As a young athlete, you always want to perform your best and give your best effort. You listen to your coaches, study game film, work hard in practice, go to the gym, and show up come game time on the weekend. As you go through your weekly routine, you start to realize that school is getting busy, practices are getting harder and your relationship is becoming more demanding of your time. Soon you have less time than you need (welcome to real-life), and you need to start cutting certain things out of your weekly routine. School is mandatory, so you can't skip that. Your girlfriend/boyfriend is "the love of your life," and spending any less time with them will cause them to question your commitment levels, so that has to stay. You're not going to skip the practice, of course, or you won't play, and playing games is the whole reason for your existence. So skipping the gym it is!
This happens far too often with athletes, especially University Student-Athletes. University life for a student is hectic, let alone adding the time demands of high-level athletics. The problem with many athletes is that when their schedule gets busy and time is the most significant factor, their gym time gets cut. This happens in four ways:
- They skip the warm-up to save on time
- They skip some parts of the workout and only do the things they want to or think they "need" (aka. abs)
- They lift light so they can go faster and rest shorter
- They skip their session altogether
Now, obviously, some of these are worse than others, with #4 being the worst "gym sin" of all!
However, there are some simple ways to make sure you are still getting in the required stimulus to improve, but without taking too much of your precious time.
The biggest factor in why athletes will perform any of the four options listed is lack of education or knowledge. Student-athletes are intelligent and are continually learning in the classroom. However, their education cannot stop there. Just because they are mentally stressed in the classroom (High School or College) does not mean their brains shouldn't be challenged in the weight room. Do not be afraid to take a few minutes to explain the basics to your athletes on why lifting is essential and why all of the components of the lift are needed to have a balanced overall training effect. For athletes, do not be afraid to ask your coaches questions! Too often, athletes go through the motions because they don't understand why they are doing it or do an exercise incorrectly because they were too afraid to ask for help. Just ask! Trust me, as a coach. I love getting asked questions and educating athletes. It helps teach my athletes why they are doing what I am asking of them, which increases buy-in and overall effort as they want the end goal of jumping higher and sprinting faster! Plus, it lets us show our athletes that we actually DO know what we are talking about!
So, what I am trying to get at is, educate your athletes on the importance of training! I'm going to go through each of the four scenarios touched on earlier and give some tips on how to educate your athletes or how to be educated if you are an athlete.
#1: Skipping The Warm-Up
The warm-up is how you prepare your body for the lift. By skipping out on it, you are more likely to get injured or just perform poorly, both of which are not helping you.
Verdict: DON'T SKIP THE WARM-UP!
#2: Skipping Certain Exercises
The program your coach made for you has all of the exercises in there for a reason. They help create a balanced training stimulus and are all in there for a reason: to make you a better athlete! By choosing which ones to do can possibly take out the ones, YOU need most to become better. If you are hurt and cannot do certain exercises, do not assume which ones. Ask your coach or athletic therapist!
Verdict: DO NOT CUT EXERCISES! (without a coaches instruction)
#3: Lifting Light
What is the whole point of you going to the gym? To get stronger and be faster. The only way to do these things is to lift heavy! (at least moderately heavy anyway) By coming to the gym and lifting light (unless you are hurt once again or learning a new movement), you are simply wasting your time and not improving. Plus, you are telling your body that it does not need to get stronger or faster, which is the opposite of what you want!
Verdict: LIFT HEAVY!
#4: Skipping Sessions Entirely
This one seems to become a no-brainer when you really look at it. Lifting improves your strength, speed and reduces your risk of injury by creating a more stable, mobile, and bullet-proof body! By skipping the gym, you will lose strength (your sport does not do enough to make you stronger, no matter how much you run), and you can become more prone to injury by not developing the muscles not trained in your sport.
Verdict: DO NOT SKIP SESSIONS!
4 Ways To Make Your Gym Sessions Quicker
1. Perform fewer sets: Do all of the exercises and go heavy, like I just mentioned, but maybe only do 2 sets instead of 3. This will keep the intensity up (which is needed to be strong) and will reduce the workout time and overall fatigue level by having less volume.
2. Don't limit your gym sessions at all: Now, what I mean by this is that most young athletes complain about not having enough time to lift, but yet they managed to squeeze in 3 Episodes of their favorite TV show on Netflix. What ends up happening is that most younger athletes are not in the habit of going to the gym, meaning it is not a part of their normal routine. If you do not schedule time in your day to lift and just hope that some spare time will show up and you can squeeze in a quick lift, then you will never make it to the gym. There is an old saying that I love to repeat to people, "Some people complain about not having time, while others make time". Now, I don't mean create time out of midair. I mean you need to prioritize things and create time in your day for what matters. The pursuit of being the best student-athlete you can be!
3. Ask your strength coach: This is the most important one and should actually come first before you personally decide to change anything up in the workout. Your coach understands your situation as they were a student once too, and more often than not, a student-athlete too. They know the struggles and are there to help you! They can recommend other ways to limit your gym time that will fit your development. They can help you decide what exercises to limit, what sets to cut, or they may even have a shorter program for you to do for certain scenarios just like this! It happens more often than you think. So, just ask!
4. This last one is for the coach directly: Ask yourself why your athletes don't want to come. Lifting should be a great experience for them, and they should want to be there. This idea I got from Dr. Jeremy Sheppard, who works with Canada's National Snowboarders. He taught me that when athletes are not showing up, it shouldn't be a, "what's wrong with them", mentality, but a, "what's wrong with me that they aren't coming", approach. Maybe examine your coaching approach and make sure that you are getting the most out of your athletes without humiliating them or causing them to hate coming to see you.
Overall, just remember that training is an important factor in you and your athletes overall development. Cutting out anything that is important will hinder you, so make sure you take an educated look at your day and prioritize what you need. That movie will still be on Netflix next week, but your cross-town rivals are only coming once this year, and the game is this weekend. So, will you be ready?
Read More: 5 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every Gym-Goer