The new year brings new hopes for getting fit, and for cricketers that means very specific things: run faster, bow faster, hit harder, throw longer, keep up stamina and prevent injuries.
All worthy aims of course, but there is a trap waiting. If you fall in you can forget about your dreams of improved fitness this year.
What is this trap?
Assuming that you can do it all at once.
Let me give you an example, I recently got an email from a bowler who was asking how to increase his bowling speed through fitness training. On further questioning he told me his role in the side is to bowl long dry spells, containing opposition batters. Living in Australia, often these spells are in hot weather.
So he also wanted to bowl faster for longer spells.
These are two very different aims.
You can't hit two sets of stumps with one cricket ball. If you try, you end up missing both.
So I told him to choose a goal and aim directly for that one. If he wanted more stamina he should concentrate on developing work capacity through long bowling sessions and interval training. If he wanted to bowl faster he should look to improve strength and power with resistance training.
This makes sense in two ways.
- Physiologically. Research has show that the body is highly adaptable and also very specific. That's why great road cyclists are rarely great at running, they have adapted to the specific type of endurance. If you train yourself to be a batsman with good endurance you can bat for long spells but you won't improve your chances of hitting a six.
- Psychologically. If you are trying to do it all you reduce your chances of doing anything. It all becomes too much, you feel overwhelmed and try and simplify; often back to doing nothing. Then you feel you have failed. The human brain works best when it is focused on a single thing. So use focusing on a single goal as a way to stay motivated.
So the take home point is simply this; laser focus on a single goal in your fitness, get really good at it then move on to the next one.
The real secret of laser focus
But wait, here is a special bonus secret of focusing on one goal.
Your body may be specifically adaptable, but there is also crossover. That means when you focus on one goal you improve in others without even realising it.
Take strength training. You do it because it makes you better at, say, bowling fast. But it also improves endurance, reduces the risk of injury, helps with better concentration and makes you look better with no top. In other words, it's the foundation of everything.
The trick is not to worry about those crossover benefits. If you do you risk missing your real target.
Instead, pick your goal, keep striving towards it and let the magical power of fitness training help you become an awesome cricketer this year.