Friday, May 4, 2012

Take it To the Other Side

My dear friend Kellie Suttle breaks a pole at the Olympic Trials

Athletes speak a lot about changing levels and I see the need for that all of the time.  Just last week I saw a guy get two PRs and it was obvious that he was done until next year.  Why?  He's got a massive tailwind, on the biggest pole and barely getting in with the standards on 45cm (18").  That's it dude - back to the lab to improve your physical and technical skills because you can't go any further what you have today.  So ultimately that's what it's about; getting to the other side.

Last March I got a hamstring ding at Nationals in Albuquerque.  Fourteen months later I'm finally back on that pole.  BTW - that is still two poles below what I jumped 13' 6" on in Reno that year.  That said, I jumped 13' at Reno this year on the pole I used to use for 12'. All of these factors play a role in my plan and assessment to where I am and where I'm going.  If I can jump higher on a smaller pole than I used to then my technique has improved and I should go even higher on bigger poles.

As we age we can't lose sight of the "reversibility" factor which says that we WILL slide backward physically and that merely to hold your own fitness level is actually great progress.  If that's the case then what the heck does it take to move to the next level physically?  Exactly what I do; grind with purpose.

I had meant to start a 2-3 part discussion on vaulting today but I need to address the elephant in the room first; injuries, and what I have learned this year about managing them. One big problem I faced last year was this stinging flare on the outside of my left knee.  I got it shot and it was better but then as I went to bigger poles it started back on me.  I noticed that if I put my foot down under me at take off like I'm supposed to do, rather than reaching in front and blocking, the pain was almost nonexistent.  So doing things right have made this dig go away.  Now watch how that changed other things too.

That said, I haven't had a  hamstring ding this year even though I have jumped considerably more.  I'm not Steve Hooker who has taken 1,000 since January but I'm working on it.  In fact today I'll buy a bike and start riding this brutal hill in front of my house, and I will also go back to using the Gauntlet StairMaster with actual stairs.   The purpose of both of these exercises is to give me more jumps.  But back to the hamstring.  The main cause of those types of dings are me lowering my hands as I get close to the box, which causes me to reach forward to block my step, and to lean back.  That reach to overcome this bad position makes my hamstring grab.  Now to protect my knee I can't take off that way so that also protects my hamstring.

The two remaining pieces of the hamstring issues were lowering my hands and the lack of ability to sprint without risking injury.  I'm doing the stadium ramps at a much higher tempo now and that has fixed that part.  As far as lowering my hands near the plant I picked up a 16' 9"/210 from Rick Foster to do my plant and running drills with.  I'll do sprint drills with pole, sled, ankle weights or any other combination to teach my body quicker movements with a bit of resistance attached.  Why?

I naturally have good turnover on my running tempo but I don't cover ground very well.  Hence I do a lot of lifting, stretching, hills, etc., as those are reliable ways to build natural stride length.  Short run vaulting is the same a block starts for a sprinter in that you learn short burst explosion which teaches acceleration while at the same time aids top speed running.

Long story short, I fixed most of my hammy problems by running faster on hills and by having to put my take off foot down under me to protect my knee.  So now let's talk about groin and behind the upper leg dngs.  You have to have power through your range of motion.  So on a lunge I will put my foot up on a block so the range of motion will be greater than I would ever need in my event.  My groin issues come from exploding forward with my take off leg or by slamming my foot straight down to jump up.  As mentioned, squats and leg press have made me much stringer here and my body can't take the quick delivery of force.  So lunges are one part of that but the missing link is bench step ups and sleds.  I will wear ankle weights on the bench step ups to simulate the extra driving force.  The sled does the same thing.  Also the bench step up makes me slam my foot down in order to get up to a standing position above the bench.  All of these with ankle weights will teach me quickness with resistance so my body can handle even quicker movements on the runway without the weights.

I've been testing all of these ideas throughout the year.  When I do them I'm not hurt and when I don't the injuries creep back in.  So I'm sold that this approach will work.  In closing I need to do more focused stretching like I have in years past.  Other than that, I love the plan and will outline the element for you as we go here.  First day to resume training is Thursday, May 10.  Already can't wait.  Thanks for your support and have a great day!  Bubba

Red Hot Chilli Peppers - "The Other Side" -

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