Long Read: What Mad Max, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park Can Teach You About Sport Periodization

Saturday, June 13th, 2015-

I am sitting in my house in Allendale, Michigan watching Raiders of The Lost Ark, waiting for the women's NCAA Championships to show some throws this evening. I just finished watching the Adidas Grand Prix in NYC, where I saw about a minute and a half of throwing, fortunately I was also getting some great live tweets and interviews from Dan McQuaid and the Truf Twins (http://mcthrows.com/).

This weekend was also the Midwest Meet of Champions down in Granville, Ohio but I decided not to go as  I needed a breath from Track and Field, so naturally I spent all weekend watching Track and Field, reading books about Track and Field and writing workouts for Track and Field.

As I flipped from page-to-page of my sport books the English major in me began to shift my criticism from the message of the writers to the means and methods of delivery of these writers' means and methods of developing the best kind of sport result.

We just reached the part where the Nazi is bashing Indiana's face in, unbeknownst to him the propeller rolls closer and SPLAT. Indiana shoots a lock off the airplane and begins chasing the Ark through the desert. The reason that scene is so great is not because of the blood or the punches or the music but the tension it builds through the steps it took to get there-and Spielberg knows it, and makes us take every step until just the right moment to give the Nazi a shave too close.

This is a lot like periodization and coaching, we all know what we want the end result to be but there's a process that has to be taken upon by the athlete and coach in order to not only reach that result but have those means and methods yield the highest result. If Spielberg had just gone right out and chopped the guy's face off it would not have the same effect on us as viewers, if a coach just goes right out and introduces the final component of a periodization model it will not have the same effect on the athlete; there must be a series of steps to build the foundation for this reaction.

Likewise, these steps cannot just be aesthetic, much like in Indiana Jones 4, and even in this weekend's Jurassic World, Spielberg looked back at archetypes that were successful in the past and surrounded them with new money hoping to get a good result-And he kind of did-but they're duller than the original, they don't give us the same wide eyes and seat jerks as when we were kids, just a more general reaction. That's because the majority of what we're experiencing were designed independently, specifically for a group of people in a certain time and place and, while the people that exist today will get a similar type of reaction, it will not be the same spike we saw 20 and 3o years ago.

This is much like in training, we cannot simply give a training plan that was written for somebody else and expect the same result. We cannot just take a day or two and add it to something new to make it look like the original but somehow better, when it's not, and expect the same result.

If you want to create something that has as good a reaction as the original you have to do what the original did to get to that reaction, but not specifically what that original did. You have to look beyond the result and see the process and if you do this you will go down a tangent that has not been explored and obtain something unique and special, you will get Mad Max.

Every Mad Max movie is different, they have the same character but every journey is new and wild and we don't go down the same road twice and really, where we are going, we don't need roads, Marty.

What we need is an idea and then we need to test and develop this idea and allow it to exist in this balance between being our idea and it's own idea and from that we get The Road Warrior, Beyond Thunder Dome, Furry Road and Sport Periodization.

A Progressive and systematic activation and overload of systems is key; see as the madness in the Max movies rolls upon itself like waves, building to a peak. Look beyond the 'cool thing' and see why the 'cool thing' works, it's not just chuck full of 3D explosions, but real stunts, real danger, real people. We need to see the fundamentals of training systems, how they are applied, if and why they are successful and finally how we can take that idea, that character, and allow them to become ours and then their own. Look beyond the sets and reps, look to the loading, the ordering of exercises, the structure of weekly training plans at the micro and meso levels of cycling and allow them to build upon themselves in an organic and patient manner. Mad Max began as a story about Biker Gangs in Australia are turned into a beautiful post-apocalyptic wasteland, plunged into chaos where the Mad eat the Mad.

Indiana Jones just ended and following it is the Original Jurassic Park (this is unruly timing), the scene opens on Isla Nublar 120 miles west of Costa Rica. We have no idea what's in this box (I'm currently 7 years old again and really have no idea what's in the box) but it shrieks, and we can see from inside the box as though we are the monster. It's dark and it's fast and it moves faster-knocks the box back-grabs a guard by the ankle and drags him in. The guards taser the beast but it's no good, we cut between it's eyes and the man's eyes and slowly his arm slips through Robert Muldoon's arms until we fade away and floating down a raft in the middle of a jungle towards a dig site.

See how he teased us? See how he transitioned us? See how he set us up for future reactions? He gave us a taste but not the whole meal-that's what good writers do-that's what good coaches do-you pace the receiver until they are ready and you set up a deep reaction for later rather than a flash in the pan right now. It's not just about there being a 6 foot turkey on screen, it's about the journey, about earning the reward, it's about knowing you are alive when the raptors start to eat you.

Often times in programming inexperienced users make quick changes for flash in the pan results, this is a mistake; there must be confidence in the athlete, coach and system to throw far when it matters and not when the athlete needs the mental support. Program the season to match the system of the athlete. Program the athlete to match system of the program. This takes patience, cunning, trust and foresight.

The worst is, as I stated above, when the athlete is slapped with the work out regime of an entirely different athlete. When the programmer searches the books for an easy solution, thinking that what an 85m male hammer thrower in 1980 Russia will have the same results for a 40m female discus thrower in 2015. At the end of the day lazy people want the easy answer, the secret workout they can plug their athletes into and fix all that is wrong, that doesn't exist. There is no Throwing Alchemist.

There is a great amount of knowledge out there, whether it be in books, the internet, actual conversation with the geniuses that exist today but perhaps most powerfully: through the potential of self experimentation. So I encourage you to discover on your own, use the past as guides but don't try and be the next so-and-so, make mistakes and learn from and most importantly, be Mad.

Ian Malcolm says it best:
'I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. you stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox and...your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should...What's so great about discovery? It's a violent and penetrative act that scars what it explores...'

So the Real Question is: Who is Mad Max? Who is Jurassic Park? Who is Indiana Jones?