Breathe, See, Run

A few short months ago, runners taking part in the Summer Training session lied down on the dance room floor and took part in what, for many, was their first experience at quieting the mind to focus on breathing, followed by a session of seeing with the mind’s eye.  We spent two cross-training practices performing this exercise called Visualization, all for the sake of learning how to relax on cue, seeing the field, and mentally rehearsing a future performance.

Fast forward to the present, with many runners nearing their seasons end and possibly competing in post-season races, seemingly right around the corner.  As the season crescendos to an end, we may find our stress levels heightening as well.  During these times of heightened anxiety, it’s important to find comfort and confidence in knowing how to quiet the mind, mentally rehearse a future performance, and emotionally harness our energy, saving that energy for our next race. 

The past few Whisper practices we have spent a fair amount of time practicing work in the starting box.  We’ve covered how to alternate runners so everyone gets a turn completing their strides while others save the starting box.  We’ve discussed varying intensities of the pre-race strides and how to form a strong front to assure everyone has their space.  One of the most important preparation discussions we have consistently had at recent practices is the importance of seeing the field.  Too often, young runners are unsure of what to do at the starting line, so many find themselves standing around getting cold, becoming intimidated, or side tracked with non-running related fidgets.  Instead of falling victim to these pitfalls, providing young runners with consistent activities that continue to prepare them for the event ahead can help reduce any perceived anxiety, harness their energy, and provide them with controllable actions to help prepare for what's to come. 

A bit of French, but the first 1:50 is really all you need.

In short, we divide in half with one group dashing from the starting line to perform their stride, then jogging back to the start and saving the box while the second group then performs a stride of their own.  Between the time everyone has completed one to two strides, until the starting official asks runners to line up at the start, lies the time of the unknown.  This is the space where I ask the runners to insert a degree of Visualization while scaling back the intensity of their strides to a mild, ankling pace.  Whether they stand at the front of the box or perform anklings, they're asked to imagine various points of the race, specifically imagining and rehearsing how they want to feel from the ground, up - foot strike, hip height, back posture, relaxed shoulders, etc.  

Parents may recall the movie Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, and Charlize Theron.  Plot aside, this movie provides excellent examples of Visualization and Focus Management.  The discussion around "seeing the field" and watching the final put illuminate along the green are my personal favorites, and they serve as clips that I share with my Sport Psychology classes.  To continue the teaching and learning of Visualization, check-out the videos and then share with your children if you feel it might help put their minds prior to the start of their performance.  With that said, it's important to practice anything prior to meets.  To do this, provide this activity as something they can choose to do at practice before interval repetitions to assure they are practicing this mental strategy, rather than winging it at the start of a big performance.  Most importantly, have fun with these mental tools.

Eat the Frog

Its presence can influence our lifestyle choices, impact decision making, and show us the pace at which life goes by.  It can lead to feelings of both incompetence or satisfaction, yet we know it’s our own self-doing.  It’s a trait, likely adopted from our parents, who learned it from their parents.  It’s Procrastination, or on the flip-side, Time Management.  

With the new academic school year set to begin, proper time management is one behavior we can encourage our children to attain right off the bat.  If your children are like mine, they’ll come home from school looking to express their enthusiasm about the first day of school.  To sustain this level of motivation and prepare for the academic year, getting organized from the start can set the tone for the days, weeks, and quarters to come. 

The following list of websites offer a fun way to promote the discussion around procrastination and time management: Eat the Frog, Time Management 101, and TED Talk with Tim Urban.  As you talk with your children about these traits, remember there is no genetic predisposition to good time management skills.  Instead, time management is a learned skill, one which needs honing and consistent short-term practices building long-term palpable accomplishments.

August Newsletter (main course)

With so many new faces this summer, I wanted to use this opportunity to give you the scoop as to how Whisper Running works on an annual basis. 

  • Runcard: Peak times for Whisper span nine weeks in the summer in preparation for cross-country and nine weeks in the winter in preparation for track. Once the nine-week sessions conclude, middle school and high school training begins, and their seasons are underway. During the non-peak seasons, September-December and March-May, Whisper offers the Runcard, which is a pay-as-you-go type of training system. Simply pay a fee ($125 during non-peak seasons) and get eight runs/workouts. Workouts are typically 60-90 minutes on non-meet days and are held at familiar locations (Pacific Park, Clark College/HBay, Shahala MS). This fall, Whisper Runcard workouts will be scheduled on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and some Saturday’s beginning August 27th.

  • XC Meets: The first meet of the season is September 1st at the Ultimook Race Nike Invitational in Tillamook, Oregon. This is a middle and high school meet, but Whisper will only suit up middle school participants for now. Most meets on the Whisper schedule do not conflict with the middle school practice or meet schedule, so local coaches typically support Whisper (or, frankly, have no clue the kids are even competing in the meets with Whisper). Check-out the meet schedule and see if it works for you. If your child would like to race with Whisper, there are a couple of things that need to be done: 1) Register with USATF. The cost is $20 and the process is fairly simply, yet will take a bit of time to fully complete. 2) 0\We have uniforms for $60 that we need to get fitted. If I do not have a singlet that fits, we can order more, but we need to do so quickly since the process takes about three weeks from order to arrival. That said, I have about 25 uniforms, so something should fit. 3) Finally, as long as you have an active Runcard, meet entries are free for your child.

  • Junior Olympics (USATF XC): The first race of the USATF Cross-Country season is Saturday, November 10 in Seattle, WA at Woodland Park. This is called the Association Meet and the top five teams, or 30 individuals qualify for the Regional Meet held on November 17th in Yakima, WA. The top 35 individuals and five teams qualify for the National Meet held in Reno, Nevada on December 8th. The experience to race in these meets is quite amazing for the kids, so it is my hope that yours will want to take part. Presently, we have 26 runners registered with the USATF (and a boys & girls 2004-2005 team), making them eligible to participate in the Association Meet on November 10th. Check-out the video created by Lindsay Owen, sister of Candi Owen, who was a participant on the National team last year, which took 13th in Tallahassee, Florida! Click on the respective links to see Team Whisper results from the 2017 Association, Region, and National meet!

So, again, welcome to Whisper!  I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with your child in helping them become better runners and citizens in the local community.  I can be reached most any time of day and it is always a true delight to hear from runners, or parents of runners, seeking assistance, advice, or information about running, racing, or Whisper. 

Looking forward to seeing you all at the Whisper XC Kickoff on Thursday, August 16th!

Vacation Running

One of my favorite things to do on vacation, no matter where I travel, is to explore by foot, aka, explore by running.  Whether traveling close to home in the Pacific NW, or further away in a foreign country, venturing by foot can provide a variety of sensorial input you'll remember forever.  The cobblestone streets in DC, the humidity and sun in the Dominican, and the Olympic Park in Munich are just a few fond memories I recall when thinking about running while on vacation. 

Within the nine weeks of Whisper Summer Training, most every runner is bound to miss a week or two for a family trip or summer camp.  There are many ways you can interpret these absences when it comes to gaining or losing fitness.  First, you could say the absence is fate and you need the time off from running for mental or physical healing - literally, no worries, the world still spins!  Second, you could aim for minimal running, maybe just a couple of runs while you are away - nothing too structured, just an easy 1-3 runs for 15-30 minutes.  Finally, you could have some fun with the planning of your runs by scoping out trails or routes in the area, contacting local coaches and inquiring about local running trails - if they reply, great, if they don't, then create your own trail.  The App Map My Run offers running routes which you can follow for simplicity. 

Whatever you choose, from the total vacation from running, to ensuring you will run, be sure to follow through with your intentions.  For those taking the hiatus from running, I applaud your strength!  For those planning to run, here are a couple of factors to ponder:

  • Safety - whether wild animals, or unsafe environments, be aware of your surroundings!  No headphones.
  • Partner up - take mom or dad with you on your run (they'll thank you later).
  • Don't take vacation training/running too serious.

For those seeking suggestions for training runs or wanting a structured plan, here is my usual advice: The main thing is to do just enough to continue building your endurance base, while not doing too much, nor losing your speed from track.  In short, you'll want to balance the distance with some tempos, Fartlek training, or speed.  The difference between tempos and Fartleks is that Fartleks lead to tempos.  Short leads to long.  Short intervals (Fartleks), that is, leads to longer intervals (tempos).  They are similar in that you'll warm-up for 10-15 minutes and cool-down for about 5-10 minutes, and what you do in the middle is the workout, but Fartleks are typically a couple of consecutive minutes of hard work (then an easy/medium recovery interval), whereas tempos are longer (5-15 minutes for most middle/high schoolers), with easy/medium recovery intervals in between.  Here is one example:

  • 15-minute warm-up, then 4, 3, 6, 3, 4, then 10-15 minutes of a cool-down.  The tempo/Fartlek work (hard work) was the 4 6 4, and the 3's were easy to medium.  For example, the 4-, 6-, and 4-minutes hard were at 3200m goal pace(ish), and the 3-minutes easy were just that - easy, but still jogging/running forward. 

If you're in shape, then it will be easy to distinguish the different paces.  If you are out of shape, then the intervals/Fartleks will likely merge into one pace, or at least feel like it.  The nice thing about this sort of workout is it is based off time, so you will know when it's over and you're not counting miles.  I like this sort of running when I'm less concerned with miles.  Also, you can run as few or as many hard intervals as you wish (1-5), for as long as you wish (1-5 minutes). 

How often you run while on vacation is another consideration.  For simplicity, definitely keep the running, both the number of days per week and the distance/time you run each workout, less than what you would do at home (at regular practices).  If you are training 5-6 day's per week, then plan for 3-4 runs while on vacation.  For example, if you're going to be gone Saturday to Saturday, plan for three runs  - Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday - meanwhile designing a creative Fartlek/tempo workout for yourself.  

I want to remind vacationers that you're on vacation.  Enjoy it.  Stay away from track surfaces if you can and get lost on the local trails/roads - not "lost" literally, but a way of "vacationing from your vacation" - this provides a sense of normalcy and balance.  Again, you're on your vacation, so enjoy!  We can work when you return.

Training Parameters for Middle School Distance Runners (Going into 6th)

Welcome to the sport of distance running!  As a new runner coming into the sport, it can be difficult to know exactly what it is that you are training for.  In fact, some runners might still be in elementary school (going into the fifth grade), while others might not have a cross-country program at their school (Evergreen Public Schools does not have boys middle school XC, while some private schools do not offer XC).  Therefore, the most important request of all new runners is for your patience.  The dividends of your hard work between June and August will be paid in full in September-November, and possibly into December.  Those fall and winter months are the racing season, and anyone who trains in the summer reaps the benefits of racing well because of their efforts.

Whisper training is can be pretty difficult at times, while other times are less challenging.  The two days of running each week are more than enough to introduce your body into the sport of running.  The midweek day, Wednesday, that we are performing aqua-jogging and cross-training support your running by promoting recovery while strengthening your muscles.  Any work outside of Whisper should be in the form of Play.  Play can come in many forms, but the most important form for athleticism is outside play such as Tag, Kick the Can, Laser Tag, or anything else active and on your feet.  Other forms of play that come to mind are hiking, swimming, or biking.  No matter what the form is, the idea is to remain active through the summer months, while limiting the use of any electronic devices. 

If you have any questions about training, cross-trianing, recovery, shoes, or anythign related, please feel free to talk with Coach Dave at practice.

Training Parameters for Middle School Distance Runners (Going into 7th)

Training with Whisper during the summer months will be more than enough to prepare you for the XC season ahead.  During the first half of summer training, we will spend two days each week running, with a day of aqua-jogging and cross-training in the middle (Wednesday's).  It can be very exciting to be surrounded by so many talented and fast runners at practice, so be sure to be smart while you're away from practice. 

The preferred method of XC preparation outside of Whisper training during the summer for seventh graders is Play in the form of climbing trees, playing tag, rock climbing, playing at trampoline parks, or playing in actual parks.  However, if you have noticed that some of your Whisper peers trained between their sixth and seventh grade year, and you wish to do the same, then it's important to know that there is a process to this, with the emphasis on keeping the runs fairly brief for a number of reasons.  If you do wish to get a run in on your own, here are some basic guidelines for the summer months:

June: Consistent attendance at Whisper practices is paramount to your progress.  If you attend practice on a regular basis, then you can consider running an extra day each week when you're away from Whisper training. 

July: This means four extra runs during the month of July - one for each week.  Keep the runs around 20-25 consecutive minutes, learning what "consecutive" means.  It means to be consistent, steady, and patient.  If you feel eager to run fast, do so at the end of your run when you can see the finish.

August: Regardless of whether or not you were able to get in an extra day of running each week during July, August is the perfect time to begin or continue that third day.  If you ran three days, consider adding 5-10 minutes on your runs.  If you were not able to get in the third day, then consider reaching out to a teammate so you can tag along. 

Keep in mind that during our group practices, we  will run approximiately four to seven accumulate miles.  Choosing one consistend day each week to run onyour own will be to your beneift.  If you choose to run an additional day  during the week, be mindful that you could be running on back-to-back days, so proper shoes, adequte sleep, quality foods, and appropriate rest the next day is imperative for your growing and recovering body.

Side notes:

  • These runs are totaly optional.

  • Always run with a partner.  Always.

  • Headphones are a "no no" at Whisper, for both safety and running efficiency.

Training Parameters for Middle School Distance Runners (Going into 8th)

Summer Training with Whisper during the months of June and July consists of runs twice each week, with a day of cross-training in the middle (Wednesday's).  This amount of training is certainly enough to condition your body for eighth grade cross-country.  However, if you ran during the 7th grade year and really desire to improve your time from last season and achieve your new goals, then you could be ready for an extra day of training outside of Whisper practice. 

First week of Whisper practice was outstanding!  So many runners from throughout the Vancouver-metro area - what a delight!

First week of Whisper practice was outstanding!  So many runners from throughout the Vancouver-metro area - what a delight!

Keep in mind that during our group practices, we will run approximately four to seven accumulated miles. Choosing one consistent days each week to run on your own will be to your benefit. If you choose to run an additional day during the week, be mindful that you could be running on back-to-back days, so proper shoes, adequate sleep, quality foods, and appropriate rest the next day is imperative for your growing and recovering body.

June: Because of the number of kids still in school during the first week, there is a good chance that many of you ran a total of three days (at Whisper practice), while others ran a total of four.  Likewise, some runners were able to take advantage of the aqua-jogging and cross-training once, while others were able to do so twice.  Regardless, you've begun, and now you're ready to to begin taking on an extra day of running now that July is near.

July: Make a concerted to get in one run on your own each week this month, hopefully doing so on soft terrain. The runs should be 20-30 consecutive minutes, or around 3-4 miles.  Keep it fun.  Keep it social.  Wearing a timing watch is optional.

August: By now, you should be in pretty good shape and ready for XC to begin!  If you are recovering well after your runs and not feeling any post-run soreness, feel free to add another 5-10 minutes to your runs.

Side notes:

  • Headphones: A Whisper Running "no no" for both safety and running efficiency.

  • Always run with someone.  Always.


Summer Training Parameters for 9th Grade Distance Runners

Abby (left), Callie (in blue), and Chloe, (in red) will all be moving onto high school this coming 2018 season.

Abby (left), Callie (in blue), and Chloe, (in red) will all be moving onto high school this coming 2018 season.

Going into high school cross country, you'll want to be careful not to take-on too much mileage too soon.  The largest factor in training is your history - how many consecutive months you have actually been training in the last two calendar years.  And by training, one must question the quality of training within your previous middle school program.  If you are coming from a program without much guidance, thus not much actual training in the form of tempos, intervals, hill repeats, steady runs, etc., then you'll want to consider a very conservative approach to reduce the chance of an overuse injury.

June: Begin June with the simple two days each week with Whisper.  If you were able to attend the two days in the pool that consisted of aqua-jogging and cross-training, then you'll likely get over the initial  soreness faster than those who were unable to attend.  Regardless, consistency is essential, so running twice a week with Whisper can really help with the beginning steps of creating a base for July.

July: In early July you can add a third day of running 25-30 minutes on your own (outside of Whisper - with your HS program or with friends), then by late July be up to 30-40 minutes on that third day.  Between the practices at Whisper and the third day, you'll accumulate 15-18 miles in a week.  The pool workouts will be you bodies best friend.  Here, you'll circulate blood flow to all of the sore areas, promoting healing and recovery.  Win-Win!

August: Once August arrives, you should be ready for a fourth day of running.  The third day should remain at 30-40 minutes, and the fourth day should be 20-30 minutes, again depending on your history - be conservative, humble, and smart. 

These runs on your own should be steady runs and nothing extreme, like intervals.  Keep them low-key, fun, and with your teammates.  It might also be a good idea to alternate days of wearing a timing watch one day, then not wearing a timing watch the next.  

If you experience soreness that seems to not go away, then consider taking an extra rest day, or backing off on the fourth run (reducing the time on the fourth run).  For example: if you run Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and you're achy on two consecutive Monday's, then back-off on one of the previous runs, yet still aiming for four runs in a week.  Of course, this advice is provided you have a solid pair of running shoes that are "Coach Approved."

Most importantly, never hesitate to contact Coach Dave if you have any questions about your preparation for the season ahead.. 

Summer Training Info Night - June 5, 7-8pm at Clark College in OSC 128.

You are invited to come and meet current and future Whisper runners at the 2018 Summer Training Information Night on Tuesday, June 5 from 7-8pm at Clark College in the O'Connell Sports Center!  Representatives from the 2017 USATF Junior Olympic Team will be on hand, along with runners from throughout the Vancouver-Portland area.  Both runners and parents are invited to attend and learn more about the summer running program aimed at getting runners ready for the 2018 cross-country season ahead.  Primary information includes:

  • Highlights of the 2017 XC and 2018 TF seasons.
  • Statistical data supporting the purpose of preseason training benefits.
  • Learn about the 8-9 week 2018 summer training plan.
  • Receive the summer training calendar.
  • Enter a drawing for prizes including Whisper shirts, gloves, and gift cards!

While you're here, please fill out the runner contact form so you can remain connected with important updates within the world of Whisper!

Looking forward to seeing all of the current Whisper runners and meeting many new faces!


Dave Caldwell