Exercise is Medicine, Not Punishment


The Fear of Conditioning

Too many athletes have become confused about what training consists of and have been influenced with negative misconceptions. I was training a ten-year-old soccer team who showed up with great eagerness and excitement. It was their first time in a structured sports performance training program. Their enthusiasm was high until I told them we would begin our conditioning portion of the workout. There was a dramatic shift in mood and the unmistakable look of sadness overcame their faces. One of the little girls asked me a crushing question, ”Were we bad?” My heart sank. When did conditioning become punishment?

I am constantly explaining to athletes why we condition our bodies and how it helps us perform at a higher level. Not only does it improve ability to express athletic skills, it also reduces risk of injury. It’s a necessary part of training, not a punishment for behavior. This reverse thinking requires the trainer to spend a large amount of time calming the athletes down and gaining trust before any considerable training can be accomplished. Exercise has been used as a punishment far too long, which tarnishes its positive value.

An Excessive And Extreme Culture Fuel The Problem

You’ve all seen the Hollywood movies—the ones where the coach is randomly and recklessly making their team over-exert themselves to prove a point or to punish. Will Patton {remember the Titans} puts it this way “There’s a fine line between tough and crazy and you’re flirting with it.” Quite the contrary to this movie line, there are no fine lines when it comes to training athletes. When you have a clear understanding of exercise physiology and physical development, there is no gray area. The overbearing coach pushing his or her athletes to extremes has no purpose and only leads adolescent athletes to dread exercise. Successful sports performance training should never include losing your temper and conducting a random and reckless training routine with intent to punish. This is the antithesis of how we should be training and teaching athletes and in many cases-does more harm than help.

There are far too many so-called professionals that stake their reputation on how difficult their training practices are. Our society glorifies trainers that are insanely intense and never holds them accountable for the injuries and damage they sometimes inflict.

Good Training Takes A Specific, Systematic Approach

Beyond general fitness, high performance training for competitive athletes is what I have a fierce commitment to excelling in, but not all trainers are created equal. There is a science to systematically enhancing a humans’ ability to operate efficiently and economically at high levels. The human machine has great athletic potential and requires sound training practices in order to bring that potential to the forefront. Achieving specific outcomes is a direct result of specific programming. Mixed, random training on the other hand, leads to mixed and random results.

When designing a program for a specific outcome, the trainer must have a clear working knowledge of how the stress provided by the program will create specific adaptive responses. Systematically stimulating one adaptive response to the next. Each milestone goal is built from the success of the previous milestone achievement. Overlooking underlying issues with the athlete, forcing too much volume and intensity too early, not taking a systematic approach, focusing on one single element of training only, and prescribing inappropriate levels of training to the wrong populations are all common mistakes that are consistently being practiced in our field. Anyone with an imagination can put together an extremely intense workout. Designing programs that consistently yield a desired result requires experience and educated knowledge of the subject.

Mindset Shift: Excercise Viewed As Medicine

Exercise, in proper dosages, is the answer to a myriad of potential problems. It is in fact, medicine in so many ways. Furthermore, there are different types of exercise programs designed for different outcomes-that’s the beauty of exercise! General fitness should be a foundational state of wellness for everyone. If I could convince people that there is nothing to fear, and only positive benefits to gain, their whole attitude towards exercise could shift.

When it comes to the competitive sports arena, I’d like to see all athletes spend the proper amount of time necessary to condition their machine for competition. The truth Is, the majority of our youth athletes compete without ever being properly conditioned for the season as well as try to make it through an entire season without any athletic maintenance. When physical qualities begin to fail, athletes become exposed to a higher risk of injury.

With approximately 45 to 50 million children participating in organized sports programs, the rate of emergency room visits is on the rise. Many of these injuries are completely unnecessary and in most instances could have been avoided with proper training, and yes—exercise. Exercise is the great equalizer against the inevitable wear and tear of all our lives. It’s the answer, not the villain. I urge all parents of competitive athletes and athletes themselves to reconsider how they are training and practicing throughout their season. A visit to my new sports performance training facility at Titan could change their outlook on exercise and save them from unnecessary injury. Sign-up for a group sports performance training session for free!

Coach Pace


Coach Pace has been working as an active strength and conditioning specialist since 1998 and has been certified with National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) since 2002. He also serves as a member of the NSCA Oklahoma Advisory Board and holds certifications as a sports nutritionist through the International Sports Science Association, certified C360 master trainer, and a certified USA Weightlifting Level 1Sports Performance Coach.

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