Use Rest and Workouts to Dominate

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STACK's 8-Week Workout, developed with Miami University Strength Coach James Carsey, will recharge your batteries and improve your times.

What to do: Maintain a training base, build strength and conditioning, and develop your event skills.

1. Train the Right Energy System. Make sure your training uses the same intensity, timing and muscles that you use for your event. If you're a sprinter, focus on improving your body to sprint. If you're a distance runner, work to build your aerobic base. Long jumpers: work to improve horizontal (forward) power. High jumpers: work on vertical (up and down) power.

2. Recover, Rest, Review and Regenerate. Former Strength Coach of the Year Robb Rogers, who has overseen programs at Baylor and Middle Tennessee State, says it isn't always the best conditioned athletes who win, but the best rested and most ready to compete. The four "Rs" will get you there.

  • Recover: Take time to physically and mentally unwind
  • Rest: Do light cross-training activities
  • Review: Take a hard look at what you need to improve
  • Regenerate: When you begin training, start slowly

3. Work on Weak Areas. Talk with your coaches to determine specific areas of weakness that you need to improve, such as strength and conditioning imbalances. For example, sprinters may find that their hamstrings haven't kept up with their quads, limiting their power and leaving them vulnerable to injury. University of Texas strength and conditioning coach Trey Zepeda has made training to correct and prevent muscular imbalances a staple of his program. "Being strong in the weight room is good," he says. "But if you can't take that strength and utilize it at whatever you do on the track, you've got an imbalance somewhere." You may also need to focus on skill development, such as your start out of the blocks.

4. Think Peak. Top athletes start with a goal or event, like the Olympics, and work backwards to build a training program that enables them to peak, or perform their best, in that competition. Often called periodization, the process allows high school athletes to set their sights on qualifying for the state or national championship. By having and working a plan through the whole year, you will know which races to "train through" and which you'll want to win or use to hit a qualifying or goal time. Throughout the season, you'll be able to gauge your progress toward your end-of year goals by hitting mid-year benchmarks.

What to Avoid:

1. Not Taking Down Time. Rest is critical to your ability to make big gains in your performance. When you don't let your body recover, you can experience metabolic fatigue (low energy levels), neurological fatigue (poor brain-muscle coordination), and psychological fatigue (emotional and social). "Just take some time to put the sport behind you--no weights, no running, no drills, none of it," advises Bob Braman, head coach of Florida State men's track and field team.

2. Training How You Always Train. If you want to see changes in your performance, you need to make changes to your training. "By doing different things, your body recovers so much better, and then you're able to get more out of that workout, and you're able to come back sooner after a hard workout with another hard one," says Kara Goucher, a distance runner who has her sights set on the 2012 Olympics.

3. Poor Nutrition. By following a diet geared to your training, you can maximize energy levels, reduce fatigue and help your body recover and regenerate. Pay particular attention to what you eat and drink both pre- and post-training, as well as when you're training in the heat of the summer (see pages 18 and 20 for tips). "During the off-season, it's easy to let your guard down and relax your eating habits," says Eve Pearson Rogers, a nutritionist who's worked at the Michael Johnson Performance Center. "But ignoring nutrition would be like training in the wrong shoes."

Who's Coaching?

James Carsey Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Miami University (OH) Carsey is entering his third year as Miami's head strength and conditioning coach.

Since joining the program, Carsey has helped the RedHawks produce 30 National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) All-Americans. Seven of the teams he has worked with have won league championships, and eight others have captured runner-up finishes.

How It Helps

Carsey's Workout Philosophy

  • This program improves general strength with multi-joint movements; keeps some dynamic action within the muscles; and uses controlled action in certain ranges. Both sprinters and throwers are trying to produce max force and power in as little time as possible. To do this, your connective tissue and bone structure must withstand the forces this workout requires. Therefore, the main lifts are designed to isolate core muscle groups in slower tempos to strengthen weak spots. I also include dynamic movements that require speed to keep the muscles accustomed to producing force in short bursts. However, at this point in the training, the primary focus is on muscle building and isolating key joint movements.
  • To strengthen weak areas so athletes can withstand the forces required by their sport, I use auxiliary lifts. These work on weak points in movements required by the event. For example, sprinting is a hip-extension-dominant movement that places great force on the glutes and hamstrings. One auxiliary lift, the Single-Leg Back Extension, develops the hip down into the hamstring. Another, the Leg Curl, stabilizes behind the knee up into the hamstring. Both exercises create a controlled motion on the muscle, similar to what an athlete will use while sprinting.

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