Heath Evans, Auburn Tiger alumnus and New Orleans Saints fullback, will provide STACK readers and web visitors with an exclusive look at his preseason workouts. Check back each week for new posts from Evans.
There is no more important goal for each and every workout than creating a competitive environment. For some, competition comes naturally, while others must intentionally insert a competitive element into practice, runs, lifts and drills.
With 10 years in the NFL and four years of SEC football behind me, I can say with confidence that a person's athletic ability and competitive spirit are not one and the same, nor are they linked. Some of the best athletes I have known lack the inherent ability to compete; others compete every second of their lives. The same can be said of many with less natural athletic talent.
Injecting an element of competition into each workout is a daily goal for me—whether in a group or on my own. When you train on your own, the only way to compete is against yourself. When you train with a team or group, the natural competitors come out to play!
If you train on your own, as we all have to sometimes, you must have detailed notes of every set and rep from your last workout so you can compete against yourself.
For example, last Friday I finished my leg day with 600 yards of Walking Lunges with a 45-pound plate on my back. This week on my leg day, I know that I need to do 650 yards of the same drill to "win" against myself. If I did not maintain a detailed journal, it would be easy for my tired mind and body to forget what I need to accomplish in order to "win."
Imagine a game with no scoreboards. The two teams would argue at the end about who won. Toward the end of a workout with no notes from previous workouts, your mind will argue that you are winning, even when you may not be exceeding your previous accomplishments. If you are not keeping a detailed journal of each rep, time and set, I challenge you to start today—it will create a competitive element to your individual workouts and push you to higher highs!
Whether with a team or a small group of fellow athletes, the group workout is naturally a better breeding ground for competition. Sometimes an individual workout is unavoidable, but never use the lack of someone else's presence as an excuse not to train. When you do have a chance to work out with teammates or fellow athletes, don't use that as an excuse to not keep detailed notes.
When you train with a group, make sure that someone is creating the competition. A good coach will always make sure this happens. However, don't rely on a coach—go further by pushing yourself and your teammates!
Due to the NFL lockout, I took some time this summer to train at my alma mater, Auburn University. I did so because a college football program is a great place to compete. You have 85 scholarship-level athletes who are daily trying to win starting jobs. For me, I had 85 guys each day who were trying to prove that they could beat the "old pro." Whether in agility drills, sprints, plyos or lifts, you will always benefit from a competitive aspect.
This summer with the Auburn guys, I challenged my partner to visualize an opponent he'll face in a game. For example, when I did Squats last week with Daren Bates, one of AU's linebackers, I called out on each rep, "Here comes the UGA fullback" or "Here comes the UA tight end—explode through his chest."
During conditioning runs, my mind goes to strictly controlling my breathing so I can maximize my running and beat whomever I am running against. [Notice that I do not run with anyone; I run against someone.]
In your sprints or intervals, never let yourself run against someone who does not push your limits. Make sure your partner or the guy you're next to is a challenge. Pick someone you might not be able to beat—not someone you know you will beat! If you are the rare bird who is always the fastest in the group, you are the exception. You will sometimes have to compete against yourself, even in a team drill.
Agility training is nothing but a trash-talking session. I always put myself against an LB-type, like the guys I will compete against on Sundays during the season. My goal this summer has been not just to beat these kids but to embarrass them—by excelling and pushing them to try to beat me—and hopefully inspiring them to greatness.
The greatest challenge in any workout is getting your mind ready to battle your body for the duration. Your mind will scream "quit" long before your body needs to do so. This is where mental preparation comes into play. If you do not prepare your mind to compete daily, someone else is gaining ground on you and moving closer to passing you up or taking your spot!
Super Bowl champion Heath Evans is a 10-year veteran fullback with the New Orleans Saints. For more information on Evans and the Heath Evans Foundation, visit heathevans.org.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock