I was able to interview one of the greats of track & field Allyson Felix a while back in California. Allyson talks race visualisation and training...
John: What do you focus on when warming up? Allyson: Once I actually get onto the track, I’m really focused on technique and what I need to do during each phase of my race. I have a little routine that triggers where my focus needs to be.
John: And those little things would be? Allyson: Like coming out of the blocks, I know I need to be driving and being very powerful and aggressive. And when I hit the curve I know that I need to be leaning in and working on coming off (the curve) really strong.
John: How do you combine the need to be relaxed with the fact that you also need to be aggressive to generate all that power?
Allyson: For me, I just try to focus on what I need to do and that kinda takes me out of the moment and away from the crowd and relaxes me. I try not to be too relaxed though as I need the adrenaline of the situation.
John: Do you think that as a woman you have train differently to men? Allyson: I always feel that it’s (sprinting) easy for them (men), it comes more natural, like coming out of the blocks where they are more powerful and aggressive. So we (women) have to do more drills and more sled (pulling) work, because it’s not such a natural thing.
John: Is there any type of training that you don’t like doing? Allyson: Yeah, anything’s that’s long. I hate 600s, but I get through them, I love to sprint.
John: Do you do any aerobic work? Allyson: Yeah, every Wednesday we go on a thirty-minute run, but that’s the one road run we do. Once the season starts we pretty much stop that. But every so often, we pick it back up ….. you can feel when it’s (aerobic fitness) lacking.
John: What’s your strength as a sprinter? Allyson: I think it’s top end speed and being able to hold that. The beginning of my race is weak and I pick things up later on.
John: Are you working on your start? Allyson: I would love to (improve it) I’ve been trying to for a very long time. I know what’s wrong and I can visualise it, but it’s a whole other thing trying to actually correct it. John: Is it frustrating as you could run maybe a tenth faster?
Today's Athletics Weekly (25/8/16) includes an article of mine on that old chestnut of sprint training - overspeed training. Does it actually work? Well much research is contradictory, but some new findings and protocols indicate that it might well be worth experimenting with it. Find out more in AW! The post-Olympic AW issue contains reviews of the later stages of the track and field competition and special feature on marvellous Mo! More at, athleticsweekly.com
With all the hype surrounding Usain Bolt and his amazing Rio triple triple it might be of interest to understand how he runs so fast. It's been often said that his huge stride length is the main determinant from an anatomical point of view. And mentally he is of course on the top of his game - other sprinters probably do expect to lose to him.
Research from when Bolt ran his 9.58sec world record at the Berlin World Champs in 2009 indicates a maximum speed in excess of 12.3 metres a second at max velocity (1) and that his stride length averaged out at 2.77m between 60-80m and 2.85m between 80-100m. This contrasted, for example, with Asafa Powell who recorded 2.51 and 2.65m respectively. (Powell was third in 9.84sec). (2)
It took Bolt 40.92 strides to get down the track and Powell 44.45.
In terms of stride rate Bolt maxed out at 4.54 strides a second between 20-40m and then held at 4.49 between 40 and 80m and then ran the last 20m with a rate of 4.23. Powell in contrast had quicker values: 4.81 between 20 and 40m, 4.71 between 40-60m, 4.74 between 60-80m and 4.33 to the finish line. Incidentally Tyson Gay, who got silver, achieved a rate of over 5 strides a second during two segments of the race.
I'm pulling together an article on lower limb stiffness for Athletics Weekly and have discovered that Bolt actually has less 'leg stiffness' compared to his rivals (research was obtained from the Berlin 100m WR also). There is an answer for this, but I'll not say, until the article comes out!
Leg stiffness is a complex attribute and can be measured in different ways. It's values however, and ways of it being conditioned, can improve sprint (and all event) performance. Hopping, incidentally, is one of the best predictors of 'vertical leg stiffness'.
I'll leave you with a video of Bolt running his 9.58sec world record. Who'll beat it? Someone, sometime will, we may just have a wait a while!
Ref: 1. Scientific Research Project - Biomechanical Analyses - DLV 2 Intl J Sport med 2012 Aug; 33(8):667-70
In this video I talk about the penultimate step and the positioning of the foot, flat prior to the take-off. This enables the jumper's hips to move through optimally into the take-off and for the movement of the limbs to be at their most effective. It also allows for maximum/optimum transference of speed into the jump - given the need to maintain horizontal velocity with minimal blocking on the board. Speed is lost but this needs to be minmised. The long jump is not a sprint with a high jump at the end... the run-up and the positioning into the take-off and off the board are all about minimising speed loss and achieving a relatively shallow angle of take-off. This is generally regarded to be between 22-25-degrees.
Paul in this video was generating great hight (he jumped 7.79) but he was not striving for this. Not all jumpers are the same and some bring different abilities and strengths (and speeds) to the event and these need to be worked into finding the model that works for them - don't impose something, rather work within the fundamentals of the event to develop the right technical (and conditioning) model for the jumper. If the set-up for the jump is correct in many ways the rest will look after itself.