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By Andrea Johnson


San Gorgonio High School's cross country program is based on three words: Believe, Achieve, Succeed. These three words are the team's philosophy and the emphasis of the three cycles the team utilizes throughout the entire season of cross country.

BELIEVE -- Base Building

The preparation period or the "Believe" Cycle is the first phase of San Gorgonio's program. The emphasis of this cycle is to "believe" in your self. Getting athletes to "believe" involves:

  • to "believe" they can train in the heat if they properly hydrate and care for themselves,
  • to "believe" that they are in control of their training and that for improvement to take place, they must train and attend all practices with the coach.

Training in San Bernardino during this cycle at 5:30 p.m (the teams weekday practice time) involves temperatures above 100 degrees with smog always an issue. Saturday workouts are held at 7:00 a.m. and tend to be our "hard" or "long" day.

The main goal of the base building cycle is to slowly and gradually increase the distance of the weekly mileage and the intensity of the workouts in an effort to prepare athletes for the demands of the race. Key workouts include the "long" run; hill running and hill circuits; and 800m repetitions. The "long" run begins in the first week in 45 minutes and at the end of the season will average 1-hour 20-minutes. At San Gorgonio, minutes are utilized instead of miles due to the heat factor. For example, if the team can average 8-miles in 1-hour on an 80-degree day, then when it's 102 degrees outside, the team will run for 1-hour istead of completing the 8-mile course in say 1-hour 30-minutes and feeling miserable.

Hill running is a training method used by San Gorgonio as much as possible. During the summer, we do steady runs and long runs in the foothills, so exposure to hills is done pretty quickly. Hill circuits are then added after the team returns from running camp in late August, preparing for the competition period. Hill Circuits are performed once a week and done in the same manner as repetition workouts. Each repetition will average 3-7 minutes in length for a total exertion of 20-25 minutes. Work/recovery ratio is performed 1:2. Athletes are instructed to run the hill circuits at "pace" and are therefore training to race up and down hills. 800m repetitions are also incorporated into the cycle in late August. The key to this workout is to have the athletes perform the 800m's with a "flying" race start and to settle into race pace by the 800m. Work/Recovery ratio is 1:2. Again, emphasis is training to race.

ACHIEVE -- Competition

The competition period or "Achieve" Cycle is the second training period San Gorgonio utilizes. It runs from the week of the team's first race, September 16, through the end of the regular season, October 30. During this phase, the emphasis of the cycle is for each athlete to "achieve" as an individual. This is the part of the season where the hard work performed in the "believe" cycle will pay off. Athletes are asked to achieve beyond their efforts from the previous year and to start reaching towards or achieving their goals of this season. The stress is on individual performances instead of a team concept. It is San Gorgonio's belief that if an athlete can achieve first as an individual, then they will succeed as a team.

Methods of training utilized in the competition period are races, hill circuits, and the "long" run. Steady state runs performed the day before a meet are slightly slower than 1-minute per mile slower than race pace due to a "mental" block the team has yet to overcome. Athletes at San Gorgonio believe they must train slower the day before a meet to be recovered. So as a coach, I play on this team "belief" early season and will shift later in the championship phase to a "true" steady state run. 200m repetitions are also included the day before the meet to rectify the "slow" running. These 200m's were already learned during the 800m phase the team was exposed to in the base-building phase, and are done with either a "flying" race start and then settling into pace or at race pace (200m's at race pace is pretty easy).

Races are a big emphasis in this phase. The team is entered in a series of invitationals throughout the first three weeks of this phase and league competition also begins. The team averages two meets a week for a three week minicycle where races are the hardest workout of the cycle. The other workouts are steady state runs that range in distance from 5-7 miles and are done at steady pace about one-minute slower per mile than the individual athlete's race pace--this is also dependent on the heat factor and injury or fatigue factor. If these arise the pace is slightly slower. The workout schedule is as follows:

Week One

  • Wed., Sept. 18 -- Rim of the World Invitational (race)
  • Sat., Sept. 21 -- Woodbridge Invitational (race)
  • All other workouts are steady state this week.

Week Two

  • Mon., Sept. 23 -- "Long" 1:20
  • Tues., Sept. 24 -- Hill Circuits (25 minutes of exertion with 1:1 Work/Recovery ratio)
  • Sat., Sept. 28 -- Dana Hills Invitational
  • All other runs are steady state.

Week Three

  • Wed., Oct. 2 -- Rim of the World (1st league meet)
  • Sat., Oct. 5 -- Yucaipa Invitaitonal
  • All other runs steady state.

After these three weeks, the athletes are pretty "stressed" which leads to the next three week minicycle with emphasis on recovery. Weekly mileage is slightly lowered as the team shifts from six days of training a week to a five-day week. Sunday and Monday are "rest" days and the other five days are somewhat "quality" days. Tuesdays are slightly shorter in distance steady state runs with 200m repeats. Wednesdays are League races. On Thursday we run "long" in the hills (1:10-1:20) and on Friday are steady state runs. Saturdays are Hill Circuits (hill circuits are still 25 minutes in duration but are done at a pace faster than race pace with a 1:1 Work/Recovery ratio).

SUCCEED -- Championships

The final phase of the competition period is the championships phase. This is San Gorgonio's "Succeed" Cycle. At this point, athletes have proven themselves as individuals and now it's time for the team to succeed as a unit or force. The championship phase begins at the conclusion of the last League meet (October 30) and ends where the team or athlete is projected to complete his/her final competition whether it be Finals or the State Meet. If you are questionable as to whether your team or individual can or will advance to a higher level, say for example, to the Finals, then project to the end, as training can still hold over one more week. Two key concepts are recovery and anaerobic workouts. Training methods will remain the same as the competition period with the exception that all hill circuits are performed anaerobically (the distance of each circuit is 3 minutes or less, still maintaining and exertion phase of 25 minutes total, with a 1:1 or less Work/Recovery ratio) and the "long" run is decreased to one-hour shifting towards more steady state runs during thie phase. Pre-Meet steady state runs are slightly shorter in distance and 200m's are done from a "flying" start and are completed faster than race pace.

Mental preparation is key at this point of the season. As a coach, I have a hard time with the mental attitude and try to develop this early and stay away from this at the end of the sesason when the athletes are already "stressed" out. I will build confidence by always stressing the past. I reflect back to the preparation period of San Gorgonio's training and stress the "believe" cycle ("Believe" in yourself as you prepared for the season). Secondly, I reflect on the "achieve" cycle and let athletes know they have "achieved" in the competition period, which already directs them towards "success."

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