Eastside Runners

The Seattle Area Running Club for Every Type of Runner

XC Coaching Part 1: The Season Plan

By Brenda Carter Greetings dedicated ESR cross-country runners. I’m here to communicate the training plan for our 2009 cross country season. We’ve chosen to use the blog format for these discussions so you can ask questions or add your own training wisdom and/or lessons learned. As the season progresses, we’ll post articles with more details about specific training objectives for different phases of the season. We might also ask some of you to guest blog about a particular topic that you might be expert in.   Where do I get this stuff? Our 2009 season plan is spearheaded by John Sweeney, who has a lot of experience both racing and coaching. It is natural for John to draw upon the ideas and experiences he gained during his years of running with his collegiate coach, Jack Daniels. For this reason, we’ll be roughly following Daniels’ cross-country season plan, but with important modifications for our schedule and especially for the varied abilities on our team.   If you would like more in-depth information about Jack Daniels’ training philosophy and cross-country training plan, feel free to follow along with the 2nd edition of his book: Daniels’ Running Formula. We recommend scaling Daniels’ workouts DOWN to a volume and intensity that blends with your current schedule, rather than adopting his workouts full-scale (otherwise we’d all be professional runners, right?). For example, scale back Daniels’ plan by running within a mileage range that is comfortable for you and limiting the number of hard sessions to 1-2 a week, depending on how you feel.  The plan The Sweeney’s are carefully crafting the Wednesday night track workouts to build stamina, strength, and speed at all the right times during the season. You can’t go wrong by attending these workouts!   In addition to the track workouts, here is the overall season plan.  Phase Dates Focus Phase 1 Summer-Sept 5 Lots of steady, easy running plus a long run each week. First of all, if you’ve been running regularly at all, you’re in good shape for ESR cross country! Phase 1 and 2 are the right phases to build your running base. For phase 1, the bulk of your running should be run at an easy pace. If you’re feeling good, increase your weekly mileage by a few miles (but no more than 10% at a time). Daniels’ suggests increasing your mileage only every 3 weeks, but by 7-10 miles. Use your own experience and how you feel each week as your best guide. Choose one day a week as your long run day and keep this run in the “conversation zone” (easy enough to carry on a conversation). Phase 2 Sept 6-Oct 3 (4 weeks) Introducing hills. Phase 2 is a great time to work hill repeats into your schedule. Daniels’ suggests hills repeats on varied terrain in the range of 30 seconds or 1 minute. Longer intervals can also be used at interval or tempo pace (similar to the Wed night track workout). If you’re a Wed night regular, squeeze some hill work into one of your other runs during the week. Keep up with a weekly long run during this phase. You can also continue to build your mileage base during this training phase, but be conservative. A good guide is to increase mileage on weeks that you are not racing. Phase 3 Oct 4-31 (4 weeks) Longer intervals and threshold training. This phase comes with a hefty investment into VO2max training, including intervals ranging from 800-1200 meters and tempo runs and cruise intervals. This type of training might also be incorporated into the Wednesday track workouts at other times in the season. However, the investment for this type of training is greater during this phase. Because the training intensity is increasing, Daniels’ recommends holding your weekly mileage steady during this phase. Keep up with your weekly long run. However, Daniels’ suggests the distance of this run be no more than 20% of your overall weekly mileage. Phase 4 Nov 1-21 (3 weeks) Sharpening. Phase 4 is a shorter phase in which training includes a mix of tempo reps and intervals designed to hold fitness achieved in previous phases. This phase adds shorter repetitions (for example, 6-8 x 200meters) to sharpen speed skills for key events. Lighten up your training load for a big event during this phase. Daniels’ plan keeps up with the long run during this phase, but limits the distance of this run to no more than 20% of weekly mileage (and definitely not more than 2 hours!). Phase 5 Nov 22-Dec 12 (3 weeks) Taper for nationals or other key race. During phase 5, intensity remains high (but not higher!) while volume decreases. Daniels’ plan dramatically reduces the number of hard sessions in each week. Daniels also caps the long run at 60-90 minutes max, or no longer than 20% of weekly mileage (whichever is shorter!). This is the right phase to reduce your weekly mileage and number of hard sessions in each week in favor of resting up for nationals, or whatever event you want to end your season with. If you’re not a Wednesday-night track regular, at least pay attention to the workouts the Sweeney’s are posting so you can manage your taper properly with the right mix and volume of intervals and faster repetitions. Pay particular attention to the pace guidance during this phase. Daniels’ emphasizes that the right place to go faster is in the race, not the workout!    What’s next? Additional blog articles will provide more detail on the specific objectives of each training phase.  Coming soon:  Investing in the long run Something clever about hills What is tempo pace about anyway? The science of interval training Sharpening with faster, shorter repetitions Taking your season to the bank—how to taper  I’ll also try to recruit some guest bloggers to talk about race strategy. Feel free to add your comments or questions to this blog post, especially if you want to share any lessons you have learned from your experience or guidance that you received from a coach that worked well for you. Consider this our effort at collaborative coaching!   Thanks! Brenda