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Cornell Middle Distance Training

March 9, 2012

One of Cornell’s middle distance guys has posted their training, which interests me, because they are coached by Robert Johnson, under the watchful eye of John Kellogg.  Here are a few posts:


Admirand’s best race last year was a 1:51 for 3rd place at the high school state level. Yeah, that’s very good for high school, but no chance he could have won the ic4a 800 and anchored the winning 4 x 8 with a 1:48.8 split just off what he did a year ago. This is a different level entirely.

And what makes you think we do high mileage for the 800? I haven’t been over 45 miles in a week for 4 weeks. The 800 guys here do 40-70 per week. Except Schilkowsky does more. That’s the guy who was a 4:25 miler in high school and is now a 4:03 miler 2 years later. Training like a cross country guy works for him. Doing short tempo runs and lots of 150s in 17-18 seconds works for Will Weinlandt. His best was 1:56 in high school and he just broke 1:50 as a sophomore. I guess that 1:49 was all because of the high school training that got him to that blue chip time of 1:56, though, because what we do here clearly can’t be contributing anything.

Well it could be without a certain troll who seems to have it in for the brojos. But giving out sample workout weeks won’t help anybody a lot. We’ve been told and then learn for ourselves that individual workouts don’t matter that much. It’s more about base line fitness in both endurance and short speed…a variety of speeds really…and then phasing in the usual hard stuff at race pace or barely faster, then completing the puzzle by racing ourselves into shape and building confidence and familiarity with how to compete. Everybody in the country does similar workouts to ours all the time. You know, like 4 times 400 a little faster than 800 race pace. It isn’t fancy…I mean, how fancy can it be? It’s just running.

To be honest, everybody out there probably gets about the same out of the talented guys as we do. Good athletes obviously make their coaches look good and most of them would be just as fast anywhere they went to school. But what we do best is we bring more 2nd or 3rd level recruits to the conference scorer or national qualifying level than anybody else. Well, maybe the altitude schools like colorado or byu or adams st or western st could do better but you’d be really hard pressed to find any non altitude place that gets more 4:20 high school guys to sub 4:05 or 9:30 guys to sub 30 10k or top 100 in cross nationals than cornell has had over the last 5-10 years. Guys get the chance to develop from the ground up here and they don’t at most other places.

One endurance workout we do a lot in the 800 group is 12, 8, 4 minutes starting at a tempo kind of pace and getting faster on each rep. About 3 minutes walking and jogging between reps or whenever we feel ready to go again. We do some drills for range of motion and short ground contact time after the tempo stuff and then some short fast strides after that. Core work after that. Most of the 800 guys use weights and longer distance guys mostly body weight stuff like pullups or crunches or planks. Some people do stuff like hurdle walkovers for coordination. Basic general fitness stuff…nothing other teams don’t do.

If we do anything faster than “road run” pace, we do drills and then strides before the workout and the core work after. We do 10-12 400s with 45 seconds rest every couple of weeks during the off season. Not real hard…just a mulligan or two at the start, strong in the middle, and blow the pipes out on the last 1-2. We call it tempo by quarters. The mile guys do anywhere from 12-20 reps. We also sometimes do 15 200s with a 100 jog in 30 seconds between reps. Mile guys might do 20. Early on, we’ll average about 33 and we’ll get down to 30-31 by the end of indoors but we’re not supposed to force it to make them faster. It’s always supposed to feel like the 2nd and 3rd laps and maybe part of the 4th lap of a mile race.

For speed work, it’s a lot of short fast strides every few days all year, sometimes up a short hill, and often 2 or 3 sets of 5 150s with a minute or so between reps and 5 minutes jogging between sets. Preseason ones will start each set in about 23 and finish in about 18-19 and they’ll get to where we’re starting at 21 and finishing in 17 by the end of indoors. Each set starts faster than the previous one. Every few weeks we do 6-8 200s with 2 minutes recovery. We start at 28 average in November and get down to 25 average by February.

The really hard workouts include your basic stuff like 4 400s in 52-54 for the top guys, 4-5 minutes for recoveries. Then there’s a staple of 500 at 800 race pace, 2 minutes rest, 300 at race pace, 5 minutes break, 500 at race pace or faster, 2 minutes rest, 200 all out. Sometimes we’ll do a workout of 650 at race pace, jog 600, 2 300s at race pace with 300 jog after each rep, 2 to 4 times 150 at race pace or faster with a 150 jog between reps. We probably only do something that hard 2 or 3 times in indoors and 2 or 3 times outdoors. Very rarely we do 150s or 200s on one day and a truncated race pace workout the next day to prepare for two day meets.

But this sport is also a lot about confidence and willingness to lay it all on the line when the time comes, and that means we don’t do the really killer workouts very often. That way we can gear up for them. We have those staple hard workouts but we don’t use all of them in every season because we’re not supposed to obsess about comparing workout times with what we did last time…that results in either overtraining from forcing it early in a workout or it might undermine confidence if we’re slower than before. What I’ve seen in the few years I’ve been here is that people who don’t do enough base line fitness work in the off seasons are the ones who don’t run their hearts out in races or they make excuses why they can’t perform at a high level. Won’t name names but I guess it’s partly because they don’t invest as much in their running and they have wimpy attitudes to start with, but partly because their bodies physically aren’t prepared to handle the demand and they start doubting themselves even more when they get dropped in races.


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