How to improve your fitness for your sport
Being fitter than your opponent can sometimes be the differnce between winning and losing. Being fitter not only means you can physically outlast your opponents, it also gives you a mental advantage to make better decisions when your tired. However, being “fit” is very sport specific and every sport has it’s own specific demands, therefore it’s important to know “how fit” you need to be for your sport.
Know the demands of your sport
There are three key areas you should look at when determing how fit you need to be for your sport and those are duration, intensity and positions/roles.
Duration – How long does the game go for? and how long are you actually on the pitch/field/court for?. Let’s say your game lasts 120 minutes, you aren’t on the field for 120 minutes straight. Most sports are usually broken up into periods or quarters i.e. quarter time, half time, three quarter time. Within the quarters you may also be rotated on and off the pitch/field/court, which means your actual game time is a percentage of the total game time. Knowing how long each rotation/stint goes for is important as it gives you a guide of what work to rest intervals you should be using in your training.
Intesnity – What are the ratios of different levels of intensity within your sport? Is a sport all continuous? Does it have varying intensities where there are some moments where you’re walking, then jogging, running, and sprinting. Knowing how long/how much work you do at diffrent intensities can give you an idea of what you need to work on, in regards to getting the most out of your conditioning that’ll transfer toward your sport.
Positions/roles – Every sport has different positions/roles which usually means different positions/roles have different fitness demands. For example soccer, the goalkeeper is going to have a very different fitness base to someone who is a winger, or even a winger versus a striker. There’s definitely certain elements that each are going to have to have, but realistically, the goalkeeper doesn’t need to be anywhere near as aerobically fit as say, a winger. They still might need some kind of aerobic fitness, but maybe just not to the same extent. In fact, trying to get him to that level, might actually be detrimental because realistically, a lot of their work is just explosive, reactive power. If they’re not focusing on that and training that often because they’re spending too much time doing aerobic, long, slow distance training, then they might be taking away from the thing that they actually need.
Fitness is specific
Fitness training for sports needs to be as specific as possible and a great place to start is creating a plan. You want to set out a plan that takes you from point A to point B. Now, along the way, the training stimulus does need to change a little bit. So when we mean, training as specifically as possible, think about what your sport requires. Does it require a lot of sprint, repeat effort stuff? Or does it require a lot of endurance-based stuff? Does it require a mixture? At different times you can implement different conditioning (Off-season vs Pre-season vs In-season). The further away from your competition or season, the more general the conditioning can be and then leading into the season you want to make the conditioning more specific.
Fill the right buckets
Fitness is just one of many “buckets” athletes have to fill up, the other buckets may include speed, power, strength, injury prevention, recovery etc. As an athlete you want to make sure that all of your buckets get as evenly filled as possible. So if your sport fills the long slow distance bucket, what is the point of doing more long slow distance conditioning in your training? If you are getting that from sport-skills training then that bucket is being filled. What are you not doing in your training that you could potentially add to top up one of the other buckets? If you’re not doing any high intensity intervals and your sport needs you to compete at higher intensities sometimes, your going to need to add in some high intensity intervals to help fill up that bucket. Remember to keep it as specific as possible to ensure your conditioning/fitness sessions transfer really well into your sport. Your fitness training should create an overload, so you have the capacity to perform at higher intensities during sport-skills training or competition.
Integrate your fitness into the overall plan, determine how it fits in with skills training, strength training and recovery. There’s only a certain amount of time you can spend training, so you need to be efficient with how how you spend your time. Use the buckets analogy to determine where your spending the most of your time i.e. how much time do I need to spend on skills, fitness, strength, recovery etc. How you priortise your training will depend on the phase of training, for example; the skills bucket is always going to take priority in-season, however there’s not a lot of skill work in the off-season, so you can fill your strength and fitness bucket more.