What Can Mixed Modal Athletes Learn From Track & Field: Higher Order Thinking in The Sport of Fitness (Part 1)

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by Evan Peikon
In this article i’m going to discuss how the methodologies of high level Track & Field coaches (Lydiard, Canova, Francis, Young, Phaff etc) can be extrapolated and reworked to fit the needs of mixed modal athletes.

The Master Minds of Track & Field
In order to extrapolate our learning from T&F to the Sport of Fitness, we must first teach you what we learned from each individual coach. Only then can we discuss how to apply these learnings to our sport, and use them intelligently in program design.

Arthur Lydiard (New Zealand)
From Lydiard we learn the importance of establishing a large aerobic base. Contrary to popular believe, Lydiard did not actually recommend LSD (long slow distance) training (slow relative to the athlete). Instead Lydiard advocated running high mileage at a moderate (think 75-85% effort) aerobic pace.
So now for the application. For athletes training in the Sport of Fitness we believe a high volume of sub maximal aerobic work during the Accumulation phase is highly beneficial (as we’ve discussed in this article) for a number of reasons. So what does that look like for someone in the sport of fitness?
For many it may be Longer Mixed Modal MAP (maximum aerobic power) sessions with lighter weight and a high volume of contractions. For others it may look like longer cyclical MAP sessions (say 500m Row Repeats @2K race pace). It may even come in the form of longer Zone 1 (low effort) aerobic work used for recovery purposes. Anyway you skin it the purpose is the same… Establish a large aerobic base which will allow you to better utilize fuel, recover, and perform later in the season.

Dan Pfaff (USA)
From Dan Pfaff we learn how to utilize Alactic-Aerobic training (AKA- CPB Battery Training), to build capacity & Alactic Power simultaneously. Pfaff does this by having athletes perform olympic lifts is the 1-2 rep range on the minute for up to an hour. By doing so athletes are training the Alactic system through high force contractions lasting a few seconds, but since they are repeating this for extended periods of time they are forcing their aerobic system to generate CP.
In our sport we often prescribe EMOMs (Every Minute on the Minute work). This is no different than what Pfaff prescribes. However, we can change the application to match our demands. Such that we can prescribe mixed work on opposing minutes. For Example…
On the Minute for 20 Minutes: 2 Power Clean @85% 7 Hand Stand Pushup
Another application is to perform a MAP type session and add a bottleneck such that it forces the athlete to recruit Fast twitch fibers and generate a high force contraction in order to continue. For Example…
For Time:
100 Cal Airdyne
5 Squat Clean @275lb (for an athlete with a 325 max Clean)
100 Cal Airdyne
-rest 5 minutes x2 sets

Renato Canova (Italy)
From Canova we learn how to apply Zone 1 (regeneration) training, how to plan/periodize the training season, and how to vary intensities in training. Canova believed in training at a low intensity on what he called Regeneration days in order to promote blow flow/ recovery. He also had what he called fundamental days where athletes trained the aerobic ES, special days where athletes trained the lactic ES and specific days where they trained the Alactic ES. Canova also blocked off the year into periods that he referred to as the Introductory, fundamental, special and specific phases.
The first application in the sport of fitness is what is referred to as Zone 1 training (originally based off of heart rate zones, but has been extrapolated to the sport of fitness by OPT and refers to ~65% intensity work). This can be used on off days, or on training days to speed recovery. In our sport it can take the form of an easy air dyne/row, skill work, or hiking (anything that promotes blood blow, but isn’t overly taxing).
Another application we take from Canova is the specific focus for training sessions (which we discuss in this article). We also use a similar periodization model. However, where Canova prescribes a Into/fundamental period we prescribe an accumulation phase, and where he prescribes a Special & Specific period we would prescribe an Intensification and Pre-Competition/Competition Phase (respectively).

Charles Francis (Canada)
From Charles Francis we learned the merit of high-low training which is the alternation of high effort workouts with lower effort workouts. Francis also advocates prioritizing specific traits an athlete must work on and dedicating more effort to improving that trait. *note- Charlie Francis has also done work regarding periodization and planning as it relates to strength & speed development (though we don’t delve into that in this article).
The most important application we take from Francis is the use of priority days. However, when applying them to the sport of fitness they are best programmed following rest days. That way the body and nervous system are recovered and in an optimal state to train at a given intensity. In regards to High-Low we choose to alternate days based on volume and intensity, though this is subject to change on a case to case basis based on how an athlete is adapting/ recovering to training.

Mike Young (USA)
From Mike Young we learn the importance/ application of Strength-Endurance training. Though there is a lot to be said here, we wrote an entire article on this topic just yesterday. So instead of writing on that topic again I will just like the article here. Program Application Series: Strength-Endurance in the Sport of Fitness

Peter Tschiene (Germany)
From Peter Tschiene we learn how to separate training into predatory & competition phases (as well as what those entail in regards to strength training). We also learn that using a constant procedure in training lowers the response to it. Meaning that a variety of exercises/ loading is needed to produce the best results. *Tscheine is also well known for his periodization model, though we don’t delve into it in this article.
The first application to the sport of fitness regards to programming strength training depending on the season. During the offseason (accumulation phase), the focus of strength training is on structural changes/ dynamic effort (unless the priority of the athlete dictates otherwise). Then during the  intensification/ pre competition phase the goal is absolute strength. In regards to variety, this is determined on a case to case basis in which variety is changed as often as needed to elicit a response. Depending on the athlete that can mean changing exercises every other week or every 4 weeks (or more/less).

Theoretical Programming Application
Learnings from each coach in relation to Energy Systems. As usual, this is just to get you thinking…
*In order to learn how to apply this information to a training split you can also check out our article on Concurrent Training Optimization (from there you can put the pieces together and begin to see the whole picture).
 

Part 2-
Stay Tuned for a second installment of this article. In the next one I’ll lay out some theoretical training templates, periodization models, and extended applications in regards to concurrent training. My plan was initially to write everything at once. However, I think it is best to release this article now and let everyone absorb the information and start forming their own ideas before I reveal all of mine.
 
 

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