Jeff Arbogast - Interview
Very possibly the nation's most competitive area in Cross-Country is Utah,
where each year the top of the national team rankings are littered with teams
from that area. At Bingham HS (South Jordan, Ut) Coach Jeff Arbogast coached
the nation's top ranked Boys team n 1995, with a great recent tradition
spilling over to the Girls' side, with a young team there ranked #8 nationally
by Harrier magazine this Fall through December 8th. Coach Arbogast was good
enough to share with us his ideas of year-round training at Bingham HS via e-
Again, the Bingham success is the result of a well-thought out and carefully
executed plan of training. Coach Arbogast's e-mail address is at the close of
the article and I am sure he would enjoy hearing from you with a note of thanx
for his efforts here.
The Year-Round High School Distance Runner
"The Four Macrocycles of Training"
Albuquerque, January 1999
Jeff Arbogast, Head Coach, Bingham High, South Jordan, UT
As in all clinic presentations, the individual recommendations elaborated
on here must be individualized according to each particular coach's unique
situation as pertaining to practice limitations, team responsibilities,
competition requirements, and other social and athletic obligations. No
athlete competes in a vacuum, without extraneous complications that require
the presence of a coach to tune, adapt, and personalize daily, weekly, and
monthly training cycles. With this in mind, I hope you enjoy the ideas
presented within these pages and look upon them as additional possibilities as
you structure the improvement of the athletes under your direction. Designed
as a supplementation to the lecture, this information should provide the basis
for individualization of the school workouts depending upon special
The heart of any successful high school distance program lies not in one
singular training philosophy, but in an overall plan which allows sound year-
to-year buildup in conditioning that culminates in an end-goal of performance.
Any coach of reasonable dedication and experience is able to produce workouts
which should help in the development of the distance runner, but quite often,
the overall plan is missing as coaches try the "workout-of-the-week" approach,
or whatever might be in this month's issue of Runner's World magazine. In
high school age athletes, it may be argued that any workout of intensity will
condition to some degree, but no program will take a high school student-
athlete to maximum capabilities unless it is grounded in long-range planning.
The "year plan" at Bingham is derived from USATF Level II instruction in
Multi-Events, focusing on 4 major macrocycles of training that each build upon
one another, culminating in an athlete who has built the foundation for future
At Bingham High School, we have operated under a series of base rules
that have held true and governed the type and direction of our distance
training. These rules are:
Of all training concepts, that with the most value is the development of
Second to the development of speed is speed endurance.
Speed and speed endurance potential is directly proportional to summer
Future (collegiate) potential is determined by speed, not mileage.
Intensity is reduced every fourth week to allow for a recovery phase in
Potential for speed development always is determined by the level of
preparation the athlete has achieved prior to the onset of speed work. As
each of our athletes are gifted with varying amounts of terminal speed (via
recruitment of muscle groups and
fast v. slow twitch fiber), the best way to develop speed in every distance
runner is through strength, followed by speed endurance, followed by specific
short-distance speedwork. This approach does not end with the conclusion of
an outdoor track season, but instead carries through to the summer strength
building of the next year.
No one can argue that African runners have recently set new standards in
distance running performance, particularly since the 1984 Olympic Games. From
the 800m to the marathon, runners from Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Algeria
have dominated the events such as no other time in history. The reasons for
this dominance are complex, but one overriding factor is unquestionably the
African view towards long-range development. American distance runners are
continually referring to the "pyramid" of peaking, where extensive distance
base gives way to specific speed development which in turn ends when one
"year-plan" is finished. African training theory indicates that the "pyramid"
points the athlete toward a narrow and confining area of performance, whereas
the "building" model they use allows for a broader and deeper base of
The "building" model of training views summer strength as an attempt to
'anchor' training, as a building would start with a basement, concrete
reinforcement, and deep stability. Africans believe each successive
macrocycle, albeit each successive year plan will build upon the previous,
just as floors will be added to a building. The building continually reaches
higher and higher, with a broad and expansive "peak" area, made so by the
strength of the base and 'anchoring' in training through time and effort.
American training models of the "pyramid" do not 'anchor' the training at
all, but allow for an athlete to build for only one season and a short peaking
time of performance. Quite honestly, how many times have we heard coaching
discussion centered around the thought that "he (or she) peaked them too
early", or "they didn't peak at the right time"? In an African model, the
"peak" does exist, depending upon the structuring of macrocycles in the
individual athlete's profile, but the peak is a season, not a race.
Summer strength training is the basement, the reinforcement, and the
solidity of the next three macrocycles. Dedicated efforts to establish a
sound strength base will allow the "building" to get to new heights each year
without tearing it down, moving it, and establishing a new base, repeating all
of the old training goals.
After the summer has been completed, the coach develops speed endurance
with longer intervals in a traditional cross country setting, then refines the
speed and race savvy of the athlete during indoor and outdoor track. The
critical difference is in structuring the workout and the mindset of the
athlete to understand that legspeed developed during the end of one year-plan
is of great benefit to the next year-plan's summer strength base! The
threshold runs of the next successive season's strength training will be
correspondingly higher if care is taken to structure workouts so that the
athlete uses a certain amount of legspeed during several higher-speed base
runs during the weeks of summer.
Ancillary training, such as plyometrics, weightlifting, and/or cross
training can normally be used at any time the coach feels the desired training
result supplements the goals he or she is after. Any supplemental training
should be placed in the weekly schedule, or microcycle, where it does not
interfere with the "hard-easy" progression of training runs.
Macrocycle 1 -- "Summer Strength Training"
The Bingham "Summer Strength Training" Macrocycle follows the African
model, popularized here in the United States by Coach Chick Hislop of Weber
State after his experiences with the African coaches at Atlanta in 1996. Our
goals as a team are to complete as many miles as is possible with care to
avoid injury, and to structure workouts within this framework that will
continue to utilize the leg speed developed over the last year.
Our miles are adjustable for experience as well as gender, and stem from a
base of 750 miles per summer (about 55-60 per week depending upon the duration
of the summer) for male varsity athletes (please see "1998 Bingham High Cross
Country Summer Training" for specifics).
Our program relies heavily on the use of "mileage cards" to monitor
performance. At the end of the fourth macrocycle (outdoor track) a meeting is
held for all prospective cross country athletes of the following year. The
athletes commit to filling out mileage cards over the summer and are put on a
summer training list as well as given a Summer Training packet. The athletes
then bring $6.00 to our main office and obtain a receipt, with the money being
paid to offset postage costs for the 12-14 mileage cards as well as 10-12
newsletters that each athlete receives. The athletes are also given a
schedule which outlines our intensive runs, usually done together as a team.
Summer training should always follow the "hard-easy" training patterns.
Injury prevention during mileage buildup keys upon this concept. Structure
three days per week in which an "up-tempo" run will be completed, and three
days when miles are recovery-based. One day is usually reserved for rest or
"active-rest". . swimming, biking, or full-contact room-cleaning.
Coaches should always bear in mind that one of the, if not the most
important aspect of improvement is to have an athlete run with his or her
teammates, particularly on more challenging runs. The camaraderie that
develops and the pull of the team keep runs that are supposed to be intensive
from becoming lackadaisical. For that reason, Bingham structures Monday-
Wednesday-Friday runs as "team" runs. Monday and Wednesday runs are either
all boys or all girls, while Fridays
are altitude and resistance runs done as an entire team. These days are
intensive days, with hard fartleks, altitude, resistance, and/or power runs
done at a site of the athlete's choosing. Friday's "Alta" run is a
challenging alpine road, 10K in length, with 3 miles of gradual up followed by
3 miles of gentle downhill, timed and charted each week. Athletes will try
to set seasonal or career PRs on the course, and each athlete works together
to keep the 'spread' close. Tuesday and Thursday runs are easy and may or may
not be with teammates. Saturdays are reserved for occasional summer races or
for longer runs.
Each week the athlete mails in a mileage card designated for that week to
the coach who compiles the miles and includes them as part of a weekly
newsletter that returns to each athlete's home. The news is always pertinent,
and the athletes pay close attention to the mileage totals of those athletes
desiring to run varsity for the next year.
Most athletes work better with short-term as well as long-term goals.
Our short term mileage goal for the summer is the altitude camp, designated
HARC (High Altitude Running Camp), always conducted the first Monday after the
Deseret News Marathon & 10K in late July. Any athlete who is on track for
hitting mileage goals for the summer is issued an invitation to the camp which
is run just for our athletes by our coaches and graduates. If miles are
suspect or lacking, the athlete is not allowed to attend, which is one of the
more enjoyable aspects of the summer. Once the camp is done, the remainder of
the summer's miles determine invitations to the Oregon Trail Invitational, a
pre-season meeting of nationally-ranked teams in Vale, Oregon, and another fun
trip. Again, not enough miles will mean no invitation is issued to that
runner. Varsity runners help inspire each other, and JV runners are lured by
the prospect of an enjoyable trip and experience.
Coaches chart improvement at weekly Alta runs, miles are totaled, and the
M-W-F runs are done under the eye of coaches who help maintain intensity. The
legspeed work accomplished in the preceding macrocycle of outdoor track is put
to the test during these runs, and athletes who have developed a new "comfort
zone" of intensity during outdoor track now find it much easier to hold a
challenging pace during intensive summer runs. Our athletes use this time to
accomplish a circuit-type weight training workout three times per week as well
as daily push-ups and
sit-ups throughout the summer.
The Summer Strength Training Macrocycle ends as school begins and the
competitive cross country season starts.
Macrocycle #2 -- "Cross Country"
The critical aspect of the second macrocycle of Bingham training is to
move from the stresses of longer mileage to the adaptation of the athlete into
the speed-endurance phase of training. Mileage which peaked at summer highs
of 55-65 miles
for boys and 45-55 miles for girls is cut down in order to allow intensity to
be developed with longer intervals both on the track and on varied terrain.
Speed endurance work stems from the philosophy at Bingham that the standard
3 mile or 5k cross country race is a series of 800 meter intervals, strung
together with no rest. Our speed endurance work is designed to produce both
physical competence to handle the rigors of a 3 mile race. Our traditional
speed endurance workout, completed once per week, consists of 5-6 800 meter
repeats with a 1.5 rest interval. Our goals during this standardized weekly
workout (charted and recorded) are to first, show speed progression to the
athlete as he or she is able to handle greater individual rep and rep average
pacing, and also to build confidence that the athlete can handle pacing much
faster than that required to run a 5k competitively at our level. Varsity
boys are encouraged to run together between 2:12-2:20, and girls are
challenged to keep between 2:38 and 2:50.
Physiologically, the transition from strength work to speed endurance is
a natural step. It is now possible to see the beginning of the interrelations
between the macrocycles as the speed from the preceding track season has
carried over into the summer strength phase and the power of the summer
strength phase now carries over into ability to complete the speed endurance
intervals at high quality. Psychologically, the athlete is aware that
competitive times at the State Meet require sustained effort of around 2:40 /
800 for boys and 3:15 / 800 for girls. After development of the speed
endurance phase of training, the runner feels that those paces are
particularly easy to maintain, both from a physiological as well as
Additional workouts, still continuing with the "hard-easy" philosophy of
training would include "stepdown" runs of decreasing pace per mile carried
over 3-5 miles, dropping pace per mile by 15 seconds per mile each 800 meters
starting at 7:00-7:15 for boys and 8:00-8:15 for girls, hill repetitions of
600-1000 meters with an emphasis on completing the downhill cycle at
competitive speed, and fartlek runs completed as a group with constant pacing
and terrain changes. Due to competitive
responsibilities during this macrocycle, the workouts must be designed around
or through the competitive needs of the team.
Traditionally, a team may have one league meet per week and possibly one meet
of higher importance on a weekend. The coach must evaluate each week
individually and determine how the workouts may be scheduled while staying
within the "hard-easy" routine. Many coaches feel that multiple meets per
week eliminate any possibility of hard training on the alternate days.
This must be considered carefully and each week examined throughout the season
in order to allow for the maximum amount of quality workouts along with the
requisite rest periods in between.
This example of a non-competitive week would allow 3 hard workouts with
appropriate rest in between speed endurance sessions:
Monday: AM Easy circuit lifting.
PM Speed endurance trackwork (5-6 x 800 w/ 1.5 rest),
and 2m cooldown.
Tuesday: AM Easy 2.5-3m at conversational pace.
PM Medium 4-5m with light resistance.
Wednesday: AM Easy circuit lifting.
PM 4 x 600-1000m hill repetitions with a 1. Rest, and
Thursday: AM Easy 2.5-3m at conversational pace.
PM Medium 3m.
Friday: AM Easy circuit lifting.
PM 4-5m hard fartlek (groups of 6-8 of similar
ability rotating leader).
Saturday: AM/PM Team building activity and 5-7 mile steady
state run at medium pace.
Sunday: AM/PM Rest.
In this system, the easy morning runs function as "lactic-acid depletion"
runs, following the hard days. Workouts are structured "hard-easy" both from
day-to-day as well as workout-to-workout within each day. The end of the week
offers two days of reasonably heavy mileage and workload, but is followed by a
day of total rest which also precedes the first intensive day of the next
week, whether that be a meet or start of another intensive week..
The schedule is adapted to include a meet in which the athlete must
compete at a maximum level:
Monday: AM Easy circuit lifting.
PM League Meet.
Tuesday: AM Easy 2.5-3m.
PM Medium 4-5 with light resistance.
Wednesday: AM Easy circuit lifting.
PM Speed endurance trackwork (4-5 x 800m w/ 1.5
interval rest), and 2m cooldown.
Depending upon the day of the meet, the schedule is adjusted to include
the race day as a hard day. It is possible that the coach include some speed
endurance work on the day of a meet, at the meet site but after the meet is
concluded, if, in the opinion of the coach, the athletes have not achieved the
desired level of
intensity in the racing.
This speed endurance work naturally blends the strength base of the
summer with a gradual physical progression from longer to ultimately shorter
speedwork later in the macrocycles. As the season draws closer to a
conclusion, it is advisable to bring a second workout into the weekly mix
which allows for increased speed over a shorter interval. Distances of
200-300-400-500 meters allow the athlete to develop a feel for the changing of
gears necessary in race conditions, and the intensive weeks of speed endurance
work allows him or her to feel comfortable with the anaerobic pace.
Macrocycle #3 -- "Indoor Track"
Utah is among the relatively few states that have no indoor track season
sanctioned by the State Federation. Our schools use this season, from late
December through the beginning of March, in a variety of ways, all depending
upon the motivation of the coach and school. Colleges in the area host a
variety of low-key indoor track meets on 200m indoor facilities on Saturdays
starting in January, culminating in the Simplot Games in late February. Most
schools in Utah organize an indoor track program around a County recreation or
City Parks sanctioning for
The uniqueness of Utah's lack of an indoor season allows Bingham to
continue making a transition to the intensive speed of outdoor by gradually
introducing the athlete to shorter speedwork. Corollary benefits of tactics,
racing etiquette, dealing with a tight pack, and pacing are also critical at
this time. Weather conditions require that almost all workouts be completed
indoors, and we are fortunate to have a main hallway system that is roughly
rectangular and approximately 240 meters in length. All workouts are
completed in the early morning to avoid hallway congestion.
Indoor track meet structuring in Utah is always completed on Saturday. So
it is possible for a team to complete two full hard sessions per week, even
though workouts are only being completed (as a team) once a day. However,
weather conditions throughout the intermountain region seriously affect what
type of workout
can be completed during this macrocycle. For that reason we feel that indoor
track should be a combination of shorter and intensive speedwork, specifically
designed to improve efficiency at higher track speeds, and longer intervals
run at sub-maximal speed to continue the conditioning level of speed endurance
achieved in cross country.
The overall year-plan at Bingham calls for this macrocycle to be the
easiest of the four, in keeping with the resting philosophy of three hard
weeks followed by one of reduced intensity, and three hard macrocycles
followed by one of reduced intensity . Although a case can be made to
continue training at a high level, the reduction of injury and mental
freshness possible through the reduction of training intensity during
indoor allows us to approach the new year with renewed interest for all
athletes. Immediately upon the completion of the Simplot Games, the onset of
the outdoor track season means 9 months of intensive work for each athlete, so
the slight reduction in stress and training load during indoor is a welcome
break that also reduces potential for injury. This philosophy is also
followed by the African training model, with one season (albeit an
international racing season) out of the year usually taken at a reduced
The objectives for the Indoor Track Macrocycle are to continue a trend
away from longer intervals and give the athlete a view to what the
requirements of legspeed will be, while maintaining a trend toward shorter and
more intensive interval work. The constraints of our facility necessitate
this approach. During this cycle, we are able to fit in two intensive
intervals bouts, one of primarily short sprinting type work and one of speed
endurance maintenance. We structure our workouts (again,
in the "hard-easy" mode):
Monday: AM Speed endurance (4-5 x 720m w/ 1.5 rest), & 2m
Tuesday: AM Light circuit lifting.
Wednesday: AM Short speed (3 x 240, 2 x 480, 3 x 240) & 2m
Thursday: AM Light circuit lifting.
Friday: AM Easy 3 in the halls.
Saturday: AM Indoor Track Meet.
Sunday: AM Rest.
Our athletes will accomplish what easy distance they can in the
afternoons, although during this macrocycle it is undisciplined. In general,
our 1600/3200m athletes want to accomplish this to a higher degree, and
normally get 15-20 additional miles after school. 800/1600 athletes generally
do slightly less.
At the end of this 12 week macrocycle, the athlete is fresher, more aware
of the demands of legspeed, able to handle competitive pressures in track, and
hungrier to compete.
MACROCYCLE #4 -- "Outdoor Track"
The Bingham "Outdoor Track" macrocycle carries with it a twofold purpose.
First, our athletes need to be in the best position possible physically and
emotionally to handle the rigors of track racing, and secondly, our athletes
must carry with them an overall conditioning base (the "building" and its
foundation) and legspeed to continue the improvement over the next macrocycle,
the summer strength base.
Of all the macrocycles throughout the year, this is the most
specialized, individualized, and speed intensive. Most high school programs
require racing in a dual-meet or league environment at least once a week, and
many have additional invitational competition on weekends. The potential for
over-racing and over-training is enormous and requires judicious planning to
allow the athlete to improve without falling victim to staleness, injury, or
Bingham personalizes outdoor track workouts to whatever extent possible,
depending upon the level of the athlete and the event he or she is competing
in. Specifically, we use a 800/1600 and 1600/3200 split, with each squad
accomplishing slightly different workouts depending upon the emphasis. The
philosophy remains the same for both groups, but the speedwork differs
slightly. Also, Bingham places those athletes in the 400 with an
individualized coach and program, with an occasional athlete in this group
dabbling in the 800 as well. More than at any other time of the season,
athletes in outdoor track may "train through" local competitions in
preparation for more intensive racing, particularly on weekends. The emphasis
in this macrocycle is improving legspeed for all athletes in the distance
improving PRs in order to mentally prepare for the summer strength building to
Typical weekly work with a meet on Tuesday and a meet on Saturday
requires a coach to decide who will run at what competition and how
intensively. It is normal to not challenge the athlete to perform an all-out
race in a league or dual meet but to instead allow experimentation with
pacing, strategy, and tactics. A top performance (qualifying meet) once per
week is usually the maximum .
A weekly plan using "hard-easy" training but allowing for a
top performance on a Saturday would look like:
Monday: AM Easy 2.5-3m.
PM Modified speed endurance (Pyramid of
500-600-700-800-700-600-500 w 1.5 rest) then 2 x 200 all out. 2
Tuesday: AM Light circuit lifting & 2m easy.
PM League Meet. Light racing (1 event) and 2m
Wednesday: AM Easy 2.5-3m.
PM Team Day. Light 3-4 on a travel run. Aerobic
Thursday: AM Light circuit lifting & 2m easy.
PM Speedwork. Acceleration 200's & 300's (4 x 200 & 4 x 300 w
1.5 rest) then 2 x 200 all out). 2m cooldown.
Friday: AM Easy 2.5-3m.
PM Light fartlek 3-4m ending the run with easy
Saturday: AM/PM Invitational Meet. Qualifying event.
Sunday: AM/PM Rest.
Notice how the "hard-easy" training is adapted to accommodate the two
races in one week. Light lifting is now combined with an easy run of short
duration to dump lactic acid still remaining from the night before. Intensive
interval sessions are placed 72 hours apart due to the racing necessary on
Tuesday, but the schedule still allows for 48 hours of non-intensive running
and recovery prior to the primary race on Saturday. One longer session and
one shorter session of intervals continues the development of legspeed but
allows the athlete to maintain speed endurance for track races.
The African model in track and field differs from the American model in
one training critical manner. African training demands the athlete run fast
when tired! More than any other difference, this accounts for the ability of
Africans to surge and kick at the conclusion of a race. Regardless of what
the specifics of a speed workout include, the end of a workout should always
include several intensive, all out 150-250 meter sprints wherein the athlete
pushes hard to run at high speed on the toes.
More than any other training concept, this single idea will make the biggest
improvement in each athlete's racing skills and conditioning as they learn to
push mentally as well as physically. Coaches should pay particular attention
to form breakdown and maintaining relaxation at a all-out pace.
Regardless of the level of work which has come before, varsity high school
athletes should attempt to perform each of the final 200s in 24-27 for boys,
and 32-36 for girls.
Consistency is measured not only from week-to-week, but also from
macrocycle-to-macrocycle, and ultimately from year-to-year. Our society
demands instant gratification and immediate reward, both philosophies are
diametrically opposed to long-term high-quality development of the high-school
distance runner. As coaches, we owe it to our athletes to prepare them if
possible for the continuation of a career as this is one of few life-long
athletic endeavors they can continue to pursue after high school.
If an athlete can develop intensively but gradually through a macrocycle
system as part of a year-plan, he or she can achieve much greater levels of
performance. Do not confuse gradual improvement with a lack of intensity. .
.for athletes in American
high schools must run more intensively than ever before if we hope to continue
to improve on a world level.
Specifically, advantages of the macrocycle system include:
Injury prevention. Athletes work with a long-term plan and are not required
to improve dramatically for a short period of time, increasing the likelihood
Stress accommodation. The athlete learns to deal with competition and
training stresses and does not re-learn old information each new year.
Event-specific training. Although the overall plan builds from season to
season, each macrocycle is event-specific in its design.
Athlete confidence. Athletes, parents, and the community see the long-term
program and the care taken to develop the athlete.
Improved performance. Each macrocycle builds upon the one before, continually
advancing the conditioning, legspeed, lactic acid threshold, and mental
strength of the athlete.
Questions relating to the "Year-Round High School Distance
Runner" may be addressed to:
Head Track & Field / Cross Country
Bingham High School
2160 W 10400 S
S Jordan, UT 84095
(801) 256-5100 (school)
(801) 256-5151 (fax)
(801) 255-6231 (home)
HYPERLINK mail to: email@example.com