Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scott Christensen Notes from RunningWorks Clinic

This past Friday I attended the Running Works clinic put on at Villanova. The first speaker was Scott Christensen. He has been the coach at Stillwater High School in Minnesota for nearly 30 years. His teams and runners have won many state titles. He has taken a special interest in developing 1600 meter runners and focused his discussion on that. Over the past 12 years, 6 of the MN State 1600 meter Champions have hailed from Stillwater. He also teaches Physiology, which gives him an extra depth of understanding of our sport.

I will just run down a list of the interesting points I heard:

- He did a study of the past several Olympics and found the closing lap for the 800, 1500, 5K and 10K were all about 52 seconds. For his state, the average closing lap for the 1600 meter state championship is 58. So if you can not feel comfortable running that closing lap at that pace, after the previous laps, you will not have a shot at being a champion.

- He also brought up the point that most runners are competing at too short of a distance to be competitive. 52 second 400 meter runners should really be running something more than the 400 - especially given the above stats.

- He maps out a plan of continual improvement in times from December until June. In his example, it went from 4:27 in December to 4:06 in June. His point is that if you are not at that level of conditioning at any point, then you will not be able to get to the next level the following month and meet the eventual goal. The athlete needs to have complete commitment to such high goals.

- He uses Jack Daniels based training guidelines for Threshold and VO2Max calculations for his runners.

- In high school each day is important for training. The types of training are:
  • Long Run - Important
  • VO2Max Run - Critical
  • Tempo Run - Important
  • Interval & Repetition Run - Critical
  • Strength Run - Critical
  • Recovery Run - Critical
  • Ancillary Work - Important
- Running under 20 minutes is useless. This is the minimal time to release Endothelin - the hormone-based chemical that helps to enlarge the heart so it can pump more blood.

- It is important not to work an athlete too hard so that they can come back the next day and have another useful workout.

- Lactate levels return to normal after 12 minutes of recovery. They drop faster with an active recovery (meaning that a runner should jog between). Giving 3 minutes typically drop the lactate level low enough that it will help in achieving the 24 hour recovery goal so the runner can do a decent workout the following day.

- Some effect from a workout 24 hours afterward, but the full effect is 20 days after.

- Peaking translates into a 2-3 % improvement. He is into having a big taper - working hard every 3 days or so with very easy running between and no real hard speed. The idea is to build up strength, hormones and enzymes by cutting back on the work level of the body.

- Some of his cornerstone workouts:
  • 4 * 1 mi @ VO2Max
  • 6 * 800 @ VO2Max
  • 8 * 60 sec runs on grass
  • 8 * 400 with 3 min rest
  • 8 * 500 with 3 min rest
  • 8 * 400 w 45 second rest
  • 15 * flying 30 meters with 3 min rest
  • 4 * 400 with 13 min rest.

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