A lot of people think Bud Winter’s methodologies are outdated and obsolete, but let me remind you that BOTH Stephen Francis and Glenn Mills were students of Bud Winter several decades ago. Even today, Dennis Johnson talks about him, and his training methods.
The list of coaches that Bud Winter influenced is enormous. Just check the testimonials from his book, So You Want to be a Sprinter.
The list now includes the coach of 400m World Champion Amantle Montsho from Daegu 2011. She ran 49.56 in that race, and has run 49.54 this year. She is probably the favorite along with Sanya Richards-Ross for London 2012, but Montsho’s loss to Christine Ohuruogu in the last London Diamond League in heavy rain may say otherwise.
Amantle Montsho’s secret?
I’ve always felt the 400 meters is a rhythm event. Yes, you need speed and speed endurance, but rhythm is key. See John Smith’s 400 Meters Rhythm Workout for an example of a workout.
Below is a great profile of Amantle Montsho from the NY Times. (click on the link for the full article… it‘s a great three-part series about Amantle Montsho, who may become the first athlete from Botswana to win an Olympic medal)
Bud Winter’s best seller Relax and Win will be updated in the fall of 2012.
400 World Champion Amantle Montsho
A Surprising Key: Relaxation
“They’re approaching the finish line and need one last surge, and they literally cannot do it because they’re right on that edge and completely paralyzed,” said Simons, the team physician at Notre Dame.
It is here that relaxation, perhaps counterintuitively, can help win the race.
Michael Joyner, a physiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said that runners who tensed up, especially in the arms, moved more slowly. It is known as a “bear jumping on your back” or “turning to stone.” The tension makes a runner less efficient biomechanically; she expends the same amount of energy but does not travel as far.
Some coaches and doctors, including Joyner, instruct runners to let their eyes droop during a race, hoping that if they relax their face, the rest of the body will follow.
“If you look at her face when she finishes, her face is super relaxed,” Joyner said about Montsho. “She’s not tightening up her jaw, and that’s very helpful.”
The work of the renowned track coach Bud Winter is often cited by coaches trying to relax runners. Winter created a list of relaxation drills based on his experiences examining fighter pilots in World War II. The pilots who performed better in fights were those who relaxed. Winter developed the concept of the relaxed face and jaw and developed skipping and high-knee drills that are used by most sprinters and distance runners today.
Part of relaxation is rhythm. Koffi, Montsho’s coach, has her jump rope and run up staircases at least once a week. Hurdles and high-knee exercises, like those pioneered by Winter, are also a mainstay. Koffi also believes in using humor during practice, often yelping as he cheers runners up the stadium staircases.
“They need to laugh,” he said. “They need to relax.”
Koffi’s methods of measurement are far from precise. Occasionally, he counts Montsho’s strides in a race, but he spends more time concentrating on Montsho’s strength in the weight room and form on the track, critiquing her stride more in the manner of a ballet coach. When reviewing video with Montsho, he makes comments on the height of her knees, the chop of her arms, the relaxation of her face. If her form is good, she will complete the race in fewer, wider strides, he said.
“That upper body is important,” he said. “If she practices well, she competes well.”