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Run to win: suggestions for the summer training program.

With the summer months hot on our heels, coaches are busy formulating and organizing a workable and winning running program. As a result, this is the time of year that our "inbox' is full of requests for suggestions on this topic.

Most of the inquiries are from football coaches, but coaches of other short-burst, high-intensity, power-oriented sports (e.g., soccer, lacrosse, ice hockey, volleyball, basketball, field hockey, etc.) also seek answers.


The primary emphasis of any running program, of course, depends upon the specific sport in question. All of the sports mentioned above are very similar in energy system requirements, albeit with varying distances and the timing of work and relief intervals.

In past segments we have discussed the bioenergetics of the anaerobic energy system, and how it governs high-intensity activities. Basically, this system draws upon adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC)--which are both stored in the muscles--as the primary fuels.

Unfortunately, our muscles are limited in the amount of these energy-rich compounds that can be furnished at any given time. The ready availability of this energy, however, makes it the hub of immediate power output.

Most coaches have heard of lactic acid (LA), at least in the negative connotation it bears in putting the brakes on exercise due to fatigue. LA is the by-product of partially broken down carbohydrate, and while it is true that this metabolic waste can ultimately force the cessation of exercise, it also has an upside in the partial resynthesizing of ATP for energy.

The specific system and substrates that are available for energy during exercise are placed on a continuum, with timing and exercise intensity playing key roles. Here is a brief overview of the energy system continuum:

ATP-PC System--provides energy for approximately 20- 30 seconds of intense work (e.g., sprints up to 200 meters).

ATP-PC/LA System--provides energy for approximately 30 seconds up to about 1 1/2 minutes (e.g., sprints up to 400 meters).

LA/ 02 (aerobic) System--provides energy for approximately 1 1/2 minutes to 3 minutes (e.g., up to approximately 800 meters).

02 System--provides energy for activities over 3 minutes.

Obviously, the specific energy system most used for a particular sport must be identified and the planned activities should remain true to the boundaries of that system. These boundaries include exercise time, intensity, relief between work intervals, and recovery between sets of varying distances and/or movements (as in the case of agility drills).

The energy needed for football and similar high-intensity sports is derived from the ATP-PC and LA systems. To meet the criteria for cultivating these systems, all of the running procedures described here can be completed in 75 seconds or less. This takes into account the diverse athletic populations and deviating base-line conditioning levels.

The longer distances and corresponding higher work/relief times are utilized early in the program, and are gradually "funneled" to the shorter distance, lower work/relief times.

Let's look at some paramount considerations for the summer running program, along with some suggestions for organizing, implementing, and administering some key protocols.


We like to start any running activity with what we call dynamics. Dynamics is an all-encompassing term for the cascade of warm-up drills we alternate in our program. These activities serve to gradually, progressively raise the heart and respiration rates, while shunting blood to the working muscles.

Here is a short list of dynamics we execute for 30 yards each:

Walking lunges--take a large step forward and drop the hips so that the lead leg is bent to approximately 90 degrees with the back leg relatively straight and the knee nearly touching the ground. Immediately step into the next rep with the opposite leg, and continue at a controlled, deliberate pace over the designated distance.

High knee skips--skip in an alternating leg fashion placing an emphasis on raising the lead knee as high as possible with a rapid-fire tempo. The down leg should snap to a fully extended position below and slightly behind the hip.

Power skips--same basic techniques as the high knee skips with the addition of extending the lead leg at the height of the upward lift.

Straight-leg kick and skips--skip on the down foot and kick the opposite leg to a fully extended position with as much height as possible. Again, the down leg should snap to a fully extended position beneath and slightly behind the hip.

Side shuffle--maintain a good bent-kneed, flat-back athletic position while shuffling with a good base and not crossing the feet or clicking the heels. Perform this drill to both the right and left.

Far leg over--start with a near-leg shuffle step, followed by a high-knee crossover step with the far leg. It is important to drive the far leg high and across the body before snapping it down through the hip. Perform this drill to both the right and left.

These drills are followed with several movements utilizing track hurdles set at various heights (e.g., over/under through the middle, kick and skip along the outside, etc.) in addition to leg swings against a wall/fence. The entire dynamics period takes approximately 5-7 minutes.

Following dynamics, a brief stretching period ensues with focus on the legs, hips and low back regions.



Assuming that you have a seven-week window to work with for conditioning this summer, the following running plan should work well for just about any sport that relies heavily on the ATP-PC/LA systems.

Our recommendation is to perform 3 non-consecutive running workouts per week. This format is flexible and can be manipulated based upon the other stresses (e.g., skill work, lifting sessions, etc.) the athletes experience during the week. Keeping these variables in mind, we will refer to the training days numerically, which gives you the option of plugging them into the day of the week where they best fit.

Remember, this is merely a template--you may need to make adjustments as you go to accommodate your particular situation.


Day 1--6 X 300's. These can be run on a track, or the perimeter of a football field. If you round off the corners between the five-yard line and the goal line of a football field with cones, you will have an approximate 300-yard track. The larger athletes (e.g., football linemen) should be able to run these in 65 seconds or less. A middle group--which we refer to as "big skill" athletes (e.g., linebackers, tight ends, quarterbacks, kickers/punters)--should be able to hit between 50-55 seconds as an assigned run time. The "fast' group (e.g., wide receivers, running backs, defensive backs) normally runs between 40-45 second intervals. Of course, depending upon your specific sport, modifications can be made. The relief interval (time between run intervals) is normally twice the amount of time it took for the run interval.

Day 2--Agilities/Skill Pattern Work. This day should be reserved for any drills that require sharp changes in direction. This can include a bevy of agility, reaction, and mirror type drills that best fit the specific movement requirements of your sport. This is also an excellent day for "skill pattern" drills, which require the athletes to execute the specific foot patterns, reactions, and precise cutting maneuvers germane to their positions. The total amount of reps for this first day should amount to about half of what a normal game would entail. Ultimately, your goal should be to incorporate enough drills to simulate 50-70 plays in a football game (we have hit as high as 85-90 reps), or nearly a full game worth of reps for the sport in question. Plyometrics (i.e., jumping type drills) from ground level or slight elevations can also be performed on this day, though we would recommend that they be placed early in the workout.

Day 3--14 X 40's. This amounts to one good, hard consecutive set of 40 yard sprints. We assign run times to the football team:

* Linemen: 5.9-6.1 seconds

* TE, LB, QB, Kickers/Punters: 5.3-5.5 seconds

* WR, DB, RB: 4.8-5.0 seconds

* The relief interval is 40-45 seconds.


Day 1--7 X 300's. We've merely added one run interval for a slight overload, with everything else remaining constant.

Day 2--Agilities/Skill Pattern Work. For overload purposes, either add a few drills, or detract slightly from the relief intervals (no more than 5 seconds from each drill).

Day 3--14 X 40's. Same procedures as week one, with the exception of the relief interval, which is now reduced to 35-40 seconds.


Day 1--8 X 300's. These are now run in two sets of four. The relief after each run is reduced by 5-10 seconds, and there is a 3-minute respite allotted after the fourth run.

Day 2--Agilities/Skill Pattern Work. The drills and reps for each should be solidified at this point and the total reps should amount to 1/2-3/4 of a game situation.


Day 3--14 X 40's. Same procedures as weeks one and two, with the exception of the relief interval, which is now reduced to 30-35 seconds.


This week is earmarked as a "down" week, as no running is scheduled. For us, this week usually falls around the July 4th Holiday, and our athletes take a little vacation time. It also fits nicely as a recovery period and we believe it has proven to be a key factor in preventing over-use injuries. Some athletes will continue with their lifting schedules and perform some lower impact cardiovascular work with stationary bikes, stair steppers, elliptical trainers, etc., during this week.


Day 1--10 X 110's. These are performed on a football field, from the end line (outside of the end zone) to the opposite goal line. The ten runs are performed consecutively with assigned times that look like this for football:

* Offensive Linemen: 19 seconds

* Defensive Linemen: 18 seconds

* LB, TE, QB, Kickers/Punters: 17 seconds

* WR, DB, RB: 15 seconds

* The relief interval between runs for the first week is 1 minute.

Day 2: Agilities/ Skill Pattern Work. This is the final week of performing 3/4 of game reps. Make sure you are progressing to drills and relief intervals that are specific to your sport.

Day 3: 20 X 20's. These are run in two sets of ten, with 30-second relief intervals between sprints, and two minutes between sets. While there are no assigned times per run, it is important to note that these are all-out sprints! A great deal of emphasis is placed on explosive starts and finishing strong.


Day 1--12 X 110's. Two reps have been added to the script and the relief interval is reduced to 50 seconds. All of the other procedures remaining constant.

Day 2--Agilities/ Skill Pattern Work. This is the first week of running a full game worth of reps. Adjust the relief intervals accordingly, but make a gradual attempt--especially in the early part of the workout--to simulate game conditions with recovery intervals. Timeouts and a halftime period can also be incorporated to make it more realistic. Doing this will help the athletes adapt to the metabolic stresses imposed by the workload and game tempo.

Day 3--25 X 20's. These are run in two sets--one set of 15, and one set of 10. The relief interval between sprints in the first set is 25 seconds, and is increased to 30 seconds for the second set. A two minute recovery is allotted between sets.


Day 1--16 X 110's. This running script is administered in two sets of 8. The relief interval between runs in the first set is 45 seconds, and is upped to 50 seconds for the second set. A 3-4 minute respite is allotted between sets.

Day 2--Agilities/Skill Pattern Work. This is the second--and final--week of performing a full game worth of reps. Again, simulating game conditions (within the rules of your sport, of course) as closely as possible is vital.

Day 3--20 X 20's, 10 X 10's. This script is administered in three sets; two sets of 10 twenties, and one set of 10 tens. The relief interval between sprints for the first set of twenties is 20 seconds, and it is increased to 25 seconds for the second set. Two minutes of recovery are taken between sets of twenties, and three minutes are taken between the second set of twenties and the set of tens. Relief between reps for the tens is 15 seconds.


It is important to note that the rate and level of progression you make over this period is dictated by the pre-existing conditioning level of your athletes. If they've been doing very little up to the start of the program, you will need to make the necessary adjustments in total volume, intensity, and recovery allotments.

When in doubt, give your athletes the benefit of that doubt and ease them into the program. They'll get better with time and make the necessary adaptations to these new, very intense stresses.

Remember--the goal is to get them to the finish line healthy and in great condition.

Then, you can start preparing for games and the real fun begins!


Safety precautions for summer training-- Summer has a sinister habit of unexpectedly bombarding us with intense heat and humidity. Depending upon geographic location, your athletes can be anywhere on a spectrum from being gradually acclimated over a period of several months to having little, if any, exposure to milder temperatures before the onset of brutal mid-summer heat. In any case, cautionary measures must be taken in order to avoid potentially serious problems. Here are some important suggestions to consider before embarking on your summer conditioning program.

* Make sure that all of your athletes have medical clearance for the summer training program by undergoing an updated, comprehensive physical examination by the team's medical staff or their primary care physicians.

* Acclimate your athletes to the summer's heat gradually. This normally encompasses at least 10 shorter workouts (20-30 minutes) performed at low to moderate intensity with ample recovery bouts (every 5-7 minutes) and liberal water/sports drink breaks.

* In parts of the country that have extremely hot and humid climates, it might be wise to hold the initial conditioning sessions during a part of the day (early morning/evening) when the conditions are milder. The heat index should be accounted for on each training day and followed-up with the appropriate measures when necessary.

* A certified athletic trainer (ATC) should be present at most--if not all--conditioning sessions. It is our opinion that this should be a requirement at every level of play. At the very least, an emergency plan should be firmly in place and understood by every coach in attendance. All coaches at every level should be certified in adult CPR.

* Coaches should be required to attend continuing education seminars that include information and procedures for preventing and managing heat related illnesses.

* Water and/or Gatorade availability should be a mainstay at each conditioning station and throughout the entire workout.

Ken Mannie (

By Ken Mannie, Head Strength/Conditioning Coach

Michigan State University
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Title Annotation:POWERLINE
Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
Previous Article:Where there's a Wilt ...
Next Article:Leading from home.

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