School has barely been out for a week, and already Abbi Cain, 14, of Hartford, is thinking about going back in the fall.
She’ll be a freshman at West Central, and while starting high school is exciting enough for any young person, for a young runner, fall means cross-country. And for a newer distance runner, summer means a chance to build a better base, get faster and look toward what could be.
For Abbi, that means joining the High School Summer Training Program at 605 Running Co. For two hours a week for nine weeks, she’ll work with coach and store owner Grant Watley to build strength, endurance and flexibility.
This is the second year for the camp, which is open to track and cross-country runners from grades 8 to 12. Last year, about 14 students signed up, with an even mix of boys and girls. So far this year, registrations are trending up.
“It was a big success last year,” Watley said. “This year, we’ve expanded our camp offering so we can help cross-country runners all summer long as they prepare for their fall season.”
That’s just what Abbi is hoping for.
“We learned a lot of good stuff about running that I didn’t know before,” Abbi said. “They gave us a ton of stretches and gave us yoga to do before and after we run.”
Abbi liked the program so much she signed up for private coaching with Watley over the winter. “I thought it helped a lot for track season,” she said. The year before she tried a different program that focused on speed, but the plan with Watley worked on endurance.
Preparing athletes from one season to the next is part of why the training program combined with the private coaching option works so well.
“With cross country, your success is determined by what you do over the summer, so our goal is to help athletes have their best summer of training ever before they head back to their high school coaches in the fall,” Watley said.
Abbi’s mom, Becky, said the camp was a good way to keep her motivated.
“Running camp was hard, and it pushed her, and it introduced her to other people who like running as much as she did,” Becky said. “She came out and said, ‘mom these people like to run!’ She was kind of excited to meet other people who like to run.”
The coaching did more than introduce Abbi to a community – it showed Becky what her daughter was capable of. “I was watching her through the window one day, and she did like 45 push-ups,” Becky said. “I didn’t know she could even do one.”
Runners will measure improvement based on how fast they race and what level their training is at, Watley said. “As a high school athlete, you want to increase your overall training load every summer so that you can see the times in your fall races get faster,” he said.
Abbi and Becky both said the program and the coaching are a good option.
“The people there were really welcoming to everybody,” Abbi said. “No matter who you are or your experience.”
Becky agrees: “I just think Grant and his staff push her, and they make it fun. They’re really easy to get along with, and she felt comfortable there.”
That’s all part of Watley’s goal. He knows how busy high school students are – with school and practice and homework and other activities, not to mention the need to get enough sleep to help your training. While that’s a challenge working with high school athletes, the upside is they’re young, excited and love to learn.
“They are very open and receptive to what they need to do to get better,” Watley said. “What can they do better, and how could they have raced differently?”
But it’s more than that – building a community around running is what’s at the heart of Watley’s mission.
“I was at the first group run we ever did before the store ever opened up and of the 10 people there, seven were employees or owners of the store,” Watley said. Now, group runs attract dozens of runners and weekly yoga classes are packed. “I love hearing the stories of friendships that were formed through the race team, group runs, or just stopping by the store.”
About the program
What: High School Summer Training Program
When: Every Tuesday, June 20 through Aug. 15
Time: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Where: 605 Running Co., 124 S. Phillips Ave.
Website: Link to event here.
From Coach Grant Watley: “Every weekly session will have a group run, an aspect of supplemental training, and an educational component. In addition, each athlete will get a training plan for the summer.”
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at email@example.com. Story ideas are encouraged.