This is the time when you rebuild your dreams, when you work on all those promises you made to yourself last season.
You know the promises I’m talking about. The promise to train harder, to be lean and mean, to come back looking better than when you left, to increase your strength, and to further your throwing career by throwing farther.
Promises. I made a promise to myself when I had my first knee surgery to stop smoking. Every time I wanted a cigarette I thought of that painful surgery and I would do push-ups, sometimes 50 at a crack. This was effective.
The knee surgery had nothing to do with smoking, but it was my way of dissuading myself from smoking by associating smoking with pain, and it worked. I stopped smoking. I quit for as long as I had an active throwing career. After that, I just mooched cigarettes.
It was a tough thing to do back then, in the last century, to quit smoking, because they used to give cigarettes to everybody. They would hand out samples of cigarettes. Airlines used to hand them out. If you didn’t smoke, you were almost forced to smoke. Pilots smoked in the cockpit of aircraft. Can you imagine? How could they see anything?
You could smoke in hospitals. In patient rooms, in the waiting areas, everywhere. Doctors smoked. Now you would be given the boot. I guess when Ireland banned smoking in pubs, it was the sign of the anti-smoking revolution. God bless the Irish.
I tried to quit swearing, but it didn’t work, damn it. It was an unrealistic goal.
That promise you made to yourself to track your progress. I took detailed notes of my gains in lifting and throwing. Notes are important; they’re your past and your future. Review your notes. If you don’t have notes or a training diary, you are wrong. Study yourself, but not in the mirror.
Training notes don’t have to be complicated. Just something to remind yourself about the weekly goal, the monthly goal and the yearly goal. I bought a calendar, the kind with big squares, and I would plot what I aspired to do and what I actually did. If I had a meet coming up I would note what I wanted to throw; or if I wanted to bench press 365 next week, I would note that. Then if I met or exceeded that goal, I would outline that square in red.
After a while, I had a lot of red squares. Every time I looked at the calendar it would remind me of the promises I made to myself. That would trigger the drive to excel and the drive to train to excel. I could use the calendar to set goals and gauge what was possible to achieve.
For instance, I would start my squat program at this time of year. Let’s say I wanted to be a 500 pound squatter. I would start with 400 pounds and do a six-week program to get up to 500. There are several formulas to do this but generally you start with 20 percent less than your goal and do six sets of two on Monday, six sets of three on Wednesday and so on. You can get these formulas on line. Or email me. I like to get mail.
I did front squats, too, which people told me were bad. But I became a believer in front squats for throwing. They are more dynamic and can improve the power of your throw. If you’re not doing front squats, promise yourself to do front squats. People don’t like them because they’re uncomfortable, but they kick butt for throwing.
Your lifting should be as specific for throwing as you can make it. Front squats are in that category. The overhead press is specific. I could do an overhead press of 500 pounds, which meant a lot more for my throwing than being able to do a bench press of 500 pounds. If you’re not doing the overhead press, promise yourself to start doing them.
But promise yourself you won’t have a program that leads to a one repetition max. That’s when you hurt yourself. You always want to be able to do more than one rep. I could do three reps of overhead press at 450 pounds. I knew I could do 535 for one rep, but that is when injuries occur, in the one rep maximum. So promise yourself not to hurt yourself in training.
Some of these lifts were not popular when I was coming up through the ranks, but I tried to do what other people weren’t doing and that made a big difference in my throwing.
Another promise: Set attainable goals. This relates back to keeping track of where you came from and where you are and where you want to be. If you’re a 20 meter thrower with a 16-pound shot, then next year you want to throw 20 meters with an 18- pound shot. Then the next year you want to throw with a 20-pound shot.
I also would measure myself against who I thought was my major opposition. I would take their weight and divide it by their height in inches and get a sort of comparative analysis. I was about 3.6 pounds per linear inch. George Woods was about 4.2 pounds per linear. Al Feuerbach was about 3.75.
The three of us worked out on the Olympic team together. I had a standing throw of 64 feet. Feuerbach had a standing throw of 65 and Woods had one of 66 feet. I could see where their mass was greater than mine by their standing throw.
You can use this to tailor your training program in terms of weight lifting, running and throwing. What do you need to match Woods’ throwing if you don’t have his mass? You need speed, since M x S = D, where D is distance. Obviously, this is not a sophisticated type of measurement and equation, but it can be useful to reach your goals.
The other thing I always worked on was my biorhythms. This is just stopping the training and listening to your body and mind, writing your observations in your notes. Track those. They can help you in scheduling training or days off. Never forget to take goof off days here and there. I think I took quite a few of those.
I write this because if you don’t improve, nine people will get ahead of you and you’ll be 20th next year. Or maybe 30th. Then how will you get that scholarship? I want to see you improve, damn it.
By Brian Oldfield with George Houde