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Building the Metabolic Base | Boddicker Performance

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Building the Metabolic Base

by on Aug 27th, 2009

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I’ve been criticized from time to time for focusing too much on strength, power, and speed development and not enough on my beliefs with regards to the actual metabolic work that I have my athletes do, so we are going to take a look at the metabolic base work that I alluded to in yesterday’s post.  Once we’ve established a nice base of strength, speed, power, and optimized movement patterns over the summer months, we start to add in more metabolic work.

Before we speak of specifics, I think it is prudent to disucss my belief system with regards to actually running.  While I spend a great deal of time working on the neuromuscular components of speed, I believe that we must also tune our metabolic systems to perform optimally when the race comes.  There are several key components to the fall training sessions:

1.  Introduce runs at goal race pace.
Initially these runs are between 60 and 100 meters, with a ton of rest so as not to accumulate a whole bunch of unnecessary fatigue.  Essentially these are our “strides” early on, but our intention is to progress up as high as 600m reps at the end of our pre-competition period.  This provides several benefits as I see it.  First, it keeps the athlete prepared to handle relatively high velocities without fear of a “speed induced” injury.  Furthermore, it makes race pace feel like second nature.  We’ve all been there; the gun sounds and about 150 meters into the race you are dying because you are calling for a speed that you haven’t trained in yet.  For those who know of the Central Governor Model of performance, you also recoginze the benefit of slowly letting the Central Governor adapt to realize that the speed isn’t harmful to the body, thus you reset your “internal brakes.”

2.  Build internal plumbing.
As has been proposed by many of the great coahces over time, adaptations to aerobic training include increased stroke volume (larger left ventricle size), increased neovascularization on working tissues, and increased blood volume among others.  These adaptations are favorable for performance because they make the exchange and delivery of oxygen more efficient.  We accomplish this with a weekly long run (length dependent on preparation) and extensive tempo sessions.  We also include a volume of multi-jumping, general strength, and cross training (slideboard, pool, bike) to help facilitate these adaptations.

3.  Teach your body to manage lactate production (not tolerate it).
There are several ways that this can be accomplished.  In an athlete of an older training age who has established a strong resistnace to fatigue-related changes in form, you could introduce continuous runs at anaerobic threshold pace of 10-25 minutes.  In the middle distance athlete and the younger athlete, however, I favor an interval type approach where runs are conducted at the same pace but are broken into shorter segments.  The typical middle distance runner only races 2-5 minutes, and I’ve seen that most are able to give a more focused effort when we break our AT sessions into similar length intervals with short recoveries.  I’ve gone as short as 400m repetitions and as long as 10 minute runs for these “cruise intervals.”

4.  Spend time working at 3k-5k pace.
These paces are highly correlated with pace at VO2max, so it’s important to bring them into play early and often.  I typically use this type of session as my benchmark session throughout the fall if the athlete chooses to not race cross country (which would then be our benchmarking sessions).  Again, there are many ways to do this, and I favor the use of sets of higher intensity runs with incomplete recovery between reps and near complete during set-breaks.  Lately I’ve toyed around with 200m runs at 3k-5k pace on heart rate recovery to 75-80% MHR between reps and recovery to below 60% MHR between sets.  When an athlete handles this session well several times, I’ll progress the length of the interval by 50 to 100m.  Volumes are relatively constant.

5.  Maintain or build movement quality, strength, and power.
It would be foolish to spend so much time building a fundamental base if we skipped into the next phase with no strategy to maintain the qualities developed.  Thus, we will still spend considerable time working on movement quality, strength, speed, power, etc off of the track and trail using methods that I discuss routinely.

There you have it, a few keys to building a strong metabolic base.

Best,
Carson Boddicker

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