As high school athletes, sports teams and fitness buffs prepare for the spring, it’s time to begin mapping out fitness training and conditioning programs.
Frequently, I have worked with coaches or athletes whose definition of a “great practice” was working to exhaustion when the workout would have been more effective by focusing on small-area or short-distance speed with adequate recovery times.
The baseball or softball coach who runs his or her athletes through endless laps around the ball field, for example, needs to reconsider how effectively those movements translate into sprinting along the base path or lateral explosiveness for defensive infielders.
In sports such as basketball and soccer that require both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning (with or without enough oxygen to meet muscle demands), the bigger issue is training all phases of speed required to meet the competitive goal. This could include running as fast as possible for as long as possible (speed endurance), or as fast as possible in small areas and short distances (absolute speed). Each of these methods of training requires different muscle types, energy systems and neuromuscular demands.
When athletes expect long, repetitive runs at practice, it is only natural to expect that they will “pace” themselves to remain functional for the entire practice. This tactic does very little for developing speed at 100 percent effort. The athlete, coach or fitness-minded individual looking to improve running or movement speed should take into consideration the following training tips:
• Be sport specific: To maximize efficiency, muscles must be trained based on the demands and movements of the specific sport. The sprinter who trains at long distances only will slow down his sprint times, as would the distance runner who only trains using sprints.
• Redefine success: An athlete’s potential for success should not only be defined by linear (straight-ahead) speed, but also by multi-directional speed, small-area coverage and balance. These are three entirely different subsets of movement required for success in many sports.
• Aim for improvement: All muscle types can be trained to develop more force for speed or endurance. This depends on how the athlete trains a specific muscle in both their movement training and in the weight room.
• Mix it up: The weekly fitness runner should regularly add mid-distance speed intervals to their distances. This effort not only increases overall lung capacity but, can eliminate boredom from usual routines while increasing overall fitness as well.
Move to improve. It’s one of the best ways to develop your overall conditioning, add variety to your training, and offer another dimension to your workouts. It will help complete your level of fitness and athletic performance.
Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Specialists. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-750-0815.