Coach Mike Mead

August 2013

Training and Racing for Purpose

“So, how is your training going?” That is the typical question I pose to my distance athletes throughout the year and particularly during the summer. And most summers I am always disappointed in many of their replies.

They are training, but not to the level they need to make long steady improvement when the season – in this case cross country – arrives. As I’ve become older, wiser, and decrepit, the commonalities that I’ve observed from many runners who train during the summer is they don’t run far enough or hard enough and they do not race enough.

Some of my past writings in this very space have cautioned runners not to race too much. There are some road racers who may race twice every weekend for weeks or even months. But the problem with that is the risk of injury or stagnate racing results.

Many of the runners I coach these days tend to under race. That is fine if they are logging weeks of mileage that averages over 70 miles a week. This kind of runner is getting in the volume and running with intensity that racing may not be necessary.

However, if you are a high school or college runner who runs both track in the spring and cross country in the fall, you need to do some sort of racing between May and August to maintain or refine your competitive tactics.

If you are one who considers yourself a competitive person, how can you take four months off from racing and not get stale? Yeah, you can do speed intervals, and tempo runs, and fartlek runs. You can run hills, strides and sprints. But do you?

The reality is many don’t run the mileage or the intensity needed to see adequate improvement. The result is that after logging whatever miles for four months, the runner begins the season under-trained. The legs and the lungs have not been adequately worked to prepare for more intensive running that is required to race at a higher level.

The occasional summer race interspersed with the proper summer training will keep a runner’s competitive juices flowing. The summer racing also provides opportunities to work on different racing strategies that you may not want to try during your racing season.

If you are the type of runner that has trouble with doing some intensive training during the summer on your own, here are a few tips to consider to develop your turnover and return you in better shape than the previous season.

• Run in a low-key road race every couple of weeks during the summer. Try to find races that may be held during the week and that are a longer distance than you are training to race later in your season.

• Do some sort of intensive running twice every 10 days. This summer I’ve done a mix of 3 x mile and 10-12 x 300’s one week and a three-mile tempo run on a measure loop and 10-12 x 300’s another week. Workouts like these will help with pacing and improving your turnover without taking too much out of you. Again, do distances you normally do not run and go shorter went the heat and humidity are oppressive.

• Run on established loops you create and run them each week to try to improve your time. Don’t just go out and run loops. Time the loops, log your times (benefit of documenting your runs!) and try improving your time.

• Run the downhills. Unless you live in flat land, take advantage of all downhill sections that you run on during your training runs. I have two loops in particular that I regularly run that no matter how I may be feeling, I pick up the pace on the downhill parts to work on my turnover without exerting much more effort. It can turn a sluggish run into a productive one.

These suggestions may be too late for this summer, but consider for your off-season training between cross country and track, or whenever you do your off-season training. The bottom line is use it or lose it!