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BioCHEMICAL versus BioMECHANICAL…why not both? | Boddicker Performance

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BioCHEMICAL versus BioMECHANICAL…why not both?

by on May 24th, 2010

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Continuing along the thread of overreactions to good generalities is the idea in middle distance running of optimizing the biochemical systems or optimizing the bio/neruomechanical systems for optimum efficiency and peak performances.  While both are effective and can be supported readily in the literature, it seems that most people simply gravitate toward their skill set and miss things that the other camp has to offer.  For example, those in the performance enhancement world often argue tooth and nail for lower volumes of running and elevated volumes of strength training, power training, and ancillary work.  Those who are veterans in the distance world on the track, however, always see the road to improvement as being one that comes with increased volume or intensity of running components.

While there is definitely no right answer, I think the people who really “get it” are those who realize that there should not be a barrier between the two as the body is an integrated system.  Take a look at the work of John Cook and Alberto Salazar on the distance front.  Dan Pfaff and Charlie Francis on the sprinting end.  Also look at Jay Johnson and Wynn Gmitroski on the middle distance front.  Between them all there’s a slew of Olympic medals, World Championship performances, and National Record Holders.  In looking at a common thread, these coaches “don’t miss things” in their preparations and leave no stone unturned.  Nutrition?  Check.  Adequate volume?  Check.  Supplementary athletic development work?  Check.  Therapeutic modalities?  Check.

Too many people look at guys like Cook and Gmitroski and say “they don’t really run and do a lot of supplementary work” but anyone who has taken even a few hours to listen to what these coaches have to say will realize that the athletes under their guidance do supplementary work, but they also run a fair shake.  The key is striking a balance between the nervous system components and the biochemical components to ensure continued advancement of performances.  In listening to Gary Reed (one of Gmitroski’s athletes) speak on a podcast, he regularly completes long runs up to 90 minutes, regularly runs 45 to 60 minute “recovery” runs during the week and also finds time to train maximal velocities, 400m speed endurance (at sometimes as quickly as 46 second pace), 1500-5k paced sessions, and 800m speed endurance.  It seems that the group also involves themselves in high quality sessions that many could consider as “tempo” paced sessions if only in spurts of 10 minutes.  Oh yeah, they also jump, lift, and throw things.

What that is is a total approach to development that is not simply neuromechanical, but also biochemical.  As coaches the take away lesson is that we should not be attempting to pigeonhole ourselves under a certain aspect.  Sure, maybe you like to train and coach efficiency with neuromechanical emphasis, but are you doing it at the expense of metabolic development?  Do you work the other way around?  Why does that make sense?


Carson Boddicker

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  • T May 27, 2010

    A laughable post. Those in the “distance world” have a little more perspective and results than those in the “performance enhancement” world when it comes to middle distance running, given they actually work with middle distance athletes and coach middle distance running.

    Interesting how you include the current public seller for various aimless supplementary work. Jay Johnson? vs Cook, Salazar, etc hasn’t coached an olympian or an outdoor world team member let alone medallist or winner etc LOL, but unsuprisingly he gets an inclusion as he is /the self-appointed expert/the one publically pushing the stuff so you’re familiar with his stuff and he has an impact on your understanding. Cook and Salazar don’t give away specifics and with good reason, guys like Johnson are your source of info when it comes to this stuff because he’s big on playing internet coach and rambling his details, the Cooks and Salazars are notoriously private and you as well as everyone but their athletes has little insight into the specific work they actually do and how it relates to the overall program.

    To anyone with any real involvement in middle distance, you come off entirely as someone without background when you refer to internet interviews (you’ve obviously gotten most of the above “understanding” from listening to athscanada coach casts and repeated it back like anyone can) and resources as though they mean something, as it is obvious you lack exposure to the realities of the sport. You’ve basically name dropped a few coaches you’ve read about on the net and and shown you lack background to understand their statements as you overconclude and misinterpret things they’ve said (FYI: A “tempo” run means a continuous run at lactate threshold, not tempo ala Charlie Francis)

  • Carson Boddicker May 27, 2010


    It’s clear that you disagree with Johnson’s methodologies, and I will stand right beside you in criticizing some of his ideas as I have before. To the point of it being “aimless” however, I ask you a question. Isn’t it only aimless if there is no assessment of need and the work is placed willy-nilly in the training week? If this critical thought process exists, then wouldn’t it qualify as purposeful?

    Are you disagreeing with the concept of multi-lateral development for the distance runner?

    Next time you and your athletes are in Flagstaff please stop by and let’s talk a bit about running. I’d love to see how you integrate this type of work with your athletes and I’ll show you my current thought process of assessment and program design.

    Best regards,
    Carson Boddicker

  • T May 27, 2010

    I’ll lay this out as best I can:

    Jay Johnson: Young, passionate coach making the same mistakes most young, passionate coaches make. Like yourself, is borrowing too much from others’ situations instead of thinking in terms of rational principles.

    Aimless?: The aim of middle distance training is to perform in middle distance races. I can do any number of assessments and rationalise methods in many different ways physiologically or in relation to biomotor abilities, and I can structure this work very specifically within the training week. I can create a “purpose” for many types of work when thinking broadly enough but whether that rationalisation stands up and gets results in reality is another thing entirely, and much of the purposeful work people think up is not purposeful in the context of the ultimate aim and has zero impact on performance. This is particularly true when it comes to general work.

    Multi-Lateral Development: Can be useful, obviously is most useful in the developing athlete. Is hugely overrated by many in terms of actual effect on performance, diminishing returns for improved strength, flexibility, strength endurance levels come very quick when training for endurance events which have very different and specific demands.

    I won’t be in Flagstaff any time soon so I’ll offer this in the meantime:

    1. Go and ask Jack Daniels for his full opinion on non-running work. Forget what you have heard on the internet and really listen.

    2. You are familiar with Charlie Francis, start thinking from his perspective of weights/plyos etc following running work and only using what resources you have left over on ancillary training. It is not a matter of balance as you state, it is more a matter of what you can work in within the context of your running program.

    3. As per the above, do not be fooled: Cook and Salazar’s athletes do very very similar mileage to the rest, and running is not replaced. Rupp, Goucher, Ritz do no less than others in their events. Rowbury, Manzano do very standard volumes for world class milers, and are no faster over 800 than those that do slightly higher mileage.

    4. Consider the reality of the pros: 2 hours a day of running leaves a lot of time to kill and for the OCD elite athlete doing something extra is very valuable psychologically. Doing something new where you will see good, fast progress (vs the very very small improvements you have to fight for on the track) is also very valuable psychologically. Believing you are doing something others are not is very valuable psychologically. Resistance training particularly can be very good for mood and self-esteem.

    Having all day to nap and relax, plus doing a huge amount of running training with a body type not susceptible to bulking up in the first place makes the risk of interference with running performance and impact on recovery low.

    Consider the realities of non-pros: They have often yet to reach running volumes close to what is optimal. They do not have more than two hours a day to train and must prioritise. They are much more susceptible to interference with running training and recovery due to poorer genetic disposition and lifestyle.

    Pros doing it does not mean good efficacy in the first place as the placebo effect is huge, let alone good efficacy for non-professionals. It’s great to get your athletes excited about the ancillary stuff for many reasons as per above, but as the coach you need to keep things in perspective. Like I said, the guys people think are balancing running and ancillaries have pro set ups already doing the mileage and workouts and are adding big volumes of ancillaries because they can. A direct account of Rui Silva’s training is interesting:

    “Winter Cycle: Phase 1 – 6-8 weeks duration. 130Km/week average (80 miles)
    Winter Cycle: Phase 2 – 3-4 weeks duration. 110-120Km/week average (68-75 miles)
    Winter Cycle: Phase 3 – 4-6 weeks duration. 80Km/week average (50 miles)

    Summer Cycle: Phase 1 – 6-8 weeks duration total. 115-120Km/week average (71-75miles)
    Summer Cycle: Phase 2 – 3-4 weeks duration. 112Km/week average (69 miles)
    Summer Cycle: Phase 3 – 8-10 weeks duration. 100-120Km/week average (62-75 miles)”

    Mileage as low or lower than you’ll see from Salazar or Cook, and:

    “He does flexibility work, but no plyometrics or weight training. The only strength work he does are repetitions on hills. Sometimes he runs steps as a form of strength training. His coach was a fan of the Lydiard methods which helps explain his preference for using hills. It can be said that the vast majority of Portugese runners and coaches do not believe in the need for strength training. They think that sufficient strength is gained through resistance running such as hill work.”

    Silva is a phenomenal runner with many international medals, and his kick at Athens 2004 was possibly the fastest in history. He has an unremarkable PR for the 800 vs his 1500 and is no better re natural speed than his counterparts. Nice to do vs need to do is the key here.

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