Proud coach with squad member, Estuardo Novales (2:38 marathon Chicago 2014).

With my team I always strive to stay aware of how fit they are and how their fitness is progressing. This is so I can prescribe the appropriate load in their workouts in order for them to see great results.

For running I normally use a 5km (3.1Mile) test at 90% of their max. The purpose is double, first to see where the athlete’s fitness is and second to assign the proper training intensities. The 5km test results are essential.

I also use the training workouts and the average heart rates of those workouts as race time predictors and guides to determine strategies for future events. For example, before a Half Marathon a lot of times my athletes run a 10km tempo workout. Tempo pace is slightly faster than Half Marathon pace, so I see their average 10km tempo workout heart rate and tell them to stay around that number for the first 16km of the 21km Half Marathon race.

If Charles runs the 5km in 22 mins, I know that if he has done the appropriate long runs on the weekend he should be able to run a Half Marathon in around 1 hour and 40 mins – that’s if the course is similar to the course where he did his 5km time trial. So with that we develop a strategy that is going to enable him to get to the 16km mark fresh and ready to take a risk, or to just keep going steady and achieve his goal pace of 4:45 per kilometre. On a flat course the strategy would look like this:

5kms at a 4:55 per km pace

11kms at 4:42 per km pace

5kms at 4:45 or faster

That way the athlete has a 5km warm up where he lets the traffic dissipate before he or she gets going, then 11km at a slightly faster pace than overall race pace. This shouldn’t be a problem as the athlete is coming from a taper and is appropriately rested. Finally, 5kms at race pace. Before the race I advise the athlete that if they like they can go hard after 16kms, but before that time they just have to concentrate on hitting their assigned numbers.

I love fitness testing because it lets me plan tailor-made workouts, race strategies and possible result times for my athletes. Coaching without fitness testing is not coaching.

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