Well Rounded

I love my Assistant Coach dearly. He’s been my friend and pacer for a long time and we spend an enormous amount of time together. Convincing him to coach with me was one of the best moves of my life, second only to agreeing to coach with my husband. However, we came from two very different high school experiences and as such have different ideas about structuring a running career. I prefer low mileage and support athletes doing whatever sports they love for the winter and spring. Joe is more old school in thinking that they should do higher mileage through the summer and do the traditional triple of cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. So why do I insist on well rounded runners? For two major reasons:

#1 Injury Prevention: Teenage girls excel at a few things including incredible emotional range, the ability to inject pure joy into any situation and injuries. Teenage runners are particularly excellent at that last item. One of the biggest reasons runners get injured is the repetitive nature of training. This is not unlike the year round soccer player who tears her ACL at 14. Thus, if one of my athletes loves basketball or lacrosse or any other non-running sport, I encourage her to keep playing it. She’ll use different muscles, different motions and oftentimes get more sprint work in than track can ever provide.

#2 Burnout: We were just having this conversation in our kitchen, about how horrible it is that high school coaches run their athletes so hard that they are burned out by college at worst and by the end of college at best. Running should be fun and if an athlete is doing track because she thinks she “should” and not because she loves it, we are dangerously close to the line of burnout. I’d much rather have my girls excited for cross country (which is a long season) after a spring of lacrosse than lamenting that they have to keep running after spring track.

I was a cross country-nordic skiing-track girl for 2 years, then traded track for the Spring Musical my junior year and nothing my senior year. Despite that diversity, I still left high school burned out, so I cannot imagine what some of my three season girls feel. Now I am almost exclusively a runner although I ski daily in the winter and cross train with biking and swimming. The difference now is that I LOVE running; it’s my center and I don’t feel like I need a break from it. Even so, I take time completely off every year to keep it all feeling fresh and exciting.

Were you a three season runner in high school? Do you only run year round now? How do you fend off burnout?

2 thoughts on “Well Rounded

  1. Ryan

    I tend to agree with you that for the vast majority high school athletes participating in a range of sports is the long term better way to go. Most of them aren’t going to get athletic scholarships even if they focus on a single sport year round, diversification allows them to develop different skills and types of fitness, as well as gives them a wider range of experiences(team sport environment vs individual sport). The push for specialization at a single sport seems to create a catch-22 situation for the very good athlete – if they participate in multiple sports they may become a better all around athlete, however, by not specializing in their “best” sport they risk losing out on scholarship/competitive sporting opportunities to a single sport athlete with similar athletic abilities.

    Do you think you would be where you are now in terms of running had you been a 2-3 season runner throughout high school and college? I ran track in high school, did other sports during the other seasons. If I start feeling burned out/overly frustrated with running these days I just take some time off, focus on strength training or sometimes back way off of all fitness related activities for a little while. A little break can be a good reminder that I do this stuff for fun, because I want to do it. When things start to feel like an obligation (more than I just don’t want to get out of bed that particular morning) it is time for short break.

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    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      I absolutely do not think I would still be a runner (beyond just general fitness) if I’d run 3 seasons a year through high school and college. I have always been a runner and ran a lot in college for fun but I never “had” to. Now I’m generally happy with running, but will admit that the other morning as I struggled out of bed at 4:30 am, I had the thought that I’d really like to just run for fun again! Then the workout went well and I forgot that thought, but even as an adult, obligatory running can be exhausting!

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