First things first – my credentials.
I have none. But, I have trained during the season and off-season for 9 years, have run team workouts for multiple club and college teams, including this past year with Seattle Sockeye, have torn my ACL and recovered within 9 months to become faster and more explosive (and make Sockeye), and I am an avid reader of old and new literature on the subject of fitness and athletic training.
With that said, I provide one caveat to everything I’m about to say below, one I’ve learned to be absolutely true: No system is perfect. Everybody needs different types of training for their body, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their playing style. No single system holds the magic key. Understanding this was incredibly useful for me as I worked out on my own, and created workouts for others. I’ve found these five fundamental tips to be applicable to any and every type of training regimen you choose.
Now, my advice on training:
1. Find a support group. I can’t stress this enough. Train with one person, with a group, but have someone to be accountable for besides yourself. You can train hard on your own, but why not get that much more from having help? You are already dedicated enough to spend hours working on improving your athletic performance, why not take another step in getting there by getting help? Trust me, you will become bigger, stronger, and faster with a training partner(s) to push you and pull you than you will on your own.
2. Track your progress. When you go to the gym, scribble down how much weight you lifted and how many reps and sets, if not more detailed info. It’s not hard, but it does wonders for your motivation before, during, and after. It is an incredible feeling to look back and see both how much work you’ve put in, and how much progress you’ve made. Personally, I’ve found tracking it in a Google Doc spreadsheet incredibly useful, as I can enter in any info, e.g. specific weights and reps and sets, or just “30 min jog”, and the doc can be shared with workout partners (whose workouts undoubtedly drive me to work harder).
3. Be creative with your workouts. It can get debilitating, boring, and unproductive to follow the same routine each time. Vary your sets, reps, speed of reps (moving slowly or quickly), and explore new and interesting ways to work the same muscle group. Youtube has tons of interesting ideas, use your resources. This is another reason to have a partner; they can teach new things and keep it interesting. Losing motivation due to boredom is a terrible thing.
4. Create workouts that challenge you, but don’t destroy you, at least at first. One year, after taking some time off after Nationals, I got incredibly motivated and made a series of workouts that were just brutal. Awful. Too much. After the first workout I was so destroyed it became a major mental hurdle to even think about going to the track and after a few weeks excuses were easier and easier to make and the workouts just became more and more daunting until finally I needed to change things.
5. Finally, do workouts you believe in. You will undoubtedly read conflicting literature on what is the “best” way to workout, and your friends and teammates will have differing opinions – some that utterly contradict each other. But, if you believe in what you’re doing, you will invest in it that much more, and it will pay off with a confidence boost when you’re on the field. If you are running track workouts or hitting the gym in a way you are unsure of, you will not have the same confidence. Confidence that yes, you did everything you could to dominate.
I have advice on specific training regimens, workouts, lifts, exercises, as well as advice on creating workouts for a team, and will write about those topics in a subsequent articles. But keep in mind that what works for me, may not be perfect for you. The above should serve as a good baseline for any type of workout you do.