Now that we’ve gone over some general considerations for setting up a year round track and field training program, let’s get a bit more specific and break the year down into a progression of training cycles. We’ll use a 3 phase program for our general purposes, Post Competition Phase, Pre Competition Phase and Competition Phase. These phases could also be broken down into more specific sub phases but for now let’s generalize for the sake of simplicity. For High School track and field athletes the outdoor competitive season generally runs from mid March until late May or early June including District, Conference and State Championships. For athletes coming off a winter sports season there may be only a couple weeks to rest before track and field practice begins.
These athletes should be monitored for overuse stress and injuries. Also athletes that have not been working out prior to the season will find themselves with only several short weeks to prepare for the outdoor track and field season’s first meets of the year. Once the spring track season ends some athletes may extend their season and make use of better weather (especially in the northern climes) by training for and competing in the summer USATF and AAU meets and Championships. By doing so the track and field season is now into late July or early August. A similar time frame could also be shared by college track and field athletes with Conference; Regional and National meets extending well into the summer months. We have already mentioned that those athletes who participate in other fall and winter sports will have different demands on their time than the singularly focused track and field only athlete. So let’s just look at schedules relating to track and field athletes and include their fall counterparts in competitive cross-country.
Phase 1: Post Competition; Late Summer, Fall and Early Winter
This is an active rest period for sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers. This is a time to rejuvenate mentally and physically. Stay active with recreational sports and activities but no serious training. This will of course be hard to accomplish for those athletes beginning practices for the fall sports seasons.
Active rest and a gradual building of an endurance base for those that will be Cross Country Runners in the fall.
September, October, November
Cross-country running for middle distance and distance runners, including intervals, hills, Fartlek training and general conditioning activities.
Sprinters, jumpers and hurdlers may also incorporate cross country as a way to stay fit and active if not involved in another fall sport. This should include form striding and general conditioning activities including weight training.
Throwers should be weight training extensively, as well as incorporating conditioning, sprinting, light plyometrics as well as technique work and drills.
At the middle to end of November some athletes may be branching from a general conditioning cycle and becoming more specific with their training for the upcoming indoor track and field season. This would also be when other winter sports athletes are gearing up their workouts and beginning practices for those competition seasons i.e. basketball, wrestling, swimming, skiing etc.
This is a good time to evaluate the progress of the fall training sessions. Are the athletes becoming tired and sore? Are they mentally flat and ready for a break? Or are they making gains in the weight room and becoming more energetic as the weeks go by? This is the time of year for those athletes not engaged in a competitive winter sports program to make adjustments and take an active rest if need be. Considering the social demands of the holiday season an active rest period and a mental break couldn’t come at a better time. The rewards of an active rest period are the staving off of overuse injuries later on and of a fresher more mentally eager athlete returning in January. Remember an active rest is not a sedentary rest with lots of over eating but it is a period to change gears from intense training to allow the body to rebuild while staying active with recreational activities that keep a body moving and a mind rejuvenating. An example might be to get out of the gym or off the roads and track and spend some time in the woods snowshoeing, hiking or cross country skiing. Or maybe if the athletes family vacations over break to swim in the ocean, run on the beach, explore their travel destination with hikes and long walks. Just break up the routine, stay active and come back in January ready to work.
That’s a general overview of an approach to Phase 1, the post competition phase, of a year long training cycle. In the next part of this article we’ll begin with Phase 2, the pre competition phase that generally begins with athletes ready to get back to business after the Holidays in the month of January.