My thoughts on this topic may differ to many other people that may have had this idea of long slow running improving performance drilled into their heads. This thought process has come from old school sports coaches just wanting athletes to be able run and run and have an endless tank. The training thought has then been passed onto young athletes that then turn into coaches that then pass onto their young athletes and the cycle continues without anyone ever challenging the status quo. But it’s time to challenge this status quo and rethink about what we are actually doing to these athletes. When we take a deeper look at team sports it is very rarely the athlete that can run all day that is the best player. We always hear the cliché quote a game is won by a matter of inches, doing the little things right, getting to the ball first etc. I can’t remember the last time I heard a coach say we won the game cause we were second to the ball all the time but we just kept on running all day. These clichés are exactly what happens in team sports, the athlete that is able to get to the ball first and win or is able to get by a defender or get away from a defender is the type of player that every coach wants.
What is the coach talking about then? Power! Speed! Agility! Deceleration! Change of direction! This is what the best team sports athletes are able to do, in conjunction with their skills that they have. Therefore, what we need to be doing with these athletes is teaching them how to do it, not go in the total opposite direction. We need to look at the makeup of muscle to understand what is going on. Genetics will determine if we have a predominant amount of Type I fibres, better known as slow twitch fibres or Type II fibres, better known as fast twitch fibres. Olympic 100m sprinters can usually be made up of 90% fast twitch and marathon runners can be made up on 90% slow twitch. Literature says that you are able to turn fast twitch into slow twitch after repetitive slow running over a long period of time. It is not possible to go the other way though, you can’t turn slow into fast twitch. This is where we have to improve the efficiency of the message being sent from the brain via the CNS to the muscle to make a quick movement and increase strength to improve force production, this in turn should increase speed and power. So stop doing long distances runs you are actually going backwards in your performance.
Then there is another way to look at this as well. If your running form isn’t fantastic you can also increase your chance of injury by going for long slow runs. You think about what your lower body does when you run, you go in a slight single leg squat and then hopefully to full hip extensions. Even if you have a small rotation of your foot, or you roll in at the ankle joint, or you have inward rotation at the knee or have hip problems you only need a slight problem that can lead to an injury. If you go for a 5km run and you have a stride gate of about 2m (hypothetically) you can do about 2500 steps. If you have the slight problem and you repeat it for 2500 steps you are going to cause an injury to yourself, unless you gain the motor control and strength to help improve your running form.
If you would like to know what you should be doing in regards to improving your conditioning rather than long runs contact us on 46383777 or find us on Facebook (Vision Exercise Physiology, Vision Sports Science, Vision Dietetics)