Interview with Stuart McMillan, Bobsled and UKA Sprint Coach

This is part 2 of the Freelap Friday Five Series, 2013 Edition. To review the 16 part 2012 edition, click here.

Part 1 was Matt Scherer, Professional Pacer-Rabbit.

Stuart McMillan has the unique experience of coaching at three Home Olympic Games: American athletes at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Canadians at the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Games, and British athletes at the 2012 London Summer Games.  The pressure must have been enormous!

Stuart is an accredited S&C and Sprints Coach and has over 20 years  of professional coaching to both professional and amateur athletes in a variety of sports with the focus being on power and speed development, namely Track & Field and Bobsled.

His resume is impressive… personally coached 55 Olympians who have won a combined 26 Olympic medals at 5 Olympic Games where he worked as part of NGBs in 6 countries, and have been part of and/or led ISTs in the United States, Canada and the UK. With the consolidation of Lee Valley and Loughborough HPC, Stuart is no longer with UKA.

Visit his Blog at www.mcmillanspeed.com.

His other 2 guest posts on this site includes Eccentric Strength and Indoor Track & Field.

It’s going to be tough to keep this down to 5 questions!

Friday Five is sponsored by Freelap Track and Field, a leader in electronic timing.

Interview with Stuart McMillan

Freelap Friday Five

Q1.  I want talk a bit about Bobsled (and Skeleton).  In the past, we’ve seen a lot of Decathletes changing to bobsled, but we’re seeing a lot of sprinters/hurdlers like Craig Pickering and Lolo Jones convert.   Do you think that is a reflection on how important speed and power  (and strength) type of training today’s sprinters?  Is there a big difference in bobsled sprint training, since the element of the push is critical?  for example, ground contact (on ice!) is much more important pushing a 210 Kg empty sled (on a 4-man)?  Sprinters aim for shorter ground contact with greater forces.

Stuart McMillan:  First of all, Jimson – thank you for inviting me to do this. I have enjoyed your website for years, and feel it is a fantastic source for coaches, athletes, and track and field lovers around the world. I admire your commitment, and truly appreciate your love for the sport. I’m honored to be included in this series – following up on the likes of Dan Pfaff, Henk Kraaijenhof, Dr. Mike Stone, Boo Schexnayder, etc. is humbling and a little nerve-racking… I’ll try not to embarrass myself!

As for your question on the cross-over between bobsleigh and sprinting – I think it’s probably more a reflection of the importance of speed to bobsleigh, to be honest – though I would like to touch on the growing need for strength and power in the sprints, also.

Firstly, there are three key differences in training between sprinters and bobsledders:

1) bobsledders need to be significantly bigger – it’s a gravity sport, therefore you want to maximize the amount of weight that is in the sled, and it’s generally better that the weight be in the athlete, and not the sled (i.e. a faster push-time will normally occur with heavier athletes pushing lighter sleds, rather than lighter athletes pushing heavier sleds. For example, Tianna Madison came out for the US Bobsled team this year, and while obviously having world-class speed, was just – at 60k – too small to be effective; they had to weigh the sled up with an extra 12k or so, making it significantly more challenging to get the sled going. Britain’s own Craig Pickering faces a similar challenge on the men’s side – at this moment, he is a little too light);

2) bobsledders (especially females and 2man specialists) need to be significantly stronger than sprinters. A 2man bob weighs over 170k, so to get it rolling requires a great deal of strength;

3) the typical bobsled push is less than 40m, so any considerable amount of time spent developing speed endurance, lactate qualities etc. is greatly reduced (in fact, rarely will any of my bobsledders ever run further than 80m); and

4) you’ll know this yourself Jimson as a former bobsledder coach – often overlooked is the amount of work that goes into bobsled outside of actually pushing and driving the sled. Bobsledders are their own ‘pit-crews’ – they are responsible for transporting the sled (everywhere – including all over Europe, the bottom of the track to the top, in and out of trucks, etc. – and remember, they weigh anywhere from 170k to 250k), and the rest of their equipment (bags, helmets, runners, tools, etc.), polishing runners (a surprisingly tiring task), and ‘enjoy’ early mornings, and late nights – the overall systemic load of a bobsled season is significantly higher than that of a track and field season. It’s not easy. Just ask Lolo. Or Craig.

As an aside, often over-looked is the physical abilities of the world-class bobsledder. Many of them are truly world-class athletes, and it’s becoming more competitive every year. I asked Craig Pickering this question last week in St Moritz – whether he was surprised by the quality of athlete on display on the World Cup level. He said that he was very much surprised. Most countries now have former world-class sprinters pushing for them, and those that were not are often pretty freaky in their own right: as I stated, they may lack the top-end speed, and speed endurance qualities of sprinters – but many are extremely close, and I’ll back many of them over the world’s best sprinters to 30m! For example, in the USA Bobsled Combine testing in September, 2010 Olympic Bronze Medallist and 2013 World Championship Silver Medalist pilot Elana Meyers ran 3.77 to 30m (lead foot 70cm behind the line, and timed with electronic timing system), while 2012 4x100m Olympic Gold Medallist Tianna Madison (who ran 7.00 over 60m last indoor season) ran 3.85, and world-class 100m hurdler Lolo Jones ran 3.87. Even through to 45m, Elana still had the faster time. And by the way, Elana can also full back squat 165k for a triple at a bodyweight of 80k! Many of the men have ran sub 6.60 60m times. Many more have power cleans in excess of 170k. And squats in excess of 250k. The sport is getting better and better…

Conversely, the day of the sprinter having weaknesses in their race and getting away with it because of their relative strengths in other areas are long over. It used to be that a Carl Lewis or a Donovan Bailey could spot the field a couple of meters at 50m – safe in the knowledge that their top-end speed would save them. This is no longer the case – if you are significantly behind at the half-way mark, your race is over. Everyone can start now. Everyone can split sub 6.45 to 60. And everyone can rep out 0.84 10m segments or quicker. So I would say that the sprinter with lesser relative power abilities – the ones who take just a little longer to get rolling – are now at a bigger disadvantage than ever before. All strength components are necessary. Dudes need to excel at all points on the force/velocity curve. [JIMSON’S NOTE: Hence the series on Eccentric Strength]

Q2.  Prior to London, you were overseeing both Dwain Chambers and Christian Malcolm’s training.  Since Dwain is a 60/100 sprinter, and CM’s better event is the 200m, did they do the same workouts?   Did one feed off the other on different workouts? Can you give us a typical speed endurance session?  (i.e. my classic is 4×30, then 60, 80, 100, 120, 150 with full recoveries)

Stuart McMillan: Firstly, Dwain is not a 60/100 sprinter. He is a 100m sprinter. There is no such distance in elite track and field as the 60m. It only exists as a point along the way to a 100m. 1m further than 59m, and 1m less than 61m. That’s it. This distance exists as part of this concept called ‘indoor season’. I don’t quite understand it; but what I do know is there is no such distance in the real track season – no one stops the race at 60m to hand out medals.

As for programming, they followed a very similar macro structure – i.e. the general organization of their programs was similar. The devil was in the details. I tend to view program organization at four depths (I borrow this concept quite liberally <and unapologetically> from Mladen Jovanovic). The first is the philosophy – what do you believe in? The second level is the plan – this includes all the components that are important within the coaches’ philosophy – the exercises, the distances, etc.. Third, is the periodization – the specific manner in which we organize the components. And finally, is the program – the details of the daily sessions. Each level involves differing levels of fixed, fluid, adaptive, and responsive programming, becoming increasingly fluid the deeper you go – while the first level (philosophy) is usually quite fixed, and will not change from athlete to athlete. The details of the daily program, however, can vary drastically, and is often quite fluid and adaptive. Adaptation prediction on a large scale is a losing proposition – the only way we can stay ahead is with constant monitoring, and effective and efficient tweaking. I try not to get too emotionally tied into my program; allowing myself the fluidity to tinker, and – to use a Nicholas Nassim Taleb principle – expose the athletes to ‘envelopes of serendipity’.

I’m also a big believer in developing an athlete’s strengths, and not spending too much time on their weaknesses (especially with more mature athletes – Christian was 31, and Dwain was 32 when I began working with them). It is important that the athlete never lose touch with what they are most comfortable with – most confident in. Dwain is a powerhouse – he needs to touch heavy weight…drag some heavy sleds…and accelerate out of blocks. A lot. He applies huge forces – and while this also becomes his greatest weakness (i.e. he relies on this ability even at top-speed, and therefore spends too long on the ground) – retarding its development will lead to a ‘loss in identity’. It is the main reason he runs fast. More importantly, it is the main reason he feels fast. Stray too far away from an athlete’s strengths at your peril – as they will quickly lose their mojo.

Christian, on the other hand, is an elastic sprinter. He needs to feel ‘bouncy’, so we often included exaggerated ‘bounce’ runs in his workouts, as well as a higher volume of elastic strength work, such as horizontal bounding. I would say that we were not entirely successful, and should have included quite a bit more volume in Christian’s program, as this proved to be his Achille’s Heel. His top-end speed was world-class; his ability to accelerate on a bend was world-class; his race tactics were world-class; but putting it all together consistently – in a race – remained elusive. Sometimes coaches can do a fantastic job of developing all the necessary individual components; sometimes athletes can feel confident in all these separate components; but if we don’t spend the appropriate time synthesizing them – the appropriate effort in stabilizing this synthesis – the jigsaw pieces will have a hard time fitting together. I look forward to Christian putting all the pieces together this summer with his new coach Rana Reider.

As for feeding off each other, we tried to have them run together as often as possible. Early-season sessions were more similar to later, competitive-season sessions, so this happened more in the winter than it did in the summer. Generally, I’m a big believer in guys running together in training though. We had other good sprinters in the group also (Marlon Devonish was a good training partner for Christian, while Mark Findlay was a good foil for Dwain), so it was very rare that anyone ever had to do a rep by themselves.

As for a typical speed endurance session: rarely will I include acceleration work, top-end speed work, and speed endurance work in the same session (although this happens more frequently as I attempt to stabilize these components later in the pre-competitive phase); At least earlier in the training process, I prefer to have a unifying theme for the session – i.e. the theme might be acceleration development: I would pair this with the types of qualities that are most necessary to develop effective acceleration (such as maximum strength). I would often pair speed endurance sessions with endurance horizontal bounding (60-80m scissor bounds or alternate-leg bounds), for instance. Sessions would vary greatly depending on the time of year, but I would say a 180, 150, 120 session would be my best indicator of 200m ‘race-readiness’. The order of the runs might change depending on what the athlete is feeling, what I am seeing in the warm-up, or the specifics  of what we might be working on.

Q3.  On changing coaches.  Dwain is now at Loughborough with a new coach, Rana Reider.  I wrote an article that if an athlete treated their training like a job, they would learn different skills from a coach, and then change jobs/coaches every few years!  (i.e. screw the loyalty!)  How was it “inheriting” an athlete with 10+ years of experience?  Of course, there’s the popular “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude?  What was the biggest thing you (and Dan) had to “fix”?

Stuart McMillan: Generally – in most cases – I agree. Rare is the situation where an athlete and coach will work together successfully over the course of more than 5 years. They usually tire of me sometime during the third year (and I usually tire of them sometime during the third month!). In the rare case, though, when the mojo is just right – where the athlete and coach develop and learn with each other together – we should ride that wave as long as possible. And it is in these situations where we often see the greatest performances.

For example, Tony Minichiello has coached Jessica Ennis since she was 12 years old. I’m sure they occasionally get on each other’s nerves, but there is an understanding there that neither will get from anyone else. It is essential to both of their successes.  Similarly, Usain Bolt has been with Glenn Mills since he was a youngster. Christine Ohurogu has been coached by Lloyd Cowan for years.

For myself, I coached American bobsledder for Steve Mesler for eight years, and he got better every year, as I feel I did a better job of coaching him every year. The relationship grew synergistically, as the whole became greater than the sum of the parts – it culminated in an Olympic Gold Medal in 2010 in Vancouver. Similarly, I have now coached Canadian bobsledder Kaillie Humphries for 6 years. Kaillie is just finishing up on the final touches to the most successful amateur sporting season in Canadian sport history – winning 11 of her last 13 races, including the 2012 and 2013 World Championships (as well as the 2010 Vancouver Games).

Schopenhauer, in his essay ‘On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual’, discusses seemingly random events in your life that in hindsight seem to be indispensable components of your success – a series of ‘happy accidents’ that while they are occurring do not seem to be linked, but upon reflection have come together to determine the very course of your life; everything links to everything else – as if plotted by a novelist – and it is within this ‘symphony’ where the greatest performances exist. The right athlete meets the right coach at the right time, and magic can happen….

This doesn’t happen inversely, however. It’s difficult to write your story on the fly; we can’t force this relationship. Athletes who bounce around too much are often searching for the magic pill. That magic workout. The magic relationship. From time to time, they find it; more often than not though, the ‘answer’ lies within – always the hardest place to look.

As for picking up athletes later in their careers:

‘Inheriting’ an athlete who has 10+ years of experience is very challenging; more so, when that athlete has some past semblance of success. It’s easier when the athlete has battled through those 10 years and not been very successful – a new program; a new philosophy; a new way – is a relatively easy sell. The buy-in is not difficult, since the athlete has consciously (or sub-consciously) become a little desperate. It’s a totally different story when you inherit athletes that have been successful. Their success is tied in – consciously or not – to what they did, and how they felt when they achieved that success. So it doesn’t matter whether a change in philosophy is appropriate or not – it becomes much more difficult…

The athlete’s entire athletic identity is wrapped up in the experiences they encountered when they achieved success. And the tricky part in dealing with these experiences – and trying to affect positive mechanical change – is that these ‘memories’ are often not stored consciously. They exist as a permanent (yet dynamic) part of their being – stored through mechanoreceptors in their connective tissue, through their enteric nervous system in their guts. How it is stored is affected by changes in movement, posture, mechanical force, and is an evolving and dynamic system that interacts with all other tissues influencing our organ systems in all manner of unpredictable ways.

Q4.  Are you a big fan of the 3 round format, instead of 4 for the 100m?  Looking back, Dwain ran 10.02 in the heats, followed by 10.05 in the SF and missing the final.   (Our lone Canadian, Justyn Warner suffered the same fate)  Man, 36 years ago, a 10.05 would win an Olympic Gold medal!   What could he have done differently, and what can first-timers learn from this, other than running sub-10 in the semi-finals?

Stuart McMillan: I actually preferred the 4 round format – and if you ask most athletes, they will say the same.  I think it’s a much fairer – especially when it comes to feeding into the Final. Dwain’s situation was slightly different.  He spend a majority of the spring and summer stressing over whether or not he was going to be able to compete at the Games, because of the BOA ban at the time.  He really wasn’t able to focus with full intent on competition until after the ban was lifted.  A great weight fell from his shoulders, and he began training again with a renewed purpose.  If you remember, he was probably not even the favorite to win UK Trials – Adam Gemilli was, having recently ran 10.05. Because of the surrounding stresses, Dwain was not competing very well, and spend most of the year running 10.2s and 10.3s. 

At the Holding Camp in Portugal, though, it was clear he was ready for a bit of a breakthrough.  He had some awesome sessions, and we knew he had a good chance of making the Final.  In the heat, he ran 10.02, easing up for the last 20m.  If this were a one-off race, he was capable of a 9.9. Now, if he had spent the spring/summer running 10.0s (as he had the previous year), this time would not have taken much out of him. 

Unfortunately, this was the fastest he had run all year – by a long shot – so it was always going to be difficult to come back less than 24 hours later and repeat it twice more.  He gave all he had in the semi, but it was not quite enough.  He was actually pretty good through 60 or 70m, but just ran out of gas.    I really don’t think his inability to run faster  (or  not making the final) had much to do with his training, directly.  It was solely down to the fact that a season-best run will take a little more out of an athlete than what people realize.  There is a reason why, when athletes run PBs or WRs, they struggle to back it up.  The stress of placing your body somewhere it has never been before is just immense. Donovan Bailey would tell me that any time he ran a sub10, he would book a ticket home – knowing that he would be pretty much toast for the next three weeks!

Bottom line on the 3 or 4 round debate: it really doesn’t matter – the best guy always wins.   The second best guy always comes second, and the third best guy always comes third.  History will forget the rest…

Q5. Last question on the toe-drag! (controversial subject)  I don’t teach it, and neither do you, but we see time and time again with Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and even Dwain using it.  I see the physics and logic behind it, but obviously, it’s not for everyone.  What do you think of it, and when is it “okay” to use it?  A long explanation is okay!

Stuart McMillan: I don’t think I need a ‘long explanation’. It’s stupid. Anyone who teaches it is stupid. A grade-school physics student will tell you it’s stupid. It is never ‘okay’ to use it.

Comments

  1. says

    I want a more elaborate answer to #5. I don’t agree with the toe actually dragging on the ground, because that would create unnecessary friction, however I do believe in a low heel recovery. Explain yourself Stuart!

  2. Fabien says

    Well I have a lot of questions of course :

    1) Is there some specific things you need to focus on when your train older athletes like athletes in the 30′s like Dwain or Christian. Obviously their nervous system is still on top, but there maybe a decrease in the elastic properties of the tendons and muscles for example. Would you train them the same way if they were 28. If not what would be the differences.
    2) I was intrigued by what you’ve said about Donovan. I tried different strategies when an athletes break a PB by a large amount but never been completely satisfied. I tried to put a week off sometimes completely off and sometimes add a recovery week to that week, I also tried the following sequence one week recovery, one week of general prep, one week of special prep and the back to a competition cycle. Do you have a strategy or some general guidelines to follow in such cases.

    3) Most coaches don’t have access to top therapist and most of the time the rehab program provided by the usual therapist are very inapropriate. They focus on one imbalance and create another one elsewhere. Most coaches (me included) don’t have the basic knowledge of how to deal with rehab at our humble level. I’m sure there’s a lot of thing we can do. Jimson put a lot of good infos about that. Do you have some insights to share with us.

    Note : I usually do a general prep (sand pit bound, callistenics, mobility) protocol with a lot of variety all muscle in whole directions and angles. It’s like polishing the mirror of a telescope if you just focus on one part or one direction it will never polished but if you just polish at random it will take care of asperities in a smooth way.

    4) What do you before you start working with a new athlete. Do you ask him his former training log, do you test him, do you spend a lot of time talking with him about what he expects, what is your philosophies and methods etc… Specifically if an athlete comes to you anxious and demotivates how do you deal with them?

    5) How do you involve an athlete in his training program.

    Bonus (rant) adressed to any canadian coach : I read your post about the indoor season and totally agree with you. I recently moved in Canada and I’m amazed how people get excited about the indoor season. There’s a lot of meets and people are so focused on the indoor season. Then I checked the summer calendar and noticed the summer season is very short, with few competitions and stop well just when the summer starts. I don’t know the other regions of Canada but the summer in Quebec is just awesome (30 degrees with 50% humidity). I don’t know who is responsible for this calendar but it is just plain stupid, it has to be changed.

    • says

      @Fabien:
      Firstly – your questions involve quite detailed answers, and I don’t really have the time to respond to them all properly here. Keep an eye on my blog at http://www.mcmillanspeed.com, and I will address them in more detail at a later date.
      In the meantime, I will briefly discuss each one:

      1. We must understand that the athlete is a living, dynamic system. As all athletes are different, and should be treated as such, so should the same athlete be treated differently throughout their careers. Tissue properties change, hormone responses change, psychology changes, – everything changes – we can’t fight this. And we need to coach in this way. With program design, we use a combination of research, past experiences, observation, and experimentation to guide us. This is a continuous-dynamic process. Yes – generally – we may see a decrease in elastic properties, but we also may see the opposite. If we focus on what we should see, then we may miss what we actually do see. Often we make a plan a few weeks or months from what is actually happening; if we become emotionally attached to that plan, it will be difficult to respond when we see something different.
      2. Nothing specific…I think it depends on the dude, and the level of expertise. An 11flat sprinter who improves his PB by a tenth is not going to need the same amount of recovery as a 10flat sprinter who improves his PB by a tenth. The systemic stress is not comparable. Donovan needed a few weeks…he didn’t go into this process knowing that – he learned this through experience….others may need much less. I would not encourage a one-size-fits-all response to this situation.
      3. First of all, I would encourage all young coaches who are serious about their craft to learn as much as they can about therapy, and – if appropriate – begin working on your athletes immediately. Experience is the best teacher here. Find a mentor – read as much as you can – and get stuck in! Ignorance is not an excuse. If you can’t find a good therapist…if your athletes can’t afford a good therapist…then do it yourself! If it is an important part of the process – of the development of the athlete (and in my philosophy, it is) – then we need to find a way to get it done. Until we can practice at a more elite level, self-therapeutic means are essential. Athletes need to take responsibility for their own health; if they’re not stretching, doing hydro-therapy, rolling, self-massaging, etc., then they are not worthy of your time and energy.
      4. Depends…with some I do; with other, I don’t. Depends on the maturity level of the athlete – how well he understands the training process. How well he understand his own unique adaptation responses. Some enjoy being an active part of the decision-making. Others just want to show up at the track, and be told what to do. Getting to know the athlete as an individual is important, and probably precedes understanding him as an ‘athlete’.
      5. Generally, the older and more experienced the athlete is, the more I involve him in the process. Training design becomes much more of a ‘discussion’. We will formally meet at the beginning of the year, and discuss the ‘four Ps’ that I refer to in the interview. The first ‘P’ – the philosophy – won’t change. If the athlete doesn’t agree with your philosophy, then it’s best to shake hands immediately, and wish him the best of luck with someone else. The second ‘P’ – the plan – may involve a little input from the athlete (for example, if the athlete has had a lot of prior success – and is emotionally tied – with a certain workout), but for the most part, this is still dictated by the coach, and is quite fixed. The third ‘P’ – the periodization – is also not very negotiable. The coach is the expert – not the athlete – the coach is the one who has spent thousands of hours pouring over various sport science texts and articles – the coach is the one who has ‘experimented’ with hundreds/thousands of other athletes…so the manner in which you ’periodize’ your program should be a fairly fixed part of your philosophy. The fourth ‘P’ – the program – is the one which is the most fluid; the one that can have more input from the athlete. With some athletes, I will just dictate a theme, and the athlete will fill in the details as he sees fit. With others, I will prescribe an outline, and maybe some loading parameters. With others, there will be no discussion whatsoever – again, this is all very variable, and depends on a myriad of things – differing from athlete to athlete, and even from block to block with the same athlete.

      • Fabien says

        Many thanks. I really love your answers. Can’t wait to read more on your blog. I love answer number 3 particularly. Could you feed us with some references and tell us how you managed to learn about those things. Thanks again.

        • Jimson Lee says

          RE: Massage. I think ALL coaches should learn how to massage as it does cut the cost of a travelling therapist. I am not a RMT, but I never had an athlete say “no” to a massage after a hard workout or after a long overseas flight. Even a post race rub-down, they never say “no”. The only thing I am wary of is the pre-race massage, and I am always afraid to go to hard. Maybe we can get Gerry Ramogida or Wilbour Kelsick or Garfield Crooks to give some insight on “massaging for dummies” guidelines. Just get some oil and rub!

          • Rogier Ummels says

            @ Jimson, i’m not sure that Stuart means “massage” when he speaks about therapy. When i was at Lee Vally seeing Stuart, Gerry, Andy and Dan working they used a lot of Active Release Technics (ART) and other soft tissue or fascia manipulation techniques. Also a lot of work on adressing joint centralisation and joint kinematics: Making sure hip, talar joint and other are well in position, aligned and move well. Also very much attention for small pelvic and lumbosacral ligaments.

            For the “massage” part they had a really nice lady for that kind of work :)

            By the way: we can discuss the effect of massage after a hard work out. Just let the lactic acid or other metabolic products of the work out stay in and let it do the work you want it to do. I never do that with the athletes i train. Same thing pre race.

          • Jimson Lee says

            @Rogier, believe me, if I could afford to bring my own soft tissue ART therapist, I would! But sometimes, you just have to make do what you have, so as a coach, all I can attempt to do is massage therapy without damaging the goods. By the way, back in Vancouver, Gerry was my therapist. The track circle is really small.

  3. Jon says

    @Jimson I have to say that this is one of favorite interviews that I’ve read on your site. I wanted to know what you thoughts on sprinters deciding to go down the route of bobsledding? I have my opinions but I want to yours

    • Jimson Lee says

      @Jon, Bobsledding has 2 traits. (1) It’s mentally tough with the cold weather, the travel & food, early mornings getting your sled up, transporting sleds, and not forgetting equipment! You can’t get an ‘American breakfast’ in Eastern Europe, so you better be flexible! And if your sled tips, you have to be mentally strong on the next run to forget about that last accident! (2) You should be big, as well as fast and strong. I was over 85Kg in my track days, too big for 400m, but skinny guys have to pack in the pounds, preferably muscle that translate to speed and power. If you meet both of these criteria, I am all for Bobsledding. But don’t expect the Bobsled federation to take washed-up track athletes. Those days are over (unless you will make a good Bobsledder!). As Stu said, the sport is getting better and better. (Just like Rugby 7.. these guys would make the best 400/800m guys.. highly conditioned, good speed, etc)

      • Jon says

        @Jimson I’m not a expert on bobsledding so my comments are just opinions. I know there has been a history of sprinters trying bobsledding with varying degrees of success. Recently they seemed to be a quite a few with Lolo Jones trying here hand successfully. I think it might be a good thing for her to stick with it and make the permanent move over.

        GB Craig Pickering is trying his hand at it and he has his own reasons for doing so but I’m not sure if its really for the ones that he says about being jaded by what is going on in UKA now rebranded as British Athletics. It could be quite possible if he didn’t have recent injury problems and was more successful on the track that he wouldn’t consider bobsledding.

        Gary Anderson who I think is the performance director for bobsledding over her in the UK apparently has started he has a shopping list of sprinters he would like to see take up bodsledding.

        • Jimson Lee says

          @Jon, if I was a Bobsled coach, I, too, would go after “big” sprinters, but I would prefer them earlier in their careers. I would also do my due diligence and do a personality test, as the last thing you want are “complainers”. Bobsled is a hard sport, and it’s not for everyone.

          Stuart’s 30m split numbers from the females was an eye opener for me. The sport is getting highly specialized.

  4. Chris says

    Like Derrick, I want a reason for the answer Stu gave to question #5. If you say something is stupid, you have to back that up with an explanation. The physics of keeping the the foot close to the track for the first few strides makes a lot of sense to me. It gets the foot back on the track faster, which means more force application over a given period of time. Why does this not make sense to you?

  5. Fabien says

    I’m really puzzled by all the buzz caused by the toe drag. You can have low heel recovery without it. Look at Jason Gardener start for example : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvPuT4nXnY8

    If you look at Bolt or Asafa’s start, their start are very orthodox 45 degrees angle out of the block, shin angle increases by 5 or 7 degrees every step etc… There is just this toe drag on which everybody is focusing. Basically except some freak of nature (or maybe chemistry) they all have the same start : 45 degrees angles, torso aligned with the leg, shin angle etc. People shouldn’t be focus on what a particular athlete is doing but what the bests have all in common. And that didn’t change for a long time. It’s always a 45 degree angle out of the block etc (I repeat myself I know)… It is the same thing people were doing 10 or 20 years ago. You just need to adapt it to the strength and power output of your athletes. And for those who are not strong enough, get out of the block at a 50 or 55 degree angle.

    I don’t like this kind of particularity and don’t understand how certified coaches can use this kind of thing on their athletes. Cause then you see all kind of weirdness around you leading to injuries. I have a list of weird things young peoples that I saw last week, are doing :
    -the toe drag of course,
    -chin down and staying low, then the torso of one of the athlete was parallel to the ground, had a huge breaking at the hips and was kind of bouncing up and down during the acceleration phase. He ended up his 20 meters with a torso parallel to the ground but had to adjust it along the way cause he was naturally raising and he force it back to a low position.
    -Another one tried to imitate Gatlin so he mimick huge lever at the arms, very open angle at he elbow and kind of locked in a 90 degree position or so. He has to much front side mechanics and his shoulder and hip were ondulating way too much in the horizontal plane. Of course he was complaining his armstring was painful.

    I don’t understand why their coaches don’t correct those biomechanical atrocities right away (they are level 4 coaches so I’m sure they know it’s wrong). Concerning the low heel recovery, I really believe it’s a detail. The rational behind it is that your leg will get back quicker to the ground. Well but If your rear leg is not fully extended what did you earn. Full extension of the hip and posture are far more important and should be the focus. Also the speed at which your leg recover can be extremely fast no matter the height of recovery because you shorten a lever. Think about the fast leg drill or the skip for distance. During a skip for distance the radial speed of your tight is even faster than while sprinting at top speed. Low heel recovery is consequence of the way you flex the free leg and extend your support leg. If you have a powerfull posterior chain you’ll have a low heel recovery on the first few steps no matter. If you work with a sled you will see most of your athletes having a low heel recovery cause the have the time to apply enough force to the ground and so it becomes more or less automatic as soon as their pushing the ground and have a good posture. And when you cue your athlete to step over the opposite ankle it’s not to have a low heel recovery but to have your leg in a proper position to apply force to the ground.

    Sorry for being so long but those things get on my nerves.

  6. Fabien says

    I have other questions for stuart If I may :

    1) How do you compare the european way of organizing a micro cycle vs the US way of doing it. Roughly in Europe people tend to do speed/plio in the morning then light metabolic training in the after noon like general strength for example, the next day they do a metabolic track session like tempos and in the afternoon weight training etc… In the US they do all neuromuscular themes on one day and they alternate with metabolic training.

    2) Most amator can train only once a day or less. What’s the best way to organize a microcycle for those. Would you squeeze what you would do for a professional athletes within 2 hours by reducing the volume or would you do otherwise.

    3) what is the importance of hypertrophy for power T& F power athletes depending on their event. Is there easy guidelines to follow on how to train it.

  7. Rogier Ummels says

    I like this interview a lot! Compliment for Jimson for the questions and posting it here and to Stuart for some great explanations, insights and lines! I appreciated Stuart for his knowledge but most of all for his openness and willingness to share. Thats why young hungry coaches like me can learn.

    Also i’d like to line out the first sentences of the interview where Stuart is thankful and respectful to other coaches. I appreciate and admire his down to earth and humble mentality not every elite coach has.

    And about the “toe drag” discussion. Im not sure an athlete has to be in contact with te ground, but i like the low movements of the limb. Like Dr. Ralph Mann said: “In the air you can’t apply force”. His data show that the elite sprinters are quicker and have an higher frequency in the first steps then the good/average sprinters. When you are quicker on the ground you probably will be able to produce force sooner. So the bottomline is in my opinion that a low heel recovery is what you are looking for to be quick, with or without a toe drag.

    Maybe the mechanical development/change explains the improvement in start/acceleration time related to the Lewis and Bailey era where you could afford to are a little bit in behind (like Stuart is putting together above), and not only due to strength/power levels.

    So far! Rogier

  8. says

    been reading Jimson’s site since the early days and I keep coming back because of interviews and subsequent posts and questions like these. Great work Jimson (et al) and you’ll be pleased to hear that I am back in training and even though slightly younger than you, will find the time to meet you on a track somewhere!

    • Jimson Lee says

      @Giuseppe , agreed, I hope to see you racing in the UK or Torino/Turin this August at the 2013 WMA.

  9. says

    Where can I find a list of Bobsled athletes and their 60m personal bests?

    I’m trying to figure out which sport produces he fastest athletes. Bobsledding seems like it but I need data. Thanks, great article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>