I was hoping I'd feel OK today, yesterday I cut the workout with that in mind. It worked. One concept or method out of the many for training for a 400 meters advocates doing 100's at a fast but relaxed pace on your easy days. Clyde Hart, possibly one of the most successful sprint coaches ever, has his athletes doing something similar but it's in the form of 200's and 300's followed by 4 X 40 meters "quick". You'll see that a lot in his weekly structures. The 100 variation is part of a mixed (sprint and tempo) method which I'm sensing is better for me. It feels better anyway plus (I think) I have a definite speed weakness so I need that. One goal in the coming months will be to do 2-3 of these diagonal sessions a week in the hopes of developing my central nervous system more, or at least undoing some of the aging process from a neuromuscular pov. Which believe it or not can be done. So can "fiber shifting" which is changing slow twitch to fast twitch. Something for another post maybe. Anyway.
My soccer field, or my kid's school soccer field rather, which is just down the road, is only 60 meters long so I won't be able to do 100's but I can still get the point. Today was 12 X ~40 meter diagonals (running corner to corner) on what is called a rolling start. A rolling start is where you build for ~5-10 meters and then punch it VS coming out of blocks or a 4 or 3 point start. Less violent or explosive and avoiding that aspect is part of the point of this. These aren't supposed stress the CNS (central nervous system) but rather stimulate it. You want motor units (a motor unit is a motor neuron and the muscle fiber attached to it) to fire and activate. Fatigue can cause a short circuit of sorts and motor units will shut down causing a lower percentage of a muscle to be active or coordinated. This session is designed to activate everything and get the muscles coordinating/ firing well again. Some coaches (Canova), myself included believe that a better recovery protocol is to include some type of CNS stimulation, but the crux almost always comes down to durability. If you're a wreck after a hard day then injury risk will sky rocket if you try something like this. You need to be confident that you aren't going to tear something. The main points to consider are hamstrings, glute medius, and achilles (or lower leg in general) as these are the places where the most common injuries occur or at least originate from. The reason being that these points are the most stressed. The hamstrings are violently (you'll see this word often because it perfectly describes the stress) contracted and more importantly extended or stretched. The achilles, which was already stressed the day before and most likely damaged, is going to be subjected to impact force. The glute med. is susceptible because it's been weakened and similar to the hamstring will be stretched and torqued.
Diagonals, or what the program I'm following terms "moderate tempo", should be run quite comfortable and relaxed with a strong focus on technique and form. You should build as you loosen meaning the first one is very relaxed, the second is slightly faster, the third faster, and so on yet never sprinting. You'll warm up into these and you never force it. The recoveries are walking the end zones which takes about 30"-45". The techniques I focus on are planting my recovering foot well under my center of gravity, almost behind it. This forces your recovery foot to already be driving back (think of it like scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe) upon contact. So rather than land ---> then push off, your foot is already pushing off when it lands. The other aspect which I'm finding tough is to bring your recovering foot up and over your planted knee with your ankle fully dorsiflexed. This feels exaggerated and awkward but I feel the stress in my hamstring disappear when I do it right. Right now I have a touch of high hamstring tendinopathy so I have pain in my upper hamstring when I don't do it. In a messed up way the tendinopathy is a perfect teaching tool. One more concept that I think I already have down is that you never want your femurs to go past 20 degrees of center (meaning you don't allow your femur during the push off phase to go more than 20 degrees behind you.) All of these techniques are focused on simultaneously reducing hamstring stress and increasing economy. One guy who absolutely nailed this technique was Michael Johnson. You can see it plain as day once you know what to watch for. His arm swing was also text book, particularly in the last 100- watch his compared to his competition. I've heard his technique described as a shuffling motion.
One last thing. If I feel good, I'm considering a time trial on Friday. I have a definite goal for my final, 'A' priority 400 in August and I really want to see where my critical speed is. This will allow me to see where my main weakness is right now and where to steer my training in the coming weeks. If my time trial sucks and shows I can't reach my goal then I need to work on speed. If it's excellent and shows I can reach my goal then I need to work on endurance. The TT will be an all out 200 meter solo race essentially. .