While Steve Headley was still in high school, he endured a hamstring injury his senior year that required rehabilitation. He began rehab at Attain Therapy + Fitness in East Longmeadow, Mass.
When it was time to begin strength work on that hamstring, Headley was referred to the strength coach at Attain, Steve Conca.
Since the two met over four years ago, Conca has trained Headley and helped him win three NCAA Division III National Championships.
“Immediately after I started working with Steve, I saw results,” said Headley. “My times dropped.”
In 2009 he won the 55-meter indoor national championship and in 2009 and ‘10 he won the 100-meter outdoor.
Conca, who now owns a gym in West Springfield, Mass., got into strength and conditioning after graduating from UNC-Greensboro in 1997. He began working at Gray Cook’s clinic.
“[He’s] basically the pioneer of the whole strength and conditioning industry,” said Conca.
Conca began working at Attain after he relocated with his wife, Tina, who is a West Springfield native.
Around two years ago, Conca opened Conca Sport and Fitness. It is a small gym, but the achievements are vast. On one of the walls is a collage of success stories ranging from weight losses to athletic achievements from the high school to professional levels.
On the wall is not only Headley’s photo, but one of SC senior Kevin Coyle, who captured the long jump title at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships last season. Coyle, along with others on the track team, began working with Conca after Headley’s recommendation.
Conca agreed that both Headley and Coyle were talented and had great technique; the only thing they needed to improve on was their strength.
To build that muscle, Conca uses a series of high-weight, low-volume exercises, which develop the muscles but does not make runners too bulky.
“When you talk about running, it’s great to get real strong, but it’s not good if you’re getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Conca. “So you have to keep your size down.”
To do this, Headley and Coyle do one to three repetitions opposed to eight to ten. This way, they keep the muscles working, but they aren’t adding too much weight.
Headley is more than happy to be back working with Conca. From Nov. to June, the former SC track star was training in Marietta, Ga. with world and Olympic champions.
“I was training there, and my times got worse. The strength program is completely opposite to what Steve does,” said Headley. “We didn’t do any deadlift, which is the core lift.”
“I saw the difference in just the seven months that I was gone.”
Even though Conca is creating a trend of producing national champions, he takes little credit, if any.
“We can give them all the information in the world, but it’s up to the athlete to believe in it and put it into practice,” said Conca. “It’s a great testament to them.”
Conca and his gym have a strong bond with Springfield. He has worked with students as interns and even has current and former Springfield students working in his gym. Aside from Headley, Conca is working with several members of the track team and looks forward to his continued relationship with SC.
“We have a great, positive relationship,” said Conca. “We’re not trying to take anything away from their program; they run a great program, but if we can help, we don’t mind standing in the background and not taking any credit. That’s fine.”
Terrence Payne may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org