How to Run Your Best When it Matters

False spring is upon us!  That means outdoor sports are beginning, namely outdoor track which so many of our athletes compete in.  The Pittsburgh Marathon is in a few months. 5Ks, spring ultimate, and baseball will all soon be starting up. 

And of course, 1-2 more snows will happen once winter part 3 hits us!  You do know that this is False Spring, right?  In the NE at least.

While on the topic of happenings, I’d like to plug in a partnership I’m doing. An organization called SweatNET (that Coach Khyla is an ambassador for) is partnering with GHP to host a spring run club.  These will be 5 Tuesday evenings bi-weekly from March to May culminating with a 5K group run (read: race/time trial) to celebrate your progress.  So if Trackside Distance is too much of a commitment for you, come check me out with SweatNET.  Here’s a link to learn more and sign up!

Now with all of this going on, it can be hard to fit in your strength training and just rely on the strength you gained during the fall & winter months.  All of the practices, races, games, homework, and socializing that we have dearly missed for 2 years are sure to climb on to your calendar.  

For you parents and busy athletes, you look at your schedule and it’s like, what weights?  Injury prevention work? That’s called driving fast so I’m not late and can't warm up.  

Of course, if you’ve been putting in work over the winter, you will see that actualize itself when the season starts and you start blazing the track and courses.  Some of you are seeing that happen now, I really love the exciting texts and DMs of Personal Bests during indoor track.  

But ask yourself.  What are the greats doing?  I interviewed the #2 high school girls distance athlete in PA a few weeks ago on my podcast, Training Well Done.  She trains year round.  Of course, it’s moderated based on her competitive schedule.  She may be slant faced that I typed #2 looking for this as she aims to get #1 at States.  You can look at the kids who aren’t training fast at the moment but are putting up Personal Bests before the outdoor season even starts.  

The goal is to peak during the championship season and being able to peak requires your training to become focused, challenging, and intense as the big moments approach.  

Why Should You Continue to Strength Train in Season

  • Continue building capacity to handle more practice volume and speed
    • This helps you recover faster
    • As well as decrease chances of injury
  • Continue improving your strength and power to be fast late in the season
  • Increase your body’s receptiveness to the intense training you get late in the season.  It’s like how food tastes so much better when you’re hungry.  And your body absorbs it more.

Cool, you got that, but the problem is that being in-season takes up a significant amount of time and energy.  You simply may not be able to train as much in April as you did in January.  Here’s the guide to it!

How to Strength Train in Season

How Much to Train

1x/week is enough to make meaningful improvements if you’re still new to strength training.  And for those who are experienced, it can at least keep you from losing what you worked for if done half heartedly and you can improve it done very well.

2x/week is great for continuing to make improvements for most athletes that don’t need to put on mass, say for football or rugby.  This is ideal in many cases.

3-4x/ week in the gym is okay if they are shorter sessions and include recovery.  Really good if you compete a lot.  Strength work becomes more therapeutic than about power.

If you’ve been training consistently, soreness won’t be much of a problem.  If you wait until the season starts to start hitting the gym:

  • Better late than never, though you left a lot of improvement on the table by waiting
  • You’re gonna be sore when you start

How You Should Focus Your Strength Training

  • Eccentric tempo training
    • Slow reps do a great job with strength building as they challenge the muscles rather than just going up and down in 1-2 seconds
    • Eccentrics are great for improving resilience in the tendons and fascia systems to handle workload
    • These are 3-5 seconds per repetition of each exercise
    • Will make you very sore if you weren’t already doing these.  And still will make you sore.  Overdoing it can make practice annoying
  • High rep training
    • High reps do a great job of challenging your muscular endurance.  This was a breakthrough for me my first time strength training for track in high school
    • Due to the time under tension, they do a good job challenging the tendons for resiliency.
    • Best done by younger athletes and those new to getting in the gym.  Soreness is much less
    • 15+ reps of each exercise.  1-3 sets
  • Fast power training
    • Teaches your body to work on being explosive
    • Focuses on moving light to moderate weight as fast as possible.  Very important for setting up a peak late in the season
    • Many sets, but only a few reps.  This is all about the best possible effort per rep and stacking those.  So not much of an endurance effect.
    • This is for experienced and strong athletes as doing deadlifts, squats, or other explosive lifts effectively requires good skill with it and being strong enough that the explosive work pays off more than something less
    • Think like 6 sets of 4.  Heavy and fast. 

What Type of Exercises You Should Do

These should be cycled throughout your training week.  Always remember when you are training to complete these each week.  Sure do other things, but make sure to do these:

  • Squat
  • Hinge (deadlift)
  • Push with your arms
  • Pull with your arms
  • Rotate your body
  • Do a lunge or hinge on 1 leg

Make the squat or hinge your main exercise that’s hard.  The less days/week you train, the more of these you should do each workout.  Curls and calves are extra.  Yes, do them, no not essential in a time crunch to prioritize.

In addition:

  • Jump a lot
  • Sprint, even as a distance runner
  • Work on balance
  • Train the little muscles that likely lead to injury.  Like your glute medius/minimus

To summarize this for you:

  1. Take a look at your schedule, pick how many days you can do
  2. Pick which strength training focus you should do on what days.  Be varied
  3. Pick which exercises check the “types” of exercises box
  4. Figure out which sets/reps fulfill the focus and are time efficient for what you have

Done right, you can effectively do at home workouts in 30min!  I do know good athletes who do this.  I get on Instagram and see some of our high schoolers doing a day on their own, even showing their teammates how to train.

A heartwarming story for me that I’ll share with you about that.  A few months back, a new runner joined us and Coach Khyla did her introductory private sessions (all new trainees do privates with us to get started before going in groups).  Apparently, she’d gone to the JCC gym with some of our kids - Eyoha and Mary - who taught her some of the exercises that we do.  Khyla told me this kid was telling her “oh yea, Eyoha showed me this exercise”.  

I’m literally smiling ear to ear writing that.  

For some though, this is like calculus and too much to arrange.  That’s why GHP exists and us coaches have careers doing this.  If this is you, hit me up, we’ll get you right.  Either very directly in a coaching relationship or even just a quick email clarify how you can organize your training.  Or something in between.  

Listen (well, read).  Don’t let busyness get the best of you or your kiddo.  Find a way to get a day of training as best as you can.  Even 1x every 2 weeks is better than going 12 weeks of the season not doing any strength work.

Run a PB at Baldwin Invite, but not at the State meet.  Don’t be that person.

Global Human Performance
Global Human Performance

Life Changing Fitness

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