“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
What do prospective NFL draft prospects have in common with your everyday, average Joe trainee? Plenty, when it comes to training what you suck at.
It seems as though (if personal conversations and email messages are any indication), that many trainees misinterpret the notion of “train what you suck at”. Does this really mean that if I’m a naturally gifted sprinter, or power athlete, that I ought to devote an inordinate amount of time engaged in endurance training? Well, in a word, no – but as in all else, context is key. Charles Poliquin is fond of saying that one ought to be “true to your animal”, or, in other words, “work whatchur mama give ya”. What you suck at, of course, must be viewed within the context of your goals, and within a more narrowly defined definition of your particular gifts. For instance, I am primarily an explosive, fast-twitch oriented trainee. This is what I’m wired for, where I “feel at home”, the types of endeavors at which I excel. Does this mean that to become a better athlete, or to advance my personal fitness goals, that I need to begin engaging in arduous aerobic endurance protocols (which I absolutely without-a-doubt suck at!)? Of course not. What it does mean though, is that I need to identify that element that is my weak-link to becoming a more explosive, more powerful athlete. To further refine things, I need to define what energy system I’m talking about. Am I talking about becoming more explosive, more powerful in, say the 800 meters or the 40 yard dash? Big, big difference, right?
As an example, let’s consider all the work being done now by prospective NFL draftees to prep for the NFL combine to be held later this month, and specifically, let’s consider the 40 yard dash preparations. Coaches and scouts have long known (this is the “horse sense” side of training), that the initial few strides out of the starting gate determine the quality of the athlete you’re dealing with. An analysis of numbers and 40 times over the years has proven this notion (which of course drew a collective “no shit, Sherlock” eye-roll from said coaches and scouts), showing that the initial 10 yard split (roughly the first six strides) is more a determinant of the overall 40 time than is the remaining 30 yard split. In other words, the “flying 30” remains virtually unchanged across position-specific groups of athletes, with the initial 10 yard split being the real time-determining factor in the event. The better the start, and the more powerful/explosive the initial six strides, the better the overall 40 time.
So, where would these athletes then, get more bang for their training buck? In a macro sense (athlete relative to athlete), where is the across-the-board “weakness”? Yep, you guessed it – explosiveness, instantaneous power generation. From this point, then we have to look at the individual athlete to find out “what they suck at”. Broadly speaking, is the athlete strength deficient relative to his speed/RFD capabilities, or the other way around? What can we do to make a better puma, here? A better gazelle?
After the kid signs, then the goals change. Now strength-endurance considerations kick-in and figure more prominently in his eventual, on-the-field success. First things first, though – he’s got to get signed initially – and that, in a large part, means nailing a great 40 time. This is what I mean by “train what you suck at” – it’s micro in scope, not macro. It must be viewed in context of your goals, and it must be in harmony with – not in opposition to – the type of “animal” you are.
And here’s what a blazing 40 time (and more specifically, a super-human 10 split) translates to on the field. This young man blistered a 4.24 40 prior to being drafted by the Titans. I’m not sure what his 10 split was, but I’d be willing to bet it was also the fastest ever timed at the combine. Before combine and NFL fame, though, he wore the purple and gold of ECU. Check it out –
Now, shifting gears just a bit – the following may be a bit tangential to “training what you suck at”…or is it?
The way I see it, higher education, ten, twenty years from now is going to look very different. It won’t be the brick and mortar and the semester and a course in this and a course in that. It’s going to be more outcomes based and skill based, project based. You don’t have to take these sixty courses or whatever it is to be a journalist. Someone will identify your gaps and then you address the gaps, in whatever way is possible. And that may mean taking an online course from New Zealand, being in a discussion forum with people in Canada, an internship in Mexico with Habitat for Humanity. You just need to get the knowledge and skills whatever way you can and then test out or present a portfolio. And when you add it all up, a few years later, you actually are ready to be a good journalist. – (embolden emphasis mine)
Eat well. Train hard, and train smart. Recover properly. Identify your gaps, then address them. And above all, be true to your spirit animal.