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 Most high school runners know the groundwork for a great fall cross country season is laid in the summer months, but it can be hard to figure out what exactly makes a difference come autumn.  What are the summer secrets that propel some of the nation's best to the upper echelon of the high school ranks?  We decided to ask a few coaches who have guided teams to success --for 3 Summer Do's and 1 Don't they've found make a difference in the season. - Compiled by Laura Magee

Want to be great in 2009?  You have to Get Great Now.

 Coach Dave Frank
Central Catholic - Portland OR


Progression - "ABC" easy as 1-2-3
We don't run easy on all of the days we meet in the summer, we make a point to have actual "workouts".  If our student-athletes are not running on their own on the other days, our "workouts" seem very difficult, but the summer workouts are considerably less intense than they will be in the fall.  We'll do the same type of workouts in the summer as we do in the fall, but the intensity is far less (typically with shorter recovery) than it will be later.  For example, we might do 8 x 1km on barkchips; in the summer we'll run 3:45 with less than a minute recovery.  In October we'll run them in 3:10 and take 3:00 recovery.  Those won't be the only two times we do a similar workout; we will have done other workouts that lead us to be prepared for the October effort.

We want to be at our best at the END:  this means we want to run our best races in November and December; we want to do our best workouts in October, not July. We want to finish workouts strongly; we want to finish races strongly.  A few years ago we adopted a line from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, "Always Be Closing" (ABC), as our team motto.
A couple of years ago DyeStat’s Dave Devine did a story about our summer training, focusing on the idea that athletes from many different groups run with us.  At any given run we'll have our own kids, kids from other schools, our alums, coaches from other schools, alums from other schools, college athletes in Portland for the summer, and assorted sub-masters and masters runners.  I invite others via e-mail, word of mouth and posting on different websites (Oregonlive.com, Letsrun, DyeStat).  Everyone in those groups can benefit from running with a larger group with well-intentioned training; we try not to let the workouts turn into races - and for the most part they don't - but with more athletes there are less "gaps" in the training groups.  Gaps are discouraging to young athletes; if you can hang on to the guy in front of you, you'll be more confident and improve more quickly.

Our kids get to meet lots of other runners, and that benefit is multi-faceted:  1) talking with college runners helps our kids see what it takes to be a collegiate athlete at any particular level; 2) seeing sub-masters and masters runners helps them to see that running is not just a young person's activity; 3) a camaraderie is established with runners from other schools which has an interesting effect of intensifying rivalries on the course but makes great friends off the race course.
We go to a number of different venues for our summer training, and we are blessed here in Portland to have some fantastic training areas, notably the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park and Tryon Creek Park in Lake Oswego.  We run as often as we can on trails as opposed to the roads which is far better prep for cross country in terms of adapting to the terrain, building strength, etc...


Don't just wait around until September hoping that your kids are running.  None of our workouts are mandatory before school begins, but the framework and direction are there for kids who are interested in being successful.  I don't have to go to every run, but by organizing our schedule our kids know that there will be a group going for a run from a certain place on a certain day; they're more likely to run when they know others will be there.

Coach Tony Bozarth
Olathe East XC Coach - Olathe KS


Be consistent!
Consistency of training is very important.  It's much better to run steadily in the summer than to try to pile in mileage in big chunks and then get injured, or to simply skip lots of days and try to catch up.  We recommend steady mileage with a slow build up, and occasional weeks of lower mileage to help consolidate your training.  We also recommend following a hard/easy type of schedule with your runs.

No "I" in "Team"
Run with and get to know your teammates.  We feel that running with your teammates is the best way for both the individual and the team to improve.  Depending on your state activity association's rules, this can be at formal or informal workouts.   Teammates can figure out ways to run together.  This helps improve everyone's sense of responsibility, both to each other and the team.  Jeff Arbogast, the coach of the great Bingham UT teams, told me that, "everyone can run a race till it's 2/3 through. That last mile, you run for your teammates."  That begins in the summer.

Fun runs
Have fun on your runs.  This does not mean that your runs are goof-off times, or not to be taken seriously.  But summer is a time when you can have more freedom and imagination with some of your runs.  Do things like adventure runs and scavenger hunts.  Make up runs to go through water sprinklers or that end up at swimming pools.  One of the most fun hill workouts I've ever seen is going to a water-slide, running up the hill and sliding down.  Runs to a restaurant for a team breakfast are a nice way to build team spirit.


Avoid overtraining.  Summer has to be a basis for your cross country season, but it is easy to get very excited early in summer and start to over-do it.  Summer is a time to educate yourself about how to recover from training as well as how to train.  This is especially important for athletes involved in organized sports in the summer, such as club soccer or summer track clubs.  Learn to read your body.

Coach Steven McChesney
Newton South - Newton Centre MA


What works for you!
I know that other coaches and teams have had much more success and I do not claim that my way of doing things is the best. I respect what other coaches do that is very different from my approach. What we do at Newton South is what I am comfortable with and it works for us. 

I give them a week by week outline of what I would hope that they will do. There is no penalty for kids that do not follow it when we come together in the fall other than the obvious, not being ready to go to work. I give out two versions depending on the ability and goals of the athlete. I make one up for the kids that aim to be on the JV team and for our sprinters who come out to prepare for track and field. I make another one for athletes who want to make our varsity team.

I leave values blank as I do not wish to suggest an ideal range. I also hesitate to suggest workouts as each most be coordinated within the whole of the training regiment to be effective. Mileage over the summer is very individual as is their structured program during the year.
Hands-off Approach

Over the summer I do not see my team at all. From the last meet in spring until the 3rd Thursday in August they are completely on their own. This is for three reasons. The first is that the MIAA doesn’t allow coaches to work with their teams over the summer. I honor that as I believe in an equal playing field within our state. The second reason is that I want my kids to have ownership and a sense of control over their running. I feel this is so important as they move beyond our program. My runners see a lot of me during the school year and I feel that they need some time in which they do not depend on me and they get to take full control over their preparation for the next year. During any given season I must trust my kids to do their runs and weekend mileage without me watching over them.

Over the summer I give them an outline on paper of how to prepare for the fall. The kids know what is expected and are charged to do it on their own. Establishing trust is an important aspect of my way of coaching and the summers actually strengthen that trust over the years. I return to my team each year in late summer and I am rarely disappointed in their devotion to their team goals. I feel a huge part of dedication is self motivation and I allow my kids the chance to work on that as I was allowed to do as young runner. During the over 9 months we share I work hard to give them the tools to work on their dedication and motivation skills and then allow them the summers to refine them and make them their own.

Enjoy a little R&R!
The first part of the summer is about resting the body and mind after 3 pretty intense seasons. We suggest a period of between 10 days and 3 weeks to focus on recovery and more if needed. Recovery is an individual set of needs and some kids need more time to recharge and others feel it is torture to take too much time away. But all of them need recovery time. Within that recovery period some of our kids may choose not to run most of it and others may run shorter light runs four days a week or so. It is up to each athlete. One thing we do teach is not to get completely out of shape. It is my feeling after doing so many running camps that many athletes let the base that they have worked so hard to build dwindle so much in the summer and between seasons that they are constantly getting back into shape. To me that is the formula for making running a chore rather than fun.

The most important reason that I do not coach my team during the summer is my family and also my own need to recharge. My twin boys, Billy and Stevie, along with my wife, are asked to come to a lot of meets. They all love doing it, but during the summer we do the things that they choose to enjoy. It happens that we spend the first part of each summer in mecca, Eugene Oregon, where I grew up, seeing my parents and my brother’s family. Running is not ignored on the trip home to Eugene, but it is centered on family and friendships. Most of the summer is about zoos, games, hiking and playgrounds. I feel that having summers away from my teams keep me fresh and excited about coaching. My wife says often that my favorite season is the one that I am currently in, and that my next favorite season is the next one. I have been at this a while and still love coaching as much as when I first started.


Focus only on the numbers
I personally don’t believe in focusing on only getting mileage in over the summer as it will be a shock to the system when they start doing workouts in the fall. The early summer workouts are simply a run that includes some hills and another run at a slightly faster pace than normal. We gradually work into 2 moderate workouts a week which over a couple of weeks include combinations of the work that they will do in season such as fartleks at what we call moderate pace, tempo runs, cruise intervals (sub race pace) and hills at a relaxed pace The summer workouts are expected to be lighter, but they do keep the body used to the rhythm of doing some workouts. We also do not ask our kids to do their peak mileage over the summer as our goals are to be at our best in spring track and field and cross country is just one phase of training towards that. When we hand out our suggested summer training program it is our hope that our kids will build up to cross country mileage over the summer and that they well come into the fall with a month or slightly more of the kind of miles that they will train at during the season.

Photos: Central Catholic by Donna Dye; Olathe East submitted by Tony Bozarth; Newton South by Jeannette Seckinger