5 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Speed
In many performance sports, foot speed can separate you from the competition, or the lack of it, can leave you behind the pack. It can be the sole reason a coach believes that he can work with you, and it can be the one element that stops you from playing at the next level. Speed is often looked at as a “you got it, or you don’t” type of gift. This isn’t completely untrue. 99% of the people reading this will not be Olympic sprinters, but 100% of the people reading this have the ability to improve their speed. If you’ve never had any formal speed training, here are five things you may be missing that can shave ticks off of your time.
A six pack is way more valuable to the performance athlete than aesthetics. Not only have studies proved that strengthening your core improves your overall athletic performance (Sato & Mokha, 2009), but it has been shown to create significant gains in speed (Kwong-Chung Hung, 2019). Coach Dee of Light It Up Fitness has a great core strengthening routine for athletes on the Light It Up Fitness Youtube Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7cNgCsnVHU
Sprinting is a function of maximum strength; this cannot be accomplished without resistance training. Lifting heavy is necessary to reach your top speed, but resistance training is necessary to truly become explosive. Check in with me on Instagram @Coachfredd1 for the various methods on how to incorporate resistance training into your speed program.
According to, New York Times journalist Kara Robinson, “Plyometrics is a type of exercise training that uses speed and force of different movements to build muscle power” (Robinson, 2020). Think of it as explosive training. The most basic yet essential example of this is jump roping. I guarantee you that if you are not already jump roping, adding It to your routine will improve your foot turnover and shave points off your times.
Focus on your form
Some are just born with elite speed. The rest of us will have to be surgical with our form in order to catch up. One typical mistake I see often is bad arm movement and placement. In a sprint, your arms should drive from your chin to the corner of your back pocket. They should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Swinging your arms with proper form aids your legs in providing a more smooth and balanced transfer of momentum to your body’s forward motion (Kennedy, 2017). The most typical mistake I see is lack of dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion is when a runner flexes their toes to the top of their shoes. By doing this, you are still able to drive max force into the ground without spending much time there. Practice dorsiflexion in all of your warmup movements (high-knees, butt-kicks, A-skips, etc.)
If you haven’t figured it out yet, a common theme of this blog will be “Take your butt to sleep!”. Train hard, recover harder in order to get up and train again. A 2017 study from the University of Wisconsin monitored athletes and their sleeping/rest patterns (Watson, 2017). It’s no surprise that the well-rested athletes were the top performers. I know we hear stories about the greats watching film until 3am and hitting the gym at six. Knock it off…..Take your butt to sleep!
Kwong-Chung Hung. (2019). Effects of 8-week core training on core endurance and running economy. Plos One.
Robinson, K. (2020). Plyometrics. Jump Start.
Sato, K., & Mokha, M. (2009). Does core strength training influence running kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-M performance in runners. National Center for Biotechnology information.
Watson, A. M. (2017). Sleep and Athletic Performance. American College of Sports Medicine, 413-419.
The 1977 film Pumping Iron is a documentary that shows the preparation and competition between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Louis Ferrigno in the 1975 Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Championship. During the prep for the competition, Arnold gets a call from his mother, informing him that his father had passed; Arnold goes on to talk about how he told his mother that there is nothing he can do for her and that he would not be coming home for the funeral. Arnold believed that the stress of losing his father would only hinder his training for Mr. Olympia. Not only did he not want to be present for the memorial, but he felt it would be best to completely block the loss from his mind.
Now, it is very fair to criticize Arnold about his priorities and overall family values, but he is not necessarily wrong about the science. For competitive athletes, stress can be a hindrance to your preparation, performance, and recovery. In a sport like bodybuilding where the athletes are so surgical about their training, the stress endured from the loss of a loved one can definitely have adverse effects.
We all have a life off the field, and sometimes we do need to completely step away from the game in order to deal with real life. We also need to be able to manage our stress levels during the offseason because there will always be some sort of adversity that we will have to push through. Here are some of the effects chronic stress can have on your athletic performance.
First Let’s talk about Cortisol
It is impossible to talk about the effects of stress in the body without first explaining cortisol. According to YourHormones.Info, “Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. It also has an especially important role in helping the body respond to stress” (Yourhormones.info, 2019). When we encounter stressful situations, our Endocrine system releases cortisol in order to brace the body for possible threats. When the stress becomes chronic, excessive cortisol sits in the bloodstream and we begin to see negative outcomes.
Memory and Focus
It is quite easy to imagine that internal stress could affect an athlete’s focus. Personal issues that elevate our stress level will often consume our mind and make it difficult to focus on the task at hand. Studies have also shown that elevated levels of cortisol are consistent with memory loss (Cohut, 2018). For athletes that are constantly processing information and making decisions, such as a quarterback reading the blitz and coverage of the defense, a point guard looking to get her teammate an open shot, or a pitcher trying to find the right pitch to get a strike out, memory is key to execution. Many failures we see from athletes under stress are not just about physical incapability, but often lapses in focus or judgement.
Increased Muscle Tension and Decreased Elasticity
Increased cortisol in the blood also increases lactic acid ultimately decreases elasticity in the muscles (Hayes, 2018). This increases stiffness, inhibits range of motion, reduces speed, and most importantly increases the risk of injury. When chronic stress is an issue there is nothing that can be done on gameday to reverse these effects. Make sure that along with managing your stress level you constantly engage in recovery activities such as stretching or self-myofascial release (foam rolling), which release lactic acid and increase blood flow.
Testosterone is an essential anabolic hormone, which can be suppressed by increased levels of cortisol in the body (Brownlee, 2005). Testosterone has not only been linked to strength , and physical performance, but elevated testosterone levels have also been linked to the drive that an athlete has to compete (Wood, 2011). Testosterone might be the single most important element in the sport of bodybuilding, and athletes have been known to go through great extremes to get more of it. Knowing that stress can lower testosterone specifically, we can see why Mr. Schwarzenegger, in the biggest competition of his life, chose to avoid stressful situations at all cost.
Inhibits Muscle Growth and Recovery
Chronic stress causes the body to be in a constant “fight or flight” mode. The constant elevated level of cortisol slows down protein synthesis, and leaves the body in a constant state of muscle breakdown (First endurance, 2013). Therefore, your muscles will not recover or grow, and all of your offseason training becomes obsolete. It’s very important that as we train our body for the adversity of the upcoming season, we train our mind for the adversity that comes with day to day life.
Athletes, I cannot stress this enough, neither your sport, nor training for your sport are effective methods to relieve stress if you have a chronic stress issue! In fact, intense exercise increases the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream. Get a massage, meditate, read by the ocean, or take a yoga class. Look for activities outside of your daily grind that allow you to relax. Find your peace off the field, to become the beast on the field (yes that’s pretty corny, but you get the point).
Brownlee, K. K. (2005). Relationship Between Circulating Cortisol and Testosterone: Influence of Physical Exercise. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
Cohut, D. M. (2018, October 25). How does stress affect the brain. Medical News Today.
First endurance. (2013, Feb 11). How Cortisol Effects Performance. Retrieved from First endurance: https://firstendurance.com/how-cortisol-effects-performance/#:~:text=Cortisol%20has%20a%20catabolic%20(muscle,positive%20adaptations%20to%20exercise%20training.
Hayes, A. (2018, August 29). How stress sabotages muscle building and weightloss goals. Men’s Health.
Wood, R. (2011). TESTOSTERONE AND SPORT: CURRENT PERSPECTIVES. National Center for Biology information.
Yourhormones.info. (2019, January). Cortisol. Retrieved from Yourhormones.info: https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/
Week after week, day after day, session after session, we put our bodies through hell in the gym, on the field, or on the court with one objective: out work the competition. Day 1 most of us can lock in and get after it and feel accomplished. But the next morning when your body aches, your triceps are cramping, your legs feel like noodles, and you can’t even laugh because your abs hurt, are you going to show back up? If you show back up, can you push yourself like you did on day one? Recovery is an essential, but often overlooked part of any training program.
When DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in, aka next day muscle soreness, the body is telling us that it is not fully recovered. You may be able to push through the scheduled session, but you will not be as effective or efficient. The more sessions we have from a healthy fully recovered body, the more progress we make. If you are blowing off the recovery process, you are leaving gains on the table. The following is a list of five easy things you can do to get your body fresh and ready to optimize your next workout.
SMR (Self-myofascial release) AKA foam rolling
Athletes repeat the same movements over and over which makes the muscles that are responsible for those movements overactive and tight. With a foam roller we can target these tight trouble areas such as the hamstrings, IT band, lats and calves. In fact, a study has shown that foam rolling showed relief against DOMS while stretching has shown to have no effect at all.
Tip: For the best result do not use the foam roller as a massager, find the tight spot in the overactive muscle and hold it for 30 seconds
Get Your Sleep
Obviously lack of sleep can have many side effects that can be detrimental to an athlete such as, lack of energy, increased stress, even decreased memory. A recent study also shows that sleep deprevation can also prevent protein synthesis, the process that rebuilds our muscles after we tear them up after a workout (Yang, 2019). Allow your body to recharge and shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep at nighttime. Lack of sleep can also significantly lower testosterone levels. Everybody’s body is different, so keep track of how much you are sleeping and your performance numbers and adjust accordingly.
Tip: If you are in a “two a day” cycle, try taking a power nap during the day right after a meal in order to allow the body to prepare for the second session.
Ice baths, they suck, but they work. Most of us have used ice or a cold pack to heal some sort of inflammation, but its also a remedy for muscle soreness. In fact, ice baths have proven to be more effective against DOMS than massages (Hartono, 2019). You do not need anything fancy to do this, just simply dump a bag of ice in the bathtub with cold water immediately after your workout, then sit in the tub for 5-15 minutes.
Tip: If you cannot stand the ice at first (like me) try alternating between hot water and cold water in 30-60 second intervals.
Drinking water daily is the most basic form of maintenance you can do for your body, it’s like checking the oil in your vehicle. No matter what your fitness goal is, weight loss, muscle gain, etc., drinking water supports the mission. Being hydrated before, during, and after the workout, reduces fatigue, risk of injury, DOMS, and post muscle cramps.
Tip: Divide your body weight (in pounds) by 2, and try to drink that much water in ounces (If you are 200 pounds, you should be shooting for 100 ounces a day.)
Muscles and joints tend to become inflamed during a long season, or even a vigorous offseason. Aspirin and Ibuprofen are known treatments for inflammation (which should only be used responsibly), but there are also fruits and vegetables that have anti-inflammatory effects as well such as tomatoes and strawberries. Yes, fruits are carbs and loaded with sugar, but I addressed that in this article (https://td1sp.com/2020/05/08/athletes-you-need-your-carbs/). Experiment and see which method your body responds to the best.
Note: There are other plants outside of fruits and vegetables that have been clinically proven to be effective against inflammation, but we will save that topic for another article.
Hartono, S. (2019). The Effects of Roller Massage, Massage, and Ice Bath on Lactate Removal and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Sport Mont, 111.
Yang, D.-f. (2019). Sleep deprivation reduces the recovery of muscle injury induced by high-intensity exercise in a mouse model. Life sciences, 235.
By Fred Daniels
In the last 10 years or so, carbohydrates or “carbs” have been identified as the enemy in the battle against weight loss. If you look at weight or fat loss products sold online, or in your local supplement store, it is no secret that “Keto” products have become the new trend. Most restaurants and even some fast food places have flirted with the idea of “Low Carb” options on their menu. The process of Ketosis or “keto” simply put is when the body is deprived of carbs (It’s preferred energy source) in order to force it to burn fat instead.
This is not necessarily beneficial for people who regularly participate in intense exercise. Especially not athletes. The truth is ATHLETES NEED CARBS. In fact, not only should you be monitoring your carbohydrate consumption, but you should also be conscious of your carb timing. There is a time and place for carbs before, during and after your workout.
Carbs as Fuel
Along with hydration, carb fueling is one of the two most important factors in athletic performance. Carbs are stored for energy in two different types of glycogens, muscle glycogen and liver glycogen. Muscle glycogen, which is turned into glucose and used by muscle fibers as fuel, can typically be depleted in a 2-hour workout or event. Liver glycogen, which is converted to glucose and sent into the blood stream to regulate blood sugar, can typically be burned in a 15 hour fast (Clark, 2015).
In Anaerobic exercises, short and high in intensity, such as a 10-rep bench press or 50-yard wind sprints, the body is fueled by ATP (which consist of metabolized carbs) and Creatine Phosphate. In Aerobic exercises, longer low intensity, such as a 1-mile jog, or a 1-hour hike, the body is fueled with muscle glycogen (once again metabolized carbs) and fatty acids. The keto method deprives the body of glycogen and only uses the fat for energy.
The higher the intensity of the exercise or activity, the more carbohydrate is depleted. The typical performance athlete competes or trains typically at least above 65% of his or her Vo2 Max (Clark, 2015). If blood glucose can’t be restored and stabilized adequately by liver glycogen, then performance of that athlete will suffer. Simply put, an athlete can not perform at their optimal level without carbohydrates in their system. However, if consumed strategically carb fueling can push an athlete through fatigue.
Carbs for Recovery
These carbs depleted during exercise must be replaced. The body still needs energy to go about the day. When fuel is not replaced with carbohydrates, and glucose cannot be produced, the body uses protein as fuel by breaking down protein stores, or muscle, into amino acids to create energy. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
As I stated in a previous article, (https://td1sp.com/2020/04/28/5-mistakes-that-are-holding-back-your-performance/) poor attention to the recovery process will decrease athletic gains. You will lose muscle and performance ability by not taking care of the recovery process. Imagine lifting weights for a month but becoming smaller and weaker. This happens with performance athletes who do not consume the right amount of carbs for their training and events.
Now we established that carbs are good, lets go ahead and state too much of anything is a bad thing, and there is a time and place for everything. There is a time for carbs pre workout, mid workout, and post workout.
When you show up to a workout, or event you want to be in a fed state. Meaning you are not hungry, but there is no undigested food in your stomach, which may leave you feeling sluggish. There are different ways to achieve this depending on your schedule and lifestyle. A meal that consist of about 200-300 calories from carbs can be consumed, processed, and ready to be used as fuel in 3-4 hours. If you wake up Saturday morning at 7 and finish breakfast at 8am, by noon your body should be optimally charged.
Some of us workout first thing in the morning. If you wake up on an empty stomach and are headed to the gym you can consume a carb with a high glycemic index (GI) and still be fueled for your workout. Carbs with high GI ratings like potatoes, are absorbed and turned into glucose at a fast rate. Here list of foods broken down by GI.
Tip: Supercompensation is a method where an athlete loads up on carbohydrates for a one-week period in order to have maximum energy on game day. Take a steady amount of carbs for days 1-3 then increase it by 50% days 4-6. Dominate on gameday.
If you played youth sports you probably remember Gatorade and orange slices at half time. This is Intra workout carb maintenance. As we discussed the longer you work out, or compete the more energy stores you deplete, the less effort you can put out. Maintaining your carbs allows you to keep your energy up perform late in your game/event.
Tip: Drinking a carb rich sport drink during an hour-long workout can help maintain your energy level.
Post Workout Carbs
Do not waste your workout! For years and years gyms, trainers, and influencers have been stressing the importance of the post workout protein. I cannot stress enough the most important post workout macronutrient is carbohydrate. In fact, to optimize recovery, any post workout meal/supplement should have a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. For maximum recovery eat or drink a high GI carb at least 30-45 minutes after your workout, at this time, muscle cells are more receptive to insulin. As far as how many carbs you need, plan your post workout meal based on the activity level of the rest of your day.
Tip: After long games drink a high GI carb immediately after to give your body the fix it needs and then enjoy a heavy carb post meal (Pizza)
The truth is the Keto diet can be a remarkably effective way to lose weight. The problem is that all that weight will not necessarily be fat, and depending the demands of your day, you might not have the energy to get through it. For athletes, carbs are essential, they give us fuel, they keep us going, and they build us back up. You cannot afford to cut them out. Instead manage them strategically and dominate the competition!
Clark, L. S. (2015). Nasm Essentials of Sports Performing Training. Burlington: Jones and Barlet learning.
Alfrederick Daniels is a Performance Enhancement Specialist of the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He was born and raised in Los Angeles County. Attended John Muir High School in Pasadena,California. Fred played college football at Avila University and Pasadena City College.
Coach Daniels started his Fitness career in 2007 at Bally’s Total Fitness . He made his way around a few box gyms until he enlisted in the United States Navy. Fred was an Aviation Structural Mechanic with a cluster of collateral duties, including Command Fitness Leader at VFA-122, the largest Aviation Squadron in the U.S. Navy.
After honorably discharging from the navy in 2016, Fred studied at the National Personal Training Institute. Here he became a Certified Personal Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Since 2017 Coach has been with Team D1 Sports, on staff as the Sports Performance Coach. Since being out of the military he’s worked with collegiate and high school athletes in football, basketball,track, volleyball, softball, and several others.
As athletes we all would like to think we bring the “Mamba Mentality” into our workouts and overall preparation for our sports. Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how much we exert ourselves in the gym, our performance can be hindered by factors we might not be paying attention to. Here for our first blog post I wanted to list five key mistakes you may be making, that can stop you from maximizing your potential peak performance.
Typically, after a training session, a trainer will advise you to, “hurry up and get some protein.” The logic is that you have a small window to put protein in your body where it can effectively promote muscle growth. This is not only untrue but shifts the focus away from what is, actually essential for post workout nutrition, Carbs.
Carbohydrate is the most time-sensitive macro-nutrient. Depending on your sport it might also be the fuel to your activity. As far as post workout it is crucial that performance athletes to replenish their carbs after a workout. If you fail to do so the body begins to metabolize its muscle to create energy, which will ultimately decrease performance. I will make a detailed post regarding carbs in the future.
Toxins in Your Blood
Think of your circulatory system the same as the fuel delivery system in your car. If it becomes dirty it will slow the car’s performance, in extreme cases if your fuel injection is clogged your car will not even start.
The circulatory system delivers the nutrients or fuel, to your body. Even if you are putting good things in your body, if you are also consuming a lot of toxins, your body will never be able to take in the nutrients. Nicotine, alcohol, trans fat can all clog the circulatory system.
Training in the Wrong Intensity Zone
The phrase “in shape” is very subjective. For athletes, being conditioned to your specific sport when the season starts is a must. An uneducated strength coach/athlete will often fail to a develop a plan that addresses the specific needs of their sport. If you are a fast twitch athlete like a football player, 3-mile runs may be good offseason cross-training but at some point, it becomes detrimental to building fast twitch muscle. If you are a marathon runner, short burst exercises will not allow you to build up the cardio endurance you need.
These examples are extreme, but often athletes perform workouts that they think will help them but miss the mark. On Instagram we see football players performing 3-minute drills, or endurance athletes doing maximum lifts. Optimizing proper training intensity allows you to improve the energy system and muscle type you need for your sport.
You’re Blowing Off the Recovery Process
Here is a harsh reality that many athletes fail to acknowledge: It does not matter how hard you work out, if you do not handle the recovery process it all goes to waste. Sleep, rest, nutrition, hydration and supplementation, all play a role in getting the body back to 100% and ready to compete. When we train, we breakdown our muscles, in order to build them back up, we need to eat right, we need to drink water, and we need to get the proper rest, at minimum. Recovery essentials will be a huge part of this blog moving forward.
Your Workouts are Not Functional to Your Sport
I am a believer in cross-training and am pretty much against specializing in one sport at an early age. However, some exercises and drills can be detrimental to your performance, or just a waste of time. I remember a strength coach of mine always yelling, “Curl on your own time” I echo this to my athletes as well. A training session is typically 45-60 minutes, there is not any time for exercises that have no functional value. Some lifts might hinder the mobility you need for your sport. For example, if you are a boxer who needs to be able to keep your guard up, too much bench pressing might make it more difficult to do so.
There are many elements to achieving peak performance. Most of us understand the importance of hard work, but we are often miseducated or misinformed about the other factors that either hinder or enhance your abilities. We will later expand on all these topics individually, and moving forward this blog will be dedicated to educating trainers and athletes and maximizing our potential.
Coach Fred Daniels