One of the most common question I hear debated is the value of tempo runs. Theories of motor unit heating, blood flow for repair, work capacity, and now training the ANS seems to be popular on twitter lately. With the MLS combine showing Northeastern soccer representing with a nice 31 inch vert, the question is how much aerobic fitness matters? After that, how do we train it. I don’t have an answer as each year accidental trial and error will show how genetic and how long term adaptations matter. In a great review, Mladen shares a specific 6 week outline of what he does. I have not been to Sweden for a few years but I would venture to guess that this workout is what he does or believes in. What do we do to test improvement besides time and heart rate?
First aerobic endurance is about handling output over time. While one can argue aerobic fitness is heart and lungs, I would argue it’s nerves, brain, and muscular power. The body breaks down and we need to see how fatigue is happening before we make conjectures on what is being developed. Does 6-8k of tempo running a week build enough aerobic power or capacity for a sprinter? What about circuits and bike routines? I think you have to train daily and train long to make an impact. I see too many 45 minute or 1 hour workouts that don’t do anything aerobically and they succeed because they don’t ruin the explosiveness of athletes. Being strong matters, but other people failing to take advantage of real energy system development is not a measure of success.
I have followed all of the legends and consulted with brighter minds, but one area that I believe in is the ability to run properly every day injury free before sprinting. I think talented sprinters can come in and race themselves into shape but the dreaded injury bug will hit teams and wipe them out. After checking medically with different teams over the years how many are running pain free. Note I said pain free, not injury free. Injury and pain are not the same, but gradual building of volume coupled with less racing in the winter is what I think is key. Last year one athlete set records doing a Jim Bush workout, while the previous year a different athlete with the same schedule doing more of a Wolfgang Meier inspired training protocol made dramatic improvements. I think the body can handle 2 quality sessions a month, and the rest need to be supportive work. This doesn’t mean I am a fan of the don’t sprint to sprint philosophy, just sprint when safely ready.
I find myself doing three things differently than the late 1990s. Running less in spikes. Running more on grass. Increasing the volume while reducing the intensities. Yes I do believe in plyos, flying sprints, and olympic lifting, but I think the pace of attacking those intense elements is much slower for safety purposes. I do think I end up with the same risk tolerance at the end, but far more conservative starting out. Being fit before fast is my most important lesson over the last five years and really allow me to do more with lesser environments, and it takes a lot of guts not to succumb to workouts that are just posted as gospel instead of validated with first person observation.