Coach Charlie Francis discusses Central Nervous System work, fatigue and it's relationship with sprinting, high intensity work like heavy lifting and explosive drills used in track and field.
Hamstrings are not supposed to be sore and tight 24/7.It is not normal or desirable to have sore and tight hamstrings around the clock. I am not talking about bodybuilding, cross -fit, training to have an instagram rear end. I am speaking about speed training, sprinting and literally kicking butt across the finish line or end zone first and often. If you can’t walk from tightness and soreness of your hamstrings, trust me…. Your speed training suffers and worst case you get injured constantly.
Speed training is different than anything else regarding sports as it’s unique in how you ultimately gain speed consistently.
Sure almost anyone can get faster by making simple routine improvements in the warm up as one example. But how to max out on becoming a speed demon you will need to pay attention to each variable often get overlooked in sports.
Tightness and soreness can be managed and needs to be managed to be fast, get fast, stay fast and get faster.
Some soreness of the hamstrings will be natural when doing speed work or high volumes of work related to speed work. Chronic tightness will never end well for anyone.
When you are able to balance the training loads needed to become faster as well learn to manage soreness and tightness proactively it will help with injury prevention. Coaches and athletes need to learn the factors effecting hamstring health and when they are addressed they will be creating an ideal environment for speed training.
Factors to be addressed to prevent Hamstring tightness for speed training.
Planning and Methodology of Speed Training includes:
If you are a sprinter wishing to compete with success it will be a good idea to have a plan to improve your speed development and it will be your job to know which methods of training and recovery you respond to best. Repeating successful methods will be the most efficient way to make the most of your annual speed-training plan.
It’s common for those interested in speed training to think running more reps of sprints at any speed will bring success to becoming a faster athlete. Monitoring quality and rest intervals of speed training is key. Successful methods of training for speed might create muscle tightness and soreness but managing active regeneration, diverging from what might be written down for training opposed to responding to how individual sessions play out will help you keep your body healthy and prevent injury.
1- The Annual Plan:
Take a look at a one hour lecture of Coach Charlie Francis’s plan to create one of the fastest people on the planet who eventually broke the world record and won the gold medal at the Olympics in a record breaking time.
Note: Annual plans need to be customized for individuals more so as an athlete improves over time. Beginners will have a more generalized plan. Take a look at this informative video on tips to prepare all athletes in sport.
2-Continual Improvement of Personal Nutrition:
Eating well has never been as important for athletes due to increased processed foods devoid of nutrients. Environmental stress depletes our food chain due to damaged soil and pollution. Athletes proactively managing their diets will be rewarded with more consistent training gains and improved recovery so adding work becomes seamless. Basic supplementation via a simple protein smoothie is easily adopted and will enhance your achievements for your speed training goals. Read this blog for more info
3-Practicing Rest and Active Recovery:
Learning to be good at doing nothing was how I first observed the essence regarding rest and recovery. The trick is to add varied methods of rest and recovery into your training day and cycle the same way you routinely practice other training variables. The rewards are large, as you will experience once you are prepared to put in the time and work.
4- Massages Don’t Have to Be 1 Hour:
One of the most innovative aspects behind Coach Charlie Francis’s training methods was born out of the idea of his own experience of had to quit sport prematurely as he was suffering constant hamstring injuries due to tightness and soreness Finding ways to keep muscles loose with short and consistently preformed massages. Check out Charlie Francis Facebook Page to see how it might be done.
Simple Things First and Consistently
Tight muscles means circulation of blood flow has been compromised. Creating circulation can happen manually with massage or contrast baths or perform low intensity exercises, which promotes blood flow. Continued tightness restricts motion and prevents routine high performance within daily workouts.
Log raining habits to record patterns that will impact training goals.
Fatigue can be one of the first signs of dehydration. It’s easy to be lazy about drinking water but it is not a difficult thing to make sure you are drinking enough water before, during and after training.
Make a List of Your Routine Regenerative Habits:
Check them off or list them in your diary once you have completed each action.
Stay Off Your Feet:
Part of managing fatigue and energy as an athlete is building in a routine where you are not on your feet. Find ways to get things done while resting at the same time and prioritize all things that effect your performance.
Are You an Expert Sleeping?
Sleep is the best and most natural way to heal and keep your body recovered. Learn about eating foods to regulate and optimize your hormones from reducing blue lights from electronics and phones to understanding blood sugar management as one of the most important ways in the prevention of food cravings as well as eliminating energy drain which deprives consistent training goals achievement.
Low Intensity workouts to alleviate, treat and prevent constant muscle tightness and soreness from speed training ( low intensity is performing work at 75 percent or less your maximum effort or speed)
You don’t need to have resistance on the bike to get the blood flowing. Creating tension on the bike may have adverse effects to promoting needed circulation to tight muscles.
Performing recovery runs or tempo at 70 to 75% your max effort on grass in flats will promote cardio vascular fitness and provide a flush of your tight muscles. Finish the last runs at the same speed you began.
Using an interval of 45 seconds of running in deep end preferably with floatation belt. Start with 1 set of 10 reps of 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest and build up to 2 sets of 45 seconds over time. The Jane Project
Alternating high intensity training with low or very low intensity:
Elite sprinters are able to handle 2 or 3 high intensity speed sessions per week.( HI is defined as 95% - 100 percent of your best time) To optimize speed work allow alternation of high and low intensity work. ( low intensity work defined as 75 % of best time or slower) The hamstrings ( as well as the central nervous system) need 48 to 72 hours recovery and to repeat speed work.
Typical Rest Interval for 10 Meters of Speed Work:
Is 1 min rest for each 10 meters of speed work / rest time may increase as quality and distance improve with experience and age of athlete
Stuff To Do Before You Start Your Speed Training
Make a habit of wearing layers to begin training especially keeping your hamstrings and glutes warm. Extra layers can be taken off once technical speed training begins.
Wrap With Heat and Plastic Wrap:
Apply heat and or anti inflammatory creams depending on severity of tightness and soreness of hamstrings. Wrap with plastic food wrap and tensor bandages and covered by tights loose fitting sweat pants to bed. Repeat in the morning for training sessions. We used to do this routinely for hamstrings, glutes, calves and low back.
Epson Salt Baths Are Awesome:
After training Epson can minimize some lactic acid in your muscles. Keep baths away from competition prep.
Use Water To Bounce Back:
Swim in it, drink it, and use it to heat you up in a bath or cool you down to contrast showers and baths. Water can promotes circulation by submerging yourself in it, exercising in or drinking it because it accelerates the removal of waste products in your system.
Actively keeping your hamstrings healthy and loose will save you a great deal of time and heart ache and allow you to train successfully and consistently. Your hamstrings are one of the largest muscles in your body and when you have a problem your hamstrings it will creates other issues that ultimately prevent you from sprinting your best.
“Sprint your own race”
Coaching a high school track program as been a great deal of fun and created a lot of excitement for me and the kids I am working with.
Seeing athletes I used to train with and compete with has also been an enjoyable experience.
Sport as been a huge amount of fun throughout my entire life and it's rewarding to get notes from people across the globe that have been inspired by myself or the work Charlie and I did to create www.charliefrancis.com.
Thanks for reading.
You may also enjoy reading this blog.
I love to eat and I love to cook and I love to share especially when it comes to food. I made this salad up inspired by a yummy salad I enjoyed at a new restaurant around the corner from where I live in Toronto Canada.
Ange’s Kale, Parmesan and Chicken Salad (Delicious and Nutritious all in one. I love it)
- Chop up desired amount of Kale once you have washed and dryed
- Slice or grate from a solid block of parmesan cheese. ( yes, store grated will do fine but likely it's not authentic quality parmesean so even if you just buy the real deal once please try so you will experience the taste difference. The cost of grated is always less for the simple reason that you likely don't know the quality of the cheese they use)
- Roast chicken breast with skin on and bone in the night before or buy a cooked chicken at your local butcher. Don't be afraid to experiment with where you buy cooked chicken or raw as you will be amazed at how quality of chicken tastes substantially better. Watch Project Jane to see me talking cooking for athletes here.
- Add one hard boiled egg sliced ( eggs are one of the easiest and most affordable forms of protein you can have. I always try to buy organic eggs and eggs from chickens that are free range ( the means the chickens are not locked up or not locked up as much as caged chickens)
- Add chopped handful of your favorite grapes
- Add several sprinkles of black toasted sesame seeds
- Add 2 to 3 TAB of black beans
- Apple sliced from 1/4 to 1/2 gala or your favorite variety of apple
- Drizzle with red wine vinegar.
- Add desired amount of Olive Oil toss
- Add sea salt to taste and pepper if you wish
Serve with Sparkling water or green tea or my new favorite drink ever, full fat cream with cocoa and a tiny few teaspoons of sugar.
Enjoy and go try this fantastic and nutritious salad as soon as you are able.
Pure Speed = 7 seconds or less.
Speed Endurance = 7 to 15 seconds.
Specific Endurance = 15 seconds or more up to about 600m. 100 and 200m runners would not typically run 600m, usually only 400m runners or specialist in 400m.
Special Endurance = incomplete recovery 1. 150m for 100 and 200m athlete specialist ( complete recovery for the worlds best athletes might be 15 minutes/ incomplete might be ~ 6 to 10 minutes depending on level and age of athlete) 2. 200m runs could be used to 400m and 800m
My original thoughts about posting a sample workout was to show how much short speed I did at a 100mh.
I don't see people people practicing 10's, 20's or 30's as much. Most seem to prefer going straight to the longer distances.
Practicing 10m of speed when you are fully warmed up and fully prepared to perform speed makes a perfect starting point for me as a coach. First I want to see my athlete at 10m before I increase the distance.
Once you have practiced a reasonable volume of 10m runs ( we often did 10m in sets of 3 or 4 at a time) then move on to 20m and then 30m. Total volume of runs are progressed over time. As quality of the runs ( defined by visual and actual time, hand or electric) improve, so does the rest as the intensity also will rise.
Canadian National athlete Dan Brady completing a 2 x 600m breakdown
at Riverdale Park August 2016
Tempo for Speed Training
Tempo running is defined as running performed at 65 – 75% percent of one’s maximum speed. What is important on how to perform tempo is you want the last rep of your runs to be the same speed as the first runs. For example, if you are not able to complete 10 repetitions of 100 meters at an even speed, start with a shorter distance and improve that distance over a few weeks. You might also try slowing the overall speed down. To improve the quality of your tempo running monitor by hand timing your runs and making sure you are consistent with short breaks.
FACTS regarding tempo running for speed training
- A wide range of people with varied ages and skills will be able to benefit from tempo for speed training. There are also many ways to perform tempo versus just the running version which you can see in the GPP (General Preparation Phase) download. Examples are pool tempo (see Project Jane download), bike tempo (bike workout download) and indoor matt running (basement tempo download).
- If you are a speed and power athlete who has not been performing tempo runs 2 to 3 x per week, adding in these cardiovascular building runs into your training will facilitate improved capillary density which indirectly increases blood flow which improves recovery. (Note: you will need to take something out of your current training plan to add more into it)
- 75% of top speed is the upper limit, in the same conditions as your best time for the distance. Adjust the effort level to suit conditions - long grass, short grass, smooth, bumpy ground etc. It’s a preferred practice to do all tempo on grass if possible in flats not spikes – this means you adjust pace downwards.
- Tempo aids in recovery and the ability to stay warm between reps and sets. It can have an indirect role in speed development by increasing the muscles’ ability to generate more heat.
- Typically the session volume would be as follows:
100 – 200 meter specialist – 2000 meter per session 3 x per week
400 meter specialist - 3000 meter per session 3 x per week
800 meter specialist – 4000 meters per session 3 x per week
- Upper limit is 75% effort levels over distances of 100 – 400 m per repetition. Although the volume of each session would adhere to the above guidelines the length of each rep would result in different training effects.
- Above 200m distances could produce too much lactate for sprinters of early training age or trained inappropriately to handle. You need to gradually build up the distances and intensities so that lactic is not a problem along the way.
- SPRINTING AND TEMPO running can coexist fine in any training program as the tempo running is so low in intensity that it does not effect the CNS (Central Nervous System) and because the total volume of tempo work is small. (2000 m per session)
- AEROBIC TRAINING interferes with speed and strength development when the volume gets out of hand. In small quantities it’s fine and even enhances the speed and power development through recovery.
- Different types of tempo for different purposes
Tempo performed in The General Preparation Phase of training (GPP) will be different than all other phases of training, which include SPP and pre competition and competitive season training.
Two different types of tempo performed during GPP
1. EXTENSIVE TEMPOExtensive tempo are low intensity with incomplete recovery. Performing tempo in this way serves to flush out the system of impurities like lactic acid and promotes CNS recovery and promotes cardio fitness. FACT = extensive tempo can replace continuous runs even for the 800m+ distances.
Examples of Extensive tempo would be Big and Small Circuits or repeat 100’s.
Big Circuit (big Tempo Circuit ) add 00’s
walk 50m between reps
walk 100m between sets
(we used a football field length wise, marked 25 m, walked back and performed the runs in this way)
2. INTENSIVE TEMPOMore intense runs than extensive tempo and not recovery work but used in the early stages of a speed development program and definitely not during the competitive phase of the season. This type of tempo is only used during GPP as it creates lactic acid and might be confused with what coach Charlie Francis discusses as medium work. The breaks are still short. In GPP intensive tempo is done for foundation of overall fitness.
Examples of Intensive tempo would be 7 to 10 x 300 with 4 to 5 min rest reducing recovery length over time or 600 breakdowns x 1 or 2 .
NOTESHere’s an interesting note from Coach Charlie Francis in Forums from 2002 to 2004 “In later stages 100 meter sprinter Ben Johnson (born Dec 30 1961) did not go past 300 m in tempo. (Ben told the author that he performed 300’s and further distances from 1977 to 1983) but he did sessions of 10 x 300 in 45 to 48 seconds with a 100 m walk recovery. Earlier still he did 600 m breakdowns (6,5,4,3, 2,1) with walk equal to distance recoveries for tempo work in early season.
An example of how the author performed tempo running year around during competition was to do varied tempo distances 2 to 3 x per week alternating with Speed and Power work performed 2 to 3 x per week. Typically speed and power work together on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Tempo and recovery work we would do Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays. A tremendous amount of variability might exist from individual to individual and day to day in terms of how much volume performed. It would depend on how the adaptation happens daily and cumulatively over each training block annually.
INTENSIVE tempo performed during other parts of a season such as pre comp and comp when quality needs to be first and rest intervals long and complete will create the opposite effect for an athlete as I have discussed above. For further reading go to Amazon and look at the Key Concept Books series of books and Speed Trap. For an extensive overview check out the charliefrancis.com site for the Vancouver Seminar 1 and 2 series.
There is more to discuss about tempo but this blog will give your more than what you need to experiment as a beginner or elite athlete.
I am always around to answer questions. Curious minds learn more.
I may have some days from now on when I have no time to get running tempos in at all....
Forum Member Question
I wonder if doing bike tempos can have negative effect on sprinting mechanics.
I am not able to think of any good reason bike or pool tempo would have a negative effect on sprinting mechanics. Avoiding tempo in a program may make it a challenge to perform routine, quality speed work as a key benefit to performing low intensity exercise promotes circulation which helps keep muscles loose and limber. Utilizing bike and pool tempo ensure an adequate volume of low intensity work gets performed in an annual plan. Bike, pool and tempo substitutes are used for variety in training, limited facility access, poor weather, and travel distance to training as well as avoiding excess pounding of running. We have used the bike and pool for tempo with success when I was a 100m hurdler on the National team. We continued to use tempo training of each variety with Professional athlete in the tennis, NHL and NFL.
Tempo is used to flush muscles of lactates produced by high intensity work and to ready the muscles for speed training and other high intensity work. Performing low intensity work such as tempo assists in vascularizing the muscles, which facilitates greater blood flow. Greater blood flow facilitates a higher rate of access of fluid in and out of the muscles so you are increasing the circulation.
Slower, recovery based tempo used primarily during the competition phase as you want to make sure none of the non speed day training competes with the energy systems needed for performing quality speed work. Use the guideline of running 75% your max effort but never forget the last set needs to be performed at the same speed and quality of the first set no matter the volume of total runs. ( 75% max effort of what distance, under what circumstance and with what kind of conditions / wearing flats or spikes for max effort) When performing extensive tempo during competition season be conservative if you are unsure of speeds)
An example of an Extensive Tempo session performed during competition phase might be 1 or 2 sets of 10 x 100 meter for 100/200m National level sprinters with consistent rest breaks and up to but not more than 5 minutes rest between sets. I might never do bike or pool tempo with an athlete during comp season especially if they had not ever done it before. Pool can be unexpectedly tiring and then becomes something other than low intensity.
Faster/ harder tempo where by you are using the quality of the runs to rule recovery while controlling breaks and trying to keep them as short as possible but never to compromise quality. This type of tempo is used extensively during GPP (General Preparation Phase) as well as the fall and spring training.
An example of an Intensive Tempo session performed in the General Preparation Phase for a 400mh National level sprinter would be 600 breakdown x 1 building quickly to 2 sets with last 100 meter of each run up graded hill. Rest intervals might be 4-5 minutes after first 600, 4m after 500, 3.5m after 400, 3m rest after 300, 2.5m rest after 200 and 2 minutes or less before the last 100 meter run up hill. Take 20 minutes before you perform next 600m breakdowns.
Forum Member Question
With bike, one is not able to extend his fully, because the position of hips is fixed and range of motion of the legs are limited, resulting in "sitting back" posture.
The main goal of tempo is to facilitate more work of high intensity especially as it pertains to speed work. While running tempo facilitates other mechanical strengths for runners, performing alternative tempo methods is useful for a variety of reasons mentioned above. (Injury prevention, time saved for travel to facilities etc.)
As a general rule for training finding ways to accomplish your athletic goals in a variety of ways will ensure consistent training with little or few injuries. There is an ideal way and then there is a compromise. Don’t make the mistake of believing the compromise won’t be as good or better than what some insist is the only way.
Forum Member Question
Will this carry over to one's actual sprinting or sprinting drills?
Yes, tempo performed as a low intensity exercise facilitates high intensity work and all other types of low intensity work. The more fitness you have the greater your ability to grab onto all other variables of your training. I was taught this idea early on in my training, as athlete and maintaining fitness became a main goal as the premise for all other work I needed to get done.
Guidelines for tempo speed:
75% of your maximum effort or overall speed may seem vague for people trying to understand how exactly to perform tempo runs. You want to be able to finish the last run of any chosen volume of work the same way you began the run. Timing yourself might help but routinely it’s better to have your coach time the runs. Be mindful not to run too fast on the first rep or first few reps. Speed can be added but you cant take it away. Be conservative until you have experience of what a tempo circuit feels like in a week or two of training. A coach can time the runs and have the athlete raise their hand at the beginning and end of each run. Over time you will see the pattern and speed of the runs. A coach needs to learn to watch for mechanical breakdown of an athlete and stop work right away. Even if you are in the pool or on the bike when quality begins to diminish your estimation of workload has been over done. Stop when you see degradation of any kind.
Forum Member Question
…or are these too unsimilar to have any carry-over effect biomechanically?Coach Ange’s Answer
Biomechanics won’t be successfully maintained if the foundation of fitness has not been in place and stays in place throughout the season. Fitness is usually best attained using a variety of methods of training. A person will be able to accomplish greater volumes of meaningful work of all kinds when the work is varied and spread across the spectrum of both low and high intensity work.
Forum Member Question
I've read also that treadmill tempos can have negative effect on sprinting mechanics because of longer ground contact time due to the belt moving forward.
Tempo on treadmill will never match the tempo on grass but it can be successfully used as an alternative the same way basement, pool and bike tempo can be utilized. Speed work done on treadmills is not recommended and might be where you are referring to ground contact times.
Tempo performed badly any place should not ever be continued or repeated.
Providing alternatives for tempo is not to say you want 100% of tempo performed as an alternative. Having said that if it’s the only way you can sustain successful training due to lessening pounding from foot or ankle issues then that is what you need to you do to get the job done.
Forum Member Question
I wonder what I should do.....bike or treadmill.Coach Ange's Answer
How about you try both and follow the videos that are based on real results are record your experiences.
Forum Member Comments Questions
Bike - possibility of causing sitting back.
Treadmill - possibly cause longer ground contact time, but more movement specific (mechanically).Coach Ange's Answer
Use the treadmill as a tool to perform tempo. If possible use the tempo to come on and off and mix exercises in between for another type of tempo we use which mixes exercises like sit ups and push ups and low intensity exercises which can enhance the type of work you wish to get done in lieu of running.
Final Comments from Coach Ange
Bike, pool and basement tempo each provide excellent alternatives to tempo runs which facilitate speed training in athletics.
One of the simplest and most attainable ways to immediately gain improvement in your speed training is to begin practicing daily rituals of active regeneration.
The definition of regeneration in the Merriam-Weber online dictionary says “to change radically and for the better, to generate or produce anew” and my favorite is “to produce again chemically sometimes in a physically changed form”.
I found the definition of regeneration helpful when trying to best describe the implications of routine generation for your existing speed-training program if you add small amounts each day.
A priority trick you must learn is to install various methods of regeneration into your existing plan, as is, if you want to see improvement.
The simplest methods of active regeneration are repeatable at home and are not expensive. The best way to practice and benefit most from active regeneration is to remember small amounts performed routinely on a schedule works best.
Here are some great ideas to get your started
- Get some mason jars, fill 3 up on your kitchen counter and make sure you drink that amount of water every day. If you are travelling for training or comp buy a few days supply of bottled water ahead of time for the trip and take them with you don’t get dehydrated (if you are flying, buy some as soon as you land)
- Epson salt baths, as soon after your speed training has been completed as possible, to begin the cycle of your body healing
- Epson salt baths done before bed might also help you sleep.
- If you have not yet tried contrast showers, today might be a good day to start. If you have concerns about health always check with your medical doctor. Begin your shower as hot as you are able to tolerate it and follow with cold. Alternate 3 minutes of hot with 1 minute of cold ensuring your head is getting wet. Repeat so this water circuit takes 12 minutes and always end in cold. The first time you perform this will be hard. The more you do it the more you will enjoy it.
- Clean up your diet. If you are going to training hungry and tired or finishing training too early as you need to eat, something in your diet is not working well. Craving sugar and fat both indicate issues as well. Athletes put extreme demands on themselves both physically and mentally. For this reason the room for error is amplified.
- Exercise on your off days on a stationary bike for tempo or in a pool. Water has incredible healing properties. Bike training can ease joints and help accelerate circulation to speed up the rate at which you recover.
Speed Training taxes the body in an intense way. Achieving balance between work and rest in speed training takes time to learn. Learning to rest and recovery actively, even a little bit each day, will help you consistently make gains and actively regenerate your speed training.