What to do more in the summer? Just be consistent.

I received a great question via Facebook and I felt compeled to respond. I’m behind on responses to emails but I promise I will catch up after camp concludes.

Hey Coach Johnson, I’m a highschool runner at a high school in Tennessee and I’ve been doing your summer progression for Running Times Magazine the last couple of months. Im heading into 70 miles a week and the Grant Green Routine with the second leg workout next week. Ive taken extremely well to the training, I’ve actually already had a 19 second PR of 16:25 in my 5000m halfway through the summer and I’ll be doing another one tomorrow morning. I just wanted to ask if there’s any sort of extra work I can do during the season of any kind to continue improving after I’ve finished my two weeks of the last stage. Thanks for all the help!

I think you should be careful trying to add much more to what you’re already doing. You know most high schools have a slogan on the back of their t-shirts? If I was coaching a high school team I’d want there to be something about consistency on the back of our shirts because I believe that’s the most important concept that captures good training (which leads to fast running). Consistency is undervalued by most athletes, but it’s so much better to be a bit undertrained and stay healthy (and therefore consistant in your training) than to be overtrained and fatigued (or possibly injured).

I assume when you talk about the leg circuit you’re talking about this progression from Running Times? If not, please let me know what leg circuit you’re talking about.

I love that you’re adding the General Strength and Mobility (GSM) to your training, but please don’t add more of that work than is in the Running Times progression above. Just follow the progression while you continue to run the mileage you and your coach think is appropriate.

Also, the summer isn’t the time for killer workouts to see how fit you are. One time trial is fine – and no doubt a confidence boost to see where you are – but time trialing every few days isn’t a good idea. Be patient and wait for the months of October and November to show off with your best fitness.

Good luck and if you or your coach have any questions please feel free to ask them below.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KRIXL7URWLJ2LBS4IM4R3EHREA Matthew

    Thanks for this, Jay. Consistency seems really hard to come by in the summer. Was talking to one of E's teammates this morning, who was in Thailand for two weeks, only running a few times, coming back to a 42-mile week for the team. This has been pretty common for girls on the team. And I noticed only one of the boys' team was there today (and two grads). I wonder if you have thoughts on dealing with these kinds of running interruptions. 
    Note — E found today's 5 pretty good, even though she was pretty tired. She noticed her lungs didn't seem to be working so hard as during Mags on Sunday. :-)  And one of the other HS kids on the RW list says they're going to be able to go to your camp next year.

  • http://coachjayjohnson.com CoachJay

    I think you're hitting the nail on the head when it comes to summer training. Summer training is simple – run most days – but with so many families planning trips it takes a disciplined athlete to get a good summer of training in.

    Glad to hear that your daughter had fun at the first session of camp and hopefully the athletes this next week will have as much energy and enthusiasm the group your daughter attended with.

    Take care.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KRIXL7URWLJ2LBS4IM4R3EHREA Matthew

    Another question I would have for successful HS coaches is dealing with the transition to school. In the summer, many kids have had time to build up to a good mileage, run doubles as appropriate, GSM, etc., but when school starts, the time available (and the relative priority, too) often drops….

  • http://coachjayjohnson.com CoachJay

    I think it's really important to get the work in during the summer and then back off a bit when school starts.  School is a stress and to think that a runner who has had a great summer of training, done all of the little things and is really running well, can maintain that running when school starts is a bit optimistic.  I would like to see a subtle drop in mileage the first couple weeks of school and no killer workouts.  I know this is hard to accept as a coach when you're looking at calendar and see that there aren't many weeks until the championship meets, but it's probably the best thing for the athlete.  Plus, the when the newness of school wears off, coming to practice each day will, for many, be the highlight of their day.

  • Keenan Robbins

    I'd like to heartily second this part:
     “I would like to see a subtle drop in mileage the first couple weeks of school and no killer workouts.”
    Especially if your coach is naive and lashing you with the intensity. Just go to practice and, with the exception of perhaps a weekend long run, don't do much (if any) extra running.

  • http://coachjayjohnson.com CoachJay

    Good to hear from you again Keenan.  Unfortunately many coaches – though likely few that read this blog – are up-ing the intensity when school starts.

  • thomas_t

    It's too bad Pre never said something like “To be anything less then consistent is to sacrifice the gift.” Consistency–along with patience (and the two are probably related)–are two of the most important qualities I think in a distance runner. Who has the quote about it being better to train at 80% for 11 months of the year then 100% for two weeks? Anyway, there is a good interview with with Bob Kennedy on the KIMbia.net website (I've forgotten how do hyperlinks. Help someone?). I can't find it because the page won't load for me but it's worth digging for (was probably 3 or 4 years ago around the time of the Standford meet). As far as Matthew's question about getting consistency over the summer, I think a lot of it is about building the culture of the team where it (summer running) is both just something they do as well as being someplace they want to be. For a lot of our kids it's both their favorite time of the year. How do you get there is the $10,000 dollar question but freeze pops seem to work pretty good for us!


  • http://coachjayjohnson.com CoachJay

    Love the quote…and I agree, I wish he would have said that as it's what runners need to hear.  I think the fact that consistency and patience aren't as sexy as miles per week or the pace you can run 10 x 400 is the problem.  Few coaches and athletes embrace the mundane aspect of being good – just getting in a run all of the days that you're assigned.

    Check out this Running Times podcast with Nate Jenkins where he talks about consistency.

    Thanks for comments – always appreciated.