It's July. The school year has wrapped up and the track and field season has concluded for you.
This past year -- XC, and the short outdoor track season -- has had breathtaking, shocking, and heartbreaking moments, shaping you as an athlete and weighing on your heart as you develop your goals for next season.
What does it take?
How can I overcome this?
It's no secret that champions are made in the offseason. Regardless of what happened during the season, summer is a time to regroup and put that passion toward hitting your goals to work.
With those dreams for the upcoming season in mind, here are five tips to maximize your summer training.
PREPARE YOUR FEET TO PROTECT YOUR BODY
Do you know how many miles are on your current training shoes?
"If you start the summer with the same pair of shoes you started track season with, it's time for new shoes," said Paul Baur, cross country and track and field program director for Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Make sure you are starting summer fresh with a new pair of shoes. It's important to have something on your feet that will protect your body from the constant pounding during those summer miles.
Consider seeking out a run-retail specialty shoe store in your area. These retailers take the time to measure your feet, examine your gait and get you fitted for a pair of shoes that will ultimately help you achieve your goals and prevent injury.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Summer training can be difficult. Sometimes it's hard to find the motivation to get out and some days you wake up and you just say, "Ugh, not today."
You have to make a split-second decision when that thought enters your head. Will you choose to go for your goals? Or will remain the same? Set yourself up for consistency. It's key.
"Setting an alarm helps, not just waking up and saying, 'I'll run eventually' but if I get it done, it helps me stick to it," said Amanda Beach, a cross country and track athlete at Duke University.
Where there is commitment, there is consistency. Commit yourself to setting an alarm, waking up and getting the job done first thing in the morning. Consistency is cumulative; it will build upon itself.
DEVELOP A PROPER PROGRESSION
You've seen it before. Come fall, you may have a friend or fellow competitor who is running their goal times right out of summer training. That's great that they are going for it, but that may be a sign that they have done too much too soon.
"Your body, everything that you put on it, accumulates," Baur said. "It's all cumulative. So at some point, if you over do it and don't follow a proper progression, your body is going to break down."
Whether this is your first season or seventh, it is important to follow a proper progression. If you averaged about 20 miles a week last summer and into your season, it may not be the smartest move to jump right into a 40 mile week. Communicate with your coach on what your summer training should look like and what it takes to reach your goals for the upcoming season.
"I know that champions are made in the offseason, and it's really hard sometimes to hold yourself back," Beach said, "but to prevent injury, be patient. You'll get to your peak fitness; it just might not happen right away."
Listen to your body and recover properly.
"Everything has a proper progression," Baur said. "Athletes can be ambitious, but we want to keep them healthy."
REMEMBER THE LITTLE THINGS
It's the details that can make all the difference in your training--from getting enough rest, drinking sufficient fluids, or taking the time to stretch. You will find that your body becomes more resilient and able to take on more training.
"The little things are important," said Franco Martins, a cross country and track alumnus from Brown University. "If my shins are weak--getting up and doing calf raises and band exercises takes 10 minutes out of my day, and it's just so worth it."
In truth, the little details do not take a lot of time. That could mean putting your phone away an hour earlier, so you can get eight hours of sleep versus seven, stretching while hanging with friends or watching TV, or making sure you have a healthy snack for right after your run.
These simple details can have a world of impact and help you recover and build a stronger body.
"When you take care of the stuff you need to do outside of running, I think it lets you free up the way you run," Franco said.
SEEK COMMUNITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Iron sharpens iron. There is power in seeking out a running community that will help you stay accountable for your training.
Maybe you have team practices this summer or you don't. Or if you're traveling, wherever you are, there is a running community that is ready to encourage you--it can even be found on social media nowadays!
"Don't let summer go by too quick," Martins said. "Really cherish every week. It's a great time to create community and family within the team."
Reach out to people, run with some of your competitors in your area. You never know the friendships you may create.
Seek a community that will help prepare your body for a consistent progression and fall in love with the details of summer training.
"Don't take summer training for granted," Martins said. "Capitalize on that opportunity to become a family. Put in the miles and put in the work."