I’m excited to see this series grow this fall as my assumption is that it will be quite cross country specific. Please feel free to email me question at email@example.com
This is a long question with three parts so I’m going to respond to each part individually.
Going back a few months to when you were posting on Sara Vaughn’s training, I was wondering how specific her weight training was to her as an athlete. The school I coach at has a great weight room, and a math teacher who is basically a strength training/athletic development guru, and weight training has been an area of emphasis over the three (this will be my fourth) season that I’ve been involved with the team. Despite the wealth of resources, I’d say we only have about 10-20 girls who really buy into the program. Now, I realize in some programs that would be near 100% involvement; we are lucky enough, however, that 20 girls is only about 25% turnout. Even discounting the girls that are only out for XC for the social/fitness aspects, its still a less than sterling participation. Several factors, of course, are at play: there’s a percentage that retain the knee-jerk, lifting-is-for-football-players reaction. There’s also some girls, freshmen/late-bloomers, whom sending into the weight room is probably just setting up for failure. Obviously, general strength work, is part of the solution. We’ve always done core work, but in a somewhat random manner (8-10 minutes of 30 sec exercises lead by captains). Starting with track season, we started refining the focus of our core/GS work with “new core” which is heavily indebted to you and Mike Smith and have continued our refinement over the summer. So, I guess what this whole paragraph boils down to is, Sara’s lifting, is one example of a one lift day/lots of GS work program. How applicable is her routine to the general population (This is also a question for our ST/AD guru)? I suppose the balance between the two aspects (lifting/GS) will be something I will continued to tinker with as long as I coach, but just wondering what your two cents were.
I think the weight room has a place in HS girls distance running… but I say that partly because the weight room is the room in the school that has “stuff” that will help girls. There is a primary research study (maybe Alan has it) that shows that simple weight baring exercises like a squat dramatically decrease the incident of stress fractures in girls. Is that a reason to have the whole team squat? No. But a progression of body weight work that leads to some squats in the weight room over a 3-4 year HS career is not only realistic but one could argues is the ethical thing to do for these girls. I can’t tell you how many girls I see at camp each summer who are badly in need of this type of progression. These are good HS runners and while they have done a nice job developing their aerobic metabolism, most will fail to run well in college because of injuries that will come as an extension of being bad athletes. Or, as my buddy Mike Smith likes to say, these kids are “lungs with legs” rather than athletes who run well.
Now, the cool thing about your question is that you know the problem and the problem is some combo of the strength coaching being good (intimidating? if he’s good then he likely intimidates skinny HS XC girls) and the fact that the room is intense. Socially the room doesn’t make sense and that makes a hard sell (i.e. non-running work for runners) an even harder sell. [Read more…]