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Speed, Form, and Efficiency of High Volume Runners | Boddicker Performance

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Speed, Form, and Efficiency of High Volume Runners

by on Jan 19th, 2009

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Have you ever watched somebody on the trails who had seemingly good form at relatively low speeds, but as soon as they try to run faster his form immediately transitions to awful?  Arms everywhere, chin jutted, face and hands clinched for dear life?  In Flagstaff, I see that pretty often among the athletes who aspire to perform at their best, and, as such, begin to run extremely high volumes of easy running (that’s what made Quentin Cassidy the best, right?).  A friend of mine comes to mind immediately when I see this form.  He can run 125 miles in a week, holding reasonable form, but as soon as you ask him to run with any kind of speed, his form falls off.  These are the same guys who come in to the season with a phenomenal “base” but always end up hurt before championship season.  What’s the deal?

The answer lies in a few areas:

A.  Time Spent At Speed with Good Form:  As with any and all sports, running takes skill, and this skill can be improved with repeated exposure.  The reason you typically see good form go to garbage as the speed gets faster is the athlete has likely not spent near enough time practicing running efficiently at the faster pace.

B.  Too much time spent with a fatigued SSC:  The stretch shortening cycle is a muscle being elongated before a quick change in direction of force allowing the muscle to contract much more forcefully.  The SSC is efficient for only a short time before runners begin to need to “muscle” or laze their way through the rest of the run.  Depending on how well trained you are, the longer you are able to go getting free energy from the SSC, but it will typically fall off after 30 minutes in the best conditioned athletes.

C.  Misguided “speed work”:  Often, when people think speed work, they automatically think hard, hard running with short rests and an extreme accumulation of H ions.  While this mode of speed work has it’s place, it is not the only form and should be used sparingly.  With an accumulation of metabolic waste, coordination goes downhill and efficient running form breaks apart.

What’s the solution?  Well, spend more time working at race pace–a simple adaptation of the S.A.I.D. principle–while shortening the length of a few runs each week (do double days if volume is that important to you) and run faster.  When it comes time to do work on the track, be sure to vary the type and frequency of each mode.  Remember, lactate tolerance work is not the only form of speed work.

By implementing the above strategies, both speed, form, efficiency will improve a great deal over time, while injury-proofing your body.

Train hard, train smart,
Carson Boddicker

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