• MK

A Professional Athlete Training Camp At IMG Academy

Hello hello! Today I'm writing to you from the most wonderful sunny spot, complete with light breeze and dancing palm trees, typing away with bronzed fingers, the worst sock tan and really tired legs.

The really tired legs are thanks to the track workout I did this morning on my team and I's last day at IMG Academy training camp. We come here each year for roughly three weeks, and every year I tell myself I'm going to blog about it. I've never followed through on that self-promise, but because the IMG camp experience is incomparably awesome, today I'm going to deliver.

What is IMG and Why Do We Go?

For some quick situational context, IMG Academy is a boarding school (7th-12th) located in Bradenton, Florida that doubles as an athletic development facility for both the lucky students and athletes of various levels that visit from all over the globe. Initially started in 1978 as a training facility for tennis athletes, the school now serves 8 sports.

Professional athletes in these sports, including myself and my track team, visit IMG Academy to use their amazing facilities and train in the clement weather.

We stay on the campus itself, either in multiroom Florida-esque villas or the luxurious Legacy Hotel. The accommodations have truly been phenomenal each and every time, making the whole stay feel more like a tropical vacation than an actual summer camp. For a 3 week camp (the amount of time we personally go for), that's kinda a big deal.

We make use of the track, the weight room, the pools, the neighboring park reserve, the dining hall, the bikes, and the expansive turf fields to get some really good training in. As my teammate Rachel puts it...

"IMG is a beautiful oasis and perfect midway point in our training that allows us to focus purely on our craft due to the nature of the facilities offered here. Yeet." -Rachel

The past two years this training trip has been almost perfectly sandwiched between the end of our indoor track season and the start of our outdoor track season. It allows us to more seriously (and comfortably) zero in on some speed work and get ready for the long outdoor season ahead.

There are quite a few different training plans on our team based on what type of runners we are as individuals, but I'll explain some of what went down this March track-wise, next.

PS: This is Rachel. Photo by Albert.

Our Training Schedule At IMG

We keep things pretty similar to our typical training week schedule while at IMG. The biggest difference, to my dismay, is the occasional practice starting at 8AM instead of 9-something-AM to avoid the heat. But coming from the DC Winter, heat is a good problem to have so I can't spend too much time dwelling on the early mornings. (Well I can, but I shouldn't).

Also because of the heat, some of the training focus does shift to faster workouts. Especially for me, our resident too-stubborn-to-call-themselves-a-middle-distance runner team member, speed workouts dominated my Florida training. A week would look a little something like this:

Sunday- Long run day at the nearby preserve, two of the three Sundays for me were cross training though.

Monday- Track workouts based on the type of runner we are, I did a short speed endurance day all three weeks.

Tuesday- 800 pace workout, like 150 repeats!

Wednesday- Cross training

Thursday- Short speed days where I get to work on my form and try to beat my 50m time from the previous week.

Friday- Race pace and strength work.

Saturday- OFF :)

We really got after it this trip with doubles on multiple days of this week schedule as well. Plus strength and stability circuits almost daily, and of course getting in a lift twice a week.

I recently recommitted myself to lifting goals because after the pandemic stopped my regular lifting for months, I knew I had a lot of work to do. I also struggled (even before the pandemic, too) to maintain and track a productive lifting plan.

For the first time in years, I'm making visible (track your lifts, its so inspiring) improvements and feeling the strength from the weight room transfer to my running on the track. The access to a high-quality gym set up is yet another highlight of training at IMG. I'm really thankful for that one.

Everything you need and enough racks that you don't have to wait. Or deal with gym goers taking heavier weights from your rack without asking because they think you won't need them. Yes, this is happening to me at my local gym lol.

Lifting in the bubble at IMG. The bubble was built for the WNBA's time at IMG this year.

I made a lot of strides in my lifting thanks to this wonderful setup, narrowing in on goals, and frankly, telling myself to stop holding myself back. Most exciting for me was hitting what I think is a new PR in hang cleans! Woo!

The best workout from this year's training trip to img

One of the most exciting things about this trip for me (second only to the pool setup), is the chance to run some really fast workouts. If you're a runner, you know that cold weather makes fast workouts more difficult than the heat. While it's still possible, it's much harder to get your muscles to warm up and stay warmed up for sprinting when it's freezing out.

Whether it's a mental thing or a physical thing, the cold really gets to me especially and the quality of my workouts drastically suffers. So heading down to Florida for three weeks is probably the best thing that could happen to my training. Not only do the same exact workouts end up being run faster, but it also feels even smoother to do so!

The chance to run quick in a comfortable temperature couldn't have come at a better time. We decided to add more speed into my training now that I have a good base from the Fall. The main reason being that I want to make 800 pace feel comfortable (as much as it can be...) again. I think that running faster and doing speed endurance work helps me maintain 800 pace during a race.

Let's hope so!

My favorite (and most booty-locking) workout of camp was actually a workout we also did right before leaving DC. It was still challenging the second time, but it was much easier to run fast and overall I was much happier with the workout.

The workout is 400 paced, so all out but like controlled. It starts with a 250, then the middle is a 200, and finishes with a 150. That's it. But with short rest (about 4 minutes) you really really feel the burn.

It's one of those workouts that kinda sucks, but you know that its making you better, ya know?

Outside of track workouts. . .

Getting the chance to workout here for three weeks is just so phenomenal. I'm always grateful for the experience, but something about this year's trip left me feeling more blessed and in disbelief that this is really my life.

Last year our trip literally ended at the start of the pandemic. We got off of the plane from our trip and walked off the jetway into a completely transformed world. And it was a completely transformed world still as we started the trip again a full year later.

I think subconsciously the chance to be there was even greater because of everything we as athletes, and the rest of the world, has gone through the past several months. It felt good to do something a little more normal!

I value human connection so very much and this trip allows me to spend a lot of time with my awesome teammates! Each year, I get to know each teammate on a different level. We learn a lot about each other at track practice of course, but we don't get as much off the track time together in our usual lives.

Living in close quarters, there's more time together and its always full of laughs and good times.

I also love visiting Florida for the beaches (not really a shocker). This year it wasn't possible to go as often as I would love to go because we didn't want to risk exposure to other people. But I got to take two short trips to the beach and spend some time taking in the beautiful waves and hiding from seagulls.

The pool at the hotel does the trick too. I spent my free time reading, writing, and chatting with my teammates at the pool and it was so rejuvenating.

With multiple workouts happening a lot of the days, its important to not spend too much time in the sun. It really drains you, and I want to bring my all to workouts. So I would try to stay in the shade as often as I could and also did my work in the gorgeous and social distanced hotel lobby.

Inserting an obligatory golden hour pool pic now!