They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but maybe the better strategy would be to become stronger before you get hurt.

This is where strength and conditioning coaches come into play.

These coaches, also known as sports performance coaches, work with a specific athletics coach to design programs that meet the particular needs of an athlete or team. In other words, their job is to combine the theory of training with the actual act of training.

Things that are important for an athlete’s performance, such as speed, agility, flexibility and explosiveness, can be significantly improved by increasing strength.

UNM performance coach Carla Garrett said people are finally realizing that strength and conditioning is an essential tool for good performance. Garrett handles the strength and conditioning duties for softball, women’s basketball and women’s tennis.

“People didn’t think it was that important before,” Garrett said. “They thought just going to practice was enough, but no: Strength and conditioning might be more important than practice because you won’t be able to practice if you are not strong enough, or if you are injured.”

Garrett has more than 20 years of experience with designing and implementing resistance training, conditioning and speed development programs for athletes ranging from high school-level to professional-level.

Some of the professional athletes Garrett has worked with include former NBA player Luke Walton, former NFL player Frank Middleton, and Team USA softball pitcher and Olympic gold medalist Lisa Fernandez.

But Garrett doesn’t just have coaching experience: she was also a decorated athlete herself.

In 1992 she won a silver medal as a discus thrower for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team.

She also took part in weight lifting competitions at national and world level and became a silver medalist at the World Weightlifting Championships in 1991 and 1993.

Garrett graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in sociology and a minor in nutrition and food sciences.

With her background, Garrett said she learned that there’s a lot more to being an athlete than just exercising. One of the biggest things for her is food.

“Nutrition is probably the most important thing for an athlete, because what you put in your body really matters,” Garrett said. “If you had a Ferrari, wouldn’t you want to take good care of it and give it the best gas?”

Garrett says one of the most difficult parts of her job is making sure her athletes are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

“Disciplining athletes can be tough because you never want to be the bad guy, but you know discipline still needs to happen,” she said.

Garrett has to keep herself in check too, as she her day at 5:00 a.m. practically every day. She says this is far from being the most fun part of her job, but she has to do what she has to do.

She also explains that the positive parts of her job are definitely worth sacrificing a little sleep.

“The most rewarding thing about my job would have to be seeing athletes be able to do things they didn’t think they could,” Garrett said.

Isabel Gonzalez is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on twitter @cisabelg.