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This Is What’s Missing From Your Training

Contributor: Juli Benson     Category: Training, Running Form

A fundamental and consistent element in our training is what I refer to as “athletic days”. Distance runners spend the majority of their training in the same plane of movement, using the same muscle groups day in and day out. I believe it is crucial for an athletes’ development and health to periodically remind themselves (and their muscles) that the better overall athlete he/she is, the faster he or she will run. Without sacrificing volume or aerobic training, we have designated Monday as our “athletic days”. This is a day where the athletes will spend upwards of 60 minutes after an easy recovery or training run working on coordination, agility, flexibility, acceleration, and power.

On a given “athletic day”, an athlete will complete a normal recovery/training run and begin with dynamic stretching/ strengthening through various 30” hurdle walks. The athlete will then transition through a series of plyometric drills using 18 inch speed/agility hurdles, which will be executed in several movement planes always beginning in an “athletic stance”.  Finally, the athletes will end with sprint technique drills as well as shorter, quicker sprints ranging from 40-200m.  Incorporating dynamic and explosive training consistently to a distance runner’s weekly routine will improve coordination, agility, acceleration, and general core strength. Additionally, as an athlete gains strength and power, he will better be able to maintain good form and posture while fatiguing for improved performance as well as injury prevention.

Case study: Cameron Marantz

Cameron approached me for some individual coaching in August of 2015. At that time, Cam’s personal bests were 14:06 for 5000m and 28:57 for 10,000m.  We agreed to work together in order to pursue his potential. Our start was very, very slow as Cam was suffering from an injury and seemed to continually take one step forward and two steps back. As I came to know Cam as an athlete, it was very clear to me that Cam’s aerobic background was very sound but many of the “little” things important for recovery as well as injury prevention were non-existent. We incorporated 4 key elements to his routine and were able to consistently build volume and quality over the next 10 months.

  • An active/isolated stretch routine:
    • Promotes blood flow before morning run
    •  Promotes flexibility
    •  Increases range of motion

With help from a reputable massage therapist, Cam integrated a dynamic morning stretch routine to his schedule. Many of Cam’s injuries pointed to his very limited range of motion and over time, the dynamic stretch routine not only increased his range of motion but also improved the efficiency of his stride.

  • A weekly “athletic” day:
    • Improves coordination, agility, quickness, acceleration, and general core strength
    • Improves over all athleticism
    • Improves ground contact time
    • Increases top-end speed
    • Promotes injury prevention

Along with his dynamic stretching routine, Cam also uses yoga to both aid in flexibility as well as recovery rotating 3 different routines that focus on hamstrings/lower back, the psoas muscle, and the IT band. We believe yoga is one tool that has allowed Cam quicker recovery in between hard sessions. This has been key to maintaining health as we increased his training throughout this year.

  • Yoga:
    • Quickens recovery
    • Promotes basic flexibility for improved range of motion
    • Promotes blood flow
    • Improves core strength and breathing patterns

Core and balance are quickly becoming a staple for most distance runners. Cam was very consistent with his core and balance routine in 2016 completing his routine 3-4 times weekly. Optimal core strength as well as constantly working to improve right side/left side balance help to optimize gait and aids in preventing form breakdown, a problem for Cam in the past.

  • Core/Balance:
    • Improving core strength
    • Improving balance

In 2015, Cam improved his personal bests on the track and the roads. However, his improvement came at a cost and Cam rarely felt healthy and had several interruptions to his training due to injury. By incorporating the athletic days, Cam was able to experience uninterrupted training for all of 2016.

As a coach of distance runners, I believe that increasing the volume of running while injecting the correct amount of intensity is key to performance enhancement. However, neither of these things are possible if the athlete cannot stay healthy. I am a firm believer that the supplemental training we have added to Cam’s routine without sacrificing volume has allowed us to increase the quality of Cam’s training. This recipe has resulted in an outstanding 2016 thus far for Cameron as he has obtained new and improved personal bests of 13:34 for 5000m and 28:38 for 10000m.