Olympian Leo Manzano with some of Carrozza’s Born to Run athletes.

Summer running in the Central Texas area has always been something of a dilemma in terms of how it fits into your overall training. Do you cut down on volume and intensity and just coast through the summer heat until things cool off? Or do you begin to ramp up for fall goals. The answer is: it depends.

Even the most dedicated Austin runners tend to ease back in the summer—the race calendar is not as packed and let’s face it, you just can’t run as fast in the heat. However summer training plays an important role for a whole segment of the running population—most notably high school and collegiate runners.

To learn more, Ready to Run consulted with longtime Texas running guru, Paul Carrozza, head coach of the Born to Run program.

“July is a critical month to prepare for your high school or college program,” said Carrozza.

“I think you evolve your training to match the weather. You need to always stay on top of your electrolytes. In the Born to Run program, we’re dealing with more middle-distance workouts. So because of the heat, rather than two to three long hour runs, we are more interval based. We’re more interested in aerobic power.”

Carrozza points out that quality versus quantity plays into the summer heat, actually giving the heart and lungs a break with the interval format. He’s interested in building aerobic power versus more aerobic capacity during the summer months—basically May through August.

“Speed is something that needs to be considered year-round,” said Carrozza. “If you’re training for a marathon, speedwork has a different purpose. What I mean is that, in the mile, speedwork is the pace. It’s 80% of your running. Whereas in the marathon, it’s more like 20%.

“It’s all about giving the body a natural level of sustained effort and then a break.” Said Carrozza. “I’m more interested in your pace than your mileage. When you’re trying to run well, you’re pushing the pace. A long run in “jog mode” will yield just that—jog mode pace, compared to running at a hard pace for short intervals. Your heart rate needs a break. You get it high, hit goal pace, take a break and start over.

“Getting the mix right for each athlete is important,” Carrozza added. “It’s different for middle-distance versus long distance runners.

Carrozza stresses that in a group setting, these types of workouts work well. Everyone pushes each other and all stay motivated. He’s also a big believer in the off-season being a great opportunity for high school and collegiate runners.

“May through August is the time of year when school programs are on break,” said Carrozza. “I believe it’s a good time to get up to speed. That way in the fall, you can maintain your speed while racing. You get into race shape, then you start to race, maintaining your training level. You have maybe four to six weeks of training and racing, then go into the championship piece. Toward the end of the season you taper a bit for your final peak.

If you look at what kind of weather high school and college runners have to race in the fall, it’s still very hot,” said Carrozza. “So they need to be heat acclimated. If you’re going to race in the fall, you have to be ready for the heat. I think a summer 50-mile week in Austin is like a 90 mile-week in Eugene, Oregon. Any format of workout can actually be hard or easy. Hills can be hard or easy as can intervals. You don’t have to kill it every day.”

Bottom line? In the off-season you really have an opportunity to develop your potential.

Upcoming Races: Saturday July 15 at 7:00 p.m., Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series – Muleshoe Bend-60K, 30K, 20K, 10K, 5K trail runs at Muleshoe Bend LCRA Recreation Area. Saturday July 22 at 6:30 a.m., Stars and Stripes Half Marathon, 10K and 5K at the Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatre in  New Braunfels.