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I learned many, many years ago that the lifetime of the red blood cell (RBC) was 80 to 120 days. For my purpose in training athletes, I used 90 days as the average. To me it was nice to know the lifeline of our body was refreshing itself each season, or 4 times per year. If the body was refreshing, then my training schedules would also refresh each season, or 4 times per year. Yes, there would be a common theme throughout, but each year would comprise 4 distinct phases.

PHASE I – Building the Foundation

No matter what your sport or competition, a strong foundation or aerobic base is imperative. To know where you are going, you must know where you start. First measure your maximum aerobic effort. For example, max aerobic HR is approximately 220 minus your age, x 85 %. For the purposes of this article, lets say this number is a heart rate of 140. Now determine what intensity of exercise is required to achieve this HR. In this example, jogging on a treadmill at 5.0 MPH, will be used. For the next 90 days your training will be primarily (not totally) aerobic to increase this performance. When creating an aerobic base, you must do aerobic work. Pure aerobic activity can be offset by open chain proprioceptive work. (Open chain—not holding on, or not connected; proprioceptive—where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other). Standing on a balance board or ball will accomplish this. When this becomes too easy, try standing on one leg, or with your eyes closed. This technique will vastly enhance core strength. Fuel it with proper nutrition. Remember, you are what you eat. Eat junk – be junk. Now what are we training for? This phase is a good place to start to learn game enhancing visualization. Standing on a balance ball in your garage, no I don’t think so. Close your eyes and you are now standing in the field, playing 3rd base. As you move from side to side on the ball, imagine you are picking off all the shots hit to the “hot corner”. Remember, what the mind perceives, the body achieves. During this phase you should see an increase in the intensity needed to get to a certain HR. If it took a 5.0 MPH effort to reach 140 HR, by the end of this phase you may need a speed of 6.0 MHP or more to get to the same HR. A good aerobic base has been started, but eventually, your improvement will start to level off. Then, it is time to kick it up a notch!

PHASE II – High End Endurance Work

Sport specific strength training, power, speed and agility drills—bring it on. Yes, anaerobic exposures are needed but you must control it. Knowing that anaerobic excess is a fundamental flaw in many training programs you must make sure you do not fall victim to the over trained syndrome. Remember the 3Rs – rest, repair, recovery. Chart your aerobic threshold. You started at 5.0 MPH on the treadmill and went to 6.0. During this phase you should be able to increase your speed again to get to the 140 HR. If this is not happening you might be trying too hard. During this phase, visualization will be aided by biofeedback to help the athlete learn to cope with the emotional stress of the game. A heart rate monitor is an excellent biofeedback tool. HR is directly related to your emotional level. Increased emotion and stress results in increased HR. Visualizing the bottom of the 9th in the World Series, is one thing; learning to control your emotions in it so you can perform properly, is another. As you visualize, learn proper breathing, learn what you need to say to yourself to relax, so that optimal performance can be achieved. Interval training, intense core work have all been part of this phase. Just when we feel like we have improved all we can, it is time again to change our training.

PHASE III – Enhancing the Foundation

Through proper conditioning, what used to be difficult has now become easy. We started our example at 5.0 MPH on a treadmill to attain a 140 HR. Now we need to go 6.5 MPH to get the same result. Advanced core work, agility and strength will build throughout this phase. Proper fat burning is essential to fuel the needed tasks. Understanding insulin “ the fat hormone” is imperative. There is no 'Hitting The Wall'. The athlete does not run out of energy at the wall, the athlete runs out of ability to access their energy at the wall. In this phase barriers to excellence are removed. Cardio Strength Training with sport specific techniques are employed. Skills are repeated to the point that they become reflexive to the subconscious mind. Visualization work is enhanced. ‘See the Game; Feel the Game’. Whether running the mile or playing 1st base, strategies and tactics are reviewed ad nauseum. But again, it is time to change.

PHASE IV – Peak Performance

Playing a sport or entering a specific competition is the time for a well trained athlete to have fun and excel. So much work has been done to get here, that we must make sure the line between training and abusing is not crossed. The 3Rs will be respected; active rest will be constantly employed. Competing is one aspect of the sport; getting ready for the next competition is where the art of training lies. Playing a game on Monday night followed by a game on Tuesday afternoon needs skills that go beyond yelling “c’mon you can do it”. Training now is an adjunct to the sport or competition. The physiological blend of aerobic and anaerobic is closely scrutinized. All training techniques are fair game to keep the athlete honed to excellence. You see it is not enough to say “put me in coach; I’m ready to play”. That is how they make songs. The true athlete will say “put me in coach; I’m ready to win”. That’s how legends are made, even if they are only in the athlete’s mind.