Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Autoregulating Sanya

    I've been coaching for 17 years now and I can't remember when I started using autoregulation
(a-reg for short), for sure more than a decade ago. I have never used it in a sprinter's context though since I've never coached a sprinter. My own method, which I think is still a form of autoregulation, just not as much in the neurological sense, simply has an athlete look for signs of breakdown upon which the session is ended. If I recall correctly my first use of this was on one of my own hill interval sessions where my goal was 8 X 1:00 at max efforts. I thought it'd be a good idea to time the first one and also mark the start and ends and then run the rest of them by that distance aiming to complete it in 1:00. At #5 I felt a severe drop in strength and I ended the minute several meters short of the previous intervals. I ended the workout there. This is autoregulation. It's allowing your body to decide when to end the workout rather than force it to complete a predetermined distance or rep goal.
     The concept tends to float around more in weight rooms. When you use a definitive load it becomes very simple to see the drop. Cycling is another sport where it's fairly simple to use because of wattage. In sprinting you tend to have to have a complex timing system that allows you to measure top speed for a predetermined period of time. It basically takes a snapshot of your fastest speed for the predetermined interval. For sprinters this is an interval lasting either less than 9 seconds, or one lasting 10-40 seconds. The physiological significance of those two times has to do with central nervous system stimulation or not. Maximum speed can only be held for 9 seconds in a well trained elite runner, for mere mortals it's closer to 4"-6". And on a side note, when you talk about the difference in training between elite women's and men's 100 meters, this becomes a huge deal. Men are hitting 9 seconds while women are hitting 10... that one second difference changes everything because of the CNS and it's 9 second rule. Anyway.
     Today I decided to experiment with a 10 X 200 workout and allow my body to regulate the reps. I got to #5 before I felt the drop off. Although not measurable, I felt it for sure. My effort in hitting 30" was much higher and more importantly my form broke down. I ended the run there and moved into another system focus. Starting blocks. I still suck.
     The next workout I will do is going to be 20 second intervals at max velocity. I'll be using a 6 meter drop off as my a-reg cap. I'll use 6 meters to simplify this and allow myself to measure it more accurately, but 6 meters equals roughly .6 seconds (3% of 20 seconds). Once I am unable to finish within that 6 meter zone I'll be done.
     Why do this? It comes down to recovery. The last time I did the Sanya workout it took a toll on me. Traveling and all that is associated with it inhibited my recovery too, but that's part of it. Had I autoregulated that session I'm confident I'd have gotten in at least two more quality sessions since. Instead I missed them. Autoregulation is helpful in making sure you don't over stress your body and CNS and by tracking and logging the results you can eventually make sessions very predictable in terms of recovery.
     One other way that I use a-reg with my athletes is on their long runs. It's not uncommon for me to put a long run as something like 10-18 miles. Pretty vague. But my notes on that sessions will say to let your body decide the distance. Don't force it. Let the miles come to you and don't chase the numbers. Once you begin to feel a loss in mechanics then head home. A loss in mechanics (poor knee lift, weak support in lower legs, plodding basically) is a sign that you have stressed your body adequately and anything more is a) probably not making you fitter and b) increasing your risk of injury. Again, I'm not positive that this concept truly fits into the original definition of autoregulation but I think it's close enough. It's still hitting at the heart of it.
     

7 comments:

BB said...

This is a key feature in training for rock climbing. Once fatigue hits, your technique plummets. While pushing through fatigue is the ultimate goal, to do so in training too often builds bad engrams (movement patterns) PLUS carries a greatly increased injury risk. Out of about 120 climbing sessions/year, I only go to max effort maybe 5 or 6, preferably when it really counts for performance. I have one of the best injury histories in the sport, 26 years at 5.13 with zero injuries (I wish I could say the same about running :/

As a result, I have a "Three strikes you're out" policy when working a hard climbing sequence: three tries to get it, otherwise move on to a new problem (similar to you moving on to starts. You could also do an easy tempo or tech drills)

Lucho said...

BB- Great example of a-reg. I like your comment on only going to max 5 or 6 times. I think this is a great example of understanding the limits of our CNS (particularly with your sport) and has implications in how we as runners train and race. I used to train with a 10k Olympian who said you can only 'truly' race 2-3 10k's a year and this speaks to that. In the interest of development we need to learn that less is often times more.
And moving "to a new problem"... I call that changing the environment (you can use that concept all the way down to blood and cellular chemistry) We only learn and grow when when we change. Change is the single most important factor in adaptation.
Good stuff, thank you!

BB said...

I appreciate the depth of consideration that you plumb with this blog. Good to know I am not the only one who geeks out on this kind of thing. When you coach yourself it is crucial to experiment and evaluate while keeping the big picture in mind, yet keeping the freshness and excitement. I am taking the baby steps back to faster running after nine months of mostly MAF-type running. With any luck I might be lacing up the spikes again by next spring.

Brian said...

I'm definitely going to use this on my long runs. So many times I feel my mechanics going out the window on those last 2 miles. I always thought it was partly mental, the point you state it becomes more harmful then helpful to keep pushing just to hit some meaningless number makes total sense. thank you!

Lucho said...

Brian- I tell my athletes to let the miles come to them. Meaning if you feel good then keep going, if not then you might be better off cutting a run. How we feel day to day varies and I think it's important to recognize and not always ignore it. This idea is huge when injury prevention is the goal, which it always is.

BB said...

This works the other way also. Yesterday I felt bad in a warmup for a
four-mile tempo in hot humid conditions. I was ready to pull the plug
but decided to do one mile with the option to postpone. Got into a
good groove by the end of the mile and though the pace was slowed
considerably by the conditions, my heart rate and pace both stayed
extremely consistent and I felt very good by the end. One of the most
solid sessions I have had this year.

Lucho said...

Nice. I try to get athletes to lean that feeling or sense of fatigue. There have been many days (to many to remember) where I got 50 feet into a run and just turned around and rested. And just as many days like yours where I was on that edge and just needed to wake things up. I love those days because it starts poorly and ends great! And one of your best sessions of the year!? That's great!