Last Updated on April 18, 2013 by Jimson Lee
I get a lot of emails from readers ranging from age 9 to 60 years old asking for advice. So while this article is geared more towards the Masters sprinter, it could be an “a-ha” moment for current athletes as well as a guide for the beginner or comeback athlete.
As a Masters athlete and Coach, I can summarize some of the challenges for the Masters sprinter.
Here are my top 3 tips for speed training:
- preventing injuries
- having a coach or a training partner at your level (or a bit better than you)
- work on strengths, work on weaknesses, or BOTH? that is the question!
What used to take 2 weeks to recover from an injury in high school, or 4 weeks as an Open athlete, you can expect to take 6-8 weeks or more for an injury at the Masters level. The healing process just slows down with age. Don’t ask me why. Common ones are hamstring pulls, Achilles tendon, among other ailments. (You can read the ongoing series on hamstring pulls and Achilles tendon)
I’ve always stated winning at Masters track is a game of attrition. Those who are still surviving getting into the blocks of a Championship Final has an equal chance of winning the race. Even Willie Gault can collapse in the last 20 meters of a 200 meters (see video here from 2011 WMA, courtesy of Ken Stone). You can’t win if you don’t line up.
And we know the 3 golden rules of getting injured:
- when you are tired or over-trained (i.e. doing too much, too fast, too soon)
- when there is an imbalance and you are compensating (the best compensators will win)
- when your mind wants to do something the body doesn’t want to do
So my main advice to Masters athletes: DON’T GET INJURED!
You have to just watch volume and intensity, but a freak injury or medical illness can still occur. Good thing you still have your day job.
Get a Coach and a Training Partner at your level
Because most Masters sprinters hold full time jobs, our training time window is limited. And because of this, you are often forced to train alone. How do you coach yourself?
As well, you should strive for a training partner at your level even if they are half your age!
With the advent of web technology and video cameras, it’s easy to record yourself for speed training with a tripod and watch it later or upload to your coach for analysis. There are even software programs like Dartfish. I find slowing down your video (even at 50% speed) with iMovie or Windows Movie Maker a handy tool.
But timing is another matter.
If you’ve seen my archaic timing system on this past article, I managed fairly well over the years.
But what has made a huge difference over time is the use of my Freelap Timing System.
Whether it’s a 30 meter 3-point start, or a fly-in 30 meters, Freelap takes the guesswork out of my timing. What is neat to see is when I really try hard and push to run fast, my times are crap. But when I relax, and let the legs do the talking and everything flows during speed training, those are when the good times appear. And there’s no argument. The watches are very accurate.
There is no better feeling of confidence than being all warmed up, doing 2 or 3 fly 150m at 98% speed without straining, looking at your stopwatch, and saying, “Yeah, I’m ready. It’s show time” (in a Jim Carey tone of voice).
Work on Strengths and Weaknesses?
Should you work on your strength? Or weakness? Or both?
If you break down a 100m sprint, there are really 3 basic components to focus on as far as speed training goes:
- acceleration development
- max velocity (top end speed)
- speed endurance
When I was in College, I had a fairly good top end speed and speed endurance. I also had good flexibility, as I could do the forward splits. My PB was 7.16 and 10.92 for the 60m and 100m respectively. That meant I covered the last 40m in 3.76 sec or 0.94 sec average 10m splits. Considering Usain Bolt 10m splits are in the 0.82 or 0.83 range (Asafa Powell was in the 0.84 and 0.85 range), I think that’s pretty good (compared to my first 60)!
So, it’s obvious that my 60m time really sucks. For a guy who could bench 315lb (140kg) and Squat 4 x 45lb plates on each side, yes, a 7.16 sucks. My acceleration development really needed work, but my coach Dennis Barrett decided to focus on speed endurance (and strength endurance) which was my strength (at least in the GPP and SPP phases).
But should I really spend my efforts on shaving one or two tenths at the start (acceleration), when I can slice a full second at the end of my race (speed endurance)?
Yes, I would love to brag a sub-7 6.96 60m time, but a 21.99 and 47.99 meant more to me being a long sprinter. (I got close.. 21.98 and 48.36)
The point I am trying to make is should you work your on strength, or weakness? Or both? Something has to give. You only have so much energy “in the tank”. And we know too much speed training can tax your central nervous system.
If you look at the Douglas Kalembo’s M50 WR of a sub 50 400 meters… he has a really crappy start. Sorry Douglas, this is not meant to be criticism, only constructive criticism. Your performance is an inspiration to us all, assuming you really are 50 years old and not 40 (heh heh, just kidding)
Today, I believe acceleration development must be done 48 weeks a year (based on a 4 week break… 48 + 4 = 52). Whether you train long to short or short to long, acceleration development must be done 48 weeks a year.
In Douglas’ case, he has superior speed endurance (plus speed reserve?) for the last 350m of his 400m race. I wonder if he worked on acceleration development, could he run 47 for 400 meters?
In Part 2 , we’ll look at some Training and Workout Examples for speed training. If you know my Blog by now, you know I’m leading up to something.
Thanks Jimson. Another solid piece. Very relative to every sprinter who will incorporate pre-planning into their sprinting program for the latter years.
Thank you for the nice article. I learn so many useful things from the articles on your website.
As a master (age 47) jumper (and sprinter) I can say it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to find a training partner at my level. There are almost no other master sprinters and jumpers in town (if there are any, they are probably 70 years old…).
The younger athletes don’t want to mess up with some “old crazy bastards”.
Maybe I have to move to live and work in another town with more master athletes.
Your “main advice to Masters athletes: DON’T GET INJURED!” is absolutely correct. But also very difficult to follow. On masterstrack.com (Ken Stone’s website) one guy commented: “The only thing that gets easier with age are injuries”. Also correct.
Example: During a training session in August I twisted (not really sprained) my ankle during a multi-jump. Now it’s October, and it’s not 100 % healed yet. (note: meanwhile, in September, I took part in a competition).
At that age injuries are healed VERY slowly, maybe 5-10 times more slowly than at a young age. One of the precautions: One should increase his training workload very gradually (max 10 % per week – volume or intensity, not both at the same time).
As you say, compensating is one reason for injuries. So, it’s very important to train and develop ALL the muscles, energy systems, etc.
Also, at this (or more advanced) age it’s difficult to realize when (if) you are tired. You can realize it too late. A survey showed that after several days of full rest some master athletes realize how tired they are in fact. So, it’s not good to push ourselves too hard; we have to alternate hard, easy and rest days, etc.
A spiritual Master advised: “Don’t spend prematurely the energies of your body”. Listen to your body. And don’t aim at records. Health is more important than any records.
Jimson, you talk about relaxing and straining here. You ran faster when relaxing. What can you tell me about this? How much faster do you run when relaxing, based on your freelap
Jimson Lee says
@Paul, I don’t have specific times for 150m, as I haven’t started training on a Mondo track yet, but for 30m, I see between a 0.1 and 0.2 sec difference.
@Paul – In the Bud Winter book, he discusses relaxing and some techniques. he also explains some drills that people can try and time themselves when relaxed and see the time difference. Its a good book.
@Jimson; good article, I look forward to part 2. You mentioned earlier how hard it is for masters sprinters to find a training partner, add this to 3 kids and workings shifts as a police officer its near impossible. You mentioned how these days runners can upload videos of themselves for the coach to provide feedback, as i dont have a coach…..well, have you considered being an ‘e’ coach for runners like me and charging (moderately of course)to offer distance coaching and feedback…I would be keen as my self coached theory comes from this site, bud winter book and mike smith’s sprinting book plus the odd article in athletics weekly. Let me know…..
Jimson Lee says
@Doug, yes I have thought about e-coaching, as well as premium memberships, etc. I think by keeping this site free, it gathers a larger audience than the elite few who can afford the $200 monthly membership fee, for example. That being said, we can do a pilot study where I’ll analyze your video (pro bono) but the video and comments will be made public? This way, everyone can learn from it? Just a thought…
paul graham says
Thanks Doug! What book is better – ‘relax and win’ or ‘so you want to be a sprinter’?
Jimson Lee says
@Paul, funny, I am editing and updating the new (updated) Relax and Win. It should be ready late 2011 or early 2012.
@Paul, depends if youre solely interested in relaxing for any event/sport or keen to incorporate that to sprinting, if the latter, get ‘so you want to be a sprinter’. the drill are all based on running relaxed so you do so naturally when needed. he suggest things like clenching fists and running tight compared to relaxed open hands, relaxed aw, neck e.t.c and time the difference
yeah, I would be up for that, if it helps me drop a tenth or two of my short sprints, I wouldn’t care who saw the vid’ or comments…..
Jimson Lee says
@Doug, send me an email at email@example.com and we can figure a way to get your video over to me. I think a blog article on a case study would be neat, similar to the one I critiqued for Usain Bolt, side view, slow motion.
paul graham says
Thanks for that Jim. Cant wait to read it!
By the way, Gerry Ramogida gave me some ART techniques to try, and we now have no more sciatica problems. He also referred an ART teacher in my local area, who helped also. Smart guy!