Know Your ABCs

Posted by Marc Mangiacotti

Early morning commutes to Harvard are pleasant. No matter the season, the drive past Fenway Park is warming — easily reviving images of a boisterous crowd of Red Sox fans dressed in red, white and blue.

Boston's Berkeley Building (aka the old John Hancock Bldg.)

In a city filled with some of the nation’s oldest historical sites, the 26-story Berkeley Building is one of my favorite landmarks. Formally the John Hancock Building, before the tower was constructed, the Berkley Building is a color-coded weather beacon that I use to determine my workouts for the day.


Steady blue, clear view (great weather).

Flashing blue, clouds due (okay weather).

Steady red, rain ahead (Not the best weather).

Flashing red, snow or heavy rain instead (Not a good day to be outside).


I typically use my Plan A workout when the beacon is blue and when the tower is a steady red I rely my Plan B workout.


On a neurological day I like to incorporate several sets of maximum velocity runs, for example, fly 20’s or fly 30’s, followed by multi-jumps, multi-throws and a lifting program in the weight room. However, the unpredictable New England weather may challenge Plan A, making it difficult for athletes to warm-up and effectively complete maximum velocity runs. Though Plan A may be ruined the neurological theme of the day can still be executed in another form. Plan B could include more sets, repetitions and types of multi-jumps, multi-throws and lifts in the weight room. Though this may not be the exact workout I created it is another option that can produce the same results.


In a perfect world, Plan A is always the workout I hope my athletes can accomplish each day. Besides the weather, various other factors such as sleep, stress, hydration, nutrition and overall physical and mental health are measured to decide the course of action for the day.


The weather could be perfect but that does not mean the athlete is ready to roll out. There are times that I need to think about a Plan C workout for an athlete. Let’s say we wanted to do that same maximum velocity Plan A workout mentioned above on an 80 degree day. The weather conditions are great but after the warm up an athlete complains that their hamstring is tight. The athlete is not only worried about the runs but also the explosive jumps and throws. Maybe it is time to consider a simulated bike workout followed by simple hops to get in some work that goes along with the theme of the day without injuring the athlete.   This is considered a Plan C workout.


Plans B and C allow you to get creative with workouts for the athletes on any given day regardless of factors that are out of your control. Plan B and C workouts may mean skinning the cat a different way, doing more or less of certain things, or choosing to take a safer route. Sometimes choosing to do less is more. Giving the athlete an opportunity to fight another day is paramount when the Plan A workout is too tough to accomplish.


COACHING RESOURCE: How to Build the Perfect 100 Meter Sprinter…From Start to Finish


Plan A workouts are written at the beginning of the season, week, or day. Since coaches can only control the two hours that the athlete is at practice, athletes must take care of themselves between practices to get the most out of each workout. Skipping a meal, not hydrating sufficiently, lack of sleep, and stress are just a handful of factors that can negatively affect an athlete’s attempt to train properly. The better you can prepare Plan A, B, and C workouts the more success your athletes will have at training consistently. In theory, we hope this will cut down on injuries as well.


Plan A, B and C workouts can be written for many types themes. For example:



Plan A: 6 x 200m @ 85% with 3’ recovery

Plan B: 3 x 200m @ 85% with 3’ recovery followed by cross fields (aka diagonals) on the grass

Plan C: Bike: 2 sets of 8 x 30” up-tempo followed by 30” medium tempo with a body weight circuit after each set.



Plan A: 3 x 10m, 20m, 30m

Plan B: 8 x 40m light sled pulls

Plan C: Bike: 3 x 5 x 10” at high intensity and high resistance with 1-2’ rec btw reps and 5’ of recovery between sets.


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Edited by Nell Smith.
Twitter: @NellVSmith



Marc Mangiacotti - Marc Mangiacotti enters his seventh season as an assistant coach with the Crimson for the 2018-19 school year. He oversees the men’s sprinters and hurdles for Harvard University. He is a USA Track & Field Level I and II certified coach in sprints, hurdles, relays, jumps and combined events. Mangiacotti came to Harvard after a two-year tenure at Brown University. During his time in Providence, R.I., he made a big impact on the Bears’ sprinters, coaching five Ivy League champions that combined for nine league titles. He also coached 15 athletes that earned All-Ivy League credentials and saw his group break four school records.

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