My name is Jess Pascoe and I am an Australian athlete currently attending the University of Florida in America.
I fell in love with running on the country dirt roads in my hometown of Forbes, NSW. I was the kid who did everything and ran to and from all my different sports after school, but it wasn’t long until I found my true passion for distance running. Being from such a small town I trained myself all the way through high school before moving to Canberra for University (which I attended for 1 year). I then joined a group for training and under the coaching of Gerard Ryan I was able to make big improvements including going from a 10:50 3km down to a 9:29, and 18:09 down to 16:47 for the 5km in the space of a year. He also lead me to my first national title in the U20s 6km at the Australian XC champs in 2016 right before I embarked on my journey to Florida.
When I first started to receive offers for different universities in America I was pretty hesitant about the whole idea of moving so far away from home. But now I am so glad I made the choice to go and would 100% recommend to anyone thinking about it to give it a chance. I love the team environment associated with running for the university and the support you receive not only from coaches but also nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, sports psychologists and the list goes on. I have been in Florida for 2 years now and although I have been through some rough times with injury, I feel like I am getting on top of everything and excited to see what this upcoming season brings. I have developed a really strong relationship with all of the coaches at Florida along with our newly appointed distance coach, Chris Solinsky. One of the highlights so far from my time at Florida was being part of the men’s and women’s championship sweep at the 2018 SEC outdoor track and field championships.
4 Key workouts
Hills are a great way to increase strength and speed and I feel are key to any training plan. There are many variations of hill sessions but one I often do is 8×45 sec hill repeats followed by 8x200m on the track. The hills allow you to increase strength and work on maintaining form through the added resistance and get you tired before the fast 200m repeats. These are done as accelerations focusing on being quick off the ground and having fast leg turnover to help develop a kick for the end of a race.
These sessions are pretty common amongst most distance runners and for me usually consist of anywhere between 6-10 reps normally with 90sec recovery. I typically start at a pace around tempo effort and work down to 5km race pace or just under. This is a great session to repeat throughout a particular season as it is easy to compare times and see improvement.
Progressive Long Runs
These seem to be one of Coach Solinsky’s favourites which are a real grinder of a session and not like your typical Sunday long run. We will do quite a few of these especially in the early stages of a season to build a strong base. These are done with a 15-minute warmup and cool down and are usually around 7-8miles (roughly 11-13km) going from about 4min/km down to about 3:40/km. The pace may feel relatively easy at the start but you need to remember how long you will be running at an up-tempo effort. This session allows you to work on relaxing as much as possible when working for a sustained amount of time and can have a big mental component. At Florida there is a good group of girls at around the same level that enables us to work through this type of session together which I am really grateful for.
As I have continued to increase my mileage through running over the years, I have found that substituting a couple of runs a week with cross training to be really beneficial. Cross training is not just for injured athletes who are unable to run, but rather can help prevent injury by taking the load off your legs while still getting the aerobic benefits. I often do 2-3 cross training sessions per week in place of running with my favourite being swimming/ aqua jogging but also use the stationary bike and elliptical.