2. Discernment in Sports, Health and Fitness - Fighting Against Tradition

2. Discernment in Sports, Health and Fitness - Fighting Against Tradition

Trigger warning. If you're a coach and you've already seen the value in employing a specialist in nutrition, strength and conditioning then this doesn't speak to you.

I find myself often inundated with questions, asking which diet is best, which training modality is most optimal. The type of answer that this type of question is loaded to be responded with, is often asinine. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers! It frustrates me to no end. It displays a lack of understanding regarding context. Sure to ask which type of training would be best for a certain type of athlete is not a dumb question, and shows that the person definitely has thought about what is coming out of their mouth hole before they approached you, but asking such vague obscenities from the get go is borderline asking for a left hook.

The reason it bothers me so much, is because of the fact that it gives charlatans the opportunity that they need, in order to sell you their product and in so doing, perpetuate absolute garbage in the world of self improvement. You don't need to be anti "x" to be for "y."

This world has plenty of space in it for context to be explained and for healthy scepticism to be developed. Tradition in this context is the death of rational thought. Tradition allows individuals with no understanding whatsoever of health and wellness, fitness or peak performance in regards to strength and conditioning to "guide" individuals on a path that they have no roadmap to. The world of sports performance is a perfect example of this. Professional sports coaches often moonlight as strength and performance coaches, not to mention those that also fancy their hand at advanced nutrition and pass it off as "tricks of the trade." In their field of understanding their respective disciplines, they are wizards. Boxing coaches, Judo coaches, Kickboxing Coaches and even track and field coaches to name only a few disciplines do not understand the nuances of using advanced strength and conditioning or nutritional modalities to peak for the discipline itself. In their sphere they are unmatched, and very few can question their reasoning and logic in their area of expertise. However, if strength and conditioning and advanced nutritional coaches acted the same way as many of these sports coaches do, it would cause an uproar! Imagine a strength and conditioning coach moonlighting as an individual with Olympic level Judoka skills on the mats, or a world level boxing coach, training athletes and giving them lessons in a field they have no personal experience in! Given that this is exactly what sport's coaches do, why are they not called out on this?

One word...


Tradition is a classic example of how such thinking patterns can proliferate. "I don't really know why I'm doing what I'm doing, but it's the way it was done before me, so I just follow suit, I don't question it." This type of "if it ain't broke don't fix it," mentality is absolutely backwards. It assumes that the approach is perfect and that evolution and refinement isn't necessary. As if any great ideas didn't ever need to be re-evaluated and refined. Dogmatic thinking is not a conducive space for truly game changing modalities to spring from. In this relative existence, there is always room for improvement. 

In the world of boxing as I'm sure in many other disciplines it is truly astonishing how many bad practices are perpetuated. You hear misnomers left right and centre. From statements like "lifting heavy weights make you slower and tight" to things like "overtraining is a myth." As valuable as pushing the "red line" of performance is - doing so every training session, in the same exact way is archaic. Injuries, motivational droughts, brain damage, over trained fighters and cognitive (skill) plateaus are rife. Yet the age old dogma is repeated: "just push harder, don't be a pussy," or my personal favourite "if it hurts it's good for you." There is a time and a place for pressure testing, but as one of the foremost minds in the realm of strength and conditioning for athletes once said: "if you want the burn, light a match." - Dr Fred Hatfield.

Dr Hatfield was on the money with his statement. If you're a weekend warrior, going to failure in exercise or drill and pushing your limits every session, there is a large margin for error. You don't have to peak for high level competition and you don't have to deal with having a diminished ability to grasp high level concepts with a shattered central nervous system (CNS). There is a reason that fighters who stay fit in the off season end their careers healthier than than those who take long periods off. The fighters who stay in shape don't need to over stress their CNS when starting another camp. Due to the fact that their strength and conditioning is already at a respectable level, their CNS is primed for them to focus on learning during the fight camp, instead of playing catch up and having to allocate huge amounts of resources to just barely scrape by, resorting to feigning understanding through being in survival mode.

Periodising training and creating peaking splits and targets with specific days for pressure testing is the way to go. There is a time and place for pushing beyond failure and using that to build mental fortitude. As a coach you would want your athlete to be strong but also receptive to your coaching and direction. If the athlete is over trained, they can't actually receive what you're saying to them and within the combat sports, it becomes so technical at a high level that cognition plays a huge and vital role. Having an athlete start the session already gassed from the day prior's session will affect how well he is able to learn in subsequent sessions. Take into account this toll on their body and then add onto that a weight cut! What a recipe for sowing seeds of self doubt and negative self talk within your athlete! 

The athlete should come before any ego. A well constructed team is far more conducive to creating an environment that will foster world level athletes. Coaches who all stay in their lane and converge on a point, without stepping over the lines that govern their respective skill sets. 

Just because something has worked in the past, doesn't mean it was as good as it could be. In the world of combat sports, the grit and determination of the golden eras of old, married with the analytical approach we have now in the modern era through advances in scientific understanding, research and development, we can push the boundaries of what our former champions and idols were able to do. 

You may be able to race a car going backwards, and you'd be mighty skilled for doing so, but at the end of the day it would just be better to go forwards. Just because your predecessors did it backwards and got some great results doesn't mean you have to too. 

Make life better.


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