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

November 05, 2019 by James Francis

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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Managing Muscle Tightness for Sprinting

July 29, 2019 by Angela Coon
Overtraining and lack of understanding of how to train properly are two factors which might contribute to muscle tightness. ( One example would be that we alternated high intensity sprinting with low or very low intensity training. Sometimes especially in my early days of training we might take more than one day to full super compensate from high level speed work) Constant muscle tightness is not normal for sprinters.  Ongoing muscle tightness is not desirable for sprinters and may put you at high risk for serious injury which may be difficult to bounce back from.  Tightness can indicate your muscles are working hard. Learning to run in a relaxed manner will help prevent injuries but relaxation during sprinting often comes with athletes who have greater knowledge and experience. We used to have a saying about training. "you can always add ( work) but you can't ( easily) take it ( the work)  away". Knowing when to stop working hard is one of the most difficult things to teach athletes and coaches and parents who all mean well but don't fully appreciate the cost and effects of small or large injuries in sprinting.
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Warming Up for Sprinting in Track and Field

June 26, 2015 by Angela Coon

A Sprinters Warm up. 3 Essential Rules:

1. Think relaxation in all things you do. If you are not able to perform the movement in a relaxed way do something easier.

2. Take your time. Don’t rush your warm up. I learned this lesson the hard way from former World and Olympic Champion in the men’s 100 meters Ben Johnson. I asked what he had thought of my race at one of my first national championships in 1991 in Montreal. He said “ okay , but you would have done so much better if you didn’t rush your warm up.”. I never forgot what he said and it changed the way I prepared for all training.

3. An excellent guideline to know you are ready for the actual work of your training is achieving a mild sweat on your forehead. This rule does not seem overly sophisticated but it works. I am not talking about profuse sweating before you begin. 

Guidelines for an extensive warm-up before Sprinting or Tempo


Note :
 Get in the habit of timing your warm up, pay attention to how much time various parts of your warm up and training take, and record it in your training diary.  

1. Jog slowly for 10 minutes or X number of laps around the track or grass if you have it. Usually 3 to 4 laps outside on outside track.

2. We used the length of the football field (post to post) to perform a lot of the drills and runs in the warm up. It was a predictable distance and most often easy to replicate in almost any location in almost any country. Approx. 100 yds or meters depending Canada, US or Eurupe. Soccer or American Football. 

3. Once the 10 minutes of jogging took place we usually launched immediately into side skips down one length and shaking back. Generally we would mix in one , maybe two exercises at one end of the field. Generally the end where we had all of our bags , water etc. The exercises would be a mixture of med ball throws, donkey kicks. sit ups mixed with stretches. 5 to 8 minutes

4. Side skips, grape vine, back ward arm circles and tripling were the main exercises on the way down the field and then usually we did what we called shaking back which was like a jog but shoulders are down and you are shaking your entire body. Some have commented on the silliness they feel doing this exercise but it promotes relaxation throughout the warm up.  

NOTE: Shaking promotes relaxation. It’s not a jog. It’s not a skip. Your hands should fall to your side and as you are shuffling along in somewhat of a jog as you are shaking your body. 

5. @ approx. 18 to 20 minutes Power Speed Drills = Power Speed was included in 99% of every warm up I ever performed in 7 years of training. 

• Bum kicks
• A skip
• B skip
• Running A’s 

The distances might vary. A typical progression might be =

3 sets of each drill over 10 meters , then 4 x 10 meters of each drill. As the drills improve so too does the distance maybe. Quality first , volume second. 

Total time up to this point = Not more than 45 minutes but not one hour. 

More is not better / Practice makes permanent

In my next blog I will discuss the things that need to be added after the power speed but often on tempo days the above warm up might be it. But maybe not. 

Often we used a series of med ball throws routinely in our warm up.

After the 10 min jog and within the back and forths and before and or during the power speed.

When I first started out , I did far more little exercises in the body of the warm up before Power Speed. ( see the bike workout for this) 

The reason for this was to gain FITNESS. So for all of you talking about how possibly fitness is not important for speed or the development of speed. 

Pay close attention to the details within the warm up. 

And I never lifted one weight for 2 full years. Instead I worked extensively with a very light med ball. I think it was 2 or 3 k. I remember complaining on deaf ears "when can I use a heavier ball". I got nothing back.

You are ready to move ahead when you are ready to move ahead. Most athletes all want to move ahead faster . No kidding.

I'd love to hear about your warm up. Thank you for all of your questions and feedback. I will do my best to respond to you.

best,

Angé

 

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Sprint and Speed Diaries by Angela Coon May 1st 1992 Woman's 100 meter hurdles

May 01, 2014 by Angela Coon

Training Diaries

I am sharing some of my speed and sprinting workouts with people interested in seeing methods discussed on our forums here since 2000.  

I am thankful and happy I wrote so much down. I encourage anyone to keep a journal no matter what it is you do. It helps you reflect, it provides information to repeat or change and it’s a record you may want some day.

I think it might help people to see workouts performed while also learning methods of training they are able to further research through books like “ Speed Trap” and or “ The Charlie Francis Training System”

The workout below was done while Charlie was doing some work with the Detroit Lions. This video was posted by the head strength and conditioning coach who hired Charlie at the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuCMxAEjlmQ

Friday May 1st 1992 ( 2 workouts today one in am and one at 5:30pm – I think the workout  was meant to be earlier but sometimes things don’t work out that way when your primary objective at that time was my husband’s work )

Bed 1:30am / Wake 8:15am ( we would have been in Detroit at a hotel)

-         Short hot and cold

-         9am breakfast oatmeal , milk and water ( supplements multivitamin ,boron, zinc, primrose oil, ginseng, calcium)

-         10am treadmill 6 to 7 minutes

-         Few sit ups and pushups

-         4 x 10  - 15meters A skip, B skip, Running A’s , Tripling

-         4 x 8 hamstring curls ( Nautilus machines  60lbs, did not like this equipment but CF hated it as well and it bothered my knees while doing it

-         2 x 45lbs bench ( I must have done 2 sets of 10 to warm up not 2 reps only).

-         1 @ 65lbs

-         1 @ 75lbs

-         =====================================

 

-         11:30 am 3 egg omelette / cheese and mushroom / water

-         Got back to hotel room, had a short 10 minute nap/ cleaning lady come to clean room so I  went to hot tub/ then showered

-         1pm = had one hour nap

-         Snack before training club house sandwich  3 pieces

( I remember always being hungry and always having trouble feeling like I was not eating enough. Looking back now I see how incomplete and unscientific my eating was. My training was 10 out of 10 and my eating was about 6 or 7 out of 10 IMO).

4pm = more supplements before training. ( I really got sick of taking supplements but they really helped me as well. It’s  a game . You need to figure out what works best and figure out what does not work and this takes a lot of time and energy and we got a ton of supplements for free which was very helpful. ( supplements = *carnitine musashi,  calcium, sublingual glutamine, ginseng, zinc, primrose oil, licithine, amino acids, * green musashi  )

5:30 pm  = Warm up = 2 laps around track

-Sit ups and medicine ball throws

-6 x 15 meter drills Askip, B skip, bumkicks, Running A’s.

- 4 x 150 meters with 6.5 to 9 minutes rest between sets

  1. 18.09
  2. 17.9
  3. 18.09
  4. 18.42

 

= Warm down = 8 x back and forths over 100 meters shaking very easy

Dinner = Veal marsala, soup , water, milk

Did another hot and cold, massage and slept very well.

 

NOTES : The worst part of my training were runs like the ones I did on this day. I never felt good or great doing them. I always felt it was a  task. I loved doing speed , I loved lifting weights and I also loved training hard. It was Charlie's opinion that I lacked the time and or background doing longer work/ speed endurance because I was out of the sport for so long at the age I needed to be doing differently. Having said that you have what you have and as a coach you need to try and find ways to accomplish the different variables of your event while not forgetting the individual. 

 

 

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Three General Guidelines to Training

April 17, 2013 by Angela Coon

 

I get a lot of questions about training from clients and customers and friends. I get questions from mom's about their kids training and I get questions from girlfriends who used to be very active. Now some of these people are less active because of having kids and how life gets busy and then training gets buried into their schedules as a low or a non existent priority.
 
With this in mind maybe these Three General Guidelines to Training might  jump start you into a new workout or help you improve training you might already be doing. 
Number 1.
Do something you can repeat each weekly cycle. For example = Everyone wants to go for the big workout day one with zero thought about day 2,3 4 on. Hey, I am not being critical. The Bootcamp business model thrives on this idea.  It's not anyone's fault. you just don't know different or better ( yet ) How about you try to do what I tell people all the time.  Set yourself up to succeed. Test yourself. Start with a 20 minute maximum routine and see if are able to repeat it  every other day for 7 to 10 days. Your next test is to  keep that same workout exactly the same and repeat if for one more cycle ( try and repeat another 7 to 10 day trail of 20 minute workouts ) . If you can do that then experiment to add 5 to 10 more minutes on the 20 minute workout. ( one common mistake I see all the time =  No one wants to skip a day inbetween. Why ? =  because more is better. ( it's our North American culture imbedded that more is better)  Trust me. More is more. More is not always better. Stick to the plan of this Number 1 and you will do fine. )  
Number 2 
.
You need to find the kind of exercise that works for you. This took me a long time to learn post athletic career. I am one of the lucky ones. I love exercising because it makes me feel better than I did if I don't exercise. I even think it acts like medicine for some but that is for another blog. Walking for exercise might sound dull or riding your bike might seem too easy  but both forms of exercise are repeatable and sustainable and they are relatively safe. One tip =  injuries happen to everyone.  when they happen they pull people off track. Having babies, starting new jobs or something accidental while enjoying a weekend activity... Then what? Stick to Number 1 and work on Number 2. No excuses =  you can do a ton of exercises in your basement , bedroom ( no comments from the cheap seats please) or your living room. Get down and give me  3 sets of 5 push ups and 10 sit-ups  ( switch the order and number around/ woman do more sit ups / men do more pushups generally) and you pick one other exercise and repeat it 3 x a week. Ya, I know. Most of you reading this are saying that is not enough. Ok. do it and tell me different and what worked for you then. 
Number 3.
Regarding the silly numbers I just recommended someone do for push-ups and sit ups in my last general principle? Well,  10 situps and 5 push ups? Really? 3 sets? That's it? Yeah, well I have seen people who could not really sustain that but so what. Work with what you have and grow it from there. Small progression over time needs to happen. It has been called Progression of load. Load could be a bunch of things . Load could be progressively add some time onto the workout.Load could also be progressively adding one more or two more to a set. Here is the thing. Most people progressively load too FAST. 
Whoops ONE more and its kinda important but I am not adding in because three things is enough to remember. I could give you 10 general principle but 3 is enough right now.  Just remember this last thing =  PLAN TO REST, SLEEP MORE, SLEEP BETTER, ACTIVELY PURSUE THE IDEA THAT IF YOU TRAIN or WORKOUT  or  ARE TRYING TO DO SOME KIND OF PERFORMANCE .... you can't just keep adding more work to your day or more exercise as without restoring your energy pool , naturally revitalizing you energy capabilities and giving yourself a chance to re-boot. 
I know lots of people want  recipe workouts and training . Just try to keep in mind these 3 Easy to follow General Principles of Training   and  my  hope is some of these ideas help you get going.  Moving  makes us feel better and when we feel better we laugh more , love more and enjoy more.
I hope it is going well for you.
I wish you my best in the journey. 
Ange
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from www.charliefrancis.com

December 24, 2012 by Angela Coon

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from www.CharlieFrancis.com

Dear Forum Members, Clients and Customers of www.Charliefrancis.com

I want each of you know how much I have appreciated your support in the past few years. 

Specifically I wish to thank several forum members who continue to contribute with no reward other than their desire for the greater knowledge base in the world of training coaches and athletes. This idea is consistent with why this site was created well over 10 years ago.

Each year , at the beginning of my calendar year I like to take stock in what was and look forward to how I want to improve things moving forward. I also find the New Year a great time to reflect on how thankful I am for what I have. 

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate this holiday. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to each and every one of you.

I wish you all good things and want to encourage each of you to take some time now to enjoy what each of you have even if you are not completely satisfied. Part of life is change no matter how tough that might be. Find one reason for being and take advantage at what brings smiles to your face. 

Cheers and warmest wishes from my son and myself to each of you.

Thank you all again as you might not appreciate what this site has added to my life. 

Here is looking to each of you for the best year in 2013 yet!

Ange
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