By Frank Horwill
Some 31 years as a coach to 38 junior and senior GB internationals (including five sub-four-minute milers) has led me to some conclusions:
Strength related to injury
Various types of knee trouble are invariably associated with weak quadriceps. Hamstrings injuries occur most where the hamstring is not 60 per cent as strong as the quadriceps. Lower-back trouble is associated with weak abdominals.
Method of maximum strength gain
Over the years I have experimented with different methods; the one that gave the best results is called muscle-fatigue saturation. The athlete does one exercise a day to maximum with one minute recovery after each. For example: first effort, 60 press ups; second effort, 30 press ups; third effort, 15 press ups. Usually, the initial effort is halved pro rata due to fatigue. The following day the procedure is repeated with another muscle group, eg, abdominals. Seven exercises are done this way in a week. Strength gains have been 60 per cent more than those gained by orthodox circuit training.
Nutrition and performance
Prokop (formerly East Germany) et al, observe that runners require three times the RDA for vitamins and minerals. One obvious reason for this is the minerals lost through sweat and the burning of calories. A BMC questionnaire to 600 members revealed a 40 per cent incidence of professionally diagnosed anaemia in female runners and 10 per cent in males. It is known that 1,000mg of vitamin C taken daily for seven days before competition releases three different hormones which makes one feel good, lowers blood pressure and pushes back the pain barrier - not without advantages for competition. One of my athletes was a surprise winner of the National Cross-Country following this procedure 11 years ago! He also trained severely for the race.
There is good evidence that vitamin E supplement before and during time spent at altitude improves the V02 max about 7 per cent more than usual. It does not do the same at sea-level.
A meal-in-a-cup (Build Up, Complan) is recommended three hours before competition if an athlete is in doubt about what to eat. This contains half-a-pint of milk for mixing (or water if an allergy exists), 328 calories, 18g protein, 38g carbohydrate, 11.5g fat, vitamins and minerals to about 50 per cent of the RDA needs. It is questionable whether coffee can be classed as a nutrient; however, research has shown that strong black coffee taken one hour before a 1,500m race or a sprint does bring about marginal improvements. It also causes marathoners to burn fat preferentially and save valuable glycogen until later. It should not be used if the temperature is above 70 degrees F.
P.S. Any success my athletes have had is 90 per cent due to them and 10 per cent to me. Not, as many coaches think, vice versa!