Winter Training Sport Psych Implemtation

Over the past few weeks of practice we have been talking a lot about setting goals for the 2018 track season ahead.  To get to the goal setting process, however, there was a lot of work to be done in the prefacing weeks.  Here is the basic timeline of events that has happened over the first six weeks of training:

  • Week 1: I’d love to say the energy was palpable, but it’s been this way every week.  The kids started with a bang and haven’t slowed down.  We did a solid workout at McKenzie this week, performing eight 300m + 100m intervals with calculated rest intervals.  Little did they know, we’d perform this same workout in during week six to assess and discuss the progress made to this point.
  • Week 2: This was the first week we began connecting the body with the mind.  On Tuesday night we used a metronome set at 180 beats per minute to emphasize stride frequency, meanwhile highlighting the importance of how the foot should strike the ground upon landing.  The 180 beats per minute is a standard cadence for strides per minute during fast interval work.  Combining foot strike with the metronome cadence was pretty advanced, but I think the kids got it.
  • Week 3: Thursday night the kids ran fifteen 200m repeats while being video recorded from the side to assess gate.  Gate includes foot strike, hip placement upon foot strike, torso posture, and arm swing.  Analysis starts at the feet and goes upward through the body, so providing cues about foot placement and hip placement tends to trickle upward through the spine.  A few tinkerings down below (the feet) can fix a lot of things at the top (shoulders, head, etc.). The following practice, on Saturday, we spent the first 30-minutes reviewing the video so all of the kids could see themselves on film.  This video is also posted on the blog.
  • Week 4: Tuesday was a pretty good track workout, followed by a 600m time-trial.  I had talked with Pacer Hillary earlier in the week to discuss the idea of running the time-trial, but I didn’t want to waste a practice only running a single interval.  Also, it’s important that the kids learn how to run on tired legs, much like what they’ll experience around lap 3 of the mile, which is why we did the workout prior to the 600m.  I’m pretty confident in saying that every runner ran at, or 1-4 seconds faster, than their pace of their fastest 800m from the 2017 season.  Reflecting upon that now and it just seems crazy, but it also tells you of the untapped potential in these kids – what they’re missing out on (being pushed) and learning to work harder at running than they ever thought they could.  Super cool stuff!
  • Week 5: With faster racing times comes faster intervals and on Thursday night we ran a 200m, 600m, 400m, 600m, 200m.  My thinking behind this workout was to mimic the speed of what I think is their current goal mile pace might be.  They struggled, but I think they learned a lot when we discussed this workout the following practice when we brought up the sport psych topics of Focus and Concentration.
  • Week 6: Thursday night we repeated the week one McKenzie workout, 300m + 100m, which the kids destroyed!  Across the board, the groups ran faster, while some kids moved from Team Awesome (Hillary’s group) to the middle pack with Pacers Alex and/or Paige.  We also had a few runners from Alex and Paige’s group join Pacer Micah/Braeden’s group, which was pretty darn special!  On Saturday (2/24) we began practice with a discussion around the topics of Goal Setting, Focus, and Concentration during practice, and what that means in competition. 

This leads us into week seven.  The team meetings are the most opportune time to get us all on the same page when it comes to implementing the sport psych stuff – Goal Setting, Focus, Concentration & Meditation.  Though we spent 35-minutes on these topics, the meeting could have easily gone another hour.

 The use of a flashcard is an excellent way to begin the goal setting process, which can lead to enhanced concentration and focus during practice and competition.

The use of a flashcard is an excellent way to begin the goal setting process, which can lead to enhanced concentration and focus during practice and competition.

This past week the kids were provided flashcards and asked to create three goals for the track season ahead.  For events over 400m, they were asked to include paces (per 100m, 200m, or every lap) so they can begin connecting the dots between practice goal paces and race goal paces.  It can feel as though I’m speaking Greek in these meetings, so I’m posting an example of what these goals can look like on the flashcards. 

 An example of Coach Dave's goals.

An example of Coach Dave's goals.

Keeping these goal cards in a place where the kids will look frequently – on a mirror, in a wallet, on a wall – can help with ones in-race focus, which is the primary objective. 

As a finishing note, it’s important to ask your kids about their goals.  Doing so reinforces their commitment to running, as well as your commitment to their success.  Also, it’s important to help them through adversity.  Not every runner will accomplish their goals (remember, it took Shalane Flanagan 17 years to finally win the New York Marathon), so helping them revise their goals early in the season can help with any frustration.  Knowing their goals will also give you something to calculate when you're cheering them on from the sideline, providing some sense of what they might be thinking and experiencing during their race(s).  If you find yourself in-over-your-head around the discussion of their practices, their performances, their goals, etc., never forget that I am their coach and their goals are also my goals.  I want to encourage you to reach out to me at any point in the season if your child is struggling with anything related with their sport/event.  On the flip-side, I also want to hear about their successes, so I can help reinforce the connection between their hard work and their earned results.