Are you fit?

by Al Myers

James Gardner "in action" in the Tug of War competiton held the day after the Gold Cup at the Holland Sports Club. The Holland Tug of War Club competes at the World level, and in a few weeks will be competing in Belgium.

A couple of  weekends ago  at the Gold Cup in England, my daughter Emily was explaining to my English mate James Gardner what a sorority was in the United States.  She was telling him about her sorority that she lives in at the University, and how it is an organized group house with 50-100 other girls and how they participate in philanthropy on the campus and  in the community.  I found the whole conversation quite comical, but when James asked her if  “the girls were fit?” and Emily replied, “yes, we all work out at the fitness center”, I knew her answer was not what was meant by James’ question!  He was wanting to know if these girls possessed certain beautiful traits to his liking, while Emily thought he was talking about their level of  physical fitness.  Later that weekend on the Sunday after the meet, I was privileged to attend a benefit to raise funds for breast cancer hosted by the Holland Tug of War Club, which James is a part of and his dad Steve is the coach.  Several Tug of War teammates and pullers from other teams showed up to support the cause.  Steve divided all in attendance up evenly and a short tournament was contested.  It was when Steve announced to the crowd that the winning team would be taking on the AMERICAN DREAM TEAM (and pointing to Denny, Emily, and myself) that I started to get worried.  Sure, I have particapated in Tug of War contests in my college days, but after watching these seasoned Tug of War pullers go “after it” in serious competition  I knew I  was nothing more than a rank amateur with very little Tug of War skills, and for sure would make a fool of myself!  But I don’t turn down a good challenge, so when the time came to perform I gave it all I had.   I would say the first 10-20 seconds I felt pretty good about things, but the next couple of minutes were sheer torture.  Finally it was over and I thought that was it, but then Steve said it was going to be the “best of three”.  Well, let me tell you I was still bent over “huffing and puffing” when it was time to start the next pull!

This is a picture of James perfoming a 70 KG Turkish Get Up with a bar at the 2011 Gold Cup. This is the most ever done in the IAWA. James is one of those very unique athletes who is able to "be fit" to compete in two different sports at the international level.

This story brings me to a discussion Steve and I had later that night in the pub when I was telling him how impressed I was with his Tug of War Club.  Steve explained to me the training they do weekly, and the things they do to prepare for a full day of pulling, which may consist of 50 or so pulls in a day.  That takes lots of conditioning and stamina.   That brings us to the title of today’s story – ARE YOU FIT?  After talking with Steve, it is apparent to me that this question is a  very vague one, and only applies to whatever sport you are trying to be FIT FOR.  Just like James’ definition of “being fit” was different from Emily’s, there are many other different definitions of “being fit”.    I feel like I’m fit for a weightlifter, but obviously not for other strength sports, like Tug of War. I plan my training to prepare myself for a full day of weightlifting competition.  At least once per week I have a long training session (over 4 hours) so when meet time rolls around I still feel strong at the end of the day.  Sometimes I even take a long break during my workout (30-60 minutes) and resume training to simulate a long day with a break at a meet.  I have been around alot of lifters and throwers who don’t realize this is an important training effect and neglect it, only to be “totally shot” by the end of the day and end up deadlifting a lot less than they could in a powerlifting meet since the deadlift is last, or missing that last height in the WOB at the end of the day that they should get because they are worn out by that point.  It is all about being “FIT” for the sport you do, and that is what your training should be preparing you for.  I have had young highschool boys come the Dino Gym to workout, and after putting them through a squat workout that is less than I do weekly, it leaves them sore for days, sometimes unable to walk.  And these are kids who play football, are in good shape, can run windsprints all day long, but not “FIT” for lifting weights even though they are “FIT” for football.  

It is IMPOSSIBLE to be FIT for everything.   Pick what’s important to you and focus your training on that.  And when it comes time to compete, it will pay off and you can call yourself FIT.