For me, the holiday season or any extended break always brings about a sense of nervousness. It is less likely that I’ll worry if my wife will like the new pair of shoes I bought her, or how much snow I’ll have to shovel to clear the driveway. What keeps me up at night is wondering if my athletes are doing their training during breaks. At different times throughout the year we all send our little cherubs home for the holidays or spring break.
In the past, I would spend a great deal of time preparing top-notch workouts for my athletes. The workouts would contain the perfect intervals with the ideal splits to hit. More importantly, the workouts were geared towards helping the athletes maintain the training momentum until early competition.
While I assumed they would be able to complete all of the assigned training during break, I quickly learned this was nearly impossible because of weather conditions or lack of facilities. As the years rolled on I realized that each athlete was facing different challenges trying to complete these workouts. Some athletes spent vacation with their family on a cruise ship, some did not have access to a track, and others had a foot of snow on the ground. In addition to the obvious challenges there were many unanswered questions regarding unconventional workouts. Therefore, these athletes did what most teenagers would decide to do…NOTHING.
A few years ago I decided to go back to the drawing board and create alternative workouts so that athletes could stay fit, even if they were trapped on a deserted island. I even started implementing these workouts a few weeks prior to the break so the athletes could better understand how to perform each drill and know what was expected of them while on break. During the workout I would explain an alternative workout that could take its place if there was snow on the ground or they were visiting an aunt in the middle of nowhere.
A good example of this type of workout would be: 400 meter, 300 meter, 200 meter, 100 meter with equal distance walk recovery. Here’s how its done – after the 400m run, the athlete walks 400m, then runs 300m and walks 300m, etc… The men know I will ask them to run around (some will run faster depending on the time of the year and the athlete’s abilities) 60 seconds for the 400m, 42 seconds for the 300m, 26 for the 200m, and 12 seconds or faster for the 100m (400m = 15 seconds per 100m, 300m = 14 seconds per 100m, 200m = 13 seconds per 100m, and the 100m is just fast). I explain to the athletes that they can do this workout in a field or on the street in front of their house. Instead of using the distance they can use the time to dictate the length of the run. The athlete can run hard for 60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, and 15 seconds with suitable rest. I constantly remind the athletes that this should be a hard workout. If they are not tired or feel like they just ran a set of 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m with me standing there, then they need to add 100m build ups until they feel like they did the 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m workout.
I even provide a third version of this workout for those athletes that live in the snow-belt. Typically, I ask these athletes to do the workout on a bike or in the pool – repeat 60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds and 15 seconds of high intensity until they feel like they just ran 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m. Doing the workout on a bike may not be as effective as running it on a track, but it sure beats doing nothing.
Lastly, I always have a body weight exercise routine that an athlete can accomplish even if they are locked in a closet. I ask the athlete to do multiple sets of this circuit with no rest between repetitions and a short rest between sets. Often, I ask the athletes to time themselves while they go through each set. This prevents them from taking breaks and allows a continuous circuit, until one full set is complete and they are given 2-3 minutes to grab water and prepare for the next set.
One of the circuits is called a MONSTER. Have your athletes do this body weight circuit at the end of a practice and you will understand how it got its name. I acquired this body weight circuit from my days at Wheaton College.
25 Prisoner Squats
50 In-place A-skips
25 Push Ups
25 Fire Hydrants
25 Trail Leg Circles
15 4-Count Thrusts/Burpees
10 Rocket Jumps
For their training during break, whether I send my kids home for one week or one month, I know they are equipped with workouts that will keep them fit. I also know they have no excuse to come back from break out-of-shape. The athletes are furnished with specific, semi-specific, and even general workouts that can be accomplished wherever they are during break. This set up has really helped our athletes achieve success weeks and months after holidays, break, or vacations. We all have the same issue – sending our kids on break with limited access to facilities. Our goal should be to prepare our athletes with alternative workouts they can perform in order to be successful, regardless of where they are in the world.