Part Two: Running Advice from Coaches at YouthRunner

Today we have Part Two of our series of Question and Answers with running coaches from YouthRunner. “What is a Fartlek?” has probably been a burning question in your mind for awhile now, and we’ve got the answer!

I am running track for my high school. I have been training consistently since the end of XC season and am now entering track season. Do you have any advice on how to improve my time and on how to train?
Coach Michael B.: It is great that you love running and are trying to improve on your times as the track season begins. It sounds like you have done some of the right things in getting a base following in your cross country season and then doing a time trial to see where you are at the beginning of the season. If you ran a 5:40 1600 in the time trial-that is 1:25 per 400 meters. The 6:10 is around 1:32 per 400 meters. I assume that you want to improve on your 5:40-In order to do that you must learn what that pace feels like in workouts. The best way to do that is to run a variety of intervals that simulate that goal pace of 1:25 per 400m. You can do repeat 400’s in 1:25– You can do repeat 800’s in 2:50– You can do a ladder 200, 400, 600, 800 and back down at that pace making sure you hit times that will allow you to know what that pace is. It is important to get one long run in a week and to take easy runs in between hard workout days. At the end of each day’s workout taking some strides to help with the leg turnover keeps you honest on your form and turnover. Without knowing what you did over the winter or the level of your training these are some simple things to keep in mind as you train to improve. If you do the longer intervals earlier in the season and shorter ones (you can also speed them up) toward the end your times will most likely improve. Even pacing is a big key the success of the 1600 and I always tell my athletes to push mentally harder on the 3rd lap (because that usually is the slowest) and time will almost always drop if that lap is the same pace as the others. Good luck and let us know how it works out!

My 10 year old daughter is a born athlete. She has been in club soccer for 4 years, and will now be participating in almost all the schools available sports. She suffers from heel, foot, and leg pain after practices and games. I noticed early on that she runs on her heals, and I have tried to coach her on getting her on her toes, especially for sprinting. I am neither a runner or a coach, so how can I get her the proper training on running (sprinting) technique?
Coach Jeff A.: I would certainly look at heel lifts as the first and cheapest effective option. If that does not work satisfactorily, get to a sports podiatrist and see if you have a leg-length discrepancy, or axial problem (supination/pronation) that may be causing the pain. Track spikes are a specialty that can accent good form,. but are not a replacement for form. You have several options to gaining form work. In your area, contact one of the local high schools. Many times, a high school coach can set aside a few minutes before or after a school workout to meet with you and take a look. Ask around for those who are willing to help . . . they will exist. Secondly, email me for a form handout for speed-development. Always easy to get through YouthRunner . .free and effective. I would stay in trainers for as long as possible, especially if pain persists. Running is a challenge, but pain should not be present to this degree in a youth athlete. It robs the fun and enjoyment of the sport. Try the heel lifts, but if you get no improvement in 96 hours, get professional evaluation.

How often do you run workouts on the track vs other surfaces?
Coach Drew W.: Generally we do two workouts a week and maybe one of them will be on the track. It depends on what the purpose of the workout is. Some workouts I use to gauge fitness; such as mile repeats. We almost always run mile repeats on the track. The other benefit of keeping runners on a track is that it’s easier to control things. Early on in season my runners tend to want to run too hard. If we are off the track there are a lot more variables that come into play. On a track it is a lot easier to say, ‘I want running these at 10k pace’. Then every 200 meters I know exactly where they should be. We do a lot of shorter workouts on grass. We have a 200/300 and 400 loop that is combined trail and grass. We’ll run this especially when the weather is bad too, and I don’t want them to be comparing their times to the previous week when it was 20 degrees warmer and what not. Any fartlek or tempo work is done on soft surfaces – naturally.

What is a Fartlek anyway?
Coach Jordan S.: A ‘Fartlek’ would be short reps of 5k or 10k ‘race pace’ running mixed into a standard distance run. It has a silly name which is also Swedish for ‘speed play’, Fartlek is a type of running that helps trick your body into running fast without working too hard too early into the summer. Fartlek running is great because it’s very flexible – it has the ability to be a very challenging workout or simply a slightly moderate distance run. You have a lot of control with this type of workout and it is pretty simple.

What are strides and why should I do them?
Coach Jordan S.: Strides are a quick ‘sprint’ of about 100 meters (the straightaway length of an outdoor track). A stride is simply fast running that prepares your body for tough workouts and races. The reason we do strides is to work on speed! Strides make you a more efficient runner (so that you can keep getting faster and faster). Speed is key in EVERY RUNNING EVENT in track, so incorporating strides into your weekly routine is quite important. Check out more on Strides:

My son is 9 years old and is running the 3000 meter run in the Junior Olympics. He started by running a mile or two with me on the weekends, then did a fun run. Some of his mother’s friends think that for a 9 year old kid we are letting him run too much. Is there a standard on how much 9-10 year olds should run or work out?
Coach Larsen R.: As long as your son is having fun – let him run! It’s not like he’s training to run ultra-marathons or working as a sherpa on Everest over the summer. Some of my favorite memories are from tagging along on my dad’s distance runs back when I was your son’s age, and I’ve grown up strong, tall, and injury free. So here’s what you should tell his mother’s friends: studies show that athletes his age who work-out are more likely to be bigger than kids who don’t because working out produces growth hormone which contributes to muscle tissue and bone growth. It also builds confidence, stronger relationships with fathers (ok, that one’s not based on studies as much as personal experience), and work ethic. Plus, running distance teaches efficiency of movement, especially if you’re watching him and correcting his form when necessary. My advice would be to mix in some sprint workouts as well to make sure his muscles don’t forget that in most other sports, speed is key. Plus, taking your shoes off and racing each other across a big grass field a bunch of times is pretty fun. Enjoy.

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