First Step

Block Starts

  • “When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. The words deliberate and intention are key here because they define the difference between actively practicing something and passively learning it.”
  • “Practice Is Learning, But Learning Is Not Practice.”
  • “Passive learning creates knowledge. Active practice creates skill.”

I love these quotes as they are a testament to my experiences doing sprint training over the last few years. They’re from an article that popped up in my Umano feed recently.

This was taken during a Wednesday practice — one of the days we focus exclusively on block starts. Usually a photo like this will find its way to my Instagram profile with hashtags like #track, #sprints, and the like. But this time, I decided to write a short piece about it in hopes of improving my writing and also share my training experiences.

I really love this photo. It looks …. so beautiful …. so effortless …. so perfect. The preciseness of the motion seen is very much by design. It shows the beginning of a series of movements that are part of what is referred to as the acceleration phase of a race.


The following analysis only focuses on visible elements of the photo.

  • The first arm explodes forward, and at its highest point should almost be above the head. The more explosive this arm is, the more it makes for the opposite leg to really drive forward.
  • Same goes for the other arm — explodes backwards! Like really far back! Sometimes I almost feel as though my shoulders are about pop out. Scary thought — but that’s how intense it’s meant to be.
  • I’ve never really noticed it fully until now, but as you can see, you could almost draw a straight line from the head all the way down to the foot on the ground — To me, it looks absolutely stunning! The angled position of the body makes for a better acceleration.
  • We do a number of different drills to practice the drive forward at that angle. One of them involves using a harness placed around the torso with long straps being held by someone behind you. Then walking really slowly, with a slight lean, we practice extending the legs in an exaggerated manner in front of the body with each step.

There’s certainly a lot I could improve on. For one, I could certainly be more explosive out of the blocks. I’m told to really push into the blocks a bit more to get that explosive power. My reaction time has also been fairly consistent. At practice, we use this cool little device (seen left) to measure it. It’s awesome.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully, this piece has enabled you to appreciate the first step out of the starting blocks.


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