By Lyndon George — STA Track-and-Field Coach, CANI Athletics founder
The key to speed is to take it slow.
That idea may seem contradictory, but for young athletes looking to increase their speed and agility, patience is crucial.
Our society is always in a hurry – we need to get to work or school, we’ve got to know the answer to every burning question immediately on our phone, or you want that gold medal right now.
The biggest danger with that mentality in athletes is the potential for injury. Injuries of course set you back even farther, and the down time can lead to lost confidence and motivation. It can become a vicious circle.
When coaches work with developing athletes, it’s important not to over-stress any of their systems. The human body is a wonderful machine, but it can break down.
Properly sequenced workouts is one piece to injury prevention. If you’re fatigued from a workout, don’t follow it up the next day with a workout that’s equally as intense.
While it may be possible to push through smaller injuries, something like shin splints can be a red flag that your ligaments or muscles are still developing, so you may want to back off a little bit.
Build on the basics
Another key is to avoid taking shortcuts. Don’t start lifting heavy weights if you don’t first have a solid training foundation.
An athlete may look strong from lifting, but you need to have proper core strength and supporting muscles to keep training at a high level over the long haul. Experience in a variety of sports is helpful.
I often give my athletes exercises where they use their own bodyweight as resistance. You might be surprised how strong you can get that way.
Attention to detail
When it comes to being speedy, agility is essential. Some people may look fast, but their kinesthetic awareness may not be great, or their coordination may be awkward.
For example, a football player has to be able to move laterally, backwards, and forwards – quickly and fluidly.
Working on mechanics with a dedicated sprints coach can be beneficial. Exercises for hip mobility, lower leg strength and jumps may be overlooked without an experienced eye there to guide you.
There is so much information out there now on how to get strong, but taking a workout plan from the web can be a slippery slope. One of my favourite sayings is: “If you want to go some place fast, you go alone. But if you want to go some place far, you go together.”
A rock solid coach-athlete relationship is critical to long-term progress. Small regular training groups (5-8 athletes ideally) allow you to accomplish more. That provides increased individual attention and assessment, and allows you to develop good communication and a close relationship with your coach.
A coach needs to listen when you say you’re sore or tired and be able to adjust on the fly. You need to be comfortable talking to your coach about life away from sport, because mental strength is essential to athletic performance as well.
And lastly, remember: High-level training is hard work, but you always need to have fun and enjoy it. A happy and healthy athlete is my first goal as a coach.
So take your time. Don’t rush the process. Build slowly. Be patient.
And go slow – because in time, your speed will show.
About Lyndon George:
Lyndon George competed in the 1987 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Rome and was a member of the 1996 Olympic Team for his native St. Lucia.
He placed 2nd in the 400m at the 1997 Canadian National Championships, and his records still stand today from his time at Syracuse University, where he earned an Economics degree. Lyndon later completed a Master of Science in Education from Mercy College in New York and became Head Coach of the City College of New York (2004-2007). His teams placed in the top-4 of the NCAA Championships 4 times, and were 2nd twice.
He was named CUNYC Conference Coach of the Year 3 times. In all, Lyndon helped cultivate 60+ All-Americans, 12 NCAA Champions and 2 Olympians.
Since returning to Ottawa and founding CANI Athletics, he’s guided local athletes to many National medals, championships and National teams.
To join Lyndon George’s tribe, visit thesportstrainingacademy.com.