What to do when the summer months are upon us?
You’ve got a number of options, so here’s my take on getting the most out of summer training for sprinters (or any athlete in any sport, for that matter):
1. Consider Not Training At All.
Summer competitions are more popular in some places than in others. Where I live, it’s not incredibly popular. And quite frankly, I’m cool with that.
I generally don’t steer kids toward summer training and/or competitions unless the kid is hardcore and keeps asking about it or they’re a scholarship caliber athlete who needs the work in a low pressure environment.
The type of athlete who is going to be interested in summer track is the kind of athlete who’s probably already got 6-9 months of training under their belt for the season. That’s a lot of track! Track isn’t like basketball or soccer where much, if not all, of practice consists of 2-3 hours of not doing much more than just playing basketball or soccer. Track is just straight up training and that gets tough to focus on after a while. So summer is a good time for kids to recharge their batteries.
If you think over training is a possibility, consider doing anything other than track during the summer. But for those people who insist on training and competing, I always recommend the following:
- Drop down in distance from your primary event.If you’ve been running 400s all year, don’t run the 400 all summer. Drop down to the deuce or the 100. Your sprinters need the speed work anyway.
- Don’t train every day. 3-4 days a week is sufficient. Your (developmental) sprinters need the break from training. You don’t want them to show up in the fall feeling like they’re already tired because they trained too much all summer.
- Don’t worry about setting personal bests. Your sprinters peaked at the end of spring. Now is the time to focus on execution because they’re not necessarily ‘in shape’ to run PRs anymore. Take that out of the discussion and shift focus elsewhere so kids don’t freak out when they get a great start at a meet, but don’t run a lifetime best. I’m not saying they can’t or won’t PR, but I definitely don’t focus on times during summer competition.
2. Focus On Weaknesses
Instead of treating summer track like an extension of spring track, consider using it to work on training and competing weaknesses that manifested over the course of the season.
Having a consistently tough time finishing 400s? Spend the bulk of training developing lactacid capacity and some Special Endurance.
Bad start? Don’t worry about speed endurance and fancy progressions. Focus on accel work over 20-30m and establishing an efficient and consistent drive phase.
Get the idea?
I don’t want to run a regular training progression during the summer. I want to get athletes set up to achieve their goals for the upcoming season and continue to develop their self-confidence. This can be done by turning their relative weaknesses into relative strengths.
3. Focus On Strengths
I read a quote from a coach one time who said, in essence:
“We spend too much time trying to turn our weaknesses into strengths instead of making our strengths even stronger.”
It might have been Clyde Hart. Or not. Either way, it’s an interesting concept to contemplate.
There are 4 levels of skill acquisition and none of your sprinters have reached the point of Unconscious Competence. More likely, they’re hovering somewhere along the spectrum of Conscious Incompetence. So ‘strengths’ are quite relative for our developmental sprinters.
Got a great start? Keep cleaning it up and adding more technical elements to shave precious hundredths of your sprinters’ times.
Known for your top end speed? Focus on transitioning out of your drive phase and getting lift.
Spend more time focusing on the things you’re already good at and that’s going to lead to better results!
4. Weight Room!
Your sprinters don’t run faster because they’re not strong enough. Their lack of general, absolute, and specific strength is the primary glass ceiling keeping them from the next level, whatever that happens to be for each individual athlete.
So, instead of trying to do all the fancy drills and workouts they aren’t physically capable of executing consistently and efficiently, spend the summer focusing on gaining strength in the weight room and improving the ability to handle more advanced plyos.
Technique in the weight room is, of course, critical. So don’t sacrifice technique to try and throw a million pounds around. Nail down technique and focus on developing the strength and power that allows your sprinters to take advantage of the technical skill you teach during the regular season.
5. Focus On Acceleration
At the end of the day, success in the sprint events boils down to your sprinters’ ability to consistently execute (starting to see a pattern with the importance of ‘consistency’ and ‘execution’?) an efficient drive phase/acceleration pattern. And, more specifically, your ability to teach it.
So you really can’t go wrong spending the summer only focusing on acceleration development and block work. In fact, I’d argue that you could have a very productive summer if your sprinters never ran a step longer than 30m. If that doesn’t translate to a far superior ‘start’ in the next season, I’ll be absolutely shocked.
Of course, just running 30s out of a 3 point stance three days a week isn’t going to cut it. As the coach, you have to know exactly how to teach skills like low heel recovery, triple extension, glute activation/force application, etc. If the technical feedback from the coach doesn’t facilitate a learning environment for the athlete, then you’re really just reinforcing bad running mechanics and making the situation worse.
So please keep that in mind.
So there you go. Those are some basic ideas for you to let marinate in your mind in terms of how you can approach your summer training.