Monday, 12 October 2009

Endurance Seminar - Part 2 Progression

Its been great to see just how many people have been reading the first installment. It makes it worth the time and effort when that happens. And if there is anything I missed then please leave an update in the comments area.

So on to part 2 and progression.

This discussion came off the back of the first part when most of the panel were talking about developing a big aerobic base off the back of plenty of miles and targetted faster running. And how the culture of the 1990s had got us away from building this big base in search of quick fixes.

Alberto talked quite a lot about Galen Rupp's progression during the 7 years or so that they have worked together. Most of us know that Rupp has now run a mid 27min 10k and took the NCAAs by storm this year in last year of college eligibility. According to Alberto this year he will have been running 95 miles a week (what we didnt find out was if this was his 52 week average or what sort of variation there was from week to week - and more on Rupps workouts later). What he did say was that he has been increasing his volume by 5 miles a week or so over a number of years and clearly as a guy in his early twenties there are many more years of increase to come. Kara Goucher was a similar picture with a progression year on year as she built her aerobic fitness.

And interestingly Dathan Ritzenhein was the opposite ! So Alberto pointed out that as a marathoner Dathan had been up at around 120mpw in recent years under Brad Hudson's training but this season he backed down to more like 100 and focused on doing more faster running with an eye on the track again. The results are there for everyone to see with his sub13 5000m in Zurich backed up with a fantastic bronze at the World Half this weekend. And just in case the 'low mileage' guys started to get too excited Alberto pointed out that when Dathan goes back to the marathon then they will build up his volume again.

Editor's note - the athletes Salazar is now talking about are the second wave of athletes in the Oregon Project - more talented and with a bigger background than his 13.30 brigade of a decade ago. Clearly have the right raw materials help !

So back to progression and an interesting view from Liz McColgan - indeed one of the few areas that the panellists disagreed on. Liz reckons we should be identifying at a much younger age where an athletes strengths are and therefore their likely best event. The british mindset is to start with the shortest track race and keep moving up throughout our careers until eventually we get to the marathon. Of course Liz did race a pretty handy 1500m in her day but she was a 10,000m Championship runner as early as 1988. Ian Stewart shared that he was always a 5000m runner, as a junior and senior. That was where his talent lay and he stuck to it. (The day after I asked Richard Nerurkar about when he knew he was a marathon runner. He made his marathon debut in 1993 and age 29 but revealed that during 1988/89 he had been training in Boston with Pete Pfitzinger and other marathoners and had handled the long runs very well and knew even then where his future lay. Of course he stuck with the 10,000m for a few years to take 5th in Tokyo '91 and then run the final in Barcelona '92. He is also one of those athletes like Dathan who ran faster over the 10k after moving up to the marathon but thats a topic for another day).

Alberto took a differing opinion. His approach is very much to maximise his athletes potential at shorter distances before moving them up (as their aerobic base develops) as he explained through his examples of Rupp, Ritzenhein and Kara Goucher. I suspect there was some nuance lost in the big panel discussion and if you actually dug deeper both sides of the argument probably had the end goal event in mind and just a slightly different approach to getting there.

So for a completely different take on progression we had George Gandy. Talking about Lisa Dobriskey's ability to pull championship medals out of a compromised season (she won Commenwealth Gold and World silver in injury affected years) George talked about how he looks for progression every week in training. Not year to year, mesocycle to mesocycle but week to week. This certainly caused a few furrowed brows from the other panellists and as he explained because Lisa was used to that sort of progression they could handle a 6 week block knowing just how far they could her fitness. In fact he said that you are only 6 weeks from a PB, a comment met with a few sagely nods from Salazar. (What he didn't say is 'if you are in very good aerobic shape already' - which has to be implied from the earlier discussion on volume. Lisa had mentioned that during the winter she is running about 70 miles a week and has built up to this over a number of years - so clearly her aerobic base is pretty good now).

There was some interesting detail behind this - and George is good at detail :-) He explained how athletes often progress very quickly in the first couple of months after their end of season break (i'm sure many of us have been there - i was on fire from dec 98 to feb 99 without really doing a lot other than having recovered from the previous season). So one of the things he does is look to hold people back in that period by adding more miles, more reps or less recovery. Basically by keeping them tired during the winter he can control the evidence of the progression so that when he starts to reduce the load as the competition season approaches then continues to be a visible improvement. He used the metaphor of running with a sack on your backand adding or removing weight from it to control the speed.

George also talked briefly about how after 10 weeks or so with a particular stimulus performance can start to plateau and how that is a sign for him to change the direction of the training in some way. And if you are in to seriously long term evolution of training ideas based on evidence then his recollections of the Loughborough circuit sessions were fascinating if a bit long winded. The abridged version is 'from 13 stations in the 1970s when Coe was there the programme has evolved to 16 stations today - and he is less convinced of the need for conventional sit ups...'

The final word goes to Salazar who said that endurance performance is a 'culmination of years' of training.

Part 1 - Reviving distance running
Part 3 - Altitude
Part 4 - Peaking and the other bits and pieces


walt said...

a very nice find to start the morning, thank you. will you be writing more about altitude and peaking?

Adrian Marriott said...

Hi Walt, I'm writing up my notes on Altitude and Peaking (and a few other bits and pieces). Should have some more material up in the next 24hours or so. Glad you found it useful