I can tell you why you should join the Distance Group at this summer’s CTF Clinic, but I’m a sprints guy and I’m not sure what I say carries as much weight with you as it does with other sprinters/sprints coaches.
Instead, I ask you to take a minute and read this message from Jason Saretsky, Director of Track & Field/Cross Country for Harvard University:
“What separates the top runners from the rest of the pack?
Is it a week-long running camp where everyone increases their mileage? Dramatic jumps in mileage often lead to injury. And the training rarely fits into the coach’s overall summer plan for the athlete.
Many high school athletes go to week-long running camps over the summer and don’t see big changes in their results because all they’ve done is run more…not smarter.
The secret to beating your opponents is not just outworking them, but also outsmarting them. What better place to learn how to do that than Harvard University!
So, what is the secret?
You might think that to beat your PR or win the championship, all you need to do is put in more miles. But the best runners do things differently. They focus on honing every aspect of their training — from their stretching routine to the drills they do to their race day strategy. At the Complete Track and Field camp, we’ll teach you the tools that will actually separate you from the pack.
During our two-day clinic, you will:
– Learn an active-isolated stretching routine used by Olympians to avoid injury and improve performance.
– Perfect a dynamic warm-up routine designed to get your body prepped for any workout or competition.
– Improve your biomechanics and become a more efficient runner.
– Discover speed development drills, body weight circuits, and hurdle mobility routines designed for distance and middle distance runners.
– Gain insight into winning race strategies that will get you across the finish line first.
– Work directly with Harvard’s head coach for XC/Track & Field, giving you unique access to the school’s program.
Here are the facts:
Whether you want to stay ahead of your competition or close the gap, you need to start putting these pieces together, every run, every workout, every race, every day.
The runners that are beating you now already know these secrets to success. And you won’t find them in the woods at a week-long running camp. But you can discover the missing pieces this summer at Harvard.
If you’re ready to step up to the next level and find out exactly how much better you can compete over the 800m, 1600m, 3200m and cross country, then you need to register for the 2013 New England Track & Field Clinic.
Coaches, you are invited too! We’d love to share our experiences, answer questions about what it takes to build a championship program, and demonstrate the drills and routines we use with the Harvard team.
In addition to getting up close access to watch exactly how we train our endurance athletes, you’re invited to take notes, film the sessions and, of course, ask us questions while athletes are on breaks.
And remember, when you register as a coach, you have full access to *every* event group at the clinic.
Space is filling up fast so be sure to register before the price goes up after May 31st:
There you have it. If you have questions about the Distance Group, post them here.
To your success,
P.S. The ‘Early Bird’ Registration discount ends on May 31, so register before we have to jack up the price and get that crossed off your ‘To Do’ list!
“Working the Dirt II”
By Tony Veney
Let’s look at three more hurdle qualities I believe can assist coaches in making them better able to make your “Newbie” hurdlers fast and your experienced hurdlers faster. I had a community college guy who was competition in his first decathlon, and was terrified of the high hurdles. The hurdle height did not scare him since he’s 6’4. He still thought he had to reach in order to make it to the next hurdle. Once I was able to give him a lead arm “cue” to concentrate on he took two seconds off his hurdle time in two weeks. I have talked before about the hurdle distance (9.14 and 8.50) and the running distance (5.94 and 5.50), in addition to the hurdle rhythmic unit (the time it takes to run from one touchdown to the next touchdown).
Now for a little math about where we should be the most concerned about when your kids run hurdles. Let’s say your boy or girl runs a rhythmic unit in 1.25 seconds. Since the average high school hurdler spends 0.30-0.40 seconds in the air (girls quicker with the lower hurdle), we subtract that time from the R.U. of 1.25. This leaves us with a running time of 0.85-0.95 seconds representing 68-75% of the rhythmic unit. So where do you want to spend most of your time when it comes to teaching your hurdler to hurdle? I am not saying that the hurdle clearance is not important, but everything in any technical event is built on what happens before that moment. In part one I spent most of the paper getting to the proper take-off so that touchdown and the run between the hurdles are as quick as possible.
The 32-25% of the R.U. spent in the air is set up by the proper take-off mechanics: so you ask yourself, how do I do that?
The Lead Action:
This is an aggressive step action, (combining arm and leg movements) where the hurdler must allow the cut step and take-off extension to naturally occur. There is a tendency for hurdlers (young and experienced alike) to hurry the take-off causing them to “jump over” the hurdle which invokes more of a vertical projection. The take-off is more of an extended push off toward the hurdle allowing the take-off foot to fall behind the hurdlers center of mass. By staying on the ground as long as possible, the hurdler takes full advantage of the power (and stretch-shortening) generated from the aggressive take-off, splitting the legs. You should see the take-off toe pointing in the opposite direction getting triple extension from the ankle, knee and hip joints. The powerful push off on the backside of the body allows the lead knee to attack the hurdle on the front side of the hurdler’s body (sometimes you will see the lead knee rise above your hurdler’s navel). The combination of take-off and lead action gives the hurdler a flatter parabola over the hurdle and actually starts the lead foot toward the ground not more than inches past the top of the hurdle. If you video your hurdler, a good cue to watch for is whether or not the lead foot clears and drops off the hurdle cross bar. If the foot stays above the crossbar or even continues to rise as the lead foot passes over the cross bar, indicates a real take-off problem. But when some coaches see this error, they merely tell their hurdler to “snap their lead leg down faster.” They can’t do anything to change the touchdown once they have left the ground.
The lead foot is held back (under the lead knee) and once the take-off is complete the lead foot then hinges forward and stretches the hamstring. This is why the push off the ground must be patient.
The more efficient the push off the more aggressive the lead action can be. The human body is like a teeter totter and must maintain equilibrium. If you “jump” off the ground instead of “pushing off”, the opposite action of the lead leg will shorten and floating the hurdle will likely occur (or a hurdle hit). Jumping off the ground is a premature action and will force the lead leg to swing around the hurdle, or flick toward the hurdle (that flicking toward the hurdle makes the lead foot continue to rise pass the hurdle cross bar, making you float over the hurdle). If the lead leg is given the time to extend in a bent knee flexion, this facilitates a nice step over action and makes for a well balanced touchdown as the lead moves down into the track.
The Trail Action:
The trail leg works in concert with the lead leg and trail arm actions. The trail action is enhanced if you leave the take-off foot behind you. By pushing off the ground at take-off, the lead and trail legs split causes the “stretch-shorten” to occur appearing like an elongated sprint stride. Any hesitation will float the trail and allows it to slide off the side of the hurdle rather than moving in front of the body to start running. If the cut step is executed correctly the take-off foot appears to be pulled off the ground and begins the “trail leg circle” movement we drill so diligently as hurdle coaches. This movement tucks the trail heel close to the butt and shortens the trail leg as a lever (allowing the trail to pass over the hurdle to a front-side position). The trail is kept folded tightly until it reaches the front of the body. At this moment, the trail leg should be unfolded toward the ground under the center of mass. The problem for most young hurdlers is their lack of feel for this action. There is a tendency for the trail leg to unfold allowing the lower leg to extend causing the trail foot to land in front of the body and braking. Do this three times between every hurdle and you can why young hurdlers slow down and feel they are not fast enough to run three steps for ten hurdlers.
The Lead Hand Action:
The cuing of the lead hand as you leave the ground must be a fast and continuous movement. Hurdlers feel they must wait for the body (hips) to clear the hurdle before they can actively attack the ground. But the ground attack must happen as soon cut-step leaves the ground. The hurdler is at their highest above the hurdle before the hurdle which means the hurdler’s body begins to descend as soon as the hips approach the hurdle. As soon as the lead hand hits the front (as soon as you see it), it should start to move backward. The lead hand reaches or presses forward with the thumb pronated down in a freestyle swim movement. A swimmer pulls the lead hand down and arm backward allowing the arm to stretch into the shoulder. The hurdler using this same movement sweeps the hand back in the same motion allowing the trail knee to sweep under the swim action. This movement is primarily a technique used by the men since their hurdle is higher and needs arm extension near shoulder height (so don’t allow your young people to become “hurdle clones” copying a technique – ala Aires Merritt/Rodney Milburn). Your young women will use a slightly different lead arm technique since their hurdle is lower, thus needing a lower lead hand action. The lead hand for the girls extends navel height allowing the lead arm to rip back behind the hurdler and firing the trail around and into the ground.
More Working the Dirt to Come: Good Hunting!
Earlier this season we were doing race pace 50m starts as part of our 400m training. Obviously, these are submaximal runs. However, my top 400m runner said that it felt like she had to go ‘all out’ to hit her times.
Why does it feel like this? Like most young sprinters, she is an inefficient accelerator.
Why is she so inefficient? Like most young sprinters, she does not push out of the blocks. She steps out of the blocks.
Each season I wait longer and longer to let athletes use blocks. After all, blocks are a privilege, not a right.
I’m just not sure starting blocks are actually helpful to the majority of young sprinters. Our League Championship is on Thursday. My top 100m runner has not used blocks yet this season. Am I crazy? Maybe. After all, she is the only athlete making finals at meets who isn’t using starting blocks.
Check out the video below to see what ‘stepping out’ looks like, how it affects performance and how you can fix it.
Whether you’re a coach or an athlete, learn how to improve starting mechanics this summer at the 2013 Complete Track & Field Clinic.
Sprints group clinicians include myself (Latif Thomas), Dave Cusano (Wheaton College – MA), Gabe Sanders (Boston University) and Kebba Tolbert (Harvard University).
Feel free to post your questions below!
- Latif Thomas
Follow me on Twitter: @latif_thomas
Share the Knowledge – 400m Training
During the second half of the season I shy away from racing long sprinters in the 400m every week. I’ve found this strategy effective because it allows me to evaluate where each athlete is in his or her training. As part of the evaluation process I use several staple workouts to help gauge improvement levels and to design efficient workouts for the remainder of the season. This period is extremely important for athletes who have qualified for championship season.
Wilbur Ross developed a workout I use to examine midseason training progress. For critical zone assessment I use 2 x 3 x 160m with 20-30 seconds between repetitions and 8-10 minutes between sets at 90-100% depending on the time of year. The athlete runs 3 x 160m with short recovery. I time the first two 160m’s then the first 80m of the third 160m to get a 400m value (160+160+80=400m). After a longer rest the athlete tries to replicate the first set. I want to see if the athletes can keep the time of the two sets fairly close to one another. A differential of +1 second is excellent, +2 seconds is good, and +3 seconds is not satisfactory.
Since the sport of Track and Field continues to evolve, I try to keep up with the latest advances and tips other coaches share. Last week, I read an article by Gabe Sanders which sparked my interest in the different workouts other coaches use to predict 400m times or gain more insight to the overall fitness level and training for 400m runners. So I did what any eager coach might do…I started investigating. Here are some of the responses I received from some great 400m coaches.
“In addition to the workouts in the article from last week, another workout I’ve done in the past is a “400 the hard way” around the track: Essentially it’s 7x100m full tilt with a 50m walk back after each 100m segment until you cross the finish line. Two aspects of my execution of the session are the first 100m is out of blocks, and the following 6 efforts are with a three step walk in, making it a little more reflective of actually 100m segments of the race. Each and every athlete I’ve ever put through this session truly feels like the separate 100m stages of the race; reps 1-3 feel like the opening 100-150m of the race, reps 4-5 feel like 150-300m, and rep 6-7 is like the final 100m.
As a predictor I take out the fast and slow segments, take the average of the remaining segments and multiply by 4. This workout has been pretty spot on in predicting 400m relay legs 3-4 weeks out of target competitions.”
Wheaton College (MA)
“I use 2 x 250m (50m On- 50m Off) last 150m full go. The athlete sprints 50m, floats 50m, and then runs full effort for the final 150m. I use this a few times a year, as rest decreases I look to see how close the two reps times are in comparison to one another.”
I know Coach Grigg uses 4 x 300m with 4 minutes recovery several times throughout the year. The goal is to get to 4 x 300m at 82% of the athlete’s current 200m time with 4 minutes recovery. He usually starts with a lower percentage the athlete can handle earlier in the season like 75% and builds as the year progresses. Coach Grigg believes that if the athlete can run the first three 300m efforts at 82% then come back even faster for the 4th repetition then that athlete is really ready to roll.
Head Men’s T&F/CC Coach
“If I had to pick one, it’d be the world record workout. Blocks to 100, short rest 1-2, 2-3, 3-4 all on the fly, attempting to mimic technique for each segment, while trying to be as close to breaking the world record as possible. I only do this late in the season (post conference) with advanced 400m athletes. Don’t have much empirical data, but if you can go 11-10.5-10.5-11, you should be able to run in the 46.0-46.7 range.”
“I use a 320m time trial and add + 12″ to the 320m time to predict 400m time”
Umass Lowell University
“I like several work outs. The one I use every year 11 days out from the beginning of NCAA’s Is this: Full warm up then 1×60 out of blocks take full rest, then 1×80. Take full rest then 1×150 fast but very relaxed. Take full recovery then run from a 3 step roll a 300. The 3 guys that have run 46 open all have dipped under 34 sec hand time. Guys that have run 35 point have run 47 open and most have split 46 on a relay. Guys that run 35 are your standard 48 sec guys. Occasionally a few will surprise with a 47relay split. After this, we rest 20 min then do a rolling 200 in 21sec. This work out has been an excellent predictor for us.
Another work out we do about a month earlier is more of a strength work out but, it gives me a good indication of where we are with our training. It goes as follows, 2x3x200@ 25-24-24 rest 2 minutes between the 1st and 2nd repetition and 1 min between 2nd and 3rd repetition. We then rest 10-15 min before starting the 2nd set. Some times we run 25-25-24. It varies a bit.”
Gardner Performance Training
“In the past, I have used ‘Bleed Runs”. Bleed runs are a very dense and intense form of intensive tempo. Why are they called bleed runs? There are multiple reasons as I see it, but the big things are the runs “bleed” together and they hurt… a lot. I’ve heard intensive tempo described as a burn that progressively bubbles up your body. Bleed runs you’re cut pretty early, never really catch your breath, and it just keeps coming until the session is over. It could also be said that there is a lot of bleed between what qualities you are training here as velocities here can make it very close to speeds seen in more full rest special endurance 2 work.
I typically program it as 4-6x250m @ 90 seconds rest aiming for around 90 percent 400 pace. Learning how to relax, keep posture and run through fatigue is one of the most valuable skills in the long sprints. You’re not trying to blow kids up in workouts like this, but have them perform well in an extremely physiologically demanding environment.
I have used this (for folks that respond well to that type of work) with last workout falling 7-10 days out from champ meet with higher level high school 400-600.”
These are some fantastic examples from some great coaches. I want to learn more about what other coaches do to test fitness levels and make predictions for 400m runners. PLEASE post workouts that you use below. Do not criticize what works for others. Lets learn from one another. Share your knowledge.
Please follow mw on Twitter. I try to post workouts daily. My Twitter handle is @MarcMangiacotti
“Working the Dirt”
By Tony Veney
The 100 meter and 110 meter hurdle events must be thought of as sprint events, and not an event where you dump the slow kids. So don’t fill your hurdle crew with those young people who were not able to make your top three or four flat 100-200 meter sprinters. Since pure acceleration, acceleration, transition to top end speed, top end speed, and speed maintenance are the same for the flat and short hurdle races, specificity in training approach is key. Extensive analysis of good hurdling reveals:
- Acceleration does not end at the first hurdle, but continues through the 3rd-4th & 5th (around 30-45 meters). This should not be surprising since the same acceleration pattern for the flat 100 meters tops out around the same point in the race – sooner for less experienced sprinters).
- Stabilization of maximum velocity is extremely high through hurdles 6, 7, 8 and 9 (becoming more difficult as the race progresses). Speed endurance, more specifically rhythm endurance is well developed in more experienced hurdlers.
- Attacking the first 4 steps from the blocks with the same aggression one would see in the flat race is the set up for the hurdle take-off.
- Complete the last three strides before the hurdle with a more upright posture in order to run up to and through hurdle #1 quickly and powerfully. Avoid opening your stride, settling the hips (as in the high jump) causing the hips to drop just before the 1st hurdle. If the hips do settle, the likelihood of a trail or lead leg hit increases, or the fear of such contact will cause the hurdler to leap upward. Strides 6-8 should emphasize an increase in cadence much like the rhythm used when running between the hurdles.
- The attacking or “cut step” will refer to the trail leg foot. It will be this foot that will propel the hurdler up and through the barrier. The stride length of the cut step is shorter than the step before it so the foot can be placed under the center of mass. This foot placement forces the hurdler toward the hurdle without any settling or delay (also eliminating negative braking forces). This take-off technique requires an aggressive, lighter, but active ground contact. This is the movement that causes the greatest trouble for the younger hurdlers. The speed they are moving can be a little scary, so they put their cut step well in front of the center of mass to delay the take-off, making it feel more comfortable and gives them more time to get over the hurdle without hitting it (not knowing that by delaying the take-off, they are actually setting themselves up for a hurdle hit). Younger hurdlers lack the visual steering ability more experienced hurdlers have who can “take in” hurdles flying at them at 8.5-9.14 meters per second. My younger hurdlers often tell me the hurdle is coming at them “Too Fast.” You know what too fast is? First place!! Unfortunately, this setting up for the hurdle causes the hurdler to bounce over and/or float the barrier. This causes a series of events to take place that further compromise the hurdler’s ability to run a good race:
- Poor set up at take-off (braking occurs)
- You decelerate into the hurdle
- You project upward over the hurdle instead of through it.
- You have to wait for the Bell Curve-like (instead of a flatter path) path through the air to finish before you can begin running to the next hurdle and you cannot aggressively attack the touchdown.
- The touchdown is passive making you wait for the ground to come up and hit you (and it’s the Planet Earth!) causing the touchdown leg to collapse (flat footed) slowing the trail leg.
- The trail step reaches out in front of the center of mass producing three braking steps as the hurdler attempts to lunge to the next hurdle. The young hurdler can feel their loss of speed and the only way they know how of getting some speed back is to swing with big arms and a big stride. They have no idea this is the very thing that is making them run slower and slower.
- The hurdler, realizing they no longer have enough speed to get to the remaining hurdles must now decide to alternate (4 steps) or cut all the way down to five steps.
- Imagine all of these things happening because of one poorly set up cut step into the hurdle. An active landing as the hurdler hits the cut step will give the hurdler the speed they need to run over the barrier preserving as much of their speed as possible for the coming hurdles.
The second part of this paper will cover lead and trail mechanics. Good Hunting!