From Aesthetics Back to Athletics

So, yesterday was my second Highland Games since competing in Figure back in June and I am finally back to being somewhat competitive. I’m significantly heavier than I was 2.5 months ago, but I’m also a lot leaner than I was the last time I weighed 160 lbs. But, its time to find balance between being the athlete I want to be while also maintaining the leanness I worked so hard to achieve.

Throwing stone at Grandfather Mountain.

When we take out peaking for competition, when everything needs to get super specific for the goal, the foundation of both aesthetic and athletic training is very similar: Full body strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and muscular endurance. These qualities are the basis of General Physical Preparedness or GPP, a concept that relates to one’s readiness to train more specifically. In Siff and Verkhoshansky’s book, Supertraining, GPP takes on a level of importance that we rarely think about here in the US. In the Russian sports model, young athletes would take years to develop this general fitness before specializing in any one sport. Over the course of one’s lifetime, a return to GPP was required to maintain fitness, reduce injury risk, and increase the longevity of the athlete. In short, build a big fitness base and spend the rest of your life maintaining it. (For a longer and much better discussion on this topic as it relates to youth athletes, see this excellent article at EliteFTS: )

One of the reasons we see so many sports and fitness related injuries these days is because no one wants to do the GPP. It takes too much time, its not sexy, it doesn’t deliver trophies, medals, or instagram selfie opportunities. However, the truth is, if you take the time to devote yourself to developing and maintaining a large general fitness base, your overall performance and longevity will go far beyond your current expectations. Its never too late to start and the payoffs are huge. But, it does take time, it isn’t super fun, and at times, its just hard work.

When I decided to compete in Figure, it was mostly the GPP I was after. The many months of just moving weight, doing cardio, and watching my diet was grueling at times and if I didn’t have a great coach cheering me on, I’d have quit many times over. But, it delivered. The lack of joint pain, increased stamina, and improved strength balance improved my quality of life, my overall strength, and my performance on the field. But now its time to take that GPP and hone it into something much more specific.

To get my best performance at the Masters Worlds Highland Games in Tuscon this November, I need to get faster, I need to get back to becoming a power athlete, and I need to improve the deficiencies in my technique. But, I also can’t ignore the things that got me here.

I am continuing to work with my coach to keep my body composition where I want it. I compete as a lightweight masters so need to be under 155 lbs, but as strong as I can be at that weight. I have been building my training program around the bodybuilding movements I know I need to continue doing to keep my joints happy while also including more power based compound movements. I’m going to continue doing cardio at a level that enhances my fitness and body composition but doesn’t impact my recovery. And finally, I’m going to meet up with my throwing coach to fix some glaring issues with my hammer and stone throws.

Having a training plan is half the battle, but then you have to figure out how it fits into your life. Because life has a way of unraveling even the best laid plans. I have three teenagers. I coach a middle school cross country team. I have an ER physician for a husband whose schedule is random at best. And then there’s all that pesky house/dog/yard management. So, I’m going to have to make the time to prioritize my training such that it doesn’t get in the way of all of the above and vice versa. And most of all, I need to make sure I stick to my diet plan because the first rule of competing as a lightweight masters is that you make weight at the competition.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” -Robert Burns

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” -Mike Tyson

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