Track Mistakes

Track Mistakes

Track Mistakes

tags: running, sprint, athlete


    Working with track athletes, one thing is certain—most are completely overtrained. When talking to many track coaches, a common term is used and the term is “overuse injuries.” 

     I would ask the coach who had just used the term, “If you know that the injuries are from overuse, why don’t you switch the exercises or workout to avoid the injuries?” Very seldom do I get an answer. What I usually get is a stare, and an empty stare at that.

    Most injuries come from following the same workout for the entire season. Years ago a coach brought a young female track athlete to Westside. She was 26 years old and a coach herself, but could not qualify for the Nationals! Her times did not improve in the entire six years due mostly to doing the same program for the six previous years. 

     Her story was overtraining by running too many miles weekly, which caused many lower body injuries and exhaustion. She thought it was just part of track to have a foot or shin fracture during the season year after year. Along with the injuries, she would be happy to break a single record during the year.

    After nine weeks at Westside, with the specialized machines and cutting the total running miles by 40 percent, she broke three event records at her first meet and suffered no injuries. She qualified for the Nationals for the first time ever. To say the least, she was amazed.

    A second young track athlete came to Westside at 15 years old with her training partner who, at 18 years old, could jump onto a 55-inch box. The 18-year-old, however, went to college for four years and while there could never duplicate her fastest high school times. But, the 15-year-old trained at Westside using the Conjugate System of rotating volume, intensity, velocity and exercises and suffered zero injuries.

    The Westside girl would run for a Mid-American Conference school and would be completely overtrained while there. She was instructed to run 10 200-meter races. Everyone knows three races per meet would be a max. Three races would be optimal, but the track coach believes in the more, the better. This is a mistake and what leads to overtraining and overuse injuries. She had shin fractures so bad from doing depth jumps incorrectly that she left school. 

    Leaving that institution would lead to her going to a Big Ten school where I was asked to come along for her workout. After one hour and 10 minutes of warming up, she tore her Achilles tendon. I could not understand the warmup at all. 

    After recovering, she was somehow selected to run hurdles and fell, dislocating her shoulder. That was all it took. I suggested she leave school and select a private coach, but it was the same old story with the private coach. 

    Mistakes can ruin an athlete’s career, so don’t do the following if you want to coach or be a champion.

  1. Do depth jumps incorrectly.

    Too many athletes jump off boxes that are too high and can cause serious injuries upon landing. The first step is to find the optimal box height. There is a simple test to use. Jump down off the box and rebound with an attempt to reach as high as possible with one hand.

    As the height is increased, the Reach Test should also be higher. But, if you push up the box too high, your reach will suffer.

    If you look on Page 71 of Shock Method by Yuri Verkhoshansky at 1.18 you can see for yourself how the data was arrived at in the process of doing the experiment.

    The lowest box, which was 15 centimeters, only added 18 percent. The highest box, which was 155 centimeters, only gained a 20 percent increase. Learn to use the optimal box height.

    Beginners should do 24 jumps two times a week; the advanced should do 40 jumps two times a week. Westside mostly uses ankle weights, Kettlebells or a weight vest to jump up onto a box

    Box jumps can be a simple way to determine if you are more explosive. The higher you jump, the more powerful you are. What is Explosive Strength you might ask? Explosive strength is the ability to rapidly increase force (Tidow 1990). The steeper the increase of strength in time, the greater the explosive strength. 

  1. Running too much

    Overuse injuries come many times by running too much. Most coaches say they are building a base, but in well-trained athletes, the V02 max is topped out in 12 to 18 months of training.

    A study by Weyand in 1999 found that even with restricting oxygen during high speed running the subjects could still run just as fast in the 60 meter and nearly as fast in the 100 meter. This means that aerobic capacity and speed endurance are not the same.

    An earlier study in 1992 by Leena Paavolainen was titled “Explosive-Strength Training Improves 5-K Running Time by Improving Running Economy and Muscle Power.” In this study the experimental group dropped their running workout time by 32 percent and replaced it with explosive strength training. Nine weeks passed and the control group showed no gains in their five kilometer race time. The weight-trained group showed a good reduction in their five kilometer times due to decreased ground contact time because of their greater ground force. This holds true in any length race.

    Too much running leads to overtraining and overuse injuries. By trying to increase oxygen concentration, you are trying to convert type 11B or fast twitch into type 11 A or fast twitch, or even Type 1 slow twitch. This is why football players mostly slow down after four years of college football as seen at the NFL Combine Training

     Much, much more can be found in Underground Secrets to Faster Running and other writings of Barry Ross.

  1. One of the worst mistakes track coaches make is placing a young athlete in the wrong event.

     One of my girls would enroll in a Big 10 school as a 60- and 100-meter sprinter, but because she has such an athlete body with great strength, the coach placed her in throwing events and running in the hurdles. It was while running hurdles that she tripped and dislocated her shoulder. She was a specialist in short sprints and was recruited to run the 60-meter and 100-meter, but for some reason the coach had other ideas and those ideas were wrong. She had to rehab her shoulder, which cut into her specialized sprint training. No one considered her obvious muscle type—Type IIB, which has the largest potential to add size and strength for sprinting. This was never considered at all. She is very strong and explosive, which is demonstrated by her strength training and jumping ability. 

    When I was young some 60 years ago, the ones that could not play ball sports were limited to track. But today in 2020, it is all about specialization in one or maybe two events. This is how far track training has advanced … not far at all. 

    The coach must recognize talent and know where to place it. To do this correctly, the coach needs experience and to be well read. Look how the top track coaches trained and you will see the top ones were very similar in their approach.

    Stop and look at your athletes. See if they are advancing in their training. How many injuries do your athletes have? Do they slow down as the season goes on? If this is the case, you are training your personnel wrong.

  1. Competing too often.

    Many injuries come from competing too often. The more you compete the less training time is available for the athlete. This also leads to overtraining and little time for restoration.

    If possible, limit the meets during track season to avoid accommodation. When accommodation takes place, athletes will stall out or worst, go backward.

    Too often you hear of a top prospect for a year and then they will disappear for the scene forever. This can be due to overuse injuries, which won’t happen if you cut the running volume by 35 percent and add special weight exercises to supplement your training. These special exercises can be in the form of jumps for explosive strength and weight training at 30 percent to 40 percent for explosive strength or 75 percent to 85 percent for three-week waves for speed strength. You can also do max effort work in the form of squats, bench pressing, deadlifts, or clean and snatches. Close to competing, 72 hours out, max in the bench press to activate the central nervous system, but at the same time, save the legs.

    The main idea is to improve times, not just compete. You must have a strategy to compete and you must have the ability to use your strategy. This comes from smart training and using a three-week pendulum wave where you increase your training and times for three weeks. Then, you cut back some training and reduce your time on the fourth week and work back up on week two and week three trying to exceed your times and work volume and intensity on week three then continue to use the three-week waves leading into your competitions and especially at your major events.

  1. The fifth mistake you shouldn’t make if you want to coach (or be) a champion is not to continue reading and learning.

Please read!

Explosive Power and Jumping Ability, Taduez Starzynski and Henryk Sozanski, PhD (1995).

Science of Sports Training, Thomas Kurz (1990).

Shock Method, Yuri Verkhoshansky (1968).

Strength Manual for Running; Raising Strength to Reduce Injuries, Louie Simmons (2017).

Supertraining, Dr. Mel Siff (2004).

Underground Secrets to Faster Running, Barry Ross (2005).




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