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Endurance Training Improved - May 15th 2019

I am going to kick this off with a well kept secret in the conditioning world. This is top-secret information. Here, lean in close, I am going to whisper.

Athletes HATE long-distance running.

Here is an extra nugget of inside information, long distance running is unnecessary and might even be counter productive in some ways.

The aerobic system is important for athletes. This was never in doubt. A well developed aerobic system will help athletes recover between intense bouts of physical activity and can help keep athletes warm during periods of less intense physical activity, like a lacrosse forward who’s defense has been hemmed in the zone for a long period of time.

The aerobic system can be trained with “Tempo Runs”.

Tempo runs are a series of lower intensity sprints at about 65-75% of the athletes speed followed by an active recovery period of about 30-45 seconds. The total volume of yardage per workout should be between 1,000-1,500 yards covered.

 Example- A team of high school soccer players.

Split the team up into Offensive/Midfield/Defense-Goalie groups. Have each group sprint 25 yards out and back. Some athletes will be faster than others, so have 2 or 3 coaches use a stopwatch to track the times for a few specific athletes; the fastest in the group, someone in the middle of the pack and someone on the slow end. This will give you a good sample size to work with. Take the times and divide them by .75 and this will give you the exact time it should take to complete each tempo run. So, if an athlete can sprint 25 yards down and back in 8 seconds, each of his or her tempo runs should take exactly 10.6 seconds to complete, no more, no less. When the athlete is no longer able to complete a run in the assigned time, either add some extra recovery time or end the conditioning for him or her.

Now that we have a specific time period for each tempo run, lets assume we want the total yardage covered for the day to be 1,000 yards. Each tempo run will be 50 yards total (25 yards down and back) and a total of 20 runs will need to be completed to achieve the target distance of 1,000 yards for the day.

We will perform 4 sets of 5 runs with :30 to :45 seconds of rest between each tempo run and 3 to 5 minutes of rest between each set of 5 tempo runs. The 3 to 5 minute recovery window between sets is a good time to add in some low intensity skill work. It could be passing drills or dribbling drills, as long as the intensity stays low.

Set 1- 5 runs followed by :30-:45 seconds of rest/walking between runs.

3-5 minutes of low intensity skill work

Set 2- 5 runs followed by :30-:45 seconds of rest/walking between runs.

3-5 minutes of low intensity skill work

Set 3- 5 runs followed by :30-:45 seconds of rest/walking between runs.

3-5 minutes of skill work

Set 4- 5 runs followed by :30-:45 seconds of rest/walking between runs.

Perform this workout 3 days per week on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday split.

This is simple and it works, but why is it “better” than trudging through a couple miles around the field???

I am thrilled you asked!

I have yet to witness a team sport that involves nothing but running in a straight line. All sports involve changes of direction, yet the conditioning is typically performed via endless laps around the field. This does nothing to prep the athletes for the actual movement skills they will utilize on gameday.

Tempo runs can be performed with built in change of direction work. If we perform 20 runs in a workout the athlete will have to change direction 20 times in a workout. After 3 workouts, the athletes will have worked on change of direction abilities 60 times in 1 week. This adds up over time and it should help your athletes move better on the field.

The short length of each run allows the athlete to focus on maintaining quality running mechanics. We can work on improving foot strike, arm swing, head position and rhythm of motion, which are all things that will improve the efficiency of movement on the field. Tempo running allows the coaches to demand good running technique.

Long distance running increases nagging aches and pains. A mile or, even half a mile, into a run and kids start getting sloppy. Their legs get tired, which is an indicator that the type of endurance you are hoping to improve is not the endurance you are actually improving, strides become stiff and this results in knee, hip and ankle issues. These might not be full blown medical emergencies, but they will slow the athletes down. Add up the miles and you might think you have some aerobically charged athletes when what you really have is a team with various lower extremity issues and heavy legs!

Tempo runs offer copious benefits to endurance, movement skills and injury prevention. A plus is the kids might just enjoy them a little bit more than taking laps. Give them a try and let me know how much better your athletes look!

 



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