Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kids, track and speed. Lucy offers her opinion on goal setting and improvement

Q: My daughter is 13 years old and has been running track meets for the past six years. She started slow with running 400 and 800 meters only and gradually moved up to the 800 and 1500 and is attempting the 3000 meters this season. All of her workouts are on the track (Intervals). On Mondays she normally does 2-4 x 800's followed by on 4-6 x 600 and this day varies, maybe 1200's. On Wednesday she normally does 10-12 x 400's followed by 4-6 x 300's. On Thursdays she normally does 8-10 x 200's followed by 4-5 x 150's. She has no problem with the workouts but really hasn't seen much improvement in this type of workout. She is kind of tall for her age and is still growing. She runs the 800 in 2:30 and the 1500 in 5:11 these are her personal best. What is your opinion? Thanks

A: Your daughter obviously shows talent and ability based on her Personal Best times for 800 and 1500, and the fact that she can easily handle the track workouts indicates that she has stamina and strength. It is great that she is having fun and sticking with the track after 6 seasons already. It is important to remember that your daughter is still quite young from a development perspective, and that if she continues to enjoy track, she has many years ahead of her, with full maturity yet to come, as you have already observed. Whether your daughter goes on to high performance in running, or a life long appreciation for running and fitness you want to keep it fun and avoid burn out by avoiding setting too many time oriented goals at a young age. Runners generally go through periods of plateaus and periods of improvement as they mature as well.

Keeping all that in mind, here are some aspects to training and development that, in my opinion, will create improvement over time.

1. Is your daughter getting a rest period each season, where she has time completely off from workouts and a coached practice. During the off season from track, I encourage kids to play different sports that they also love, especially soccer and swimming, gymnastics or skating. Sports with an element of coordination, balance and strength are excellent ways for kids to stay fit and build overall sports skills.

2. During the track season, most kids are running 3x per week at track workouts and are not doing running mileage outside of the track session. Outside of track practices kids can still be playing other sports (and just being active children), but do not need to run any more mileage than that. If kids are tired when they get to track practice, this will limit their ability to run to their potential.

3. Don't be in too much of a hurry to increase the distance your daughter runs. I would suggest sticking with the 800 and 1500 as her main events and seeing how fast she can run before stepping up the distance. She can do 3000's now and then for fun, but working on speed now will serve her best for her future on the track, even if she wants to be a distance runner.

4. Her track sessions are good in structure. Seeing as she is dong the workouts with no problem, I would challenge her to run faster and then to set some goals with the coach. Pick her favourite event, and a goal time to shoot for and work out a goal pace (per 400, per 200) to reach that time. During the week, during the shorter intervals she can challenge herself to run some of the workout at that goal pace. If it's the 800 she wants to improve, then use the Thursday 200's to run the goal pace.

5. Nutrition and hydration are two important aspects to fitness and overall health. Kids need to
eat well and be hydrated to perform optimally, and paying attention to post workout nutrition for recovery is important.

6. Finally, doing drills and especially barefoot running drills for ankle,calf and foot are vital components to track and field, as is stretching.

As you can see, there are many factors that impact improvement. Taking stock of what you are doing is a good place to start then have some fun setting some goals!


Friday, April 18, 2008

Way to Go Lochside Lizards!

We had our first Cross Country Race on Wednesday! I felt so proud to be a part of the Lochside Lizards and the awesome positive energy that all the kids brought to the big grassy field at Beaver Lake. By the time the races started, there were hundreds of kids gathered from all the schools in Saanich, plus parents and grandparents and teachers and friends. The kids had lots of support for their race. There was loud fun music playing from the speakers and we did some warm ups and waited for the races to start. As I was thinking about how to write about the cross country race, I kept on coming up with a poem. Maybe it's because running has such energy and rhythm, or maybe it was all the happy kids, but here's my poem about racing for all you runners!

The Cross Country Race

The sun shone bright and the day was clear,
As the Lochside Lizards gave their pre-race cheer!

"Go Lizards", their shouts rang loud,
Team spirit and energy made us proud.

Everyone warmed up sporting a smile,
Then ran to the start for their cross country mile.

Red and blue and gold and green,
I've never seen a start line of runners so keen!

The start horn blew and off they ran;
Strong legs moving as fast as they can.

Ponytails flying, arms pumping fast.
A blur of kids flying across the grass.

Off in the woods, breathing hard,
We all wait for the next race to start.

Relax the shoulders, relax your face,
Breathe in deep and get ready to race.

The kids come in, up the hill,
The effort is there, but they're smiling still!

Parents and teachers and coaches cheer!
We're all so proud to be watching here.

One final sprint across the grass;
Don't look back! Don't let her pass!

Tired happy kids hold ribbons tight.
400 racers is quite a sight!

Good sports all, they deserve a rest.
Get ready for another meet to be the best!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

50 kids X 6 sprints each: that makes 300 sandwich sprints!

On Wednesday we practiced starting skills by playing the sandwich sprinting game. Using the suggestions of the runners we came up with some yummy sandwich ingredients they would use to make a sandwich:

peanut butter





whole wheat bread

Altogether this makes for an interesting sort of sandwich but I wasn't going to argue with the Lochside chefs. Using the grass field as a track and the white line on the basketball court as the starting line, the kids had to sprint under my start commands across the field to get an ingredient for the sandwich. After six sprints, they would have their PB and J and tomato and lettuce sandwich!

I put my trusty assistant Maia at the other end of the field as the ingredient counter, but when the first line of runners raced across to her, she started running away like they were a swarm of bees so after that we used the soccer goal post as the finish.

For the first few sprints there were a lot of excited runners and false starts, and toes that were in front of the line. Kids could hardly wait to start and by the time I got to 'get set!', they were already off and sprinting. By the end of the game, by the time we were at the bread part, and almost finished the sandwich, the runners were able to focus on the commands and the starts were clean.

Things we learned about starts:

1. Runners line up with their toes behind a start line.
2. Crouch down a little with one foot in front, arms in the 'ready' position.
3. Take a breath and relax, so you will be able to start fast.
4. Listen carefully to the start commands of the starter and be quick only when they yell 'Go' or sound the whistle.

Now, we are all almost ready for our first meet next week! On Monday we will do some more running and getting ready for the race. If you have any questions about the race, please ask!

Question of the day:

What is a False Start?

A 'false start' is when a runner leaves too soon, before the official in charge starts the race. When there is a false start, the runners have to return to the start line and the race has to be re-started so that it's fair for all runners! Have you ever heard of the expression "Jump the Gun" for when someone goes ahead too soon? That expression comes from when an athlete leaves or runs before the starting gun in a race.

What do elite athletes do?

Runners get to the start line prepared. They do a jog before the race to get their bodies and muscles warmed up for the start. They usually wear extra clothes while warming up, and then take them off right before the start. In the last moments on the start line, they stay relaxed, happy and calm and focus only on the starter's signals and getting ready to start fast!

Remember to give me your stories, art or poems for the site! I will post them!

See you Monday!


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lucy Running up hill at a World Championships in 2006.

Monday Morning Hills!

Wow! 50 kids out again for cross country practice. This is awesome and I am so happy to see all the kids from grade 2 as well: I see a lot of Maia’s classmates!. We got the practice underway with a warm up game of fox and hounds around the school loop. I sent the grade four and five ‘hounds’ off first to give them a head start on their 2 laps. I could hardly keep the Grade 2 and 3’s ‘foxes’ back, they were so eager to get running. With the warm up over, we talked about hill running and did some fast running on the grass hill.

Running well up hills is an important part of cross country running. In track and field the racing is on a flat surface. Cross country is like adventure running: there will always be corners and hills and you never know exactly what sort of hill it will be: it might be long or short, steep or not so steep, rocky or flat. Cross country runners practice running hills so that they get strong for uphill running in races and so that they feel confident and happy about racing on hills.

Hill running:

Drive your arms up the hill.
Drive your knees up the hill and be quick.
Be positive about the hill! It’s a chance for you to be tough and strong.
Look to the top of the hill and run over the top…don’t stop and rest before the top!

The kids were awesome when we did the hill running loops! Again, I saw lots of smiling happy faces, and kids who were trying really hard to do a good job. What a fast bunch of runners we have at Lochside!

What elite athletes do:

Elite athletes always learn the course they are going to race. This way, they know what route to expect in the race and they can get prepared for the hills and course! How do they learn the course? They jog the course while warming up (a lot of cross country races are run in loops so you can run one loop in warm up and learn where the hills are!). They look at the hill and make a mental note of where it is on the course so they know when it will be coming up in the race.

Eating to run:

On the morning of a race or practice, eat a good nutrition breakfast. Some examples of a good breakfast: oatmeal and bananas, toast with peanut butter and jam, cereal and milk (but not that chocolaty sugary kind!). If the practice is before lunch, choose a healthy snack for your nutrition break: fruit or veggies, yogurt, crackers. Save your cookie treat for after your lunch!

On race day, you will have to make sure you eat a good lunch at school that day too! Again choose food you can run well with: a good sandwich and some fruit, milk or juice. To make sure you aren’t hungry before your race at the park, bring a banana to eat an hour before your race!

See you Wednesday!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Running Relaxed, Running Fast

At the 11AM recess bell on Wednesday, kids started running to the basketball court for the start of day two of the cross country team. It was great to see so many kids coming out, after the crazy hailstorm on Monday kept us in the gym. What was even better, was to see all the smiles and happy faces.

We started the day with an easy lap of the school loop. This was to warm up the muscles and to get the heart and lungs ready for some running. I noticed that all the kids did the warm up lap using jog speed this time, instead of launching right into warp speed! This was excellent, though I am happy to see all the speed too!

After the warm up jog, we did a few stretches for our calves and thigh muscles (called ‘quads’ in run talk). And did some good arm circle warm ups for our shoulders. Why the arm circles? You use your arms in running! You use them to balance out your upper and lower body, to help drive your knees forward while running, and to help keep balance while running downhill! (we will cover how to run downhill really fast next week!).

We talked about being relaxed while running fast. Sometimes when you start to run really fast, you can feel tired because of all the effort that you are giving! It can feel hard and the trick is to run fast and stay relaxed because it takes less effort to be relaxed. That way your energy is going into making your legs go fast and not into clenching your jaw or hunching up your shoulders.

For the next part of the run, we practiced running fast and jogging slow. The goal was to run fast and relaxed for part of the route, and slow and relaxed for the other part!

I stood on the grass and watched all the runners dash in for the final stretch of the route. Almost everybody was smiling as they sprinted past me! I saw a lot of great running, and noticed kids who were really driving their arms forward as they ran, and trying to make their legs go fast. The big smiling faces told me 2 things: kids were having fun while they ran fast and they were relaxed. Did you know that it takes less energy to smile than to frown? So all those smiles meant that runners were putting more energy into going fast! Good Job!

And thank you to the teachers for helping with the course!

So here are some things we have learned this week:

1. All the sports you play, and all your physical activity, even the playground games like tag are making you healthier and fitter and will help you run cross country.

2. Running well is about trying hard to make your legs move fast, while keeping your arms and face relaxed.

3. There are different speeds in running and runners can train to go faster by using bursts of fast running (speed) followed by slower (recovery or rest) jogging.

What Elite Athletes Do:

Elite athletes often wear extra layers of clothes for the warm up part of practices, to help stay warm and let their muscles warm up faster. For the main part of the practice, or fo the race—when they are going to be running faster—they take off layers to stop from getting too hot.

Question of the day:

Q: What is that pain in my side I get sometimes when I try to run fast?

Lucy Says: That pain in your side is called a ‘stitch’ and almost all runners have had one. When I get a side stitch in training, I slow my running a little to make sure I am relaxed and I take some really deep breaths in and out. I try to make my tummy relaxed too. If I am racing I try to be tough about it. I don’t let the side stitch make me stop trying.

To prevent side stitch, I try to eat about 2 hours before a training run to make sure that my food has digested before I run, and I drink a little bit of water before running too. I warm up slowly and make sure I am breathing in and out really well in my warm up.

If you have a questions you would like Lucy to answer, you can write it on a piece of paper and give it to one of the teachers or to Lucy at practice.

Coming Next Week!

Running well uphill and downhills!
How to start a race
Eating to run

Monday, March 31, 2008

Lochside School Cross Country Team

Thanks to all the kids who came out today at break for the first meeting of the Cross Country Team. There were a lot of enthusiastic kids with a lot of energy. We are going to have fun! Over the next few weeks I am excited to be able to share my passion for running with you all. Things we are going to cover include fitness, running skills, and how to prepare to race. We'll be playing a lot of games and sprinting lots: things kids are good at!

If you want to give me a photo, some artwork, or a story about running to put on this site, I would love that!

Maia did the computer drawing that heads up this page!

See you all at practice!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Welcome to dashkids!


My name is Lucy Smith and this is my page for kids who like to run. I called it dash because that's what kids do. Kids DASH! When they play soccer, basketball, tag and yes, when they run, they DASH about. I did too. I started dashing about the school playground in kindergarten, and I really liked the feeling of running fast. I went into my first fun run when I was 10 and my first cross country race when I was 11. Since then I have run hundreds of races and been the Cross Country Running Champion of Canada 5 times. I've won 14 other National Championship Gold medals in events like 10K road running, duathlon and triathlon. I have run in races all around the world and met really interesting people. Most of all, I keep running because I love running, it keeps me healthy, and it's fun! For more information about me, see the links below. For more information about running, keep reading the blog! I will update it weekly and let you know what kids are doing!

Gotta DASH!