The Guinea Pig
Coach Sam (our jumps coach) is always looking for new ways to get the most out of his athletes. We’ve talked a few times about some experimental training methods like hypoventilation training and ocular light therapy, so I told him I was down to be his guinea pig and try out all of his new techniques.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Today’s practice was about working on some of my weaknesses and trying out some new training techniques. Since I’m in between indoor and outdoor seasons, I’m taking my time to recover before coming back to full workouts. Today was the perfect day to experiment.
Warmup (800m jog/skips) with Eyelight Glasses 😎
I’m not well read on the science behind ocular light therapy and athletic training, but after hearing what Coach Sam told me and some light googling it seems pretty cool. The basic idea is that my non-dominant eye is much weaker, so my body over time has built up muscular imbalances that adapt to what my weak eye perceives.
The funny looking glasses in the picture above flash pulsing lights through my non-dominant eye to stimulate brain function in that eye’s corresponding side of the brain. Doing this often should help improve my muscular imbalances (I have a lot of those) and coordination. Gains in both of those areas are super important for my health and performance in the decathlon.
Example from the eyelights website about how it affects gait:
If an athlete has a non-dominant right eye, there will be weakness of the back muscles on the right side, resulting in decreased tone on that side and increased tone on the dominant side. This causes a shortened gait pattern to occur on dominant side (left), while the non-dominant side has a longer stride. The result is abnormal or uncoordinated movement due to the rotation of the pelvis. Eyelights can stabilize the mid-line so that both sides become equal and a change in gait pattern occurs.
I already have a pretty abnormal pelvic tilt/rotation, and my eyes definitely aren’t helping.
Don’t believe me? Try holding your arms outward. Have a friend try to push your arms down while you try to resist and hold that position. If you try this exercise with one eye closed, you can really tell that your eyesight is connected to your physiology — your non-dominant eye open will have a much harder time holding up than your dominant one.
Sam had me go through a series of isometric holds. If you don’t know what those are:
An isometric exercise is a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint. (Wikipedia)
If you don’t understand why this might be useful, think of it this way. You can break down any dynamic movement into three phases:
- eccentric phase (deceleration ➡️ slowing down, muscles lengthening),
- isometric phase (full stop)
- concentric phase (acceleration ➡️ speeding up, muscles shortening/flexing)
Getting stronger for the isometric phase of my jumps is will help me absorb and dish out more force. Absorbing more force is crucial for the health of my shin issues — last year I had stress reactions in both.
Basically I held following positions in an active state for 45 seconds a pop. Feels boring like a plank but more brutal. I was shaking by the end of each.
- Deep lunge
- Bottom of a pushup
- Shin Activation
- Calf Activation
- Captain Morgan Pose
If any of this sounds interesting to you, look up Cal Dietz and Triphasic Training, which is one of the sources Sam’s adopted this method from.
Hurdle Skips & Ankle Pops
Sam ran me through some hurdle drill series while balancing a PVC pipe to help me focus on balance and posture. This exposed two of my weaknesses (hips and core), but will be really beneficial for my running and jumping posture.
It would be a lot of writing for me to go into detail about what these drills look like in this post, so maybe another day I will get into it. But incase you can’t visualize what I mean, here’s a clip of one of my reps:
Next up were ankle pops, or little jumps that isolate my foot and ankle muscles but don’t engage any other leg muscles. I did a few different variations of these across ~20 meters, focusing on really active plantar and dorsiflection. I’m hoping these are the cure to my shin woes if they can really beef up my achilles and calves.
Sam has been reading the Oxygen Advantage, and he’s been reading about how much people can improve their oxygen intake and CO2 tolerance by making a few simple changes to their breathing habits.
He gave me some breathing exercises to practice everyday, and told me that even just breathing through my nose all day and night could improve my athletic performance. That kind of habit simulates something similar to altitude training and the adaptations your body makes can improve blood flow efficiency.
I’m going to go into more detail on a longer post about it after I spend another week trying these out, but I’m already really excited. If you are curious, try nose breathing for day! It’s not easy at all, and you’ll be able to imagine how much more of an efficient breather you could be if you stop breathing with your mouth for a week.
Bonus Pole Vault Drills
I saw Benji (one of our vaulters) and Ingrid (our pole vault coach) doing some funny looking inversion drills I hadn’t seen before. I don’t even know what to call the device they were using or what this exercise was, but I had extra time to kill and it looked like a fun way to squeeze some extra technique work in.
They were clearly a bit too advanced for me, so I followed up with 3 sets of 8 reps of bubka’s on our pull-up bar.
As always, I finished up the day with my favorite thing in the world: foam rolling :)
“He who is resistant to change is destined to perish.”
Whenever I’m scared try new things, I remember my favorite ancient Italian maxim:
This is part of a new project of mine to share an authentic NCAA division 3 track and field experience. After 8 years of competing at the high school and college level, this is my last season of competition before graduating. Track is a pretty widely misunderstood sport so I wanted to offer as much insight into this world before saying goodbye.
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