What’s your salary? 

A salary is a periodic payment which you receive for a service you do for your employer. What you do with your salary is up to you. Some spend big as soon as it lands in their account. While others save for a rainy day and make modest withdrawals over time.

In the sports performance world, Brett Bartholomew of EXOS used a money analogy in a recent podcast I was listening to (Pacey Performance or Physical Preparation Podcast… can’t remember which, but they were both great) to discuss energy system development which really hit home with me about how I set up my program for my track guys (mainly quarter-milers). It was something to the effect… The aerobic system is your salary; this funds your long-term ‘spending’ and is your base…The anaerobic glycolysis system is your cash; it is always at hand but goes very quickly… The ATP-PC system is your credit card; it is the fastest and most readily available way to ‘spend’ but leads to debt related issues if drawn upon too often (quoted from Twitter reply). The analogy is fantastic. It can really be related to any sport and emphasises the point that if you do not sufficiently prepare for your event, bout or season, you will all too soon be making withdrawals from systems which have a finite lifespan on them.

For my 400m guys, we spend a whole lot of time during the GPP doing capacity work, both aerobic and anaerobic, but effectively trying to build a salary that is compounding with interest across the preparation phase and setting them up to make major withdrawals at the pointy end of the season. This salary is in essence determining how much will be available on the credit card and cash in your pocket. Of course we make withdrawals in the form of cash and card (in the form of anaerobic power workouts), but it is in moderation as I have found not only does it deplete those particular systems to a high degree, it also impacts the athlete and weekly setup on the other end, as you have now withdrawn more than you have deposited for that week. Don’t get me wrong, some weeks we will spend big time and destroy the anaerobic systems, blow all our short term cash, as we need to develop, enhance and tax these systems in an uncompromising fashion (kind of like people banging down the doors of Boxing Day sales). But, I know they will pay a price for it and it will take us a while to repay that debt through the form of some type of capacity based work. I know Clyde Hart, of Baylor University, used some similar terminology where they very rarely taxed the anaerobic systems as he believed for 400m running (and rightly so), what you have available anaerobically is just a reflection of what has been developed aerobically; plus he apparently had too many injuries with a specific anaerobic power focussed program.

In a team sport setting, the GPP is a time to build and earn an enormous salary as we know that once the season begins, the players are taxing each system every 5-8 days and if there has been limited deposits made across the pre-season they will be left wanting late in games or the season when the chips are down. Whether this is in the form of stand-alone conditioning or game-specific drill conditioning, there needs to be continual top-up of salary across the season to enable you to continually make withdrawals. Topping up salary with capacity based work is not exciting, nor looks good on an Instagram video but it is spine to your season. Pursuits like Track and Field, which are ‘Peaking’ sports, have greater control over the withdrawals due to being able to manipulate the competition schedule compared with ‘seasonal’ sports which are bound by the fixture. But, in the end we aim for the net sum to remain in the black for as long as possible; and this of course is smart periodisation and programming.

We all know that each energy system needs to be effectively developed and depending on that activity; some will be developed to a greater degree. But be wise with making your withdrawals; there is a physiological and neuromuscular cost associated with withdrawing too frequently.


Thanks to Brett for the analogy and inspiration.

Stay in your lane!

I heard someone mention the title above in a podcast I listened to last week (can’t remember which one). I also automatically knew what image I was going to use for the post… I still can’t quite work out what VCB was thinking… Anyway, it was an analogy which I fully believe in and one which I’ve seen regularly in the coaching industry and one which I try to avoid. Just ‘Stay in your lane!’… Do the job which you are good at, have expertise in, have passion for, or being paid to do; don’t tell other people how to do their job or venture into an area of expertise where you really have no business being.

My background is in Physical Education and then Strength & Conditioning. These are my two lanes. I feel like I can provide a pretty good ‘service’ in both of those industries. Only a month ago, I completed my online tax return and waited for the money to be deposited into my account. This doesn’t make me a Tax accountant. I have many mates in the finance industry but I’d be stupid to think I could give them financial advice due to my experience doing my annual return. They wouldn’t listen to me because it’s not my lane. Similarly, I just re-planted some small trees in pots in my backyard yet I know stuff all about plants, horticulture or soil. But I can still do it but it’s not my lane either. This might be an average analogy but I am sure you get the idea. However, when it comes to Strength & Conditioning there are a lot of online experts or people with minimal background or understanding in the profession, who seem to display and push the ‘it is not that hard’ approach. Write program… Lift weight…Lift more… It really is a fascinating dynamic; and I find it seems to happen in the physical performance/preparation industry A LOT (social media partly to thank here).

I know my strengths in the S&C profession. They are teaching Speed, Programming and ‘the art of coaching’ (this is a great term I’ve borrowed from the guys at EXOS; and it’s not to say that I’m an expert, but I feel my background in education and pedagogy has given me a great sense of how to ‘teach people’ to do things. After doing it for 10 years; you would hope you have an understanding of how to do it. There are ways which are more effective than others. These are things which I can confidently give people advice on; knowing that it is backed with experiential or evidence based research. I rarely stray too far from my pillars of knowledge or my lane when giving advice to the athletes I coach or others who ask. I have an ever expanding network of colleagues, some who have contributed some great information to this blog, who I can reach out to when I don’t know the answer. I am quite happy to admit when it’s over my head and I’ll refer it on or reach out to one of these people. As I did with the great Dan Pfaff via Twitter just last week.

From all the S&C professionals I have come to known; I would suggest they are some of the most well researched people in the performance industry. They have their niche areas, but most if not all have a strong understanding of many other key areas e.g. Manual Therapy, Nutrition, Sports Medicine, Analytics, Business Management, Technology. Generally, this is due to high level teams or athletes trying to cover several bases with the same person; whether right or wrong, it seems to be the way. But I think as the S&C coach, you need to be able to talk the talk (and walk the walk) with the athletes across a range of pertinent topics, but it also adds to the dialogue between other performance staff members. Some S&C guys I know of take this too far and start to preach and prescribe outside of their lane. If this was at the professional level, I imagine this would be the same as surfing in shark infested waters… it would only be a matter of time. Plus, it is just stupid. And vice versa when for example, Physios begin pretending they know more about physical preparation than the fitness staff. Also dumb.

On the other side of the equation; it drives me crazy when people start giving or voicing Strength & Conditioning advice (or get ‘given’ jobs) which is outside of their lane. Generally, it is good natured advice but refer back to the above where I did my tax and re-planted some trees. The people in the S&C industry work bloody hard to get to where they are and are passionate about the profession. It is a complete joke when past players or the un-qualified are given industry jobs which should be available for the ones who have skin in the game. I can’t imagine being given an accountancy job at Deloitte’s because I did an online tax return. These people are in the wrong lane. Playing the game is a different lane all together.

I think I’ve strayed into a few different lanes throughout this post 🙂

Anyway…Work hard…Do the job you are in right now bloody well… Stay in your lane!!