Old School Training vs. New School Training

It’s the end of July; your summer run training doesn’t have to hit peak volume yet, and that applies to everyone, regardless of what fall race(s) you’re training for.  Yes, most of you are running more miles, or at least longer long runs, than you did in the spring, but summer training can still place a bit of priority on ST and XT while the run mileage settles into a nice steady level (this is not a bad thing).  Some of you are getting over some minor injuries, some of you are dealing with hectic summer travel schedules (or kids’ schedules), and others are trying new types of training (including running form), any of which won’t necessarily be the case for the fall.  With that in mind, remain patient and be mellow.  

I address this topic in more detail in another Blog titled “Time”.  So, when considering whether you still have enough time to train for your peak fall race, the answer for most of you is “yes."  I am contractually forbidden from telling a lie.

On the topic of mileage, a simple Amazon search on run books will show the increasing popularity of the training method dedicated to running faster on less mileage.  This isn’t a new strategy; it’s just that it’s taken a while to be embraced by the run community against the grain of the “more mileage means more fitness” mentality that has dominated for so many years.  U.S. pro runners learned that more isn’t always better, as our top times plateaued for a loooong time while we tried the more-mileage approach.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world kept getting faster.  "More mileage means more fitness” is true, but only to a degree, or else we’d all be running 100-mile weeks in order to improve.  To tie this back to the first paragraph, put that extra time into ST, XT, PT, massage, and more ST, especially in the summer (it mirrors the winter in that sense).  

There’s plenty of time for us to hit key long runs in the fall and increase the total run volume/mileage too at that point.  Yes, my goal is to get athletes to do more running (up to a point), but I’m not hell-bent on it as a coach.  If you can’t stand on 1 leg for 30 seconds without wobbling, then trust me, more mileage isn’t your #1 priority (insert plug for ST here ____).  

“More mileage” is old school, just like “weight lifting”, as the latter has been replaced by “strength training.”  "Weight lifting" dominated for years because it was new and took up lots of space in local gyms, so why wouldn’t you do “weight lifting,” right?  Now with the popularity of Pilates, TRX and functional training, we have better ST.  In sum, don’t be old school, and don’t stress about mileage.  I’d rather a runner be more obsessive and neurotic about even pacing during track workouts and/or perfect ST form.

Keep enjoying your summer, the fall isn’t close enough yet, so keep your fall races out of your head and live in the moment.  

To use a Caps metaphor, this means it’s still not quite time to Unleash The Fury! 

Train hard!


P.S.  Next year is the Caps’ year.


Plyometric Training ("plyos")

Plyometrics (“plyos”) are typically a series of jumping and bounding movements of which the aim is to increase the strength of the joints, tendons and ligaments in the legs, as well as to increase muscular power, as differentiated from strength.  The difference between strength and power is the speed of the movement, with powerful movements being performed more quickly.  A plyometric exercise is a quick, powerful movement using the spring-like action of the tendons.  Jumping rope and sprinting can be considered plyometric exercises, with jumping rope being a great option for an extended warmup prior to a strength training (ST) workout.

Power has been associated with improvements in running economy (RE).  Studies have appeared in the scientific literature demonstrating that eliminating portions of endurance training in favor of explosive activities or adding plyos to an existing running program for six to nine weeks can improve RE and performances in short-distance racing without needing to see an accompanying change in VO2max.  These benefits are evident regardless of ability, gender or age. 

These results are best understood in that any time a muscle group becomes stronger and more powerful, fewer muscle fibers are recruited to perform the given task, thus allowing the muscle group to have more fibers in reserve for continued work.  Basically, this means that less energy is used to cover the same distance.  Since the discovery of this concept, it has been shown that power training, not just ST, will lead to enhancements in running economy.  Of course there is no substitute for running if one wants to run faster and farther; however, during peak racing season, as the run volume gradually decreases, plyos are another option for maintaining high-intensity workouts (in addition to speed workouts).

A plyos program is typically done one or two times a week and is based on the total number of foot contacts, or “touches.”  For beginners, the recommended range is between 60 - 100 touches for a few weeks, before progressing toward 100 touches for a few more weeks and then beyond (capping the total touches at 140).  Reps can be performed as double-leg exercises (both feet jump, or contact the ground, at the same time) or as single-leg exercises, although single-leg plyos should be reserved for experienced athletes.  Sometimes additional equipment can be used to add variety and difficulty into these workouts, like small hurdles and boxes. 

Plyos are a great compliment to ST and can even be done as a warm-up on lower body ST days, but don’t underestimate how strenuous these exercises can be.  For many of the exercises, it’s not necessarily the muscles that are the target for strengthening; rather, it’s the joints, tendons and ligaments.  With that said, these aren’t always muscle-burning exercises or workouts, so don’t mistakenly take that mentality into a plyos workout.  With that said, before starting any plyos training, I recommend completing at least six weeks of general ST in order to strengthen these body parts that incur more stress when performing various jumping and hopping exercises.  I recommend plyos as long as an athlete is familiar/comfortable with jumping exercises in general.  Do not do plyos unless there is 100% certainly on the landing mechanics for each exercise.  Similar to how I frame a discussion on proper ST technique, if you couldn’t teach jumping and landing mechanics to a small group, then your plyos form probably isn’t ideal.

Train hard!