Whippet Wisdom: Tips from the Coaches

Group Workout Dynamics and Building a Workout Routine

Last Tuesday’s workout was one of the longest workouts of the marathon training season so I attended the workout to watch the group dynamics throughout the evening.  Scott and Katie did a great job of explaining the workout then grouping folks by their planned pace for the night and off everyone went.

During my walk in the park, it was nice to see groups stay together throughout the entire workout.  It’s very important to work together on these long workouts because, simply put, “misery loves company.”  If you are making a commitment to attending the workout, may as well work together to make the workout as painless as possible. Here are some tips to employ during these long marathon-paced or half-marathon-paced runs:

  • Before the workout starts, count the number of people in the group so everyone is accounted for
  • Every mile or so, survey the group and make sure everyone is still together. If someone starts to fall off, encourage them to hang on and help them finish
  • If you are having a good day, do not push the pace faster than the agreed-upon pace. If you are feeling good, add on additional miles at the end. Remember, the goal of the workout is to build a tolerance to the projected pace; increasing the pace does not serve that purpose. Also, someone may not be having a good day and increasing the pace may drop them. That ‘someone’ could be you in a future workout. No one wants that karma.

The group dynamic is fluid because each person has different strengths and utilizing those strengths can be helpful in these long workouts.  For example, I am a below-average hill runner so I rely on Steve Wo and Andrew Hadro to carry me uphill. During shorter interval workouts, Matt Wong/ Terrence McGovern/ Jeremy Shingleton have more raw speed than I do so my goal is to keep up with them when running 800s and 400s.  I am more of a metronome so, on these long workouts, they trust me to not be too fast or too slow.  Expect people to move around in the group from the front to the back and everywhere in between but always remain together.

Afterward, I spoke to some folks about their workout session and they were concerned about their fatigue level after the workout.  After asking some follow-up questions, it was determined their workout was run without any warm-up which may have been caused by some confusion in our workout posting.  Every workout calls for 1-2 miles of warm-up before starting any intervals so we should be clear how that mileage is to be done and our expectations:

  • Tuesday night Manhattan workout – intervals begin promptly at 7 p.m. (following introductions and workout explanation) at Bethesda fountain. We do not run a full warm up as a group, so we encourage you to show up at 7 p.m. having jogged an easy mile or two ahead of time. That said, there usually is an informal group meeting at 6:45 at the Time Warner Center to jog up to Bethesda at an easy pace
  • Thursday night Manhattan workout – group warm-up of 1-1.5 miles is completed at the track. Any additional warm-up should be done on your own in advance of 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday and Thursday night Brooklyn workouts – group warm-up of 1-1.5 miles is completed on the roads inside Prospect Park. Any additional warm-up should be done on your own in advance of 7 p.m.

Warm-up and cooldown are very important pieces to your workout and need to planned and executed correctly:

  • Warm-up miles initiate your body into running both physically (muscle movement, lactic acid processing) and mentally (think and talk with others about how the workout will progress, choose a course, time goals for the evening)
  • Cooldown miles help remove the lactic acid build-up in your legs from the workout and, similar to the warm-up, allows you to mentally recap the night’s activities
  • Both warm-up and cooldown serve as a way to increase your total weekly mileage

Create a routine which can be replicated for every single workout and, subsequently, for every single race (sans marathon).  What time do I need to leave work/ home to start my warm-up? What route can I take? Who do I know in my neighborhood that can run with me? There is no right or wrong answer as to how warmups and cooldowns are to be done but they need to be added to your Tuesday and Thursday workout routine.

As always, we’re here to help so please let us know if you have any questions!
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Chris Forti

More about Chris Forti

Chris grew up just outside of Boston where he competed at the high school and collegiate level. In Boston, he coached athletes with varying objectives - from youth to high school to adults - and went so far as to marry his favorite athlete. He joined the Whippets in 2013 and is excited to be coaching for this highly motivated group. He works at siggi's yogurt in New York City as a demand planner and can be found playing "catch the red laser dot" with his favorite kitty, post-run. He calls himself "40" because "Forti" is evidently too many typeface characters to handle and can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@chris40runs), and Instagram (@chris40runs)

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