Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chapter 25: NMT

Beads of Sweat is a novel about a cross country team.  To read previous chapters, click the fiction tab at the top of the page.  

On the clipboard: NMT, Track.  Underneath those two words, he grouped the team into fourths. 

Spidestrom                   Hammond                    Smith                            Buck
Jenkins                         Kimihara                      Galiozzi                        Sellberg
Torres                          Wallan                          Pawgoski                     Lee

Coetaine: bike

            As they did their one and a half mile warm-up over the grass perimeter of the athletic fields, Hartman explained the rationale of the workout to Pereira.  Told him all about neuromuscular training and the benefits of tapping into fast twitch muscle fibers.  Told him about how bouts of short fast running improves form and strengthens the leg muscles.  Hartman never had his runners lift weights with their legs, (despite all the Dank Tank workouts) just body weight.  He preferred to build power and muscle endurance through hills and speedwork.  Pereira listened intently as Hartman rambled on for what turned out to be the rough draft of the speech he’d give to the team when they returned.  The coach had learned quickly in his first few years never to hold things to close to the vest.  Giving a teenager a why, letting them know the plan and the reasoning, produced better results.  When a sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year old boy is asked to complete an arduous task, he’s more willing to do it and do it well if a reason accompanies that task.  Hartman gave it to him. 

            The boys returned to the track and started their dynamic stretches.  Many of them grabbed a mouthful of water and a couple underclassmen peeled off their shirts.  The seniors policed them.

            -Team rule: shirts stay on.
            -Oh come on, Spider said, it’s friggin hot out.
            -Plan on running bareback in a race?
            -Nobody wants to see your scrawny ass body.  Put those ribs away.

            Good thing for Spider, Sellberg, et al that the girls’ team wasn’t on the track.  The ribbing would’ve exacerbated tenfold.  As usual, the ladies were on their daily perimeter in nothing but short shorts and jogbras.  Oh the humanity.

            -Here we go.  Two miles NMT today.  Neuromuscular training.  We do this for a few reasons.  One, to improve leg speed, to improve your sprint.  Two, to improve your efficiency, your form.  Three, to cultivate faster muscle fibers.  And four, we’re doing this because I’m the boss and I said so…Let’s get to it.

            He told them their groups and staggered their starts.  He reminded them that this workout appeared easy but really wasn’t if you ran it right.  Sixteen 100m windsprints in 3200m of running.  Do not push the curves, he warned, even if you feel good.  Especially those first couple of laps.  The curves are your recovery.  If one group runs into another, one of you is doing something wrong.  Pay attention to your bodies; focus on your form.  Don’t race each other.  Concern yourself with yourself.  This isn’t a competition.  That’s tomorrow.

            He got them started.  Once the final group took off, he walked across the infield toward the middle of the far straightaway.  Pereira said that he’d watch them from the homestretch and Hartman nodded approbation.  He told Pereira to watch their arm swings and listen to their footstrikes.  Chide them if they’re pounding.

            Spidestrom looked so smooth on the track.  Effortlessly he ran the straights.  He gapped his group by a meter or two and made it look easy.  His gazelle-like form contrasted starkly with Jenkins, who had good form but had to work to maintain it.  Hyperion and Sisyphus.  Torres bobbed between them and kept a light banter on the curves.  After nine straights, Spider stayed as smooth as the first.  He continued to lead the trio.  His foil started his telltale headbob.  Hartman told him to stop racing.  Next time around, Pereira told him of his bob.  The senior glared at the assistant and grudgingly heeded his advice. 

            -Footstrike, footstrike, footstrike, Hartman shouted to his bluebird group.  Drive through the ground and flex your ankle at the takeoff.  Train your feet to pushoff forcefully.

            The troika listened to their coach and ambitiously followed his directive.  Too ambitiously.  Hartman grimaced as he watched Lee slam his foot down into the track.  The pfb risked breaking every metatarsal in his foot just to win the praises of his coach. 

            -Not so hard, not so hard, he shouted at their backs.  Focus on the pushoff. 

            The freshmen need work, Hartman thought, but Kimihara’s passing two groups later reminded him that it could be done.  Next to Spidestrom, he was a thing of beauty.  Wasn’t always that way but was now.  Perfectly efficient.  Nary a wasted movement.  Deo directed every bit of his energy into propelling himself forward.  He could do these sprints on a tightrope or balance beam if he wanted to.  His symmetry amazed his coaches.  Each half of his body a true compliment to the other.  Right knee flexed up, left elbow flexed back.  Some guys had a sneaker that swung convexly coming out of midstance.  Not Deo.  Put him on a tarmac and he’d be ready for takeoff.  From stance phase to footstrike to midstance to swing phase to ankle dorsiflexion to toeoff, every action moved him farther around the oval.  His cadence was hypnotizing and both Pereira and Hartman had to snap themselves out of the trance induced by his stride. 

            -Hey Wallan, don’t swing your arms across your body like that.
            -Yes Coach.
            -Fire those arms like pistons in their holsters.  Don’t cross your body.
            -Yes Coach. 

            In another lap Wallan had corrected his form and smiled at Pereira.  Pereira smiled back at him.  Did Wallan ever smile for Hartman like that?

            Fifteen minutes elapsed and the boys were finished.  They caroused and the chat made its way to New Martindale, tomorrow’s opponent.  They were left to their own memories and speculations as Hartman had said nothing about them.  He ignored their canting and told them to cooldown the same mile and a half they did on their warm-up. A few of the guys had lulled themselves into thinking that they were done but the savvy veterans knew better.  They jogged off toward the fields, the sun still high in the sky.

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