A Sprint Down Memory Lane

by Jim Steel

Intensity, in my opinion, is the key to getting the most out of your conditioning work outs. Short, frequent training sessions that are taxing to complete but don’t negatively affect your recovery are essential; one should think of each workout as a progressive building block upon the last. Along these lines, I want to share a running program that I used to get in tip-top shape.

The year was 1983. I was getting ready for my junior year of playing football at High Point High School in Beltsville, MD. We were going to have a good time that year. In fact, we ended up going to the State Championship and losing by just 6 points. The best part about that team was that we were dedicated to both our strength and our conditioning training. Some were able to get into shape by conventional means, such as multiple sprints. When I’m training I get bored easily so I had to devise a program that kept my interest and also enabled me to get into great shape.

I grew up in suburban Prince George’s County, MD, about 10 miles outside of DC and 20 South of Baltimore. The best part about where my family and I lived was that there was at least 100 acres of woods behind our house and across a main road. There was a trout stream there where we fished, swam, and ice-skated. But for my running purposes, these woods were optimal for motocross trails. Back then it seemed like everyone had minibikes or dirtbikes that they rode in the pits and in the woods. Because I can’t stand the thought of running around a track or running straight sprints over and over again, I devised a running program that took me into the woods on a daily basis.

What it became was a hybrid between cross country and interval running. These trails were awesome. I could split up the workouts and make them as hard or as easy as I wanted them to be. I could choose a path where there weren’t many hills, or I could choose one where there were two or three hills that were challenging and nausea-inducing. My workouts lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. The ten minute workouts were basically straight sprints where I would push myself to exhaustion. On the longer workouts, I would vary the speeds, gliding on the straightaways while sprinting up the hills. Sometimes, I would go to the biggest hill in the woods that I named “throw-up hill” and just did sprints up the hill. I called it “throw-up hill” because I never completed more than three reps without puking. I’m guessing it was around 100 yards with sand and gravel. At the beginning of the hill there was a small creek that I would jump over before I began the climb. I would do this hill workout about every three or four workouts. For the other days of the week, I did continuous running on the trails.

In addition, I tried doing my workouts so it would be during the hottest part of the day, around 2 pm. Although the woods provided some shade, it was humid and just right for getting in shape for football. The strangest thing about all of this was that I actually got more muscular, faster, and was in the best shape of my life from doing these workouts. I remember the first day of summer camp when we were required to run multiple 40s with very little rest. Even though I hadn’t run a 40 all Summer, I was faster than I had ever been and my recovery was excellent.

When I see all the scientific mumbo-jumbo that is part of strength and conditioning today, and all the implements that people think they need to use in order to get optimal results, I often think back to my workouts in the woods and laugh. People would think I was nuts if I recommended motocross trails to get into great football shape. I’m guessing the liability factor would be too high for anyone to consider this as a training program. For me, it remains a fond memory of just how fun getting into shape can be.


15 Responses

  1. MItch

    Primitive. Effective. Dominant.

    January 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm

  2. WoF

    Nice Down hat. The power of the riff compels me!!!

    January 12, 2011 at 10:58 am

  3. Jim Steel

    Thanks for the compliments…Down is great-same as Superjoint,wish they would come back.

    January 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  4. mike


    I enjoy reading your posts for two reasons:
    1. the common sense/stick to basics stuff is good
    2. i also grew up in beltsville, so reading about you going to high point (i went to roosevelt, my bro was an eagle though) is kinda cool

    January 14, 2011 at 1:05 am

  5. Jim Steel

    No shit! another Maryland PG County boy, hell yeah. Thanks for the compliments, I really appreciate it.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:34 am

  6. Pat

    Go High Point!

    I went there too. I remember we used to run up the big ass hill leading down the baseball field during baseball practice. It was horrible.

    Great article.

    January 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

  7. Steel

    Alright, all the former Eagles coming out of the woodwork, I love it. It was a great place to grow up,really. Ocean City on the summer also..miss those days. PG County has changed some since then hasn’t it?

    January 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm

  8. pat

    Ah yes, Ocean City, MD. Love that place. The only time I make it to pg county is to go to UMCP to buy terps gear.

    In your article are you talking about the hills at the beltsville rec center?

    January 17, 2011 at 6:30 am

  9. Jim Steel

    No, although I love that course, especially the hill at the end. This course was off of Powder Mill Road. Back where Indian Head rock is…

    January 17, 2011 at 10:13 am

  10. mike

    PG County is sort of the black hole of Maryland at this point (no pun intended). The county executive got caught by the feds literally flushing cash down the toilet trying to hide it. Pat and I (he’s the bro I was talking about) left a while ago and like he said pretty much only ever go back to buy Terps gear on campus.

    Sure was some damn good basketball played in PG County back in the day. I remember the High Point state title team in 92 or so, was probably the best HS bball team I saw back then.

    January 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

  11. Drew

    Mr. Steel,
    Thank you for your contributions here. I enjoy reading your articles a lot for the same reasons the rest have mentioned. I love the simple, just go do it attitude.

    Thank You!

    January 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

  12. Jim Steel

    Drew, thanks. I really appreciate you taking the time to write. Its not complicated,is it? just get after it..get strong and in shape and anything is possible!

    January 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

  13. sapper09

    Hty Jim,

    great articles, both here and over at SS. I live in Adelaide, South Australia (bit farther afield than most of the other guys commenting here…).

    Just found out about this place near the police barracks here called ‘The Snake Pit’. The academy is right by the beach and this place is a track in and out of the sand dunes and is apparently a real bitch!

    Not quite the same as what you were talking about, but when i heard about it i thought of this article. Think i’ll try and head down there soon, run around for a while and have some fun! (note: i may revise my opinion of fun after having been there)


    January 20, 2011 at 8:07 am

  14. sapper09

    ^whoops, should’ve been “Hey”, obviously

    January 20, 2011 at 8:09 am

  15. Jim Steel

    That’s great. You are right,just have fun with it. Don’t even set a time limit, just enjoy it.
    And thanks for writing.

    January 20, 2011 at 9:01 am

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