>> This article was written by Jim Hiserman, author of the latest book Developing Distance Runners: Integrating Neural & Metabolic Training Methods
In reading the latest Freelap Friday Question and Answer Blog I noticed that John O’Malley, a successful high school distance coach in the Chicago area (Sandburg High School) mentioned using maximum speed sprints or short accelerations up a steep hill (lasting less than 10 seconds) as a tool for RESTORATION AND RECOVERY if used on recovery days.
This is a great way to inject the needed speed development work into the distance runners weekly training. By sequencing harder load days (racing, interval work, hard tempo runs, etc.) and “speed and explosive strength” days the latter will also provide the benefit of stimulating the right hormonal secretions to better recover from the day before.
Remember, fatigue from the hard load distance training or racing induces METABOLIC FATIGUE so application of NEURAL training, such as high speed, short sprint work and explosive/reactive type exercises the next day will draw from a different energy system while promoting hormone responses beneficial to greater recovery and adaptation responses.
Many coaches would consider this more in the line with developing speed for a kick at the end of a mile or two-mile race if done at the right time of the season BUT… this Neural work can help produce mild to moderate levels of lactate which stimulates growth hormone responses that result in assisting in the physical restoration of the athletes. What is even more intriguing might be that it can also be done AFTER 3k to 5k pace interval training to achieve the same type of recovery benefits.
In the same manner, use of a specific mode of CIRCUIT TRAINING seems to have the same result with the added benefit of targeting general, elastic/reactive, explosive and postural strength gains while eliminating the repetitive action of running that, over time, may result in repetitive injury.
This might seem odd but if you consider that two different energy systems are being utilized here, Metabolic for interval work or distance race and then Neural for sprint/acceleration and circuit work used after or on the next day for enhancing recovery and developing speed and strength variables.
Many coaches have found that using the appropriate amount of sprints/ accelerations up a hill or specific types of circuit work will not add to Metabolic fatigue but CAN provide the Neural benefits of speed, mechanical efficiency and reactive strength (for active foot strikes) development while also mildly increasing lactate levels that will serve to stimulate the release of growth hormone without the need for it to be utilized for the activity.
Indeed, O’Malley states that “The positive hormonal and chemical production for explosive activity (Neural), without inducing additional fatigue (Metabolic fatigue), can result in better recovery.” He theorizes that it is a tool that can be used effectively by a distance coach trying to balance volume, speed and recovery in extreme ways.
It is refreshing to find O’Malley’s view on recovery activities, like his example of replacing the traditional “20 minute Cooldown Run” after a heavy load (race or interval workout) with short gear shifts while running, or a fartlek. He states that “with this you get them to fire neurologically, get them to reinforce good technique while fatigued and get them to be attentive to the task.” It is his belief that his runners must be constantly connecting in fast, efficient neural ways all the time although not the kind of work “that buries kids.”
It has always seemed odd to me that in developing young distance runners many coaches do not see that the development of Speed Reserve is relevant to ANY DISTANCE from 200 meters to the Marathon.
For me, I would prefer the Speed Development work be done the day after a hard distance load with the use of a short 12’ Circuit to end the hard load distance workout session. The primary reason for this is that MORE running, even if it is fartlek, short sprints/accelerations or hill sprints that can be of benefit in eliciting hormonal responses beneficial to recovery, still adds to using the same repetitive running action of the legs.
By using an exercise circuit to attain the recovery benefits, coaches reduce the repetitive action of the running movement after running workouts BUT are able to attain the explosive, reactive/elastic and general strength benefits of Neural exercises for recovery, speed, strength and mobility improvements.
End of Part 1
My recent publication, “Developing Distance Runners”, provides a more thorough background on both Neural and Metabolic Training methods and how to structure these types of training in sequences that allow for maximum adaptation and development as well as chapters devoted to other related topics such as: Posture and Running Mechanics, Determining Individual Running Paces, Monitoring Recovery-Stress Balance for Performance and others.