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Posted on Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 11:53 a.m.

Time on track helps Michigan basketball team bond, improve conditioning

By Michael Rothstein

Zack Novak stood on the track, tired like the rest of his teammates, yet still giving encouragement to everyone else. A few words to 7-foot center Ben Cronin and a hand-slap to forward Anthony Wright as he crossed the start-finish line on the Ferry Field track.

As much as Michigan basketball coach John Beilein wants his track workouts, done in interval training, to be conditioning for his team, they do something else. They bring his group, especially one with six freshmen, together.

“It’s a team bonding thing,” Beilein said after his team’s track workout Thursday. “You can see there really is a lot of pride in there.”

In the middle of it is Beilein, offering motivational words and keeping the times straight.

Beilein said this has been the best set of track workouts since he arrived from West Virginia three years ago. The workouts, though, are nothing new. It’s something he has done since he started coaching, tweaking it from a similar training regimen he read about in a journal about Louisville basketball workouts under former coach Denny Crum in the 1970s.

Essentially, the players run two miles in shorter intervals. They run sets of two 400-meter runs, two 200-meter runs and two 100-meter runs twice. That’s it. In between are breaks of varying lengths, although Beilein has structured it similar to breaks players would receive in basketball games.

Some breaks are 30 seconds, equivalent to a short timeout. Others are longer, equivalent to a TV timeout. And others are 10 to 15 seconds, just long enough that a player would be at the free throw line or going in for a substitution.

“You start and it’s like you get a certain amount of break and you’re like ‘Geez, that was pretty tough. I want to do it without a break,’” fifth-year senior forward Zack Gibson said. “But you keep pushing through it and you get used to it. The body adjusts.”

So, too, have the players. In Beilein’s first year at Michigan, players who were healthy couldn’t complete the workouts initially. Now, even guys coming back from injury are getting through it, even at a slower pace. So far, Beilein said his players - even the freshmen - have rarely missed the predetermined time.

“It’s come a long way,” Beilein said.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.