Track & Field is one of the oldest sports that we have; it’s been around since ancient times. The sport was established on the skills of running, jumping, and throwing. Track & field also include road running, cross country running, and race walking. Most track & field events are individual sports. And they only have a single victor; the most prominent team events are relay races, which typically are teams of four. If there are too many people to run a race, there will be preliminary heats; these will be run to narrow down the field of participants.
Here are some tips and tricks that I can offer you from my experience at The University of Michigan that will help you improve, and set you up for success for playing at the collegiate level.
Tip 1: The little things mean a lot.
Ask yourself, “what sets me apart from my competitor?” That answer is easy, it’s pure grit and motivation and going above and beyond. You have to motivate yourself every day to do more than the next athlete. It’s the little things that some athletes don’t think to incorporate into their everyday life. Some examples are wake up early to get your run in before the heat, rolling out before and after workouts, go to the trainers for treatment even when you’re not hurt (preventative training), work on some physical therapy even when your not hurt (injury prevention). Try cross-training because it helps to work different muscle groups, yoga because elongates the muscles and relaxes the body, eating a well-balanced diet (fruits, vegetables, meat, and grains). We all know that hydrating the body by drinking an average of eight to ten 8oz. fluid glasses of water throughout the day is critical, but not everyone does it. Be smart and hydrate. And of course, it goes without saying get at least eight hours of sleep a night.
Tip 2: Train with a purpose.
My Michigan coach always says, “Ladies, drill with a purpose!” Most teams have a stretching and an active drill routine before each run and race. Please remember that this is not social time, it’s not a time to chit-chat or to catch up on things. When you are a D1 athlete, every training moment counts so It is so important to make sure you’re training your body and to target the muscle groups that are going to help you win the race. Get to practice on time and focus on your drills. You can mentally prepare by paying attention to your coaches, listen to what they are telling you to do, and then apply it to your training.
Tip 3: Work with your teammates.
Track & Field is just like every other sport, the athletes are very competitive when they compete, but they are also competing against one another. The best times win. This can be a good thing because this will push you to train and compete at your best. But it is also vital to work with your teammates and not against them. If you were to work against them, then the coaches will recognize that right off the bat, and if that happens, then you will not have happy coaches. In the end, you all have similar goals, so help each other achieve them, if you do this then your team will be stronger because of it. Track is mental like most sports, do not compare your self to other athletes, do not try to be like other athletes, focus on yourself, and know what works best for you.
Tip 4: Sleeping is your drug.
A D1 athlete’s life is hectic, it’s the nature of the beast. It is critical to try get at least eight hours of sleep at night and maybe a power nap during the day. A few benefits of getting a good night’s rest is you get sick less often; you will maintain a healthy weight. You also lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease. The good news is you will also reduce stress and improve your mood. One of the most significant benefits is that you will think more clearly and do better in school. Sleep should not be overlooked as it is crucial for an athlete, and it can be all the difference between winning and losing.
Tip 5: Visualize because it works.
Your mental game is just as important as your physical game. You know how far you can push yourself and having the mental capacity to envision a win is critical. If you mentally can see yourself crossing that line or jumping the distance you need to win then you will succeed. Before a meet/race get into a mental state as to where you can see yourself winning. Picture yourself at the takeoff, running and crossing the line, etc. You can practice mental visualizing before your daily practices and workout sessions. Your workout sessions might seem like a chore in your mind at first but imagine them as being tough, fun but necessary. Imagine the feeling after you complete your workouts; you will feel stronger, faster, and healthier. There is no better feeling than that. You can talk yourself into anything especially on how great you are going to feel during your workout, and by the time you get to the locker room to change, you will have the confidence to take on anything. This way of thinking will become natural, and then you will see a difference in your performance.
Tip 6: Positive thinking is the only way.
It is never a good feeling to walk away from something saying “I wish I didn’t do this” or “I could have done better.” Here is my secret formula, ready for it? Do not dwell over things that you can not change. You should be walking away from the track knowing you competed to the best of your ability. Let’s just say things did not go as you planned, figure out what you need to work on for the next time. You should walk away from the meet saying, “Next time I am going to …..” or “I want to work on _______ for my next race.” The key here is to work hard, be positive, think like a team player, help yourself and your teammates but more importantly have fun.
I know these tips will help you be the best athlete that you can be. Start them today, and you will see a significant improvement. And who knows I might see you at the University of Michigan track one day!
* Originally published on November 20, 2018, by Kathryn House