Workouts and Training During Breaks

Workouts and Training During Breaks

Posted by Marc Mangiacotti

For me, the holiday season or any extended break always brings about a sense of nervousness. It is less likely that I’ll worry if my wife will like the new pair of shoes I bought her, or how much snow I’ll have to shovel to clear the driveway.  What keeps me up at night is wondering if my athletes are doing their training during breaks.  At different times throughout the year we all send our little cherubs home for the holidays or spring break.

In the past, I would spend a great deal of time preparing top-notch workouts for my athletes.  The workouts would contain the perfect intervals with the ideal splits to hit. More importantly, the workouts were geared towards helping the athletes maintain the training momentum until early competition.

While I assumed they would be able to complete all of the assigned training during break, I quickly learned this was nearly impossible because of weather conditions or lack of facilities. As the years rolled on I realized that each athlete was facing different challenges trying to complete these workouts.  Some athletes spent vacation with their family on a cruise ship, some did not have access to a track, and others had a foot of snow on the ground. In addition to the obvious challenges there were many unanswered questions regarding unconventional workouts. Therefore, these athletes did what most teenagers would decide to do…NOTHING.

A few years ago I decided to go back to the drawing board and create alternative workouts so that athletes could stay fit, even if they were trapped on a deserted island.  I even started implementing these workouts a few weeks prior to the break so the athletes could better understand how to perform each drill and know what was expected of them while on break. During the workout I would explain an alternative workout that could take its place if there was snow on the ground or they were visiting an aunt in the middle of nowhere.

How to Build the Perfect 100m Sprinter From Start to Finish

A good example of this type of workout would be: 400 meter, 300 meter, 200 meter, 100 meter with equal distance walk recovery.  Here’s how its done – after the 400m run, the athlete walks 400m, then runs 300m and walks 300m, etc…  The men know I will ask them to run around (some will run faster depending on the time of the year and the athlete’s abilities) 60 seconds for the 400m, 42 seconds for the 300m, 26 for the 200m, and 12 seconds or faster for the 100m (400m = 15 seconds per 100m, 300m = 14 seconds per 100m, 200m = 13 seconds per 100m, and the 100m is just fast).  I explain to the athletes that they can do this workout in a field or on the street in front of their house.  Instead of using the distance they can use the time to dictate the length of the run.  The athlete can run hard for 60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, and 15 seconds with suitable rest. I constantly remind the athletes that this should be a hard workout. If they are not tired or feel like they just ran a set of 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m with me standing there, then they need to add 100m build ups until they feel like they did the 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m workout.

I even provide a third version of this workout for those athletes that live in the snow-belt.  Typically, I ask these athletes to do the workout on a bike or in the pool – repeat 60 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 seconds and 15 seconds of high intensity until they feel like they just ran 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m.  Doing the workout on a bike may not be as effective as running it on a track, but it sure beats doing nothing.

Lastly, I always have a body weight exercise routine that an athlete can accomplish even if they are locked in a closet.  I ask the athlete to do multiple sets of this circuit with no rest between repetitions and a short rest between sets. Often, I ask the athletes to time themselves while they go through each set. This prevents them from taking breaks and allows a continuous circuit, until one full set is complete and they are given 2-3 minutes to grab water and prepare for the next set.

One of the circuits is called a MONSTER. Have your athletes do this body weight circuit at the end of a practice and you will understand how it got its name. I acquired this body weight circuit from my days at Wheaton College.


25 V-Sits

Prisoner squat

Prisoner squat

25 Prisoner Squats

50 In-place A-skips

20 L-Overs

25 Push Ups

25 Fire Hydrants

25 Trail Leg Circles

15 4-Count Thrusts/Burpees

25 Crunches

10 Rocket Jumps

For their training during break, whether I send my kids home for one week or one month, I know they are equipped with workouts that will keep them fit.  I also know they have no excuse to come back from break out-of-shape. The athletes are furnished with specific, semi-specific, and even general workouts that can be accomplished wherever they are during break.  This set up has really helped our athletes achieve success weeks and months after holidays, break, or vacations.  We all have the same issue – sending our kids on break with limited access to facilities. Our goal should be to prepare our athletes with alternative workouts they can perform in order to be successful, regardless of where they are in the world.

In case you missed these other great articles by Coach Mangiacotti: Testing and The Circle of Truth

Marc Mangiacotti is an assistant track coach at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

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  • Anthony Prior

    Coach Mangiacotti,

    I find your articles to be very informative, this information has been very helpful for the athletes I Speed Train, and for myself while on vacation. Anthony Prior 11 year Pro Football Player

  • LJ

    As track season is winding down. I am wondering about training this summer so we can attend some summer track meets before we come out to your running camp. Previously we have been working in 12 week sessions as the plan is set up so we can peak at the right time. I don’t want to “burn” anybody out. I have someone who is a track runner as well as a volleyball player soooo open gyms for v-ball will be starting soon. I think getting back to volleyball will be a nice break for her however… I would like to know what else to do with her to keep her in shape to run her best this summer and keep improving this summer and during v-ball. I have complete speed trainging II and am enrolled in the camp her as an athlete and me as coach. I am proud to say times decreased this season and she and my other athletes have been great to work with. Seeing the kids just beam when they run better times is so nice!! Any help would be appreciated. Thanks,

  • Latif Thomas


    Good question. I back off big time during the summer because it’s a long season and I don’t want kids to despise coming to practice. I don’t look for kids to run their best during the summer because they’re not doing specific enough training. I tell kids to compete in off events or shorter distance events (400 runners to run the 100 or 200 for example.) I take the time in the summer to do more general work focusing on work capacity and general biomotor skills. Even the kids on my team who are going to the clinic have been told to take a month or so off entirely and then do some warming up and accelerations, etc. just to be ready to handle real exercise at the clinic. So I say let her play volleyball and get her doing early season type stuff in the weight room and she should be fine. Thank you for getting CST2 and for registering for the clinic. If you have any other questions, please let me know.

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  • clarence pestano

    i have a son that’s a senior in high school who pole vaults 14ft he can do 15s but is required to sprint in all events plus long jump, and triple jump. he did well winning the biif championships but with a pulled hamstring, one week later was also in the top ten for states but right in the middle of vaulting 13ft had to run a 4×1 relay which he anchored and won but could not vault pass the 13ft mark. without getting into the abuse that goes on i want to help my son have a better season than last year staying healthy and finishing strong without any injuries setting him up for college. can you help me thanks.