Video Blog: Running Form

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I'm going to try something new, a video blog. In this blog, I'll be going over running mechanics and how to work on them and fix them. Let me know what you think.

Training update: Things are back on track. Had two solid workouts last week, a 6mi tempo and 7x800m. On the 800's we had about 1:45-2min rest and worked down from 2:16 to 2:10ish. Most were in the 2:11 range.



Running form from Steve Magness on Vimeo.

A 7th graders take on track and field

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This is a special blog. It’s a guest blog by my sister Emily. She just got through with her first year of Junior High track and Cross Country. I thought it would be interesting to hear a 7th graders take on some of the things that her coaches have told her throughout the season. It gives me/us an idea on the coaching that goes on at that level and also on some of the myths that are still circulating to the general public. I asked her to write about some things that people had told her throughout the season and this is what she came up with. My comments follow in italics.

Common Coaches myths.

Many coaches have different ways of doing things when and after you run. Some seem like they are reasonable, but others are just strange and don't make any sense. Here are just a few of those myths that coaches sometimes instruct you to do, especially if you are in Elementary, Jr. High, or High school:

Putting your hands over head after you run to control your breathing.

Most coaches love this myth. Some have specifically told us that if you put your hands over your head after you run, you will be able to breathe better. They think that putting your hands up opens up your air ways to your lungs so you can breathe better. They say that bending over on your knees is bad for you. The reason we bend over after we run is to get blood to the other parts of our body, and if we lift our hands up, the blood has a harder time moving upwards.

(Stephen’s comments: This one is a particular pet peeve of mine because it is so widespread in school athletics. My favorite quote I heard someone yell was “Stand up! There’s no oxygen down there,” to some kid bent over. That makes no sense first off. The idea behind putting your hands over your head and standing up straight is that it allows the lungs to function better. The problem with that line of thinking is that it really isn’t getting the oxygen in that is the problem. Heavy breathing during running is more of a function of getting the carbon dioxide out. Secondly, delivery of both Oxygen to the muscles and CO2 and other by products to the lungs is the issue. When you stop running, blood tends to pool in the legs because you no longer have that leg pump to help pump the blood upwards, against gravity, back to the heart. When you stop, the body has the problem of pumping blood against gravity. The reason you bend over or even lie down (or someone feints) after hard exercise is that the body is trying make it where the heart is essentially on the same plane as the rest of the body, so that pumping the blood is easier, and not against gravity. )

Running on your toes when you sprint


Coaches think you will run faster because you are not using the time to put your heels down. If you don't put your heels down, your calves usually hurt.

(Haha, I like the simplicity of the explanation. Your calves will hurt if you aren’t used to it. First off, sprinters don’t run on their toes. At the best, they make contact on their forefront, but in most cases the heel should also touch the ground. Why? Because the heel should come down to allow the foot to load up and react. Essentially, it allows for the foot to work better elastically. )

Breathing in and out through your nose and not through your mouth


PE coaches (usually Elementary) obviously need to run and try this because it is basically impossible. Especially if you have allergies and cannot breath through your nose easily. You end up not getting enough air in.

(Another good one. We want to get in as much oxygen as possible and get rid of as much CO2 as possible. Why would we restrict that to a smaller opening? Yes, the nose warms the air, but we are concerned with performance, not warming air. It’s simple, would you rather breathe through a straw or a hose. )



Holding your hands with the left finger touching the middle finger while running a sprint to relax. (like making an "okay sign" or getting ready flick something)


I don't really get this one, but a coach told us this one time while we were sprinting. It is supposed to help you relax, but it just makes me more stressed.

(I don’t really get this one either. It makes no sense. Especially when I saw my sister demonstrate it how the coach showed it. It literally is like running while doing an “okay” sign. I don’t even know what to say, it’s just ridiculous. You should run with closed, but relaxed hands while running and open/straight but relaxed hands while sprinting. )

Trying to time your breathing. For ex: take in a breath every two steps and let out the breath after two more steps.


It is hard to time your breathing. If I try to time my breathing, then I end up running out of breath really quickly. It also takes a lot of concentration, and not everyone breathes the same way.

(This is an interesting one. I hear it all the time, and our breathing may be synchronized to our stride, but it’s not a conscious thing. Your body figures it out on it’s own with practice. Trying to time your breathing seems useless and way too much work. You are trying to regulate something that is automatically done and regulated. Why? It makes no sense. )

The way you breath causes cramps.


If you aren't timing your breathing or breathing through your nose, you supposedly will get side cramps. But that also has a lot to do with you being out of shape or you just ate too much.

(Another interesting one. Does the way you breathe cause cramps? No idea. Why? We don’t know what cause side stitches. There’s a theory that it is diaphragm fatigue/spasm. But does breathing cause it and why are some people more susceptible? No idea. I’ll have to look into it. But you are right, other things certainly cause it and singling it out to just breathing is a vast oversimplification. )

Moving your arms from "cheek to cheek" while you sprint.


They tell you to move your arms from your cheek on your face to the cheek on your bottom. That just seems awkward to me and I don't think it will help your speed.

(Excellent! I love this one. You are exactly right on this being a useless myth. First off, it doesn’t happen. Sprinters don’t bring there arm all the way up to each cheek. Secondly, it emphasizes the forward movement of the arms to the detriment of the backwards movement. In kids taught this, you’ll see that they don’t have time to have full backwards movement of the arms and they cut it off. I have no idea where coaches got this one, but you see/hear it a lot…and it’s not right. )

Protein makes it easier to run daily.


After our coach told us this, everyone started bringing protein bars to cross country practice. A lot of protein snacks don't have as much protein as regular food does. We realized that potatoe chips had more protein than my friend's special protein bar. We are probably getting enough protein anyway. So the myth may be true, but eating too much of anything is bad for you.

(haha, nice reasoning. I love the reasoning, everything in moderation. But will protein make it easier to run daily? Technically yes, but there’s some problems with this simplicity. Protein serves to build/repair stuff we break down while running. In addition, after workouts it helps to switch the runner from basically a catabolic to anabolic state. So, yes it will help with repair and recovery, but is it something to be emphasized? If you look at the typical American diet, we get tons of protein. The general recommendation for protein for endurance athletes is 1.0-1.6g/kg. Most people get at least this much. So, I’d say emphasizing protein isn’t a big deal, except for maybe after workouts. Post workout protein (plus carb) intake is great for recovery. )

Some coaches have told kids that if you can't run the entire time in a mile, then try to alternate between running fast and slow during the race.


I think that it takes up a lot of energy. Most kids walk the curves and run the straights anyways if they aren't runners.

(If you are racing a mile, run the whole thing. I’m sorry but if you are in a race, you shouldn’t walk… Now for general fitness, alternating running/walking is a good way to get in progressively better shape if you can’t run that long due to your fitness. )

Sitting down after you run will hurt your legs.

Yes, if you just sit down and don't get up after you run, most likely your legs will tighten up. But if you just ran a hard race and feel like you are going to throw up, you want just lay down. People just rush to you and make you walk around, but it only makes you feel worse. So please just let us sit for a minute to catch our breath. Then we will get up and cool down. Besides, the last thing on your mind when you finish a race is the thought of your legs tightening up. You are just happy you’re finished.

(Another myth I LOVE. Let the kid/athlete lay down. It’s not going to hurt his legs. Lying down for a couple minutes will do nothing negative. I never got why people try and get you up and make you walk around after a race. The body is telling you to recover and lie there. So do it. What you do for a few minutes after a race is not going negatively effect your legs for long. )




This last myth doesn't apply to running but it is sports related:
In tennis, learning and using a one-handed backhand is better than using two hands.


It is better to use two hands because you are stronger with two hands. Switch to a one-handed backhand when you are strong enough. Just because it is easier to learn using a one-handed backhand then to switch it later, it doesn't make your stroke any better.

(I didn’t know that. Makes perfect sense biomechanically though! Great post. )



There are some strange tactics that PE coaches have learned and used. And I'm sure there are many many more.

I’d like to thank my sister for doing this guest blog. It’s very interesting to get a different perspective on some of the things coaches do, especially at the Junior High level. I remember some weird things we did back in the day, but not many, and at the time they all seemed perfectly logical to a 13yr old kid. It’s kind of sad that some of these same myths are still around. I heard/went through many of them 11 years ago when I was first doing track and I’m sure they have been around for many year before that. Hopefully we can make a dent in that and start changing things.

African Runners powerpoint.

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Training update:
I went through a little bit of a rough period where my legs were pretty much fried for a couple workouts. I think the workload and all the new stimulus' finally caught up to me. So, we backed off for a bit and I'm getting back to normal.

So, my last couple workouts were nothing to write home about. Saturday's was the first where things started looking up. We had 4xmile with 2min+ rest. Like most things we do, it was progressive, so we started at 72ish and took about 2 or so sec off per lap each rep. So, by the end, we were moving pretty good.

That's about it for now.

Below, I've included my powerpoint for one of my classes. I have to give a 45min presentation on the topic and since it's relevant to some topics I've brought up here, I'd figure I'd share it.


Old School Approach to Running/Training

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Quick update:

Just got done with spending spring break back home in Texas. It was a nice break and I got in some good running in some warm weather (at least for a couple days...). Got to see the HS kids run and they're coming along nicely (a couple under 10 for 32, and two run 4:21, 4:25 for 16 this weekend.)

Training: Last week had a progressive tempo run, starting at 5:15's down to 5ish. Longer repeats (2x2mi, 1mi) on another day. Last weeks workout before I left was 2x1mi (4:40, 4:34ish) then 4x800 at 5k pace w/ 2min rest.

“Old school” approach to sprint/ strength work
A while ago, I made a comment to another coach that my belief in sprint/strength work was rooted in the “Old School” model of Tom Tellez. He asked me to expand on that idea, so here you go.
Having thought about it for a while, “Old School” might not be the best way to classify it in one sense and in the other it absolutely fits. It’s not fare because old school implies that it isn’t based on modern science and isn’t as technical, but nothing could be further from the truth. However, the description fits because the essence of the training model is based on how we naturally run and while it’s based on science, it keeps it simple for the athletes and doesn’t overcomplicate things.
So what is this Old School approach? Let’s look at it by dividing the topic up into a couple of different areas.

Drills:
Every coach loves drills. When I say drills, I’m talking about sprint drills. You’ve all seen them and done them. A skips, B skips, butt kicks, high knees, the list goes on and on. Coaches implement these drills to break up a portion of the running stride. They think that doing these drills will improve the mechanics of the runner.

But they don’t. They make you better at doing drills. The problem with breaking the stride up in pieces is that there are no separate phases of running. One thing impacts the next when running. For example, hip extension impacts knee lift. The drills forget this integration. So, if I’m trying to improve knee lift, high knees do nothing. Why? Because knee lift while running is partially dependent on other factors, such as hip extension. So working it in isolation does nothing to help improve how it work in a dynamic situation. That’s just one example. There are many more. But for now, just remember that the body works best as a whole.
So, in the “old school” approach to running mechanics, you mostly improve form by……running. Yes, that’s right, you improve your mechanics by changing things when you run and perfecting things while running. Throwing out all the crazy drills for technique development is unfortunately today a radical idea, but it works.

Fragmenting up the stride into easier to manage pieces seems like a great idea in theory. But, we’ve taken the theory too far. The general idea that you should focus on one thing at a time is great. But you should do it in the context of a whole stride. You simply give the athlete one cue on which to focus. Breaking the stride into all sorts of drills doesn’t work. For example, while you are running, are you really supposed to kick your butt or actively flick your heel like that, NO. Are you supposed to paw at the ground in a weird exaggerated motion like in B skips? NO. So what are you practicising exactly?
But, who can blame all the coaches out there who use sprint drills for technique? It’s a heck of a lot easier to give some athletes some drills then to actually watch an athlete run, figure out what he is doing wrong, figure out how to fix it, and then figure out what cue you have to give to an athlete to make him change. Ya, drills sound a lot easier.

Training:
Old school approach-In sprinting, mechanics rule. An athlete has to run right. Technique takes precedence over almost everything else. Training to sprint faster is relatively straightforward, but if you want to get the most out of it, you do it while running correctly. In order to sprint fast, you have to be able to relax.

In addition, you work everything. Sprinters can actually jog or do some easy distance, instead of being told never to run far as many new coaches do. Some longer repeats over 300m are used to. Everything has progression. In essence, you focus on the demands of the race (i.e. how much is reaction time, acceleration, maintenance, deceleration, etc.), then you go about using different training modalities to improve on that specific

Weights/strength:
Nothing overcomplicated. Plyos, hills, weights, some med ball tosses. It’s all good, but once again, it’s almost secondary. When I say, it’s secondary, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t important or that it isn’t done, it just means that it’s not a huge emphasis like in some programs. In some programs you have guys doing 45min of abs for example. Why? I have no idea

Perhaps it’s best illustrated by the idea of trying to cram too much stuff in. With all this information readily available there are more training modalities then ever before. The problem is too many coaches get caught up in trying to squeeze a little of every single thing in. Instead of actually getting in quality work and getting really good at one or two things that day, you get okay at 5 or 6 different things. In essence, you’re spreading your athletes too soon.
I think it’s best summed up by the following observation when watching one group of sprinters practice. After a warm up jog and some stretching, they proceeded to do about 40min of drills, then hurdle mobility, then block starts and their running workout. After their running workout and cool down, they do their ab or weight work, and finally do some technique work, either on sprint mechanics, or event specific technique (for long jump for example). By the end of all that, do you really think they are going to be sharp working on technique? Of course not.

Complex to Simple:
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, there seems to be a trend of trying to make things more complex than they really are. We use really neat sounding phrases like post activation potentiation, or velocity at VO2max or , my favorite, string together physiological terms that we probably don’t fully comprehend but sound cool together. We are all guilty of it. It sounds much cooler to tell kids you are coaching to go train at a pace that elicits lactate threshold, then to go do a steady tempo run.
But, in front of other coaches it’s even worse. Go to a coaching clinic and listen to some of the speakers. Granted, many are excellent, but often times you will see big words thrown out or simple concepts made incredibly complex just for the heck of it. When I first started coaching I was guilty somewhat of this. I classified stuff as VO2max work or LT work or whatever. But then I realized, what the heck does that even mean to other coaches or athletes. I opted for keeping it simple. I use race paces. It’s more specific and I KNOW what each workout or running at each pace is supposed to do. So why assign a magic term to 3k pace or 1500 pace or just slower or just faster. There is no magic zone. Keep things simple. Kids understand paces, not weird scientific terminology. If I go tell a kid to run at around 5:30 pace, he gets it. If I tell him to run at Threshold, with no more information, he’s got no clue.

The Old School approach favors making complex ideas simple. This applies to everything. If we are working on running form, you explain it so the athlete can get it. You don’t start going off on a diatribe about how the golgi tendon organs do this and in order for you to get your knee up we have to reprogram your neural coordination via blah blah blah. That’s ridiculous. The coach’s job is to take complex problems, like running mechanics, and to make it useable. It’s not to make it complex.
And finally on that topic, using big complex language is a good way to make it seem like you know what you are talking about. You almost try and talk above people. And if other people can’t understand what you are preaching about, then you they can’t really question you and they just ASSUME that you know what you are talking about, which isn’t always the case.

So, that’s my interpretation of “Old School” training.


So in conclusion, the old school approach pretty much strips things to their basics. Forget drills for technique. Focus on mechanics and form. Everything else (for sprinting) is almost secondary.


And finally to end it, in this approach, you simply figure out what works using knowledge and experience, and you believe in what you do. You don’t believe in something because it sounds complex and grand, you believe it because that is how the body naturally functions and it works in REAL life.

Part 6: Kick Development

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Before I get into part 6, I'd like quickly like to share some of the ideas I'm kicking around for a master's thesis/study. If you have any ideas or suggestions, throw them out and I'll consider them. Or if you have any comments/input on the topics below, just let me know.

Thesis ideas:
1. Kick development- basically study why/how people can increase the pace at the end of a race. I'd take blood lactate before kick and post race, and EMG readings throughout to compare muscle activity and blood lactate. Compare these #'s to the speed increase. Maybe more stuff. Not sure exactly how to set this up, trying to figure that out.

2. The impact of Hill Sprints- training study to find out exactly what hill sprints do. Measure running economy, peak force, etc. to see changes from these.

3. Power training and endurance performance- Measure the impact of power training, including power lifting, has on a variety of endurance performance measures.

4. Periodization- Compare a Lydiard style block training program compared to a Canova style mixed periodization.

5. Hip Mobility and performance- See if hip mobility is related to performance and running economy. Basically test whether all these drills and hurdle step overs for hip mobility do anything.

6.??????


Part 6-
Kick Development- A matter of strength Endurance:


In the last post, I basically described how to lower lactate at race pace. If you remember the data discussed already, the ability to finish at a quicker pace seemed to rely on two things that are tied together.

A. Lactate Differential
B. Muscle Fiber Recruitment

The lactate differential is the difference between the lactate level before the kick, and the lactate level post race/kick. The larger the difference, the more it seems that the athlete was able to pick up the pace. Why is this?
Partly it’s due to increased muscle fiber recruitment, which we saw in the Amann study. The ability to recruit more fibers at the end means an increase in lactate. Why? Because these fibers are going to be the hard to recruit FT muscles, which will predominately work anaerobically. So, the ability to recruit these fibers under heavy fatigue conditions is one key to improving your kick.

Secondly, the large lactate difference shows that the athlete has not used up all of his “anaerobic reserve.” It’s best to think of this in simple terms. While running a race, the athlete is going to use predominately aerobic mechanisms after the first 30-40sec. However, the aerobic system can not provide all of the energy so, the anaerobic system covers the gap. Think of it as if there is a finite limit of anaerobic energy. A simple model would be if you have 10 units of total anaerobic energy and you are running a 10min race. Athlete A uses 9 units of anaerobic energy to get him to minute 9, so basically 1 unit per minute, well he’s not going to be able to increase the pace much because he’s got 1 anaerobic unit for 1 more minute. On the other hand, if we have an athlete who has only used 8 units at 9 minutes, then he’s got 2 units left for 1 more minute. He’ll be able to kick. Similarly, if the same athlete had used 9 units at 9 minutes, but had a max capacity of 11 units, he’ll be able to increase the speed.

This is a very simple way to look at things, but it illustrates two things nicely. One, that decreasing lactate (a good signal of anaerobic workload) at race pace is beneficial, if the max lactate level can stay the same, increase, or decrease by a lesser amount.

Using this theory, creating a kick then becomes something we can systematically train for. It provides a blueprint to follow, instead of just having kids try and run fast at the end of the workout or to work a kid to death to make him “toughen up” to increase his toughness so he can kick.
The muscle fiber theory looks like this:

1. Increase maximum fibers recruited
2. Improve ability to use for prolonged time
3. Learn to recruit them under high acidity


#1- Increasing maximum fibers recruited.
This accomplishes two goals. First it increases the fiber pool of which we can recruit and establishes recruitment patterns of those fast twitch fibers that we are going to need during the end of the race when everything else is fatiguing. Secondly, the training to increase fiber recruitment will also increase or maintain our maximum anaerobic capacity, and thus our max lactate levels.

How to do it:
Sprints
Use a variety of sprint work.
I like to progress (remember how important progression is) from hill sprints, ever increasing in number, to flat sprints. Start short, increase length.
Weights
While not as specific, weight training will do a great job of establishing recruitment of a large number of fibers. That is the first step. After that, through activities such as sprinting, you learn to recruit many of those fibers in a dynamic and specific action.
For recruitment, it’s important to do high weight, low rep work and with the legs!
Power Training
Explosive throws or lifts work great for increasing fiber recruitment, especially for FT fibers. In some cases, power training (such as jump squats) allow you to by pass the normal rules of motor unit recruitment and jump straight to recruiting of FT fibers. It’s a great way of training you FT fibers.
Start simple. Start with simple med ball throws or shot throws. Only advanced/older athletes should do power training with weights.

Later, I’ll post more on sprint work, but for now that’s a good explanation.

#2- Improve ability to use for prolonged time
Next, you need to improve the endurance of the fibers.
How to do it?

Circuits and strength endurance work. Whether in the weight room or on a hill or at the track, circuits are a great way to increase the endurance of many fibers. Basically you intersperse exercises with running. So, maybe 100m strides separated by jump squats or bounds or burpees or whatever. I’ve written about this subject some in the strength endurance articles. So check there.
Secondly, hills are a great way to accomplish the goal. Because of the steepness of the hill you are going to recruit more fibers at the same speed as on flat ground. Longer hills from 200-800m run hard are great for increasing strength endurance.

#3-Learn to Recruit fibers under high acidity
Now, we get specific and hard. The goal here is to reach a high level of fatigue and lactate, and then try and force fiber recruitment under these conditions. This will hopefully teach your body to recruit additional fibers under heavy fatigue.

How to do it:
Basically, do work that produces a high level of fatigue and then use activites to force recruitment, and finally go straight into more running to learn to use those recruited fibers. A workout I use often, which comes from Canova, is run sets of a broken 500m, with 200m fast, 100m bounding, and 200m kick in. There are many variations that you can use. Just use your imagination. I like sticking bounding in between because it’s similar to running but many different kinds of plyos/jumps would work well.
Another one, that I came up with that works well is to find a hill with flat parts at the top and bottom. The hill I’ve used has flat part at the bottom, followed by a relatively steep 150m hill followed by a flat stretch at top. You run the whole thing hard, but focus on really going up the hill and accelerating once you hit the top. The hill serves as forcing fiber recruitment. Circuits using hills can also work.
Lastly, sticking hill sprints after a hard workout (or in the middle) is another good way of accomplishing this goal. For example, maybe separating 8x400m into 4x400m, 5x hill sprints, 4x400m at mile pace, 5xhill sprints.


That is it for now on Kick Development. Hopefully it all makes sense and more importantly hopefully you got something out of it and it is helpful to some degree.

A final summary of what you hopefully learned:


1. Develop a High level of General Endurance and strength
2. Develop a High Lactate Threshold
3. Develop Strength Endurance
4. Top it off with Specific Endurance and specific endurance combined with strength end.

Quick sum up of what we want to do:
1. lower lactate at race pace.
2. maintain/increase max lactate at the end of race.
3. Increase muscle fiber’s an athlete is able to recruit overall.
4. Increase the endurance of these fibers
5. Train the athlete to recruit these fibers during fatigue.

Future interest/research:
One topic I’d like to look into, is the biomechanics of a kick. I have a decent idea how I’d do it but unfortunately it’s not something I have access to now. The theory put out there is that distance kids should run like sprinters the last 100m or so. I’d like to see if this is true or if it happens. A kinematic analysis would be interesting comparing the middle part of the race and the last part. Looking at stuff like ground contact time, stride length, swing phase time, knee angle, vertical oscillation, etc. That would take a good camera and equipment, which I don’t have.

Part 5- Putting theory into Practice

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Quick update- 87mi this week, 1 set of plyos, tons of GS/PS, 2x weights, 1xAccels, 15mi long run (in the snow...yay), 2xhurdle mobility, and 2 hard workouts
(6mi tempo- 5:20 down to 5:00 and 3x1.5mi w/3min rest in 7:1x with the last one fast)

HS kids update- Start of the season for the guys and had two PR's in the 32 (9:30 and 38). way to go guys!




Africans vs. Western Runners:
Part 5: Putting theory into practice.
Over the last four blog’s I’ve tried to point out some of the differences between high level African runners and American runners. Let’s briefly look back at some of the lessons that we’ve learned.

Basic Speed- Basic speed is good for Africans, but not out of this world. Our athletes have comparable basic speed.

Specific Endurance- Our athletes do not preserve that basic speed as well, especially from 400m to 1,500m.

Kick- Africans can finish faster because they are essentially running at a steady state for much of the race and then have the ability to summon up their anaerobic capacity much more so than we can.

That’s a very brief refresher of some of the topics I’ve covered over the past series. Next let’s see what the implications of these observations are, and how they apply to an American runner.


MaxLass- Implications for the American Runner:
The main theory of why some Africans can create this MaxLass (maximum Lactate Steady State) at such fast speeds is the amount of general endurance work they have. There huge background lays the foundation on which to develop the specific work. While, the specific work is often what we all look towards when analyzing a training program, it is important to remember that it is just one step.

I love Renato Canova’s quote when he says “Kenyans start an official training ALREADY FROM THE 85-90% OF THEIR TOP LEVEL, WHITE PEOPLE FROM 30-50%. MUST SPEND 10-12 YEARS OF HIS LIFE BEFORE REACHING THE SAME LEVEL THAT THE KENYAN HAS AT HIS BEGINNING.” What that means is that because of a Kenyans active lifestyle and natural training, he has a much greater foundation on which to build. We are not just talking about running to school, although that would certainly help. We are talking about the active lifestyle that comes from growing up in their society.
It is this foundation that allows many Kenyan athletes to come out of seemingly no where. Most of our initial reactions are to point out how talented the athlete must be to come from almost no where to world beater with only a bit of formalized training. However, we completely forget about or ignore the natural training that was done.

Look no further than one of America’s best runners for evidence of this. Alan Webb established a huge level of general fitness and general endurance via competitive swimming and other athletic activities when he was younger. Because of this general fitness, it was with relatively little specific running training that he was able to set a then national sophomore record in the mile.

So what do we do?
In order to create a MaxLass, we need a very high level of general endurance, a high lactate threshold, and good strength endurance. In order to bridge this gap of lacking general endurance/training, we need to focus on a couple of things. Let’s look at physiologically what we are trying to do:

1. lower lactate at race pace.
2. maintain/increase max lactate at the end of race.

The first goal is to establish a larger foundation of general endurance and general strength. Without this foundation, you are not going to get as much bang for your buck with the specific work. Without the general foundation you can NOT convert it to specific endurance or strength endurance. So how do we establish general fitness without completely changing our culture and how our athletes grow up?

Work at the extremes in High School or during the base period. That means lots of easy to steady running, high end aerobic workout combined with neuromuscular work such as short sprints, hill sprints, and cruise 100s-200s. These extremes will provide a base or foundation of work on which to build upon. In addition, general strength work should be added gradually to the program. That should serve as the basis of the HS athletes training. Obviously, our HS athletes are still trying to run fast and they can run very fast off of almost exclusively that kind of stuff, but small spices of faster/specific work will do wonders at that level. In addition small periods of emphasis on specific work are to expected, but the key is not to spend 4 months doing specific track work for a HS. You’re doing the specific work with no foundation of general stuff on which to work.

For the non-HS kid how do you increase general endurance while still racing well? Modulate things. Focus on general endurance with small spices of faster work. Have specific blocks where you spend a couple weeks on specific work. Or, during the competitive season, have small blocks of what I call an “aerobic refresh,” where you revisit that general endurance work for a short period of time. In addition, add general strength and sprint work almost year round.

After general fitness is established:
The goal is to slowly be able to integrate and handle more and more specific or almost specific work over time. The goal is to have more diversity from recovery up to sprint work in the program instead of just straight easy mileage and straight hard intervals. That being said, once general endurance is improved where do we go to reach our goal of lowering lactate at race pace?

If we look at how Canova’s athletes went from having steadily increasing lactate levels to steady ones, we get a blueprint of where to go. We have to convert that general endurance to strength and specific endurance.
Thankfully, I’ve covered both topics before, so check that out.

Specific Endurance:
http://stevemagness.blogspot.com/2008/10/hs-trainingspecific-endurance.html

Strength Endurance:
Part 1- http://stevemagness.blogspot.com/2008/03/lydiard-got-it-wrong.html

Part 2- http://stevemagness.blogspot.com/2008/03/strength-endurance-development-part-2.html

You CAN NOT progress to the above without a couple things:
1. A HIGH level of general endurance
2. A high level of general strength.

What do you get when you combine them.........a high level of strength endurance.

But what is general strength? Well, that will require another post, but for now it can be thought of non specific strength work. That includes anything from body weight exercises, to running easy uphills, to even sprinting.

Next, we’ll cover kick development.
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