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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman



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More Training Info > Fitness Polygon

Evaluate Your Training Program
Fitness Polygon

The eight sport-specific characteristics that need to be considered when developing your own workout program include Strength, Speed-Strength, Speed, Stamina, Structure, Skill, Suppleness, and Strength-endurance. This model has been developed by Dr. Mel C. Siff and is discussed in his book, Supertraining (1999). Each outdoor activity can be evaluated for how much of each of the eight elements you need to include in your workouts. What are each of the eight?

Elements Defined

Strength simply refers to how strong you need to be for optimal performance in a given outdoor activity. Functional (sport-specific) strength can best be developed by using body resistance, free weights, cables, etc. Speed-strength (or what we later refer to as Power) can be developed by doing plyometrics, medicine ball tosses, Olympic-style lifts, or "dynos," dynamic moves in climbing. Speed refers to how quickly you perform a given movement--sprinters, for example, would include a larger amount of speed training than a marathon runner. We've chosen to label Stamina as Cardiovascular endurance. Structure refers to body size and shape. For example, climbers and gymnasts want to maximize functional strength while minimizing muscle size and extra bulk, while bodybuilders want large muscles but don't seem to care so much about how strong those muscles are. Skill refers to technique and mastery of coordination. Suppleness is the same as Flexibility on our chart, the amount needed in a chosen activity. Finally, strength endurance measures how long the muscular system can last in a particular activity. If you assemble these on a Fitness Polygon, below, and then determine how much of each type of training you need for your sport, you can then make sure you include components of each in your periodized plan.

Fitness Polygon

To help you get a better understanding of how this Fitness Polygon works for your particular event, we've created two examples within the broad category of "Climbing." There are actually many specialties within climbing: alpine, sport, glacier, rock, ice, mixed, waterfall, bouldering--you get the picture. Each activity has a slightly different profile. To further complicate things, if you are someone who wants to do a little of everything, you will have an interesting challenge balancing training components. (That's where your outdoor conditioning coach comes in handy, for we do all of that for you!)

Glacier Climbing

This first example includes an evaluation of the components involved in climbing the major Cascade volcanoes such as Hood, Baker, Rainier, Glacier, St. Helens, or Mt. Adams. These climbs all involve substantial gain in elevation, carrying relatively heavy backpacks (up to 60 pounds in some cases), for long periods of time. While there is some technical skill involved in crevasse rescue, the actual physical skill required for preparation for such an activity is very low compared to that involved in activities such as rock climbing, gymnastics, or kayaking. What is needed most is cardiovascular endurance (hence the "high" mark), or the ability to keep moving for several hours at a time, and strength endurance (another "high"), or the ability of the muscles (particularly the core, or torso, and legs) to carry what feels like a substantial amount of weight for an extended period of time. Someone whose main interest is backpacking, hiking, or scrambling might have a similar profile. These people should focus primarily on muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance, with lesser (but never ZERO) amounts of maximal strength, power, speed, body size, skill or flexibility training.

Glacier Climbing Fitness Polygon


Sport Climbing

The Fitness Polygon of the Sport Climber will look substantially different, below, and will depend on how accomplished a climber wishes to become. Climbers need substantially more flexibility training in the hips, shoulders, and core, in order to complete complex moves such as stemming in almost full splits, though not as much as gymnasts or ballerinas, hence the medium rating. Sport climbers need to spend a lot more time (at least initially) honing skills such as foot work, working with different finger and pinch grips, and various climbing techniques. Instead of spending hours on a stairmaster, sport climbers may opt to develop arm, back, and finger strength endurance and core strength. Once advanced climbers have enough of a foundation built up in strength, they will then begin to include dynamic moves in the bouldering caves or on tough climbs in order to increase power so they can advance to more difficult routes. Competitive, elite climbers who compete nationally or internationally may even throw in additional strength training or an element of speed.

Sport Climbing Fitness Polygon


Integrating the model with your own experience

Take a look at your outdoor activity of choice or get an outdoor conditioning coach at Body Results to help you. If you are a marathon runner and you spend 3 hours a week doing yoga, you may not be optimizing your training time. However, you may be doing yoga for reasons other than to assist with your running, which is certainly fine--don't let this model be the end-all, be-all for your training, merely a guide. If you are a middle distance runner who has trouble running up hills, and you are not doing any strength training or speed work AT ALL, then you can immediately see what you need to add to your training program to get better results. If you are a rower struggling with lowering your ergometer splits but could row all day long, your cardiovascular training is not the issue, it's the power, strength and speed variables that need to be manipulated. Doing longer and longer pieces will only waste your valuable time if your specific goal is to be a faster rower.

For questions related to this model, feel free to check into Dr. Mel C. Siff's book, Supertraining. For questions about requirements of your particular sport or activity, contact a Body Results trainer.



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