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The best running workout.

In the December 1997 Power Line, you described an intense interval running workout called the Ladder. What is the objective of your running program and do you have any other interval workouts your players use? What is the best running workout to prepare an athlete for his/her athletic event?

Mark Judkins, Bethesda High School, Warren, Michigan

Mention the "Ladder" to our players and we promise you a response we can't print. The objective of our off-season running program is to get our players in good enough shape to go to summer camp and let football get them in shape to play football.

Nothing prepares an athlete for the specific demands of his athletic event better than the game itself.

"Specificity of conditioning" is the technical term used to describe this physiological phenomenon. In order to develop the precise level of conditioning required to perform at game speed, the athlete must practice the exact skills used to play the game... at game speed.

This cannot be accomplished with poorly organized practices, less than game tempo effort, or with post-practice conditioning.

The conditioning program is simply a vehicle used to get athletes within striking distance of being in "game shape." Point: It's not the conditioning coach who readies the team to play a game or keeps them in shape during the season (although many of us try to take the credit when our team wins).

The team's game-day physical conditioning readiness is determined by the head coach, and the key lies in well-organized practices performed at game pace intensity.

It is difficult to create game-like conditions... but it has to be the goal. Whenever possible avoid conditioning after practice. More often than not, players will hold back during practice - saving themselves for the post-practice conditioning. Seldom will the post-practice effort be an all out effort. Demand an all-out effort during practice and reward your players by skipping post-practice conditioning.

The body has four systems that provide the energy required to perform all athletic events. Hundreds of running programs can be organized to develop each of these energy systems. All are effective if properly administered.

The key variable of any conditioning workout is the intensity (effort exerted). Any workout performed at a submaximal effort will produce a submaximal result. The practice must be performed at game-like tempo to almost produce the energy demands of a game. Rivalries, fans, referees, the band, cheerleaders, photographers, the press, college recruiters, etc., are difficult to recreate at practice.

The next most important variable of a conditioning workout is the amount of energy expended (how much exercise is performed). Recovery time between workouts is directly related to the amount of energy expended. Too much exercise and not enough recovery time can be more damaging than too little exercise and too much recovery time.

Some coaches take great pleasure in seeing their kids go home exhausted and return to the next practice or workout tired and fatigued. Exercise is supposed to make you feel better and perform better. Our philosophy is to expend as little energy as possible to generate the absolute best gains in fitness. Some coaches however, try and find out how much exercise their athletes can perform, until they can't recover. That's bad coaching!

If your athletes don't recover from one workout to the next (or from one practice to the next), you prescribed too much exercise, you didn't allow enough time between workouts, or, they aren't in good enough shape to adapt to the amount of exercise you exposed them to.

In our conditioning program we believe variety is essential. We have several interval treadmill and stationary bike workouts we use, and a variety of running workouts. You mentioned the Ladder. The Short Shuttle is another no nonsense workout we use. It is an intense change of direction workout. It is especially effective for athletes competing in events that require short bursts of energy similar to football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, field hockey, tennis, wrestling, and rugby.

Coaching Point:

Before any running workout, our players perform a series of warm-up activities to prepare them to run.

SHORT SHUTTLE:

Facilities needed: Can be performed inside or outside. Actual running area is 15 yards marked every 5 yards with lines or cones.

Time needed to administer: 9 minutes

Accumulative distance run: 600 yards

Distance of each interval: 30 yards

Number of running intervals: 2 sets of 10 reps

Intensity of each interval: maximum

Rest between intervals: 25 seconds

Rest interval between the first and second set: 3 minutes

ADMINISTRATION:

We perform each of our running workouts as a team. We divide our team by position into three groups. The number of groups you use will be determined by the amount of space available and the number of players running. You can adjust the amount of rest between intervals and between sets if your players need more recovery time.

Appropriate footwear must be worn if run indoors. A court shoe instead of a running shoe is needed. Grass shoes must be worn outdoors to prevent slipping. Do not use the Short Shuttle if the grass is wet! On a wet or damp surface the Ladder or 110's would be a safer alternative.

Interval 1: In the ready position with feet shoulder width apart (facing North) the athletes place their right foot on the line marked "B". We use the cadence "Down... Set... Go!". On Go!, athletes turn and run (5 yards East) and touch the line marked "C" with their foot.

The players immediately turn and run (10 yards West) and touch the line marked "A" with their foot.

The runners then turn and run (15 yards East) through the finish line marked "D". As soon as the first group crosses the line a stopwatch is started to time the 25 seconds rest.

Immediately after the first group finishes the 30 yard shuttle, our second group steps up to the line marked "B" and runs the 30 yard shuttle followed by our third group of players.

Coaching Points:

1. All three groups are now on the East side of the 15 yard running area. They started the first interval using the line marked "B" and finished using the line marked "D".

2. Rather than have the entire group walk back to the original starting line ("B"), we have them start the second interval using the line marked "C" and finish the second interval on the West side of the 15 yard running area at the line marked "A".

3. All odd numbered intervals will finish at the line marked "D" and all even numbered intervals will finish at the line marked "A".

Interval 2: In the ready position with feet shoulder width apart (facing North) the athletes place their left foot on the line marked "C". On Go!, athletes turn and run (5 yards West) and touch the line marked "B" with their foot.

Immediately they turn and run (10 yards East) and touch the line marked "D" with their foot.

The runners then turn and run (15 yards West) through the finish line marked "A". As soon as the first group crosses the line a stopwatch is started to time the 25 seconds rest.

Immediately after the first group finishes the 30 yard shuttle, our second group steps up to the line marked "C" and runs the 30 yard shuttle followed by our third group of players.

Intervals 3, 5, 7, 9: Mirror Interval 1

Intervals 4, 6, 8, and 10: Mirror Interval 2

Upon completion of the first set, rest three minutes, hydrate, and then run a second set using the same guidelines for the Intervals 1 through 10. After finishing the second set cool down and stretch.

Suggestions:

1. The first time your players run the short shuttle have them walk through Interval 1 & 2. This will help avoid any unnecessary collisions and prevent a player from running the wrong way.

3. To avoid turning an ankle stress touching the line with the foot facing forward (perpendicular to the line) and not sideways (parallel to the line).

Conclusion

The Short Shuttle is an intense workout if run all out. Your players may not be ready for two sets initially. Start with one set and gradually build up to two.

Remember, athletes are a coach's number one resource. Don't abuse it! Best of luck to all of you this coming season. May the "Power" be with you!

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO:

Dan Riley/Jason Arapoff, The Power Line c/o Washington Redskins 21300 Redskins Park Drive, Ashburn, VA 20147
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Author:Arapoff, Jason
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Words:1423
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