Valencia County high schools are fortunate to have two quality coaches who are experts when it comes to running.
Larry Padilla has been head cross-country coach at Los Lunas High School for a decade and has been named the District 3-5A Coach of the Year two years running, no pun intended.
Jim Edwards, who led Eldorado High School to numerous district titles in cross-country and track and whose harriers won a state championship, is in his first year as head coach for Belen’s Lady Eagle track and field team.
Edwards is very much a technician. The first thing the Lady Eagles learned when the team met for pre-season practice was “how to run.”
Edwards said both sprinters and distance runners should learn to run on the balls of their feet. If they run heel-to-toe, they’re, in effect, “putting on the brakes” when their heel hits the ground.
“It’s more of a posture thing — you need to run taller,” he said. “It comes from your toes all the way up to your head — being tall and being more efficient.”
Edwards emphasized the importance of a good pair of running shoes to be used for only running.
If you’re trying to get into shape and you’re just starting out on a running program, the coach suggests you start out slow and easy — by walking or jogging a mile or so the first six weeks — and gradually build up the distance. Every six weeks or so, scale down the workout for a week to give yourself a break.
And don’t forget the often-neglected stretching exercises. “You’re working your heart and getting it stronger. You’re working your muscles and getting them stronger. But you still have to work on the little things like stretching before and after you run to help prevent injuries so you can go out and run the next day,” he said.
While Edwards is ever the technician, Padilla takes a scientific approach.
Each year, Padilla takes his Tiger runners on a three-day retreat to northern New Mexico. “It’s a combination of running, classroom work and fun,” he said.
Professor Padilla instructs his team on the four key elements needed to be a successful runner — training, rest, mental preparation and nutrition.
“All four elements have to be in place or you won’t reach full potential,” he said.
The Tigers receive tutoring about maintaining hydration and the benefits of a carbohydrate diet. “We talk about fat, the percentage of protein and how to balance all that in their diets,” he said.
A complete runner takes care of his body and his mind, under the Padilla approach.
“They exercise their body; they also have to exercise their brain,” he said.
The coach teaches the Tigers relaxation techniques and asks them to visualize their goals. “It gets kids thinking in that direction – believing in themselves and visualizing what they’re trying to do.”
Though Padilla coaches competitive runners, his philosophy holds true for those with goals to lose weight or get themselves in shape. If you can imagine yourself out of the house running the ditch banks, or if you can visualize yourself running a marathon, you can do it.