Master coach Dick Taylor recently talked with Telstar Middle School track runners about their shin splints, strains or jams. In Dick's talking points below, he explains their experience to them in light of their mysterious and often chaotic phases of growth. Says Dick, "I was also trying to teach them how to avoid some of those shocks by more accurately understanding how their bodies create the best movement."
Body change sequences when kids start growing:
Bones grow (lengthen) first, extending your levers.
Muscles follow, lagging behind a little, so for a while they’re stretched extra by the bones they’re hitched to. They’ll feel less flexible because of that. Easy running and gentle stretching help them out.
Ligaments and tendons are last in line to grow. They’re the cushions and finer spring works around the joints where the muscles also attach.
The extra leverage possible with greater limb length can produce greater force and speed of movement, but it’s too soon to attempt it. The muscles, ligaments and tendons are too tender for full speed or length. Things can too easily be shocked or jammed, running too hard or jumping.
So how do you approach running as fast as you’d like? Focus on technique – the big circle underneath your hip joints – springing up from your toes, feathery, as your knees lift nicely. You may be oddly upright doing this, and tall, as if looking down from the shed roof, barely connecting with the ground, just brushing the ground passing beneath you.
But just focusing on the springy movement creates its own speed, without your having to press for it, and allows the leg/foot springs to cushion each landing. Relying on the natural “let go” and avoiding any jamming or shock to muscles and joints. It’s how you maintain your own growth and steady progress, the way your body likes best to move.
And there will always be up’s and down’s. Expect both, discover both, both have useful information for you. Be patient, love the details.
Coaches, here’s an instructive story about American Pharoah’s development into a Triple Crown winner. (New York Times, April 18, 2016), “An Early Glimpse of Magic.”
I’ll quote just a couple of things.
“The first time the McKathan brothers let the colt sample what an open gallop felt like, it was at once breathtaking and terrifying. He burst into a stride that had him skipping over the ground like a hovercraft. He went way too fast and way too far. When the rider finally pulled him up, J.B. McKathan told him, ‘If you let that horse run again, I’m going to break your arm’….. the brothers did everything in their power not to tax the colt. He was still growing, still getting fit, and they were afraid he would get hurt…..None of his riders were allowed to use a whip on him….”
Some of the best training books I’ve read are about working with horses, million dollar horses, which is what our youngsters are.