Daily Thought: Never Use Physical Conditioning as Punishment

I wish this piece demanded the same manipulation of abstraction as others on this page. Fortunately for you, it’s straightforward and short advice never to use physical conditioning as punishment. 

Let me say before I proceed that the word punishment has no place in the gym. In any context, it denotes a negative consequence of unredeemable circumstances. 

Its connotation is of utter failure. It is not up to us to punish anyone.

Never Use Physical Conditioning as Punishment

As coaches, we should use words that reference possible positive behavioural changes, like consequences or results.  

The primary goals of physical conditioning are to strengthen the body and build confidence. Other critical outcomes follow; injury prevention, for example, is a consequence of stronger muscles and joints. 

Also, more confident athletes tend to perform intricate tasks better. 

There are no negative consequences to adequate conditioning programs. And I say adequate because, like anything else, it can be overdone. 

More on this later.


Conditioning as a Negative Consequence of Behaviour

As social beings, we attach feelings to the external world. We learn these attachments – sometimes called anchors – through our interactions with our environment. 

These anchors can be positive and negative. Some stimuli, like scents or sounds, can elicit powerful memories and often trigger strong responses to them. 

For me, the smell of freshly-baked bread brings about memories of my childhood home. My uncle, who lived two doors down from us, owned a bakery. As an adult, when that smell is combined with Latin music, I don’t know if to dance or cry. But trust me, they are happy memories. 

Positive results of behaviour
Happy Memories

The point here is that making conditioning exercises a negative result of behaviour can lead our athletes to associate it with failure or punishment

We want our athletes to see conditioning as a positive endeavour. Optimally, our children will associate physical strength training with improvement. Ideally, they will look forward to conditioning because it makes them better athletes and moves them closer to their goals in the sport. 

However, this outcome is unachievable if we continue to use something so essential to their success as a means to modify their undesirable conduct. Or, in the worst cases, avoid dealing with the behaviour we don’t want to put up with. 

Thank you for reading. 

Coach José

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