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ATHLETE LONGEVITY SERIES - ADAPTABILITY

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Adaptability is the ability to adjust to new conditions. In a sport built around repeating the same movements over and over to improve, it seems ironic that athletes need adaptability in order to stand the test of time in a sport known for its specificity.


Adaptability is what allows athletes to continue training and work around variables like a change in equipment availability, an injury, a new short term focus in order to achieve their long term goals. Without adaptability we can end up negatively impacting our progress by forcing a method to work instead of reading the data for each individual and accommodating for unexpected changes.


What this means is that as athletes, we have to learn to change and move as the target moves and external variables change. We can’t completely avoid rubbish days as we progress through the sport. Progress isn’t always linear and we can’t control or plan for all variables, sometimes we have to alter our path part way through in order to reach our end goals.


This doesn’t mean throw structure and routine out the window. It means, rethink how rigid your plan has to be. Setting firm goals is vital for accountability, but we need to be adaptable in how we go about achieving those goals. For example, as powerlifters we have our 3 lifts. This doesn’t mean we ONLY have 3 lifts we can perform to progress.


HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR AN ATHLETE TO BE ADAPTABLE? FROM A COACH PERSPECTIVE:


If an athlete is overly rigid and puts all of their eggs in one basket it often means that their success rate will be lower. Their objectives will be harder to achieve and the process would likely take longer. The coach-athlete relationship is hard to build on as the coach and athlete can’t learn from one another by adapting the practices they put in place.

An example of where adaptability is vital is when an athlete begins to show signs of a mild injury. At this point we would look to adapt training to mitigate any issues that may be surfacing – these adjustments might be short term or long term but would require an element of change. Because of this, it’s important for athletes to be transparent with their coach and not avoid communication due to not wanting to adapt their training to prevent this from becoming a bigger issue later.


Some peoples goal in life is to create the perfect plan. But the perfect plan doesn’t exist. There are external factors outside of our control, and this means that we sometimes need to adjust training when it doesn’t go to plan. This is when adaptability comes into play. In order to continue to progress, we adapt our training.


CAN YOU GIVE SOME EXAMPLES OF ADAPTABILITY IN YOUR TRAINING?


In short, I despise adapting my training. I’m a powerlifter down to my core and the nature of the sport is routine and simplicity. However, it is this simple: what is more important? One training session? Or my end result? In the grand scheme of things, one training session won’t change what I am capable of doing in 5 years.

Sometimes the original purpose of a block ends up being not the only thing we gain and learn from it, we can sometimes learn more than we had expected to by being adaptable and altering our training based on the data we collect. While other blocks may merely be a stepping stone to another block of learning.

Key points

  • Adaptability is the capacity to spot a changing context and shift our behaviours or mindset to achieve our goals.

  • Allows athletes to consistently perform at a high standard by responding to unexpected changes in demands. Personal adjustments specific to the athlete help keep a high standard of training and nip downtrends in the bud.

  • Adapting a block doesn’t necessarily mean you’re further away from the end objective.

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