Community Service

Track Training Ideas

by Steve Bennett

Updated Feb 2006

My training ideas have developed from many sources. I have had discussions with many of Australia's best coaches as well as coaches of Elite internationals such Luiz de Oliviera (Cruz and Barbosa),Said Aouita, Loren Seagrave and some Elite Athletes eg Bucher, Wilson Kipketer,Rich Kenah, Staffan Strand, Kevin Sullivan and the the manager of a number of the best Kenyan athletes.

I have followed athletics closely since the age of 9 have competed in Track athletics at metropolitan level and spent most of my young adult years playing State level squash .

Important Training Principles

It is important in some event groups (notably Middle Distance) To plan the year in such a way as to perform at your best for the 6 week peak of the year. This is especially important in the formative years. But does not mean the athlete should expect to perform poorly at any stage in the year. They should be only 4-6 weeks away from good race performances all year.

One months active rest each year after the peak is of great value. The athlete should make sure that they maintain as much fitness as possible in this time but with minimal Physical and psychological effort.

Recovery In the first 4 months of the year we follow a 4 week cycle with every 4th week much easier. or a 3 week cycle with every 3rd easier.

Relaxed speed sessions are done all year to stay familiar with fast cadence and full range of motion.

All athletes do a core strength program that is mostly done to improve posture and trunk stability.

Pelvic stability and postural improvement is an area of strong focus. See the page of Core Conditioning

I also recommend Medicine Ball throwing and catching to help stabilize the trunk.

Athletes are encouraged to get a massage from a local sports massage therapist as often as possible and to self massage.

Plunge pool use is also very good. This involves 3min in warm water followed by 10-30s in colder water. This is alternated 3 times. This aids in recovery.

They should also have regular flexibility assessment from a Physiotherapist and follow a structured stretching program to develop adequate flexibility as well as another program to perform at the track. The stretching should include a variety of stretches both dynamic and static.

All athletes should maintain good levels of aerobic power which may involve structured or unstructured fartlek or long track sessions for sprinters.

Racing every weekend as routine is not recommended. Training and adaptation are number 1 priority. Time trials or testing can be performed about once every 4 weeks throughout the early stages of training. They are a test of progress and keep the athlete closer to race fitness. There are that many races available every week that it would be easy for the young athletes to rest and taper all year. This would lead them to injuries and mediocrity. When the real season starts the athletes should feel eager to race and be able to race hard. I am concerned that too many athletes race too often at levels below their best and weaken their ability to really spend themselves when they want to.

Speed Drills as promoted by Loren Seagrave of Speed Dynamics seem effective at improving cadence and posture. I think it is also good in that it gives the sprinters an opportunity to practise being perfect. This is an attitude that needs to be valued. You can't do drills properly (and effectively) unless perfection is pursued. My athletes do speed drills as part of the warmup period at least once per week all year. The sprinters do them at least twice. Each drill is done 3-6 times for 4seconds. The Video Drills for Speed is a must have if the Drills are to be learned properly. To develop the skill seems to take at least 3 months of practise for most athletes to master.

My own squad lately has simplified their drills to just two:
1. Ankling - circular movements of lower leg maintaining dorsiflexion. Do 6-8 of these over 6-8s.
2. Quick Recovery High Knee Running - they catch their leg early bring it rapidly up underneath and keeping their pelvis stable lift their knees as high as they can without 'sitting'. They do these at varying speeds maintaining good form which means no extra bum out or sitting as well as keeping their feet dorsiflexed. They do about 6-8 of these over 6-8s at varying speeds.

I have had problems with Iron deficiency with a few athletes. They now all have routine FBC and Iron studies done to make sure all is OK. From what I gather ferritin needs to stay above 40 for an athlete to be well in the clear. My endurance athletes now take supplements 85mg once or twice per week.

Most training mostly follows a Hard-Easy day approach. My younger athletes take longer to recover after hard sessions . The challenge is to get the athlete to do everything possible to rapidly replace muscle glycogen and with that taken care of design the training to suit the athlete.

The extra factor that is now being revealed in Science is that of Neural Fatigue. Any high intensity training may have lasting negative effects on maximal performance that are not the contribution of muscle fueling or unrestored energy systems. Pay attention to how you or the athletes you coach are effected by any high intensity training. You may notice that you feel energetic but your ability to generate high cadences is impaired.

The question often asked is whether it is the athletes recovery methods (or lack of) or too hard a training load when fatigue is evident. Hard training requires top class preparation ask any Marathon runner or Triathlete!

Lately I have structured most training weeks
Mon- Track Session
(hardest day)
Tue - Gym/Steady session
Wed- Track Session (hard day)
Thu- recovery day
Fri - easy day
Sat- Competition or Training
Sun- Longer medium intensity session or Easy+Gym

All athletes are encouraged to fuel up after hard sessions with high carbohydrate source drinks etc. some research has found that there is a window of opportunity immediately after training within the first 15min for the body to rapidly replenish Glycogen if Carbohydrate is ingested.The recommended amount is about 1.5g/kg bodyweight of preferably Glucose Polymers.This can be repeated again 2 hrs later.

Low Glycogen is the first thing I look toward if the athlete is not sick but is feeling tired from training. After being reminded to eat more and at the right time they become and stay much fresher.
There are also reported benefits of ingesting some protein immediately after training to enhance repair and growth. The Science behind the theory is to do with higher levels of Growth Hormone and Testosterone that result after from hard training. This amy be a Growth and Repair window in addition to the Glycogen window.  

The quest to be a Great Athlete
A Key Idea

The athletes need to set goals and believe in themselves.
To really achieve usually means doing something that others believe is impossible.
The spirit of an athlete that is aiming for the top needs to be developed and protected from influences that could destroy it. If a potentially great athlete is always in the company of athletes with no real commitment toward a similar dream. Then problems discriminating between what everyone else is doing and what needs to be done will arise. Strong Desire is a must.
Top athletes must be determined and committed.This should be obvious in the way they approach the hard and technical sessions.
It is very easy for an athlete to gradually lose that fire and settle for being a good State level athlete.
Most of our youth are used to being very comfortable and usually don't have to wait very long to get the enjoyment they want. The emerging strong nations in athletics have large numbers of their youth with strong desire, self belief and may not have the problem of being distracted from top level


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