Fitness and Conditioning

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I read this article recently and wanted to share it with you Sweat Shoppers on contrasting the concepts of fitness versus conditioning. One being more a “potential” marker of performance while the other is a skill set. While I think this article is directed moreso towards coaches, as athletes, having an understanding of this might help with how you approach training and analyzing your performance and making adjustments. Give it a FULL read if you can. Some short pieces are included below. Read full post here. 

As a coach or athlete, we’ve all been here: we train hard, our fitness looks good in practice or during our training sessions, but when it comes to competition, things fall apart.

…The team who performs great in practice, then, through a drastic drop off in performance, goes out and blows the lead in the 4th quarter.

…The athlete who was training for five rounds, no problem, then goes out and gasses out in the first round in a real fight.

It’s something we can all relate to. We practice and train hard, we feel like we’re in good shape, but when we go out and perform, our fitness doesn’t translate into what we expect it to.

What’s really going on when this happens?

To understand this confusing and frustrating phenomenon, we have to start here: there’s a difference between “fitness” (being strong, fast, or even having good “markers” like VOmax, resting heart rate, etc.) and “conditioning.”

Fitness is the potential for performance. It’s being able to lift a lot of weight, punch really hard, or run really fast.

All of these things are on the “energy output” side of performance. Qualities that are vitally important and part of any effective training program, but those things alone won’t necessarily translate into peak performance.

The other side of performance is where “conditioning” comes in.

Conditioning is more than just a number, or a set of numbers. Instead, conditioning is a skill set that we develop that gives us the ability to utilize and manage our energy effectively and thus put our fitness to work.

So the “performance equation” really looks like this:

Fitness (energy systems, strength, power) = energy production, the potential for performance.

Conditioning = fitness qualities + the skill sets that facilitate energy expenditure — where the pieces of performance all come together.

In order to go out and perform at the highest level possible, we have to stop treating performance purely as a collection of fitness components and start looking at how we can develop conditioning.

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