School’s out, summer’s here and cross-country is no longer just a speck on the horizon. (Full disclosure: I still look like an undergrad and mark the passing of time with indoor, outdoor,and cross seasons, but I’m actually five years removed from Rice University, where I was a steeplechaser and 10K runner.)
If you’re a high school or college student on the heels of a long year of competing, or a post-collegiate fortunate enough to work for a supportive boss (shout-out JP!), I have two syllables of summertime advice for you: Travel.
No matter how idyllic your nine-months-of-the-year environment is (I’m looking at you, Stanford runners), a change of scenery is, in my humble opinion, a good idea. It exposes you to new training spots, challenges your navigational skills, opens the door to a different running community, and frees you from comparing your summer workouts with more race-specific, seasonally appropriate efforts. As most of us know, the summertime champs are often not the stars of November.
Let me be clear: I’m not condoning a coast-to-coast road trip or a tour of friends’ homes across the country (though the occasional excursion might and should happen). I’m talking about leaving your familiar training environment and settling down somewhere new and exciting for as little as a week and as long as your whole break. There are endless ways to go about this: Grab a teammate or five and split an Airbnb near an extensive trail system. Build a camp such as the Adams State High Altitude Camp or the Zap Fitness Adult Running Camps into your itinerary. Politely mooch off your distant relatives’ well-located estate. Or, if you’re really adventuresome, take your training overseas, either to a popular altitude spot like Font-Romeu, France or through an international trip that combines running with service such as STRIVE. (If you take the latter route, I highly recommend a coach’s stamp of approval.)
Houston, where I attended college, is one of the greatest winter training spots I know of. July and August, on the other hand, can be brutally thick. To prevent us from digging too deep at the wrong time of year, my coach encouraged my teammates and I to escape the city for cooler, dryer climates for our cross-country build-ups. I spent summers on a horse farm in Del Norte, Colorado (population 1,600); in the foothills of Boulder, Colorado (with a Rice teammate and a cousin who also ran collegiately); and, more recently, in Mammoth Lakes, California, a stunning mountain town made famous by Olympians Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Jen Rhines, and company. Each time I returned to campus in August, I felt refreshed and invigorated, fit but not sharp, and ready to tackle a new string of seasons.
Your summer can set the tone for the year ahead. Do your mind, body, and teammates a favor, and shake up your training while you can. Settle down in a place where stepping out the door is more of an adventure than a chore, and set yourself up to perform when it matters.
For some suggestions for where exactly to head (both domestic and international), stay tuned!