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ElliptiGO Team Spotlight: Loudoun Valley High School

Joan and Marc Hunter have had a lot of success in the sport of running — first as athletes themselves, including a 1978 World XC Championship appearance for Marc, and then as coaches when they both began coaching XC/Track at different High Schools in Northern Virginia.  After about 10 years of coaching, they took a step back to raise a family, which now includes nine children.  As their son Drew began to show great ability as a freshman at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Marc and Joan were motivated to return to coaching and took over the Vikings Track & Field program in 2014.

Photo: Coaches Marc (left) and Joan Hunter (right) with their son Drew Hunter (middle)

Since then, they have continued increasing success on both the boys and girls squads winning many state titles on the individual and team level. Loudoun Valley really gained national recognition as their son Drew won the Footlocker XC Championships, along with several Indoor and Outdoor Track titles, and signed a professional contract with Adidas following his senior year of high school.

Marc and Joan started integrating ElliptiGO training in the 2016-2017 season and have seen considerable success at all levels of ability, gradually adding more ElliptiGO bikes into their team resources.  In the 2017 Cross Country season, the boys’ team became the first program in Virginia history to score a perfect 15 points (placing 1-5) in the Virginia State Championships.  They then went on to win the NXN National XC Championships later that season.  Coming off that success, they further showed their depth and dominance on the track, including National Titles in the 4 x Mile and 4 x 800m, setting the National Record in the 4 x Mile (17:01) and 2nd All-Time in the 4 x 800m (7:39).

As that momentum continues into the upcoming season, we talked with the Hunters about how ElliptiGO training has impacted this success and has also impacted the way they coach these large programs.  Here’s what they had to say.

ElliptiGO:
What were some of the key aspects of the ElliptiGO that first interested you as a coach?

LVHS:
Several things got me interested in the ElliptiGO after I tried it.  I liked how it was more similar to running than most types of cross training.  Sure, deep water running is great, but we don’t have a convenient pool close by and it is time consuming for both the coaches and the kids to have to go to the pool after practice to teach them how to do it.   I liked the idea that my kids could cross train outside during practice time instead of waiting until after practice when a coach could accompany them to the weight room to use the elliptical there. Or, we would have to send a coach into the weight room during practice with a handful of injured kids, which was not good use of our coaches given the size of our team.  Another factor was talking to coaches who already used the ElliptiGO with their kids and seeing how well the kids did after coming off that ElliptiGO training.   Our coaches also use the ElliptiGO if there is one available, to go out with the kids on their runs.  We can easily move between groups on the ElliptiGO which we could not do if we were running.  In addition to the track, our high school is next to a great bike path that kids can utilize the ElliptiGO on.

ElliptiGO:
Have you had any interesting or maybe even surprising results from the application of ElliptiGO integration among your athletes?

LVHS:
We had very positive, surprising results especially with two of my top runners this year.  Both had stress fractures, one in a metatarsal, and the other in her tibia.  Both spent a minimum of 3 weeks solely cross training, no running at all.  One athlete came off the ElliptiGO late spring season, and after a week of mixed training on land and ElliptiGO, PR’d in the 400 and came close in the 800.  By season’s end 2-3 weeks later, she had PR’d in the 800 as well, and finished 2nd at state.  My other athlete missed the early spring season with his injury, but came back with a huge PR in the 3200, only a few weeks after his return to running.  He mixed ElliptiGO and deep water running.  I honestly have no idea how my girl managed to PR in the 400 after pretty much no fast running for weeks, but those hill reps on the ElliptiGO must have helped, and since I had her spending more workout time on the ElliptiGO than she would have if she had just been running, I am sure her aerobic strength was enhanced by the ElliptiGO.  Sometimes I think we underestimate the aerobic contribution in the 400 meter event, especially at the high school level.

ElliptiGO:
How would you differentiate ElliptiGO training from other cross training modalities? Are there certain benefits you’ve found that you feel are specific to ElliptiGO training?

LVHS:
The kids are upright like they would be if they were running, which I think is superior to something like biking.  Using the ElliptiGO is the closest thing I have found to simulating running, other than perhaps deep water running.  I think for runners, getting to be outside and going somewhere is about a thousand times more interesting than running in the pool.  And if they can do it with a teammate, even better!

ElliptiGO:
For injured or low mileage athletes that are doing lots of cross training, what kind of ElliptiGO workouts or specific instruction have you given them to help maximize the benefits?

LVHS:
We keep it pretty simple.  Our go-to hard workout is hill reps on the bike trail.  Half mile as hard as they can go, up the hill, then coast down.  Usually 6 reps, with some easy riding before and after.  A kid who is solely using the ElliptiGO for cross training might do that twice a week.  Most of the other days are just longish rides out and back on the bike path.  Kids can easily do 60 minutes or so, even if they are kids who could not run for 60 minutes.  I think focusing on developing them aerobically while they are recovering from injury with the ElliptiGO has good benefits for middle distance types, so they spend more time working out each day on the ElliptiGO than they would if they were just running.  We have also played around with fartlek type work, like 3 minute pickups, on the trail.

When injured kids were returning to running, we combined ElliptiGO warm ups and cooldowns with the running workout.  So, for instance, they would go out for 12-15 minutes on the ElliptiGO, return to the track, finish their warm up with a bit of tempo and strides, and then run the workout on the track.  Afterwards, they would go back out on the ElliptiGO for 15-20 easy minutes instead of running.

ElliptiGO:
We know how important cross training is for injury management, but in terms of injury prevention, are there any patterns or specific placements of ElliptiGO sessions in training that you’ve found to give the greatest results?

LVHS:
We haven’t really used the ElliptiGO yet for injury prevention, but I will probably try that this summer and fall with some kids who are injury prone.  Trying to come up with a schedule to get those kids on the ElliptiGO once a week instead of a run. We now have several ElliptiGO’s which is awesome! I have one girl who I think is going to do her long “runs” on the ElliptiGO this year.  I have a few others who I might have do “doubles” using the ElliptiGO in the morning instead of running.

ElliptiGO:
What have the general reactions been from your athletes and have you seen evolving changes in the team’s view of cross training since you started integrating ElliptiGO training?  Have you seen other benefits for the athletes/team beyond just physical fitness?

LVHS:
If you have an injury at Loudoun Valley that prevents you from running, you WILL cross train.  It didn’t used to be this way, but it is now. We EXPECT kids to cross train and we facilitate it.  We don’t just say, “Oh you can come to practice and hang out until you are cleared to run.”  This quickly eliminates those kids who always seem to have something wrong with them but want to be on the team with their friends.  We don’t have huge numbers of “injured” kids anymore.

When we first started with one ElliptiGO, I think some kids thought it was weird and some didn’t want to be seen riding it around in public. I don’t think any feel that way anymore.  Also, I think everyone saw how well our two injured kids did last year after coming off the ElliptiGO. Now they are eager to use it.  Much more fun than our other options, and they’ve seen how effective it’s been.

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Posted July 16, 2018 by Meg in Customer Stories, Elites & Teams, updates
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