Monday, October 19, 2009

Question about difference in reps and volume for boys and girls...


A question came up about the differences of training volume for boys and girls. From your experience in dealing with boys and girls, do the top girls do the same reps and volume as the top guys when it comes to workouts? Mileage? Do they do less? What are your thoughts on this subject?

Thank you in advance for your contributions to this topic. Athletes, feel free to chime in.
Bumping this one back to top. Some great comments so far. Anybody else wants to contribute to this discussion?


George Ramos said...

Our training groups can be pretty individualized, but my standard varsity boys spend four weeks at 55 miles per week in October and my standard varsity girls spend four weeks at 45 miles per week. (Scott Rodilitz spent four weeks at 70.) Then, to figure out how many intervals and repeats to do, I just apply the Jack Daniels ratios. I don't actually have those in front of me right now, but if I remember right, cruise intervals are 10% of weekly mileage, race pace intervals are 5%, and repeats are 2%(?). I do a lot of math for an English teacher!

Albert Caruana said...

Thanks for chiming in from the evil empire (the SS) George (just kidding!).

That's a great way to start this conversation.

Anybody else?

Anonymous said...

Our top 3 girls ran the most mileage out of everyone on the team (boys and girls). The rest of varsity/high JV girls ran around the same or slightly less than the varsity boys.

Anonymous said...

What would you define as cruise intervals... vs. race pace and repeats?

George Ramos said...

For us, cruise intervals are 1000m intervals at tempo pace with 60 seconds rest. Race pace intervals are 800m for girls and 1200m for boys at faster than date race pace (as determined by an online VDOT calculator) with 3:00 jogging rest. Repeats are 400m or 200m at mile race pace (? ... whatever their VDOT says to do) with a 1:2 ratio of repeat to recovery.

Coach Small said...


Regarding “top” athletes I can say that in my experience I train my elite girls the same as the elite boys at that level. Of course training is very individualized and what works for one runner may not work for others so I am speaking generally here. This was also my experience while running with the Nike Farm Team as well.

As an example of how training varies per individual, during her junior year Jennifer Bergman was coming back from injury (she missed her Sophomore track season) and the goal was to get through the year injury. We felt it was best to remain injury free and build into her senior year and college than to start pushing and maxing out when she missed nearly a year. We ran every other day (2-3 times a week) and supplemented with the pool (she was in the pool 4-5 days a week). She ran about 20-30 mpw. Hardly the training of an elite runner.

Once healthy for an extended amount of time, we built on that training and slowly increased the mileage during the summer before her senior year. Our goal was to prepare her for college and get to the Footlocker Nationals. We slowly increased the mileage and built up to 45-65 miles a week (depending on the cycle). The volume, intensity and reps of our workouts also increased from about 5-6k of hard work to about 6-8k (depending on the goal and intensity of the workout). On a side note she was only 16 years old her senior year for cross country and trained her as such. That said, she kept getting stronger and stronger and did some amazing workouts in preparation for cross country and track. Unfortunately she got sick at FL Nationals and then Mono at the end of track season. Our training plan would be very similar if one of our boys was gearing for FL. If you are interested I’d be happy to share some of the workouts we did, just send me an e-mail…

While speaking of mileage, while I consider myself a runner who benefits from high mileage my teams have not. We have groups that are individualized, and even those change within the season. In general my girls team this year runs about 35-40 miles per week with a couple of workouts supplemented with pool running. Our boys run 45-50 miles per week. The elite athletes run 10-20% more volume. Bergman obviously was a special runner.

Mileage, number of reps, volume, etc. are things that all need to be progressed annually. In my opinion a freshman can’t handle what the seniors are doing (even the stud freshman) and training should be adjusted. But what do I know?

Evan Smith said...

Girls can do everything boys can do, just one minute per mile slower. In other words, if you are speaking volume in terms of distance, my girls can do and will do what my boys do (assuming they are the same training age). If you are speaking volume in terms of time, my girls might do slightly less, (but not because they are girls) because we are determining the volume based upon TIME spent running, so their mileage volume will be less. The biggest thing that prevents girls from doing as much as boys in my opinion is the ferritin issue, which affects girls more often than boys.

Anonymous said...

Coach Small -

What is your e-mail? I am definitely interested in the adjustments you made for an injured female athlete and the types of pool workouts you used during that period.

Coach Small said...

You can e-mail me at Please include your name and what school you run/coach at.

JRJ said...

For my first few years of coaching my elite girls were running further than my varsity boys... until I got some elite boys. I did not set up their training based on if they were girls or boys but rather based it off training age and what seemed to fit with their abilities. When I had both levels of girls/boys - at the same "elite" status (State Meet qualifiers) - the girls ran 40-50 mpw, the boys only slightly more at about 55-65. Girls would do percentage wise about the same amount of all interval/tempo/speed work as the boys. I don't think it makes sense though to base training solely on gender. I wouldn't be surprised if an elite girl could do all the same work as an elite boy - only as Coach Smith says at different paces.

Jason Jimenez

Coach Pup said...

Here's a thought to kick around:

I took these stats from Ken Reeves and his analysis of the State Meet:

From 2000-2008, the average 1st place team time at the state championships for D-III Boys is 80:45 (16:09 per guy).

From 2000-2008, the average 1st place team time at the state championships for D-III Girls is 95:07 (19:01 per girl).

Essentially, then, there is a 3 minute difference between the boys and the girls across the 5k distance. Let's say it is even a 2:30 difference if we think that this is too great of a variation. Doesn't matter, really.

The point is this--the girls are on their feet longer for the same distance.

This would seem to me to require that they workout longer. Many people have said that girls should run less and some have said equal. I think equal would be the way to go, but I am posing the idea that equal should mean equal with regards to mileage not time.

For example, if a coach may send his varsity girls and boys on a long run of 70 minutes, with the boys covering 10 miles in that time and the girls covering just under 9 miles (based on relative ability and the suggested comparisons above). However, if they are racing the same distance, and it takes the girls longer to cover that distance, than it would only make sense that the girls run LONGER time-wise but EQUAL in terms of distance.

Therefore, in our example above, the boys would run 70 minutes and the girls would run for 80 minutes.

Of course, this is also assuming that they are of relatively equal experience and all the other blah blah blahs, but you catch my drift here...

What do you think?

George Ramos said...

I can't say that I agree with Coach Pup if only because more time spent on their feet for girls means more impact on their muscles, joints, and bones and thus a greater chance of injury. If more mileage was the simple answer to great performances, everyone would run more mileage; however, I think we all agree that keeping kids healthy is a top priority. For me and for where we train (no flat runs at all), higher mileage comes with higher risks and a lower rate of return.

While I think a lot of my girls outshine my boys in pain threshold and mental fire, a lot of their bodies have a different structure muscularly and skeletally than the boys, particularly in adolescence; I believe those difference account for the difference in performance on the course.

However, as I mentioned in my first post, I do individualize workouts, and I do currently have a varsity girl who has proven sturdy enough to do higher mileage than her teammates. If you watch the D5 State Meet, you'll know her when you see her (mom ran in the '84 Marathon Olympic Trials).

Coach Pup said...

To clarify, I said LONGER in time but EQUAL in mileage.

But you make some valid points pertaining to individualization and taking training area into sccount, George.

Again, just kicking an idea around to see what people have to say...

Anonymous said...

One issue I see with the coaching my runner is getting is that the coach doesn't treat any of the boys (or girls) differently from each other - which is a problem for the elite runners. He pretty much has all the girls do the same thing and the boys the same thing, where I think the elite athletes should be doing more and should be expected to be faster. An elite boy or girl should not be "bunched" with the rest of the team - but that is what is happening. He also doesn't give them "individual" times to shoot for when doing speed. Personally (again, I am no coach) I think there should be 2 or 3 or 4 or (depends on your team???) "levels" of a work out (with different milage, different reps, different speed, etc) and the coach puts a runners in a level for a workout, based on their skill, ability, physical vulnerability (i.e age, but not always), etc. Not just girls in one group and boys in another.

This leads me back to why people choose to use outside trainers...but that is another can of worms that was already opened last week! :-}

Anonymous said...

With the ability level groups, it can sometimes force a top girl to have to run some of the reps on her own... I am currently having this problem.

Our top girl trains with the 2nd/3rd group of boys, who run 1, maybe 2 reps less (based on the interval workout). So she can join them on those reps, but is strong enough to do some extra so she is sometimes forced to do them on her own. Other times, I try to either bike next to her or get someone to bike (if there is a suitable surface) to at least somewhat help her out. The other thing is that it can screw up pacing because the boys will start running harder for the last rep whereas she still needs to keep it controlled.

Also, what are you all defining as "elite"? Are we talking elite as in Jennifer Bergman level (who was mentioned here), or your typical varsity runner?

Evan Smith said...

To anonymous at 1:43 pm:

It sounds like your runner has a terrible coach that should be fired. Tell us who we are talking about and we can get rid of him. It's not a problem ... really. Then the "outside trainer" can come in and coach the whole team and you can eventually start ripping on him anonymously too ...


A saddened Evan Smith

Bob Ramsey said...

I'm with what Evan has said about girls doing what boys are doing at about a minute per mile slower, which also fits with the data comparing the boys and girls times from the state meet. I also agree that tempo and race paced volumes should be percentages of the total volume. So when our top guys are doing 7-8x1000, our top girls will do 5-6x1000

My only question is what to do with our 20 minute tempo runs. Besides the physiological benefit, I like the way 20 minutes requires the guys to concentrate at a somewhat hard pace for longer than their race time.

But for most girls 20 minutes is the same or slower than their race time. So I'm wondering about the value of slowing the pace and doing 30 minutes, or slowing it slightly and doing 2x12 minutes with a very short break. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

In response to the question about my thought on the "levels" of groups, and what I am defining as "elite", I may have been using the word differently than how it is normally used - sorry for the confusion. I wasn't talking about "elite" in terms of State Meet level, but more about "elite" within our team (which is an average D3 team).

My runner is by no means elite, "just" a typical Varsity, Jr year, runner. I guess I am talking about the "faster" runners on any team - shouldn't they be getting pushed harder, instead of grouped with the "slower" runners. By grouping them all together, by boys and girls, the slower runners are getting pushed, but not the faster runners on the team. This sort of applies to any group of runners - even if they are not elite, right?

Again, I am no coach, just trying to learn more as my son gets stronger and wants to train harder than what the coach is providing.

As for the comments on the outside trainer, I haven't had my runner use one (yet!), but I still don't understand what the problem is if a runner decides he wants too? No need for all you coaches to chime in on this again, I heard your side loud and clear before. :-} I'm not trying to offend anyone, just trying to learn more about the sport. I do like the bike with the runner idea, I actually do that quite a bit with my son on weekends.

Peter Brewer said...

Girls, given a year or two of running development, can hang with boys in both time and distance. Certainly, not all of them are as fast, but they can cover the ground and spend the time. This of course means that the time (years in some cases) must be spent in making sure the girl has the functional leg strength, overall muscular development, has gotten past most of puberty, et cetera.

As far as volume, the trend over the last decade and a half has been to up volume. We probably haven't really seen the upper end of what kids can do. How much is too much? A good and pertinent question, and most likely the core issue in this discussion. We all know what happens when a runner runs too few, or too slowly, which is why we are talking about the other end of the spectrum.

Perhaps mu contribution to the matter would be to be sure to monitor an athlete, or group of athletes, through a season and from one season to another. Add volume and intensity gradually within the bounds of periodization and see where the kids start to flail and not get the benefit of the workout. Take up the next year and ramp up the workouts a bit from the previous year and see what a year of physical development can do -- or not.

My experience has shown that girls can handle the same workout load as boys, even though it may take a bit more time. After all, we are talking about repetitions here and not long runs. What is that, about :30 per 800 repeat? Not all that much to get fussed over.

Peter Brewer

Coach Small said...

Regarding the tempo pace...

I haven’t been coaching very long (this is my 6th year) so I am not sure what this is worth but I have had only a handful of boys and girls who could run a proper 3-5 mile tempo (controlled) and like most athletes, even the elite pros, they a tendency to run them too fast. To make sure they run proper paces I have done things like jump in and run with them and break down their tempos on the track to try and drill in pacing.

In my opinion, for most High Schoolers, (boys and girls) the "tempo" is a difficult thing to run. Only the few mature, experienced athletes who know how to properly race can truly do them the way they are intended. Too often the adrenalin gets going or someone feels good and runs to fast only to drop off later in the tempo. Due to this, one thing we have done is run 3-5 x mile on the track but with 30 second -100 meter jog rest. It allows them to break it down into 3 sections and remain focused for a shorter distance.

The key is to not allow them run faster than true tempo pace. I know there are many definitions for tempos but without scientific testing I run tempos at the pace you can run for about an hour. Obviously this won’t work for the HS level; most don't have the strength to do that, so I generally go 5k pace (or “XC Pace”) plus one minute.

If you are running faster than this you are not running “Tempo” and working Lactate Threshold but another system (like VO2 Max). Just my 2 cents.

CoachJ said...

In a perfect world (no injuries, sickness, SAT/PSAT/AP tests, etc.) high school girls and boys can and should do the same mileage, types of workouts, tempo runs and so on. The problem is what "Issues", as mentioned above will pop up during the season.

It is vital a good coach have his/her "Season Plan" and then realize you must change that plan constantly based on what happens with your athletes "issues"

I've coached both boys and girls and made the following observations:

1. Girls are usually tougher than boys which can lead them to push to hard and not tell the coach as quickly when they are hurting. For this reason on timed distance runs when I can't watch everyone I send the girls and boys the same "time" instead of distance. On any repeats (200 to 2.5 miles) the girls and boys do the same number of repeats.

2. Running girls with the upper boys group is not good! I know people think it helps the girls, but in reality it ends up frustrating the girls because boys have more natural speed. I've noticed during strides or even 200 repeat work, girls will give up to a boy at the end of the repeat but won't give up to a girl. If my girls are too fast I would rather have them learn to run fast by themselves which will happen in races rather than have boys next to them which doesn't happen in races.

2. The 1-minute/per mile rule that Evan Smith mentioned is a great base line, but the elite girls are more in the 40 seconds per mile range behind the boys (XC State Meet and State Track 2-Mile). It is ok to really push the girls and boys when you can keep watch of their complete workout.

Great topic - there is so much more to say.

Coach Visalio said...

Maybe during 200 repeat work, but what about mile intervals? If you have a stud girl who can say, run these intervals under 6:20 pace and your next fastest girl can do them in 6:30-40... sure they will be "somewhat" close to each other, but isn't the stud girl able to push herself better by running with boys who are also around that interval pace?

Or are you limiting this only to shorter stride work, such as 200s and 400s?

Popular Posts