Specialized athletes will need focused training | VailDaily.com

Specialized athletes will need focused training

Ryan Richards
Make It Count

It's a rare human who must compete at the highest level of athletics, in a specialized field.

Elite-level marathon runners who burn the pavement mile after mile, completing the 26.2 mile feat in just over 2 hours, is unsettling to my stomach. For those who are doing the math, this requires an average speed of around 5 minutes per mile. No thanks.

I have been discussing the fundamentals of program design for athletes and the general population for the last several weeks. In the book "Easy Strength," authors Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline break down training into four quadrants based on the specific needs of the individual. Today, I will highlight quadrant four, that demands only a few fitness qualities from athletes, developed at the highest level.

This article will not relate to most of us, and I will be short and to the point. Quadrant four is the training realm for professional marathon runners, competitive powerlifters, sprinters and other specialized athletes who don't need many qualities at all, but the qualities that are necessary must be developed to the highest level of human potential. As this relates to a handful of elite endurance athletes in our neighborhood, you already likely know how to get to the top of your game. Here's what's really fascinating about elite athletes in narrow focused sports — there is nothing fuzzy about the cause of the outcome in the game.

Only Variable that matters

Fitness development for certain athletes is often so far down the priority list, I wonder why physical prowess even matters at all. I don't know anyone firsthand who competes in curling, but I doubt such athletes need an impressive squat to be competitive. But they sure better know how to slide the stones toward the target. Considering sports such as American football, where there are way too many variables to really know what's precisely causing the outcome. Football players need impressive fitness measures across many domains. However, they also need skill, the ability to read plays, deal with weather, injuries, home field advantage, etc. For quadrant-four athletes, fitness is usually the only variable that matters when it counts. In the sport of Olympic weightlifting, the most skillful and powerful lifter wins. The fastest runner in the New York City marathon is the fittest, both physically and mentally. The sprinter with an optimal body geometry, who can move his feet the fastest over the largest stride will win every time.

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The case in point is that if you compete in a narrow focused sport at the highest level, then you better be sure that you are in top shape for the task at hand. Assuming you are the golden child, you already have the best coaches sorting this out for you. For the rest of us, I'll sit in my armchair pondering why the Broncos aren't making it happen this year. Have a great week.

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards' passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion.