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Coach Ange's Blog

Telltale Signs of an Elite Sprinter and making the most of your nervous system ( CNS training)

Hello Dear Reader and lover of Speed development and  Sprinting;

Thank you so much for showing up to read my blog. I'm interested in questions and knowing what you think. Bug me if I'm not attending to you faster. ( faster is better right? ;)

( photo of Charlie @1972 Olympic Games in Munich 100m heats)

There does not appear to be volumes of quality information or research around the central nervous system and sprint training.  Coach Charlie Francis educated himself on this topic primarily because he was forced to quit his sprinting career early due to injuries he later learned were due to chronic tightness which could be prevented. ( before signing off as a competitor, Charlie was plagued with one injury after another due to the primary focus of high intensity work with little attention to rest or recovery. "Speed Trap" the book Coach Francis cowrote in 1989 with Jeff Coplon, tells a story about his life as an athlete and coach. Francis wanted different for his athletes. 

You will find the most specific information about how the CNS and sprinting in another book Francis was asked to co write with Paul Patterson. "The Charlie Francis Training System". Understanding how the CNS works in speed training has been central to how Charlie coached countless sprinters, coaches and a variety of athletes from multiple speed and power sports.

Here is a question asked by www.charliefrancis.com forum member;

Forum Member Question

What is an efficient nervous system, which if an athlete has, allows him/her to be naturally fast? I'm familiar with the telltale signs of short temper, the quickness of their feet and a bunch of other stuff.. but moving past those subjective tests, what are the true metrics of a powerful CNS? Read in my psychology textbook about the sodium/potassium ion pump, action potential, excitatory neurotransmitters.. are those phenomenon’s related to someone's inherent speed? And that leads to the question - how can I purposely affect/increase these measures? Will supplementing with electrolytes translate to increased firing of neurons?.....

I saw Andre de Grasse at Canadian Nationals... he's a standard IMO of what a person with a superior CNS is. He is twitchy. He couldn't stop moving. There was always some articulation of the limb going about even when he was drinking his water. He could not be still. I think it's that neural configuration plus zero aggression/excessive effort that lets him run very fast.( forum member from www.charliefrancis.com since 2013 and junior pan american team member)

Coach Ange’s Answer

According to 'The Charlie Francis Training System', two telltale signs of an elite sprinter are:

1- High level sprinters tend to be short tempered; explosive and intense… an explosive personality is an indication of an explosive nervous system.

2- The athlete who can move his or her feet at high frequency is a candidate for sprinting.

( taken from 'The Charlie Francis Training System' page 10.  See also “Theory and Methodology of Training The key to Athletic Performance” by Tudor Bompa Chapter 13 )

As far as true metrics of a powerful CNS go?
CNS has to be fully regenerated so that the chemical environment required for optimal transmission of nervous signals is intact. (The Charlie Francis Training System page 29 to 32)
Supplying excellent nutrition including electrolytes will optimize your physiology to both develop and enhance the nervous system you already have in place. Electrolytes work best during and post workout.
Motor pathways, characteristic of optimal technique and efficient routing of motor signals must be in place …. Appropriate training creates chemical changes. Notice “appropriate", not any training that some feel works for them, which advance the capacity to do both CNS work and muscular endurance work under conditions of correct technique, before fatigue is reached. (The Charlie Francis Training System pages 29 to 32)
Routine regeneration is important because it will be your first line attempt to take full advantage any training you will perform.  The training effect of the  work you perform will be minimized unless you routinely ensure your personal chemistry is ready to respond to high quality work. Otherwise you are not optimizing your existing level of performance. 

Regeneration is equally as important if not more than training. My suggestion is to apply a few routine methods of regenerating to your training week and see what you think? 

This means more contrast baths for all of you.

"Sprint your own race"

Warmest regards,

Coach Angé Coon  




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What are the Best Hamstring Exercises for Sprinting?


 ( What you are looking at is a stick drawing Charlie made for his training manual to show an exercise he used and felt was effective for it's practical transfer of use for his sprinters. We used a leg press machine to perform this exercise but as you can see from the drawing, instead of using it for a seated leg press we turned our bodies around to mimic the hamstrings action pushing off the starting blocks when sprinting. The universal we used was an old style of machine not seen often) 


The best hamstring exercises for sprinting comes from sprinting itself. One of the next best set of exercises for the hamstring and sprinting are speed drills. (also referred to as Power Speed Drills) ( the next time someone tells you speed drills or power speed is old school or out of date, ask them how fast they have legally run? ;) This will qualify the content of what they speak of ;)  Below are a list of hamstring exercises to possibly   supplement your speed training. 

Outside of sprinting fast , this blog will share some insights on an article recommending “ 7 best hamstring exercises”  and how they fit into my training experience as a former Canadian National 100m sprint hurdler.

1.Back Extensions
One leg back extensions are an okay idea except be mindful of one leg anything in my humble opinion. Coach Charlie Francis  preferred both leg work to prevent injury. ( Charlie was not wrong much about all things to do with training) I do singles and doubles and also add in arm pulls with varied weights.Having said that as an ordinary middle aged female, double leg work is efficient and safest)  I find single leg anything requires more attention and higher risk of injury almost all the time outside of those days when you are feeling AMAZING. Learn your own body and what works best for you. Careful training is smart training as prevention of injuries is time saving. Injuries suck and are draining in multiple ways. Coaching athletes to be cautious is tough. Learning it as an athlete takes time and most people seem to learn the hard way. Sometimes you might not get second chances depending on injury severity.  Don’t confuse caution with less effective training or cautious means you are weak or afraid.  I rarely missed a full training day ever. Training might be modified but I always view training as an opportunity to see how much I could "get" each time I stepped into a workout.  Elite athletes tend to understand caution better than less experienced athletes .  Single leg stuff is higher risk for cramping. I guess cramping does not matter so much if you don't mind missing training. I was taught to  " Live to fight another day" and if you don't have to do something with risk don't. Find an alternative exercise or skip the exercise entirely.  I have a back extension machine and it's one of the most essential exercises for anyone and especially important for sprinters because of how it develops your entire back end. 

2. Natural Glute hamstring raise
I know I already made the point of ultra careful but if you are trying new hamstring exercises be fully warmed up and progress slowly.   The disconnect in literature regarding training IMO can be not knowing the common training mistakes and what the exercise looks like within a performance program vs a fitness program.  Keep the  emphasis on slow with this exercise. Start with a repeatable angle  and work towards going lower over time. You can get plenty done without going to the floor.

3. We called this exercise Hamstring Ups
(also called the Scissor hip Extension)  We did this exercise first with double legs and then progressed to single legs.  I would not start doing this exercise with speed. Make sure you can successfully do this exercise for 3 sets of 15 over a few to several week period , feel great at doing it and then add the variable of speed.  As a trainer or coach make sure your athlete or client is fully warm. Cramping is very common with this single version. 

4. Leg curl
We did a lot of leg curls or hamstring curls as we called it. My first weight lifting had leg curls in each 6 week block of 1. Anatomical Adaptation Phase, 2. Max Strength Phase One, 3. Max Strength  Phase Two.  After this background we did a lot of supplementary leg curls depending on need and time of year. 

5. I am not familiar with this exercise
but it sounds interesting and I love how easy that would be do replicate anywhere.

6. Band Stomping
We did several versions of band resistance exercises but not like this. This exercise looks like the leg swings we did ( daily)  only with  added resistance. It looks like a great exercise. 

7. Stiff Leg Good Morning
I never did much of this exercise but I know CF liked it. I was much better at  squats, cleans and RDL in that order so consequently I spent more time performing these lifts. You need to choose exercises where you get the biggest bang for your buck in your training. 
My first organized weight lifting was 6 weeks beginning in August and ending in late September. This training coincided with the end of my competitive  season and the very beginning of my fall training in Canada. 

  1. Half Squats were the first exercise
  2. Vertical / Upright Row 
  3. Leg Curls
  4. Incline Bench
  5. Reverse Leg Press ( shown in photo above) 
  6. 6. Dead Lifts.

( These lifts were ordered in priority and sometimes I might not have been able to finish all my lifts. I loved the feeling the results of lifting weights, getting stronger and running fast. I hope my comments shed some light on how we used the hamstring exercises discussed above).

"Sprint you own life"
Coach Angé Coon 

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10 Best Gifts for Sprinters (Updated August 21st 2019)

Here is a short list for anyone looking to buy a gift or gifts for your favorite sprinter in your life. Hey, that person might just be you!



1. Blender

a) General Blender:  Magic Bullet that is small, compact and does the job making simple 2 or 3 ingredient smoothies such as fruit and yogurt. I tried it and did not like it as it took up space in my kitchen and did not allow me to expand what I wanted to add to my shake. But the MB is cost effective for simple shakes. 

b) Premium Blender: both Vitamix or Blentec will grind seeds, dark greens like broccoli or kale , flax and pumpkin seeds as well and whole frozen fruits like strawberries. ( My gift to myself this past holiday season was a Vitamix and it is hands down the best of all blenders I've used, bought and tried. I had Blendex thinking it was saving me 200 dollars. It was saving me money but as my knowledge has grown in nutrituion so too have my tastes. Vitamix a professional blender designed to crush almsot anything. It's durable, guaranteed quality and it's larger volume than anything I've had in the past. I can't say enough good about Vitamix. 

Coach Ange's favorite Protein Shake of the moment 

1. *home made almond milk one cup

2. one cup ice filtered water

3. 1/2 frozen banana

4. 1/2 cup fresh cut pineapple ( I cut my own now as it's fresher and better value) 

5. 1 cup spinach loosely packed 

6. 1/2 cup kale ( sometimes I add one or the other and not always both) 

7. 2 to 4 TAB of whole flax seeds

8. 1 TAB of MCT Brain Octane BULLETPROOF (TM)

9. 1 scoop of my favorite protein right now 


2. Athletics Tights for training

 a) Tights for all occasions = can be purchased inexpensively at retailers, which include Costco, Wal-Mart, Sears, TJ Max. Reasonably priced tights are perfect for layering in colder weather when one pair won’t do and baggy sweats or rain gear interferes with training. 

b) Premium Athletic tights = Sometimes you get what you pay for. I don't like buying tights that fall apart quickly but I also don't like spending a lot of money on tights and having small or large issues with them. I like to understand the return policies of items prior to the purchase. How long do I have to return them? How careful do I have to be washing them? Spending more money on tights does not guarantee quality. Many brands now have multiple levels of quality. Middle range might be a good idea for a gift. You can almost spend any amount of money on tights. Under Armour, Addidas, Puma, Nike are all really good at providing multiple levels of brands of tights. I'm somewhat done buying expensive tights. IMO, If it's a gift you want to ensure they can be returned and have some kind of quality guarantee should anything go wrong. 


3. Water bottle

I like Nalgene water bottles because they are safe to drink from, they do not leak, they are easy to clean, durable and you can freeze them and they last. I personally do not like drinking from metal. I love the wide mouth but they also have bottle size opening to drink from. There are so many water bottles now but the reusable ones make so much sense for the active athlete who trains often. Water bottles for sale as of 2019 can be priced as high as $50 dollars. It's a personal thing because you are usually drinking from the bottle opposed to just storing water in it. 


4. Protein

Protein for smoothies and protein shakes = Sun-warrior protein is a premium vegan based brown rice powder. It comes plain, flavored vanilla and chocolate. You can also try premium Whey Proteins from New Zealand. The biggest factor in my experience for protein is taste and ease of blending. The more I read and learn the more I believe most of our food needs to come from real food due to existing enzymes and minerals naturally occurring in foods . Having said that, I find it difficult to live a modern day life filled with demands of work, raising a family, being  extremely active and feel great while living my life without supplementation. Buying a top end protein powder as a gift for someone you care about might be a real treat. The range of proteins for sale is large and can be confusing. 


5. Subscription to a Top Nutritional Journal

Understanding more about nutrition is one of the easiest ways to enhance a sprinters ability to get the most out of his or her training. As of 2019, there are multitudes of free subscriptions to Functional Nutrition advocates, many whom are medically certified. Top notch nutrition is the most powerful performance tool any athlete and sprinter will legally be able to tap into. Here are the links to a few of my favorite, knowledgeable and very interesting individuals I follow online. PeterAttiaMD, Dave Asprey, ChristianaNorthrupMD, ChrisKresser.  


6. Books for Sprinters

Speed Trap and The Charlie Francis Training System are two easy to read and follow book that are available here on the site or at Amazon.com. Both will give the sprinter in your life an overview of the world of athletics and sprinting at the development and elite levels.


7. Medicine Ball

Dynamax medicine balls are made of leather and made in the USA. For the most premium brand go to www.togu.de . For some reason it’s difficult to find good medicine balls out of these two companies.


8. Massages

the best place to find quality therapy is through athletic injury clinics or from other coaches or athletes who may make personal recommendations. You can’t go wrong with gift certificates.


9.Rain Gear

It does not have to be Gortex but light weight rain gear can stop the wind and keep you warm and prevent the rain from getting you wet. Muscles perform best when they are dry and warm.


10.Personal timing device

 I have been wearing the Timex Indiglo watch for a long time and I love it. I time everything and log the results and use my watch in the water as well as its waterproof.

I hope this list of the 10 Best Gifts for Sprinters gives you some great ideas to buy your special someone a fabulous gift. 

 "Sprint your own race" 

Coach Angé Coon 

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