Malibu Sports Figures Offer Athletic Advice for 2016

Abby Blackwood dribbles up the field against Calabasas.

The start of a new year comes with a batch of resolutions for 2016. 

The Malibu Times reached out to Malibu High School (MHS) cross country runner Abby Blackwood, MHS football player Indiana McAlpine, local runner Claire McCarty and MHS basketball coach Richard Harris and asked for advice they would give Malibuites whose New Year’s resolutions include fitness or excelling in a sport. Their advice, along with recommendations and guidelines from a health care provider, can help locals get a jump start on their 2016 goals.

Claire McCarty

McCarty, an endurance athlete of 36 years, said anyone who wants to participate in endurance events — including 5K races, marathons, triathlons and Ironman competitions — must examine their athletic base first. 

“Your base is where you start from, and you need to build that base up, depending on what you want to achieve,” the professional trainer and endurance coach said. “How fast do you want to do the race in? That is a component, whether you are just starting in the sport or not.” 

McCarty explained that individuals who only want to participate and finish an endurance race need to practice running the number of miles necessary to complete the event. She said if a runner is trying to be competitive, they will need to condition their body to run at a pace required to finish the race in a certain time. 

“That requires doing interval training,” she said. “Now, you are not just trying to get the mileage in you. You are trying to train the neuromuscular system to move faster. Speed is a trainable skill. You can’t go faster by just jogging at the same pace.” 

The endurance event medalist noted not to do interval training every day. 

“You’ll end up over-trained and probably with an injury,” McCarty said. 

McCarty said maintaining a training schedule is key because training for a marathon or triathlon can seem like a second job. 

McCarty said if an entry-level athlete is going to run the 26-mile L.A. Marathon, they need to focus on conditioning for the distance and hydration. 

“You can get through a 10K without too much nutritional concern,” she said. “You just need hydration.”

McCarty said more intense training programs for competitive runners would be required for running an eight-minute or winning a category at a race.

Abby Blackwood

MHS junior Blackwood was one of two cross country team members to run in the CIF Division IV Championship in November 2015. She finished 18th in the 192-runner race. 

Blackwood said individuals wanting to participate in a running sport like cross country need make sure they are committed to the activity.

“I would tell them to think about the goals they want to accomplish and how they want to improve as a runner overall,” she said. “Understanding what you want to accomplish is a really big part of it.” 

Blackwood said cross country is not just a physical sport. 

“You have to make sure you’re not only committed to running, but eating right and taking care of [your] body,” she said.

Blackwood advised beginning runners to take it slow initially in order to lower the risk of injury. She believes in taking one day off per week for recovery purposes.

“Start out where you are comfortable, and each day work yourself up,” Blackwood said.

For anyone looking to pick up a soccer ball, Blackwood, also a member of the Malibu girls soccer team, recommended playing with friends, kicking a ball around and joining a team.

Richard Harris

MHS boys basketball coach Harris said new basketball players — younger or older — need to get used to having the ball in their hands. 

“Dribble the ball for hours and hours at a time,” he said. “When you go to the store, take a basketball with you; when you are walking around your neighborhood, dribble a basketball or dribble in your garage. The hours and energy are necessary.”

The coach recommended shooting at least 200 shots per day. 

“I don’t care if you are standing under the basket,” he said, “try to make 200 shots every single day.” 

Harris said being in shape is key to basketball. The coach suggested that potential players time themselves running certain distances, and then strive for improvement. 

“I’ve seen so many basketball players that can’t really hoop, their skill sets aren’t strong, but they’re just stronger, faster and more aggressive than other players because of their conditioning,” he said.

Indiana McAlpine

MHS senior and football player McAlpine said if a friend or classmate asked him how to get in the best football shape, he would advise them to do sprints and footwork drills.

“I would tell them to lift weights, and do exercises like pushups and pull ups,” he said. “Lifting weights first and then conditioning.”

McAlpine ran for 385 yards and three touchdowns in the Sharks’ 38-26 win over Verbum Dei in October 2015. The wide receiver is also set to play in the seventh annual International Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 3. 

He said prospective gridiron athletes could start their day off by going for a long jog in the morning. 

“Thirty or 45 minutes, at least,” McAlpine said.