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Sprinting at 28 - My Training Regimen and A Shift in Dietary Needs

Posted May 09 2008 11:32am 1 Comment

Michael Johnson in the starting blocks

Last year, I planned to run in the 100m, 200m, and 400m events at the Bluegrass State Games. Unfortunately, in May, I dislocated my shoulder another couple times and had to go in for surgery in June. That pretty much kept me from being able to do anything very hard through about September. Well, this year I’m going to a) keep my shoulder right where it’s supposed to be (seriously, if you’ve never dislocated a joint, I highly advise against it…doesn’t tickle) and b) run those three events.

So on April 7th, I started training. I laid out a 15-week schedule of three 4-week sessions with a one-week deloading period between sessions and a one-week taper at the end before the races, which means I’m now at the end of my first deload week and kick into cycle 2 next week. Lots and lots of speed, speed-endurance, and tempo work, along with some weight training and plyometrics. All told, my activity level has gone WAY up and the fast majority of it is in the high-intensity, phosphagenic and glycolytic pathways, which means I’m burning through lots of glycogen. So I thought I’d look at how I’ve reconstructed my eating to compensate for my additional need for glycogen to fuel all of this training, along with how I’m managing the most important of variables in an intense training schedule, inflammation.

First, why is inflammation such a big deal? At age 28, I’m far from old, but I’m also far from being a spry teenager that can fall out of a 15-story window, sleep it off, and set personal records the following day. So my disadvantage is that I’m a decade older than the last time I ran track. What advantages do I have? Most importantly, I have much more knowledge in taking care of myself. I understand nutrition, I understand recovery, my sleep habits are better. All in all, I take better care of myself and am hoping that offsets the “age” thing. Two other advantages: strength and power. I am far stronger and more powerful than I was a decade ago. Now I just have to harness that into sprint speed.

As for the diet, I’m sticking to clean, Paleo foods, which means lots and lots of sweet potatoes to get the dense carb source. I’m eating tons of meat, loads of olive oil, avocados, and plenty of coconut oil and cream, along with a good bit of fruit. Yes, this means I’m eating out-of-season a bit. See the Training Log below for a sample of my eating. Yes, there are a couple weekends of too much beer and some sub-par foods, but I was in San Diego one weekend and then the next weekend was Kentucky Derby weekend…what’s a guy to do? All in all, you can see that even my cheats aren’t complete blowouts.

Further, I’m keeping my omega-3 intake high to serve as an anti-inflammatory, while keeping the inflammatory omega-6s low. Avoiding the omega-6s is pretty easy as I don’t eat many, if any, grains, nor do I use vegetable oils. For omega-3s, I toss a can of sardines into a huge salad each day (or a can of salmon with skin and bones), along with taking 1-2 tbsp of fish oil (1380 EPA, 1500 DHA per tbsp). I also eat some form of fish, like tilapia or salmon, about once a week.

A second form of recovery that I’m using is the contrast shower. By alternating between about 2 minutes of very hot and a minute of very cold, I’m able to keep my inflammation down. I’m not 100% sure of the mechanisms behind why it works, all I know is that it works. It seems that the hot water stimulates blood flow and I’m not sure what the cold does - constriction perhaps? I go three to six cycles, depending on how sore or tired I am. It would be great to have an ice bath and a hot tub, but ya have to work with what’s available.

Finally, I stretch post-workout. After a session, I sit at the track and stretch for about 10 minutes, working heavily on the hamstrings, hip flexors, and ilotibial bands. I’ll also throw in a bit of additional stretching at home sometime before bed occasionally, though not as often as I should. Then there are the two methods of massage that I use to get the deep kinks out: the massage stick and tennis balls. I try to give the legs and lower back some attention every few days as needed. For the spinal erectors, I put two tennis balls in a sock and lay on them. The curve of the balls goes right around the spine, while hitting the muscles on either side of the spine. A single tennis ball can be used for deep tissue work on the thighs, calves, and upper and lower back as well.

As always, sleep is of vital importance, but perhaps even more so right now. With all of the breakdown and rebuilding that’s going on, I am aiming to get about 8.5-9 hours per night. I’m doing good at getting somewhere in the 8-9 hour range and coupled with tight control on my diet and recovery techniques, it’s enough to keep me humming along.

And for those wondering, here’s my first five weeks of training with results and notes.

I’ve never setup a training schedule before, at least not for a fixed endpoint like this, so I have no clue if this is optimal. I’m listening to my body and doing more or less volume as I see fit. With only 10 weeks remaining, I absolutely cannot get into an overtrained state. If I fry myself with training, my performance will suffer as I don’t have time to back off and still achieve the necessary improvements. So with that, if I’m not clicking one day and my intensity is falling, I cut off the training as you can see in my notes. It’s more important to keep the intensity high to train the central nervous system to fire quickly and powerfully than it is to do lots of volume at sub-sprint intensity. In the coming cycles, I’ll be changing the schedule slightly if I feel that I am lacking in a particular area, for instance top speed or acceleration, to focus on drills that’ll improve that area.

After my first four weeks of training, there is a major difference in how I feel coming off the line. Between improved launch technique and increased explosiveness, I feel much more powerful at the start. It’s amazing how quickly the body can adapt/re-adapt to the demands that training throws at it. I feel that my first four weeks was just enough intensity to get my legs back in shape, pushing the envelope without ripping it in half.

One of the things I picked up from reading Charlie Francis’ book “Train for Speed” was to keep notes each day of how the session went, how I felt, etc. This has helped because I can see if I’ve been in a period of low energy or not feeling amped to get to the track, which indicates I need to back off a touch, perhaps add in an extra day or two of rest. I can also keep note of any nagging sore points. For instance, after my first day, I had some soreness in my right Achilles tendon that I made sure to keep an eye on. Luckily, it went away that day and never came back; just cobwebs apparently. However, I can feel the work in my connective tissues, but not to a painful degree. I’ve been able to get just to the edge of the cliff and then step back. This week of backing off has helped things to fully recover and be ready for an even harder next four weeks.

I’m hoping that putting it all together will result in the following results:

  • 100m - low- to mid-11 seconds
  • 200m - mid-23 seconds
  • 400m - 50-54 seconds

Sunday is a time trial day, so I’ll put my results in the comments if anyone is interested.

Comments (1)
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i really enjoyed reading well written and i thoroughly agree with everything. im 46 and have been doing speed events for past year winning golds even against 20 year olds...and i have similar diet and ideas to you.

i have national indoor champs this saturday and  wondering what to eat for lunch!!! any ideas??

i have 400m at 12.30 then 60m. at 5pm followed by 800m and 200m i dont want to feel stodgy...i made that mistake last time eating pasta.

do you recommend whey protein drink in between? energy drinks? energy bars?

 hope to hear from you soon! anita


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