December is upon us, which means track and field is right around the corner! December through February is the optimal time frame to start gearing up and getting ready to hit the track again. These tips can help an athlete get the most out of his or her block starts this year.
1. Set up the blocks correctly.
No two people are exactly the same, so everyone will have a slightly different preference on how to set up his or her blocks before a race. Athletes who have never used blocks should consider this basic rule when setting up blocks. First, one must decide which foot he would prefer to be his “front foot” when in a starting position. While both feet should be used when pushing out of the blocks, the front foot generally applies more force. The front foot pedal should be about two shoe lengths from the starting line. The back foot pedal should be about three shoe lengths from the starting line. From there, athletes can make minor tweaks to the blocks to find what’s best for them.
2. Find a comfortable position on the block.
Many coaches teach their athletes that being “uncomfortable” in the blocks is a good thing; it will force the athlete to get out quicker. I disagree. From experience, my teammates and I find it more effective to be comfortable while in a starting position. This athlete will get a more powerful start out of the blocks.
3. Make sure the entire foot is on the block pedal.
A common mistake made by both young and seasoned athletes is foot position on the block pedal. When in the set position, most athletes’ heels tend to lift off the pedal. This leaves only the balls of their feet in contact with the blocks. For an athlete to reach her maximum power output out of the blocks, she should have pedal contact with her heel as well. A simple trick can help the runner do this: make sure the front spike in her shoe is on the TRACK and not the pedal. Then, when raised into the set position, the entire foot will be on the pedal.
4. Don’t allow the first step to be too long.
The first step after the gun fires should not be too long. To quickly accelerate out of the blocks, a runner needs to be in contact with the ground as quick as possible. The first step has to be shorter than most would consider comfortable. The following steps get longer until the athlete reaches top speed.
5. Don’t stand up straight immediately!
The final tip to a great block start is maintaining a drive phase. The athlete should have his head down, and his body should be at an angle with the ground. It takes a lot of power to maintain this drive phase for very long; however, the longer it can be maintained, the faster the runner will reach top speed. Once at top speed, the runner should be in an upright position.
Any sprinter can apply these tips to his or her block starts. Good luck to all tracksters this year!