For the first two years of high school, I played 3 sports. Thus all my conditioning was done for my sport, by my sport. Every single practice of football and basketball was finished with some kind of running; 100's, shuttle runs, gassers, suicides, 50's, long distance runs and various calisthenics/running combos. We also ran prior to practice (to warm up for stretching). My third sport was track - running was the sport.
Also, my high school had a very intensive (by today's standards) physical education program. Depending on how we performed on a battery of tests, each student was placed in one of four groups. Group One's conditioning requirement was to perform 20 laps on the indoor track in 12 minutes. This was approximately 2 miles. This was something I wanted to maintain from freshman to senior year. Thus we also occasionally ran during P.E. class.
My junior and senior years of high school were spent only playing two sports. Thus I had an entire off-season; I lifted Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On the other days I would run short sprints and run hills. If the weather was poor, I'd stay in and run at the indoor track or ride the AirDyne bike.
College - Air Force Academy and Arizona
Every part of my conditioning was run by the strength and conditioning staff; all done for football. Thus there was an emphasis on sprint work, technique work and typical "football conditioning" (see above). The big difference was the winter conditioning program. This was done three days/week and conditioning drills were often disguised as agility drills. These lasted about 45-60 minutes. There was nothing terribly unique about this type of conditioning compared to other schools/programs. You run and run a lot; although not as much as high school (due to specialization and platooning).
Once I was done with football, I hated running. I've been running/conditioning for sports since I was 11 years old and was just sick of it. I just wanted to lift and get big. Thus when I moved to Kentucky the majority of my conditioning was squatting and drinking whiskey. Not the best plan. I started getting very serious about powerlifting and began training specifically for that purpose.
After I was done competing in powerlifting, my first order of business was getting back into shape. I did a couple things to help ease my body back into shape.
- Prowler pushes
- Fartlek-style running
- Hill sprints
The Prowler and hill sprints were the easiest on the body; the Fartlek running was only done when I had lost enough weight. It should be noted that I drastically changed my eating habits at this time. The biggest diet change was portions; I only ate until I satisfied. My rule of thumb was that I should feel like I can do a moderately hard workout after eating with no fears of throwing up. Probably not the smartest idea (according to the internet experts) but I was able to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time.
One of the big changes I made to my lifting was making sure I accounted for the conditioning. Since I was not in great shape and the hill sprints/Prowler are weighted activities (and very stressful to me), I had to cut back on what I did in the weight room. Also during this time, I had no illusions of what the conditioning would do to my strength levels, at least initially. Of course I was not going to be able to display the same strength on my lifts when starting a new stressful activity. Some days were horrible but since the goal was not to bench press 1000lbs, it was easy to stomach. Your actions have to reflect your goals.
After my accident, my conditioning and training were intertwined. My first "workout" was about two weeks after my back surgery and I did a 1/2 mile with a 10lbs weight vest. I did this 2-3 times/day. As I healed my walks got longer; eventually doing 3-5 miles/day, 400 bleacher steps/day all while wearing a weight vest. The main goals was to strengthen and heal my mid-section. If the streets were too icy to walk (falling was not an option when healing from back surgery), I would ride the AirDyne bike.
This lasted about two years. I began lifting weights about 8 weeks post-surgery but it was very light and was determined by how my back was feeling that day. In other words, 50% of the time I had to deviate from my plan. This is where the WaLRUS training came into being; you can't just train to train. You have to have a goal.
The majority of my conditioning today involves three things:
- Weight vest walks/stairs
- Stair/hill sprints
- Prowler walk (1/2 mile)
If the weather is poor, I will ride the AirDyne bike. I don't really have a detailed plan for what I do UNLESS I have a challenge to complete. Last year, I wanted to push the Prowler for 1/2 mile in 30 minutes with 270lbs. Because I had a very specific goal, my conditioning (and lifting) reflected this. If I had a specific lifting goal in mind, I would go back to the weight vest walks/stair walks.
But if I'm in between challenges, I just do whatever I want to. I have "basic minimums" for the Prowler and weight vest. So as long as I perform my conditioning sessions within these parameters, I am fine. And no, none of these minimums are "Instagram Ready". They are moderate at best.
At this point of my life, my conditioning is primarily done for two reasons: health and challenges. Not training for a specific sport allows a lot of freedom and is insanely easy to do. But like training for a sport, consistency and discipline are key to getting the job done. Like I tell my athletes, "Strong legs, strong lungs!"