Fitnesswise: With out-of-the-box thinking, you can achieve your fitness goals despite constraints

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In the early 1990s, weight rooms in sports training centres in India were either non-existent or not sufficiently equipped for the needs of high-performance athletes. Many sportspersons relied on general fitness gyms to improve their fitness.

The MRF Pace Foundation in those days was far ahead of time in India and the first in the country to have specialised weight room for pace bowlers — the ones that developed countries had. The weight room setup was specific to cricket and even more specific to fast bowling, introducing to India such exercises and fitness implements as pilates, swiss ball, trampoline, and tubing, besides many specialised fitness testing and training protocols for cricketers. In those days, it was indeed a taboo to walk into a weights room and work out. Many moons have passed and we now know that the path we were taking then was right.

These days, numerous players, teams, colleges, and even some high schools have seen the benefits of a well-organised, year-round strength-training programme from a well-designed weight room.

But what can you do if your school, team, association or programme has no dedicated space for weight rooms? There may be other constraints, too: your weight room may be too small, you feel you do not have enough time in the schedule, you may not have sufficient equipment to train with the team, your team may not be able to train in the weight room because there are so many teams wanting to use the same facility.

That is when the strength-and-conditioning coach, the skills coach, and the athletics trainer need to think out of the box. What is thinking out of the box? As per definition, it is ‘to explore ideas that are creative and unusual and that are not limited or controlled by rules or tradition.’

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To thing out of the box, you need to ‘think’ and take responsibility for the action and its consequences. It may be easy to adopt a conventional, time-tested strategy, but the problem there is that progress can end where the defined path ends.

You have to move outside of your comfort zone and be open to these listed below:

1. Training in different sports.

2. Training in varied fields which involve teaching, learning, coaching, communication, and developing new skill acquisition.

3. Training in other fields of endeavour which rewards innovation, creativity, uniqueness, achievement, and success.

4. Assuming that everyone within your field of work knows what you know, and therefore, that everyone is an expert.

5. Realising that since all your competitors already know what you know and have learnt, there is a need to develop a cutting-edge advantage for you over others.

6. Accepting and acknowledging that people in other sports, or other coaches from the same sport, might know more than you do.

7. Realising the need to step away from your ‘box’ and look at new ideas, information and innovations objectively and intelligently to see how it can be implemented in your sport with desired results.

Three important points to remember to be successful:

1. To know as much as you can know about your field of expertise.

2. To know as much as you can know about other sports and other fields of endeavour.

3. To know that you must continue to strive to learn as much as you can learn about your sport, other sports, and other fields of endeavour.

If you cannot use the weight room or its implements for training, you can use a manual isometric resistance work or manual resistance with such simple tools as bands, cans, buckets, pvc pipes, trx bands, and jerry cans, etc. All these tools can be used to build strength and muscle and some can be used for explosive power workouts, too. To build stronger muscles, one can overload the muscle and then increase the reps and sets and decrease recovery time between each set. Here’s one fine example of out-of-the-box thinking: Vince Lombardi was one of the first NFL coaches to utilise a small, compact training device called the exer-genie during the 1965 season.

During Covid times, our minds kept ticking and working at an extra pace to do things which would have been considered idiotic or blasphemous to the pompous fitness gurus sitting outside. What many did — be it a coach or player or support staff — to get the best desired results for that time was fantastic.

By being innovative, you can strength-train your teams anywhere inside or outside their playing arenas, or even when you are on the road travelling. You can train athletes who have injury and cannot hold a barbell or dumbbell simply by using manual resistance or simple training tools.

‘If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking’ — George Patton