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Entries in track people (25)

Quote of the Week vol. 246

"You know Chris it's funny, the track people think we're doing football workouts, and the football people think we're doing track workouts."

- Brian the Trainer, somewhere around 2010.

Endurance people want endurance. Weightlifters want weightlifting. Powerlifters powerlifting. And to get really good at those things, you need to specialize at some point. Just what exactly that point is is not always clear for both athletes and coaches.

We do CrossFit. Just CrossFit. A simple and potent blend of everything; we would not take a decline in any area at the expense of another. And I have yet to see an athlete that I don't believe will see the results they want from this blend if they are patient enough. Football players should be doing Murph and cross country runners should be doing max effort back squat.

Quote of the Week vol. 235

"Chris! Can you take this group through some more stuff? That was too short; we gotta have them go for a little longer."

- Anonymous coach to me, earlier this week.

In some of the affiliate mentoring sources I follow, the coaches often preach the importance of "filling the hour," meaning the session starts, for example, at 4:30 on the dot and finishes at 5:30 on the dot. At practices I often hear coaches in the same mindset, as quoted above. This takes me back to my glorious, brief college days in Intro to Education with Mary Kay, a crazy lady who claimed to have a "good relationship" with John Salley back in the day. The class met once per week and lasted four freaking hours! Let me repeat: the class lasted as long as it would take to drive to Cedar Point, go on the Raptor right by the park entrance, then drive back. Of course, Mary Kay opened the semester by saying something along the lines of, "you're paying for a 4-hour class, so I want you to get your money's worth." Personally, I would have payed double to cut the hours in half.

When it comes to the coaching circle - sports or CrossFit - trying to fill up an entire practice block is one of the most complicated things to perfect. I've heard coaches put in new plays just to fill time, or make the cool-down at track 3 miles instead of 3 laps, or throw in mobility drills for 10 or 15 minutes. I think to help with this, coaches need to remember what it's like to be a student or athlete.

If you have a two-hour practice blocked off, and you get everything you need done in an hour and fifteen minutes, there is nothing wrong with saying, "well, that's all I wanted to cover today, I'll be in the gym for another 45 minutes if anyone wants to get some shots up." I try to keep this consistent with the Champions Club too. I know I need to do a better job of starting a session closer to on time, but even after forcing a cool-down on Mr. Auggie and Crystal we'll still usually be done 5 or 8 minutes early. People like Shakes and Danielle might stick around and hit some mobility work if need be, or Mr. Z might do an 800m run, and others like Arlene and Mr. Carey might jet to their car. And people like Saporito, Elizabeth, and Lindsey might just hang around and talk for a half hour. Either way, everyone who comes in gets their daily dose of fitness, then can be on with the rest of their day.

Art is something that cannot be subtracted from or reduced. Coaching/teaching is equal parts engineering and artistry. Adding filler stuff to a session or practice is like adding 4 extra birds to a "finished" painting just because you have some extra white paint left over.

Quote of the Week vol. 223

Me: "Would you have done anything differently in high school, knowing what you know now?"

David: "Yeah, I would have played football in the fall - not cross country - and basketball in the winter, then just ran the 800 for track in the spring. And not worried about trying to run in college."

Me: "But wouldn't you want to be able to say that you're a D1 athlete?"

David: "No, because saying that doesn't matter unless it's football or basketball. Nobody else cares."

There is an editorial in the works about the criteria for playing college sports. Stay tuned.

Rest Day Conversation: Pain vs. Discomfort

It's the second full week in March, which means spring sports are starting up. For me, that means my second season coaching track at Warren Mott. I start practice off with Pose drills and such, then Shannon swoops in with a workout for the group to do. Early-season stuff is very light in terms of volume because most of the kids have spent a winter doing nothing (except for Kenny, Crawford, Emmanuel, and Kaleb). Still, here are the most common phrases we have heard so far:

 

  • "My shins are killing me."
  • "I can't walk."
  • "I can't breathe."
  • "I'm dead."
  • "Has track started yet?"

 

Aside from the clueless perpetrator in the last example, there has been a lot of complaints regarding their bodies and the general unpleasantness of joining the sport of running.

From my experience running track and doing CrossFit at a high intensity, one of the most important things an athlete learns with experience is being able to tell the difference between pain and discomfort. Pain = a serious signal from your body saying you are going to seriously harm yourself (my knee popped while doing box jumps, lower back pinchy pain). Discomfort = everything else (Fran breath, Tabata legs, etc.) Unfortunately, from my view, experience is the only way to learn.

How do you guys tell the difference between when it's okay to push on and when to back off? How would you relay that to someone new of the experience?

Pass it On

Shannon went to a USA Track & Field coaches clinic about two weeks ago and came back with some rather interesting points. The one that caught my attention the most was how the top track coaches view the youth running community in general. From what Shannon relayed to me, they believe most coaches train their athletes to WIN NOW; win this meet, then win Regionals, then win at States, then win at this dinky off-season indoor thing, and so on.

Instead, a coach's mentality should be to pass their kids on to the next coach.

Now, whether or not the USATF programming is doing such a thing is a different story, but the main idea is something that really clicked for me with how I have coached track in the past, and how I coach you guys at the Champions Club.

Brian and I were really in sync during our time coaching track in the sense that nobody cares about winning the Cabrini dual meet in April, or the Royal Oak Relays. We cared about the Williamston Invitational, Regionals, and States; Williamston was the reality check, Regionals was the benchmark, and States was the fine-tuning. It was not a big deal that our kids didn't run particularly well at the early meets and practices, we had a bigger vision in mind and it paid off literally every single time the athlete bought it.

Due to the success I've had there and in other areas as a coach and athlete, I approach the Champions Club the same way. But instead of passing you on to the next coach, I pass you on to your future self and my future self, and I think this is something that needs a reminder every now and then.

I coach you guys with the mindset of, "A month from now am I going to have to undo the crap I let you get away today?" Or, "two years from now are you going to hit a dead end with this technique I let slide?"

This can be frustrating at times (and seemingly contradictory to the Quote of the Week below) because it often means sacrificing weight or intensity on the day's workout. But understand if that particular day's workout was our end goal, the training would look totally different. Coach T helped me realize we are in the profession of developing lifetime fitness. There are always exceptions (Matt training on a time-crunch for an upcoming race, Benchmark Workouts, Lifts 4 Gifts, etc.) but the priority of a good training program needs to be long-term sustainability. Can you train for today and get away with it? Absolutely. Will it catch up with you? Inevitably; the rate it does just depends on your tolerance and natural gifts. We believe it's best to accept this and use the understanding of movement and programming we have to pass yourself on to yourself. Trust me, you'll be happy you did. And I will not be a cranky elf.

Mrs. Fitz: tire burpees on Monday passing on good landing position

A Logical Look at the "Endurance Base"

It is my belief that, when boiled down to their essentials, all sports have the same core principles for training and development. Coach Glassman and a few coaches before him have addressed the physiology side of this with the process called General Physical Preparedness (GPP); noting that there are certain movements and conditioning sequences that, no matter what sport you play, would render itself useful to all athletes. Some (Coach included) even argue that GPP is a more potent training tool that sport-specific strength and conditioning; claiming that most of the sport specificity an athlete needs comes from regular practice in that sport.

That discussion, however, is for another post. But more than the weight room training, I also think this thinking applies for the practice and performance of the sport, itself. I played five sports growing up, three in high school, one in college, and have coached athletes and talked to coaches from those sports and many more during my time as a CrossFit coach. And I have noticed a few underlying principles that seem to be obeyed by coaches of every group. One of these principles relates to building a "base" during the pre-season/beginning of the season. This base usually is comprised of two parts: skill and strength. You need to get used to the specific movements and techniques of that sport (skill), and you need to develop the positions and muscular endurance that will need to last the entire season (strength.)

For example, in the first few weeks of a season, a basketball coach might spend a majority of their time doing reps on the basics of how to defend a pick-and-roll (skill), as opposed to going over 10 different offensive sets that include a pick-and-roll. After that, the team would likely scrimmage with an emphasis on running a pick-and-roll every time down the court so the defense could apply what they have been drilling. Other sports are similar - whether that is football athletes doing routes/footwork during practice and weight room after, or softball players getting used to grounders and fly-balls after an off-season of nothing. Either way, every group seems to follow the same formula of quality technique > volume or strategy. That is, every group save for one:

Track People

Many distance runners and coaches I am familiar with have the exact opposite approach to early-season training. Their belief is that the best preparation for a season of long distance running is... long distance running. A lot of it. An example could be a 1600m runner would spend the first few weeks of practice running 2-5 miles per day to build their "base." For running, I believe the formula should be the following:

CrossFit (strength) + Long duration Pose drills (skill) = Endurance Base.

As I wrote about in the In-Season Training Manifesto, the positional strength and endurance needed for running is best addressed in the weight room, not the track. Runners are going too fast, with too many reps, and through too much range of motion while running to worry about position. Instead, they can do lunges, l-seats, deadlifts, and kipping pull-ups keeping good position at high intensity. But it is also important to remember that no amount of weight room work can actually replicate the skill running. So I'm not suggesting to ditch running at a high volume, but just alter it a little bit. Instead of looking at the mileage, look at the time domain. For example:

Traditional Base Workout

Stretch

5 mile run

New Base Workout

Short-medium CrossFit workout

then

35-40 min. focussed Pose drills worked into short runs

With the New Base formula, the CrossFit workout would serve to prep the body for the specific positions that will come up during the run, get the body temperature up, and fatigue the legs and midline a little bit to replicate a long-duration run. Then instead of setting a mile standard on the run (5 miles), we would look at the time domain. Depending on who you are, a 5-mile run could take around 35-40 minutes. So the New Base Workout would have a runner doing running-specific drills for that entire duration and then let them lead into a run. Whatever mileage is covered is irrelevant at that time. If a coach wants to emphasize the running technique on that day, then they could just do that first and the CrossFit workout after.

The only reason you should be practicing skills of any sport, let alone running, at slower than game-speed is if it is necessary for the technique to be performed correctly. With the traditional Endurance base, not only are you going slower than you would in a race, but you are likely heel-striking and sludging by the middle of the run. If you wanted to build a base for injury and decay, this would be my first recommendation.

A starting pitcher would not build a "base" to his season by throwing two hundred pitches every day in spring training, and a linebacker would not build his pre-season base by going through a full-contact Oklahoma drill for two hours. So, are track and cross country special and exempt from the rules governed by other sports, or is it just governed by track people with nothing better to do?

Quote of the Week vol. 136

"The cure for poor deadlift form is not more weight; the cure for poor running form is not more distance."

- Jeff Martin

Emma dug this one up somewhere in the Brand X archives and I thought it would be a perfect segway for a post coming out tomorrow called A Logical Look at the "Endurance Base."