The Six Components Of Fitness Of Sessions:6

The Six Components of Fitness of Sessions:6

It’s common thought that to become a better athlete you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful. 

Many athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule which states that it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in your sport. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to adapt to and learn the skills and movements required to perform at a high level of sport. However, we have found that there is more to the equation of improvement in sports than simply just training more. You certainly can and do become a better athlete simply by doing more of what you are striving to improve; more hours on the bike, more miles on the run, or more time in the gym. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day training your sport, in time, you will become highly competent in your sport, allowing you to compete at a very high level.

There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.

Then what is the ‘right’ way or ‘best’ way to improve as an athlete?

There are many theories out there to follow, however we have found the answer to be: “It depends.” It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete, what is the athlete’s background in sport, what is the athlete’s lifestyle, do they have a job, do they have a family, do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out? If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, or are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply doing more of the same thing is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.

Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have found that there are six essential components required to maximize fitness and athletic development.

So how is the aspiring athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the effort is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make fitness and sport a lifestyle, much like a professional, focusing on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete they can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success, and they can all be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.

The SIX elements of sport performance that make up the SESSIONS:6 Sport Performance philosophy:

  • Aerobic Conditioning

  • Strength & Stability

  • Skill Proficiency

  • Diet & Nutrition

  • Stress Management

  • Mental Fitness

By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential in sport performance.

The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency make up the physical “training” an athlete with do.

Aerobic conditioning can be achieved by not only spending more time performing their sport, but also through various modalities of cross-training during specific times of the year. Training aerobic endurance by going longer at times, as well as incorporating moderate and high intensity interval training, at and above an athlete’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds at specific points in their training year, will improve their aerobic conditioning.

Including muscular strength and joint stability training will improve an athlete’s range of motion, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing strength, power, speed and endurance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy, limiting your performance. By incorporating drills into an athlete’s training program they will be able to maximize gains in strength and power as well as achieve a higher usage of their given maximal aerobic capacity.

The last three key components, diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness are efforts made in between the physical training sessions.

These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine, but they can also often yield some of the biggest results.

Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Through optimal nutrition you not only perform better on race day, but you are also able to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance, optimal energy levels to improve training capacity, and optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery.

Recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods as well as recognizing other forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively and get more from each training session.

Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to train to your fullest potential and compete to maximum ability is one of the toughest things for athletes to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to train and compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.

To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of sport performance development: aerobic conditioning, strength & stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition stress management, and mental fitness.

When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped, an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. Don’t fall into the trap that there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your vision and athletic ability by addressing these six components of fitness to allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete.

By incorporating these 6 components into your daily training and lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

V. Stress Management (Recovery)

V. Stress Management (Recovery)

What can create both a positive and a negative response, is something everybody experiences, most people desire less of, and many people struggle to balance?

The “S” word… STRESS!

Stress Management is our fifth component of our Six Components of Sport Performance. In our daily lives, we experience both physical and emotional stress. As athletes we need physical stress in the form of “training load” to provide the stimulus from which we can improve. The key to a good training program is one that provides just the right amount of stress; not enough and we stagnate or get stuck on a plateau, too much and we get fatigued, sick or injured. Both too little or too much physical stress leads to a lack of progress in your fitness.

Emotional stress encompasses stress from work, social/family interactions, and general life stress. Deadlines at work, bills piling up, and arguments with a loved one are all examples of the emotional stress people experience in their daily lives. While it’s impossible to avoid all emotional stressors, it is important to keep them to the lowest level possible. The key point here from an athlete’s perspective is that at the end of the day stress is stress, whether it is physical (training) stress or emotional (mental) stress. All stress adds up and contributes to your ability, or inability, to recover from your training and improve your performance.

Combining both your physical stress from your training and emotional stress from your life provides your complete ‘stress score.’

In general, the more stress you have, the more difficult it will be to train, recover, and improve. One of the largest factors that contributes to a professional athlete’s high level of performance is that they are able to organize their life in such ways to minimize their emotional (life) stress while maximizing their physical (training) stress. True ‘professional’ athletes are able to make training and racing their only job, minimizing their financial stress via sponsorships, minimize their social stressors and general life ‘overhead’.

Many struggling professionals, up-and-comers, or ‘recreational elites’ must maintain a job, balance a family/social life, and cultivate a much higher level of emotional stress that makes it difficult to compete with the more established professionals. Amateur athletes don’t have the luxury of mid-day workouts and time to put their feet up between training sessions. Amateur athletes must make their jobs and families priority number one and two and their sport takes the third or even fourth priority. 4:30am wake-up calls and/or late-night sessions squeezed in around their busy lives is a necessity. Lower training volume is almost always a result, as is also carefully (and often unsuccessfully) balancing the physical stress vs. emotional stress scale to maximize their performance. If your emotional (life) stress is heavy, then your physical (training) stress must be lighter. It all adds up! It’s critical to pay close attention to your stress balance if you want to make continued improvement in your sport.

 As athletes, we look at stress in two ways: chronic stress and acute stress.

Another key piece of stress management is recognizing the different types of stress and their effects on your body. I consider chronic stress as the long term effect applied to your body. This involves your endocrine system and maintaining hormonal balances. The human body releases the hormone cortisol (among others) when under stress. Cortisol is designed to help our bodies manage brief periods of stress, but when we put our bodies under extended periods of stress (through long, hard training sessions (physical), and/or long stressful days at work (emotional)) our endocrine system can overload our bodies with cortisol (and other stress hormones) that can disrupt your body’s natural functions. With elevated cortisol levels you may experience issues including fatigue, inability to recover, slowed tissue repair, digestive issues, weight gain, poor sleep, anxiety, and depression among other things.

How can you improve or lower your chronic stress load?

1. Get More Sleep

Sleep is perhaps the most important stress management tool. Aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep everyday is ideal. Often times, in periods of high stress, it is more valuable to skip a workout in favor of more sleep. Under periods of high stress, sleeping can become difficult for many people. Practicing improved sleep techniques like a warm bath, warm drink, and relaxation before bed can assist in improving sleep.

2. Diet & Nutrition

The more you are under stress, the more important a nutritious diet becomes. Eliminate the junk (sugar, fried foods, refined foods, etc.) and maximize the fruits and vegetables should be the the focus points (read my Diet & Nutrition article). Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day with small frequent meals will help regulate proper body functions as well.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Practicing yoga, deep breathing, visualization techniques, and simply reading a book can help lower stress levels. Spend time being still and quiet.

4. Sense of Humor & Laughing

Lighten up! Surround yourself with fun people at times and smile and laugh. It’s proven to relieve stress and make you a happier person.

 

Acute stress is looked at more in the short term. It’s the immediate effect you experience in the hours and days following stressors (specifically physical stress). This is the immediate fatigue you may feel from a training session, or the soreness or stiffness you may experience after a tough workout. High amounts of acute stress can occur by increasing training loads beyond what you are accustomed. These can be planned increased training loads, as in a training camp, or they can be unplanned by doing too much too soon, training too far above your current fitness level. Muscle damage, glycogen depletion, and dehydration can all contribute to high levels of acute stress. Acute stress contributes to increased chronic stress, and if left unaddressed, this increased stress can lead to deep fatigue, illness and/or injury. Always being aware of how you can recover better and more quickly following training sessions will help you get on the right track for managing your acute stress loads.

Our saying is to “Take care of your body!” We see too many people willing to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, travel and entry fees, as well as enormous amounts of time in training yet be unwilling to spend some money on their body to keep it happy, healthy and performing at its best.

How can you manage your acute stress load?

1. Follow a Progressive Training Program

Your training must progress gradually to avoid excessive acute stress. Following a training plan or working with a coach that will keep you on track and hold you back if you are a ‘go getter!’ Fitness is a long term commitment and can’t be rushed.

2. Recovery Nutrition

Consuming calories immediately following long and/ or intense training sessions is a critical recovery strategy. There are commercial products on the market designed specifically for this purpose (First Endurance Ultragen being among the best). The key is to include both carbohydrates and protein in adequate amounts to begin the restoration process (see Diet & Nutrition post for more specifics).

3. Soft Tissue Massage

Massage therapy is helpful for increasing blood flow to damaged muscles and loosening adhesions of soft tissue. Two professional massage sessions a month is a worthwhile investment (weekly is even better, once a month is better than nothing). Daily self-massage (foam rollers, massage balls, massage sticks, etc.) is also time well spent and can be done before bed as part of a relaxation routine.

4. Manual Manipulation

Your body takes a beating with all the training. Take care of your body by visiting a osteopathic physician (D.O.), physical therapist (P.T.) and/or chiropractor to give your body the regular tune-ups it needs. These visits can go a long way to maintaining overall health and keeping injuries at bay.

5. Stretching

While science will say there is no evidence that stretching actually does anything, but most people will agree that, at the very least, it feels good. Unless you are genetically hyper-flexible, including some stretching in your weekly routine will help you stay loose and maintain an effective range of motion. It is another great activity to include in your nightly relaxation routine.

6. Compression

Another controversial technique in the recovery equation. The verdict is still out as to whether compression actually does anything, but if you think it does then go for it! Donning compression clothing post-workouts and pneumatic ‘compression boots’ are two tools to consider including in your recovery routine.

 


Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.