Every athlete has to be well conditioned to perform well. I don’t care what sport it is or how often you play, but you need to be well-conditioned and in shape either way. In this article, I’m going to go over why you need to condition and how to condition.
Why You Need to Condition
There are so many reasons why you need to condition. The main ones are, you perform better, you don’t get hurt, and you become healthier. It also improves your mental strength and increases strength.
You need to condition if you want to play well. This is fairly obvious, however, some people still believe that you can just step on the field without training to get good stamina, strength, and speed and still play well. You have to do all three if you want to be a good athlete.
An Athletes Story
When I was a sophomore in high school, I played football and made the mistake of not training for stamina. I spent the offseason getting stronger and faster, but I made the mistake of neglecting my stamina and cardiovascular endurance. When football practice started up, I played well for the beginnings of practice, but when I got to the end, I was gassed.
Fast forward to the middle of the season. We were playing a rival team that ran a hurry-up offense, and I felt like I was going to collapse. I had been playing kickoff, kickoff return, and defense for the full first half with no breaks besides when our offense was on the field. They kept turning the ball over, and we kept going back out on defense.
By halftime, we had a 20-0 lead. Unfortunately, during the 3rd quarter, things started to collapse. They scored once, twice, and suddenly, they were ahead by one score. At the start of the fourth quarter, we went back and forth but they were still in the lead. With 2 minutes left, we had to get a stop and get the ball back to our offense. We were able to get a 3 and out, but only after they chewed the clock down to 30 seconds left. Our team wasn’t well conditioned and we paid the price. It felt like the Falcons vs the Patriots in the super bowl all over again. Luckily, our offense threw a hail mary and won the game, but we got extremely lucky. We shouldn’t have won that game and any other team without the good offense we had would’ve lost.
The Moral of The Story
What’s the moral of the story? You need to condition to perform well. Every serious athlete wants to win, and you win by conditioning for the fourth quarter, when it really counts. You can apply this principle to every sport, whether it’s basketball, baseball, boxing, football, or tennis.
You Don’t Get Hurt Easily if You Condition
If you were slow and sluggish during a physical game, do you think you’d be safe? Of course not! You are much more injury-prone if you’re too tired to focus on your game. Even if you have good safety gear, you can still get knocked around if you’re moving slow. Conditioning also helps your muscles get loose, and we all know that tight muscles lead to injuries.
You Become Healthier and Stronger
It’s no secret that healthy people have a good amount of endurance and stamina. Have you ever heard of an unhealthy olympic sprinter (that wasn’t on steroids)? I’ve never heard of one.
A little secret about cardio is that it can actually make you stronger. There’s a myth that doing cardio will kill your muscle gains, which is true, but only if you do it too much, don’t lift and don’t eat properly. Cardio combined with lifting is essential for all athletes. While it may not be necessary for bodybuilders, athletes need to be well conditioned for their sports.
But how do you get stronger from cardio? Well, you’re actively moving your body (depending on what cardio you do) and your muscles are still breaking down. It’s not as effective as lifting, but it’s certainly not bad for you. There’s also considerable evidence that cardio can build muscle and increase mitochondrial biogenesis when done in sync with resistance training. (Studies cited here 1*2*)
You Improve Your Mental Strength
Many people today are mentally weak, and those people are typically fat, broke, losers living in their parent’s basement. I’ve never seen a mentally weak athlete and good athlete’s condition. I believe there’s a direct correlation between pushing yourself to your limit and improving your mental strength. Think about it, your muscles grow bigger when you push them to their limit and break them down. Your mental “muscles” do the same thing. If you constantly push yourself mentally, (which running and conditioning do) you’ll be mentally tougher as well. All sports are tough mentally, and conditioning yourself for when your mental strength is tested is imperative.
How to Condition
Now that we know why conditioning is important, it’s time to get into what conditioning works and works well. We’ll primarily be focused on endurance, as there are other articles you can read to condition for strength and speed.
Method 1: Run Till You Want to Die
In my freshman year of high school, I ran track to improve my endurance. I unfortunately lost it after not maintaining it, but while I was running, I had the best endurance I’d ever had. We spent about 2-3 months conditioning, and it paid off.
But what did we do? Well, we basically ran till we wanted to die or give up. No one ever gave up, but by the end of running, we were gassed. I went to sleep so easily after running that hard. It’s pretty easy to get on a treadmill or go for a run, but the problem is, that if you don’t have a set time, you’ll end up quitting before you’re actually where you need to be.
It’s much better to set a goal of, “running for 20 minutes straight, take a 10-minute break, and run for 20 minutes straight again,” than just saying, “run until I want to stop.” Number goals are much better and effective than setting an emotional goal. The trick is, you need it to be emotional at first, hence the “run until you die,” but have a number that’ll make you feel that way.
Here’s a Couple of Routines to Push Yourself to Your Limit:
- Buffalo runs, 50 yards forward and back (counts as one) for 10-20 rounds.
- Note: set the number of rounds between 10-20 based on your endurance.
- Indian runs for 10 minutes with 2 sessions, 20 mins total. You will need a team to do this with.
- Jogging. Preferably 2-5 miles.
- Doing a 30 minute HIIT workout
Method #2: Short Bursts 100% Effort With Recovery Time
Once you’ve built up long-distance endurance with the 1st method I talked about above, you can train for something more realistic to your game. Mine was football, and this method applies to a lot of sports.
The method is: do 100% effort sprinting for a 50-yard distance max and recover for 30 seconds to a minute. The trick behind this is, you’re conditioning yourself to go all out for a play, and then take a break after the play. This is highly effective for sports such as football and baseball because you go all out in the game, and have a break while you’re re-setting.
Here’s a Couple of Routines to Condition you For Your Game:
- 10-50 yard sprints 10-15 times with a 30-second rest in between.
- Side shuffling 10-20 yards 10 times with a 30-second rest in between.
- Interval sprints 10-20 seconds with at least 60 seconds recovery time in between.
- Olympic exercise complex 5 sets of 5 reps with 60 seconds recovery time in between.
- Ex 1: deadlift to hang clean to push press to front squat, repeat.
- Ex 2: power clean to push press to back squat, repeat.
All in all, it’s important to be well-conditioned because you perform better, you don’t get hurt (as easily), and you become healthier. It also improves your mental strength and increases strength. You can build endurance by running long distances for long times, and by doing short springs with recovery time. Every great athlete is well-conditioned, and if you want to be great, you need to condition like them.