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Conditioning in Bloomington, IN

My Child Needs Better Conditioning.  Is Cardio the Cure?


One of the most frequent things I see as a coach is the parent who feels his or her child is never in good enough shape.  While conditioning woes may be the case for a handful, it’s probably fair to say that if your child is playing heavy minutes in 3+ basketball games every weekend, he or she is doing just fine.  


It is important to realize that at the end of a game, any athlete who has played significant minutes is likely a little tired.  The athlete who feels 100% at the end of a competitive game either rode the bench or put forth less than his or her best effort.  


A classic example that I like to refer to when talking about conditioning is former North Carolina Tarheel and Indiana Pacer, Tyler Hansbrough.  During his college days, he would frequently play only 2-3 minutes after the tip before taking a small break. Hansbrough required these breaks because his effort and adrenaline were so high at the beginning of each game, he would need a minute or two on the bench to catch his second wind.  With all that said, Tyler’s college teams were some of the fastest playing teams in current memory, and one look at Hansbrough is enough to tell you that he was a man amongst boys.  


If a guy like Hansbrough can afford to take a break after just 2-3 minutes of hard play, maybe you should rethink what it is that your child requires to be a successful basketball player.  Would you rather be the most exceptional athlete on the court for 34 out of 40 minutes or play a full 40 at a lesser capacity? Would you rather feel you can exert your strength against your opponent at the end of the game, or just hang on for the ride?  


The sport of basketball is highly anaerobic, meaning oxygen is expended far faster than it is taken in.  The average athletes work at 85-90% of their max heart rate at any given point that the clock is running.  When the heart is racing this fast, it is simply impossible to maintain near maximal power output for long durations.  The fittest basketball players are able to exert near maximal power for a handful of possessions and recover during short stoppages (free throws, timeouts, a short rest on the bench).  


Another common asymmetry between parental and coaching philosophy is the effect of distance running on the basketball player.  Many players like to run cross country in an effort to prepare for an upcoming season. Unfortunately, putting in heavy mileage at a relatively slow pace can have detrimental effects on power output.  Athletes who train at a slower, oxidative state are teaching their bodies that it is okay to perform at a middle-of-the-road intensity for a long period of time. The heart rate percentage of a healthy distance runner is rarely close to the 85-90% range, as performing at that capacity for a 20+ minute race is essentially impossible. In summary, not only is the athlete working at a capacity well below basketball speed, but they are also biasing their muscle fibers away from the fast twitch fiber type that is so valuable for sprinting and jumping.  


Hopefully the information above has provided better understanding of the energy systems required for elite performance on the basketball court.  Rather than quite literally running your athlete ragged, consider using shorter, more intense bursts with similar amounts or shorter rest. Also, consider the role of your child on his or her team.  If they frequently shoulder the burden of scoring heavily or guarding the other team’s best player and they consistently perform well, attempt to reframe your mindset. An athlete who carries his or her team on a nightly basis will be tired.  The well trained athlete will not allow fatigue to act as a detriment.


Seth Eash


Knee Pain

Athlete: “My knee hurts.”


Coach: “Can you show me where?”


Athlete: Motions generally at entire knee.


Coach: “Can you rate your pain out of ten?”


Athlete: “I don’t know how to do that.”


Coach: “How long has it been bothering you?”


Athlete: “Since I tried to put my foot behind my head this morning.”


One of the most common concerns shared by parents, athletes, and coaches alike is pain.  Obviously, physical pain is a sign that something is not working as it should. However, not all pain is created equal.  Pain is a part of sport, and understanding this sentiment begs the age old question of being injured versus being hurt. If an athlete’s perceived pain is below a three out of ten, odds are they can work around it or perhaps even work out of the pain within a training session.  If pain is severe, we can back off and work around the issue until more information is gathered by a healthcare professional. The most important thing to realize if you are an athlete experiencing pain is that consistently working to become healthy will always trump taking time off.


When it comes to pain, a simple question you can ask your athlete is whether their pain is a product of injury (sharp, impossible to work around) or exertion (difficult training session, fatigue, or even a dull, nagging ache).  Especially in our increasingly sedentary world, young athletes are having an increasingly difficult time understanding whether the pain they are in is worth acknowledging as a serious issue. For those of you concerned parents, here are a few things you might consider before taking your child in for an MRI.


  1. Is your child in the middle of a growth spurt?

  2. Is your child sitting excessively? Sitting during the school day alone can make the hips extremely tight.

  3. Has your child recently experienced a rapid change in physical activity?

  4. Is your child taking care of their soft tissue? Stretching and foam rolling areas such as the calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes can make a huge difference in helping with knee and low back pain.

  5. Is your child eating and sleeping enough?  Under-recovering can have a huge impact on overall health and perceived pain.

  6. Is your child wearing poor fitting or new/old shoes?  Our feet are our connection to the world and if they are put in a poor position, so is everything from the ankle up.

  7. Is pain an opportunity for your child to gain attention or escape a prior commitment?  While this may sound harsh, I’m sure many of us can agree our children are far smarter than we give them credit for.  


Hopefully this checklist will provide you with some peace of mind as it relates to caring for your child as an athlete.  Pain is absolutely a subject that needs to be taken seriously, but that also means it is the athlete’s responsibility to try and understand his or her body.  While we can do everything in our power to stop it, pain is still a part of life. If it weren’t for pain, we wouldn’t be as grateful as we are for good health.  Will you allow pain to control you, or will you treat it as an obstacle to overcome?



Seth Eash