Think Outside the Box for Cross Country Training

By Ed Lyons

During my time coaching at Bentley University we used standard training methods.  I found that occasionally it was productive to add a few things for both physical and mental preparation to aid in racing well late in the season when it really counted. Distance runners know that STRENGTH is most important but they also need to feel fast.

We had a normal 12 week endurance base cycle during the summer that included a building phase for our Sunday long run. We often did 3 weeks up followed by a down week.  After six weeks we added a weekly tempo and then in early fall continued with long hill repeats often on Commonwealth Ave. We also did the standard mile repeats and longer type workouts that everyone always looked forward to as pure hell. Typical of these longer workouts was “The Bentley”, a form of “The Michigan” made famous by Coach Ron Warhurst .

I was fortunate to coach Ryan Agnew at Bentley, a two time NCAA D2 XC All-American. We added a few new wrinkles to Ryan’s training starting in mid September. Every two weeks during a six week period we did a “Rocking Mile” after a comfortable 60 minute run. The mile was on the track immediately upon completion of the 60 minute run. The time dropped by 10 seconds each time we did the mile. Ryan started at 4:45, then 4:35, then finally a quick 4:25 mile after the required 60 minute run.

These three workouts really aided Ryan in his mental preparation as we had planned in advance to go out fast at the NCAA D2 East Regional and race the full 10K distance.  A final workout on the track about 10 days out from the regional was 6 x 800 “Cut Downs” with 2:00 resting jog starting at 2:20, 2:17, 2:14, 2:11, 2:08 and finally a fast 2:05.

These “Outside the Box” cross country workouts worked well and Ryan peaked by winning the 2005 NCAA 2 East Regional at Franklin Park and followed with a 17th place finish at the 2005 NCAA 2 Championships in California. Ironically we had also planned to go out hard in California but the weather turn very hot & dry, windy and dusty with the Santa Anna winds. Ryan was prepared for both a fast pace and also a controlled slower pace that turned into a progression run at NCAA’s as he moved up 30 positions in the last 3 miles. Don’t be afraid to think “Outside the Box”.

After retiring from Bentley, Ed Lyons started coaching at Westwood High School.

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One comment on “Think Outside the Box for Cross Country Training

  1. A Falcon on said:

    Great article Ed!

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