I've had an interest in strength and conditioning since my early days. Some of my early motivations came as a young kid watching and reading about the training of guys like Walter Payton, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, Eddie George, and on...
These guys probably didn't follow any of the super-precise methods or elaborate periodization schemes, but they got themselves in shape. They were fit. They got fit by lots of running. Running sprints, intervals, hills, and even some long distance work. And fit is something that seems to be a scarcity more and more these days. It seems as though more and more athletes are content with putting in the minimum.
My all-time favorite is Walter Payton. The guy played 13 years in the league. He missed one game his entire career, during his rookie season, only because his coach held him out. Much of his career was spent playing on the astro turf of Soldier Field. He wasn't overly fast, had a small stature (5'10" 200lbs.), but was arguably one of the most dominant and physical players to play the game. His secret... his conditioning was second to no one. He had the drive to put forth the effort to stay in supreme physical condition. His workouts were legendary, which among other things included the original, "The Hill". While teammates rested between drills during practices, he would jump rope. He biked to and from practice.
From his autobiography, Never Die Easy:
"A lot of people encouraged me to get into coaching when the St. Louis deal didn't work out. I never could even think about it. I could never coach, because I never understood the workout ethics and the philosophies of any other athlete I ever met. When I practiced I literally would vomit if I had to. I worked myself and gave all of myself even if it was practice, and when I went to training camp, it was like I was on a vacation, because I was ready. I never stopped working out. I understood that I had to be physically fit. I understood that I might not be the best, I understood I might not be the strongest, I understood that I might not be able to have the speed, but I figured if I took all of these qualities that I did have and I put them together, I had something no one else had. So I would be the most prepared for training camp ever, and I was. I trained harder in the off-season than I did during the season, that was my belief. And it worked, obviously. It worked real well.
But what I saw in my last couple of years in the league only got worse as time went on. Too many guys showed up out of shape for training camp. Then they missed games or practices because they had pulled muscles. Duh? That wasn't a surprise. How could I coach players who want to sit home and eat ice cream and pies and not even work out once or twice a week, and then only wait until camp? Go out partying all night, and then when camp came, that's when they decided they would buckle down. My philosophy was so opposite, I knew I couldn't - I knew because that's how I was. That was the animal inside of me, the untrained animal, and I certainly could not go in there and unleash something that somebody didn't have. I didn't know how I could do that."
Bottom line was, Walter Payton, was in great condition.
The thing that worries me is that this is becoming more and more of an anomaly. General fitness is becoming rare.
As a college coach, we may only get to see athletes for a couple hours a day, 3 to 4 days a week. This is good, but there is still about 180+ hours the rest of the week. 8 hours of high intensity training and 181 hours of next to nothing???