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Fresh Ways to Boost 
Track & Field Performance

This month, we're focusing on innovative strategies to enhance your performance both on and off the track. 
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Welcome to your competitive advantage in track and field! Every month, we round up actionable tips from expert coaches and the latest sports science. You'll get curated content and analysis that gives you an edge and a little entertainment.

This month

  • Cranberries - The Tart Edge of Speed
  • Coaching Tip - Ask First
  • The Science of Winning - Mental Practice
  • Reaction Time Testing & Improvement 
cranberries pouring into a track spike

Is the Hype About Cranberries Boosting Track Performance Real?

Track and field is a sport decided by millimeters and fractions of a second.

So, when a new study reveals that just 28 days of cranberry supplementation can significantly boost recovery after the grueling 400 meters and improve running speed in the 1500 meters, it’s going to catch the attention of athletes and coaches.

How much of a boost are we talking about?
1.5% in the 1500m.

At first glance, 1.5% might not seem substantial. But in our sport, it can be a game changer. 

Consider the math: This slight improvement is the difference between running a 4:00 minute 1500m and finishing at 3:56.4.

That's the kind of leap that can mean the difference between first place and finishing off the podium.

What's even more impressive is the absence of apparent drawbacks. This isn't some novel untested supplement, it’s a fruit extract.

Sounds almost too good to be true…and it kind of is.

So what’s the catch?

It turns out that there are at least 3.

First Catch: For 400m runners, it appears luck isn't on their side with this one—because, as with everything else in this event, nothing comes easy!

While the study confirmed that cranberry supplementation significantly buffered the post-exercise lactate response (which could be beneficial between heats or training sessions) it did not directly improve 400m performance times.

It seems the primary benefits of cranberries are geared more towards longer events that rely heavily on aerobic metabolism.

Second Catch: The study shows no advantage to taking cranberries on race day or right before a hard training session. To get the benefits, athletes need to take them consistently for at least 28 days.

By the way, the dose used in the study was 0.3g/kg of body mass which equates to roughly 22,000mg a day for a 160 pound athlete.

Third Catch, and this is a big one: Buried down at the bottom of the study is a surprising detail: the 1.5% improvement was observed only during certain parts of the 1500m race, not throughout. Their overall times showed no statistically significant decrease.

Wait, what?

This means the runners ran faster during parts of the race but didn’t actually complete the 1500m any faster overall. Yeah, I’d say that’s kind of missing the entire point. Another limitation is the study’s small sample size of just 14 athletes, which narrows the scope of these findings even more.

Final Thoughts: While the study presents promising data on the physiological benefits of cranberry supplementation, at this point it seems to be more hype than substance. Although there aren’t any drawbacks, the effect of cranberry supplementation on improving race times in competitive settings remains inconclusive.

Coaching Tip - Ask First

One of the most important skills an athlete can develop is the ability to correctly interpret their physiological feedback.

If an athlete accurately recognizes the orientation of their body in space (proprioception), performance and safety sharply increase.

This is why Georgia Jumps Coach Ryan Baily always asks for an athlete’s perspective on a jump before giving feedback.

“A huge challenge for every coach, coaching the long jump, is getting their athlete on the board. After a jump, I ALWAYS ask them where they were on the board. I ask for their opinion.”

“Because they frequently think they are right on the board. But in reality, they are half a shoe over. So we have a perception problem.”

“And we have to work to change that perception.”

“To do this, I always wait to give feedback until I ask them first where they think they were at on the board.”

To improve an athlete’s body awareness, they must understand and feel their body is out of position.

This concept extends to other events as well. For instance, if a sprinter is not coming out of the blocks correctly and breaking at the waist or a thrower is leading with the upper body, getting their perspective first before providing guidance can improve physiological feedback.

By having athletes reflect on their performance, they can compare what they felt with what they actually did. This conscious examination of body awareness allows the athlete to update the mental model of their movements.

World champion discus thrower Laulauga Tausaga at the beginning of her throw.

The Science of Winning: Proven Tips to Mentally Prepare for a Track Meet

Studies have shown that when athletes visualize their movements, the same nerves fire as when they physically perform the actions.

This technique, called mental practice, can significantly boost performance and help athletes reach their full potential when it matters most—at track meets.
Read More

Test Your Reaction Time vs Noah Lyles

Reaction time is a critical component of an elite athlete’s technical arsenal, often separating the top of the podium from everyone else.

But if there is one speed-related thing you could beat the reigning World Champion at, it might be reaction time.

Take the test and see if you can outperform Noah Lyles out of the blocks.
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