Friday, June 21, 2013


In air to air combat a pilot will light the afterburners, to get the maximum performance, out of his fighter plane.  It's the equivalent  of pushing the peddle to the medal in a race car.  Afterburners are maximum all out, short duration, fuel sucking power.  But in that next few minutes only one fighter will win the other will be destroyed.  At 211 degrees water is just that hot water, but when the heat is turned up another degree it turns to steam, one of the most powerful forces in nature.

Our bodies are like that as well, we have a level of performance that is just out of reach, unless we light our own burners and turn up the heat.  That's how we are sometimes capable of amazing things.  We have all heard of those seemingly, impossible feats of strength and courage, fighting off a bear, lifting a car to rescue a child, these things happen because the usual limits were shattered.  Our own afterburners or steam is possible.  How many times have sports records been shattered by athletes?  Is that just luck or is it something else and is that something that you can train?

I believe it is.  We can't all break records but we can get better, stronger and faster.  But to do that, to reach that next level we have to be willing to push beyond our limits.  That is something that sounds easier than it is.  We have to proceed with caution because with increased performance, we have increased chance of injury.  Pushing limits is also not comfortable.  But there are indeed ways to train for increased performance.

Interval training is one way to get stronger and faster.  There are different ways do speed training but this example will give the gist of it.  I use a high school track for my speed work.  An average workout goes like this:  Always warm up good, like at least a slow mile worth of warm up.  As you get warm go just a little faster to get all the muscles warmed up.  Then go fast for a measured distance, go as fast as possible and still be able to stay strong for the full distance.  After the speed interval you need a recovery interval.  For example if your doing 400m speed intervals then you might need a 200m or even a 400m slower recovery interval.  Then you do another speed interval.  Repeat until you've done the planned workout.  Then do a slower mile to cool down.

Interval training can be used in a lot of ways depending on what you want to accomplish.  You can go at a target pace or a target heart rate.  You can do different distances depending on the race your training for and you can even do intervals on hills to build strength.  But for the purpose of doing intervals to push your limits, you need to do them a little differently.  Rather than a predetermined distance for the speed portion go out hard and go hard till you can no longer hold pace, when you feel your legs slowing down, it's time to start your recovery interval.  Each week when you do your intervals try to go a little bit further then the week before.  So each week you have a new target.  If the week before you could go hard for 400m then the next week try to push it another 25m, turn up the heat and reach for it, yes it will be uncomfortable but it will make you stronger and faster.  Then each week push it just a little further.  If you fail to go any further one week shoot for that little bit more the next week.

I was taught this method of speed work years ago and I think, even though it's low tech, it's still a good way to train.  Now the world class athletes actually get blood drawn and the blood analyzed to see if they are putting out the maximum effort.  Pushing for just a little more each week will make you stronger even if it doesn't involve blood sampling or heart rate monitoring.  A heart rate monitor is used by a lot of athletes as well to see if they are keeping their heart rate in the proper training zone.

Want to get stronger and faster?  Light your own fire and turn up the heat.  Like hot water becoming steam, just a small increase in heat can make all the difference.

Thanks for reading.


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