I learned how to train for ultimate in 2007. That was ten years into my ultimate career. A decade. Some people come into ultimate with a good understanding of their bodies, how to train, and how best to push their limits. Within a few years, they are able to identify how to physically excel, and away they go. I was not one of those people.
I started playing at age 16. I had no idea how to run or train for speed. I wasn’t aware that resting longer between short full-effort sprints would have resulted in me building top speed instead of speed endurance. And that hamstring length is as big a hindrance to speed as a lack of fast-twitch muscle. Or that training below 75% of my top speed would generally make me slower. I was clueless about using techniques like interval training to increase aerobic capacity. My idea of an off-season running routine was to run four miles every day. Hard.
I didn’t know how to build and reap benefits from a weightlifting program, or that my shoulders and my back were weak thus limiting my athleticism. I missed the fact that I should prioritize good, eccentric weightlifting movements and that hamstring curls did not replicate any meaningful athletic motion. I didn’t know that gym sessions only damaged my muscles and that it was my approach the day after that got the most out of my workouts. I just went to the gym and lifted weights until I ran out of strength. Then I went home and ate what I wanted.
I didn’t know these things and didn’t explore them, in large part because I didn’t need to. I was young, flexible enough, and no smaller physically than those around me. I didn’t bother learning about how my body functioned because it was never an issue. I ran. I played. My body didn’t bother me. Good enough for me.
When I got older and my body started to mature, I started to need to know these things. And as I matured even more and became more responsive to both good and bad training, I desperately needed to know these things but still was unaware of what was out there.
In my experience, as players enter their late 20’s, any lack of training approach and physical self-awareness starts to rear its head in the form of injuries and reduced speed or endurance. Many in this game have categorized this regressive trend as the inescapable process of “getting old.” Such a realization often leads to the “inevitable” retirement at the prime age of 30 with a look perhaps toward Masters and back at the old days.
But what if it were true that many of these speed or endurance losses were simply due to a combination of inflexibility and lack of appropriate training? Or that the “old man” injuries like back, hip flexor, hamstring and groin strains could be averted with correct prehab routines and balanced strength approaches? What if the reality of your athletic potential and development was, in fact, very different from what is often believed? Because it’s true.
My discovery of these truths began with an idea. In late 2007, at the age of 25, I was lucky enough to get the wild idea to train for the 400m. This idea spawned some emails, which led to customized 400m programs from a knowledgeable and generous friend, Alison Ede. Her programs ended up being the launching point for my interest in sports science and training – an endeavor I dubbed The 400 Project. What had started as an innocuous email to some friends led to a personal epiphany on how to get the most out of my body. And here, four years later, I have been fortunate enough to progress from someone who didn’t know the right direction to run around a track to someone who can race the 400m in 51 seconds.
This accomplishment is not notable in and of itself; in fact, racing has been very humbling (I have been beaten by 11-year-olds – seriously). It is notable because of where I started and how far I’ve come. It is notable, because the self-perceived limits I had in 2007 weren’t my limits at all. This was my revelation.
So while I can’t say that the information shared above or in subsequent articles will be revelatory for you, I can hope that perhaps, for some of you, it will spark your own wild ideas. And your own emails. And who knows where you could go from there.
Photo of Truck’s Frankie Hazera by Brandon Wu