Monday, July 26, 2010

Throwing or running: Which will benefit you more?

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of getting a ride to and from (not to mention playing) Wildwood with Josh Markette. This was the most we’d hung out in a few years, so there was a lot of chatter about ultimate-related and non-ultimate-related things. At one point, Josh mentioned that he’s not as comfortable with his throws as he used to be, because he never throws regularly anymore—outside of practice, all his workout time is dedicated to the track or gym.

This really struck me—this is Cricket we’re talking about; when have his throws not been there?—but it’s something faced by a lot of players. After a certain point (likely post-college), for those continuing to play at a high level, all of one’s discretionary workout time becomes focused on getting stronger and faster, and less on disc skills. It’s a lot easier to hit the gym for an hour than it is to find someone to throw with in the middle of the day.

Despite working out hard all winter, a friend of mine did not, as she hoped to, make BENT this year. She came to tryouts in great condition, but she’d hardly touched a disc in the preceding months. And this player is a capable handler with a monster forehand, so I can’t imagine her throws had seriously degraded since last club season. Regardless, they were not as practiced as the BENT captains would have liked to see.

Many players, looking to get to the next tier, have found themselves in situations similar to the above examples. Whether it’s the offseason and staring down tryouts, or the months of preparation leading up to the club or college series, there’s never enough time to do everything one wants to do to feel prepared. So ask yourself what’s going to benefit you the most in coming weeks: hitting the gym or track for a few more reps, or finding someone with whom you can fine-tune your throws? To further complicate things, it’s likely the answer will change over the course of the year.

Physically, I felt better at Wildwood than I have at a tournament all year, but I had some gruesome turnovers on throws I used to be able to make, so I have an idea what I could be focusing on in August.

15 comments:

parinella said...

Great topic. I thought about this recently watching a guy who is in fantastic shape but isn't really game-ready. For him, though, it wasn't really even that his throws themselves were rusty, it's that he needed to understand spacing, timing, and reading opponents. So perhaps the title should be "throwing, running, or playing: which will benefit you most?"

I suppose the answer depends on who you are and where you've been. For many, I suspect the answer is "playing", although with a qualifier that the playing has to be focused on developing skills.

Martin said...

Playing to develop skills is a tough thing. I feel like it becomes much easier with a coach or mentor that will give you feedback.

I think that last year the answer for me was playing. There is only so much you can do on the track, and non of that well simulates game speed.

Heacox said...

Thanks, guys. Playing certainly lends a third side to this issue, but what prompted me to look at these two things specifically was that throwing or running is something that can be accomplished by one or two motivated individuals, unhindered by the space and numbers needed for a full game of ultimate. Forthcoming, I have another post about playing pickup, so maybe some of what you all raise can be addressed there.

Another point I wanted to make, but couldn’t quite fit into the initial entry, was about how it’s difficult—if not physiologically impossible—to have significant strength and condition gains (or losses) in two weeks’ time. Katherine Reutter, one of the U.S. speed-skaters, said as much in a piece I saw about her during the Winter Olympics, but I know it’s corroborated in other places. Anyway, regarding the above, it’s got me thinking that if one has, say, less than three weeks to prepare for tryouts or a particular tournament, he or she might be better of throwing or seeking out playing opportunities, rather than hitting the track or gym. Same might be true for someone who’s spent several weeks training, but is looking for an edge on the field. If one is unlikely to get much faster or stronger in those last couple weeks, probably he or she is better served by acclimating to and developing skills in in-game situations (or at least having some productive throwing sessions). There won’t be a loss of conditioning in that time, especially if one is able to practice, pickup, or find a tournament in which to play.

Martin said...

I'd like to read the article from Katherine because I'm not sure I agree with her. It is very difficult for an elite athlete to make gains in 3 weeks, but not for an average athlete. Let's assume the open division is a mix of the two.

I'd agree that for people who have been training (and I mean really training, like 5 days a week training in a regimented fashion) it is hard to make gains. But for your average person, even if they work out often, they can still make gains. I think the issue I have is that "strength" comes from two areas: muscle fiber strength/mass and muscle fiber recruitment. It can be difficult to gain useful mass in 2 weeks, but it isn't difficult to improve recruitment in 2 weeks.

Only elite athletes use high percentages of their muscle mass during an event. I'd completely agree that for Olympic calibre athletes, who already have high recruitment, it is difficult to make any gains in 2 weeks. But for your average elite ultimate player, it is still possible depending on what you have been working on. This is why many routines will have those last 2 weeks being heavily directed towards sport specific activity: you are trying to work on your recruitment and use the muscle mass you have been adding for a long time.

In the end I think I am agreeing with you, but I think the statement: "it is difficult . . . to have significant strength and conditioning gains in two weeks time."
I guess that means the answer to the main question is: how long do you have until you peak?

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Frisbee Time said...

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Smol Dusaran said...

I think maintaining that good throw is really essential if you want to be at the top of your game. Its like that beautiful pass where you catch the disc as the crowd cheers on and you make that bad throw that totally breaks their hearts. In my case leaving the field and my thrice a week practice for 2 weeks or more usually gives my throws a disadvantage. by the time i get back, I usually expect to be the jinx during my first few "warm up" games just to get the "feel" of a good throw again... :-(

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Kenneth Crosby said...

In my opinion, it depends on what kind of player you are. In my case I can throw very well, but my physical fitness is not at a very satisfactory level, so I personally need to run more. In the case of my friend Josh, who is in extremely good shape, needs t work on his throws because they could be better! All in all I agree with parinella.