The La Cumbre Effect


For four years starting in 1969 I taught at La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara California. My first year I taught history and geography and coached track and cross-country, the next year I started teaching physical education. I taught five classes of physical education and coached cross-country and track at La Cumbre and I also coached the throws at a high school three days a week. Needless to say time was at a premium.

During this time I was also training for the decathlon. My aspirations certainly were not to be an Olympian, I was interested in getting better and learning all the events by doing them. I had not competed in track in college; I had played football as an offensive lineman. I had never done high jump, hurdles, discus, pole vault and javelin so I had to find a way to make up for what I had not done in college. I obviously did not have big blocks of time to train so I had to devise a system that would allow me to work on the events and my specific fitness and make it work with my schedule. I was inspired by Roger Bannister the first man to run under four minutes in the mile. He was in medical school and had one hour a day to train, I figured if he could do it, I could it. I had boundless energy, enthusiasm and youth on my side.

As I look back on those years I realize I was onto something. Necessity forced me to devise a system where I optimized the time that I had. I made my training sessions short, sharp and concentrated with very specific objectives that allowed me to make significant technical and specific fitness improvements. I improved my total score from 5100 points to 5884, really nothing to write home about except for the fact that I started decathlon at age 22. I also cannot minimize the positive residual effect of being on my feet teaching physical education all day. In the first three months of teaching physical education I dropped off some of my football weight and got down to a reasonable weight for the decathlon, I went from 194 pounds to 181 pounds.

Looking back on what I did through the prism of time I realize I probably should have cycled the work to include a bit more recovery, but hindsight is always twenty/twenty.

Here is my typical routine:

Monday & Thursday before school I would go to the gym and do two rope climbs, two rounds of pegboard, a routine on parallel bars and a routine on the pommel horse. I would teach my first period gym class and then run 600 meters at a brisk tempo and then do 6 x 100 meter hill sprints during my period off from teaching. If I had time I would sneak in a ten minute nap after that.

The other mornings before school I would do a ten to fifteen minutes static flexibility routine or in the fall two mornings I would do a 20 to 30 run at 6:15 AM.

Each day between classes there was a 15 minutes period where I worked on something related to an event. Between one period I would do a shot put drill, next period a discus drill, next period throw weight balls for javelin and next period something on pull-up bars working on pole vault.

In the afternoon when I was done coaching I would go to UCSB, usually around 4:30 PM and work on one event and then do a running workout. Two or three times a week depending on the time of the year I would then do a weight workout.

Over the years since then in my coaching I have utilized the La Cumbre training concept quite effectively. My schedule was a bit extreme since I was trying to make up for lost time having not competed in Track in college, but in extended competition season sports the La Cumbre effect has proven to be very beneficial not only to maintain key athletic qualities but also to build them in season. The moral of the story – short, sharp concentrated modules of training can be very effective if timed properly because training accumulates.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
RT @GreatestQuotes: Your aspirations are your possibilities. - Samuel Johnson - 4 years ago
Vern Gambetta

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