In last week's blog we were talking about sprinters needing to have a greater capacity than just raw power to be competitive in track sprinting. We know that a rider with a lot of raw power is always going to have an advantage in a sprint over one who does not, as simply they can make their bike reach a higher peak speed. But assuming two riders have the same power and same track craft then the difference may well be how they back-up their effort after the Flying 200m in to the rounds of Match Sprinting, or from one Match Sprint to the next.
The other factor is whether they want to have the capacity to ride from ‘the gun’ in a Match Sprint. There will always be the ‘long-sprinters’ and the ‘finishers’. On the road it is easy to see, in this era of lead-out trains, who the pro teams see as their long-sprinters as they will lead out the finisher. Not all sprinters will be genetically designed, physically trained or mentally happy to ride a 1km time-trial to the same competitive level as they achieve at the flying 200m. For a sprinter to want to average high wattage for one minute plus requires a different approach – more longer efforts is the overly simplistic description – than somebody wanting to maximise their rapid acceleration.
Regardless of the distinction between sprinting types a sprinter unable to maintain pace though the rounds is not as competitive a rider as they will become with the right additions to their training.
I spoke of skipping, mountain biking and rowing as examples last week. I wanted to expand on this. As always, with any new area of activity, ensure you are ready to perform these new tasks. An injury from training in a new way would be physically and mentally desperately disappointing and obviously painful.
So why rowing? When your body produces lactate it then moves the lactate to parts of the body which are not working so hard. So, a way to train the body to be more efficient is to do aerobic activity that sees more moving parts performing more work.
There has been much research to say that fitness is activity specific, meaning that if a runner rides a bike, or a rower goes running, they won’t gain the benefits to promote their own endurance performance as much as being specific to the task. But this certainly doesn’t mean that alternatives to their standard form of sport don’t benefit the overall programme. Hence me talking about rowing, conditioning muscles to become better at processing lactate by recruiting more muscles to the activity, leaving fewer inactive muscles.
One thing that has always worried sprinters about becoming aerobically fit is that in the process they may lose fast-twitch fibres in exchange for slow-twitch. I’ll try and describe this simply to get the point across without putting a text-book on the scanner and just say ‘here you go’… Muscle fibres have different compositions. Some are good at doing long-term, endurance actions. Some are good at short-term actions needing high power.
It is thought that there is no absolute, black and white, binary, radio-switch (pick your favourite) description of muscles being in one category, i.e type I, slow twitch, or type II which is fast. Fibres will, however, exhibit more of one thing than another. A person who does sprinting and pursuiting, who trains more for one than the other, will encourage muscle fibres to adapt to the activity they are favouring. There is considerable genetic influence too. It is not hard to see in adolescents as to who is better at the short distances than the long, so your natural make-up will influence your preferences.
It means therefore a balance is needed. Enough aerobic activity is needed, especially out of season, to be fit for the rigours of the event but, especially when it is time to sprint in competition, without favouring the aerobic to the extent that it dilutes the high-power system which sprinters work hard to build and maintain.
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About the author:
Michael Jordan is a Performance Physiologist and Coach at the Track Cycling Academy and works with a number of track cycling athletes across both sprint and endurance disciplines.
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