High school athletics is more high profile and intense then ever. With stiffer rivalry at every level in every sport, preparation to compete is changing. Training is starting to shift from traditional weight-room protocols and strength emphasis to workouts that focus on speed and agility.
As training methods evolve, two neighborhood facilities offer an opportunity to not get left in the competitive dust.
“One of the main reasons why our training is so beneficial is because it is safe,” said Joshua Clark, owner of Fast Athlete USA and its head trainer.
“When kids in middle- and early high-school start lifting weights to add power and strength, they could mess with and injure their growth plates,” said Clark. “With us and our equipment, it is completely safe.”
While promoting non-injurious training under the supervision of experienced professionals, Fast Athlete also boasts an impressive array of digital, state-of-the-art equipment.
Kris Birkeland, owner of the nearby Athletic Republic training facility, makes a similar claim to advanced technology.
“Our machines and equipment all have patents on them,” said Birkeland. “The type of training that we offer, you can only get with us and our proprietary equipment.”
At Fast Athlete, Clark says, “We focus on interval training that creates a whole new energy system. We raise (the body’s) lactic thresholds, which allows athletes to recover more quickly. The recovery time is unmatched.”
And that, he says, is one of the things his company’s method does best: make people into fast athletes.
“We work on recruiting new muscle fibers so you can run and react quicker,” Clark said.
“We focus on turning people into athletes so when they are working in practice they can focus on hitting their jump shot or catching the ball, and they don’t have to worry about their athletic ability in that activity or sport.”
While Fast Athlete focuses on helping a wide variety of athletes to achieve high-condition performance in competitive situations, Athletic Republic emphasizes workouts designed for training in specific sports.
“When an athlete comes in here, we work on exercises that are customized to their sport,” Birkeland said. “We do not waste our time on things that are irrelevant to the sport they wish to excel in.”
While the two approaches rely on what their advocates note are proven techniques, both Clark and Birkeland say they regularly field inquiries from parents who want to know more the processes involved before committing a son or daughter to the new regimen.
Among the most common questions:
How young is too young to start? Can an athlete be hurt by starting to train too early?
“When people bring their young kids in to train, we sometimes have to tell them they are too young,” Birkeland said. But that’s not always the case.
“It’s hard to determine an age because they need to have a maturity and a work ethic when they come in here because we don’t fool around when we come in to train-we come here to work.”
Safety is also an issue.
“We work with some machines that you can hurt yourself on,” said Travis Ward, a trainer with Birkeland at Athletic Republic.
“They are completely safe and are very beneficial when you use them right, but when a child doesn’t listen and loses focus, it could get dangerous.”
If lack of years isn’t always a deterrent, are advancing years? In other words, says Fast Athlete’s Clark, “How old is too old?”
“Anyone who might no longer be an athlete can come in and train,” Clark said. “There is no age limit. The training keeps people in shape regardless of their age. We encourage anyone who wants to train in here to do it; we want to help them get in the best shape of their life.”
While most athletes start training to gain an advantage on the field or court, they also could be gaining skills that will help them get an advantage in life.
“I enjoy talking to people who walk through the door and not only see their performance go up a notch, but their confidence as well,” Clark said.
“I’ve seen kids who are doubtful as athletes come in here and, when they leave, they are proud and confident. That’s why I do what I do.”
Not only will people’s confidence increase but their social skills, as well.
“Due to the fact that we train two or three kids at a time, the kids start to bond with each other and encourage each other,” Athletic Republic’s Ward said.
“Then they build relationships because they have both conquered the treadmill together.”
Although the two centers have a regular following among amateur athletes, they also get their share of professionals who have a broader motivation to improve their skills. And these, of course, can have names that are readily recognizable.
“Every trainer remembers the professional or collegiate athlete they train,” Birkeland said.
While such sports-world “stars” make interesting memories, the trainers at both centers say it’s their day-to-day clients who offer the greatest rewards.
“My favorite story is when we get kids in here who are quiet and unsure about what they are doing, and by the time they leave we can’t get them to shut-up; they can’t wait to come back and push themselves.”
Fast Athlete USA is at 8725 S. Kyrene Road, Tempe. They can be reached at (480) 496-0828 or at on the Web at www.fastathleteusa.com
Athletic Republic is at 8270 S. Kyrene Road, Tempe. They can be reached at (480) 598- FAST and at www.athleticrepublictempe.com
Both facilities are offering spring and summer training programs for all sports.