Cardio: Getting Comp Ready
Now that the road to Nationals is upon us, we’ll all be looking at ways to upgrade our routines. However, we don’t always account for what impact this may have on athletes. In most cases, coaches have already put together demanding routines that push athletes to the max. So what happens when they add upgrades? Burnout! Granted, this can happen to any athlete at any time. But in the build up to Nationals where everything is heightened- demand, anxiety etc. It’s not surprising that athletes finish full outs and training sessions exhausted.
Teams already employ a number of different approaches to tackle this, from HIIT workouts to bleep tests. I would argue that although they are great workouts, in isolation, they don’t necessarily put athletes in the same environment as trying to be ‘routine fit.’
Below are some of the approaches we use at AEC to help athletes get their cardio ‘comp ready.’
For this exercise the team lines up then runs around the perimeter of their comp floor. When the first athlete gets to a corner, they tumble across the diameter of the floor to the opposite corner. When they’ve finished their pass they wait till the line passes them and joins on at then end. When the new athlete at the front gets to the next corner the process repeats itself.
This is a good way to introduce athletes to tumble cardio exercises. The jogging means that they’re constantly working. When the athlete gets to the corner and it’s their turn to tumble they’ll be under a little bit of pressure because they’ll already be breathing quite heavy. However, this can be as hard as the coach wants it to be. They can set the pace after all!
Cross Tumble Sprints:
This one is more difficult than Team Running. The team is divided in to two and line up at the two corners at the back of the floor. What follows can be complete chaos, so I’d advise watching the video to help with the explanation. Essentially, athletes sprint to the opposing corner and back, then perform their tumble pass. This happens while side B is doing the same thing thing… as I said, chaos!
Why is this one good? Because it adds pressure. The athletes have to sprint, which tires them out, before hitting their tumble pass. The pressure comes from two places. 1) Their own cardio levels and being out of breath and 2) from knowing that the other runner is trying to catch up with them.
Standing Tumble Sprints:
Fortunately, in this cardio exercise the athlete only races themselves. I would argue that this one is the most difficult though. The athlete starts at the front of the floor, then sprints to the other side and back. Then they clean and perform their standing tumble pass. Nice and simple, but extremely tiring! This one can be increased in difficulty too. I’ve had athletes run up and down 3-4 times before doing their tumble pass. It all depends on how you want to challenge your athletes. I’d definitely say build up to this though. Don’t just jump in the deep end!
Why put athletes through this torture?
Ok, maybe I’m being over dramatic, but these exercises are tough! The routines our athletes perform require a super level of fitness. Coupled with the anxieties that go with being part of a team sport: not wanting to let others down, hitting that one stunt that’s a bit dodgy in practice etc. athletes actually get more exhausted during a comp run and adrenaline only gets you so far. I’ve found that adding cardio pressure to tumbling has helped improve athletes’ fitness, and has reduced anxiety at competition because they know they’re fitness is good!
I mostly use this for tumbling, but it doesn’t have to be.When I shared a video on Instagram of a tumble workout my friends at Hunters Cheer Academy did the same thing, but with their pyramid. Did it hit every time? Of course not! But the more used to working under pressure they got, the less anxiety they had, which increased their success.
These conditioning exercises are hard, and demand the best from your athletes. Short term, it can be messy: athletes may mark a tumble instead of throwing it, or will only do the first tumble in the sequence. It’s frustrating, but it’s a starting point that can be built on. It also gives you an idea of what could happen during the routine, and the opportunity to overcome it before it becomes an issue.
If you do try any of these exercises, please share them with us! We’d love to see them.