“When you free yourself from volume concerns, the picture becomes much clearer.” – Vince Anderson (Texas A&M)
I heard Vince say this at the first USTFCCCA Event Specialist School back in 2011 and it blew. my. fricken. mind. Volume as the constant was dead.
When it comes to planning workouts for high school sprinters, especially 200/300/400 types, too many coaches still default to a volume-centric approach. Instead of thinking about the meet preparedness of their athletes as a function of the amount of volume they could handle, I was able to flip the script and focus on what actually makes kids faster.
It’s not that volume doesn’t matter. It’s just not the concern. Like, you can be A nice guy. But, you never want to be THE nice guy. If your default for training long sprinters is to follow a Monday neural session with extensive tempo and your modus operandi centers on steadily increasing the volume of non-specific work (200s at 70% for example), then you’re a volume based coach. And I hope to move you to the right side of history.
“It’s not a matter of volume, it’s a matter of mastering your training program.” – Vince Anderson
Mastering your training program means understanding all the variables involved in your particular situation and focusing on the 20% of factors that lead to 80% of results. What matters is setting your long sprinters up to run a (relatively) small number of races over the course of several hours. (If it’s a high school invitational, plan for 10 hours because they’re not meant to be high quality track and field competitions. They’re basically cash grabs for whoever is cashing your entry check.) Develop the specific qualities in your long sprinters that will allow them to handle the specific demands of the scenario they’ll face when everything is on the line.
Here’s what I mean:
In my state (Rhode Island and Providence Plantations), athletes can compete in any four events at Championships. At last year’s state championship, one girl had the unenviable task of running 4×100, 200 trial, 400 final (personal best 57.33 + State Title), 200 final (personal best 25.66 + 5th place), and 4×400 (personal best split 57.3 + State Title). Another girl’s day consisted of 4×100, 100 trial, 100 final (lifetime #4 12.53 + 2nd place), 200 trial, 200 final (personal best 24.74 + State Title), and 4×400 (personal best split 58.5 + State Title).
Now that’s a long ass day. (I only put them through that grinder one time.) They couldn’t walk right for three days, let alone practice. That said, they don’t go bananas like that if their base was built on a foundation of ‘fitness’ or how many intervals/reps they could handle. They ran those times and kept getting faster all day, culminating with personal best splits in the 400 after four and five, respectively, State Championship level races because they had a base of what matters: speed, strength, and power.
In terms of this article, I want to go race pace or faster as often as possible. Booty Lock Tuesday may be intermediate intensity work, but that goal does not change. Additionally, they need to be able to eat lactate. And then when they’re full, I’m going to shove more lactate down their throats and tell them to keep eating. So I’m coming back from a speed day on Monday with a grind workout.
When you free yourself from volume concerns, your focus shifts to what matters because it’s what gets results:
Intensity. More specifically, meters per second.
Training at or progressing toward race pace (to me that means 1st 200 target time, not average velocity) meters per second is the focus of our “Booty Lock” (Lactacid Capacity [LCAP]) workouts. Now, I don’t like to be a slave to terminology or percentages, but I’ll give you some so we’re all speaking the same language. For me, I serve Booty Lock work in two flavors:
In this article I’m only covering intensive tempo(ish) runs. I use Glycolytic Short Speed Endurance [GSSE] with both short and long sprinters. That’s what short sprinters might be doing today if not going deeper in the same pool or shallower in the same pool. But you can’t do repeat 200s outside during the New England winter. So it’s an alternative to intensive tempo if you’re stuck in the hallways, when it’s later in the season and you’re not doing intensive tempo anymore or when you just want to go faster than middle intensity runs allow for.
Here are three common workouts I use:
- 6 x 150. R=3’
- 5 x 200. R=5’
- 4 x 300. R= 4’
You probably want to know the percentages. Couldn’t really tell you. It doesn’t really matter. Because I begin with the end in mind. Start with the desired or required intensity and then the percentage emerges as a byproduct telling me whether or not I’m coloring between the lines (challenging the appropriate energy system and therefore eliciting the desired physiological response).
Program mastery is keeping stats, data, and records so you know how fast they need to run in practice to ensure (as much as you can ensure anything) they’re able to turn in a Championship Performance when it matters. You shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel or starting over every season. What really gives me the most useful information about the shape they’re in and how I may or may not need to modify volume, intensity, and density is their progress leveling up through…
The 5 Stages of Training Maturity
I stole this from Vince Anderson. Every single word of it A to Z, top to bottom, soup to nuts. And I love it. Here is how Vince describes the levels of his system for categorizing the quality of Lactacid Capacity [LCAP] workouts:
As you can see, the goal isn’t to handle more volume, it’s to run faster. To ‘cut down’ their times in the workouts. Also, I use 5x200 instead of 6x200 because my kids aren't going to Texas A&M.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you have a handful of girls who can run 60.0 or who you need to run 60.0.
To run 400 meters in 60.0 seconds, each girl would need to run an average of 6.67 meters/second for the entire race. That’s not really ‘race pace’. Because nobody is running even splits. The differential between first and second 200 should be 3.0-3.5 seconds for girls and 2.0-2.5 seconds for boys. So race pace (first 200 target time) for a 60.0 400m runner should be between 28.0-28.5.
For example, my top 400m runner ran 57.14 last year. She split 26.9/30.1.
With the 5x200 workout, utilizing a goal pace of 30.0 is a good starting point because it's a form of race pace and if we can't get there, we're not going anywhere. Since I can't have wild fluctuations between efforts, I give them a two second window. So I begin with a goal hitting between 30.0-32.0. That would be a Level II performance. A good sign if it’s early in the season and I didn’t waste multiple practices because I screwed up their times.
But, what if they can’t even get to Level 1? I’m not going to slow them down and have them run 33-35 because that’s trash. So I’m going to remediate the activity until I think they can finish the Big Kid workout. That’s Goal #1 for anyone with aspirations of getting on The Relay, earning individual attention or being invited to Elite Group Practice on Saturday.
Therefore, still maintaining the 6.67 m/s, I’ll try 6x150 at 22.5”. Or 8 x 100m at 15.0”. Or 12-15 x 50m at 7.5”.
So what does this all look like on paper? Let's say that yesterday (Monday), the entire sprints group did the Monday top end speed / max velocity workout from Part II: Training Shallower in the Same Pool.
In the long sprints, especially the 300 and 400, each 100m segment requires continually increasing effort just to maintain the same pace. Running 31.0 on the first effort will not be difficult. Running 31.0 on the fifth effort may feel like a full out sprint for the entire 200m. We need to train athletes to increase their effort over time. Cut downs teaches them how to feel this. I tell kids they can run any time they want on the first rep as long as it is within the window. BUT, they're told, don't shame your family by getting slower in subsequent efforts. Maintain or cut down. You don't get points for being a hero on the first two runs when you crap your pants in the last two and then go puke.
[VIDEO] How to Run the 400m Race
When looking at the training level examples, compare each rep within the workout to it's corresponding effort in each level progression. It will quickly become apparent that intensity is the difference that makes the difference, not volume. More 200s at a slower pace won't get anyone from Level 1 to Level 5. Track meets aren't Crossfit competitions. Success comes from getting from Point A to Point B in the least amount of time. You don't win at chess by playing checkers. You don't run fast 200, 300, and 400 times by running high volumes of slow intervals with no specific value to the demands of the actual events.
It's pretty important to get reasonably accurate times which can be fairly difficult if you're running a large number of kids through the workout and you're not staffed like the football team or one of the big schools. Here are a few thoughts/ideas/suggestions:
- Don't time their rest. It is up to a/the members of each group to start their watch when they cross the line and tell me when they are about to start the next run. When you're trying to time 20, 30, 50+ kids, it's impossible to keep track of the rest times. So let them do it.
- Use rolling starts. I break the groups up by gender and have the entire boys group go, then the entire girls group, or vice versa. I blow the whistle to start every 3 or 5 seconds (depending on the number of groups). It's their job to hustle to the line and get set in time for the whistle. This way, you only have to use one running time for the entire gender, as opposed to multiple times on multiple watches.
- Remember Your Time! I constantly instruct kids to remember the time I am yelling out as they cross the finish line. Because that is the time they need to give me. If they don't hear it or don't remember it, I don't write it down. If I don't have times for them when I get home to log the results, they don't exist. If you're in the second group and you started 5 seconds after the first, subtract 5 seconds from the time I yell out. Third group who started 10 seconds later subtracts 10 seconds. It's not an exact science and kids be lying about their times, but the later the group the less I'm worried about it.
- Two strikes and you're out. Once everyone finishes, I yell out your name and you tell me the time you ran. We keep it simple. Your number is, say, 31.0 if you're crossing the line as I start to yell 'Thirty one!". It's 31.5 if I finish "Thirty one!" and I'm in the middle of a breath before yelling "Thirty TWO!". I only have 5 minutes to get a bunch of names down so I say your name once. If you don't respond, I'll say it again. No response? Strike two, you're out. No time. I know you're tired, but get a grip. You have one job.
- Earn the right to be timed and recorded. I may give times out, but if you're in the Z group it's basically "Run between 40 and 50". I'll spot record a time or two from different groups or kids I don't know, but who look impressive. But I'm really only worried about the top 1 or 2 groups from each gender. And in those varsity groups, I cap the group size at 7 or a maximum of 8. Z team groups might have 15 kids. I don't know what you want me to do. I consider track and field a varsity sport not a participation activity.
Hopefully this article gave you a few ideas for how to successfully approach your booty lock / lactacid capacity workouts. Use VA's 5 Stages of Training Maturity. It's extremely helpful for you and your athletes.
If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can check them out here:
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