Coach @’s Corner 5:05.11

May 5th, 2011 in Coach's Corner by 0 Comments

Each week Coach @’s Corner addresses a variety of topics related to high school coaching, self-coaching, and our sport at large. Have a question or something you’d like us to address? Contact us using the methods at the end of the column.

As a high school distance coach, I’m always experimenting – tweaking old methods that worked for me as an athlete – and tying in new ideas I’ve learned along the way. Many of these new ideas have helped me succeed with the milers and two-milers I’ve had the privilege to coach.

My team just finished our aerobic phase last week. My top gun has been a little pessimistic about his mileage this season, even though he’s coming off injury (IT band and chronic hip issues). I’ve assigned him lower mileage, about 40 miles per week, at a faster pace (6:40-6:50) than what he was used to during cross-country season. I think mileage gives him confidence because when he ran volume, big things happened – but you don’t need to run 100 miles a week in high school to have success (and you probably shouldn’t)!

This spring, his race times in dual meets have been slow so far. Our goals are high but realistic for his talent-level: 4:29 in the mile and 9:29 in the deuce. However, I believe he hasn’t run fast yet because we’ve cut our dual meet schedule in half due to a change in our league, and we’ve spent our time doing intervals as long as 3 x 1-mile and as short as 5 x 850m. We do Miracle Miles (sprint the straightaways, jog the corners) on the track for the last mile of many of our runs.

Last weekend, my young gun had a breakthrough. At a regional relay meet, he ran 4:39 for a 1600m leg and 3:24 for a 1200m leg. Three days later he ran a 10:01 two mile. I was pleased, and so was he.  It was the first time since before his injury that he had turned over his legs at that type of pace. As I recalled my athletic successes and those of others I’ve coached, it occurred to me that some of the anaerobic work can be achieved with doubles like these in between more aerobic-based training and intervals.

I don’t use heart monitors; we just don’t’ have the budget to buy them for the entire team (believe me, I tried) but I think we inject an anaerobic balance into our training cycle by doubling in meet situations with shorter races. Doubling gets them into an anaerobic zone and teaches their legs to handle that lactic acid build up that slows them after going out with a quick first lap or a fast first two. I like the 1-mile/800m double for kids who want to improve leg speed and turnover or get used to “hitting the wall.”. The double teaches milers strength and develops speed and turnover for 2-milers.

My high school coach at Bishop Feehan in southern Mass (Bob L’Homme) was a big believer in running his middle distance kids in 800m/400m doubles. Do the open 800m and come back with a 4 x 400m later in the meet. My senior year, I’d try to run 2:00 then come back and run a 54-second 400m leg. Most early spring meets were cold and I’d end up with a 2:02 or 2:03, but it was good anaerobic work. When I ran a 1:58.1 at the State Coaches later in the spring, I could see the benefit of those dual meet assignments.

Another workout we often did in our early season training both in cross country and track was ski slopes. The great Lydiard might have preached that less of an incline was required to get results but repeats up WWI Memorial Park in North Attleboro in high school and the 600m incline on Heartbreak Hill in college seemed to do the trick. As a matter of fact, in college much of my base was built during cross country my freshman year doing such workouts. We continued into the winter, along with aerobic-based track work, and I recall a 4:15 mile at the Big East Championships in Syracuse and an amazing (for me) 8:28 3000m at Boston University as I knocked heads with runners from Penn in the Valentine’s classic.

Where did that breakthrough come from? My log from that winter only shows a mere 50 miles or so a week, but I believe the aerobic base from cross country and these doubles at dual meets (in college it seemed to be more of a 1000m/4 x 800m relay double) that got me the speed and strength that I needed.

So as we head toward the end of May, I hope to see some blockbuster times from my distance crew. Because in New England, it’s a cold spring but that doesn’t mean with moderate mileage and carefully balanced aerobic and anaerobic workouts, you can’t stay healthy and make it to All-States with some PRs.

Coach @ ran a 1:24:32 ½ marathon just 13 days after Boston. For his full bio, click here. Presently he coaches the defending Eastern Massachusetts Champions – Foxborough High School. He qualified for Boston ’12 by 6 minutes and has plans to run a sub-three-hour winter marathon.

Have an opinion or question on self coaching? Let us know in the comments below, or reach Coach Atwood here.

Author: Atwood

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