The Top 3 Articles, Programs & Answers of January 2014

Posted by Latif Thomas


I understand you may not have time to catch everything I post each month. And since I didn’t do a ‘Top 3’ for December, if you don’t follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook, you may have missed a number of thought provoking (and exclusive) blog entries I posted over the last couple month or so.

Below are ‘The Top 3 of January 2014′ for the following categories: 3 Most Popular Articles, 3 Most Popular Training Programs, 3 Best Q&A discussions.

Click on the title to visit the article page or program.


Top 3 Most Popular Articles (by total views)

Success is a mindset.

Success is a mindset.

#3: 10 Facts About Successful Coaches by Scott Christensen (Stillwater HS MN)

Why it ranked: We all want to be successful and know that emulating successful people can help us achieve our goals and vision. Coach Christensen’s article hits the nail on the head with the 10 staple beliefs/actions found in successful people in all disciplines.

#2: 3 Ways to Avoid Shin Splints by Latif Thomas (Bishop Feehan HS – MA)

Why it ranked: If you coach people who run (and especially if you’re condemned to concrete hallways all winter) you’re going to run into shin splint issues. If you don’t address them before they happen, you’ll have athletes on the shelf. This is how you head shin splints off at the pass.

#1: (Video) You’re Fired Friday: Volume 2 by Latif Thomas (Bishop Feehan HS – MA) 

Why it ranked: Articles and videos strictly about training topics get boring and sometimes we need to switch it up while still not having our time wasted. Also, people think these videos are funny and generally agree with me about the people and situations who need to be fired. If you disagree, well…


Top 3 Most Popular Coaching/Training Programs (by sales)

#3: Complete 100m Training by Marc Mangiacotti (Harvard University)

Why it ranked: Because everybody loves the 100m and every quality coach knows the faster you can run the 100m, the faster (generally speaking) you’ll be able to run the other sprint events. And if you can’t develop your 100m sprinters, I’m not sure you can call yourself a sprints coach.

#2:  Complete Middle Distance (800-1600m) Training by Scott Christensen (Stillwater HS – MN)

Why it ranked: Coaches love Scott’s information, as well as the fact that he’s also a high school coach who happens to be getting insane results. Couple that with the fact that the middle distance events are hyper competitive from the coaching and competitive viewpoint. With training models rapidly evolving in this event group, coaches don’t want to run outdated systems.

#1: Complete Speed Training Vol. 2 by Latif Thomas (Bishop Feehan HS – MA) 

Our Top Selling Program since 2010!

Our Top Selling Program since 2010!

Why it ranked: Not a week goes by where a coach doesn’t email me or tell me at a meet that they can’t believe the results they’ve gotten with their sprinters using CST2. Unfortunately, those results often come in the form of placing higher than some of my athletes. Coaches who use it love it and since I haven’t done any advertising for this program since August, word of mouth alone makes it our best seller for January.


Top 3 Q&A Discussions (in terms of topics I found interesting and/or relevant to the time of year) 

Note: I can’t really make a distinction between #3 and #1 so I’m posting them in alphabetical order. 

#3: From Boo Schexnayder’s ‘MultiEvent Training & Practice Organization’

Question: Thanks for putting out another great program.

I coach a girls high school team near Chicago and our season begins in mid-January. We normally have a field house to use until the weather is good enough to go outside, but this year we will not because our old one has been torn down (the new facility will not be ready for our indoor season).

Because of this our practices will occur in the hallways, weight room, and at another school’s indoor track.

We have access to our weight room 2 days per week for about an hour. Our facility allows for Olympic, static, and bodybuilding lifts. We will have access to the indoor track (160 yards) two times per week. We will be able to hurdle and use all field event areas as well.

For the hallways we have two separate locations. One has 30m straightaways and access to stairs (I’ll call Hallway A). The other has a few 60m straight aways (I’ll call Hallway B).

The location of our practices are as follows:

Monday: Hallway A
Tuesday: Hallway B, weight room
Wednesday: Practice at indoor facility
Thursday: Hallway B, weight room
Friday: Hallways A or B depending on the week
Saturday: Practice at indoor facility

I’m curious as to how you would arrange the neural, extensive, and general days with these restrictions and your rationale as to why.

Thanks for all you do for novice coaches like myself!

Answer from Boo:  To be clear to everyone this is not ideal, but I would have Neural days on Tuesday and Friday, Extensive days on Wednesday and Saturday, and General days on Monday and Thursday.

The problem is inability to lift on Friday. Friday access to the weight room rather than Thursday would be ideal. You could do accelerations in the hallways Tuesday and Friday, race specific stuff on Wednesday and Saturday (runways could come first).

#2: From Ron Grigg’s ‘Complete Program Design for 400/600/800m Runners’

Question: I have been experimenting with your wicket drill with my middle distance and distance crew during winter conditioning, and I have a few questions…

1) I notice that many of my kids simply cannot start the drill with any kind of quickness- they rock backwards from their start position, and their feet just move kind of slowly. Do you have any tips or cues to improve their standing start to help them both with the wicket drill and their race starts?

2) In determining spacing of the wickets, what is the most important factor, the athlete’s speed or how tall they are? Would a 5’8″ 51 second 400 boy and a 5’11″ 4:20 1600 kid be able to work on the same spacings? What about a REALLY slow 5’11″ boy who has poor mechanics (leans back, carries his arms almost straight and very low, and has very slow turnover as well as long ground contact times) vs. a much shorter but faster girl?

That’s all for now. I am really enjoying your program…and this gives me some great new things to think about with those middle kids, as well as myself, as a masters 400-800 runner.

Answer from Coach Grigg:  You are correct that initial acceleration is often the most “tricky” part for middle distance athletes who tend to lack power.

1. Learning to start, I ask them to bend at the hips and knees so their nose is almost to their knee. They should feel about 2/3 of their weight on front foot and 1/3 on the back foot. If they have the majority of the weight on the front foot, they shouldn’t rock back.

I ask them to envision pushing a car out of the snow or the mud. If they simply stood straight up and moved their legs real fast, the car wouldn’t move. But if they created a shin angle (lean) and pushed long on the ground the car would move. They have to learn that frequency is a product of velocity, freqency doesn’t develop velocity.

2. I think athlete’s speed and not height is the key factor. I know it is difficult with larger groups of varying abilities, as the wicket drill is a little labor intensive to set up. It will be pretty clear visually which spacings work for groups of athletes. If they are “slow” even if they are tall, they aren’t displacing their COM very far with each stride.

Don't be the coach of these hurdlers!

Don’t be the coach of these hurdlers!

#1:  From Tony Veney’s ‘Advanced Sprint Hurdle Development’

Question: I am trying to wrap my mind around the adapting to an increased stimulus and making it work for my 10-11 week season. I say 10-11 because the first week of track is also spring break and I am considering giving the kids the week off since many of them will be finishing up their winter sports. Anyways, if I put out 6-8 weeks of good training where I add a small percentage of new stimulus to each week, then they will be able to hang on to the fitness for 6-8 more weeks (through state), correct? WHat if I have an unloading week in the middle somewhere?

Also, how do you break down your times for each race? Is it blocks to first takeoff (first hurdle), takeoff to touchdown (rhythm), touchdown to takeoff (running), and touchdown to finsish (last hurdle)?

How often do you work hurdles in a typical week? 2-3 hard days, 1 easy day?

Last, with a 300 hurdler, what do you teach differently?

Answer from Tony: Normally you can hold your peak after developing the speed power flexibility coordination and hurdle technique. By continuing to change the stimulus (slightly) you force them to adapt to higher levels of performance. An unloading week every 3 weeks is a good idea so they can freshen up for the next cycle leading to the state meet. The weeks (2-4) leading up to the state meet are not as challenging since you want them to be hot for the meets (league prelims, league finals, regionals or district, and then state).

I either take splits at the meet or review them on video. The splits tell me where the race ran well and where they ran soft or poorly so I can build a model for practice. If hurdles 5-6-7 were soft I will run 2-4 reps over 8 hurdles (this is mid to late season) with hurdles 5-6-7 lower and close to force them to run with faster rhythm.

In high school if I have two meets then my hurdle days are mainly starts and technical since the meets give the speed endurance stuff under the gun and I can adjust from the results, one hard day on Monday and the rest is compete and recovery (drills).

For the 300 hurdler I don’t teach much out of the ordinary aside from:

1. The hurdle clearance is more deliberate and not as aggressive.

2. Steering workouts running a strong 4 steps into and 4 steps off the hurdle. This forces you to “SEE” the hurdle early and not decide which leg to use until you’re right on top of the hurdle. I hope this helps. Hit me up for more exchange of ideas.



That’s it for this month’s installment of ‘The Best of’.

Post your questions, comments and/or topic suggestions for my monthly ‘Three Things’ below.


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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