I think I have pretty good cardiovascular fitness. I run a lot and feel great when I do. Can I officially call myself "in shape?"
Sure, you might be good at jogging on the treadmill or spending half an hour on the stairmill, but are you just doing endurance training at your own comfort level? Have you tested your fitness level or challenged yourself? If not, you need to hear this story about an experience that gave me a fitness wake-up call.
I pride myself on being in great shape. I've been playing basketball since I was 10 years old. Along with running track in college, I played pickup basketball to stay in shape in the offseason. Presently, my cardio training consists of running 12-15 100-meter sprints 1-2 times per week, and running 2-3 miles at a good pace two or three times per week. I thought that my consistent cardio training meant that I have great endurance.
I was wrong. The other day, I stepped on the basketball court and I played four pickup games of competitive basketball. Although I haven't played competitive basketball in at least five years, I was shocked at how badly I sucked wind. Although I still played well, my cardio was so bad that it was affecting my game. I was so mad at myself because I pride myself on having great cardiovascular fitness. Yet there I was, this fitness guy, having endurance issues just playing a pickup game of basketball.
When I got done playing all those pickup games, I realized all the cardio training I do doesn't mean that I have the cardio endurance to play a sport competitively. I had been doing specialization training without cross training.
Playing basketball involves lots of cutting, lateral movement, jumping, sprinting, shooting, and playing hard-nosed defense. During a pickup game there aren't any time-outs. There's no time to take a breather. I hadn't done that in years. Being in good jogging shape or being able to sprint a few hundred meters on a track doesn't mean you'll be in shape for sports.
To do well in your athletic endeavors, train multiple fitness qualities. Unless you're a specialized athlete like a physique competitor, or strongman, you should want to be proficient in more than one type of fitness. That means it's important that you train your balance, your lateral movement, your endurance, sprinting, jumping, and strength.
For me, I know I need to improve a different part of my endurance fitness that hasn't been tapped in some time. Instead of sticking with my usual routine, I'm going to start doing suicides on the basketball court. I plan on doing this a couple of times each week.
Basketball suicides won't only train your cardio, but they'll help you improve your balance, cutting, turning, quick stopping, and acceleration. To do one:
- Start at one end of the court on the end-line.
- Sprint from the baseline to the free-throw line, touch the line with your hand, and sprint back to your original starting point.
- Touch the baseline, turn, and sprint to half court. Touch the half-court line, turn, and run back to the baseline.
- Touch the baseline, turn quickly and sprint to the free-throw line on the opposite side of the court. Touch the free-throw line, turn and sprint back to the baseline.
- Finally, sprint from your starting position all the way to the opposite baseline, touch the line, and sprint back.
- That's one suicide. If you're not tired, you didn't try hard enough.
- Take a 30-90 second rest, depending on your fitness level, and do another one.
Do 10 suicides about two times per week. If 10 is too many, then try doing 5 at first. Make sure you take a day of rest between suicide sessions. So, try this Monday and Wednesday or Wednesday and Friday.
If you love playing pickup basketball like I do, these suicides will help you be a better player. A pickup game of hoops is a great way to work out. If you weigh 190 pounds, you can burn up to 690 calories in just one hour of playing!
If you're not interested in playing basketball, but enjoy other sports like tennis, racquetball, soccer, hockey, rugby, volleyball, football, or even a training style like CrossFit, suicides can definitely improve your performance.