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Work Harder, Not Smarter

As a former Infiniti Sports Performance athlete and now a performance trainer at ISP, November has always been particularly significant in my life. This month means both the end of the baseball season and the beginning of a new off-season. I still remember my first session at ISP in November of 2004; the BOSU squats, the lunges, push-ups on a physioball, etc. Even more vividly, I remember trying to navigate the hallways of William Floyd High School the next day with sore legs. From that day on I had always seen the month of November as the doorway towards becoming not just a better pitcher, but a better athlete. Now is the time to begin growing both physically, mentally, and learning about the process of being a well-trained athlete. November is the time to commit fully to the idea that when March comes there will be zero doubt in your mind that your preparation has far surpassed your opponents. I attribute most of my success as a pitcher to the mental advantage of knowing how much more effort I expended in my ISP training sessions than everyone around me. If you commit to the process of preparation and gain as much knowledge as you can (by asking questions) you will be able to not only train hard but train smart!

The notion of “training smart” resonates deeply with my experience as an athlete because I have experienced a handful of injuries resulting from the doing the complete opposite. One particular incident rings home not just with me, but also our Executive Director, Ray Babinsky. In the summer of 2004, before I knew ISP existed, one of my very good friends at the time invited me to join him for a workout at a local gym. Without much consideration I complied because as an athlete it always seems like a good idea to get stronger! When we were at the inclined rowing machine I noticed that the weight he had been doing was feeling really heavy. Being the competitive athlete I am I could not let my smaller friend lift more weight than me and I muscled through our three sets. The next day I had practice for the Long Island Titans team I pitched for to prepare for our regional tournament the next week. When I woke up that morning, my forearms and biceps were about the size of my thighs and no, I did not gain 10 inches on my biceps overnight! The pain was severe and I could hardly extend my arms past 90 degrees. Needless to say, when I showed up to practice Coach Babinsky was “exasperated”.

Peer pressure will always exist, especially in the weight room. The challenge of becoming a better athlete and a better person is to be situationally aware of the right time and place to impress friends and foes. By gaining knowledge of the training process and applying it to your routine you will find yourself in a much better position to impress others where it really matters, on the diamond!

At this time of the off-season (for spring sports) it is important to understand a “smart” strategy for planning a training program; the concept of periodization. Periodizing a training program involves the systematic cycling of different training goals throughout an athlete’s seasonal timeline. This term encompasses the organizational component of an athlete’s training program. It is what guides our decisions as trainers to determine when to do what. For example, a baseball player is not (and should not) be doing power development exercises and position specific exercises during November. Those exercises have been shown through research to optimize performance if done immediately prior to the season (typically a month or so before the season starts). Instead, we are currently working to build a foundation of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) in our baseball athletes. This GPP phase includes overall conditioning, a base level of strength, and most importantly corrective exercises individually chosen to rebalance each athlete’s body after a long and physically demanding baseball season.

Periodization takes patience and trust by the athlete. It requires the discipline and understanding the process of optimal performance preparation. Trust in this concept and you will reap the rewards this spring!

I will end this post with a quote that captures the importance of knowledge and application:

“Knowing and not doing is the same as not knowing.” – Peter Sage

Consider yourself now in the know! Derek

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