Cross Country and Sprinting : Where Bro Science meets Reality


Be very wary of coaches who take absolute stances. You see this with many sprint coaches and strength coaches now a days. They are terrified of fiber type conversions, when in reality it is just a gross simplification of the process. Fiber changes are very complex. – Steve Magness

Latif Thomas, a sprint coach offers a structured approach in developing a sprint stable at the HS level with cross country. I am not going to go over MIAA rules and what is right or wrong politically as that is not the scope of the topic we need to bring up. In another forum, the question about aerobic training in a classical point worth the effort for speed and power athletes. Mike Boyle addresses this in his hyperboyle manner with the death to aerobic training teaser clip. In his presentation he reviews why he does intervals vs classic 20-30 minute runs. For the most part Mike is correct in his application of quality intervals giving him a metabolic stimulus for his population. 100y football runs are classic and are easy to administer.

Strangely, Mike Boyle goes into the probability of the statistic of having a Black Canadian Sprinter succeed in Toronto. Well guess what?…having a Jamaican born sprinter win in another country is very common. In 1992 Linford Christie won the gold in Barcelona for the Brits four years later! Four years later again and in Toronto, Donovan Bailey, another Jamaican born athlete won the gold in Atlanta for Canada! I am not getting into any race discussion, just demographic statistics. I think Mike was trying to explain the difficulty of having cold weather locations developing sprinters as certain locations in climate make it harder to develop any sprinter, regardless of race because of cold weather and snow. We all know Charlie had an indoor track and did warm weather training camps like the Europeans. Alan Wells, who won the 100m in 1980, did very little warm weather training and thanks to a boycott and the Russians failing to have anyone challenge him in the heart of Moscow, took the gold. One of the most brilliant of coaches regardless of scandal, Charlie cites the importance of fiber conversion . Regardless, the fiber discussion is a unique point and here is an interesting blog post by Steve Magness titled Aerobic Training is not the devil and the fallacy of muscle fiber type conversion.

The problem is that because it has been measured so often, we focus a ton on it. So it has created this whole fear of conversion. Is too much aerobic training good for a sprint/power athlete? No. If all they did was run 30min a day, I’d say, yes you might be concerned with some changes that might decrease power. However, that’s not how any sprint/power athlete trains, ever.- Steve Magness

My problem with this statement is that it’s not just the fiber interaction with continuous running…the issue is chronic fatigue and myofibril damage and long term adaptations with athletes in HS that Latif brings up. Is is possible that type II fiber can convert to type I over time or is it hypertophy/atrophy of type II fibers? Ironically, researchers in San Diego and Seoul found that

Adult skeletal muscle shows plasticity and can undergo conversion between different fiber types in response to exercise training or modulation of motoneuron activity.

Steve hit on the head, as motoneuron activity is a major player and the cliche example of neurologically severing the pathway will convert the fiber. Still the massive training volumes in any form tend to create the problems and this is real. Many times injuries are to blame for the death of sprinters but too much volumes can wreck an athlete hormonally and cytostructurally. I am doing a lot of research on this after Henk’s interview and hope I can make better sprinters from chronic adaptions over 4 years.
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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