Alex Hutchison, Normal Dude.
You can't take the Tennessee outta me- I have a deep, undying distrust of these (amongst other!) things:
anyone trying to sell me something or claiming to have THE answers
anyone eager to be labeled (we call it 'puttin' on", sociologists call it 'performing. Like a big gold cross as a tie tack or on a necklace, wearing your hunting camo to football games or your ropers to work)
anyone telling me that shortcuts lead to the same result. (If those methods truly and consistently led to the same ends, we wouldn't call it a shortcut we would call it 'The Way')
anyone that perks up at my accent.
An in-depth biomechanical analysis of nearly everyone at the world track championships was released last week to much fanfare (in the running world, anyway). Much like the Bible, this study can be interpreted any way you like, but I much prefer Alex Hutchison's take in the article above.
Short version: before fooling around with biomechanics, first maximize the fundamentals. Then establish a baseline of normal for YOU. Then monitor closely to see if the changes are having the desired effect.
Take cadence for example. It's a metric I follow in you guys when it's available, but not in the way you think. I don't care what the pure number is or how it varies over time. I look at pace over cadence in a single graph over the course of your run. Did you take more steps at faster paces, is that how you are speeding up? How about when you slow down? Go down steep hills? Up steep hills? It's not good or bad, right or wrong, but the data points clue me in on things I probably couldn't see even if I was running with you.
What i'm really looking for is consistency. I'm not convinced there is a perfect cadence number, but if a person can run for an hour, and in that hour their cadence is consistent despite pace changes, that tells me the client has a good grip on the pace/effort level connection needed on race day AND enough strength to support it. It's a measure of readiness that I look for but don't discuss with you because it wouldn't be helpful. There is no shortcut and we probably don't need to change what you are doing.
Remember last week's email about coaching cues? 'Focus on cadence' isn't a terrific cue since focus on that one metric throws everything else off. Trying to change it just isn't natural. Your body is not an enemy to be battled.
Key Takeaway: there is a LOT of conflicting information out there. When you see a hot take like, 'cadence/footstrike is EVERYTHING!" be cautious. That's marketing, not science.
If you are here, it's because you have trusted me with your training. Please keep doing that. If you meet or read an article written by anyone with a long chain of acronyms at the end of their name ('performing expertise'- strike one) who is trying to sell you something (strike two), telling you they have a secret the world has hidden from you and it is a shortcut to running faster (strike three), pause. Be dubious. Doubt them not me, even if you can't 'win' the interaction. These are snake oil salesmen and they will use your Ego against you. That ego was your biggest enemy all along.
Alex Hutchison is trustworthy. He never signs his work as Alex Hutchison, PhD or Dr. Hutchison, even though he has the right to. He presents himself as a dude who likes to run and is eager to engage in conversation about running, and you wouldn't know he had a (really awesome) book to sell unless you read all the way to the end.
(If you haven't read his book Endure, GO BUY IT)
Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance
*************************************************** One more interesting article from the week, if you follow Sweat Science then you probably also follow Science of Running: https://www.scienceofrunning.com/2015/04/the-myth-of-losing-speed.html
Some of you are very concerned about not doing 'enough' speed work. I understand that fear. Our instinct is to always do more, not less. Seeing an article like this can stress you out, especially if you don't have speed elements that you recognize in your plan.
All of you are on plans designed to maximize your fitness and minimize risk of injury, because we are all adults with jobs and our paychecks aren't hinging on our running performance.
Steve Magness is one of the best coaches alive today. He coaches pros as well as college runners at the University of Houston, whose tuition is $55k per year. Those runners take risks. They push physical boundaries further out each time they get on the track. Their livelihoods hinge on performance- those collegiate performers on scholarships effectively have $55k per year jobs. How many bad seasons can you have and keep your scholarship, and what is your BATNA? That is PRESSURE. How many bad races can Stephanie Bruce have and still pay her mortgage on time? Again, PRESSURE (she trains with Hoka NAZ, I reference her only because she is open AF about the finances of professional running in her IG posts).
You cannot compare your training plan to one of Steve Magness' training plans without first comparing yourself to one of his runners. There may be a time for performance pressure, where we really swing the bat and push past your limits in workouts and race situations, but first it is imperative that we shore up your fitness base and ALL of your weaknesses. I want to make you as strong as possible before I try to break you, and that may take longer than you like. Your impatience doesn't necessarily negate my judgment, please don't conflate patience with complacence. Remember the cycle of injury that brought most of you to me in the first place and try to settle in for the ride.
Then silently say a prayer of gratitude to not train with Steve. His workouts are BRUTAL OMG. Hard should scare you. Smart never should.