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"Recovery Time" …by Bob Stevens

Posted by byne on TITANS forum from The American Pit Bull Terrier Gazetttte Spring 2001


Almost every dogman that I know these days is of the opinion that a carpet mill is inferior to a slat mill. A carpet mill is similar in appearance to a slate mill except is generally all wooden in construction. There are no metal parts. The bed of the mill (track the dog runs on) is simply a board between two wheels with a carpet going around it for the dog to run on. This mill is not as "free-wheeling" as a slat mill because of the friction between the board and the carpet. Most people who use a carpet mill wax the board in order to minimize the friction. The carpet mill was very popular in my area (the southeast) in the seventies. It has since taken a back seat to the far more popular slat mill. The primary advantages of a carpet mill is now seen in the fact that it is a lot quieter than the slat mill and it is a lot less expensive.

A carpet mill is a lot harder for a dog to run because in order to make the rollers turn he must pull against his own body weight. He must use his front legs more in order to make the mill turn. When the board under the carpet is not waxed he is even closer to pulling his own body weight to make it turn. You see an example in my video "Pit Protection", as my VELVET dog runs a carpet mill. A dog is not running aerobically on a carpet mill, he is in an anaerobic state. The dog will very quickly be breathing (and working) very hard. The dog that can run a slat mill at a very fast pace for forty-five minutes can be near the over-train state in fifteen minutes on a carpet mill. For this reason, many people prefer the slate mill. Another reason most dogmen prefer the slate mill is that the carpet mill can be dangerous for a dog if not used carefully. Many a dogman - and that includes experienced dogmen, have left their dog on the carpet mill too long, calling him on to run it too hard and the result has been a hernia or in some cases burned up kidneys.

With that said, I've got to say I love a carpet mill. In my case, I like to have two treadmills, a slat mill and a carpet mill. People who use a slat mill like to have one that has a drag brake. I used to have a Red River Curley mill and got many years and mileage out of it before I sold it because of not conditioning dogs these days. My Red River Curley mill had a drag brake. I used it for very brief work to strengthen the legs – but you have to be even more careful with that drag brake or you will strain the dog.

Let me tell you what I love bout a carpet mill. Used properly, a carpet mill can develop a very, very tough dog. It is kind of hard to explain but let me use an analogy to try. It is the legs that go first in the ring for a boxer – and it is even more pronounced for a kick boxer. Not his wind, his legs. Anyone who has ever been in the ring definitely knows what I'm talking about. They know that your legs don't weaken when you dance around the ring for the duration. The legs go when you get in there close, doing some serious battle – serious banging. Be it human or canine, you need serious anaerobic conditioning to go the distance and finish on strong legs.

I have always worked hard to be in good condition. It helps me understand what I can expect from my dog. I feel like to be a good conditioner, sometimes you have to have been there yourself. Then you can just smile inwardly when you read all about dogmen arguing what is best for conditioning. Should you use a slat or carpet mill, engage in weight pulling or whatever. The answer is, there are different methods of conditioning and it depends on the dog and many variables. The debates are benerally between experienced dogmen, but sometimes it helps if you have experienced the arena yourself. Even then opinions differ. Anyway, here is another way of looking at it. Try conditioning yourself on one of those electric treadmills they have at the health clubs. Not a stair climber, a running treadmill. Do this for six weeks. Now, condition yourself by hard, hard running that include a lot of hill running. Hill running until you feel like puking, walk to recovery, then run that hill until you feel like puking again, then do it over again. You will then be tough. That is what a carpet mill does.

Another way of explaining my feeling is based on an article that appeared in the August 2000 issue of a now defunct martial arts magazine called Combat Fitness. The article was entitled Recovery Time: A Fighter's Best Friend by Terry Wilson, a freelance martial arts writer.

The writer went to Thailand to interview Bob Chaney, a trainer of Muay Thai kick boxers at his training camp in Bangkok. Bob Chaney trains world champions in this sport, which is full-contact sport that combines boxing with leg kicks and elbow and knee hits, very rough. Since the fighter must use his legs, a one-minute round is much (and I say must say "much" does not adequately describe) more demanding than just boxing. And one minute of fighting with both arms and legs is much more demanding than hitting a heavy bag for one round. You have to do it to feel it.

What is most impressive about Chaney is that at age 57 he goes non-stop for round after round with his fighters and he never gets tired. I will now paraphrase what Mr. Chany has to say about his abilities and those of his fighters who walk the talk in the ring. Listen as he speaks to us: "The key principle in winning a full-contact match is knowing how to train for maximum recover time. Recovery time is defined as the ability to recover from a full all out blow out. In other words, a warrior learns to win against another trained warrior when he fights in flurries. He goes almost all out in an attempt to take out his opponent – but when the opponent is equal in ability that doesn't happen. The experienced fighter stops and paces himself before he explodes again. If he doesn't – he loses – sometimes to an opponent with lower ability and technique, but more experienced."

Chaney said he has had fighters come to train with him that have won 20 or more karate tournaments (he means the controlled contact tournaments) and they think they are ready for full-contact. Chaney says he puts them in the ring and just waits. Invariably after the first or second round they don't want to get off the stool. They can't raise their arms let alone kick. And they always say to him – I run ten miles a day, I skip rope, I spar all the time – how can I be so wiped out in a couple two minute rounds? Now PAY ATTENTION TO THIS: Chaney says the answer is that they have trained too much on cardio workouts and fighting is anaerobic.

Chaney says he knows how these fighters feel. His abilities are not inherited. He got his endurance from training. He said he can remember being so wiped out in fights that he would take three or four shots to the head just to buy time to rest. He also said he has been in situations where he would see an opening where he knew he could land a kick and didn't because his heart was beating so rapidly he was afraid he would get cardiac arrest. And that was when he was younger.

So what is the training he does for himself and his fighters? They run hills with ten pound dumbbells in their hands and they sprint all out – very hard – recover – and repeat. When they are about to die then they hit the heavy bag all out. The bell rings – they hit the hills again. Chaney says he will be running hills with one of his new students and he'll say, "See that tree ten yard away? Hit it." They will race to the tree and back just as hard as the can. The they jog. But the student will be gasping for a full minute while Chaney is fine. But, three weeks later the student will be every bit as winded when he sprints the same run but – AND THIS IS THE IMPORTANT POINT - he will get his breath back in 40 seconds. In three more weeks he will get his breath back in 20 seconds. This ability to recover is what makes a tough fighter. It is training tough and being able to recover fast that develops the winner.

I have been a member if a health club and I have run those electric treadmills myself. I can tell you that for me they don't work, don't take you anywhere near where you go when you run my mountain hills on uneven ground. Not even close.
Chaney says an experienced fighter will never fight long when he gets out of gas. If he does – he loses. Which reminds me, I remember a long time ago in the golden days of pit fighting, I would attend these dog matches – and I saw a good many famous dogmen – people who you read about now that were legends. I watched them handling their dogs and of course I kept my thoughts to myself – but I would watch them yelling at their dog, calling them on when the dog was resting, his rib cage going in and out like a bellows. And I thought, "Son let the dog fight is fight. Encourage him if he has rested too long and may start to stiffen up – but let the dog fight his fight and recover." Maybe if he ever got in the ring himself he would understand you need to pace. Maybe he has been in the ring – but never learned to pace, I've seen that in even some professional fighters. To me, a good handler would keep his face very close to the dog and in low tones from time to time let the dog hear his encouraging words – but calling the dog on when he is gasping for air, to me is wrong. I don't care how many matches he won. I think for the most part he should let the dog fight his own fight until the dog is tired and has spent too much time resting. I can recall when I boxed as a youngster and also when I competed in karate – I learned early on to pretty much ignore the calls of my coach – because I'd get worn out from trying to fight and listen both.

Moreover, I think that walking the dog long distances and lots of hard work on a fast mill should be a given – to establish bottom. But that should no be an end thing. I think that in the closing weeks of the keep I believe the dogs should have gotten lots of hard interval work on a hard to work carpet mill. That is the OLY way you can build the ability to wrestle hard – very hard – and recovery before you receive too much damage where you can't continue.

Well we don't match dogs anymore – but if you bring your dog in the swamp to wrestle a big old hog, you better give him more than aerobic endurance. You better have a tough dog that can wrestle in hard flurries, rest and recover before the hog takes him out, or you are going to lose your dog no matter how game he is. And if you enter the show ring you will have an obviously stronger, tougher, healthier dog if he is worked anaerobically with hard intervals, on top of the long distance training. A dog that is properly conditioned is going to win the show if the judge is a good one, over a dog that is minimally worked or fed down. Yes, show dogs should be conditioned.

Of course there are other factors involved in developing a fast recover. Being at your true weight is one of them. To exaggerate - if you have a big "beer belly," you will not be able to recover from huffing and puffing from a hard interval even after a good three weeks of training. You must be lean. If you have large mass muscles like a power lifter, you have more weight to carry and you will not recover as much as a person (or dog) that has lean wiry muscles. As a martial artist, I prefer the lean but very strong muscles of Bruce Lee to the large mass muscle of the body builder. Hard interval training on the other hand burns calories faster in a given amount of time than any other training. This is best done in cycles, but that's another subject.

The same magazine had an article about Mark Kerr, who at the time had nine straight victories in no-holds-barred competition. He trains seven days a week. But of those seven days, only three are cardiovascular workouts. The rest are anaerobic. Why? Because he is not running a race – he is wrestling in flurries. Endurance is a must. You have no business competing without it. But it is not enough to win in the fast lane. RECOVERY TIME – that is the key.

as of 21 April, 2001.