One early autumn day in late October I accompanied my good friend and uOttawa Gee-Gees track coach, Normand Séguin, at Strathcona Park (next to the Rideau River in Sandy Hill, Ottawa) for his routine Saturday coaching session. Normand himself was a track athlete in his early days and now enjoys volunteering on a regular basis split between the uOttawa Gee-Gees Track and Cross-Country Club and the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club. The Gee-Gees Track and Cross-Country Club has over 100 university students of which Normand has a team of 30 long sprinters, the 400m and 800m events. The track athletes ages typically range from 17-28.
This day’s session was anticipated to be lightly attended, University reading break and a heavy course load kept most away but six did manage to make the practice. Coach Normand wasn’t surprised, he keeps in touch with his athletes on a regular basis, sending out his off-track routine by email and monitoring their progress and providing helpful feedback. It’s also expected that athletes will fess up if they didn’t keep up with their daily workout routines. It became readily apparent that a track club is serious business, the athletes live and breathe their sport, watching their diet and drinking habits closely for them to achieve peak performance on the track. Both the Gee-Gees and the Lions Track Clubs spawn Olympic-caliber athletes, both clubs have an excellent reputation in the track world.
The athletes trickle in as the 10:00am practice session nears. Some complain lightly about being tired from the night before of dancing and drinking, but it’s all in jest, of course (I learned this later from Normand, not a typical behaviour of a track athlete). This is also a good time for the athletes to seek out the coach’s guidance on past days workouts.
During the warm-up, there are many discussions regarding discomfort, aches, pains – anything that has come up since the last practice.
First up is the 10 minute roll and stretch exercises followed by a group run for 15 minutes (the feature image on top). The idea is to stick together at a decent pace, no speed yet, just enough to feel your body and ease into the more progressively challenging workout ahead. When the group has returned from their warm-up run, they head off to the grass for 10 minutes of upper body warm-up, then leg swings, and with some skills exercises for the biomechanics to roll with the muscle brain memory.
All warmed-up and ready to go, the athlete’s workout is comprised of 1 km x 6 times interspaced runs with 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 2 min, and 1 min breaks. Coach Normand has set their goals; 3 minutes 25 seconds for the men, and 4 minutes 15 seconds for the women. Coach Normand states; “Although the workout sounds very cardio for “long sprint athletes”, we are still working to build the cardio by some volume before mid-November, where we will reduce the distance and increase the speed component. While doing longer distance, it is important to remind athletes to focus on their touch down, so that the contact with the ground is always on the balls of their toes, never too flat and even worse, on their heels. Long sprinters always run on the ball of their feet to reduce ground time and to focus on frequency”
Once the running is completed coach Normand has the athletes start into their A-runs, which he mentions; “they are a speed skill exercise that has them raising their knees while using full extension, perfect upper body and many technical challenges like dorsiflex and tall posture. Working on strength and technical skills after cardio make it difficult“. This looks like somewhat of a grueling exercise after all their running, but seemingly no complaints
The Cool Down
With the A-Runs completed, the athletes break off and do their own 10 minute cool down of stretching and rolls.
With the cool down finished and with a last minute chat with coach Normand, the GeeGees track practice comes to a close. The athletes disperse and coach Normand heads off on his own 5km run before returning home before noon.
It was a beautiful autumn morning to be out photographing Coach Normand and his Gee-Gees track athletes in action. I know much more about their sport now and I can clearly see the passion and discipline that drives them to progress and success.
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