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Healthy Track & Field Practice

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There is no absolute blueprint for running a Track & Field practice session. Different coaches will have different philosophies and different ways of achieving their goals during practice. But the first goal of any practice regimen must be to keep your athletes healthy.

That means stretching and warming up before every practice session. A proper warm-up routine can help prevent muscle pulls and other injuries, while raising the body’s core temperature, which is necessary for peak performance. Your athletes should never skip their warm-ups, even prior to less-physically intense, technique-based sessions, if for nothing else, then to get in the habit of warming up properly.

Many of your practice sessions will be physically intense, whether they involve running, weight lifting or flexibility drills. Hard work is essential to success, but coaches must be sure not to overwork their athletes to the point where the risk of injury exceeds the benefits gained by the workout. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and ease up on the workout. Far better for an athlete to be 100 percent healthy and 80 percent in shape, than vice versa. Because an athlete who is 80 percent healthy can’t compete effectively, even if he or she is in perfect aerobic condition.

Likewise, when planning a series of practice sessions, it’s a good idea to alternate a physically demanding session one day with a less intense workout the next, to avoid overworking and possibly injuring your athletes.

Injuries occur for a variety of reasons. Many are unpreventable accidents. But others are caused by a failure to warm up properly, overwork, or athletes’ lack of knowledge about what they’re doing. Being certain your athletes understand how to perform their drills correctly is another key aspect of proper preparation.

Finally, be sure to schedule cool-down time at the end of every practice. Don’t be tempted to run an extra drill at the expense of a cool-down, or your well-drilled athletes may turn up at the next practice with a sore back or a pulled muscle.

Athletes must practice in order to improve. But they won’t improve if they’re not healthy enough to practice.

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