Does Your Sport Get You in Shape?
People always want to know “what is the best sport to get in shape?” It’s topic that’s been discussed before here at UEFP – and you can read about playing sports to get in shape for a detailed discussion on the topic. However, if you’re looking for just a simple answer to the question that I can give you one: no, you can’t play sports to get in shape. Yes, you’ll burn some extra calories, but save your favorite sport for leisure time, stress relief, or fun with friends.
So yes – you’ll sweat and burn some calories; but participating in sports doesn’t follow the practices of a good training program: meaning that you have no control over how much work you do, how much rest you get, and how your body adapts. Using sports as your conditioning is faulty because the sports have too many random bursts of activity; and for you, that means random results. When I work with athletes, we have to be very clear on the difference between skill work and conditioning – the two aren’t the same.
I’ve been hired by individuals who said they didn’t need any conditioning because they played (insert sport here….soccer, basketball, whatever) and that was plenty enough. In fact, they claimed their game was superior to all and was the best sport to get in shape. Unfortunately when I bring this individuals into the studio for fitness testing they usually have poor to average results. It’s not that their bad people or anything, it’s just that they’ve been misinformed and used a bad form of exercise to get in, well, not so great shape.
Every serious athlete participates in a conditioning program. The concept here is that you make your body adapt to the stress you’ll encounter on the field (or court, ice – wherever you may play) to get better. For example, female soccer players needed 8 weeks of conditioning to get in shape for their soccer season (1). They did this on top of their practice, which is that skill component we talked of before. Research articles often point to the fact that elite athletes success depends partially on their levels of strength and conditioning.
What’s the take home message? Still play your sports – it’s great to life an active life. Just make sure that you leave the sports for play time and save the work for the weight room.
1. Clark, James E. “The Use of an 8 Week Mixed Intensity Interval Endurance Training Program Improves the Aerobic Fitness of Female Soccer Players.” (2010) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24;7, 1773 – 1781