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Running and Throwing Ourselves into Spring: Advice for High School Track and Field Athletes

It’s spring! While we in the Capital Region usually can’t count on blooming flowers right away, we can look forward to the start of high school and middle school track and field season. Practice is underway. Indoor season athletes probably feel like they have been training forever, while aspiring outdoor season athletes are assessing their fitness level and feeling those pains that come with gearing up too quickly. Although it’s been thirty years since I was in high school, I’d like to offer three quick pointers to get everyone off to a successful season.
  1. Trust your training. Training can be tricky and highly individual. Your teammates might progress more or less quickly or be doing different things. It is natural to feel frustrated when you feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort and you don’t see the results you want. You will –– give workouts a chance to work. And remember, no secret workouts. Do the workouts that you’ve been instructed to do at the right pace. Easy runs, for instance should be done easily. Don’t think that you will get faster if you run them faster. That’s not what they are for. Likewise, you don’t need to go crazy on the mileage to get results and wearing yourself out sneaking in extra distance can be totally counter-productive. It’s like eating pizza – two slices yummy, ten, not so much. Finally, avoid the bane of high school intervals – you don’t need to race until the meet. Run your intervals at the prescribed pace and don’t let your ego do your thinking for you in group workouts.

  1. Train with purpose: Do all of your workouts (actually, do whatever you do) with intention and purpose. Be aware of why you are doing what you are doing. No one is too young to be a student of the sport and you can learn a lot by asking the right questions –– those designed to clarify your training and get you closer to your personal best. If you are unclear about the purpose of a particular workout, ask your coach. He or she is an educator who wants to develop you into a better runner or thrower and your coach should be able and willing to explain how certain training strategies work. You may have different ideas about how to train because you’ve read some magazines or came across some theory on the Internet. Your coach has more than likely seen it, studied it, thought about it, and, ultimately, created a training program to help you succeed. It is important to commit and let it work. As part of pursuing your training with intention, it is important to concentrate and give your best effort in all aspects of training. Don’t, for example, neglect rest. When you do strides at the end of practice, do them all. Although it can sound like a cliché, doing the little things well and paying attention to details can reap big rewards.

Speaking of rewards, this is my final piece of advice:

  1. Have fun and enjoy the process. Take joy in what you are doing. As you are probably aware, competition is a small part of track and field. The sport may challenge you at times, but it also will be a source of accomplishment and great memories. Unlike other sports, track and field athletes can continue competing wherever there’s an open road, a track, or something to jump over or throw. You don’t have to look back nostalgically at your high school track and field exploits as glory days; you can pursue your sport for a lifetime and get better. You are becoming part of a sport that will continue to give back to you – in friendships, in PRs, in health, and in community connections – for the rest of your life.

But enough from the old guy, why do you take part in track and field?



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