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Now, if you are past your “senior” or prime days (i.e. age 20-30) of competitive racing, and are even considering a masters comeback, read his guest article below.
You can also read some of my older articles written over the past 5 years:
- Making the Comeback: Injuries, Illness, and Time Off
- Speed Training Tips (Part 1)
- Masters Track is like a Car: It’s Mileage, not Age that Matters Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
- The Comeback? Masters Attrition Rate and Goals
- Speed and the Masters Sprinter
The Return To Speed (by Eric Dixon)
Photo credits: Ken Stone, MastersTrack.com
Ok, so you want to get back to the glory days of racing? Maybe, you’ve been off a raising a family or concentrating on your career path. Let’s be honest no matter the reason you’ve been slowly getting out of shape. Honesty will pay a very important part of your return to sprinting. As we age most of us will become aware of our physical changes. To list a few of the physical changes: deceased; muscle mass, strength level and fast twitch fibers, nerve conduction velocity and cardio-respiratory system. Coupled with the increase; in reaction time and body movement we’re getting slower. Notwithstanding, the possible onset of arthritis and osteoporosis. Sounds bad doesn’t it!? Don’t worry, hope is not lost we just have to be smart and honest about our starting point. We need to take it slow in the comeback phase. Yes, I said we. From a coaches perspective working with the Athena Track Club, Kathy Bergen and other Masters sprinters I’ve seen how the body reacts to training both positive and negative. However I also compete in the 60-400m so, my outlook on sprint training is from both sides of the training regime…
Be smart: You’re not as young as you think. Listen to your body it knows more than you do. Don’t overdo it. There’s good pain and bad pain you must learn/relearn the difference. If you push it too much you risk the chance of injures. If you don’t listen you will spend more time recovering then training. Remember, rest is as equally important as the training itself.
Planning: You must plan your training days and recovery days. Take time off during your training to let the body recover and heal. It needs to heal and rest. In the beginning you may need more recovery days then training days. Again, go slow. Planning is the key to setting up a good training program. You must know when to go fast and when to go slow. Certain workouts don’t go together. Don’t do a block-workout after a hard speed endurance day. This is where you need to plan your training seasons – yearly, monthly, weekly and daily sessions. This process is called “Periodization.” It should predict when you should train hard (85-95%), when to train medium (75-85%) and light days (60-75%). This will all depend on what type of training you are working on and when i.e. Extensive tempo, Intensive tempo, Power Speed, Event Running, Speed, Speed endurance, Strength endurance, Special endurance 1 & 2, and Endurance. Note: all the endurances are different aspects of endurance – they are not the same! These workouts are also contingent on the Energy systems being trained, i.e., Aerobic, Anaerobic, Alactic, Glycolytic and Lactic acid tolerance… and all will have an effect on the athlete’s neuromuscular system. If you don’t know how to set up your training program find a sprint coach who does. I train Kathy Bergen via the internet. Kathy didn’t start training for track until she was 54.
Anaerobic vs. Aerobic: Whether you’ve been inactive or jogging miles the point is your body is trained to go slow. You have to be careful when training for speed. Sprinting is pushing your muscles and CNS to its limits. The CNS is your governor its job is to protect you from pushing too much. But we sometimes don’t listen to our body and overdo it with the speed component. If you’ve been jogging to get in shape you’ve training your body to go slow. If you’ve been sedentary you’ve training your body to go slow. Thus, you’ve set your governor to a slower speed. But now you want to go fast. Yes you must do speed work but you must build up the speed component at a slower pace. Start off with training at 60%, 70% 80% of your top speed. The key to keeping injury free is a slow progression building up to 100%. You can’t just go out on the track and go 100% top speed. Trust me you will regret it. We are older therefore it’s a slower process now then it was in the yesteryears.
To be continued. End of Part 1.
About the Author
Coach Dixon is a Certified IAAF Level 5 Sprints/Hurdles/Relays coach, USA TRACK & FIELD Level 3 Sprints/Hurdles/Relays coach and a USA/IAAF Track & Field Level 2 Sprints/Youth Specialization/Talent Identification coach. He competes for USA Track & Field in the Masters Division and is the CEO/Head Coach of Tachyon Track Club (Orange County, CA)
He is also the co-writer with several leading health and fitness experts the fitness book The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance.