Time To Work The Guns
There was a time, in a lot of action sports, when training for it was not ‘cool’. That time was not that long ago either. Simply turning up on the start line after a particularly heavy night and with very little sleep was encouraged, it was normal. However like any sport, as they progress the level of competition gets greater each year. The events and competitions get bigger, as do the performances and tricks – everything gets faster and ultimately becomes professional. Which by default means the athletes themselves become professional, and prepare physically and mentally as professional athletes.
Inevitably this leaks down to the weekend warrior, just as with equipment the pro’s use – the training they do is something people want to emulate. So now the question isn’t whether you should or shouldn’t prepare for your sport – but what preparation you should do to maximise your performance.
Clearly the training a professional extreme sports athlete needs to do and the training someone who shreds with friends at the weekend differs – but not as much as you think. There’s also a lot of conflicting information out there about what to do, from straight up copying what an elite does to internet forum based received wisdom. The fact is no one really knows exactly what training an extreme sports athlete needs to do and no one (despite what they might say) is an expert – me included. We’re all making what is in effect extremely educated guesses based on a number of factors.
The obvious and most important thing is that you can actually do your chosen action sport, on a DH bike a technical inability to rail a berm confidently or clear a jump without casing it is not going to be solved purely in the gym. 2/3rds of our performance goal setting and planning process with an athlete is technical and competition based, with the remainder about physical and mental aspects.
As I see it, the main areas to concentrate on to help maximise your performance as an action sports athlete are;
To be able to act and react not just with big movements, but with fine motor (muscular) control. The more randomised this training is the better, which should always try and incorporate some sort of accuracy like catching a ball or landing on a specific spot. Reaction balls, and game based activities are the best – essentially all the things we did as children but have either had it coached out of us or stopped doing it as we grew up. This also helps with the mind body connection, your vision, perception, general overall body awareness and decision making ability. All vital to help you ‘perform’ in the dynamic reaction based environment you find yourself in.
You need to be able to throw you’re own bodyweight around and control it. Your using your body weight as a dynamic moving part, so you need to be able to control your own body weight! There are lots of different types of strength – max strength, strength endurance etc. Ultimately the more reps you can do with your own body weight through full range of movement at the joints, using complex movements i.e more than one joint moving – the better. This is also obviously ‘global’ meaning front to back and top to bottom on your body. However this is something you need help with, moving your body weight around is something you should do under supervision to technically complete it. Strength is the foundation all athleticism is built on, you wouldn’t bet on a ‘weak’ horse would you?
This is a posh word for fitness – it’s about your ‘engine’ and the better your engine, the better your able to tolerate the world around you whether that’s a world championship race schedule with all the traveling, or the stress of your day job. My preferred method for this is metabolic conditioning, it puts the central nervous system under a huge amount of stress and as importantly there is a large mental strength element to it. Ultimately the mind gives in before the body, and it’s the mind that tells the body what to do – so any opportunity to incorporate mental strength into preparation is seized upon.
It’s simply about applying common sense to what you’re doing away from your sport. If at any point you find yourself stood on a swiss ball waving a kettle-bell around, ask yourself if you are preparing for the circus or to get better at your sport – does it make sense? Obviously you need to recover properly in between sessions physically, mentally and nutritionally – however that is an entire series of books on their own and we’re not covering that here just yet. Constantly challenging yourself brings about an adaptation, doing the same thing over again and something you can already do, will not. Move to improve people!