Guest blog by Coach Alicia!
It is common for athletes to experience anxiety when they are participating in a sport. Your amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions and can cause anxiety and stress symptoms. The amygdala is also known as the “fight or flight” center of the brain as it will sometimes send signals to the rest of your brain that something dangerous might happen and pump stress hormones into the body. This is a really important part of our brain, but sometimes the amygdala gets it wrong and sends out alert signals to your body when they aren’t needed. Think about walking down the street and you see a stick lying ahead of you. You might not be able to tell right away if it is a snake or a stick. Your amygdala might interpret this as dangerous and cause your heart rate to increase and adrenaline to go through your body before the rest of your brain catches up and realizes that it is just a stick. Something similar can happen before a race or during a challenging practice. When your heart rate increases and breathing becomes more shallow, your amygdala might kick in and send messages to your brain and body that are not accurate.
When we start to feel anxious, nervous or stressed while running, we want to be able to calm our amygdala and the rest of our body down as quickly as possible. One of the most effective ways to do this is with breathing exercises.
Three simple breathing exercises to practice are listed below. It is important to practice these on a frequent basis and not only in the moment when we are trying to calm down. The more your brain and body get used to these breathing exercises, the easier it will be to use them before a race or anytime you are feeling anxious.
Three Breathing Exercises
1. Titled Head Breath: inhale for a slow count of four and tilt head left (ear to shoulder) and exhale for a slow count of four as you center your head; inhale for a slow count of four and tilt your head right (ear over shoulder) and exhale for a slow count of four as you center your head again. Repeat this for 1-2 minutes.
2. Box Breathing: Inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts. Repeat this for 1-2 minutes.
3. Relaxation Breathing: Place your right hand on your heart and left hand on your abdomen with thumb on diaphragm (center of chest bone in the middle of the ribs). Let your belly rise and count 1-2-3-4 on the inhale. On the exhale, your belly falls and count down 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.
Again, practice one or all of these techniques on your own before race day. Then, if you start to feel that amygdala fire up and your anxiety start to rise, you can use one of these exercises to bring yourself back to a healthy feeling of nervous excitement - that is a natural way to feel before any competition and, if accepted, can actually help improve your performance!
If you have any questions, let any of the coaches know. We are happy to talk through this with you one-on-one. Now let's get out there and fly!
Our second week of practice was a good one - let's keep up the good work!
The coming week is a big one! We have our first meet of the season next Saturday, the Josh Ruff Memorial Invitational in Folsom. This is an annual tradition, a big meet with youth races (everyone from 8th grade and under compete in boy's and girl's 1.5 mile races) followed by high school races with teams from all over the region. The course, Willow Hill Reservoir behind Folsom High School, is an iconic cross country venue (and a great place to just get in your weekend long runs when not in use). Find more details about the meet on the Team App under events.
Also this week, Monday is Labor Day and so we are going to not have practice as a team - everyone needs to do their workout on their own. We will still meet on Thursday at the Boathouse, so see you there!
Here is this week's schedule:
Monday - Practice on your own or find a group
Tuesday - Rest & Stretch
Wednesday - On your own
Thursday - Marshall Hills
(Meet at BRIDGEWAY LAKES BOATHOUSE)
Friday - Rest & Stretch
Josh Ruff Memorial Invitational - Folsom
Sunday - LONG Easy Run
Run with heart!
In past seasons, we talked about the “3 Ts” in distance running – Talent, Training, and Toughness . As we transition to the 3 Cs, I want to replace toughness with courage.
Steve Prefontaine is one of the most iconic American distance runners in history. At one point he held every American track record from the 2k all the way to the 10k. He never lost a college race in four years of competing in both cross country and track, and was undefeated his junior and senior years of high school. Of all the races he competed in his entire career, he won 120 of 152 races. But beyond his successes, he was really a phenomenon because of the way he raced (and lived). Click here for a great short video about Pre.
Pre was confident (maybe a little arrogant) and he ran with incredible courage. He said he’d do amazing things, and then he got on the track and would do them. People said he was incredibly tough, because of the gutsy way he ran, but I believe more than that he was courageous. It takes real courage to stand in front of the best runners in the country (or the world) and tell them you were going to beat them because you were willing to hurt more than they were. Pre did just that.
I know we cannot all be Pre – he was a very unique and gifted individual. But we can all be courageous. For some, it takes courage to even stand on a start line and anxiously await the gun. For others, it takes courage to trust the coaches and their parents when we tell them they can do something they’ve never done before. For everyone, it takes courage to commit yourself to the work with only a promise of success. Because it seems like it is far easier to slack off at practice, to skip long runs, to give in to the pressure in races and back off the pace, then it is to really give everything you have throughout a season and then come up short of your dreams. Some see trying and not succeeding as failure. The truth is, however, that the only way we ever really fail is if we don’t try, because the effort we put into our running (or any meaningful endeavor) is the true prize.
As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Because of the amount of work that goes into it, it takes courage, it takes toughness, to be a true distance runner. You embark on a journey at the beginning of a season without knowing how far you’ll get. If you aim for the stars you may not reach them, but you will get to the moon – and that’s not too bad.
Don't be afraid to Dare Greatly,
Alright Delta Hawks! Great work on our first week! We have a great set of returning kids, and another number of new athletes looking into our team. We had some relatively fun and easy practices this past week, but now the work begins.
This week, we will be practicing for the first time at the location we call Lock Hills (here). We meet at Stonegate Elementary at 5:30, run our warm up to the hills together, and then do our workout.
We will begin doing intervals this week. It is important to understand how these workouts build on each other. We start with shorter intervals and week-by-week make them longer, then we work back down and make them shorter and faster. In this way we first build our strength and then our speed. Trust in the system - do your best on each workout and see how they turn each of us into better runners.
All of our growth, however, is contingent on consistency. To make all this work, we all have to do our best to get to every practice, and to do our long runs on the weekend. If we do this, we will become the best we can be - Believe it!
Here is this week's schedule:
Monday - Intervals at Lock Hills
(Meet at STONEGATE ELEMENTARY)
Tuesday - Rest & Stretch
Wednesday - On your own
Thursday - Marshall Hills Fartlek Run
(Meet at BRIDGEWAY LAKES BOATHOUSE)
Friday - Rest & Stretch
Saturday or Sunday - LONG Easy Run
REMEMBER: What you put into your training will dictate what you get out of your races. Train Hard, Win Easy!
Well folks, Hayward Field in Eugene was everything we thought it would be! An incredible facility, in a great city, full of unbelievable talent. The seats were cushy for the spectators, while the track was smooth and hot and fast for the athletes. I would HIGHLY encourage everyone to go watch a track meet at Hayward Field if you ever get a chance.
I went back and looked at results from Junior Olympics in the last several years - the truth is all of the races this year were SIGNIFICANTLY faster than they have ever been. Is it the shoes? Is it the facility? My guess is that the chance to run at Hayward Field attracted talent that would otherwise have not made the trip. (And the shoes definitely helped.) That being said, everyone from our region struggled more in their races than is typically the case. Does everyone remember Kristin Chen (9-10 girl with a bright lime shirt who destroyed everyone all season)? She didn't even make the final.
Nevertheless, our valiant Hawks took to the track and gave their all. First up, David competed in the 9-10 boys 800m qualifiers on Wednesday morning. Arriving with plenty of time to warm up and check in, David got a chance to tour the facility and warm up area and with Elias' help he was ready and checked in like a champ. One of the main challenges of this year's Nationals was that they didn't provide heats prior to the check in time, so we couldn't talk strategy based on who each athlete was going to run against. Last year, a time of 2:35 made the final, which was only 6 seconds faster than David's PR. With that in mind, David's goal was to run under 2:40 and see where he landed. Unfortunately, it took a sub 2:30 to qualify for the finals this year, and so David was unable to progress. He still ran hard and had a great time at his first track Nationals.
Next up, Norah also competed in the 800m prelims on Wednesday. Again, without knowing who she would be racing against, it was difficult to coach her for her race, but she had her plan and knew she needed to win her heat to advance. Last year, a time of 2:21 earned a trip to the finals, and so Norah was aiming to improve by one second and run 2:20. Unfortunately it wasn't in the cards for her to improve, and though she gave it her all she was unable to advance in the 800m.
On Thursday Norah ran her second race of the meet, looking to qualify for the finals in the 1500m. Last year, runners only had to break 5 minutes to get to the finals, and so we thought Norah had a great chance to advance. But the competition was fierce this year, and it took 4:51 to be in the top 12 and compete for All-American in the final. Norah, though not feeling her best, still bravely entered the field of battle and did her best but ultimately fell short of qualifying. Again, the times the kids were running in this meet were unreal. Not just the winners, but the depth of amazing times was something I've never seen before at a JOs - regardless of age.
Elias also ran in the 1500m prelims following Norah's race. He was confident that he could make the final, and went into the race feeling good and ready to do his best. Despite taking second in his heat, however, he missed the 12th fastest qualifying time by less than 1 second, finishing 15th overall. Again, last year 4:32 was the last qualifying time - Elias ran 4:23 and was left on the outside looking in. It was a tough blow for him, but he knew he did his best and we were proud of him no matter what and so he shook it off and refocused on his next race.
Finally, Elias competed in the 3k on Saturday morning. He knew by now that he was surrounded by faster, older boys and that they were going to go all out. He was determined to hold on as long as he could and hopefully finish top 8 in order to grab an All-American hat. Last year the 3k was won in 9:25, with second place finishing in 9:32. While Elias had only run 9:28 this year, he was confident he could improve on that and felt good about his chances in the race.
Everyone knew the leaders were going to go out hard and keep the pace fast - no one would have guessed how hard or how many there would be in the front pack. By the first 1,000m, a lead pack of 10 all ran under 3 minutes (that is sub 9 minute pace), and Elias was right in the middle of it. As the group came through the mile in 4:41 (Elias' fastest mile on Strava) they were still 10 strong and moving like a runaway train. No one seemed able to break away and no one was willing to drop off. It was crazy.
The group went through the 2k mark at 6:08, everyone jockeying to stay in as long as they could. With one lap to go, the pack finally burst apart and three kids pulled away from the rest. Elias fought with the last two in the pack, desperately trying to get on the podium, but was just too spent. He rolled into the finish with a 9:23 (5 second PR) and in tenth place. Ten seconds later the rest of the field started to finish, having been out of the race almost from the gun.
When you watch the video of the finish of the race, one after the other runner just collapses to the track once they finally stopped running - it was clear they had all just run their hearts out. The winner ran 9:03, with 2nd and 3rd running 9:04. 8th place was 9:20. It was amazing, and I'm sure that every runner in that pack felt the way Elias did - just lucky to have been part of such an amazing competition with so much heart and drama and RACING; it was something to behold.
So that wraps up the 2023 Delta Hawks track season - and what a successful and fun season it was! Now we move on to cross country, and for you dreamers out there - it is time to start thinking about Kentucky in December, the site for the JO cross country nationals. Let's see what the hawks can do this fall!
Delta Hawks Coaches