Getting back to basics helps fill need for speed
|||Big waves never came for Eddie Aikau meet|
|||Honolulu Marathon clinic starts March 12|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Mighty Mouse was Spider-Man.
It was an inevitable progression in the ages-old need for speed.
Since the first food hunt, competitors have sought ways to become quicker.
The ancient Greek runners covered their bare bodies in olive oil to keep off dust that might become speed impediments.
In the Middle Ages, the sons of noblemen used leaping techniques to strengthen their legs.
In modern times, athletes have shaved their legs and forearms, worn outfits as tight as an athletic director's budget, and invested in equipment that can reshape bodies into Gumby.
"If you're an athlete, you want to get faster," said Mel deLaura, co-founder of the Hawai'i Speed and Quickness clinics. "But all you need are the basics. Take advantage of what's already there. Run up a hill. Run up stairs. Jump on a park bench. Those things will make you faster."
And that is how the professional football player known as "Mighty Mouse"— Chad Owens, a former All-America receiver/returner at the University of Hawai'i and current member of the Jacksonville Jaguars — was on all fours, like a "Twister" player, in the "spider walk" drill at the Blaisdell Center.
As part of a recent Speed and Quickness clinic promotion, Owens crawled from one end of the exhibition room to the other.
"It's a good exercise," Owens said. "It really helps with my flexibility. I do the spider drill all of the time."
The spider walk is one of scores of drills deLaura and Rich Miano, the other clinic co-founder, culled from conditioning programs across the country through the years.
"The goal (of the spider walk) is to give you more hip flexibility and range of motion," Miano said. "That elasticity helps your legs turn over faster, and it gives you explosiveness — spring — and it helps you run faster. There are a lot of simple drills that pay big dividends."
Miano and deLaura were average athletes who improved through intensive training.
Miano entered UH as a non-scholarship football player in 1980. Tutored by strength coach Terry Albritton, who once held the world record in the shot put, Miano increased his quickness through explosive-movement drills, such as plyometrics. Only back in the early 1980s, plyometrics was simply jumping on and off a weight bench.
Miano went on to earn All-Western Athletic Conference honors and play 11 seasons in the NFL.
DeLaura said that until his sophomore year at Damien Memorial School, his athletic experience was "playing in the driveway."
"I didn't play any organized sports," he said.
As a receiver on the Damien football team, deLaura often went to Ala Moana Park to train.
"I would run in the park, and every time I'd come up to a bench or picnic table, I'd jump on it. I guess it was the same thing as working on step-up box. Back then, it wasn't called plyometrics. I just knew it was a good workout."
DeLaura played football at UH and Portland State, and was invited to two NFL camps before retiring after injuring his quadriceps. He returned to the Portland area to coach, eventually serving as a personal trainer to NBA players Kermit Washington, Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth.
In 2000, deLaura returned to Hawai'i, joining UH as the football team's conditioning coach. Miano, who has coached the UH defensive backs since 1999, and deLaura decided to start the Hawai'i Speed and Quickness clinics, a non-profit organization.
Miano and deLaura assembled a faculty of guest instructors with AA — All-America — degrees. Owens, volleyball's Victoria Prince and soccer's Natasha Kai take turns offering tips.
Miano and deLaura said clinics are based on the belief that speed comes from strength.
"The only way to get faster is to get your legs stronger," deLaura said. "You can strengthen your legs by running every day or doing jumping exercises or weight training. You need to get stronger or you'll stay the same."
DeLaura tells students that "running is a series of jumps."
"Think about it: when you're running, both feet aren't on the ground at the same time," Miano said. "Running is a form of jumping. You're jumping from one step to another. There's a correlation between vertical jumps and broad jumps. That's why we have so many jumping drills in our camps. My favorite saying is: If you jump high, you jump fast."
Prince said that all sports "are about your first step and being explosive. ... In any sport, if you're quick and explosive off the start, you're going to have an advantage."
Miano and deLaura said they try to find affordable alternatives For instance, Vertimax, a multiple-resistance device, retails for $2,045. Similar exercises, Miano said, can be performed with a $20 elastic strap.
"People get caught up in all the new stuff," deLaura said. "Sometimes it takes so long to put together one of the machines, you're too tired to work out. The main thing to do is get out there."
DeLaura recommends simple drills such as the split jump. An athlete stands in the lunge position, with the right foot in front, and jumps as high as possible.
Such workouts have helped Jessie Hathaway, a member of Pac-Five's Division II state champion softball team.
"I came out here because I wanted to work on my legs," said Hathaway, who attends all of the clinics. "I'm trying to build them up. I do lunges and squats and jumps. I'm definitely getting a lot faster. I'm able to get to balls that I wouldn't get to a year ago."
Aaron Dudoit, another clinic regular, said he hopes to increase his speed enough to move from defensive line to linebacker on the Punahou School football team.
"It's really helped," said Dudoit, who weighs 220 pounds. "I'm faster than I've ever been."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.