Don't make running a stable of your off season training
by Scott Farmer
I was talking with some hockey players the other day and they said their coach had a mandatory long distance running requirement for them throughout the summer. Bad Idea!
First a jog periodically during the early part of the off season is not bad. However too much is! Why?
First, when you play hockey you don't go at a jogger's pace. Getting your heart rate up to 140 and then keeping it there is relying on energy, and neuromuscular variable not seen in a 45 second bout that occurs during a shift.
So Scott how do you work on the cardiovascular conditioning? Well as I said a periodic jog can be fine. However doing interval training, slowly building up the overall time is the gold standard. Let me give you an example and then explain why this is so important.
Let say the hockey player (or could be football player or basketball player) runs shuttle, starting at 25 feet (I like shuttle because it is acceleration and deceleration-just like hockey) and doing 5 sets of 5 sprints, you'll find HR close to 200 beats per minute. Let the athlete rest until their heart rate drops to 140 and have them do it again. You discover that in the beginning the heart rate takes longer to get to 140- less conditioned. As the exercise progresses over weeks the rest intervals become shorter in duration, because the heart rate drops to 140 much quicker. So in our example of 5x5 with the rest periods, until HR drops to 140, a total time elapses about 8-10 minutes. The same time it takes to jog 1.5 miles; but instead of the average heart rate being 140 (jogging) we find the average HR about 165-170 with the interval training, producing results that more closely mimics the competitive season. As the athlete gets in better shape more intervals can be added. Plus it is a good idea to do some slow longer duration runs or bike rides because it is ultimately the aerobic energy system will have a great part in replenish the anaerobic system.
When the hockey season begins and the athlete comes off the ice following a shift change, the heart rate could be as high as200. However, the HR will quickly drop to 140, or less, during a minute or two rests. The aerobic athlete that mainly jogged during the off and preseason will hit a HR of 200 BPM earlier in their shift, fatigue quicker and take longer to recover (get their HR down to 140) when compared to the interval trained athlete.
If the athlete had jogged all summer long, once the season begins peak HR will occur during the early part of his/her shift when compare to the interval athlete. Recovery from a shift would not improve compared to the high intensity of an interval program.
The athlete will tire quicker (not prepared for those 200 beat per minute that occur during a shift) and take longer to recover because the body is trained to tolerate a slow sustained jog speed. And because of this the body is not properly trained to quickly eliminate the byproducts of high intensity exercise.
And here is why; a build up of lactic acid, resulting in extra H+ causes Neuro receptor site to fail in working muscle. This in turn slows the rate of muscle contractility. If training is centered on the muscle being challenged by high intensity producing byproducts this anaerobic state results more efficient at removing them if trained in this undulating for mat. That is why the heart rate and respiration rate can drop so quickly in the interval athlete. The body has already adapted and made alteration to work in an environment of high intensity and high lactic acid/H+.
When you look at the time of an interval session followed by short rest period create more lactic acid/H+/Cortisol. The over all time is 30 to 60 minutes. During that 1/2 to 1 hour session the HR can average 160-175 beat per minute, even with short rest intervals - compared with an average heart rate of 140 in the jogging athlete? Not a bad average heart rate in the anaerobic session that naturally occurred in the high intensity interval approach.
So the athlete is stressing his or her cardiovascular system while working muscle, and Neuro receptor and clearing byproduct mechanism more specific to the sport demand.
A new Tibet to come.
Scott M Farmer MS.CSCS.CES
Exercise Physiologist/Board Certified Strength Coach