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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back on track

I haven't posted for quite a while. School just started this week, and a family wedding I was in took place yesterday. Those two events plus coaching eliminated basically all of my free time; I did find a few minutes to see a college dual meet on Friday afternoon, but that's been basically it.

I had no interest in coaching again when the boys' coach at our school came to me last June and told me he was retiring. He just wouldn't leave me alone until I said I'd think about it, and the more I thought about it the more I thought I'd enjoy it. So I took it. I have a wonderful group of boys, and while they're not going to be a dominant team this year they are all making big improvements.

I'm a big proponent of the Arthur Lydiard system of training (and its stepchild, the Tom Osler system). The whole idea is long-term development...and I didn't have a lot of time, so rather than following a traditional system I had to improvise and do what I could. Our training has stressed aerobic development first and foremost, with leg strength/power/speed next most important. Lydiard rightly saw anaerobic endurance as a capstone, not a building block, so we only started doing repeats this week (six weeks away from our first important meet).

One reason I took the job was that I'd had a number of ideas floating around in my head and I wanted to try them out. One is for races. I haven't taken a single mile split in either of our first two races. (I figure mile splits in XC are essentially meaningless, considering variation in terrain and/or footing along with the uncertainty that markers are placed correctly.) Instead, I've kept track of what place each athlete was in at the mile and 2-mile marks as well as the finish, with the idea that good pacing leads to an overall upward movement throughout the race. Moreover, this approach means the athletes have to pay attention to internal cues in order to find that correct pacing, rather than listening for a time. I takes longer to learn, but in the long run I think the athletes will do better.

Another experiment came last week in our first interval session. I laid out a sort of a figure-eight course in a local park, with one loop for repeats and the other for a jogging recovery in between. The kids asked me "How far is it?" and I said I didn't know. They asked me "How many are we going to run?" and I said I didn't know. They asked me "How fast are we supposed to run?" and I said I didn't know. I told them the point of the workout was to run fast until they got tired enough, and nothing else mattered. With their input, I'd decide when each kid had become sufficiently tired and cut them off at that point. The result? I'm pretty sure they got considerably more out of themselves than if I'd done the typical thing of telling them how far, how many and how fast.

By the way, yesterday all athletes (save one) improved by over a minute as compared to the same meet last year. We'll see if that continues...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice training idea.

Never settle for the status quo and workouts set in the stone of written paper.

Your athletes will remember you for years.

Good work