The following is an article I wrote a year or two ago. I found it on my hard drive and thought rather than let it sit there, I’d post it up on my blog. There are a few things I would change now that I am a little wiser and I will address them in an upcoming post. That said, the information in this post is still very valid and relevant. Get your players away from 30+minute steady state runs for aerobic conditioning and into these 6-8 minute sessions ASAP.
The Aerobic Solution
Individualized aerobic training within a team environment
The program contained in this article is a specific program. It does not contain theory on how to put together a program or anything along those lines. It simply shows how to set up an individualized conditioning program for a group of athletes, that can be executed by a single coach. This very protocol was used in a study of professional athletes (NOT de-conditioned “regular” people) and produced increases in maximal aerobic speed of up to 11% and decrease in 40m time of up to 5%. The 11% increase in maximal aerobic speed could lead to a dramatic increase in VO2max.
For example: Athlete A has maximal aerobic speed of 4m/s. Using the Cooper test as an estimator or VO2max, the athlete has a VO2max of 53.10 mls/kg/min. Now if the athlete increases their maximal aerobic speed by 10% to 4.4m/s, the results from the Cooper test jumps to 59.54 mls/kg/min. Quite a remarkable jump.
Why individualization is important and why this program makes it easy
One of the great advantages of the methods discussed in this article is that you can personalize the training to the individual. Regardless if you have one athlete or one hundred athletes, every athlete will have the session tailored to their own capabilities, with minimal monitoring.
When we look at traditional intervals or longer duration runs it is clear they are not tailored to the individual, especially in larger group settings. If a group of athletes are completing 400m intervals with 90 seconds rest between each rep, one of two problems can occur. The first of these is that the rest period would begin as soon as the first athlete finishes his 400m. Coaches (myself included) would more often than not use this method to make the other athletes work hard to keep as close to the front, thus ensuring a longer rest period. This defeats more often than not will defeat the training purpose.
Athlete A runs their 400m in 70 seconds, then rests 90 seconds. This is a work:rest ratio of 1.42.
Athlete B runs their 400m in 75 seconds, then rests 85 seconds. This is a work:rest ratio of 1.13.
Athlete C runs their 400m in 80 seconds, then rests 80 seconds. This is a work:rest ratio of 1:1.
As we can see in this example, Athlete B is only marginally slower then Athlete A and likewise for Athlete C. This is a very real example. These small differences in the time it takes to complete the 400m results in a dramatic change in the training effect.
The second situation that may occur is the coach/ trainer would time the rest periods for each athlete. This may be possible if you have a great number of coaches, or only a couple of athletes, but it is essentially impossible with one coach and 30 athletes!
Without further delay, the program.
Step 1: Assess
Firstly, we need to test or assess each athlete. The test to be used is a simple time trial. Use a distance between 1500m and 3000m. If you already use a 2400m or 3000m time trial as part of your testing reigme, simply use the results from that.
(NB 1 mile= 1600m, therefore if you could use 1-2 miles if you use imperial measurement).
Record the results for each athlete.
2000 metres time trial
Step 2: Calculate MAS
What is MAS? MAS stands for maximal aerobic speed. The calculation of MAS is very simple.
MAS= Distance run / time in seconds
Example for Athlete A
MAS= Distance run / time in seconds
MAS= 2000m/ 443 seconds
MAS= 4.51 m/s
2000 metres time trial
Step 3: Plan The Session
Once you have calculated each athlete’s MAS, there are a few simple calculations to be done and decisions to be made. One is at what percentage of MAS is each athlete going to work and the second is how long each interval will be. In this case we are going to use 120% and 15 second intervals.
So the next step is to calculate 120% of MAS for each athlete. (eg 1.2 x MAS)
Then, using 120% MAS, we need to calculate how far each athlete will be expected to run in 15 seconds. (eg 1.2 x MAS x 15).
The table below contains the results of these calculations.
Step 4: Execute the Session
From the data above we can the set-up and execute the session. The key information is the interval distance. As you can see each athlete has a different interval distance based on the initial time trial testing.
To set up the session, simply place a marker corresponding to the distance for the athlete. Eg using the try line as one starting point place a cone ‘x’ metres away for each athlete. For athlete D you could simply use the 10m line on the far side of halfway (60m).
It is important to use common sense and not get caught up measuring 20cm here and there. For example athletes F, G and I could all use the same marker at 65m. Where possible group athletes with similar distances.
The execution of the session is simple. Have the athletes start on the try line. Using an interval timer or stopwatch and whistle, indicate every 15 seconds (eg blow a whistle every 15 seconds).
On the first whistle the athletes start running. The aim is to reach the marker/cone on or before the second whistle. The athletes will rest at the cone until the next whistle at which point they will run back to the try line again attempting to arrive on or below the whistle. This process repeats for a set period of time.
0-15 seconds- run from try line to marker
15-30 seconds- rest at marker
30-45 seconds- run from marker to try line
45-60 seconds- rest at try line.
Repeat for set time/reps.
A Sample Weekly Setup Using This Method
The following is the routine used in the original Eurofit study. This was conducted with semi-professional athletes in-season (so already fit athletes, not couch potatoes). It is very simple to set up and execute, while only taking a few minutes of your weekly training session.
Session 1 (Tuesday)
The first session of the week (again depends on the days you train) is the simplest session to conduct. There is no prior planning required. You can simply turn up and run the session.
So, what is the session? The first session of the week is repeated 40 metre sprints. Yes, it is that simple. Mark out 40 metres or use the tryline and 40m line and away you go.
For the first 5 weeks you or your team will perform 12 sprints. For weeks 6-10 that number will increase to 15 sprints per session. It is important that every player gives each sprint 100% effort.
Between each sprint there will be a rest period of 30 seconds. Now how you time that rest period is up to you. You could start the 30 seconds when the first player crosses the line or the last player crosses the line. It is even an option to pick a random player so that every time “Steve” crosses the line, the timer starts. Another option would be to estimate that it will take the average player between 5-6 seconds to run the 40m (although with fatigue this could blow out to 7 or 8 seconds) and set a timer to beep every 36 seconds. When the timer beeps, the players run.
If we assume the average sprint plus rest equals 37 seconds, we can see that the whole session will take 444 seconds or 7 minutes 24 seconds for 12 sprints. Once we increase the number of sprints to 15 the time increases to 555 seconds or 9 minutes 15 seconds.
Given the average rugby team has between 90 and 120 minutes per session, to spend 7-10 minutes on fitness work is alot more appealing than 20+ minutes.
10 week plan for Tuesday sessions
Week 1: 12 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 7:24)
Week 2: 12 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 7:24)
Week 3: 12 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 7:24)
Week 4: 12 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 7:24)
Week 5: 12 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 7:24)
Week 6: 15 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 9:15)
Week 7: 15 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 9:15)
Week 8: 15 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 9:15)
Week 9: 15 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 9:15)
Week 10: 15 x 40m sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint (Total time: 9:15)
Now it really cannot get any more simple than that.
- Make sure players are properly warmed up before attempting
- Make sure each sprint is at 100% effort
- Make sure timing is consistent
The Second Session (Thursday)
For the second session in our weekly program we are going to use the repeated sprint method mentioned above.
For the first 5 weeks we will perform twelve 15 second efforts at 120% MAS (calculate using the exact method above) followed by 15 seconds rest.
During weeks 6-10 we will increase the number of sprints to 15.
As you can see as the times are set, we can predict exactly how long each session will take. The 12 sprint sessions will take 6 minutes per session, while the 15 sprint sessions will take 7:30.
This is a very simple example of a way to individualize conditioning work for athletes no matter how many in a group. It also allows a single coach to run a conditioning session for any number of athletes. As mentioned in the introduction this is a specific program, not a bunch of theory, but it is possible to spark some ideas from this program (eg vary work:rest ratio and work times etc).
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