Sprints, sled pulls, and weights; the theories behind my weekly track workouts at Southwestern College
The amount of training for collegiate track has been intense, to say the least. I went from running 2-3 times a week, to now running 5-6 days a week. In addition to my training volume increasing the specificity of the drills, particularly the intensity at which we perform them and the various ratios of recovery times is the factor I find most challenging and interesting!
Every Monday we get an email with our workouts for the next five days. Since I’m running the 400, I’m with the “long sprinters”. The other categories are short sprinters, hurdlers, distance and jumpers.
For each day there is a theme; speed/endurance, biomechanics and power, power, biomechanics, core/race prep day. The coaches design the workouts around these themes. They pay particular attention to the distance covered (long sprinters average 1,500-2,500 meters of training in a workout), the intensity of each drill and the recovery time.
Mondays will always be a hard workout. Since our meets are on Saturdays, we are fresh off a day of rest, so it’s time to work! On this “speed/endurance” day we run longer distances than our actual race distance. For example, this week, we ran 450 meters, two times. We did this at 85% of our 400 meter pace.. We had eight minutes between the two to rest. This drill focused on endurance and conditioning the body to push past fatigue. Next we did four, 40 meter sprints, with 30 seconds of rest in between. After a five minute break we finished with two, 200 meters sprints. We only had 30 seconds to rest in between them. We finished with backward running to build strength in the hamstrings.
I mentioned that we were working at 85% of our max… that is the calculated percent of what were are currently running our races at. This intensity is pretty much where the majority of our training workouts are performed. This is a hard intensity but one that can be maintained all week without putting athletes at risk of injury.
Training at this intensity helps the body get use to the feeling of lactate building up in the body. If you think lactate is a bad thing, something that stops you from working harder, you’re halfway right. For an untrained person, yes, that’s the case. The burning in your legs, as you run stairs, eventually causes you to stop. But for an athlete, training in the way that I just explained, does two things. It gets you use to that sensation and helps you mentally dial into your form and everything else that you need to be thinking about, just as your body is about to give out. It also allows the lactate to be recycled by the liver and then turned into glucose, which will continue to provide you with more energy to continue!
Since Monday’s are intense, Tuesdays tend to be a little lighter. But I use that word loosely. They are shorter distance intervals with ample rest time. This week it was six, 200 meters at 85%. Then we did the same four, 40 meter sprints like we did the previous day. We finished with four, 100 meters strides, to work on technique. We then head to gym for weight training.
Wednesdays is another hard workout with an emphasis on power. The distance of the intervals are a bit shorter than Mondays… 350 meters vs. 450meters. We were only doing one and it was a race pace. We rarely train at all out pace, so this was a little different. Since it was a power day we were suppose to do six, 100 meters pulling a weighted sled. However, the sled was locked in the shed at the high school we train at, so… instead we did six 100 meter sprints.
Thursdays are back to biomechanics. This is a mental day as well as a physical day… the team worked on starting on the curves so we can judge our intensity out of the blocks. I say the team because on Thursdays, I can’t make the practice time because I teach a class at that time. So I’ll be doing this on Friday to prep for Saturday. We hit the weight room after our team meeting. During the team meetings, we talk about the upcoming race, heat times, etc. and also determine who will be running what in the next weeks meet.
If meets are on Saturday, we use Friday to work on race strategy and to practice hand offs for relays.
Then comes race day. For meets in LA we leave school around 7:30am and return at 7 or 8 pm. It’s a long day. I’m really enjoying it but WOW does it eat up a lot of my time!
Many thanks go out to my coaches Tonie and Adam. They are so patient with me. I’m constantly picking their brains and asking questions about our training and track in general. They are a wealth of knowledge!