Tuesday, December 25, 2007

More on Footstrike in Running

Research typically finds that how long your foot is in contact with the ground is closely related to how quickly you run [1,2]. This makes sense since a foot on the ground is essentially an anchor. You aren't going any place until it comes off the ground. The longer it stays fixed to terra firma the slower you will run. A recent Japanese study provides a lesson in this and reveals how to go about running faster without elevating VO2max or lactate threshold simply by shortening ground-contact time [3].

The Japanese researchers videotaped and later studied the footstrikes of 415 runners including elite international and Olympian runners at the 15-km point in a half marathon. Of these runners 74.9% were found to be rearfoort strikers (RFS), 23.7% were midfoot strikers (MFS), and 1.4% were forefoot strikers (FFS). The percentage of MFS was highest in the fastest runners. Time in contact with the ground was, on average, 9% longer in the RFS (200 +/-23.3 milliseconds) compared with the MFS and RFS (183 +/-16msec). The RFS runners had the slowest race times and MFS the fastest.

The Base period is the time to improve your running technique and for most runners the quickest way to become a faster runner before next season is to become more economical by learning to run with a midfoot strike rather than a heel strike. If you want to see what this looks like go to www.trainingbible.com and click on FREE RESOURCES to find a video of a runner who uses the MFS technique. Be aware that forcing a dramatic change in footstrike in a short period of time can result in foot and leg injuries. Allow several weeks for the change by gradually increasing how much time you run with the new technique.


1. Paavolainen L, et al. 1999. Explosive strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. Journal of Applied Physiology 86(5):1527-1533.

2. Paavolainen L, et al. 1999. Neuromuscular characteristics and fatigue during 10-km running. International Journal of Sports Medicine 20(8):516-521.

3. Hasegawa H, et al. 2007. Footstrike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (21(3):888-893.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

More on Midsole Cleats

One of the athletes I coach, Jim Vance, a pro triathlete from San Diego, found a pair of cycling shoes that were already drilled for a midsole cleat--the Sidi T-1. In the top picture you can see the sole of the T-1. In the lower picture you can see a sideview of the shoe with the cleat in position.

The holes are positioned perfectly on his size 45s in terms of position on the longitudinal axis--dead center. They are even lined up correctly--perpendicular to the long axis. The only confounding element is that the bolt receptacle holes are spaced slightly wider than the standard drilling for 2-bolt cleats. But this problem was resolved by using a cleat with greater hole width to allow for lateral adjustment.

I noticed in searching the web for information on the T-1 that not all of the models are drilled like this one. I don't know why. The price I found for the T-1 is about US$200.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Volume vs Intensity

Which is more important for improving race performance in endurance athletes, the volume of training or the intensity of training? It’s obvious that both play a role in racing well. But athletes tend to place a lot of value on volume than on intensity. I’ve yet to hear an athlete when asked how training is going respond by talking about intensity. The answer is almost always based on volume (“I rode 200 miles last week.”) But given the choice, which should you place more emphasis on when making decisions about your training?

Before attempting to answer these questions let’s define the terms. Volume is the product of duration and frequency. Duration is how long a workout lasts. Frequency is how often workouts are done. Volume is usually expressed in terms of weekly, accumulated training time or mileage. Intensity for the purpose of this discussion refers to training done at or above the anaerobic threshold (also sometimes called lactate threshold, ventilatory threshold, or functional threshold). Assuming that you are preparing for an event that takes about one hour or less to complete at a maximum, sustainable effort, this intensity is about race intensity. For athletes competing in events that last longer than about one hour, training intensities at and above AT is more challenging than race effort. This is not to say that athletes training for longer events should not train above the AT. It is quite common, especially for elite and well-experienced athletes.

Let’s get back to the original question: Will volume or intensity have a greater impact on your race performances? There is very little research on this matter, but what there is seems to be in agreement. Let’s examine two of these for some insight.

In a German study 17 experienced runners steadily increased their volumes from their normal 50 miles per week to 105 miles per week over a four-week period (1). All of these runs were done at about marathon pace or slower (2mmol/L lactate) One year later they allowed the researchers to tinker with their training again. This time they nearly doubled the amount of time they trained at high intensity, over a four-week period again. With increased intensity they improved on four measures of performance from 5% to 17%. Increased volume produced no significant improvements in the same metrics.

In another study of swimmers conducted by David Costill, PhD at Ball State University it was found that increasing swim training volume from three hours per day to four per day and increasing swim weekly workouts from five to six sessions provided no greater benefits than training 60 to 90 minutes per day for five days per week (2).

Does this mean you should keep your training volume low while jacking up intensity year round? Not at all. When you have been training with low volume and low intensity for some period of time, as when in the season-ending “transition” period, gradually increasing the stress load by boosting volume is probably a wise move (3,4). This will help to prevent injury by fortifying soft tissues before commencing with higher-intensity training later.

During the Base period it is common in the classic/linear periodization model to increase the volume of training while also much more gradually increasing the intensity. In Base 1 I have my athletes training a considerable amount in zone 2. In Base 2 they add training volume in zone 3. And by Base 3 they are also training in zone 4. This is typical for all of my clients regardless of the events for which they are training. In the Build period the training becomes increasingly specific to the demands of their first A-priority race of the season, especially the intensity of those workouts.

So what’s the bottom line? The intensity of one’s training is a better predictor of performance than the volume of training although some mix of both is necessary for success.

Lehmann, M., et al. 1996. Unaccustomed high-mileage vs intensity training-related changes in performance and serum amino acid levels. Int J Sports Med 17(3):187-192.
Costill, D.L., et al. 1991. Adaptations to swimming training: Influence of training volume. Med Sci Sports Exerc 23:371-377.
Gomes, P.S. and Y. Bhambhaniy. 1996. Time course changes and dissociation in VO2max at maximum and submaximum exercise levels as a result of training in males. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28(5):S81.
Fry, R.W., et al. 1992. Periodisation of training stress – a review. Can J Sport Sci 17:234-240.