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Sep 13

5 Tips For Making Conditioning Slightly Less Awful

Conditioning.

To this day, that word makes me nauseous.

I was always that girl who wouldn’t do the jump during
practices, and just pull it out for the performance, and tried to get out of
the sit-ups after practice because “my stomach hurt”. I always HATED
conditioning, and I’m guessing, you and your cheerleaders do to.

Well, suck it up my friend. If you want to perform your
best, it’s a necessary evil, and that’s all there is to it.

Here are a couple of ways to get through some basic
conditioning, with a little less horror:

1. Put on some music.

As a coach or a captain, you probably feel the need to Drill Sergeant your way through
conditioning sessions because, hey, you probably get a lot of pushback. That’s
normal, it sucks. But put on some music, low enough that the team can still
hear your instructions, and watch as their sit ups and push ups match the beat
of the music. It will provide you with some structure in your direction as
well. Would you hit the treadmill without your iPod, with only the sound of
your breathing to keep you company? You and your team should have more than
just their own inevitable grunting and groaning to motivate them through their
workout, too.

2. Mix it up.

We know that push ups and sit ups (done correctly) are a staple for a reason- they work
muscled groups that need to be worked, and produce results. But a hundred sit
ups, staring at the florescent gym lights, will get pretty boring, and you know
people are gonna cheat. So mix it up a little!

Abs- 20 crunches, then hold the Boat Pose (balancing on your
tush, bringing your upper body and your legs up, so your body forms a V from
the side) for 20 seconds

Arms- with partners, do 10 pushups, then kick up into an
assisted handstand and do 5-10 inverted pushups

Glutes- Single leg, and center squats are awesome, but can
get a little boring. Mix in running a few flights of stairs once in a while.
The movement and competition with their teammates will get them motivated.

Quads- If you have access to a gym with equipment, and you
have a leg press at your disposal, that’s great, and affective, but again, a
little boring. Try pairing cheerleaders up, where partners are similar to one
another in height and weight, and have them take turns kicking up into a
marriage cradle, and doing a set of squats. This one is good for the glutes
too, and it’s good for a laugh.

Cardio Vascular- Yes, a long distance, well paced run is
probably the best way to condition your team’s cardio vascular systems and get
their endurance up. But they didn’t join the team to run track, and chances
are, a lot of them get pretty bored with that, too. Try looking into your
school’s, or your city’s public pool, and seeing if they can let you use the
facility for a few hours for free, and do some laps. Relays are also great,
they’ll push themselves a little harder when they’re competing against their
teammates

3. Set the tone.

If you are leading your squad, and you start a conditioning
session with, “Alright, I know this is awful, and nobody wants to do it, but I
guess we have to, so I’m gonna yell at you for the next half hour while we all
suffer together,” you have an entire squad of people, including yourself,
hating life for the duration of the session.

Start out with a pep talk. “We are going to be in the best
shape of our lives for this upcoming [season, game, competition, event,
whatever]!” And then set the tone yourself. You might not feel it, but put on a
happy face and get amped. Put on your favorite Donna Summer, Beyonce, or whatever
the devil the kids are listening to at the moment, and have an awesome time
leading them through. If you groan, they’ll groan. If you are miserable leading
conditioning, they will be miserable doing it. Get some fresh air in your
lungs, a good song in your head, a smile on your face, and think about that six
pack your working for!

4. Keep a consistent schedule.

Nothing is worse than going from a 2 hour basket toss
session, to having your coach randomly decide that you need conditioning
because you’re huffing and puffing.

Your team needs to know what to expect from a practice as
far as how to prepare themselves physically, in order to meet those demands
without physical injury, or, like myself with the basket toss situation
mentioned above, without throwing up.

You don’t have to lay out for them exactly what exercises
they will be doing on a daily basis- the planning would be exhausting and there
would be no amount of surprise for them, which is important to keep them from
getting bored. But give them a general idea.

Set a conditioning schedule like, every Monday and Wednesday
for the last 30 minutes of practice, or Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 2
hours. You will need to determine the physical needs of your team based on
current condition, and the season’s demand, but whenever you do it, give them
time to prepare. Let’s say Johnny didn’t know practice today was going to be
more grueling than usual. If Johnny, didn’t sleep last night for finishing a
mid term, didn’t have time for lunch today, and forgot his Gatorade in his car,
what are the chances he is prepared to run a mile and do 20 minutes of squats
and ab work? Let’s not have our cheerleaders passing out on us. Makes the coach
look bad.

5. Incentivize and Praise

You know what they are working for- a better overall
physical condition, better performance. Do they know that? Maybe. But in the
moment, they just feel like they are getting tortured. Screaming at them to not
drop their hips on pushups, or point their toes on every single one of the 30
jumps your are forcing them to do, isn’t going to do anything to take away from
that bamboo-under-the-fingernails sensation.

We have already talked about making it interesting, throwing
on some fun music, getting them prepared to work by keeping a consistent
schedule, and setting the tone by being excited and positive about the work
they are doing on themselves. Now, finish off the experience by reminding them
of how much they are accomplishing, and why they want to keep it up.

Get a few key phrases ready in your arsenal, and throw them
out throughout the workout.

Things like: “Work hard now, and the routine will be easy!”,
“This is going to make those basket tosses so much higher!”, “This is going to
make your jumps amazing!”

Remind them what they are working towards, and tell them when
they have done a good job. False praise will of course be counter productive,
setting the bar too low, but when you see they have worked hard, tell them so,
and how much their hard work is going to pay off during practices and
performances throughout the season.

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