Collated by Laura from our Leeds, Headingley shop.
Track and field athletics comprises running, jumping and throwing. Injury potential is high because we are putting repetitive strain on the same body parts time and time again in the same direction, so good coaching, technique, and equipment are essential.
Track and Field Shoes
The spike you choose will be dependent on your event. For sprints the shoes have a harder plate underneath to make them nice and responsive holding the foot on the toe, they have little to no heel cushioning (saving weight) as the heel should spend little time with contact with the ground. Also look for big toe raise to help running on ball of foot.
With middle distance athletes there is more an element of personal preference and individual gait, if the athlete likes being 'held on the toes', again a big plate is wanted that travels into the mid-foot, although this time the shoe is a bit lighter and sometimes a bit more flexible. Other athletes might prefer a lighter still shoe with less of a plate and where heels strike a tiny bit more.
For long distance track runners the heel is more cushioned for heel strike, still with a responsive small plate for the track surface. A lot of people like to double up their cross-country spike with their long distance running spike, this works fine as long as you use a cross country spike for both not the track spike. The cross country spikes have further heel cushioning and the plate is not as hard for the grass surface, so works well for both. For more assistance pop into any local Up & Running shop.
For horizontal jumps and pole vault the spike should have a flat toe raise to help the athlete get off their toes as they jump.
High Jump requires a specialist spike with spikes in the heels to give the athlete grip as they run quickly round the bend and strike through the heel on the jump.
Throwing shoes are generally a flat shoe that allows you to either glide or rotate across the circle. They aim to give a bit of grip without stopping you move across circle fast.
Racing flats are light weight running shoes designed to race in and made for maximum performance, they are not recommended for longer sessions because they do not have enough cushioning and support for the foot (see bare foot technology for more on this).
However they are more supportive and cushioned than the average running spike and this is why a lot of middle distance athletes complete track sessions in them, they offer this extra structure and support without excessive weight and chunky heels like some of the road shoes, allowing the athlete to 'get up on their toes'.
Warm up and other training shoes
Track athletes will need to back up their track work with general mileage, some long and middle distance runners don't go near a track in the off season. Building a good endurance base can be done on any surface, normally to reduce impact grass is chosen but sometimes this is not possible and road is the only option, this is a high impact activity so maximum cushioned shoes are recommended that have been fitted correctly. Call into any Up & Running shop for expert running shoe fitting.
Track and Field Clothing
All the clothing at Up & Running is high wicking, pulling moisture away from the body and helping to avoid chaffing and getting cold between reps due to damp clothes.
Track athletes' favourites
It used to be considered quite elitist to wear compression socks with only the likes on Paula Radcliffe sporting them, but now it is more widely accepted. Their job is to lightly compress the calf to encourage circulation which has many advantages. Quicker recovery, and buffering the lactic acid away quicker. The main mistake people make when buying them is thinking the tighter the better - this is not the case as if they are too tight they can end up doing the opposite (by cutting off circulation). NB If the sock goes too high do not fold it over at the top! because this will make the band at the top too tight. Move the sock to where you want it to come up to and pinch it lower down to get rid of excess material.
Great for winter and very popular, they keep your ears nice and warm but without over heating the head like a hat.
Foam rollers are a great bit of kit, they are like a portable physio. Staying on top of tight muscles is always a bonus.
Race day, pre race
on race day again it depends on the event and everyone is different, Paula Radcliffe always has porridge, banana, and honey for breakfast and five hours before her race she has another bowl of porridge, some biscuits, a yoghurt and a little chocolate. It's all about finding what works for you. Practice in training as much as possible to find out what your body responds best to. If you are going to be active for a long time make sure that you take on adequate fuel.
Race day, post race
Always get food in as quick as possible after you have raced or trained to aid maximal recovery. It is particularly important after speed and power work as the most muscle damage will have been done.
Recovery supplements are widely used and should preferably be consumed within 30mins of finishing your race.
Nutrition in Training
Unless you are doing long-distance work there is normally no need to take on too much sports nutrition during your training session, as long as you were well fuelled going in to it.
Recovery is essential so again getting in fuel as soon as possible will help recover and reduce muscle DOMs the following day. If you can't get fuel in within an hour of exercise then recovery drinks are a great substitute (such as SIS Rego).
Getting to know your body is one of the best ways to avoid injuries, this happens over time knowing when to back off and when to push though. A physiotherapist will help you learn about your body. Most offer a screening service, my physio calls it a MOT for your body and it helps you keep on top of things developing. A good physiotherapist will set you preventative exercises specifically for you depending on how you anatomically are made, where you are tight and any imbalances they may find. A good physiotherapist 90% of the time should not have to see you again and again, most problems should be eased within 3-4 visits.
Be smart with cross training, spinning, aqua jogging and other low impact cross training are great while out of action to maintain base fitness.
Flexibility also helps prevent injuries and improving core stability helps you stay more stable.
There are some spin classes that work you so hard and are a great alternative from a constant pounding on the track.
is less well known but probably the lowest impact you can get, it also uses very similar muscle groups to running, a belt is often used to maintain a upright body position in the water and feet should not touch the floor.
Get involved with a good running group, it makes it so much more enjoyable and you tend to get the most out of yourself, even when lacking motivation.
I think it is important when you are young to try as many events as possible with the emphasis being on fun.
From the Athlete's Mouth ....
Middle distance running
Laura, from the Leeds Headingley shop, says ...
I am a track runner concentrating on 800-1500m, probably a bad time to talk about my hopes for the season having just been told I have fractured my foot but never the less although jaded I still have the same hope to run quicker this year or next year.
This season will have been the first time I have ever trained strongly throughout winter gaining a good endurance base to work off, for the first time I have been dedicated to every session, training twice most days. My endurance has always been my weakness and can still be improved a great deal but is the best it has ever been.
This year so far the endurance has paid off, I have only raced once indoors as the bends are so tight with my lanky limbs they tend to be hard work and produce niggles, but the race was extremely promising and off no speed work gave me confidence that I am far stronger than before.
I like to think I have a good knowledge base when it comes to middle distance running and find the fitting process for a middle distance athlete totally different to that of say a marathon runner. We are commonly fore foot runners and share a fair amount of niggles! Because of the nature of MD changing biomechanics at the foot often effects other things in the chain (which is the same for everyone but seems to highlight itself abruptly for us).
I also have an interest in free weights (if you know my frame this might seem amusing) this is my first year of heavier lifting and finding it quite addictive!
My advice for middle distance training...
if you're just starting out I would recommend following a structured training programme that incorporates speed endurance, endurance and speed work. All are relevant which is what makes it such a tough event, but it also what makes the training enjoyable because it's quite variable.
The type of training you do should change as you approach the season. Winter is normally focussed on gaining an endurance base undergoing a high volume of distance work. The interval sessions are run off short recovery and the sessions are long. As we approach the summer (May to Sep) the sessions get faster and shorter, the recovery is longer but the reps are expected to be fast! Not everyone follows this model but it has proved very successful for many athletes.
Types of sessions ...
essentials in winter are a long run 1 hour to 1.15ish, long intervals session (8 x 1k reps 90 seconds recovery), hill work (200m hill, 16 hill sprints, jog recovery)
Summer speed session, (reps 200m or shorter up to 3 minute rec faster long intervals, (800-1k up to 3mins recovery) tempo run (20 minutes fast). Again all this depends on the individual and if they're a speed based MD runner or more endurance based.
Longer distance running
Richard, from our Huddersfield shop, says ...
I run 3000m steeplechase and 5000m on the track and 10k and half marathon on the road.
I recommend high mileage for the marathon 40miles+ a week when in marathon training 14-16 weeks but putting a solid base down before to build on 3-4 months before your programme.
For more serious athletes who are looking at running for fast times, interval training and speed work is important e.g. 10x800m building from 6 reps and resting for 2 minutes after each rep at first then working down to 1 minute working at 80%-90% effort. Long tempo runs at marathon pace or target pace over 5-10 miles or 2x5/3x5 miles tempo at marathon pace off 3 minute recovery (don't forget to warm up and warm down 2miles each nice and easy. Also shorter reps e.g. 200m-500m totalling between 8k-12k getting some fast turn over into your legs helping with various speed.
Fartlek runs are another good form of speed play you can use - do 10miles+, use the first 10-15 minutes as a warm up and do 3-5 efforts and 90% e.g. flat stretch of road over a mile or an effort up a hill and run as you would normally do at a steady pace in between efforts, ease down for the last 10-15 min of the run. Make sure you race 10k's and half marathons in the build up but not close to each other; also rest is vital and don't be afraid to take a day off.
Follow a sensible diet, plenty of carbohydrates for energy - it's 80% of your main energy source; and protein after running to repair damaged muscle tissue is also a good benefit. I would also say if you're doing my mileage to keep two pairs of shoes on the go - that way you will wear them more evenly and you won't be replacing them as often.
James from the Harrogate shop says ...
I am currently a 400m hurdler but also run shorter distance from 100 upwards to 800 (only when I'm forced to). This is only the 2nd full year I been running the event, I previously ran 110m hurdles and Long Jumped with national success. I train around 4 times a week during the summer and 6 times during the winter. This winter I had an emphasis on doing endurance work so now with my new coach (now based in Leeds after a brief period in the Lakes) I find myself doing a lot of speed work into the summer. I did a small amount of racing indoors over the 400m flat but because of the training I was doing at the time I wasn't aiming to run quick. Outdoors over the hurdles I have had a mixed season as I shake the race rust off but in general I am on target to run very quickly. I'm currently spending a lot of time working on my weak hurdle leg and the problem with my right shoulder from an old injury.
I will admit to being a bit of a running geek, I spend too much time sat reading shoe reviews and running blogs! I have plenty of experience in working with Trail and Off Trail shoes from previous work. I think I could comfortably write down every Inov-8 shoe down along with their cushioning level numbers without any hassle.
Long Jump and Sprint
Jacob from the Leeds Central shop is a long jumper and sprinter, training 6 times a week, splitting that between training at Leeds Met University and South Leeds stadium. His current aim is to jump over 8 metres and bring down his 100m time. Training includes plyometrics, weight training and speed and speed endurance such as running up hills in the winter and down hill in the summer, hoping and bounding and olympic lifting. Their primary aim is to increase power and strength and develop technique. Some recommendations for people who would like to take up the long jump or sprints would be to wear sprint or jump spikes as they are desigend differently to middle distance spikes which are more common. Remember to stretch before and after training - sprints and jumping puts a huge amount of strain on the body (up to 12 times body weight when taking off in the long or triple jump) so a substancial amount of stretching is needed to prevent tight muscles causing injuries.
The regional athletics web sites are great for looking for fixtures and events to run in, eg www.noeaa-athletics.org.uk
The British milers events are great events for pacing - www.britishmilersclub.com
But the best way to hear about track fixtures is to join a club. On your Up & Running local shop's web page there will be some links to your local clubs.