Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Canova Hill Sprints

The last few weeks I have been back on the track doing some specific training sessions to prepare for the 10,000m trials on the 14th June. One of the things I've noticed is that despite having done very little traditional 'speedwork' I have still got plenty of speed (by my standards) and was able to run a series of 200s in 29 secs the first time out.

I'm sure that retaining the ability to run at close to my maximum speed has got something to do with the hill sprints that I have been doing for the last year. I started them as part of my build up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2007 and have kept them going weekly during the winter. The idea has been popularised by Italian coach Renato Canova who is currently head coach for Qatar and the personal coach to athletes such as steeplechase world record holder Stephen Cherono (aka Said Saeef Shaheen) and Mubarak Shami (formerly Richard Yatich) who won Marathon silver at Osaka's World Championships.

The idea behind the hill sprints is quite simple. As long distance runners we spend a lot of time exercising the slow twitch and intermediate fibres in our muscles but relatively little time on the few fast twitch fibres that we have. However these fast twitch fibres are needed at the end of the race when all the others are exhausted or to produce a sprint finish. So to train them effectively we need to provide a training stimulus which activates them and the quickly overloads them. Hill sprints are how we do it. I tend to do these workouts in flexible shoe such as the Saucony Type A or Grid Tangent as there is a lot of foot flexion required to maintain a good running action when sprinting uphill.

The precise gradient of the hill is not that important but it needs to be steep and long enough for a 10-12 second maximum effort. After a good warm up you are ready to go.
1. Sprint for 10-12 seconds uphill at maximum speed. Why 10-12 seconds ? Well after that the effort is starting to be lactic-anaerobic and the speed will start to decrease. Remember we are looking for a maximum effort to recruit the fast twitch fibres.
2. Walk back down the hill taking as long as required to recover. 2 minutes is probably the minimum recovery time.
3. Repeat until the legs are exhausted. You will tell when they are because they feel like jelly and the speed starts to drop off ! As soon as you can no longer maintain the speed then stop.

Adaptation to this type of training is surprisingly fast. The first time you try it you may only be able to manage 3 or 4 efforts but can add one effort each subsequent session.

Remember though, its all about maximum speed and full recovery !

1st July 2009 COMING SOON - photos and video clip


Anonymous said...

how many times per week should these hill sprints be performed?

Adrian Marriott said...

Once a week should be sufficient.