Charlie on relaxation.

Now that most everyone will begin their track-workouts again, I thought it good to post some comments Charlie has given on relaxation.

How much does relaxation help? It’s the difference between success and failure- nothing less!

…the number one secret to greater speed is relaxation! It allows a faster and more complete shutdown of antagonists, quickening alternation cycles and permitting more force to be delivered in the desired direction with less energy consumption.

Relaxation must become second nature in every drill you do and every run you take. You may feel that you aren’t generating enough force while relaxed (a perception that gets a lot of sprinters into trouble in big races), but remember, only the net force counts! The net force is the amount of force delivered in the desired direction minus the force generated by the antagonist muscle at the same moment.

For example, if, by maximum effort, you generate 100 pounds of force in the desired direction while putting out 30 pounds of force with the antagonists, you’re left with 70 pounds of net force. If you completely relax and put out an easy 80 pounds of force in the desired direction and no pounds with the antagonists, you are left with 14% more net power with 62% less effort (80 verses130 pound total output)!

This simplistic example shows a colossal energy savings and it understates the case since, in reality, increases in energy expenditure are exponential, not linear. The shutting down of unwanted muscular activity also cuts down on the “background noise” that interferes with the hind brain’s ability to rapidly process input. This is also why it’s critical to work on skills one at a time.

Strangely, though most coaches think that only stride length can be improved, they attempt to work on both stride length and frequency simultaneously with towing or “over speed” devices. These devices are bad news! They force the athlete to land farther ahead of his center of gravity than normal, increasing the risk of injury and increasing the ground contact time even though the key to greater frequency is reduced ground contact time.

Drills are available to train frequency and stride length independently. “Quick leg drills,” with very short steps done as fast as possible over a very short distance, enhance frequency. The emphasis must be on complete relaxation and rhythm. A typical workout might be four sets of six drills over 10 to 15 meters with one to two minutes recovery between reps and three to four minutes recovery between sets. These drills would be done only on pure speed training days, not with speed endurance.

Bounding and hopping drills allow for the development of maximum stride length. Workouts of this type usually consist of between 100 and 200 foot contacts in a single session. Remember that your drills must always be improving in quality, so you must make sure that you are recovered for each new workout. If your workout deteriorates, stop the workout!

Practice only makes permanent, not perfect.

If you’re tight in practice you’ll be tight going into competition. You’ve got to learn to be as smooth and relaxed as possible in the execution of all the running drills. Good luck in your try out!

At the start, just get out in a relaxed manner and the stride length will sort itself out according to your strength level, body type, and set position in the blocks.

On focusing on either stride-frequency or stride-lenght…relaxation and form will allow the athlete to find his natural balance between the two elements.