Here are a few of the questions Dr. Messer was asked in the Q&A.
The first is from Jesse Coy.
“Does the frequency of “strides” in your program replace the need for sessions specifically devoted to running economy, like 200’s, etc. ?”
Very fair question … and I cannot provide an evidence-based response. If you conjecture that our relatively significant, year-round commitment to 100-meter strides might indeed replace the need for 150’s, 200’s, etc., I would not disagree with that conjecture.
Our philosophy is that our daily or near-daily commitment to strides provides a consistent, foundational “neuromuscular” component to our training … as we view training as an integrated neuromuscular, cardiovascular stressor … and we seek to ensure that there is always a race-specific or near-race-specific neuromuscular component to our training..
Accordingly, we do not diminish the quantity of 150’s, 200’s, etc. that we undertake … rather, we seek a range of race-specific and near-race-specific neuromuscular stimuli (i.e. 100’s, 150’c, 200’s, etc.) that collectively enhance preparation for a 5-kilometer race.
The next two questions come from Mike Horan.
“How do you maximize your assistant coaches? As head coach, what are things you do to communicate, teach, and encourage the coaches?
One of my key philosophical beliefs / commitments is to the concept of empowerment … each of our assistant coaches has responsibility for and ownership of a specific group of student-athletes … and while I construct the overall training plan for our team … each coach has complete latitude to make any and all appropriate adjustments, refinements, etc. at their discretion … in order to not only provide the aforementioned empowerment but also promote a true individualization of the training experience … coaches are similarly empowered to manage periodic grade checks, to make decisions regarding participation / non-participation in team activities, etc. … in sum, I believe wholeheartedly that it is incredibly important to fully empower a coaching staff in order to positively motivate that staff to fully commit to and invest in student-athlete success.
Mike’s next question follows.
“You mentioned that your team is pretty large. Can you give some ideas/tools that you use to manage, motivate and train the large group?”
I refer to my previous response sir … our small group model is critical to our philosophy and corresponding approach … the model collectively empowers both student-athletes and coaches … in addition to evolving the goal of true individualization. I am increasingly oriented toward having my assistant coaches manage all the groups … thus allowing me the flexibility to observe / assess / motivate ALL our student-athletes during our higher-quality training sessions.
The final question is from one of for our featured coaches, Adam Kedge.
“Jeff, outline the progression in steps you’d have a new young team member follow before being prepared for your advanced program.”
Always such a pleasure and privilege to reconnect and interact with you sir. I hope that you and your student-athletes have enjoyed an outstanding summer … and that you are enjoying an equally engaging beginning to the current academic year.
Adam … I do not employ a systematic or codified approach to progressing student-athletes to the most advanced version of our program. We have the good fortune (not literally) of a large group of exceptionally dedicated coaches who commit extensive effort to mentoring / guiding our younger runners … we typically employ a principle of conservatism … a new runner might run as little as 10 … perhaps 15 … minutes during the first several weeks of an off-season training progression. We attempt to evaluate each runner individually … as some young runners demonstrate both the emotional maturity and musculoskeletal integrity to advance relatively rapidly … particularly incoming freshmen who have an extensive, structured background consequent to a prior club and / or middle school running experience … moreover, we do not adhere to specific volume objectives for our younger runners … i.e. run, for example, 30-miles per week by the end of a freshman cross-country season … or freshman academic year … rather, we attempt to carefully observe how a student-athlete responds to a specific dose of training … and if a response is robust … i.e. no evidence of injury and / or chronic fatigue … we will slowly increment volume … we increment volume and plan volume based on minutes … thus we would not increment from 4-miles to 5-miles … i.e. a 25% increase … rather, we might increase from 34-minutes (4-miles) to 36- or 37-minutes, for instance, … i.e. less than a 10% increment … that relatively more conservative approach seems to serve us well.
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