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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.