How to Modify Sprints Workouts When School is Cancelled

Posted by Latif Thomas

For this type of thing my philosophy is to keep it simple. I’ve come to that over years of trying to be too cute with my off season and summer training programs.

But, it’s impossible to know what equipment and spacing options every kid has so trying to design training for every scenario is impossible and a waste of time in my opinion.

I would keep writing the workouts, from a training theme and/or energy system perspective, in the same order you would under normal circumstances. That will help you define your choices. But there are two concessions you have to make when you modify them:

1. They can’t accurately measure a 200 or a 60 so you can give them those distances in workouts so they have an idea of how far to go but…
2. …you can’t give them specific times (based on a traditional specific distance) because of the reason mentioned above

So – I think of workout writing in the same(ish) way I think about circuit training.

In the past I’d choose, for example, 20 body weight squats. But there’s a big difference between 20 squats for a 14 year old freshman and 18 year old senior. So now we do circuits based on time. So with squats we might go for 30 seconds. In that instance the freshman can do 10 if that’s all they can do and the senior can smash out 20 or whatever.

So when you’re planning your extensive/intensive tempo workouts for your 400 meter runners, have them go for a certain amount of time that equates to the times they (plan workouts with the top 20% of your scorers in mind) would run normally. Easy example is an extensive tempo 200. If it would have been 8×200 @ 75% with 2 minutes rest, this version would be some think like 8 x 30 seconds at 75% perceived effort with 2 minutes rest. You have to switch to perceived effort because there just isn’t any other option.

With your shorter acceleration and top speed workouts it isn’t as much a concern. Write it as you normally would and tell them to do their best guess at distance. That said, here’s a little trick I’ve learned and you can apply this even to the aforementioned tempo work:

Use telephone poles.

Telephone polls are spaced 38m apart. I round to 40m to make it easy. Want to run 6-8 x 40m for speed development? Just say 6-8 x 1 telephone pole. Want to do 8×200? Tell them to do 8 x 5 telephone poles.

This is a safer option especially with parents who are keeping their kids in the recommended ‘family bubble’ so they’ll always be in the neighborhood.

Consider having the accelerations and speed work in 10-20m distances so they can do the runs in the yard or driveway.

I’ve never had access to a track in the winter so, for example, I almost never do tempo runs with short sprinters.

Regarding intensive tempo, the late great Charlie Francis said ‘intermediate work has no specific value for a short sprinter”. Also short sprinters in particular hate running.

As Gary Winckler says “tempo running is like a death march for sprinters”. So we get our “fitness” from body weight circuit variations.

To make my life easy I just stole and use all of Boo Schexnayder’s ‘Circuit Training: Design & Administration’ program so I don’t have to make up all those exercises and get them in the appropriate order and for various training outcomes.

PLUS I am not 25 so I don’t want to have to demonstrate everything all the time. Since the program has all the stuff from his training inventory in the same order, I just show them the video of today’s circuits/series straight from Boo’s ‘Exercises for Sports Performance Training’ program so they know/remember what the exercises are.

If I’m doing general/recovery training to simulate the flush out and capacity qualities of extensive tempo the general rule is 8-12 exercises with a 1:1 work:rest ratio.

Almost always it’s 30″ on, 30″ off.

If I’m simulating intensive tempo and want more lactate and more “fitness”, exercises rules are the same but we do a 2:1 work:rest ratio. Almost always 40″ on, 20″ off.

In both cases it’s simply the choice because it keeps every total set to exactly 1 minute which eliminates doing math when looking at a watch or timer.

So hopefully those ideas are helpful. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. If you have questions you can always post them from your customer account and whichever coach you choose will be happy to help you out.

Good luck, be safe, wash your hands and listen to the scientists!

➡️Boo Schexnayder’s ‘Circuit Training: Design & Administration
➡️Exercises for Sports Performance Training



Latif Thomas - Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic at Harvard University, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics across the country, Latif has true passion for the sport and it definitely shows. Over the past 19 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All-State, and New England Champions in sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he can count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter.

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