What is the best way to condition middle and long distance runners who have never before done any running? I have been given the distance track coaching position for middle school track. The...
I have been given the distance track coaching position for middle school track. The athletes are often involved in other sports and school activities, so they are not at practice daily. I have one month to get them prepared for the first meet.
I do agree with all of the above post. The biggest challenge would be them missing practices. They have got to run something everyday to build up endurance. My first step would be to work out an agreement with the PE teacher for those that cannot attend practice that day. Most PE instructors probably will not have a problem watching your athlete run laps or stairs during PE. Try to make it convenient for the instructor, so that they will be more likely to make it happen. If PE is in the gym, then the running/stairs needs to be in the gym. If it is outside, then have a workout for them to do outside within the parameters of the PE class.
An excellent way to help build endurance is to run the school grounds. Measure out your distances ahead of time, then just run - around the building, to and from the fields, up the stairs, etc. Make sure you include any hills that are available (up and down). I would think they would need to run at least 1 straight mile every day. You can add increments of more and less, but definitely a mile without stopping. If weather is a problem, then you can usually get permission to run the halls of the school (especially around the weight room/locker room area , including staircases). Of course, stretching and hydrating are essential. If you are up to it, then grab a bike and join them. You will not tire as quickly and you can still supervise!
Given that these are middle school kids, err on the side of moderation in most things, but likely the best way for them to train is to simply run more. You can find ways to make this more fun and interesting instead of just saying "go run for thirty minutes," but everybody will get stronger and more efficient as their body gets used to running.
I would suggest trying to get in one longer run per week, if they are used to running for a total of 1-2 miles a day, shoot for three one day a week. If they are used to running a bit more, you can increase it but this will help them get stronger.
You can add in speedwork or intervals where they run closer to race pace with some rest built in, but especially as often as our high school kids race, the races often serve as good work in this regard and you don't need to add too much.
My main advice is to try and help them have fun with it, try to answer questions for them and help them be invested in getting better, and don't let anyone do so much that they get hurt.
To begin with, children should run more and more instead of trying to run long distances right away. If they begin running long distances when their body is not used to it, they risk serious injury. It is best to gradually but continually increase the length of the run. Having students run a mile, walk a little, run another mile and so on is a great way to increase the distance they can run safely. It is also important to make sure that students stretch and stay hydrated.
Are there any Fun Runs/ 5K Runs in the surrounding areas? Often youngsters participate in the fun runs, especially. There are some incentives with these races: They all get T-Shirts and ribbons if they win; in addition, they are exposed to competitive runners and older runners who may inspire them. Sometimes, training for a run in the community provides a little extra incentive. To train for a mile, running a half mile regularly is sufficient.
I think #5 makes a good point about alternating between long runs and basic strength conditioning. Clearly it is not realistic to expect your students to start running marathons on day one, but it is obviously good practise to get them into training as soon as possible. Trying to play a variety of games incorporating short sprints and longer runs might be a good start and then you can build up to it gradually.
In my middle school track coaching days, I alternated between running on the track one day and cross country the next, and twice a week for the first month of the season, I did strength conditioning -- stairs, situps, pushups, etc.-- in the gym and then a shorter than usual run. None of it was over the top difficult, but it got the video game fat out of them earlier, and they tended to have better seasons.
Thanks for all the advice! I have taken lots of notes, and yes, I intended to use my bike...my old knees don't allow me to run for any great lengths anymore, and my walking pace, while faster than most, would stil not be fast enough to keep up with these energetic kiddos. Thanks again for all the comments. I enjoy this age group's energy and am looking forward to working with them as their track coach.