Preseason Conditioning for Track & Field: Ten Tips

The outdoor track season may be months away, but that doesn't mean that you can't get a jump-start on the competition. If you really plan on excelling in the sport, you'll need to push yourself during the crucial months leading up to the start of the season. Cross country runners know the importance of building a base during the summer months—the same can be said for the winter season and track and field athletes.

The work that you put in now will pay off when it really counts—during the season. Besides the obvious benefit of being in great shape when the season starts, you will also avoid annoying problems like shin splints and sore muscles that are caused when you suddenly transform yourself overnight from a coach potato into competitive high school track athlete.

If you gradually build up your level of fitness over several months, you will be feeling great when your coach starts putting you through the paces at the beginning of the season. The conditioning level will carry you through your season and hopefully on into the championship phase of the season.

Here are ten tips that will help you get an edge on the competition this off-season:

Communicate with your Coach

Remember that a good athlete-coach relationship starts with communication. Talk to your high school coach about off-season conditioning. They most likely have a conditioning program that they would like you to follow or can tailor one to fit your needs. If they don't have a plan for you—simply ask for some guidance.

Are you ready to start?
If you're a two-sport athlete and just finished your season, you might benefit from some time off. A good rule of thumb is to take two or three weeks completely off after your season is over. This will give your mind and your body and much needed break—and you'll be fired up to get start training for track season.

Training Partner
Find another teammate that is as motivated as you are. Skill level is not as important as having someone to push you through those cold and windy days and those long sessions in the weight room. Besides, you'll have a lot more fun working out with a friend.

Set Goals
Your sport is obviously important to you, or you wouldn't be willing to spend all of this extra time in the off-season. Set both short and long-term goals. An example of a short-term goal might be practicing for an hour five times a week. Your long-term goal may be placing in the conference track meet in May. Writing your goals down will help to keep you motivated and give your training meaning.

Start Gradually
Don't try to win the state meet in the first week of conditioning. Remember that training is a gradual process. Your body needs time to adapt to changes in intensity. If you have been sitting in front of the television for two months, you may not want to attempt your favorite ten-miler in the first week. For runners, it is a good idea to increase your training mileage by no more than 10% a week.

Eat Smart
If you are going to put all this time in training, make sure you are putting the right things into your body. You should be eating a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Don't get obsessive about this, but you know the difference between a Big Mac and a granola bar.

Take Rest Days
You can get in great shape without having to workout everyday. Your coach will take care of daily workouts when the season starts. Start working out every other day, and build up to five or six days a week. However, it is important both physically and mentally to take a day or two off each week.

If you have always wanted to try an activity that you feel will give you a good workout, now is the time to do it. Whether it's cross training, swimming or playing hoops—give it a try. You' won't have the luxury of choosing when the season starts.

Work On Weaknesses
The things that you dislike doing the most are probably the things that you need to be doing the most. If box jumps will increase your vertical jump and get you over high jump bar-make sure you spend some time focusing on that area. Maybe it's just overall strength, and you hate the weight room. Try to push yourself to work on these areas that you like to avoid.

Have Fun
Most important tip of all—have fun! You only have four years of high school track, so work hard and try to get the most out of the experience.