NXR and Footlocker Training Plans
This is an article is intended for coaches, yet the suggestions may apply to families who are looking for some guidance if their child is training on their own for post-season meets.
Most coaches have questions about what to do after the team’s last in-season meet to get ready for NXR or Footlocker. They wonder what the focus of the workouts should be. Is this the time to go back to long runs? Should the post-run work be challenging, or should it be watered down? How much race pace work needs to be done?
And the biggest question for teams who ran well at state is, “How are we going to come back and run as well or better at NXR?”
What follows are:
- A rationale for why I’m suggesting the training plan and workouts you can download below.
- Training plans for most scenarios – be it 2 weeks, 3 weeks or 4 weeks between the final in-season meet and the post-season meet.
Let’s start by acknowledging an important fact.
On the Monday following the state meet, your athletes are emotionally fatigued.
If they ran well, they’re coming off a high from a great race. If they ran poorly, they’re frustrated and tired. Regardless of the outcome of that race, they need to recharge emotionally before they get back to hard workouts.
Related to this is the fact that in my 20-plus years of coaching, I’ve seen so many athletes get upper respiratory infections in late October and November. Training intensity is high, and in much of the country, temperatures are dropping quickly. This is an important second reason to give them some easy days following the state met.
Now that we’ve covered those issues, there’s a final key point to make before we discuss workouts...
The post-season is supposed to be fun!
And they’ll have more fun training when they’re fired up to train.
Let’s not do a hard workout or progression run until they’re rested enough that they’re fired up to run hard – sound good?
Here are the keys to the post-season training plans which you can download below. I’ll be referring to the 3-week plan, but each of the following points applies to the 2-week and 4-week plans as well.
Run Easy and Run Strides
Let’s keep the easy days easy, but they can and should put on their racing shoes and run their strides fast.
You’ll see that there are two easy days and strides in the first week back. On that second day they can progressively increase the pace of the strides if they’re feeling well. If their last two strides are fast and they feel good running them, then we know they’re ready for a light workout on Wednesday. But if they look sluggish on those strides, you might want to skip Wednesday’s workout and move it to Thursday.
Progression Runs are Fun Runs
Simply put, progression runs are fun. And might be more fun than a long run or a fartlek run at this time of year.
I’m recommending a simple and short 20-minute progression run for most athletes: 10 minutes steady, 5 minutes a bit faster, then 5 minutes fast but controlled. You should be able to say, “I could have gone 5 more minutes at that last pace.”
“Jay - this is a really short workout. I think we need more of an aerobic stimulus than this.”
That’s fair but consider the fact that a hard-ish progression run is a great stimulus for a young athlete and one that will advance their fitness. The time on their feet is much less than a long run, so the chance that they’ll feel good in upcoming race pace workout is high.
That said, if you have athletes who were running 75 minutes or more on their long runs in September, you can have them do a 25-minute run. The athlete who was doing 90-minute long runs in September can do a 30-minute progression run.
25-minute long run: 10 minutes steady, 5 minutes a bit faster, 5 minutes a bit faster, 5 minutes fast but controlled.
30-minute long run: 10 minutes steady, 10 minutes a bit faster, 5 minutes a big faster, 5 minutes fast but controlled.
You can learn more about Progression Runs in this article (scroll down to the middle of the page).
Race Pace Workouts
You’ve no doubt had the athletes run race pace workouts since September. You need them to run at least one hard workout before the race to get them comfortable at the goal NXR/Footlocker race pace.
The two mistakes I see coaches make in the period between state and NXR/Footlocker are (a) not giving athletes some easy days the first week back and (b) not running goal race pace, which may be faster than the pace they ran at the state meet.
Let’s say your athlete will be running on a post-season course where 18-19 minute 5k runners typically run 20 seconds faster than at the state meet.
If you had an athlete run 18:45 at the state meet, that means they were able to run 6:00 per 1600m/90 seconds per 400m. But now you need them to be able to feel comfortable at 18:25 pace. And you need them to be comfortable coming through the mile at 18:15/8:20 pace if it’s a course with a fast first mile.
So, the rhythm they’re accustomed to running is 6:00 rhythm, but now we need them to be comfortable at about 5:54 pace. This is where most coaches go wrong – they don’t have a workout that focuses on this pace, the pace that the athlete is hoping to run.
In this example, I’d have the athlete run 5:52 pace – just a touch faster than our goal post-season race pace – as we’d rather error on the side of running a bit faster than a bit slower. I’d have this athlete run some reps at 5:52 pace/88 per 400m.
The key to the workouts I’m going to share with you is that they have athletes practicing running comfortably at a pace that’s faster than what they have run at state.
You’ll notice in the second week, I have a race pace workout that is at “full volume.” Choose a workout the kids like and one that they execute well. You don’t need a new workout, but you do need a hard workout, with 4k-6k of volume at race pace.
The week of the race you’ll also want to do a race pace workout, but here you want to keep the volume lower. What type of volume?
If you did 3 x 800m with short rest then took 3 minutes of recovery and then did 3 x 400m with short rest you’d have 2400m + 1200m for those two segments. That’s 3600m, and that’s the upper limit of what I’d recommend. Yet if you do that volume of race pace work, you have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for it to be out of their legs before Saturday’s race.
I have a very simple system for post-run work, which just means the strength and mobility work you’re likely doing with your team.
I break days into Hard and Easy. Then we have a progression of colors. Red is the easiest, then Orange is a little bit harder. Yellow is challenging, then Green is challenging even for juniors and seniors who can do a lot of post-run work.
Let’s say an athlete was comfortably doing Yellow, which is about 20 minutes of post-run work on hard days, and about 12-15 minutes on easy days, in the weeks leading up to the state meet. That’s where they “left off.”
In the first week of this training, you’ll go “down one color” and do Orange, which is fairly easy for them. Later in the week they’ll go back to Yellow, which is challenging but not overly challenging.
While you likely aren’t using my system, you get the idea – keep the post run work easy the first week, then the second week you can go back to what you were doing mid-season. In the final week before your last race, go back to doing easy post-run work.
The bottom line here: Do enough post-run work to maintain the strength they have but know that you shouldn’t be trying to make any gains in this area now. After the season is over you and your athletes should consider making a commitment to this work to keep them injury-free.
You no doubt have a set pre-race day you’ve done all season. For the coaches and athletes I help, we have a 48-hour workout. If you don’t have a 48-hour workout, simply do a bit of work at race pace, and then finish with some faster running. It could be some 200s or some 150s or even a longer repetition like a 400m-500m.
At least three times a week, if not four or five, your athletes should do a quick 10-minute visualization of the race, focusing on the most important points.
- The start line will be massive and there will be a lot of energy. They need to picture themselves keeping a calm mind.
- The first 400m, 800m, 1600m will likely be “hectic” as there are so many good runners. Again, tell them to keep a calm mind.
- Between the 1600m and 3200m marks there will be a lot people to run with, so they need to see themselves keeping contact with these athletes.
- There are YouTube videos of many of the regional courses that they can watch that'll make these visualizations more vivid.
If you want help with the mental side of training, take a bit of time to check out the Mental Skills for High School Runners course. It’s a game changer.
I end all of my newsletters to high school coaches with, “Let’s go!”
Running is fun, and racing at a post-season race is the type of experience they’ll remember for the rest of their life. Use this phrase to keep things fun and light as you prepare for one final race.
Download The Free NXR Training Plans
You can download the training below. If you’re already on my private email list, please share your email again. You won’t get duplicate emails from me, but you will get immediate access to the PDF.
I wish you and your athletes the best at the post-season meet!