Why Do We Train?

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Why workout?  There’s various reasons why someone might begin and/or stick to a workout regimen.  Some people do it for heart health, some so they might be able to keep weight off as they get older, others do it to stay active and participate in Spartan Races or Highland Games and yet others simply because it makes them feel good.  Some people talk about being prepared for anything or a Zombie Apocalypse, which is fine. Most people are aware of the “runner’s high” and I do believe that the same type of feeling exists in other activities like weight training.  Much of what is listed above applies to my personal goals but there’s also a little something else. Continue reading “Why Do We Train?”

How Strong Do Fencers Need To Be?

There’s a lot I don’t know about fencing, but here are a few things I do know.  Like many sports, the youth level is highly competitive.  Jaden (seen on the left in the above video)  is only 15 yrs old but will be soon competing internationally.  These kids practice and compete A LOT. The sport is highly dominant to one side as you compete on a narrow strip.  Think about other sports in comparison, while you might shoot a puck or throw right handed, in those sports there are a lot more things going on as far as change of direction left and right, up and down, crossing over.  In fencing you’ve got only a couple of options as far as movement.  You’ll always have the same foot forward, and you’re either going forward or backward.  Fencing is explosive.  It is short bursts of power followed by recovery before the next point is contested.

Jaden has been training with me for about 2 years. How strong does a fencing athlete need to be?  Is a 400 lbs squat going to make him better?  Does bulking up into The Hulk really help? What does a fencer need to strength train for?  After I watched the above video a few times, which is from a recent tournament, I began to think.

  • Getting stronger can make you more durable.  Tournaments can make for long weekends and the season is long too.  Being strong enough to endure all of that work is important.  That strength practice can also help to decrease injury by putting the athlete in positions that are not the same as those seen in the sport.  Repetition in sport without some sort of balance to the other side, or towards something neutral-ish can possibly lead to overuse injury and/or a lack of durability.
  • Quality strength training isn’t just pumping up in the gym. There are many other qualities that should be addressed.  Training power and speed which are clearly used in the sport of fencing are important.  So is learning to produce force and also absorb or decelerate, like in the change of direction.
  • Strength training is about building a better overall athlete.  Fencing specific instruction is for the fencing coach/expert.  As I’ve established, I’m not that guy.  But, I do know that enriching generally athletic qualities makes for a better athlete.

So, how strong does a fencer have to be?  Probably not super strong at any one thing, but well rounded enough to jump, land, throw medicine balls, sprint fast, squat, deadlift, chin up and push up with some proficiency.

  • Mike Baltren

3 Tips For Getting Faster This Summer

1. Run Often

One of the keys to getting faster is you have to practice moving fast.  It’s just like anything else.  If you don’t move it you lose.  Or, if you didn’t necessarily have it in the first place you won’t magically get it without practicing speed.  The distance will be short and the intensity high so merely a few reps per session and 2-3 times a week should do the trick.

2. Run With Intent

The next step is dialing up that intensity level.  There’s running fast and then there’s attempting to run like you’ve never run before.  This intent to get to absolute maximal speed is the key.  Otherwise you might just be in cruise control.  Probably the best way to run with intent is to time it.  Time your sprints, even if of various distances, often.  Try to run as fast as you ever have before and get immediate feedback via your time.  Improvement will not be linear, i.e. some days won’t be your best, but the key is give it everything you’ve got and over time you will improve.

3. Get Stronger

Speed, and the short burst acceleration seen in most sports can largely be attributed to strength.  This is especially true in young athletes.  The stronger you are and more you can produce force into the ground, the faster you can accelerate.  With compound exercises like goblet squats, hang cleans, split squats and sled pushes the lower body will get stronger and better at pushing through the ground.


Fundamentals, like basketball free throws and perfectly run routes in football, are critical in sports. With the goal of winning championships on his mind did Jerry Rice, while training into his early 40’s ever stop running perfect routes in the off-season?  Did Ray Allen, one of the greatest free throw shooters of all time, just throw up a couple from the line at the end of his workouts?  I doubt it.  Deliberate practice is a concept covered in detail in the book “Talent Is Overrated”.  Speaking very generally, much focused effort with consistent feedback is required to be on the right track toward reaching your goals.

Continue reading “Fundamentals”

Training is Simple, But There Are a Lot of Variables

The road to strength and fitness is littered with questions of how to get to one’s destination.  How do I get rid of this, add that, improve my speed, tone up, get better at X?  Quite often the answer to those questions is, it depends.  Not exactly the answer people are looking for or expect when they seek out the advice of an expert but let me elaborate.  There are sooooo many variables that go into reaching your goals.  It all depends on addressing those variables.

Continue reading “Training is Simple, But There Are a Lot of Variables”

A Better Way to Swing and Deadlift

Several years ago I first heard coach and physical therapist Charlie Weingroff explain what he coined a “packed neck” position and it’s importance.  This is essentially a neutral spine position when you break it down.  However, with the kettlebell swing and in some cases the deadlift, that neutral spine position is often lost.  Meaning that the pictures above and below, although representing what is common, are not ideal.

Continue reading “A Better Way to Swing and Deadlift”

You Can’t Microwave an Athlete

Guest Post from Jim Kilebaso, President of the IYCA

I talk to parents and coaches all the time who want to take short-cuts and rush the development of athletes. The most common belief is that if you just practice your sports skills (dribbling, shooting, setting, hitting, fielding, etc.) enough, you’ll be a great athlete.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how great athletes are developed.

Continue reading “You Can’t Microwave an Athlete”

Building Athletic Capital

I recently finished reading “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport.  I heard Eric Cressey recommend it on a podcast and thought I’d check it out. The main premise is that skills trump passion when it comes to building a career that you love.  Newport’s first rule is that simply following your passion is bad advice.  There is a lot more to having a career that you love than simply being excited about it.  Rule two explains the concept of career capital in which gaining rare and valuable skills leads toward work that you love. There’s a hell of a lot more to it but just these rules got me thinking.  What does all of this have to do with training?  I’m thinking Athletic Capital.

Continue reading “Building Athletic Capital”

The Basics of Designing Your Own Training

There are a billion and one different exercises out there*.  Just search through Instagram and you’ll see movements and exercises beyond your wildest dreams.  Some of it of quality and some of epic ridiculousness.  Some requiring various equipment and apparatus, and some none at all.  And finally, some of it is for beginners and some for the more skilled and advanced.  Aside from just doing what they’ve always done, most people and wondering where to even begin?  Or, how does one start filtering all of this potential mumbo jumbo? Continue reading “The Basics of Designing Your Own Training”