a massive base, not weeks or months as suggested in most downloadable or online training programs. Years of low intensity volume serves to develop the physiology of the athlete at the cellular level and throughout their musculo-skeletal system into a machine of endurance, resiliency, consistency, and steadfastness. This period of training equally serves to embed the neuro-muscular patterns specific to the sport as low intensity training makes skill acquisition easy, resulting in an athlete with form, style, technique sans internal source of resistance, having virtually eliminated all sources of drag. In time, with this sort of long term vision to training, the pace which can be sustained or the peak power generated increases to a level that spectators marvel, competitors dream of, and coaches who search for ‘talent’ salivate over the opportunity to take ownership, as the success of such an athlete appears as inevitable, as their destiny.