Answers to popular training questions (March ’13)

Posted by Latif Thomas

I spend a lot of time answering training questions. In fact, I’ve been answering training questions since first going ‘online’ in 2004. I’ve noticed a pattern in the types of questions I get. So today Here are answers to a couple that I see on a regular basis…

Question #1: Latif, I could use your help on the placing of my athletes in events.

Since I have started coaching, I have always been a bit lost when it comes to insuring that I do not place an athlete in certain events that will cause them to have less success.

It is easy to look at my best athlete and want to place them in the 4×100, 100, 200, and the 400. This athlete is our best short sprinter, but is also a top 4, 400m athlete. Should I ignore the fact that he is one of our top 4 and keep him focused on short sprints?

My girls are a smaller bunch, and I run into similar problems. My top 400m girls are needed for the 4×400, and 2 of them are the fastest in the 4x100m.

I guess my real question is, would it make more sense to use my best athletes in all the top positions, or would it be better to have them focus on particular areas, 4×400 + 400, and keep our 4×100, limited to the 100m and 200m events.

Where have you found success? How many athletes do you have competing in sprint events across the board, 100m, 200m, 400m?

My Answer:

Sometimes we over think the process, especially when we coach small teams or have a small number of talented kids. Historically, my best 400m runner  has also been my best 100m runner. (*Cough*, speed reserve, *cough*) However, most of my sprinters run from 100-400 depending on time of year, stage of development, need, etc.

But, there are no perfect answers.

My suggestion is to decide what’s important to you and focus training on that. For example, we’re in a, um, not very competitive league, so I don’t have to worry about winning dual meets. I can use them as speed/special endurance, race modeling, development, etc. My focus is on having our best performances at our Division Championship and State Championship. So, once I identify which event/s athletes will most likely compete in at those meets, I train them primarily for those events. That said, my ‘short sprinters’ and ‘long sprinters’ do most of the same work. The main difference is that the long sprinters do more volume on tempo days and do more Special Endurance runs when we can squeeze them in around dual meets.

Last spring my best 400 runner was also my best 100 runner on both the boys and girls side. They both ran 400/4×4 at the State Meet. So I trained them all season as 400m runners.

For what it’s worth, the boy won and the girl placed 3rd. So, for that particular season at least, the strategy worked.


Question #2: I am the only coach for my small (20-25) girls team, so as you may have done in the past with your coaching experience, I am trying to be everywhere all the time.

When doing field events do you do full workouts of both every day or do you switch workouts so one day is more running than field and another day is more field than running?  Is it too much of a workload to be doing a running workout and a field event workout on the same day?  Many of my girls are good at a field and running event so I do not want to neglect either training.  I know some of the training will overlap and I have used several ideas from Boo Schexnayder and his information on multi-event training, but I thought I would ask you also.  Any information would be helpful, thank you again.


My Answer: The ‘Boo-ologist’ in me (a term I stole from LSU’s Todd Lane) filters everything through a ‘commonalities’ approach to training, so that is how I design my programming, particularly as I am in responsible for sprints, hurdles and jumps. Truth is that you can’t be everywhere at once and you just need to make peace with that. Kids are going to have to be on their own working through things and that’s just how it is.

But, with field events we do full workouts of both if that is what the energy system demands or theme of the day requires. Kids who do multiple events just have to do a little bit of several things. I often remind them that the world’s best decathlete isn’t the best in the world at any one event because they don’t focus on any one thing. They are specialists at being generalists.

At the same time, all training is interdependent so, for example, when you’re hurdling, every time you go over a hurdle that cut step that becomes the trail leg is very similar to the triple jump take off. Long jump is just 3rd phase of triple. High jump posture and TJ posture are similar. Starts are starts regardless of event.

If I have kids who triple and high jump do all triple ump today and all high jump tomorrow, the entire schedule gets thrown off, the training is no longer compatible and complimentary so they over train and they miss important work, whether it is ‘quality’ work or recovery work.

The Art of Coaching is prescribing appropriate loads of biomotor work that develops skill in all event groups and then partitioning out pieces of the event specific training for kids competing in multiple events so they don’t do too much volume. Or too little.

If you’re dealing with everything on your own, I highly recommend considering the following resources:

1. Boo’s ‘Training Inventory’ DVD (Exercises for Sports Performance Training’

My list of exercises for various parts of practice come almost entirely from my CST2 program and this DVD. But, converting over much of my inventory has saved me so much planning time it’s ridiculous.

(Click here to see lists of all the circuits and routines.)

Once you look at that DVD you will never again wonder what to do for, say, multijump progressions. Because, real talk, we all question our plyos selection, don’t we?


2. Boo’s ‘Planning Training for the Jumps’ program

Whenever I’m not quite sure what to do for a particular practice (or even microcycle), I use this as a guideline to keep me ‘coloring between the lines’, so to speak. It is extremely helpful. Plus you can post your questions for Boo and he will always give you a thoughtful answer.


I’m happy to answer your questions if you post them below. All I ask is that you keep them related to the topics in this particular post.


By the way – Registration is open for the 2013 Complete Track & Field Summer Clinic!


Latif Thomas - Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic at Harvard University, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics across the country, Latif has true passion for the sport and it definitely shows. Over the past 19 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All-State, and New England Champions in sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he can count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter.

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