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5 Laws to Train By

July 17, 2010

Here are a couple rules, by-laws, heuristics to train by if Ultimate is your sport.

Ultimate might not be your sport, perhaps it’s “fitness” like the general population of America (or CrossFit?), or maybe you’re a multi-sport athlete, Ultimate plus Blowing-the-Vuvuzela. That said, it’s pretty hard to pull off multi-sport success, and it’s often fruitful to focus on whatever sport you’d like to {get better at / have fun in / just play}.

The first law: Don’t get injured training for your sport.

By “training” here I’m referring to strength training / “cardio” training / flexibility / mobility / power training–the butter and bread of this blog.

In other words, if you are missing team practices, tournaments, and games because you screwed up a lift / pulled too heavy / pushed too hard, stop. You’ve broken the first law of UltiTraining =)

This sounds pretty simple but it’s easy to push yourself too hard and not remember that exercise/training is just a stimulus, you get stronger/better as you recover. And what is “better”? In this case it means time and energy and health where it matters, on the field!

The second law: Don’t get injured in/after practice

Sounds familiar? You can’t always control what you do in practice, or how the other athlete moves, but do your best, try. If you’re in pain on the field, perhaps you have movement asymmetries? As Gray reminds us, don’t “Add Fitness on top of Dysfunction”.

Law 2 is just a reminder that both training and practice are stimuli–are you getting too much of the former? Erring on the side of too much? Or too much of the wrong thing (only building on your strengths without addressing your weaknesses / asymmetries / dysfunctions), at the wrong time?

Law 2 comes after Law 1 because it’s easier to tell if you’ve broken Law 1, at least if you keep a workout / practice log, and count how many practices / tournaments you’ve missed due to injury (where injury here is just defined as the “inability to train” rather than connoting actual physical tissue damage). Law 2 is harder to assess. Are your practices simply kicking your butt in addition to your workload off the field? Does your coach not understand tapering or periodization, active recovery or the SAID principle? Perhaps your captain runs the workouts, and what works for you doesn’t work for her/him and vice versa.

CA pondering, at USA Ultimate Nationals 2010

Law 3 is going to sound familiar, I apologize =) but Don’t miss games / tournaments because you got injured training (or at practice)… and Law 3a (Don’t get injured in “life” outside the field and gym… everything is a stimulus, from your girlfriend’s drama, your alarm clock to your boss’s ugly tattoo.)

Why repeat myself? I repeat, why repeat? They say that it takes three times for something to stick in, and plus these three laws are slightly different. You can break all three or just one, but they depend on each other, and can be used to assess where you’re at re: intelligent training. Law 1 is cardinal, the “Do No (Self-/Other-)Harm” of the Hippocratic oath of S&C.

Law 2 is harder to assess–is it the training itself or the practice? Law 3 is even harder. Am I taking on too much at work? Did I get sick from eating that undercooked bit of flesh or Viennoiserie? But let’s go on.

Law 4: Have a plan.

You might not stick to it, but forget “random acts of variety” please. What’s your plan for this workout? For the week or month? Summer? 2010 or 2012? Write it down if you will. It’s not the plan, it’s the planning… you might and will have to change, based on how your body (doesn’t) adapt, your injuries, your needs.

The fancy word is periodization. Linear or undulating? Randomized or uniform? Whatever, just get some help, ask some friends, find a program that works or find someone to help you write one.

Law 5: The goal is to keep the goal the goal, as Dan John puts it.

What is your sport? Remember this, and remember that. Training is a means, not an end, unless “fitness”/training is the sport and game you play. Are you training to train or to complement your skills as an Ultimate athlete? To make you play longer and better, and be more ready to run/work at practice? games? tourneys?

I definitely know I’ve gotten carried away with training/fitness for a sport, as the sport! Hell, I write for =). And while the Long-term Development Model does say you should learn the FUNdamentals and learn to train before you (a) train to train and (b) train to compete, at some point you should switch over to focusing on the competitive aspects of your sport.

It doesn’t matter how much you bench (on the other hand, how much you deadlift… j/k :p), how much you overhead squat. Strength is useful? No doubt, but the best guys on the football field ain’t the strongest guys in the gym. Or so say my friends who have coached pro or college football athletes, whether at USC or beyond. Same goes for the Ultimate field, at some point, most guys or gals will run about the same sort of speed, although some will be faster, some slower, some quicker, some not.

In some sense it ends up not being a big deal. Laws 1-3, what were they again? About injury prevention, or rather managing the potential risk of injury (planning how you train). Fundamentally strength coaching for Ultimate at the college/beyond level should take this as the first priority, but it’s easy to forget. Get stronger with your weaknesses (single leg Bowler’s squat on the off leg at a 45 with eyes to the right? who knows!) not just your strengths. Train what practice and tournaments don’t train, the opposite or contralateral motions, the gleno-humeral internal (or external) rotations, the reverse leg reverse lunge…

Enough lawsing for the morning, it’s Saturday, why aren’t you out there playing on some grassy field of green? =D


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