Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

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wuxcalum
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Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by wuxcalum » Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:44 am

I am entering my third year coaching HS cross country and my particpation numbers are starting to really go up.  This, of course, is a great thing!  But, it does mean that I will have a higher number of beginners and/or untalented runners on my team.  As I am starting to outline my season workout calendar, I am questioning what types of workouts are going to be most effective in bringing along my beginners and my less talented kids.  I will have about 4 weeks of practice until the first meet of the season.  All races are 3 miles in Illinois.  In the past, I  had these types of runners attempt workouts similar to my better runners like longer CV reps and broken tempo runs. Upon reflection, I believe that these were incorrect.  To give an idea about the types of kids I am talking about, these are boys and girls that run 24+ minutes for 3 miles and/or are complete beginners.  It seems to me that these kids have a lot of trouble running proper paces.  They also seem to have little to no difference in their easy run pace and 3mile race pace.  Finally, they also lack a lot of the coordination/mechanics of faster, more experienced runners. 

Thus, I was thinking of doing much shorter intervals such as 400s at CV pace or faster, with standing rest.  Often, I have noticed that the jog rest pace seems almost the same as the pace of their CV rep!  Also, I was thinking of time trialing them more often at 800 and 1600 distances earlier in the year.

I do start my team with a 1.5mile time trial the first week of the season to see where they are at and get a good estimate of their training paces.  I am thinking of doing a shorter TT for my beginners such as 1600 or even 800.

Also, I plan to build their mileage very slowly throughout the entire season.  I got this idea from some previous posts by Tinman when he coached a HS team with no summer base.


Thanks in advance for the great advice that I know is coming!

WUXC
Last edited by wuxcalum on Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by distcoach » Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:34 pm

I happen to be an assistant coach for the Cross team at our school in Wisconsin, but am the distance coach for the track team.  We've gotten up to 47 kids on our team last year (Cross).  The head coach likes his intervals, but when we break them up into groups, we might have 6 or 7 different groups trying to hit different times.  Let's say you'd like to have your group do 1000's at whatever pace, CV, etc.  Instead of measuring out 1000 meters and having them do that loop, I measuring out a 1600 loop around a park, and if I know my top group should do CV 1000's at  3:30, I have the whole team do a 3:30 interval, w/ a jog back to the start line to get ready for the next interval.  That way everybody is running for the same amount of time, but covering different distances.  It makes a workout much more manageable for large groups of kids.  You can then figure out that if group C would be doing 1000 in 4:00, then you know that in 3:30, they should be able to cover X amount of distance.  And you can make a game out of it, like you want them to hit the same spot (or just a little further) every time the whistle blows at 3:30. 

These don't have to just be CV intervals, you can do 5k effort repeats, etc in the same fashion. 

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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by Tinman » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:45 pm

It is a challenge to provide novice runners with appropriate training. I believe that Segment Running, as I call it, Short Aerobic Interval training, and Short Reps are the three training tools that can be used with beginning runners. Those three training tools will help beginners achieve fitness, confidence, and racing success.

Segment Running is just broken distance running. I remember three kids went out for my high school team, when I was a senior. We had a small team of dedicated runners, but the three new kids were completely unfit, novice to running, and not competitive. Our coach made those three runners do the same distance we were doing. I though it was insane, to be frank. Often he'd get mad because they would start walking. I thought, 'I'd walk too, after a mile or so of running, when I am not used to running at all. What's the deal? Why not have them run a little, walk a little, and on an on until they cover a reasonable amount of time on their feet? Since those days of many years ago, I have used a Segment Running Approach. I used to call it Section Running, but later changed it to segments when I was in college class that made me think  of running progression as undulated - like segments of a bigger process.

A personal note on Segment Running:

After I had surgery of both of my lower legs, in the spring of 1987, I was so sore, after the casts were taken off, that I could NOT run steady more than about 100 yards. I had to stop and let the pain subside and to catch my breath, too. Now, some people might say, "You ran too fast" but I would say hogwash, I was barely moving; it was just over a walking speed. And, one thing I quickly found out; I felt better if I ran with a longer stride that felt less awkward that a shuffle stride. So, I'd run a 100m or 150m or 200m or by time - 30 seconds to a minute - with a longer stride that felt good, but I'd rest until my breathing was calm. In 3 weeks I ran 4:19 for 1500m and a week later 4:15. Numerous times in the years since then I've had down times, when I was unfit after resting due to a hard illness or from an injury, and I have used the Segment Approach to running to get in shape. Typically I pick a loop course that's between 1/2 mile and a mile and run a lap, rest until my breathing is calm, and then I go again. I don't hold my stride back or pace back, I run at a moderate effort, which feels more comfortable to my legs. The result? I get in shape very fast, and it's a lot easier on me, mentally and physically. I don't feel beat-up, discouraged, or frustrated.

In terms of CV work, just run shorter work intervals. I use 400's for unfit runners, and I let them walk between reps. Actually, at first, I recommend using 300s at CV effort, walk 100 between reps to recover. Do this on a grass loop. How do you find their pace? Just have them run 1200m all-out. That's far enough for a beginner. Add about 15 seconds per 400 to that pace and use that for their CV/Stamina training. That's hard enough.

Also, beginners need to learn how to run with relaxed, quick turnover and good overall mechanics. Have them run 40's on a smooth surface, at first, and later on grass. After a solid warmup, have them run 40m down a flat straight away at 80% of best possible speed, and then they can walk back to the start. Start with 3 reps, three times the first week. Add a rep each week until they can to about 10 reps. You'll be amazed at how much smoother they can run in 6 week's time!

Take care,

Tinman
Last edited by Tinman on Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by ap4305 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:49 pm

Can't improve much on what Tinman said, so I'll add some points related to supplementary factors:

1)  Diet.  Many of the kids who come to you in poor shape will also have poor diets (unfortunately, all too common in our modern world).  Its also extremely valuable to build an overall healthy and active lifestyle from day one, as doing so will give kids a sense of ownership in what they are doing.  By encouraging good eating habits, you will promote a healthy body composition, immunity, and musculoskeletal durability.  Kids who are carrying more weight than they should are at a higher risk of injury, no matter how well designed our training plans are.  We don't want to get too strict and create any eating disorders in the girls, but little things like cutting out soda, fast food, and excess sweets can make a huge difference for the newcomers, who maybe don't realize that excellence in running demands a 24/7 commitment. 

2)  Athletic skills.  Even though you are limited in how much running you can do with beginners, there are numerous opportunities for supplemental conditioning and skill development.  Running lots of miles is obviously out of the question, but you can still build a well rounded athletic base with other forms of locomotion such as skipping, bounding, and crawling along with movement skills like catching and throwing (the medicine ball is a fun and effective tool).  Overall movement skills provide a level of injury resistance, so its never to early to establish that base of durability. 
Allan Phillips
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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by wuxcalum » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:45 pm

Thanks to AP, Tinman, and markrazzy!  I really appreciate the prompt and informative feedback.  I will be able to put this advice to use next week as our running camp starts. I will have some young and novice runners in attendance!

WUXC

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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by tcl » Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:08 pm

I'm curious whether the segment approach would work for other runners, too--particularly those who have hit a plateau. I know that segments are a common way to get back into running after an injury (various phys. therapists recommend it), and of course it makes sense for unfit or beginning runners. But what if you've been running consistently for quite a while and you're doing easy runs at, say, 8-minute pace. Would it make sense to try "segments" of maybe 7 to 7:30 pace, for the sake of the more open stride, and just walk a block whenever the breathing gets labored? I'm not aware of anyone doing this past the "getting back into shape" phase, so there's probably a good reason not to do it. But I wonder what it is.

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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by Tinman » Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:35 pm

I prescribe segments often for marathon runners, or for runners who train in very hot and humid conditions. For example, one runner I coach, a businessman who is from Spain, lives in Hong Kong and either trains there or in China. The weather there in the summer is brutal - very hot and humid. So, rather than prescribe long runs for him, I prescribe Segment running: like 15-17 x 2km at a pace that is faster than he'd run if there were no breaks, but not as fast as marathon pace. He takes a 2 minutes break too cool-off and to hydrate. The breaks allow him to run a lot of distance at a decent pace. His confidence level is much higher when he can run a decent pace, too, than slogging through a 30-34km run. Usually, a continuous run in such horrible weather is a death march.

I also use Segment running for anyone who is out of shape and needs to build their distance quickly. The breaks after every 1 to 3km reduce stress on skeletal muscles, allow the body to gather its energy, and just as importantly provides mental breaks. I am convinced that it's a magical tool to use if you need to build distance quickly without breaking down your body. And, I believe it is a great conditioner, too.

I've even prescribed Segment running for high school middle distance runners; especially 800m runners who don't usually like distance runs.

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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by tcl » Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:24 pm

Makes sense. I guess I'm wondering: should people be doing this a lot more under normal circumstances? Or to flip it: are there specific conditions under which segment running is NOT a good idea? Perhaps continuous runs should be the exception and segments the rule...

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Re: Workouts for beginners and/or untalented HS runners

Post by ap4305 » Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:20 am

[quote="tcl"]
Makes sense. I guess I'm wondering: should people be doing this a lot more under normal circumstances? Or to flip it: are there specific conditions under which segment running is NOT a good idea? Perhaps continuous runs should be the exception and segments the rule...
[/quote]

You bring up a very interesting point.  Intervals are a form of segment running, but we as runners usually stop doing intervals when the pace gets slower than marathon-ish pace.  Why?  Without a doubt, part of it has to do with "that's the way we have always done it."  Since most of our easy runs are done "in the wild" so to speak (not in a controlled setting like a track or treadmill), some people would probably feel rather odd stopping at some random point in the middle of a trail or road for a rest. 

When you think about it, even doubles are a form of segment running (i.e.; 2 x 6 miles easy with eight hours recovery).  In fact, training itself is a form of segmented running...if you run seven times per week at the same time each day for an hour, your segmented workout for the week is 1 x hour run with 23 hours recovery.  Obviously, the segments are usually more complex in reality in that most people have different distances for each run.  So you have definitely hit on a valid point to question the rationale behind the traditional practice of doing all our continuous runs easy and why certain alternatives such as segment running are not more commonly used across a broader pacing continuum.

In swimming, virtually every workout, including the easy aerobic sets, is done in interval form.  Long continuous swims in the pool are usually reserved for time trials/testing or punishment!  It's interesting talking to triathletes who don't have a swimming background and they'll often ask the reverse of your question as it relates to swimming..."if most of our bikes and runs are continuous, why do we do it differently in the pool?" 
Allan Phillips
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Tinman athlete since 2003
www.ventanapt.physio
IG: @thekettlebelldoc

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