My post-collegiate track and field group resumed training last week following the conclusion of their seasons and 4-6 weeks of complete and active recovery. This year at least half of the group will be coming in following a year of training with me and should still be in pretty good shape. And because we’re starting training relatively early (late July) we’re going to take our time in the general prep phase before moving on to anything more specific. One of the things I like most about this time of year is that you can introduce a lot more variety than at other points of the year when such variety is contradictory to the idea that training should move to greater and greater specificity as the year progresses. For our sprinting this means using various starting positions and types; running on various surfaces and inclines; and incorporating various forms of resisted elements like sleds or medicine balls. In the weight room, this means using set / rep schemes that might difficult to implement later in the year; using exercises that develop general fitness, joint health, and balance rather than extreme power outputs; and incorporating different tempos and exercise variations that permit better strength adaptations when more conventional variants are used later. In fitness work, this means using different medicine ball or general strength routines…sometimes adlibbed; doing run training for time intervals rather than distance; and incorporating general fitness circuits or conditioning workouts from other sporting activities. This is the time of year to build a high level of GENERAL fitness so that those fitness qualities can be refined later as the training becomes more specific. So while you must always examine the overall needs of a specific sport or event, it’s important to recognize that even with the most advanced athletes general fitness development cannot be neglected because of its role in psychological (100% specific training gets old quick) and physiological health as well as the planned training progression of the athlete over the course of the yearly cycle.