Whether your high school track season is just beginning, is already in full swing, or is still months away, if your goal is to PR this season then you need to start focusing on certain areas of your life starting today.
There are 4 important pieces to success, and 3 of those 4 are done outside of track practice. Here they are in order of importance from most to least important:
- Proper sleep/sleeping schedule.
- Proper hydration.
- Proper nutrition.
- The right kind of training/training intensity.
There are other small factors that can help you get a better time, but if the above four aren’t taken care of, then running a PR is going to be hard.
Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is incredibly important for every athlete, but it is often overlooked by coaches and athletes.
DO NOT ignore the benefits of proper sleep!
It is recommended for teens to sleep 8 to 10 hours per night, but for athletes who train hard every day that number should be between 9 to 10 hours per night, if not more.
There have been studies at Stanford and other colleges that say that tennis athletes who changed their sleeping schedule to 10 hours per night for five weeks ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots. If you want to know more, you can read the article here.
This also makes sense logically. Your body recovers and makes your muscles stronger during sleep, so if you’re not getting enough sleep your muscles don’t have time to recover and you perform worse.
I understand that sleeping even 9 hours as a high-schooler is incredibly difficult because most schools start at around 7:45-8 which means you have to get up at 6:30-7. To get enough sleep you’d have to go to bed at 9:30 if not earlier, and with track practice, other extracurriculars, and homework it might seem nearly impossible to go to bed that early.
Here are some tips for managing your busy schedule and getting the most out of your body:
- Go to bed early on Friday and continue on Saturday and Sunday as you don’t have to stay up late to do homework on those days.
- When you’re at school on Monday, do as much homework as you can during class and lunch. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done if you ignore the teacher when they’re not teaching and work ahead. You might also have to put on your headphones and ignore your friends who are messing around, but just think about how amazing it will feel to PR and go to States!
- After getting home and snacking after track practice, start doing your remaining homework right away.
- Once your homework is finished you can work on other things you’re interested in, but your top priority should be going to sleep before 9:30.
- If you can’t finish all of your homework before 9:30, finish it in class the next day.
The simplest way to check if you’re hydrated is to check the color of your urine.
If it’s consistently clear or light yellow then you’re staying well-hydrated, but if it’s not, then you need to drink more water throughout the day.
Sports drinks are not necessary and they often contain too much useless sugar, but if you must drink it, do it after a hard, sweaty workout, and not before one. I’d recommend not drinking them at all, but whether you do or not is up to you.
You can check out this article if you’d like to learn more about proper hydration.
As an athlete you might have to give up bad foods and snacks for more healthy alternatives. You’ll never improve your times if you are sick during track season.
If your body was a fireplace, to get the brightest burning fire you would put in the nice, dry logs and not the damp, nasty ones because it would take more energy for them to start burning.
The same principle applies here. Your body is better at converting healthier food into energy than it is at converting McDonalds and other crap into energy.
This will also help you feel better later on in life, and it will help your face clear up if you have acne so it’s a win win! And don’t try running on an empty stomach. It just doesn’t help much at all, and can do much more harm.
This should go without saying, but you should listen to your coaches and take all workouts seriously.
If it’s a tempo run make sure you’re doing the fastest pace you can sustain for the certain mileage. If it’s an interval workout, make sure you’re hitting the proper times. If it’s a maintenance day make sure that your muscles are nice and stretched out and that you feel good after the workout.
For sprinters this should go without saying, but every sprint should be all out. Push yourself to be better!
There are some other tips that can help you get a better time also.
- Make sure you’re using the best track spikes. (Sprinters, or Middle Distance)
- Make sure you have a strategy for every event you run unless it’s a 100m dash. Ask your coach about it if you don’t know what I mean by this.
- Foam roll your muscles and stretch after every workout to speed up the recovery time.
- Make sure you have the proper joint mobility and enough coordination so your form doesn’t break down too much at the end of races.
- Breaking records starts in the off season. Get a good winter training program for middle distance runners or for sprinters.
- Check out some of these web sites for track and field athletes.