Workout of the Day
5 x 1 Mile
5:14.2, 5:21.1, 5:22.6, 5:22.3, 5:14.7
Recovery: 400m in 90" between each rep
Portland State Distance Men — Oct. 28, 2014
Context & Details
This was the final workout for the PSU XC Men's team before the Big Sky XC Championship meet that year. It is essentially a 6 mile tempo run with a 400m float or "roll-on" at 6:00/mile pace between reps. The total time for the 6 miles was 32:35.
It wasn't designed to be too difficult, but merely another purposeful exposure to useful amounts of aerobic threshold running for these guys. The Vikings had an 8,000m race at conference 5 days after this session as well as a 10,000m XC race on the horizon a few weeks away. So I decided they needed to continue to refine their strength as that asset would serve them best during the final races of the year.
I like this type of workout going into cross country races because it reinforces most of the themes from training for the younger distance runner. During the championship phase of the season, I always stick with the most important defining qualities. On the track that is intensity, but in cross country it is mental and physical strength and, more specifically from a bioenergetic lens, aerobic capacity.
In my early coaching years, as is the traditional "peaking" protocol in classical periodization models, I employed more intense and shorter workouts before cross country championship races. However, it was a common occurrence for the athletes I coached to be flat on race day and lack zest in the competition. Reflecting on this evidence, I revised to the final few workouts to be more of an echo of the majority of workouts performed throughout the season. Not short and fast, but toned down long and strong sessions. The athletes raced better on meet day as a result.
Steve and I have discussed this on a podcast before, but it is worth repeating: at the end of the season, stick with the familiar stimuli, resist the urge to inject too new or foreign types of workouts close to championship races — despite what some theoretical convention may advise. The body craves familiarity, and we are after all creatures of habit, so it makes sense to reinforce an athlete's strength during workouts down the stretch of a season.
This is where the art of coaching is key — know the theory, yes, but more importantly, know thy athletes and what preparation will ready them to perform their best.