Thursday Thoughts: On Conditioning

I sat down to write and I took a different tact than what I normally do. You see, I normally know pretty much what I’m going to write about. I don’t know precisely what words I’ll use, but I at least know the topic.

Today, though, as I write this, I don’t. Not a clue.

Mostly, my mind is kind of focused on the hurricane still and trying to make sure my family isn’t as screwed as we were this time. I can’t afford to run out of town every time we have a storm, but I can’t afford to just wait patiently for power to be restored. After all, I work on the internet. I need that.

But I’m also thinking more about conditioning. It came in handy the other day, but there was also a pretty good parallel between my training and what was asked of me. Dragging a sled and dragging massive tree limbs aren’t all that far apart on the spectrum of conditioning types.

Part of what got me into thinking about this was reading The Juggernaut Method 2.0 and author Chad Wesley Smith commented that when it comes to being conditioned, it matters what you’re conditioned for. He comments that a marathon runner has the completely wrong conditioning to compete in a strongman competition and vice versa.

I can see that point.

However, what really struck me was him talking about how football coaches and players looking at distance running as a good way to get “in shape” for football season, only it’s not. It’s apparently an awful way to get in shape, and that makes sense.

I was a middle distance runner in high school. My event was the 800 meters, though I wasn’t particularly good at it. However, it required speed and endurance, same as every other event. Yet my first track meet, after training for the 800, I convinced my coach to let me run the 200 meters.

I got smoked.

The reasons were simple. One, I’m just not that fast naturally. The other, however, was that my training was completely wrong for that race. My pacing was set for a killer 800 meters race, but it was way too slow for a 200-meter sprint.

In other words, Smith is right. Not all conditioning is created equal.

However, I think he may also be a little wrong, too. Kind of.

You see, Smith is talking about training athletes who are preparing for various sports. Relevant conditioning is necessary and specific in part because you know what will be demanded of you. A football wide receiver needs to be able to sprint for as many as 100 yards, while a lineman won’t need to do any such thing.

But some of us are really more athletes at life. We’re preparing ourselves for whatever the real world throws at us, not what a competition can bring our way. You know, stuff like moving massive tree limbs to the roadside for disposal.

That’s not something you can really train for.

Hell, it’s not something you even expect far enough out to train for it. Who the hell thinks, “A hurricane might come and wreck the trees in my yard, so I need to get in shape for hauling it all off” and then gets to work? No one, that’s who. No one at all.

So if Smith is correct and conditioning needs to be more or less specific, then what do we do?

For me, it’s easy. I’m going to focus my conditioning on mimicking that of a fighter. I won’t be up for running a marathon, but I can’t imagine I’d ever need to do any such thing.

But what about things other than fighting? After all, the odds of me actually needing to fight are minuscule.

Well, this gets into where I disagree with Smith just a bit. While optimal conditioning is completely specific, I also think that for most of us, it’s just not worth it to get too worked up over it. After all, there’s at least some carryover between various forms of conditioning.

For example, imagine our proverbial marathon runner. They can run 26.2 miles because of their specific conditioning. Put them on a bicycle, and while they’re not going to win the Tour de France, they’re going to have a lot more endurance than I would.

Look to Lance Armstrong as an example. Yes, he doped, but he was a cyclist who put up a pretty damn good time in his very first marathon despite insufficient training. Why? My guess is that he still had a fair bit of conditioning from cycling.

But the thing is, these are both endurance events. The carryover between them isn’t really difficult to grasp.

However, there’s also some carryover between short-burst intervals and more endurance-focused events. Now, I’m not saying you can do high-intensity interval training and get in marathon shape. But I am saying that if you do a lot of HIIT, you can probably run a mile straight without nearly as much of an issue as an untrained individual would.

You can also probably ruck for a far greater distance than most would imagine as well.

The truth is, you can’t be prepared for whatever life is going to throw at you at any given moment, so it behooves you to get conditioned for whatever the hell you want. Just understand that certain kinds of training go better with certain kinds of goals.

Keep that in mind, get conditioned however the hell you want to get conditioned, and don’t sweat the rest.

What matters is that you’re conditioned. Who cares about any of the rest if you’re just trying to make the most out of life?

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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