This week, I want to expand upon one of the internal strategies that we discussed last week – physical conditioning. The importance of physical conditioning goes well beyond the scope of performing as an athlete – student/athlete.
As you may have noticed from a few of our different coaching lessons that we have covered, there are different levels of a concept. Just as I noted that there are two different types of strategies employed – internal and external – there are differing levels of physical conditioning. I will label these as targeted and general. As a side note, if you find any of these topics interesting, I highly encourage you to research and study them on your own as well. Many of my coaching lessons given in these columns are from my perspective from what I have observed and learned and some of the concepts that I am introducing to you are a mix of traditional coaching philosophies along with my own lessons.
So, we have targeted and general physical conditioning and fitness. What does this mean? Let’s start with general physical conditioning. In both athletics and everyday life, we are required to physically do things with our bodies. Some more than others. How often have you heard someone say, or said yourself, “I am out of shape”? You, or the individual, is noting that their body is stiff, not strong enough, flexible enough or sustainable enough to perform the physical task at hand. You may notice this while fixing something at home or doing yardwork. In athletics, it is noticeable from the fact that you feel like you do not have the strength or stamina to compete at a peak level and be the best that you are capable of being.
Being in good physical shape not only enables you to perform the task that you are trying to accomplish but it also is good for your overall health. To my young friends out there, the lesson of being in good physical shape is one of the earliest lessons that you learn in your education. It may take you some time to realize this, but Gym Class/Physical Education Class is not simply that class where you are allowed to play games and have fun. There is a reason why P.E. is part of your curriculum. It goes along with the concept of a sound body makes for a sound mind. In terms of physical fitness and athletics, this is a concept that goes as far back as the Ancient Romans and Ancient Greece. Also, notice this. When you go the doctor’s office, you are asked a lot of questions about your personal habits. One of them is how many times per week do you exercise and for how long. This is not an accident. The information that is being sought after here is how well you are taking care of your body.
The human body is a complex web of bone, muscle, ligaments and tendons. Just like a team needs to have one heartbeat, your body does too. For the human body, it’s an even simpler concept. Without your heartbeat, you are not here. Do you keep a team strong or a skillset strong by not using it? No. On the contrary, you become weaker by doing that. The same holds true for the human body. We must condition it, train it and exercise it to be the best that it is capable of being. As we are physical beings and athletics built upon the foundation of physical skills, we need to exercise. We need to exercise not only to perform our jobs as athletes and workers, but also as healthy human beings. Our lives literally depend on it. That is why we lift weights to maintain muscle mass. This is why we bike and run to condition our hearts and our lungs. This is why we eat healthy and work hard to stay in shape.
Let’s now briefly talk about targeted physical conditioning. What is meant by the word “targeted”? Look at it like this. You know how to do your job. You understand the big picture. There are a lot of small pieces that make up that big picture, though. Kind of like the pieces of the puzzle. The same goes for physical fitness and conditioning. In sports, are the physical elements of the game between baseball/softball the same as in basketball or soccer? No. You have to be in good physical condition to do both, but the tasks involved in your strategic athletic movements in these games are different. In soccer, you want to be able to run – a lot. Your legs are your strength. So, you focus on running and improving lung capacity along with ball control while running. In basketball, you are using your hands. You are running and that is important, but in shorter spurts. Runs are performed in intervals rather than distance as you may see in Soccer. You are shooting a ball with your arms, so you will want to condition your arms and shoulders. Baseball and Softball, you are focusing on hand-eye coordination. You are throwing a ball and swinging a bat. Your core and arms are important here. So, you see, you are conditioning different parts of your body for different functions depending on your activity. The same holds true for everyday tasks as well. Why is this all important? This is part of your internal strategy. In order to be the best that you are capable of becoming, no matter your setting, it helps when you are in good physical shape. It enables you to accomplish more and be healthier. It helps you accomplish your goals and to help others. You prepare yourself to do that by putting yourself in the position to make a difference. That is part of your internal strategy.