A Real Life Example of Over Conditioning

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Athletes, in practice or training, have lost the knowledge of what is conditioning versus speed.

A lot of these young kids are playing sports year round (hopefully multiple) and this means a lot of practice. Sport practices usually include some kind of poorly placed suicide or something along those lines.

Coaches who want their team to run faster, make them run more and never see a benefit.

When we are training for speed, the most important quality is the intent to run fast.

If the athlete is not trying to run fast or hard then there is no way that they can regardless of technique or force production.

This came to light earlier in the week when I was doing some preseason training for a group of athletes.

The drill was 50 yard sprints (25 yards out and back). This will typically take high school athletes 7-9 seconds. The recovery time was 30-45 depending on how they were doing. We were doing a total of 6 reps.

I explained that the purpose of this drill is to run really fast and take a relatively long rest period. This was not like running a 300 yard shuttle which they had done previously. This is for speed, not conditioning.

The results? The fastest jog was about 11 seconds. When I said “go” you would have thought that we were starting the Boston Marathon with the pace they were setting. They were also ready for the next one in about 5 seconds.

I tried to remind them that the goal was of this was to sprint hard and use the whole rest period. You should want to rest for the whole 30 seconds and not be ready for another so quickly.

This didn’t change anything.

Trying to break the mentality that speed training is not conditioning is insanely hard. Athletes have been run into the ground so much that they are always trying to put in just enough effort to not puke at the end of the drill.

This kills the effectiveness of the practices and training. As a result they don’t know what it means to do something other than conditioning.

If athletes are never encouraged to get into their top end of speed, then getting faster is going to be difficult.

Coaches that want to have a fast team are shooting themselves in the foot by using the wrong strategy.

Constantly running suicides, gassers, or long distances promotes slow efforts. The athletes will get into a pace and maintain that pace to get through the drill. I cannot blame them because that is how to survive these drills.


Instead we need more drills like pure 20 yard sprints, sprinting after a loose ball, or partner chases. Sometimes giving the person a reason to run as hard as they can sort of “tricks” them into developing speed.

I usually like the partner chases a lot because they usually bring the best out of the athletes. When I used it with this group no one wanted to try to catch their friend because they were afraid of a penalty that I never created. They were worried that more sprints or pushups would be involved for catching the other person.

This is intertwined with the conditioning idea that a punishment is in order every time something doesn’t go as planned. Sprints weren’t fast enough? 30 burpees to see if they will be fast enough now. This does not make any sense.

The solution is to get the athletes to sprint really hard and then wait a while before repeating this. They may start fidgeting around with the long rest period but this is not conditioning.

Fast athletes are developed by sprinting fast.

For the group I was talking about above, the approach I am going to take is to make the work individual. Getting them out of the group may allow each of them to work a little bit harder.

The social influence to stay with the group is puzzling, but real.

The plan is to tell them that I am testing their 20 yard dash. This should allow them to sprint fast without the influence of the group. I may or may not record the times and use the numbers accordingly.

Athletes like to see their performance improve and seeing the time drop might be just what I need to get them to sprint fast.