Percy Cerutty, Running Form

I just got back from NYC, where I watched Mo and Tommy run the 5th ave mile and had a good time. A bit tired, but the runnings going well. I'm going to start doing some low key races pretty soon, so after watching 5th ave. i'm pumped up and ready to go.

In regards to training, I often say that it's all been done; there is nothing new. It just seems like everything is recycled and things come in and out of vogue.

Another favorite saying of mine is that, the best coaches/athletes always figure things out first, then science later confirms and explains what they intuitively did. The example I always give for this is Carl Lewis' lack of stretching.

The following video provides a good example of both of these ideas. It's an interview with famed coach Percy Cerutty, whose most notable protege was the undefeated miler Herb Elliott. In the video you'll notice a couple of different things. First, there's some core work and some pretty heavy weight lifting. Lastly, check out the running up and down the sand dunes. If that doesn't work on strength endurance, I don't know what does. Plus, it looks so natural (I wish there was video of his athletes carrying spears up the hill too...some ideas don't work/catch on).

Lastly, here's a video of Said Aouita with some good slow motion video. Take a look at the video at about 55sec. You can clearly see Said landing in slow motion and it is right on. No heel striking, pretty much a midfoot strike with the heel coming down after, strikes right underneath him. Anyways, take a look at that, it's how you should run.

Complex to Simple, beware of guru's, and DOPING!!!

Brief Interruption of my spiel on Warming Up for some perspectives on a couple of things that grabbed my eye in the past couple days.

First, read this post by Vern Gambetta:

While I might not totally agree with how he applies it, the concept of taking complex things and making them simple is one that hits home.

Before I headed out to Virginia, I spent two days with the man I think is the best track and field coach of all time, Tom Tellez. We discussed all things track, training, mechanics, you name it. One of the main things that came up is making things more complex than they should be, which is the exact opposite of what you want in coaching. As an example, I’m convinced that the genius of Coach Tellez is that he takes very complex movement patterns in running, throwing, and jumping and makes it understandable for any athlete or coach. He takes all the stretch reflex mechanisms, stretch shortening cycle, elastic energy return of the tendons, etc. and simplifies it into easily understandable cues that athletes can actually use. In essence, he knows the complexity of the human body, but takes that complex concept and makes it into an easier digestible form. Complex to simple.
There seems to be a large portion of coaches, athletes, trainers, etc. who do the opposite. They take things that might already be complex and make them even more complex. The biggest tip off for guys like this are the ones who use big complex words, or even invents complex words, and talks in vague “guru” like talk. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of automatically thinking this guy knows the way. It’s actually the initial human reaction because if someone talks in complexities that are seemingly sound but above our head so that we don’t understand, we automatically assume that the person must know what they are talking about. I’m not naming names, but there are some prominent track coaches out there who have a decent following who do this. Just because you use big complex words does not mean you know how to apply what you are talking about or that it even translates to your sport. Most of the time, if you take time to digest and think about what these people say, you’ll see that it’s just a bunch of complex talk that is ambiguous and actually says nothing at all. The lesson is BE CAREFUL, think critically and don’t just accept things because they are over you head and are seemingly complex.

It should be said that I know the human body is incredibly complex. It’s good to talk about the complexities. Heck, I do it all the time on this blog. But the key is when applying those concepts you have to break it down into an easier paradigm. It has to be useable.

On a seemingly unrelated topic, a visiting professor for one of my grad school classes is a world expert on Doping and performance enhancing drug use. Yesterday was our first class, so I’m sure I’ll be updating the blog with insights learned each week. In fact, in several weeks he is going to take us through the doping of past Tour de France champ Michael Rasmussen, as he is writing a book on the topic and has all the doping schedules and such of Rasmussen. Should be very entertaining! For now, here are some interesting things he brought up:

-When the Tour de France started, doping was acceptable. The mindset was that it was a superhuman type of ride, so cyclists required extra things to get them through. So it wasn’t unusual for riders to use cocaine, amphetamines, chloroform, strychnine, and many others.

-In the early and late 90’s in cycling, with most using EPO, you would see lights come on at random times in the middle of the night. The reason? EPO increases hematocrit. Hematocrit up to about 50 is safe, but once you get higher than that the blood is so thick that it’s essentially sludge like. It slows the heart rate down a lot and you can die from it (it happened with several cyclists). Well, it got so competitive that cyclists were pushing the envelope of how much epo they could take to raise their Hemoglobin and Hematocrit. At levels slightly above 50, cyclists would take aspirin to act as a blood thinner to hopefully keep things okay. But as the push for more and more EPO happened, cyclists had to wear heart rate monitors when sleeping so that if their Heart Rate got below 30 an alarm would go off to wake them. They’d then have to cycle for 30min. Thus why you’d see people up at random times at night for about 30min…

-There’s a new product out there that is better than EPO and has no test. What does the product do? It’s a drug that inhibits the bodies EPO regulator. So essentially it shuts down the bodies mechanism that stops or controls EPO production. Do that and the body keeps producing EPO. So, you basically increase your bodies own production of EPO. It’s also rumored that the discovery of this drug is what brought a certain American cyclists back to competition…Anyways, it’s scary to think that once this drug gets around in track, things could be bleak.

Lastly, this is something I found on my own while doing some research. Want to run better at altitude? Take Viagra… How’s it work? It causes vasodilation in the blood vessels in the lungs. This causes better oxygen saturation of the blood, which normally drops by a good deal at altitude.

The Warm-Up

It's been a very very busy past week or so, thus the lack of posts. I'm back up in the D.C. area and have started grad school classes again. This semester I have classes on Mon, Tue, and Wed. afternoon/night. Throw in the fact that I have to do a Literature Review that basically is going to turn into a like 60 page paper on the Physiology of Distance Running performance, for my thesis project this semester, and I'm really busy.

Not to mention that the HS CC season is getting under way! It seems early to me as I'm just getting back into it running wise, and a post collegiate guy I'm helping season isn't even done yet. But I can't explain how excited I am for this years CC season. It is going to be a very good and exciting one. It's been amazing to see this years class of HS runners come along and develop into national caliber runners over the past 4yrs. Just shows was steady progression in training can do.

The Warm-Up: What should you do?

Do you want the truth? I have no idea. No one really truly knows. That goes for just about anything unfortunately. There are no definitive answers; it’s not black and white. If anyone tells you that it is, be very wary.

Okay, so that doesn’t help anyone out too much. Let’s delve into the warm-up a little and see if we can make any sense of it at all.

The goal of the warm-up is simple in running, to prepare the body for the task at hand, running. That sounds simple enough, but the warm-up is all about balance because we have to do enough to prepare the body to get ready but we do not want to induce too much pre-fatigue. That last bit is important. If you look at the research studies done on warm-up, they are all over the place. About half say it helps, half say it doesn’t, and some say neither. Why is this? Because of that balance concept we have. Basically, a good warm-up to improve performance has to do three things:

Be intense enough to get physiological benefits (listed below)
NOT be too intense so that it induces pre-fatigue
Have an optimal recovery between the end of the warm-up and competition. (i.e. too long and benefits are lost, too short of a recovery and fatigue happens).

Let’s look at what a warm-up actually does.

1. Raises body temperature
In general, this is a good thing, unless your event is in a hot climate and is prolonged. But in other cases an increase in body temperature increases the rate of transmission of nerve impulses and changes the force-velocity relationship (Bishop 2003).

2. Raises baseline VO2
Depending on the warm-up and it’s spacing, it can raise baseline VO2. This can be a good thing, because then it means less time to reach VO2max or your race VO2. This in turn means that less energy created strictly anaerobically at the beginning of the race. The key is to get this baseline increase in VO2 while not pre-fatiguing yourself and allowing for enough recovery before the race of the immediate energy systems.

3. Increased Motor Unit activation
We need to activate those muscles. Get the CNS primed and ready to recruit everything it’s got. Research has shown that performance improvements following a warm-up have been partially due to an increase in muscle activation.

Individualizing the Warm-up

With just the simple guidelines of what a warm-up should do, it becomes clear that there is no perfect warm-up. In fact, even for the same individual, a warm-up should vary based on numerous factors. These factors include the following:
Race length:
The length of the race will determine the type and length of the warm-up. A marathon is partially dependent on glycogen stores, so does it make sense to use up a decent amount of your glycogen stores with a several mile warm-up before the race? Absolutely not. Similarly, with a sprint race, it is heavily dependent on the immediate energy systems, stored ATP and the phosphagen system. Given that we know it takes 3minutes or so to halfway restore Creatine Phosphate, and to fully recover it takes several more minutes, does it make sense to do a full lengthy acceleration to deplete this within 5-6min of the race? Nope! The lesson here is that your warm-up is dependent on the demands of your event.

This one is easy so I’ll glaze over it, but some people don’t adjust there warm-up for hot or cold conditions. In hot conditions, we know that your body starts decreasing motor unit recruitment and thus performance as your core temperature increases to levels where the body starts turning on the safety mechanisms. So why should we voluntarily raise our core body temperature by several degrees in very hot conditions? It’s just going to lead to early fatigue. Research has shown that precooling works in hot conditions. So why would we voluntarily do the opposite?

Individual Physiology:
The individual makeup of an athlete is going to help decide how he or she needs to warm-up. If you have a slow twitch kid and a fast twitch kid, they are going to need different stimulus. A FT runner is going to have a different reaction to that 2mi jog then a ST kid. Is it a big difference? Not necessarily, but it could play a role.
In addition, the type of runner he is plays a role. This is related to predominant fiber type, but if the runner is one who relies on elastic energy, he’s going to need to get ready differently than a shuffler. An elastic kid is going to need something that gets him primed, ready, and feeling snap in his stride. It’s why you see some runners jump up and down before they race. Fast strides, jumps, hops, etc. all either prime the nervous system or alter the muscle tone and muscle tension. For a FT kid, you normally want this pretty high. So, these runners hopping up and down intuitively are doing this. The body is amazing if you get out of its way and let it work.

How they feel:
As mentioned before, muscle tone/tension is very important. If a runner feels flat before a race then the warm-up serves to get the nervous system firing and increase muscle tension. Therefore, hops, jumps, or fast short accelerations may be required. On the other hand, if you have someone whose way too bouncy for a longer event, he’s probably going to be using energy sources that need to be spared. A different warm-up is thus appropriate.

With all this being said, what the heck is a good warm-up?

For you, I don’t know. But here are some good guidelines.

Time between warm-up and competition.
-Muscle temperature generally takes 15min or so to drop significantly after a warm-up.
-Creatine Phosphate takes about 5min to almost fully restore.
-VO2 returns to baseline after 5-10min depending on the intensity.
Advice: It depends on the race. I’d suggest your last really fast strides/accels be about 7-10min out from the race. Then some light exercise, jogging, and light strides to keep VO2 slightly elevated MIGHT be a good idea.

-Need to activate MUSCLES!
-There's this nifty graph I was going to post but couldn't that showed increasing performance following a warm-up at various intensities of VO2max. Basically, max performance occured following a warm-up at about 70%VO2 and more intense than that fell off pretty quick. So there was a sweet spot at between about 65-75% VO2 where performance was generaly the best.

Advice: Intense enough to raise muscle temperature, but not so intense that it fatigues you. Do some fairly intense strides/accels for muscle activation.

In the future I’ll look at structuring the warm-up, including the role of stretching and what it’s basis might be, and the use of drills in the warm-up

David Bishop Performance Changes Following Active Warm Up and How
to Structure the Warm Up Sports Med 2003; 33 (7): 483-498
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