I started training an athlete in mid-March. He came in with PB's of 6.95 in the 60m, 21.68 in the 200m (from two years back), and some dodgy 400m relay splits (who cares what you split in a relay? I hate when people quote relay splits like they're real 400m times). Obviously, with a restricted amount of time and his history of injury, we aren't looking to break any world records, but running some injury free races and seeing what he can do was the goal coming into the training block. Also, improving on his 49 second 400m PB was a priority.
I had taken him out to Michigan to see the great ESTI in October, and he put us through a couple of KitKat GPP workouts, which had my athlete puking quite heartily, making me look like a model of fitness in the process. I felt great after the KitKat workouts. ESTI had used the program previously for his athletes with very good success, and he encouraged me to give the program a try this indoor season, which led to a massive 200m indoor PB for me.
This athlete asked me to coach him after the weekend in Michigan, but I wasn't sure I could help him, nor was I sure I wanted to make the kind of commitment it takes to truly coach someone effectively. I suggested he talk to his university coach and see if he could modify the program slightly for him. He ended up running for his university team again this year, and again ended up hurt. In the past, the same thing has occurred. They continually make him run the indoor 200 metre bend in GPP, which has led to chronic foot problems.
A couple of seasons back, after his university indoor season he also began working with another coach at the track centre twice a week. This coach has a good basic program, but he doesn't know when to put the brakes on his athletes, and the long term trend is that his athletes tend to go for "more" and get injured. His program consisted of basically zero GPP, and sessions were basically 3x30, 3x60, followed by 2x150-200 per training session. He ended up running some pretty fast times before (right on cue) getting a stress fracture in his shin about four weeks into training from running fast 150's on the indoor track.
Basically, there is a lot of potential there, but when starting to work with him, I felt that certain parameters needed to be controlled to allow him to run fast. First, indoor 200m tracks are a no go, as he is 6'5. Second, he needs a base and to learn to be patient if he wants to run anywhere near his potential. Training for a couple of weeks and racing is not going to cut it at the provincial or national level.
Now realize that I have zero credentials to coach decent athletes, but I'm smart enough to know I don't know what I'm doing, so I consulted people who know what they're talking about. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Angela, and she had some terrific advice.
I could boil her advice down to two key points:
1. Keep him off the track entirely for the GPP.
2. Don't work a single turn.
She advised me that she rarely if ever ran on the banking at the York indoor track during her career, which I found surprising.
We followed her advice and abandoned the indoor track for a fully outdoor preparation, which led to a lot of complaining about frozen fingers and "I can't breathe- it's too cold!"
Because we only started working together in March, I decided on going with a KitKat GPP (get the Lactate Threshold Ebook, it is 400m GOLD). It gets right to the point, doesn't have a complex loading scheme which means I couldn't screw up the loading, and the workouts were easy to adapt to grass and hills. I also had good success with it earlier this year.
A second point I could make is that we found a use for the new fake turf that is popping up everywhere in place of real grass on track infields. Though I have always been wary of it due to Charlie stating that it is nothing like real grass, we used it for virtual track sessions. For example for the 300 + 4x60, 200 + 3x60, 150 + 2x60, 80 + 60, 60 + 60 workout, I would have him run on the turf inside lane 1 for the tempo rep because the pace wasn't crazy, then run the turf straightaway marked by cones for the backup reps. I also used the turf for 5x200m workouts in the GPP, except I'd start the rep at the apex of one turn, have him run from the apex to the straight, then into the apex of the next turn, and turn it around and go the other way for the next rep. Even though we were turning a bit, we were going both ways, and we weren't running around full corners at high speeds.
The fake turf seems to work well when you want to move pretty quickly but don't want the pounding of track work. Don't get me wrong- I am still very suspicious of this surface, but if you need to move fairly quickly and you're surrounded by pathetically uneven grass, it may be an interesting option.
In the end, we got through the entire GPP without any injury, which was by far the longest uninterrupted block of injury-free training he's ever done. He responded well to the GPP, but said after almost every workout that it was the "Hardest workout I've ever done!" which was probably true, since his true training age is negligible. I noticed his work capacity rising quite obviously on a week to week basis, which was very encouraging.
This leads into my first bonehead move of the season...