I just twittered about this:
"Had client on treadmill @7mph for 1min. Said it felt like 9 out of 10 difficulty. End of 18min workout he's @10mph :15sec on :15sec off! Possible!"
I thought it was worth a bit more explanation, especially after Jeff White inquired about the following on Facebook, "What adjustments do you attribute that kind of improvement?"
Here's the scoop.
Earlier today I had a one-on-one session with one of the participants from last weekend's MovementU here in Arizona. I like to call these sessions performance consulting. I enjoy them. A lot. They are tailored to the needs/wants of that individual person, and depending on the open-mindedness/curiosity/knowledge of the individual will also include some degree of learning "what you don't know you don't know." Today's was a two-hour interactive learn-by-doing kind of session in the gym. It started off with some Movement Prep, then a rundown of key functional strength exercises including double-leg front squats and single-leg balance squats, RDLs, rotational row and anti-rotational chops and lifts along with some key TRX Suspension Training movements like the low back row and the single-leg chest press.
Then we headed for some Energy System Development (cardio) on the treadmill...and that's where it got really good.
The client: 40-year old male, tall, lean, athlete-back-in-the-day, new to running.
My plan for him was based on where I've started my own pre-season training in the past:
3 sets of 3 x [1min hard + 1min off] with an extra minute between sets.
Total of 9min of effort within a 20min period. No sweat, right?
First I took him through a 7-8 min warm-up at about 5.5-6mph where I threw out one cue at a time to focus on and interspersed those with over-exaggeration drills (focus on one leg, then the other for example.) I also had him switch back and forth between his 'old' form and a stronger/taller 'new' form for about 15 seconds at a time. He was more than warmed up by the end.
Then after a brief rest period we started the main set. He did not know what speed he should start at so I took a stab at 7mph to start. Here's how it went.
7mph for 1 min. 1 min off.
[Perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 was a 7-8 (somewhat hard to hard.)]
7mph for 1 min. 1 min off.
[Perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 was a very out of breath, doubled over 9.]
Not a good sign for him making it thru another minute at that speed so I modified it...by INCREASING the speed. Yes, you read it right, BUT...I decreased the length of the interval and increased the recovery period.
7.5mph for 30sec. 1 min off.
7.5mph for 30sec. 1 min off.
End of first set. 1 min break.
7mph for 1min + 1min off.
Watching him it hit me. It was so apparent...and I told him so: "7.0mph. That is LAME." He looked at me funny through the sweat that was dripping off his forehead into his eyes. I continued "and you'll realize it. Soon." Little did I know I was going to make him realize it in the next 10 min. But I had an inkling, and it went like this:
I got on the treadmill next to him. Him: a fit-looking, tall, healthy dude, only running at 9min mile pace or so and for only 1 minute feeling like it was a 9 on a scale of 10 of difficulty. No doubt it was, but I wanted more work done, for that same effort.
I put my treadmill at 10mph (6min/mi.) We started the next interval together. Him at 7mph, me at 10mph. Without trying (at least I wasn't trying) our cadence was exactly the same stride for stride. I would've loved to see this on video from the side. All I could do is look down at his treadmill and see the logo on his tread coming around a lot slower than mine, but still our strides were in sync. The minute finished no problem. I hadn't even broken a sweat (which I was kinda stoked about not knowing where my fitness is at the moment, but that's not important here...) He did the interval fine.
He had one more minute of work left in that set. I asked him if he wanted to do another minute at the same speed or go higher speed for the :30 intervals again. He gave a thumbs up. Speed.The 3rd minute of the 2nd set went like this:
8.0mph for :30 + ONLY 30sec OFF.
[Getting back to a 1:1 ratio of work to rest. Good.]
8.0mph for :30 + 30sec off.
1 min break.
The third set is where it got fun. At this point, he was working his butt off, and I loved it. For him it was that beautiful love/hate relationship (more or less is what I think I got from him.) He admitted during this little break two things:1. He wouldn't have put the treadmill over 6mph.
2. He rarely broke a sweat when he was running.
At the moment he was sweating, red in the face, breathing harder after that one minute of rest than he would've been during his entire run the way he was used to doing it. His heart was working like crazy. Awesome!
Then came the 3rd set.
He himself adjusted the speed for the first 2 intervals.
It looked like this:
1min @ 8.5mph + 1min off
1min @ 9.0mph + 1min off
He was WORKED. For all intents and purposes DONE. He had one more minute of work left to do. So what did I do?
Jacked the treadmill up to 10mph and decreased the interval time. Kept the work to rest ratio the same though. I wanted any little leg speed he had in him even if only for 15 sec.
He finished his last minute of work this way:
4 x [15sec @ 10mph + 15sec off]
!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then I was satisfied. He was REALLY done. : )
Only 9 minutes of effort. So much benefit. Pushing the cardio system to work over and above the anaerobic threshold causes an improvement, an increase in that anaerobic threshold. The result? He'll be able to do more work at the same effort next time OR do the same work (speed) will feel easier than it did the week before. Leg speed got worked. The core HAD to activate. He HAD to take control over it to keep his legs under him. The harder I asked him to go, the harder he had to activate his core just to keep his legs under him. Tightening things up. Getting more out of his same effort. Awesome.
So to answer Jeff's original question:
Was it mental? Was it physical? I'd say it was a little bit of both. The mind is capable when given a purpose. 15 seconds is much easier to focus on and push through the effort than 1 minute. If I ever think my mind or my body can't handle the interval, i'll shorten it and eek out my last bit of energy that way rather than slowing down to accommodate my mind/body. I only gave subtle running form cues to the athlete during the workout. Just by him having to try to keep his legs under him to achieve that speed, was causing him to run more biomechanically correct and efficient. He wouldn't have been able to go that fast if he hadn't. So there's something to be said about working on mechanics, thinking through the process, but combining that with simply challenging the body to move the way it was born to move...is just as important in the performance process.
Redefine your 100%. You can change it. Daily. You've just gotta push your limits. Be curious. Go where you haven't gone before!
More to come.