Workout Concept: Deep into the competitive season, we have hopefully developed all facets of strong running: a variety of energy systems, neuromuscular abilities and connectivity, biomechanical efficiencies, and mental patterning that coordinates with these efforts. This workout enables you to key into your specific goal pace on specific goal terrain with desired goal mental responses. It follows the law of specificity—when you get closer to your goal performance, mimic the demands of that goal as much as possible. The workout affords us the ability to work on running cohesively, developing our psychological phases of a race, and becoming powerful—when you are self-aware, then you are powerful. You are prepared and you trust in yourself.
This is a demanding psychological and physiological workout. Consequently, I develop the components of this throughout the season through a variety of psychological and physiological practices. Each prior workout has a psychological and physiological momentum, and we attempt to pattern that toward desirable outcomes. I think this results in our runners having truly elite psychological approaches and responses to the competitive environment. Our psychological systems uses: running journals, reflecting on choices and “habit loops,” creating mantras and effective self-talk, interpreting internal and external feedback, experiencing failure, while our physiological plan parallels the mental approach by providing a challenge that requires the psychological goal of the workout.
Workout: 1 x 500 (at mile pace/aggressive mentality of owning the race), 3 x 1200(at goal 3 mile race pace), 1 x 500 (at mile pace) 1 x 1200 (at goal 3 mile race pace) 1 x 300 (at “all out” with “perfect form.” Typically we do around 3:00 recovery. If form is compromised then speed should slow to a pace that desired form can be performed). Essentially, it is 4 x 1200 with three hard, shorter intervals at the beginning, middle and end of the workout.
This is 6,100 meters of tough effort. I would only do such a workout with an experienced and developed group.
A couple of notes:
1. Terrain: I have a set course that mimics the terrain and experience of our goal race. Everything from inclines, declines, turns and surface are considered. When we introduce the workout, we talk about the layout of our goal race.
2. Habit loop intervention/mental approach: With the terrain set, in this sense, we can actually pattern our mental approaches through physical connectivity and visualization. I also set up reward feedback in this workout that I will then execute in our coaching on the race course. While a more extensive explanation is needed, the simple description would be to consider the ways in which you communicate during a race and consider how you can pattern that communication in the workout. For instance, we strategically place our coaches in locations in the state meet and we work on how we communicate to them in those critical moments in the workout.
3. Physical Demands: the workout is a goal workout. In this sense, running 5:00 pace for 3 mile or 5k does not entail running :75 400s for the duration of a race. A race has much more to it than simply calibrating the brain’s pacing mechanism for :75/400. We have analyzed our goal race course and goal race strategy and consider those variations in pacing and energy demands. The fast opening and mid race below race pace effort pattern early and late race moves and also enhances the benefits of subsequent intervals.
4. Variations and Working on Race Response: We’ve increased the demand of the workout by not telling them when the faster interval will appear. This mirrors the uncertainty of the pacing of actual racing and creates an added element of stress. Another variation would be to take away their watches and record their pacing and ask for where they thought they were, or even getting creative and placing the cones off of the correct mileage markers to force them to deal with negative or incorrect feedback in a race. I may stagger the interval in a way or purposely ask one runner to “get in the way of” another runner. In track, I’ll have an alternate as a mole attempt to knock out a baton if we are practicing for a relay. There are so many race-specific moments you can set up in practice. Of course, in all of these variations, the debriefing process afterward is paramount. Here, we can work on desirable mental responses to these racing moments.
5. Concluding the Workout: When we work on a race “finish” it is more for patterning how to run efficiently while fatigued than it is to “practice finishing hard,” although there is that element. The exercise of practicing running efficiently or with gear shifts is a critical skill. We occasionally will ask them to reengage glutes, lower abdominal muscles and then do something like 2 x 200 with 100 meters at a controlled effort and 100 meters into a 400 meter race pace effort to pattern efficiency while fatigued. It often takes some time to re-engage key areas and range of motion before doing this. I’ll often use the cue of “reorganizing stride patterns.”