Four weeks of Workouts and a bit of advice for very new coaches

Getting kids to the high school and college levels with a strong background, motivation and a general idea of a path forward can begin early with a positive, caring, knowledgeable youth running coach.

So workouts do matter. You are training athletes, or at least showing Middle Schoolers on your team how athletes are coached and treated. So a few pointers before the workouts.

First, treat all your team members as athletes and as if they have potential (they do). They are on your team, they are athletes. Talk to parents and to the kids in these terms. It makes a difference. Understand that athletes are people too, they have good days and bad days, personal successes and issues, they have doubts and courage. Reflect all of that when you address them, be considerate while also making demands. In most cases you are not their counselor- refer any issues you feel they need a counselor for to the school. In some cases an athlete will consider your relationship with them as key to them and you will be a very important person in their life. They will pay closer attention to you than others, ask more questions, confide in you more. That is fine and great to a certain level, but to maintain your relationship with the entire team, you need to keep your individual relationships relatively equal. You may also be a teacher to your athletes, that is a different relationship. You may even be a parent of an athlete, that too is a different relationship. Again, be deliberate, be a coach at practice. Coaches need to be aware of perception of their relationships with athletes as well as appropriateness, make good decisions.

OK- enough lecture- here are a few weeks worth of workouts.

This probably does not need to said, but just in case. When I write 4x600m or similar, this is not a relay designation, it means the runner will complete a 600 meter run, four time as directed in the workout.

Assuming you have four weeks before meets: m=meters

Week One:

All days, warm up 800m-1600m, do drills and then dynamic stretches.

Warm down 800m.

Monday First day of practice- Introduce interval workouts on the first day. They are just more fun so why wait? Do 4 x 600m on the grass. The distance should be close but can very as much as 100m. Ask them to run hard,- about 85%- but that they want their times to be the same each time. Take 3 minute rest between each. You will have runners go too hard, not hard enough and some just right. That is fine- everyone is learning. They have to figure out how to vary their training paces. They have to figure out what variable pace means.

Tuesday Go for a team easy 1 mile, come back and stretch and do some light core work, then run another easy 1 mile. You may need to divide the team into a few groups for these miles. Do this by speed. For core work, see later posts.

Wednesday Today is your 2 mile time trial. I do not warn the team because this is not a huge deal to me and I do not want it to be a huge deal to them. It gives me an idea for groupings and it gives them an idea of where they are in fitness and something to compare later times.

Thursday So today you can do what our team calls banana runs, this is when the athletes run in a line of about 6-10 people and pass a baton or other item from the front of the line to the back, when it reaches the last person, that person sprints to the front of the line. Do this for about 800m, then stop them for core, then do another 800m banana run. (we have a squishy banana that the kids laugh about). After the second 800m do about 6 stride-outs, or quick paced runs of about 50-60 yards. Rest just about 30-60 seconds. Use these to point out form and to correct for form.

Friday Game day- you do need to have fun, so use Fridays as game day- and be sure they are running games- usually. Our team plays kickball, all kinds of tag and games they have learned in physical education. Capture the flag is popular and yes I do give the option for kids to go on a two mile run together if they would prefer- this all depends on how many kids you have. You can do relays and fun intervals if that works for you. Sometimes you need to be sensitive to kids needing to be included- so often relays take care of that.

Week Two :

All days, warm up 800m-1600m, do drills and then dynamic stretches.

Warm down 800m.

Monday Long Slow Distance -30 minutes of sustained running- this needs to be based on athletes ability. Base it on time not distance, but measure the course so they have an idea of how far they ran. It is important to most young runners to know distances and times. Most have no reference for this and they will gradually gain awareness. Some kids will need to walk some parts of this. Try to encourage a pace that allows for the long run, also let them break into groups and take note of those groups.

Tuesday Up to 8 x 400m at two mile race pace on a track. Have a timer at the 200m and let kids know what they should hit that at. This takes some figuring. Your 12:00 two milers should come through the 200m at :40- :45 - this may feel slow to them- but you are teaching pace and it will get harder as they do each one. Once their time falls off, stop them. You most likely will not have enough information about each athlete to reliably calculate pace. They should be breathing hard, not sprinting and not talking.

Wednesday only do the warm up, drills and stretches and warm down after a significant core workout today, this is an easy mileage day, but use this day for discussion: Topics should include, healthy eating, hydration and how other strengthening helps running.

Thursday 600m, 200m x 3. To do this workout measure a course of 600m, then mark the 200m as well. In groups, have them run a hard 600m, rest :30, then a very hard 200m. Rest for 3 minutes between intervals. This can get tricky if you are running more than 2 groups. Use more than 1 watch and if you have an athlete that cannot run, ask them to help time (leadership and team support opportunity). Also, assign a leader to call their group together, even to start the group. Find ways to let kids take the lead.

Friday Game day, as always

Week Three: (Your Hardest Week)

All days, warm up 800m-1600m, do drills and then dynamic stretches.

Warm down 800m.

Monday Long Slow Distance of 30-45 minutes. Core

Tuesday Distance ladders 200m, 400m, 600m, 400m, 200m with 2 minutes rest between each interval. Measure rest from the end of the interval of the last runner in the group. Based on heat, energy level and team finish with up to 5 x 50 stride outs. If you cannot do ladders, do fartleks (surges between defined points while on a long run).

Wednesday Easy runs of 1 mile, light core, 1 mile. By easy I mean they should be able to talk to each other, but still be out of breath.

Thursday 800m x 2 faster than race pace, good quality. Your 12 minute 2 milers should come in under 3 minutes on each of these. 6 minutes rest in between. Do this in groups and have them watch each other. Focus a lot on form and ask for correction and attention to form throughout the 800. So the pace should not be so fast that the athlete cannot pay attention to form.

Friday A much needed easy fun day. Play a game, no relays, just active and get legs moving. If you can get to a pool, that would be perfect- but most cannot. But even going to a playground or something would be good today.

Week Four: (This week is a bit lower intensity. This is the last week of a microcycle. Runners, like many athletes, workout in microcycles of about 4 weeks and each week will be more difficult than the previous one. Often we combine about four microcycles to make a mesocycle, these are geared toward an event and mesocycles are concluded or interrupted to taper depending on how much control you have over training and event schedule. Specific plans vary a great deal, but using this idea can help in your planning). Usually a Middle School season is not even a mesocycle of 12 weeks.

All days, warm up 800m-1600m, do drills and then dynamic stretches.

Warm down 800m.

Monday Long Slow Distance of 30 minutes

Tuesday One 800m at a good clip, say 80%. 2 x 200m focus purely on form, so keep speed at about race pace. Then core.

Wednesday Banana run of 1 mile, or 4 x 200m relays each runner runs 3 200s. Keep intensity in check.

Thursday Uniform hand out or game day, or light run. You can insert this day for any day this week.

Friday Cancel practice or hand out uniforms or game day or light run.

A word about weekends- Most of your runners will not run at all on weekends if there is not a race. Some of them will run too many miles. You should ask about this and offer guidance. You should especially watch if their habits lead to injuries. I have had my higher mileage kids cover up to 12 miles on weekends. I encourage them to take one day for a long run of 4 or more miles and one day for a short, light 2 or 3 mile run. I really ask them to not run over 6 miles, I only have 3 or 4 that do run that much. I also encourage the rest of the team to run one of the two days of the weekend and only 2-3 miles, easy and take the other day off.

And injuries- If an injury occurs, I have them take 3 full days off of running, then come back to a light practice to check for pain. If they are ok, they can practice at reduced intensity for a week. If all is ok they can return to normal intensity. Of course this is easier said than done. But, again, use this a guide and the athletes may not listen, but will soon learn they should.

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