Should you take it easy in track to save something for Fall cross-country season?

So here is a mother’s worry: is he doing too much too soon? Though my son is not feeling any discomfort from his earlier Achilles tendonitis and it appears he has recovered and doing all his workouts now (thank you for your support in getting him there) I’m concerned about how much he should or shouldn’t do. He will be joining an amazing high school team in the fall and they will have, as you know, a rigorous summer training program. Physically and mentally he is ready. He has trained with these boys and he is capable of going toe-to-toe with the teams top runners….is there any reason he should take it easy this track season to ensure he is ready for the summer program? I would hate for him to put too much into this season at the expense of the fall cross country season (which is his true passion). Or should he maintain a training level close to what it will be like in the summer so he doesn’t have any drastic changes his training routine? In your experience, have you seen where this injury was a one-time thing and not re-occurring?

Things are looking good! You’re doing all the right things and that is evidenced by his recovery and ability to do the workouts progressively. The last answer is easy – yes, it could be a one-time thing. The key is for him to listen to his body. Stop a workout that the Achilles becomes tender; don’t complete the workout. Take a day off if it aches a bit after some hard workout. Keep doing all you are doing.

The second answer is that there is plenty of time to have a great track season, great summer training and great cross-country season!

It is an old-time myth that we need extended time off or down time to recover before the next season. Training should change through phases BUT time off or “babying” an athlete with just a predominance of easy running is unnecessary and in fact is a key barrier to progressive improvements. There is no reason for him NOT to do all out racing this track season… even doubling sometimes. If he is doing progressively harder workouts in training there is no reason a 1500/3000 double will adversely affect him. In fact, it will be building strength to handle the longer cross-country courses as well as adding speed! He’ll need it at the next level. At the end of may, beginning of June take 2-3 weeks with modified workouts (NOT all easy runs) and he’ll be ready to attack summer training.

You mention an oft overlooked dimension however and that is the mental recovery. It is equally important. All athletes have different thresholds for stress, competition and that constant day-to-day pressure of being on a rigid workout schedule. Many college athletes who go from fall cross-country to indoor track to outdoor track and then into cross-country prep again. However, many of them do NOT handle this well, especially in their early undergraduate years. Physically AND mentally they breakdown or get stale.

So, knowing yourself as an athlete (or your son in this case) is critical. Remember, kids often want to please others and will keep going even when it is ill-advised. Look for signs of stress or burn-out such as irritability, inability to sleep, poor concentration, alterations in appetite.

The important thing at his age is to have fun with his athletics. When it becomes work, step away. It’s not only smart in the short term it is smart in the long term. No one… no matter how motivated can continue hammering away day in and day out without consequences.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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2 Responses to Should you take it easy in track to save something for Fall cross-country season?

  1. Justine says:

    This has nothing to do with your blog topic, but I am so excited, I had to write and tell you the big news right now! In January I started track work to get faster; at the time you promised I would get faster if I went to the track weekly and I don’t think I’ve missed a week since that promise. Yesterday, about 11 weeks later, I ran a 10k with an average pace of 9:48 a mile; a 36 second per mile improvement over the same race last year. Whoooohooo! The 10k required a consistent, hard effort, and I was figuring that 10:10 was a reasonable goal, I never dreamed I would be able to keep up sub 10 min miles (in the howling wind no less) for 6.2 miles, equally big for me was that I never stopped, not even for a few seconds. My running confidence has returned, who knew I could get this speedy? Who knew I be that speedy and not pause, even for a few seconds? Just think where I’ll be in 11 more weeks 🙂 Thanks so much for all your help!

  2. Dean Hebert says:

    Justine,
    I remember well. I’m so glad you are seeing the difference. GREAT results. Now, you can continue to progress by changing the nature of your track workouts over time. If you don’t you might get stale.. so, increase reps, increase speed now and then, increase distance of reps, reduce rest time between reps… those are the pieces of the puzzle to keep it going! Well done!

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