A Secret Weapon for Off-Season Training

Often, we see high school coaches and athletes get so caught up during the off-season with such a motivation and desire for intensity that they neglect proper scheduling, recovery, and injury prevention. Training with intensity is great, but we must have purpose and planning or we will never see true progress.

Enter the Active Recovery workout. Such a session is designed to offer coaches and athletes a viable training option that feeds the need to train religiously, while simultaneously allowing for growth and recovery from previous training sessions and preparing them for the next one.

Though an active recovery session is meant to be easy-going and casual to a degree, we still want to structure it in order to guarantee efficiency as well as efficacy. This will make sure your athletes buy in to the idea, so we can see real benefits and don’t waste our time!

Aerobic Conditioning Warm Up

To begin the session, we aim to increase heart rate, total body blood flow, and overall body temperature. We are looking for a low impact activity that can performed at low to moderate intensity for a continuous 10 to 20 minutes

We often prescribe one of the traditional “monostructural” movements or activities: running, walking, biking, rowing, swimming, etc. These are both easily completed in a gym facility and easily monitored for time and pace. That being said, you could just as easily spend 15 minutes kicking a soccer ball around or playing a lighthearted game of knockout on the basketball court.

Dynamic Movement Progression

Following our basic aerobic warm up, we move to more specific, athletic movement patterns. We are looking to continue the warm up while simultaneously improving balance, coordination and flexibility about specific joints. This could be as simple as continuous line drills (walking knee hugs, lunges, Sl RDLs,) or it could be a creative progression of dynamic mobility drills such as the following:

  • PVC Trunk Twists, Pass Throughs, Around the Worlds (30 Seconds Each)
  • Leg Swings forward and back, side to side (10 each)
  • Good Mornings (1 minute)
  • Alternating Spiderman & Reach (1 Minute)
  • Bootstrappers (1 Minute)

Mobility Progressions & Foam Rolling

With intense training or competition comes the continual battle against injury. Active recovery days are the perfect time to incorporate mobility work designed to increase flexibility, correct movement, and ultimately stave off potential injury. A good progression will work both on areas that have been worked hard recently to enhance recovery, and areas to be worked in the near future as movement prep.

Here is an example routine that could be used between a heavy press day and heavy squat day:

  • Lower Body Foam Roll
  • Banded Hip & Ankle Mobility w/ Air Squats
  • Perform 10 Seconds of Slow Air Squats
  • 30 Seconds each of banded hip and ankle hold on the right leg
  • 10 Seconds Slow Air Squats
  • 30 Seconds each of banded hip and ankle hold on the left leg
  • 10 Seconds Slow Air Squats
  • Lat Mash: BB, KB or foam roller for 30 seconds each side
  • Child’s Pose: 1 Full Minute
  • Twisted Cross Stretch: 30 Seconds each side
  • Squat Therapy: 3 sets of 5 reps

Skill Work or Additional Full-Body Conditioning (Optional)

For the hungriest of athletes, those that need to feel completely involved in the “work/training” aspect of a recovery day, we can add an element of skill development or “conditioning”.

First, we can allow athletes to work something they aren’t proficient at yet. That could be spending 5 minutes on their jump rope technique, or it could be empty barbell work to improve their clean (maybe the clean drill we talked about here).

If that doesn’t satiate them, we could enhance our dynamic movement by dressing it up as additional conditioning. You can even substitute this for the original aerobic warm-up if done correctly. Low-intensity metcons built with bodyweight movements are a great choice. We can work up a sweat, improve capacity, while still repairing the CNS and allowing joints to decompress after heavy training days. Here’s an easy example:

5 Rounds, NOT for time:
20 Cal Bike
15 Slow, Perfect Air Squats
10 Push Ups (Scaled Appropriately)
5 High-Bar (Easy Pull) Inverted Rows

Static Stretching and Cool Down

End the session with a cool-down of casual walking, static stretching, or even meditation. In team settings, a band or partner stretch protocol is a great option. We are looking to end the workout feeling refreshed both physically and mentally.

Add these structured active recovery days into your formal training schedule and your athletes will be better motivated and prepared for your intense training sessions! 


3 Myths of Training Track Athletes

More so than almost any other sport at the high school level, Track and Field has the greatest expectation of specialization in it’s training. Many coaches we speak to believe their athletes require a different program from any other sport, and different programs within that for sprinters, throwers, distance runners, etc. We love that coaches are invested in their athletes’ success, but we believe it requires a shift in mentality.

Not only should all of your track athletes be engaged in a comprehensive weight training program – they should all be engaged in the SAME one! I know what most of you are thinking – “But why would my sprinter’s do the same workout as my distance athletes?”

To answer, let’s take a look at the 3 most common myths in the track and field world with regards to training.

Myth 1 – Distance Athletes Shouldn’t Train Strength for Fear of Bulking Up

When it comes to the concept of bulking up, or extreme muscle hypertrophy, the simple truth is that weight training alone will not add tons of weight to just any athlete. First, it requires very specific training protocols which include the absence of heavy aerobic conditioning and caloric expenditure (aka everything a distance athlete does on a regular basis already). It also takes very proactive nutrition and particular human biochemistry (genetics play a big role) for any athlete to attain significant muscle mass (or hypertrophy) gains. Beyond this misconception, it’s actually long been established that endurance athletes of all kinds benefit greatly from the benefits of strength training. We will refer you to a great article by Charles Poliquin, one of the foremost leaders in exercise science, that provides a scientific argument for the many benefits that athletes like your distance and cross country runners can benefit from by performing a well-rounded strength program in addition to their running.

Why Runners Should Include Weight Training

Myth 2 – Sprinters, Throwers, and Distance Athletes Should All Train Differently

As for your other track athletes – throwers, jumpers, sprinters, and mid-distance alike can all benefit from a comprehensive training program. Working strength/power with the hang clean or front squat, for example, makes both a linebacker and long-jumper more powerful, it adds kick to a Mile’r, and adds quickness in a sprinter or volleyball player by improving speed of force production. Each athlete will also benefit from developing full-body proprioception and movement economy through mobility and range of motion work like the PVC Overhead Squat (the improvement on ankle range of motion alone is worth it for any athlete or runner). Your shot-putter will thank you for shoulder injury prevention work, just as a baseball player would. Threshold training through competitive Metcon sessions will help your 4×400 team just as much as it will your field athletes who need repeated max-effort performances. It will also improve mental toughness across the board. There are a TON of constants throughout the performance world when it comes to athletic training.

Myth 3 – Track Athletes are Highly Specialized

We understand – it’s easy to attribute a high degree of specialization to your track athletes because their field of competition is so narrow. Watching a sprinter compete in the 100m dash looks much different than a distance runner competing in the 3k, or a shot-putter going for max distance on his or her toss. While we would argue that the training that can make these athletes successful is universal, it’s not the biggest reason to approach training with a holistic mindset.

Far more important is an understanding of who, exactly we are training. As high school coaches, we all want the same thing. We want to develop more dynamic athletes and better teams. But, training high school athletes is a highly unique endeavor. We tend to forget that, when it comes to performance training, the athletes in question are just plain young and inexperienced. For the overwhelming majority of your athletes, their high school years will be the first time ever involved in an athletic strength and conditioning program. High school students lack a solid foundation of functional fitness on which to specialize. Most can barely squat or perform a deadlift properly, let alone do so with heavy weight or in any fancy variation. It is absolutely imperative these athletes are all given a comprehensive program that works to build a complete athlete from the ground up. We owe it to them as young athletes, as well as young adults who need to go on living healthy lives long after they finish our sport.

Beyond that, high school athletes are NOT specialists. Besides a lack of experience, our athletes have immensely varied physical demands. As track coaches, basketball coaches, lax coaches, etc…it’s easy to forget that your athletes exist beyond and outside of your sport. An overwhelming majority, though, of high school athletes compete in multiple sports (as they should!). If we have an athlete that plays 2 or 3 different sports throughout the year, how do we justify them specializing in their training at any point? Juggling various programs with differing physical goals simply leads to a lack of overall progress. Worse than hindering progress, we can inadvertently lead to an increased incidence of injury. By definition, “specializing” in something must come at the expense of something else. What results, is a guaranteed imbalance. Imbalances are often the root cause of injury. You cannot be specialized and well-rounded at the same time, that’s not how exercise adaptation works.

Here at PLT4M, we answer these considerations by employing a holistic approach to athletic development. We believe in training the multi-sport athlete year-round as opposed to utilizing sport specific programs. Our belief is that we can, with one well-built and well-run program, build better overall athletes in the gym, which coaches can then turn into better players on the field of competition. Such a consistent and progressive program that continually develops an all-around athlete throughout his or her career can better serve everyone involved. The athlete is committed and engaged year-round, and all coaches receive a developed athlete to turn into the best player they can. All parties involved have thus unified in an effort to achieve success.