Conditioning with Duke Cross Country

January 1, 2006 | Featured in the January 2006 Issue

Must See Track & Field Videos

Learn what it takes to develop an aerobic base specific to running distance.

By: Chad Zimmerman

Despite what you might think, building your aerobic base does not start with marching in place to “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons and his killer throwback afro.

Instead, Kevin Jermyn, head coach for women’s cross country and track distance at Duke University, is the perfect starting block. He has the knowledge it takes to develop a distance runner’s aerobic base. Since joining Duke’s cross and track programs in 2000, Jermyn has transformed Blue Devil runners.

In 2000, 2002 and 2003, while Jermyn was serving as assistant coach, Duke’s cross country team qualified for nationals. In 2004, his first year as head coach, the Blue Devils finished second at the NCAA Championships. Now, in his second year calling the shots, the team ranks number one nationwide.

On the track, Jermyn’s athletes have broken every middle and distance relay record in Duke’s history. Last spring, the Duke women won their first Penn Relay title, taking home the distance medley crown.

Building his runners’ aerobic base is a huge element of Jermyn’s success. To boost your base, tap into his expertise. Headbands and leg warmers aren’t required.

FINDING YOUR PACE

Pushing too hard during a long run to develop an aerobic base is a basic distance runner mistake, according to Jermyn. “Distance runners like running set courses. Because they’re very competitive and driven, they like to try to beat previous times on that course. And soon, aerobic runs become anaerobic.”

You might think that’s not a problem, but Jermyn disputes the thought. “Aerobic training has two goals,” he says. “First and foremost, it helps you recover from hard anaerobic efforts during a meet or workout. Second, it provides a stimulus to increase your aerobic fitness. If you’re running anaerobically on an aerobic training day, you won’t recover or improve your aerobic base. You’ll put too much stress on your body too soon, which can result in decreased fitness, illness or injury.”

Jermyn advises gauging your aerobic work by your ability to talk. “To build your aerobic base, you should be running at a conversational pace—where you can hold a conversation. If you can’t, you’re running too fast, depriving your muscles of oxygen and working in the anaerobic realm.”

STACK Says: Aerobic work is low intensity exercise; muscles are fully supplied with oxygen. Anaerobic work is exercise performed at greater intensity levels, where muscles work without oxygen.

KEEPING RECORDS

To produce the ultimate custom workout, Jermyn suggests one simple but effective tool: a record book. Jermyn used one when he trained and competed in high school, college and professionally, and he encourages his athletes to do the same. “When planning the coming year’s training, start by looking backwards,” he says. “Base this year’s training off the results of last year’s. The best way to do this is keep a log of the number of days you ran a week, number of miles per day and total miles per week. But more important than recording numbers is to note how you felt, eventually how you raced, when you got sick and if you were sore post-workout. You can use this information in the future and tweak things to create an even better workout plan.”

SORENESS IS YOUR GUIDE

What can soreness tell you about your training? According to Jermyn, a lot.

1. Frequent post-workout soreness is a sign that volume and/or intensity are too high. Cut back the distance or speed of your runs until there is no next day soreness. Then, gradually increase speed and/or distance to allow your body to properly adapt to the more difficult training.

2. Soreness after a meet can be an indicator of several situations:

a. In cross country – The terrain of a new course can place new or different stresses on your body. In this situation, changing your workouts isn’t necessary.

b. In track – Post-meet soreness can result from your mechanics breaking down during a race. This typically happens when you go out too fast and then fatigue early. Work on keeping your pace.

c. For both sports – If post-meet soreness happens regularly, it’s likely your pre-season training wasn’t effective. Soreness shouldn’t result if you’ve trained hard and smart.

STACK Says: Volume refers to the amount of running performed during a single training session. Intensity refers to the speed at which those run(s) are completed. A high volume, low intensity run is a long run at a slow pace. A 400m sprint is an example of a low volume, high intensity run.

SMART TRAINING . . .

1. Produces a confident runner, and a confident runner always has a mental edge on race day. When you can actually feel the results of your training, confidence abounds.

2. Gives you a competitive advantage, because you know your training is more scientifically based than other athletes’. Your training forced you to get the most out of your body.

3. Eliminates fluctuations in your race and practice times.

4. Allows you to peak at the right time. Training correctly 16 or even 20 weeks before the season—by properly stressing your body, letting it adapt and then giving it the appropriate amount of rest—will help you run your best in the races that mean the most.

WHO IS KEVIN JERMYN?

Tottenville High School Creds

• Two-time New York State Champion

• Three-time National High School Champion

• Winner of the Millrose Games high school mile

• PR: 4:15 mile

• PR: 9:19 two-mile

Georgetown Creds

• Team captain

• All-East

• All-Big East

• All-American

• Multiple-time national qualifier

Professional Creds

• Ran for Reebok Enclave

• Member of the victorious team at the 1998 USATF Cross Country Championship

• Has a 3:43.56 PR in the 1500m

HAVING HEART

“If you have trouble determining whether you’re running at an aerobic level, you can use percentages of your maximum heart rate,” Jermyn says.

For an accurate measure, invest in a heart rate monitor. Then, follow Jermyn’s two quick tips for effective heart rate work.

1. “Don’t use a formula to determine your max heart rate. Get the real number. Keep track of your heart rate during a time trial or really hard workout. The highest number you see is very close to your maximum heart rate.”

2. “Perform aerobic work with a heart rate between 65 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.”

Chad Zimmerman
- Chad Zimmerman is the co-founder of STACK as well as its President. He earned a degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University where he...
Chad Zimmerman
- Chad Zimmerman is the co-founder of STACK as well as its President. He earned a degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University where he...
Must See
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 7,228,261
Why NFL Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson Counts His Blessings Why NFL Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson Counts His Blessings
Views: 7,556,037
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 11,391,843

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,017,580
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,821
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,687
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,717
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,414
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,577,083
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,085
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,111

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
In Defense of Cardio

In Defense of Cardio

Steady state cardio has gotten a bad rep lately. With interval training taking the spotlight, and ignorant discussions of "burning muscle" plaguing the...

Adeline Gray Is Going for Gold

Adeline Gray Is Going for Gold

Win the Fourth Quarter With These Basketball Sled Push Finishers

Win the Fourth Quarter With These Basketball Sled Push Finishers

Off-Season Conditioning: Full-Body Med Ball Workout

Off-Season Conditioning: Full-Body Med Ball Workout

7 Footwork Drills That Give You an Advantage

7 Footwork Drills That Give You an Advantage

Baseball Conditioning: Why You Need an Aerobic Base

Baseball Conditioning: Why You Need an Aerobic Base

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Fartlek Run

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Fartlek Run

LaTroy Hawkins' Epic Battle Ropes Workout

LaTroy Hawkins' Epic Battle Ropes Workout

Get in Shape With 5 Intense Lower-Body Finishers

Get in Shape With 5 Intense Lower-Body Finishers

High-Intensity Interval Training: How Much Is Too Much?

High-Intensity Interval Training: How Much Is Too Much?

Get in Shape Fast With Todd Durkin's 5 Intense Workout Finishers

Get in Shape Fast With Todd Durkin's 5 Intense Workout Finishers

STACK Challenge: 500-Meter Row

STACK Challenge: 500-Meter Row

4 Simple Drills to Improve Your Endurance

4 Simple Drills to Improve Your Endurance

Can You Survive the 100 Bears Challenge?

Can You Survive the

Prepare for Your Season With These Conditioning Drills

Prepare for Your Season With These Conditioning Drills

The Mount Everest Treadmill Challenge

The Mount Everest Treadmill Challenge

Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Altitude Training

Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Altitude Training

Who Invented the Burpee?

Who Invented the Burpee?

5 NBA Players Who Found Their Game After Losing Weight

5 NBA Players Who Found Their Game After Losing Weight

Get in Football Shape Fast With Metabolic Runs

Get in Football Shape Fast With Metabolic Runs

Can You Handle the Husker Toughness Test?

Can You Handle the Husker Toughness Test?

Alternatives to Boring Cardio Training

Alternatives to Boring Cardio Training

How to Build Soccer-Specific Conditioning

How to Build Soccer-Specific Conditioning

Advanced High School Football Summer Conditioning Program

Advanced High School Football Summer Conditioning Program

How Sporting Kansas City Stays 'Sporting Fit'

How Sporting Kansas City Stays 'Sporting Fit'

WATCH: Ronda Rousey's Intense New Bag Drill

WATCH: Ronda Rousey's Intense New Bag Drill

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Interval Sprints

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Interval Sprints

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Hill

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Hill

Why Better Conditioned Athletes Have Fewer Injuries

Why Better Conditioned Athletes Have Fewer Injuries

STACK Challenge: Finish Strong

STACK Challenge: Finish Strong

LeBron James's Insane Conditioning Drill

LeBron James's Insane Conditioning Drill

Get in Shape With This Basketball Conditioning Workout

Get in Shape With This Basketball Conditioning Workout

Test Your Toughness With the Who Dat? Challenge

Test Your Toughness With the Who Dat? Challenge

A Slo-Mo Must-See: Ike Taylor's 4-Man Battle Rope Squats

A Slo-Mo Must-See: Ike Taylor's 4-Man Battle Rope Squats

Get in Basketball Shape With the Right Workout

Get in Basketball Shape With the Right Workout

4 HIIT Workouts That Will Get You in Shape Fast

4 HIIT Workouts That Will Get You in Shape Fast

Can You Pass Drew Brees' Conditioning Test?

Can You Pass Drew Brees' Conditioning Test?

Training with the Elevation Training Mask 2.0

Training with the Elevation Training Mask 2.0

Improve Your Aerobic Fitness in the Off-Season

Improve Your Aerobic Fitness in the Off-Season

Obstacle Race Training: Get in Shape With This Finisher

Obstacle Race Training: Get in Shape With This Finisher

5 Brutal Sprint Drills That Push the Lactic Threshold

5 Brutal Sprint Drills That Push the Lactic Threshold

How to Avoid Hockey Conditioning That Slows You Down

How to Avoid Hockey Conditioning That Slows You Down

YardBarker