I would say I am pretty vanilla when it comes to assignments. We tend to do the same things over and over from week 1 to the state meet. I guess I look at training from a specific work capacity perspective. Meaning, how are the different assignments increasing and supporting the specific goal race(s)? Volume and intensities will progress and cycle in and out throughout the season. I do my best to use KPIs (Key Performance Indicator/Inhibitors) of the event and the individual to dictate what is included in a program.
We are always doing a bit of everything – easy runs, tempo runs (what some might call steady state or Daniels’ marathon pace), AT, LT(choose your “threshold” terminology), 10K, 5K, 3K pace, mile pace, hill work, time/effort based fartleks, progression runs, high neural demand sessions (like a sprinter), daily ancillary tasks that range from body weight general strength to resistance training with weights.
With that disclaimer, here is a workout that fits well for our setting in Lyons, CO. We can literally run uphill less than a minute from the school. I call it “Hills and Track.” It’s just that, some faster work on a hill or hills and then some kind of harder running on the track. I initially put this in during the early track season to offer variety because of the amount “track only” work to come. The athletes really like it, so now we do it year round in both cross country and track and almost at all points in the season.
Here are two versions of the workout:
2-4 x 1200 meters on a continuous hill circuit with 200 on / 200 off. ON is mile race EFFORT, OFF is easy pace.
2-4 x circuits of 400 @ mile pace / 200 @ easy pace / 200 @ mile / 400 @ easy
We use a loop that has up and down hills, two of the “ON” segments are uphill, and one is downhill. The pace for the ON is mile race EFFORT. I don’t assign a target time, I just tell the athletes that consistency for each segment, hard and easy, is the goal. After completing the assigned amount of circuits, the athlete heads to the track, which is about 150 meters away.
The 4-2-2-4 is something I got from you and Coach Wetmore one day when I was working out at Potts in 2005 or 2006 and the CU team was there. Anyway, I do assign a goal pace for the track portion. Pace is mile race pace. Depending on the time of year and person, I may use PR pace, goal pace, or an estimate of current fitness to determine the goal times.
For both the hill and track, there is no rest in between each circuit. There are a few minutes rest between the hill portion and the track portion. Nothing is assigned. Some athletes change shoes or use the bathroom. I would guess most take 4-8 minutes between the two venues.
4-6 x 200-250 meter uphill, jog down recovery, pace is mile EFFORT.
2-6 x 200-400 meters @ mile pace, rest is 1:30-2:30
The idea for the hill assignment is roughly the same as the previous version. The effort should FEEL like mile pace. The goal is also consistency or to get slightly faster with each repetition. We use a touch and go assignment, meaning that once the athletes gets back to the start point, they turn around, steady themselves and go. No waiting around at the bottom or top of the hill.
The track portion is pretty straight forward. Depending on the person, he or she may run 200s, 300s, 400s or some combination. Pace assignments are the same as version #1, PR, goal or “date pace.” The rest portion can be walking or jogging, the athlete picks.
Overall volume of “hard” running for this workout will vary depending on the athlete. Assuming a healthy athlete, some do as little as 1800 meters, while more experienced athletes may run upwards of 4K. Most folks are in the 2400-3000 meter range.
Really the sky is the limit for creating the parameters of the workout. We will change the hill portion to 300 on / 300 off at times. On the track we have done, 600-500-400-300-200 or 300 on / 100 off. Sometimes we’ll use different intensity assignments – 5K effort, 800 race pace, etc. I always keep the hill portion effort based. On occasion I’ll do the same for the track component.
The rationale behind the workout was both physiological and psychological. The physiological part was that I wanted to attempt to recruit more muscle fibers at a certain intensity and corresponding perceived effort by adding the hill component. The psychological piece was that after trying to run at mile effort on a hill, the track paces seem easier. We have been doing variations of this workout for 5 years and it is hard to remember a time when someone had a bad session. They have happened, but most folks execute really well on these days. I look at that as a win-win. They get a good stimulus and are happy doing it.