Hi Coach Jay,
Cross-country is over for me and swimming season has started. I’ve tried pulling a double practice, going from running to swimming, but so far the end result has me feeling completely drained. I don't want to lose the progress I've made during cross-country because I've found my true love in running (and have set a goal to go States next year)—and won’t get there by decreasing my running. Our school has an indoor track team that practices twice a week. Should I push my swimming coach to approve my going for two days a week, or do you have another idea on how I can get the most out of a running workout in little time? I have access to a gym and plenty of amazing places to run, so if you could suggest a few things, that would be great.
Thanks for your help!
Thanks for the question.
The first thing I think all high school athletes need to do is remember that a generation ago it was normal to do many sports. Today, middle school and high school athletes are encouraged to specialize earlier and earlier in their athletic careers—and I'm not a fan of this movement. I think that your goal is to see how fast you can run to reach your potential as a runner, so there is good reason to do other sports in elementary school and middle school.
That said, I think running and swimming could work together, but you'll need to be very careful. Ideally, you'll have your running coach and your swim coach in close communication, each assigning you one key workout a week…and ideally a workout that isn't training the same metabolic system. For instance, you could do VO2 max type work on the track or on the roads with your running coach, and then be doing a big-volume long-swim workout later in the week to get a nice solid aerobic stimulus. But the flip side is that you could have each coach expecting three quality sessions a week, and that is totally unrealistic. You'll likely get sick—possibly get mono—and you won't race near your potential in either sport.
So I think what you have to do is take some time to figure out what you want the balance to be—which sport will be your primary concern—and then sit down with both coaches and share this with them, and hopefully they'll be able to accommodate you. But remember that for each coach there is a need to make his or her team and sport important in your school, so you can't blame them if they ask you to choose one or the other. And that's not the end of the world in high school. If running is your true love, as you stated in your question, then focusing on running this winter—two days with the team, then running on your own the rest of the week, plus handling the ancillary work you should be doing to support your running—is plenty for a high school student who’s also trying to get good grades and likely has aspirations to attend college.
So the bottom line is: figure out exactly what you want and then sit down with each coach to see what he or she says.
Good luck, Alan, and I wish you the best.
*Coach Jay's advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.