Hunger Games fitness challenge: Agility and speed
Try jogging in a straight line through the Hunger Games arena and see how far that takes you. If that's your strategy, you might as well lie down in front of the competition and hand over your bow and arrows.
Tributes like Katniss and Peeta have to constantly change direction and sprint for their lives to escape unexpected challenges and enemies. While not everyone can be as fast as Usain Bolt or as agile as Kerri Walsh, you can train to improve your speed and agility skills.
At no time during the Hunger Games are a quick start and fast legs as important as during the first sprint to (or away from) the Cornucopia. By improving your strength and power, and by training for a fast start, you'll beat the other tributes off the line and improve your chances of survival.
Think for a second about the body type of most sprinters — not only are they ridiculously fast, but they're also ridiculously strong and powerful. So, start your speed workout by performing power drills followed by sprint training.
- Warm up sufficiently.
- Repeat a series of 10 squat jumps, 10 medicine-ball throws and 10 single-leg plyometric explosions. Repeat the series three times, concentrating on power and proper form.
- Spend five minutes working on off-line drills to master your sprint stance and starting speed.
- Perform 10 40-yard-dash sprints, resting 30 seconds between each sprint.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees slightly bent, your elbows bent and your hands near your shoulders.
- Press your hips back and squat down, lowering your butt toward the ground and keeping your weight centered over your heels.
- When you reach the deepest part of your squat, immediately explode upward, extending your ankles, knees and hips as you jump up into the air and swinging your arms behind you.
- Land with soft, slightly bent knees and hips. Then immediately lower yourself back down into a squat to continue the exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with your knees slightly bent and a medicine ball held between your hands at your chest.
- Squat down, shifting your hips backward as you lower your butt toward the ground.
- When your knees are just shy of a 90-degree angle, powerfully push yourself back to standing position as you simultaneously explode your arms forward, throwing the medicine ball in a two-handed chest pass as far as you can in front of you.
- Retrieve the ball and continue the drill.
Single-leg plyometric explosions
- Stand to the side of a platform like a plyometric box or a sturdy bench. Plant the nearer foot on top of the platform and raise up onto the ball of the foot resting on the ground, leaning your torso slightly forward. Bend your arms as if you were running so that the arm farthest from the platform is reaching forward and the arm closest to the platform is reaching backward.
- In a single, powerful movement, push up through the foot resting on the platform as you drive your opposite knee forward while alternating the position of your arms. If you can, finish the movement by hopping up into the air and off the platform before landing exactly as you were with slightly bent hips and knees, one foot on the platform and the other on the ground. If you can't perform the hop, simply drive your knee as high as you can before returning your foot to the ground.
- Continue performing these single-leg explosions as fast as you can while maintaining good form.
The off-line drill is simply a matter of practicing your sprint start. Stand behind the starting line in a three-point stance, with one foot just touching the line and the opposite hand also on the ground. Your other foot should be slightly behind you so that both knees are bent and your body is prepared to launch itself forward. When you're ready, explode off the line in one powerful motion, running forward just a few steps. The start of a sprint is a valuable place to gain speed, so practicing this movement is an important part of sprint training.
Using cones, mark out 40 yards on a field and perform 10 sprints along this distance, running as fast as you possibly can. Give yourself 30 seconds to rest between each sprint. If doing 10 40-yard sprints seems like too much at first, cut the distance to 20 yards and gradually build up distance while also improving speed.