Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thoughts on functional training

I have previously pointed to the Mountain Athlete site. Rob uses a hybrid / Crossfit influenced approach to train climbers. There is strength stuff, but also metabolic conditioning always with functional movements. I think it is fantastic.

Rob had an interesting post the other day in terms of how his training equpped him for a big day in the hills. Basically Only Multiple long days in the mountains prepares you for multiple long days in the mountains.

......Again, I think I've recovered better than many of the other recreational climbers I met on Teewinot yesterday, but relatively short training sessions in the gym has not prepared me for multiple long days in the mountains.

Only Multiple long days in the mountains prepares you for multiple long days in the mountains.

The point is to understand the limitations of gym training and their application to out-of-the gym activities. My gym work has given me a really high level of general fitness, strong legs and core for injury resistance, and mental toughness. But it hasn't made me the fastest mountain climber in Jackson. To do that, I need more sport specific training (i.e. hiking fast up hill, long days in the mountains, multiple long days strung together) and technical practice (i.e. efficient gear management, climbing experience and techniques to move fast over moderate terrain, confidence which comes with technical proficiency.)

There are some coaches out there in this hybrid fitness business who argue that similar gym training prepares you for anything. I don't agree with them.

I would argue that this type of training prepares you for just about anything better than any other type of gym training out there.

And, in outside activities, this type training prepares athletes to perform very well, but they won't be the fastest or best. The athletes doing the sport-specific work will summit first.

And, this type of training can hinder outside performance if its allowed to encroach upon sport specific training in technical practice. As they get closer to the "season" athletes need to spend less time in the gym, and more time on the mountain or field, or bike or whatever their sport is.

There are no short cuts. This stuff isn't a magic bullet. It will take athletes a long way, but not all the way.

1 comment:

Scott W said...

Another thing lacking from gym training, I think, is the mental exhaustion component.

There is a big difference, mentally, between doing pullups on rock-like structures and actually thinking your way through a technical climb over terrain that you've never seen before, or are experiencing under variable weather conditions.

I'm not a climber, but I think the same thing applies to other activities. You have to do the activities until a certain amount of them become automatic, allowing your brain to move to the next level and true mastery. But getting there is mentally exhausting and detracts from performance. A gym can't truly simulate this.

I think of this as I watch my son learning to drive. An hour behind the wheel of experiencing constantly new situations and he's done for the day. But in a few months, he'll be able to drive for hours with little fatigue. Steps to mastery.