For some, running is a hobby. For others, it's a lifestyle—particularly for the privileged few who run for The University of Texas. When the Longhorn T&F cavalry march into an event, opponents stand at attention, knowing they have to put their best feet forward for any chance to beat the athletes wearing burnt orange and white.
This golden perception of Texas' elite running program is grounded in reality, thanks in part to the running world's most reliable measure: meet results. The Longhorns are the only team in the country to have finished in the NCAA's top 20 in cross country and indoor and outdoor T&F in each of the last three years. In 2008, the Longhorns won their third consecutive Big 12 Indoor Championship, placed third at the NCAA Indoor Championships and notched a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Not becoming complacent with their long-standing success is one of UT's prime attributes. Whether a two time All-American or a walk-on looking to make the squad, Longhorn athletes spend a portion of their summer days in the weight room, increasing strength to gain an advantage for their next campaign.
Trey Zepeda, Texas T&F's strength and conditioning coach, recommends that high school athletes follow the Longhorn lead in the weight room. "You may not feel it's going to benefit you when you're 16 years old and winning without it, but your abilities will only get you so far," he says. "Eventually, you're going to hit a point in your career where everyone is just as good as you."
Ultimately, when you're on the line against a rival of equal talent, competing for a varsity spot, or striving to make it out of the regular season, what you did to improve in the summer months will make a difference. "If your goal is to make it to conference, districts, regional or state, or break a personal record, you're going to have to do more than what you normally do," Zepeda says. "Advancing or incorporating weight training can only benefit you as an athlete and provide you with that extra edge to help you reach your goals."
To guide you through the summer months, Zepeda put together an eight-week training plan for both sprinters and distance runners. He says, "Some of the workout I shared may not be for everybody, but it's definitely worked for us. And I think if you look at it, there's something in there for everybody at the high school level."
Zepeda on the Stick Warm-Up:The Stick Warm-Up is an Olympic-based complex of movements geared toward the actual training. The entire area—from the neck to the ankles—will be hit in some fashion during the warm-up, preparing the body for what it's about to do.
Zepeda on NMG Training: NMG stands for New Muscle Growth. The program entails three phases: Weeks 1 and 5 are accumulation; Weeks 2 and 6 are strength; and Weeks 3 and 7 are power. Weeks 4 and 8 are recovery phases, because the body is at its peak after a three-week cycle of training. The accumulation phase builds your foundation with higher reps. As you progress to the two other phases of strength and power, the sets, reps, and percentages are adjusted to where you'll perform lower reps at higher percentages.
Zepeda on the Dynamic Warm-Up: The purpose of the dynamic warm-up is to get blood flowing in the muscles, which may be stiff and cold from inactivity. It will set you up in a state where you're more flexible, and the functionality will be more efficient for whatever you're about to do, whether that's some linear movement, agility work or weight training. Perform a dynamic warm-up before and after workouts.
Zepeda on Circuit Training: We don't want distance runners gaining too much muscle, but we do want them to gain strength. I feel we can control that through a circuit format. And by altering the intervals and recovery, we can incorporate aerobic and anaerobic aspects through the weight training. Some of our distance runners are running 45- to 90-minute runs and accumulating a lot of mileage throughout the week, so I don't want to be too aggressive with their weight training. That could tear up their shins and knees and blow out their backs.
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