Jay Johnson on going from track to summer training.

Planning and Screening

If you can find the time to plan the first few weeks of summer training, that allows you to assign that training to kids who didn’t run in the championship season, and it gives you a couple of weeks to refresh before summer training. 

While it would be ideal for you to be with your athletes daily in the first few weeks of the year, that’s not going to happen in most programs. But assigning them SAM and strides lays the foundation for doing comprehensive training when you meet with them in the summer.

If you know the athlete has some problematic asymmetries with their gait, it might be worth having them see a knowledgeable physical therapist or chiropractor who can do a movement screen, and can then assign routines to correct these issues. Obviously, this can backfire, with this person overstepping their bounds and giving input on training. 

I don’t think this is necessary for 80-90% of your kids, but for the athlete who has had injury issues that you are certainly a function of musculoskeletal weakness and/or a significant asymmetry, it might be worth involving a physical therapist or chiropractor.

Are They Bored?

That would be my simple question regarding when to start training again. 

There are different schools of thought on when to resume training. Joan Hunter has her Loudoun Valley athletes take only a few days off, then resume training, and they seem to have fewer injuries because of it. The flip side is one week of little activity, then a week of running, but only four to five times, which has worked for a lot runners.

The reality is that when training starts, you want it to be comprehensive and you want their full attention, and that’s the reason I think you should wait until they’re bored. Related, you need to be antsy to start practice before you start practice. If you’re not excited to get going, it probably means you need to delay summer practice a week.

Beat The Heat

Plant the seed that they need to beat the heat this summer and be willing to get up to run. Unfortunately, the problem is that, in an ideal world, they go to bed early enough to get the 9-10 hours of sleep they need as high school student-athletes. I’m at a loss on this one as to how you convince a high school athlete to get to bed early enough to get that amount of sleep and still be up in time to beat the heat. 

The book Why We Sleep was recommended by Paul Vandersteen at the Boulder Running Clinics and it’s fascinating. The author, Matthew Walker, Ph.D, was on Dr. Peter Atia’s The Drive podcast and their three-part interview is the most important running-related information I’ve acquired this year. (I love the free podcast app Overcastand its smart speed function, which is free). 

7Walker recommends high school athletes go to bed a bit later and sleep in…the opposite of what you may need to do in your climate. Again, I don’t know what to tell you on this, other than we know that sleep is a game changer when it comes to training and that athletes need a great deal of sleep to handle significant training loads.

Proper use of ice baths.

There is good reason to use ice baths during the final two-day meet of the year. After the first day of competition, an ice bath can decrease inflammation and help the athlete come back and run well the next day. Yet an ice bath may not make sense for three consecutive weeks of meets, as the inflammation associated with racing is in some ways a good thing. 

For athletes who may or may not advance to the next meet, I’d have them do the ice bath between the competition days. Better to have them take an ice bath the week of the qualifying meet for state and make it to state, rather than not.

Switching gears, many athletes at this time of year want to run PRs — and that’s great — that’s what you want as well. 

It’s worth reminding your athletes that when they’re running against good competition, they simply need to compete and do their best to beat as many good runners as possible. Even if the weather is less than ideal, HS athletes often run PRs this time of year because of the parity of the competition. Simply focusing on the competition and beating as many people as possible will often mean having to run a PR to advance to the next week.

Example: a 2:20 800m runner will be in a race with a lot girls with PRs between 2:16 and 2:22 and that’s a great opportunity for her to run a PR, knowing that some of the 2:22 girls will go out too hard and she can pass them in the last 200m of the race (if not earlier).

I wish you the best this weekend and in the coming weeks. If you have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you — just respond to this email.

Jay Johnson

Stress vs. Stressors

Stress vs. Stressors

At this time of year, both you and the athletes you coach have a variety of stressors in your lives; a stressor is “something that causes either strain or tension.” You are likely sitting down in the evenings, adjust the training for the next few days, after a day of teaching and coaching. This is an example of a stressor that may or may not be stressful. 

For athletes, all of the things that go along with attending the prom may be a cause for joy, or stress, or a bit of both.

The point is that stressors don’t always cause stress, depending on the coach or athlete.

Obviously, this applies to workouts and meets. Are athletes excited to train and race, or is the stressor of competition a significant challenge for them?

Also, consider the end of the year banquets and the end of the year tests. These things are coming at a time when you want athletes to perform at their highest level, yet they may come to practice fatigued from these school stressors.

The Holistic View

If you are able to evaluate your athletes, and talk to them about all of the stressors outside of their running lives, you can make adjustments in training. At this time of year, it’s better to train at ninety percent of their maximum and have them excited to race, rather than pushing as hard as they can in workouts.

By no means am I saying all of the training days need to be easy for the rest of the season, yet I know from my own coaching that when I was able to take into account an athlete’s stressors, some that I was unaware of, I was better able to write training that was “just right.” A training session that has some race pace work, then some faster running, and some general strength and mobility to conclude the day may be the right amount of work this time of year.

Coach Jay Johnson