Fitness Philosophy

Since helping my rugby club with strength and conditioning, I’ve been working to build a culture of ‘getting better’. I was tasked with coming up with an off-season plan for fitness, but determined it was more valuable to empower the team with the knowledge to struggle more often and to struggle well; to find ways to tackle their weaknesses (because we all have them) in smart, efficient, and effective ways. Below is the letter I wrote the team and I hope that you find it beneficial for yourself – rugby is a lifestyle that translates well to being a better human. Even through rugby’s violence, there’s beauty in the culture that transcends into empowerment.

Gents,

The mission of the club is “CRFC to compete at the highest level of rugby”.

Culture:

Family oriented

Honor the team

Respect your opponents, referees, and the game

Play to the best of your ability, maximum effort in practices and in games

Style of Play:

Principles:

-Good, hard defense to create turnovers

-Very fit to wear opponent down

-Dynamic to create mismatches on offense and exploit opponent’s weaknesses

Tactics:

-Dominate the contact

-Continual improvement of conditioning

-Improve on patterns and decision making in exploiting opponent’s weaknesses

Player Philosophy:

-Personal responsibility for development. Demanding more of themselves:

-Fitness

-Eliminating avoidable mistakes in routine skills

-Expanding on skills

-Confidence in winning match

-More concerned with getting better than what the status quo is

-Never be complacent

-Commitment to the team/club

This info came from one of our last All General Meetings. Print them out. Hang them on your wall. It’s proven that having your goals visible, often helps you realize them, and in a quicker timeframe.

If you do not care to get into the details and stories behind the ‘why’, then go to the bottom for Directives and Resources.

“Rugby is a lifestyle”, was said to me by my first rugby coach – the great, Bill ‘G-Maul’ Griffes. It took a long time for this sentiment to sink in, but I want to dig deep into the phrase. Yes, it has to do with competing to the best of your ability for your team/club, doing your best at everything you can, staying true to values, and utilizing tactics and principles, but it also goes into a player’s being. There’s a reason I’ve had a couple employers say, “I love hiring rugby players”.

This letter addresses a fitness philosophy in terms of mindset, fitness, goals, principles, and tactics to help the club reach its mission. It’s long but simple. It’s involved, but in-line with meeting the club’s goals. Please take time to go through this. If you don’t see things the same way as me, please make yourself heard – one brain is not as effective as multiple believable ones.

I’m not going to present a laundry list of workout plans to achieve a certain weight or strength goals. There’s no point in telling semi-pro rugby players to do 50 burpees between doing deadlift sets. You already know the basics of how to be at least a decent rugby player by now. What I’m presenting is a mindset determined by values and principles to help us reach our mission. It’s important to reach our mission in order to stay a viable club, set the precedent for future CRFC members, and honor the legacy of what we have inherited and worked for. It’s important to you to help the club meet its mission because it sets the tone for the next player taking your spot, continues to build the Wolfhound family which helped build you, and when we meet our mission there may come other opportunities from the game.

What I want to show you is a way to translate how being a better rugby player can improve your life too. This off-season is a great time to start that practice. Yes, practice. It is a practice. A discipline. A routine. A whatever you want to call the fucking thing about getting better.

Ownership and Accountability

The ideas presented below will only work if you take ownership of your actions (what you can control) and stay accountable. Taking ownership and being accountable improves the club, the team and you. Take ownership by going through this read and getting after it to be better. Be accountable to show your teammates and club where you stand, see where they stand, and grow as leaders.

Consistency Over Intensity

This cannot be preached enough. Would you rather rent the Ferrari that has only been driven at 60mph or the one that someone has taken out frequently to 250mph? Did you win a lady over because you dropped off 300 roses at her place once, or have you won over a lady by being there for her whenever she needs? Do you think a 600lb man got to be shredded at 225lb by doing a week of insane workouts and not eating? No. Consistency in yourself, intermittent with some intensity, is the ultimate goal. But, consistency, if nothing else, is what will take our turtle asses past the rabbit in the long run of a rugby career, and in life.

Power

Power as a mindset is broken down into the physiological state where there is high testosterone and low cortisol. High get-after-it-ness, and low stress or anxiety. This state is also known as Presence.

Power in sports is speed and strength.

I want to impress on you the importance of maximizing both of these ‘Powers’. Having both will lead to higher efficiency and effectiveness in both mental and physical situations. It will allow you to be ‘in the moment’, ignoring all outside influences trying to tear your concentration and body away from the task at hand. Trying to nail that drop goal? Trying to enforce your will by shoving them backward in a scrum? Trying to bend that opponent in half before slamming him on the ground? No problem. Be powerful.

Let’s talk about how to garner both of these powers.

Good news! Improving one power increases the ability to use the other power! So, how can we work this circular system to our benefit? First, let me clarify that cortisol comes from stress and anxiety; working out is a stress on your body. Therefore, working out causes some cortisol increase, but it also increases testosterone. Too much working out will cause too much bodily stress, which will cause unnecessary tiredness and an inability to maximize effective productivity (part of why I had those serious injuries the first year). You need to find the balance between working out effectively to increase testosterone while keeping cortisol at a manageable level. I’m not asking you to run blood tests once a week with a lab coat on. If we want to keep our cortisol low from everyday stress like work, relationships, family, and responsibilities, we have to work on our minds. By calming our minds, we lower our cortisol – giving us more room to stress our bodies, increasing testosterone.

If you don’t believe what I’ve said so far, then I can’t be of any assistance until we talk about it, you do some experimenting or your own research. Thankfully, you now have me to relay information to the best of my ability, saving you the time, energy, and focus of going through those processes. I do, however, encourage you to challenge me and find alternatives – we all want to get better.

Let’s start with our minds.

By starting with a daily or weekly task, and making it a discipline, we can start to use that as a building block. It’s unwise to make a bunch of changes at once and try to hold true; think how many people try to go on a diet and fail. Because, often, they try to make too big of a change, have a let-down, get sad about it, which causes them to keep falling down, and eventually spiral out. No. Let’s pick one. Work on it for a while. Then, when we are comfortable with it, move on to the next. Set a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound)– like: I want to lose 5lbs in a month by cutting out all sugars from my diet and doing some set workout plan 3 days a week. Measurable, attainable, and productive. This will build confidence and momentum in meeting goals and making lasting life changes.

Motivation will always let you down at some point. Discipline will not. You have to ‘choose’ (your most powerful asset being choice) to be disciplined. This is Willpower. Use your Willpower – it’s also super attractive for the ladies. If you are too tired one day, do it anyway. If you are too tired the next day then maybe it’s your body asking for a break. But make sure. Our lizard brains are in constant battle with our higher brains for attention. Training the higher brain (the part that controls reason and long-term goals) to check our lizard brain (the part that wants instant gratification like that candy bar) is the best thing we can do. Take the time required and then get back into your discipline/routine. Also, try to shift your negative feedback with yourself like; ‘fuck I didn’t get it done’, to something more like, ‘OK I’ll get this much done now, this much done then, and finish it this way’. No need to beat yourself up. But think about what your opponent is doing; are they being as smart and productive as you to be better?

Below are some tactics for strengthening our minds in the context of decreasing cortisol, building a tolerance to cortisol, and helping us reach that ‘presence’:

-Yoga (also has great benefits for fitness, flexibility, rehab, and detox), if you don’t want to go hang out with hot ladies, YouTube it and do it at home.

-Meditate (a simple google or YouTube search will show and tell you everything you need to do or know)

-Journal (Lay out your intentions in the morning and results at night, or talk about your feelings, or whatever. The research is there. It is effective and productive at improving mindfulness, mood, and gratefulness. You may want to try The 5-Minute Journal as a start or talk with me and I’ll show you mine)

-Float tanks (Amazing way to relieve stress and heal your body and mind. Ask me where to go, because a friend around town has a wonderful place)

-Stress Yourself (Making habits to stress yourself will get your mind and body used to having higher cortisol levels – this means that when actual stressful events occur, your mind and body are readier to handle the higher levels of cortisol. Do things like sleeping on the floor sometimes (not passed out drunk), taking cold showers, training in the cold/heat, taking hot sauna sessions, fasting from food, etc)

-Breathing (Yes, this is similar, if not the same, to Yoga or Stress, but can be separate. My personal favorite is the Wim Hof technique, but you may want to experiment with others like 1-1-2-3-5, 7&7, Sponge, or others)

-Power Pose (literally taking some time out of the day to stand with your hands on your hips, elbows out, feet shoulder width apart, and chin up; breathing deeply. It will feel funny for a while, but research shows that just doing this for a couple minutes can increase your presence dramatically)

Now let’s work on the body.

Again, training needs to be a practice, a routine, a discipline. Where similar principles apply – do it even the day you feel like you can’t (take the next day off if you don’t feel better – sometimes our minds try to trick us into thinking we can’t get it done), be forgiving but fair on yourself (if 1hr of working out seems too long then try to convince yourself to do 50 mins, if that doesn’t work – 45mins, 30mins, 20mins, etc, until you convince yourself to do SOMETHING, chances are that you’ll do more than the time you agree on with yourself). Know what your position calls for and improve the areas that you may be lacking. I could come up with workouts for every position, or every person, but in the end, it is more powerful to empower YOU to figure out what YOU need to be better at and let YOU be the determining factor in how YOU do on the field, and in life.

Build strength by lifting heavy in small amounts but frequently.

Build speed by sprinting then resting for a long time and repeating frequently.

Sustain this Power=Strength+Speed by doing the individual part’s work, resting well, and eating well.

Stretch – Concentrate on hips and posture. (Run on your toes, concentrate on your form, head/neck/back, etc)

All things must be trained all year long. General abilities should be trained when starting to get back into training with higher volumes, lower intensity, 6-12 reps. Then more specific abilities, lower volume and higher intensity closer to the season. Doing both all throughout the season is where we need to land to optimize our output and health.

Offseason – start small and get used to working out again; the discipline. Once you’ve been warmed up with a week of getting back after it then start:

2-3 weeks is the maximum return for anaerobic workouts (feeling like you’re going to die and see God afterward). (CrossFit) Definitely, do not do these workouts 2-3 weeks before the season starts.

Once finished move to aerobic workouts (what you need rather than what you can handle).

1 set of 20 reps and that’s it. Or 5×5 for an increase in strength.

It is absolutely necessary for you guys to master your own body-weight. Pullups, pushups, dibs, squats and lunges to oblivion (side lunges emphasized for any strong runners that tend to change direction quickly).

Consistency over Intensity

Hi-Low Model –High intensity and low volume (middle of training), start slow then get into massive high/low (where your high days are really high and your low days are quite low), then get into more low intensity and higher volume right before the season.

Tempo run, do not run between 70% and 95%. Either above or below.

Summary on Body:

Work your basic skills when starting to get back into training; get fit again -cardio and lift higher reps and not very heavy. Do that for a couple weeks. Then switch to Hi/Low where one day is High Intensity and Low Volume, and the next day is Low Intensity and High Volume, and keep switching between them. A couple weeks before the season starts, knock it down a notch and maintain your body and start working more on specific skills. Again, remember to do this all year.

Things to make sure you properly build both sets of Power:

Nutrition – it’s simple. Everyone knows that sugar is bad for you. Everyone knows that processed foods are bad for you. Kick these first, then start looking to slowly move into diets like Low Carb, Paleo, Keto, Carnivore. If you have weight goals remember to set them properly: SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

Rest – also simple. Find the amount of time you need to be sleeping at night by literally asking yourself every day how good you feel. Figure out what that sweet spot is and adjust your life accordingly. This is a must. Sustained amounts of too little, or too much, will throw off your whole balance in really big ways. I’m talking mental health ways. Also, let your body recover. Recovering is building. That doesn’t mean be a wimp. No. Get after it in the gym. But then Get After it to Rest.

Summary:

Willpower and discipline, used with correct goal planning and tactics, to build power will improve you as a rugby player and as a human. The best way to improve willpower and discipline is to change your inner voice; instead of good vs bad outcomes, think self-compassion vs self-punishment. Build them with these 5 steps:

  • Start with a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound)–
  • Make it a habit that you don’t have to think about much (plan and prepare the night before)
  • Be accountable
  • Have fun and celebrate when you reach milestones
  • When you fuck up, forgive yourself, adjust, and then get back to getting after it

By building mental and physical power you will enjoy rugby and life to the fullest potential. You need to rest and eat well to maximize these efforts. Below I put together the directives for reference.

Where this comes from:

When I started with the Wolfhounds I weighed 185lbs, ran a 4.7 40m and a 3:31 1000m shuttle, all while being able to squat and pull almost double my weight. For me, that was impressive. Fastest, fittest, strongest, biggest I had ever been, but it all amounted to little. That first year (including a season at UC), I broke my leg, tore my pec-minor (so my left under-boob is still mushy), and tore my UCL (Elbow) which caused nerve damage in my arm (still dealing with it). I did not have the right frame of mind, or body, to perform at my best. I had my best seasons (out of 15 years) the last 2 years of playing when I was nowhere close to my biggest, fastest, strongest, or fittest.

That is not to say that being big, fit, fast, and strong are not important. It’s rugby for God’s sake! There is a base requirement for you to have, but at elite levels, the size and strength difference matters little in who wins and loses. What I’m going to be talking about is how to train your mind into finding out how to maximize what you have to always get better. Once the mind is in the mindset of ‘how do I get better’, and the principles and values are there, then the tactics are easy.

Directives:

  • Take Ownership
  • Be Accountable
  • Use Consistency Over Intensity
  • Build Power in Your Mind
    1. Pick one or two items below. Practice them for a while. Make them routines. See if they are benefitting you. If not, pick one or two more and work those. Once you are used to them, and they are working well for you, pick one or two more and practice them and make them routine. Keep building.
      1. Yoga
      2. Meditate
      3. Stress Yourself
      4. Float
      5. Journal
      6. Breath Work
      7. Power Pose
  • Build Power in Your Body
    1. Strength – Consistency – Get that old-man-strength
    2. Speed – Consistency
    3. Endurance – Hi/Low Method, Consistency
  • Eat Well
    1. Cut out sugar and processed foods at a very minimum
  • Rest Well
    1. Let your body and mind recover, but don’t let your lizard brain trick your higher brain into thinking you’re a wimp
  • Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound)

Resources:

Check out what is strong enough for your position, and the Hi-Low Method here: http://rugbystrengthcoach.com/

Pro-rugby positional playing stats: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/peak16.htm

Positional skills and training: http://rugbystrengthcoach.com/all-positions-are-not-created-equally-how-to-train-for-your-positon/

Canadian Rugby Skills & Drills Download: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=12&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwifzb2m_4fYAhVKNSYKHYA1AQ0QFghrMAs&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.frederickyouthrugby.org%2Fwebyep-system%2Fprogram%2Fdownload.php%3FFILENAME%3D10-at-RugbyRule-3.pdf%26ORG_FILENAME%3DRUGBYCANADAPositionalskillshandbook20062.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0UANZTL7y__xbNQGC0ZB-_

Books:

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Leif Babin, Jocko Willink

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy

The Obstacle is the Way: – The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph – Ryan Holiday

3 thoughts on “Fitness Philosophy

  1. This definitely needed to be said. The off-season “dedication” to fitness by rugby players has been paltry lately. I remember one winter 6 years ago, every Tuesday/Thursday night after my boot camp class at D1 Fitness in Beacon would be packed with 30 rugby guys getting ready for spring.

    I think hubs told me last week they had 4-6 show up to a trial run somewhere else. It’s not just fitness, its team building and socializing. And it’s sad to see this happen “in the shadows” since I’ve been overwhelmed with taking care of children and trying to let him help more in hopes of improving the team. Hopefully your insight and education will give them the kick in the butt they need. I’d love to go to a final four tournament again while I’m still young!

    Liked by 1 person

Hey! Thanks for commenting! Stay well!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.