By Latif Thomas
Success or failure is going to be determined by the value, structure and progression of your sprinting workouts. It is our responsibility as coaches to make sure that we are giving our athletes the workouts and training that puts them in the best position to succeed. Understanding how to periodize training so that athletes peak at the right time, avoid injury and become skilled runners does not have to be full time commitment. However, you can not expect to see consistent improvement in athletes if you are not willing to apply proven speed training techniques.
Having been a scholarship athlete at the Division I level and an award winning speed coach, I have had the opportunity to train under and learn from many great coaches who have mastered both the art and the science of speed development. I have learned that there are factors that must be examined when writing your sprinting workouts. For me to give you a list of random workouts that are broken into event group, etc. would be a waste of your time. No serious coach or athlete expects results from a sampling of workouts that will get you through a week or two of training. Again, the reason behind this is that there is more to speed training than just doing any workouts you can fine. These factors include:
1. Time of Year: Sprinting workouts done at the beginning of the season should cover much shorter distances. Athletes can not expect to run a fast, efficient workout at longer distances if they have not mastered acceleration mechanics. That is why programs should start out at short distances and gradually progress throughout the season as athletes become proficient at developing the skill of sprinting efficiently and powerfully.
At the same time, early season volume and density must be considered. Sprinting workouts that are taking place during the competitive season will be more like actual races, with longer rest periods and lower volume, than workouts done during the Preparation and even Pre-Competitive phases.
2. Age and Experience: Workouts must take into consideration the training and biological ages of the athletes performing them. A workout of 10 x 40 meters may be appropriate for a collegiate 100 meter runner, but would be far too much volume for a high school freshman to complete. You must remember that once an athlete’s times begin to drop off or their form begins to break down, the workout must come to an end. Just finishing the workout is not a sign that the workout has been successful. Also, when considering volume you have to remember that 50 meters for a 12 year old is much more difficult and strenuous than 50 meters for an 18 year old. Again, this is why cookie cutter sprinting workouts can do more harm than good.
3. Event: Training demands for different events are going to change the workouts. For example, a 100 meter runner has no use for a workout of, say, 3x300m @ 95% with full (15-25 min.) recovery because the benefits of such workouts do not come into play in the 100. Yet a 400 meter runner would directly benefit from a Special Endurance workout such as this as it trains the energy system that 400 meters rely on for success. At the same time, a 400 meter runner would not need to rely heavily on Maximum Velocity training (fly 40’s) since he/she never reaches full speed in his/her race. Yet a 100/200 runner can’t succeed without developing the ability to decelerate slower than the competition.
As you can see, sprinting workout structure can not be adequately understood with a few sample workouts. Instead, to get the most out of your athletes you must design your training using a structured speed training program that shows you how to progress your training throughout the entire season, while covering all the other elements that go into making your sprinting workouts a success.
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