Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Game Day = Test Day

France '12.

  If there's a day of the week I need to be at my best, it's Saturday.

  It's the equivalent of test day back in our school days. We put in the work during the week, to hopefully earn that passing grade, a win, come Saturday.

  It's game day.

  That's when it all matters. Why we put in the work. Why we get paid. Fans are there. Family and friends are there. Media is there. It's your one time during the week to show your stuff.

  With so much on the line, you obviously want to be at your peak, both physically and mentally. Not to mention it's your job to be at the top of your game. If you're not, you're letting your teammates down (not to mention yourself!) and your opponents will quickly take advantage.

  Nothing frustrates me more than not playing my best come game day. Unfortunately it's been known to happen. So I do whatever I can to physically prepare myself for Saturday. If that means I need to do a little extra work, so be it.

Balancing Act
  Each, and every week, it's a constant battle to find the right balance between preparing yourself, while not over-doing it.

  If you do too much over the course of the practice week, you find yourself sluggish, with tired legs on Saturday. Hardly at the top of your game. If you take it easy during the week, on Saturday you're soft, lethargic, maybe even getting winded too easily. Again, far from your best.

Germany '09-'10/
  But if you find that balance, the sweet-spot, you feel like you could play forever. You have a rhythm for the game. Your legs are there throughout, and you recover quickly when you get tired. It's your goal to feel like that every week.

  For me personally, I need to be ready to play anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes a game (of a 40 minute game). That means I need to be in great shape. It's tough to play at a high level for 35+ minutes!

  I've found that taking it easy during the week, and saving your legs, is not going to cut it. For me anyway.

When Practice Doesn't Cut It
  In a perfect world, you get all your necessary preparation in practice. And there would be no need for extra work. But I've found in the last few years, I don't always get what I need out of practice.

  For example, sometimes we don't have 10 players. When that's the case, we're unable to go up and down the court and play five-on-five. There's not a drill in the world that can simulate playing full-court basketball at an intense level, so obviously that is the best way to prepare physically for games.

Sweden '08-'09.
  On those days, where I feel like practice didn't get me ready for Saturday, I have to do a little extra work on my own. That might mean a day of extra shots at game speed, or extra running/cardio, or maybe an extra session in the weight room. Or maybe all of the above.

  It depends on the week, and it depends on how I'm feeling. Over the course of my career, I've learned to trust my body. And think I have a pretty good idea of what I need to be at my best.

Training For a Game, Not a Marathon
  But sometimes it's about mental health and happiness too.

  Since I love running, the easy thing for me to do would be to go out and run 20, 30, 40 minutes. Nothing makes me feel better than being outside, clearing my mind, working up a sweat, while on a run.

  While that might give me a good workout and a mental release, running long distances isn't the most efficient way to train during basketball season. It's probably not in my best interest to be out there pounding on my legs day in and day out. That would be overdoing it. And my time and effort could be used doing something more-applicable to basketball.

  So I've come to realize that I might have to sacrifice wanting to go out and run everyday in order to be ready to play on Saturdays (even when I look out my window and see runners racing by!). While running might make me feel better in the short term (that day), a few days down the line, I might find myself tired. And I can't have that.

2012-2013 team.
  Outside of a recovery run early in the week, I'm trying to stay away from pounding the pavement. And instead, I'm giving interval training a try. Either on a bike or an elliptical machine, simulating short sprints (like you find in a basketball game) with even shorter recovery time. It's a sure fire way to get your heart rate pumping fast (without the wear and tear and pounding)!

  It's something new for me, so we'll see how it goes!

  I'm always experimenting and exploring things I can do to make myself better. I want to be in tune with my body, and always do what's right in order to be at my best come Saturday. I realize it's important to allow time to recover after physically demanding games. And it's an extremely long season, that we've only just begun!

  So I'm working now to find that balance -- to earn that A on game day!


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