Helping an teenager to increase speed

My 14 year old son loves his field sports but he's getting really down about his lack of speed over short distances. He's not overweight, has good hand-eye coordination and much longer legs than me. Unfortunately, he can't seem to move them faster than a slowish lope... he appears to want to run faster, but isn't sure how. This has been a long term problem for him and he's starting to feel relatively inadequate when compared to other kids - so far he's been relying on some good specific skills but he realises he could do so much more if he could just learn to sprint and make a better contribution to his team's performances. I think he has some kind of mental block about it - like his body just doesn't know how to flip into the anaerobic zone. His aerobic levels seem OK - he can run for 5+ miles at a jog pace and seems to have reasonable core strength/fitness. Anyone come across this problem before and have a way ahead for him? Advice much appreciated.


  • Things we do at our club:
    lay out a rope ladder on the floor and make the kids step between each rung - by having two ladders side by side, it makes it a race. Alternative to rope ladder would be to chalk small square in a line on the road/path. Makes the youngsters take many smaller steps, on their toes, fairly fast so that they don't lose their balance. After going up and down the ladder (i think it has about 20 rungs) a few times, they do 50 yard sprints with the coach or a senior athlete running behind them shouting: 'move, move, move'. As the senior is (a) much bigger than them and (b) faster so he is very close behind, it really makes the kids move. They all have a laugh at the end as the seniors invariably trip up and go flying trying to avoid falling over the kids.
    Also: they use a belt with an old car tyre fastened to it on a 15 foot rope. They have to run up and down the car park towing the tyre. When the belt and tyre is removed, the kids positivily bounce round the track.
    Could perhaps try putting a rope round the waist of your youngster and holding it so that he has to drag you along.
    Also, they do a lot of short 'fartlek' sessions up and down the football pitch - when transferred to the track/road they can run much faster
  • I have this problem every year about March time when I need to get quicker for the track season. The easy solution is to incorporate one sprint session a week into his training. Sessions such as 10x60m, 6x90m, 5x100m. You can run them flat out, or, building up speed throughout the rep. Its always good to have someone giving advice about style and posture when sprinting - its amazing how much quicker you can run if you sprint correctly. Also, ensure he is warmed up properly - plenty of stretching before doing any sprint work. You will see the results of this sort of training fairly quickly and over a period of a couple of months he will have improved a great deal.
  • Jake - I play football and a couple of years ago one of the team, despairing at how slow we all were, took weekly sprint sessions for us. These involved:
    - warm up jog for five mins then thorough stretch
    - plyometrics - exercises specifically designed to focus on the technique of sprinting and to build sprinting muscle - each around 20 yards with v. slow jog back to start:
    (1) bounding (extra long strides)
    (2)high knee lifts,
    (3) hop left foot
    (4) hop right foot
    (5) skip as if going up for header - aim for max height
    (6) flick heels back to touch backside

    Then basically sprint shuttles as described by Dangly above - sprint 10 yards, slow jog back, sprint 20 yards, slow jog back, sprint 50 yards slow jog back. All about working on recovery rate as well as raw speed, focusing on staying 'tall' rather than leaning forward and keeping the head up and eyes focused on horizon or tops of trees. Think we did two or three reps of this lot and built up the distance or each shuttle a bit over time, then rewarded ourselves after each session with some ball work.

    We did all this in an inner London public park and looked a bit daft (girls team!) but it was without question the hardest I have ever worked. We all got much much quicker in a matter of weeks though!

    Sorry if teaching grandparent to suck eggs with above but the results were impressive


  • Hi jake F.

    It is good to see a youngster is interested in field events. The advice given above will help,if he has the ability to develop his anaerobic energy systems and has a nominate supply of fast twitch muscles. I say this not in a negative way but simply because I have seen many youngsters doing field events, which as I say is great, but are not equipt physically to do it. What you have said, like sluggish and you feel his aerobic levels are ok are not what you would expect to find. However as I normally have to spend a great deal of time trying to convince endurance runners they may really be sprinters, the last thing I want to do is put anyone off who wants to try.

    You mention his Anaerobic system, there are in fact two. that which relies on phosphocreatine which is available for instant energy, like at the start of sprints and the other is from glycogen. The system you need to develop for most field events is the phosphocreatine for instant movement. This is mainly developed by very short (30m) reps with very slow walk back recovries. The glycogen system can be developed as suggested above.

    You have not actually said which field evenys he does or what his present 100m 200m times are. or even a 50m or 60m.

    If you feel that he may need some mental motivation have alook at my article on the general forum- sean fishpools HR etc etc on PAGE 16.Title MMMM you may find other subjects of interest.

    Good luck, keep him movivated, all the best Ron.
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