Ditch Your Training Plan Once a Week

To simulate the unpredictability of your sport, add elements of randomness—and downright chaos—to your exercise regimen

Mixing speed, strength, balance, endurance, and agility into one session better simulates exactly what happens in all kinds of sports. (*Aenima*/Flickr)

Ten years ago, I jumped into a sports conditioning class at my gym. If I remember right, some 40 people were in the class that night I went. At one point, the instructor, Andy Farina, had us all jog around the perimeter of the room follow-the-leader style, but there was a catch: we would run in a figure-8, jogging at the top part of the 8 and sprinting at where an 8 crosses. Only problem? As the line crisscrossed, so would we—at full speed. So we would have to use our peripheral vision, agility, deceleration, and acceleration to avoid a collision with someone else crossing the middle of an 8 at full speed. Turned out, it went off without a hitch—and the exercise served as a physical and mental test that challenged the class in ways that we may not do in a typical workout.        

There’s a lot of value to adding this kind of controlled chaos and unpredictability to your workout. By mixing in speed, strength, balance, endurance, and agility into one session, you’re better simulating exactly what happens in all kinds of sports. 

“When things are unpredictable, you’re more focused and that helps you develop your mind and body,” says Farina, a trainer who also teaches at the Edge Obstacle and Tactical Training course at Gainesville Health & Fitness in Florida. Plus, just mixing up your workout with a random approach adds variety—and the novelty can make the workout even more effective (and fun). To mix things up and keep your body guessing and your mind sharp, try this running-based routine from Farina:

Set-up: Ideally, you’ll start somewhere in a place where you know a bit about where you’re going. But it shouldn’t be your regular running route, and you shouldn’t plot your exact course. The ideal spot allows you to use some urban obstacles (like walls, benches, and sidewalks), as well as some natural ones (like trees, trails, and streams). Invite along a couple friends. Each week, a person can take a turn designing the workouts, while the others follow—creating even more of an element of randomness for those who don’t know what’s coming.

The Workout: Approximately a one-hour run. Every six minutes, you will stop to do a challenge. So the key is that when you reach the end of six minutes, you better have put yourself in a spot where you’ll have the necessary equipment to perform the challenge. This will take some plotting in your part as you start each six-minute set. You will also work all systems of your body, including strength, power, balance, and agility. Here’s an example of what one of these workouts looks like:

Run 6 minutes

25 push-ups

Run 6 minutes

Sprint up steep hill

Run 6 minutes

Lie on ground, 50 flutter kicks

Run 6 minutes

Sidewalk agility: Take 5 fast-foot steps all within one sidewalk slab. Then take single-legged leaps from one slab to one (four total). Repeat the sequence two more times.

Run 6 minutes

Pull-ups (find tree branch or playground monkey bars): 2 sets of your max number of reps

Run 6 minutes

Walking lunge: 20 on each leg

Run 6 minutes

Balance run: Pick a curb or even a painted line in the road, and run across it trying to stay on it for 30 seconds. Do twice.

Run 6 minutes

Obstacle broad jump: Find an object that you can jump on or over (a bench or small stream). Do 10 powerful jumps up or over that object.

Run 6 minutes

Head swivel: Balance on one leg. Swivel your head from as far left it can rotate to as far right it can rotate. Repeat for 30 second, then do the same standing on the other leg. This simulates the skill you need to see your surroundings while trying to stay balanced.

Run 6 minutes (the middle 2 minutes at finish-the-race pace, and the last 2 minutes as the beginning of your cooldown)


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