The long and the short of it
This week has seen me travel overseas, to both Korea and Japan, as I check out venues for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. I visited many training venues, which nearly all had swim and run coached classes for both kids and adults. Like any inquisitive coach, I would observe, and see all the classic techniques and drills being taught that are associated with 'what is the correct way'. This instantly had me thinking of the plight not just of these athletes, but also the majority of age groupers for both run and swim. I was watching the Asian body type (which is more long body and shorter legs) going through all the drills that are diametrically opposed to their body type.
I know if you read our blogs, you understand I'm trying to push the Sutto Shuffle on to you age groupers. However I feel that if that doesn't grab your attention, then please consider if your run form is not as you would like, is this a hopeless pursuit, or because you are following the wrong path way for what your body is built for? Are incorrect drills for your body type, and your current training contributing to a poorer than hoped for run split? So I thought I'd give you some anatomical evidence with Micheal Phelps and Haile Gebrselassie to help build a mental picture of why copying the techniques of others is total folly unless you also have the same body type / dimensions. Firstly I want to point out that these two individuals have unique body shapes in comparison to other elite athletes in their sports, and that may be partly why it gives them the slight edge they have. However compared to normal people, they are off the charts! These differences have nothing to do with training, they are genetic and arbitrary. They filled in the blanks with multifaceted disciplines, but their natural anatomical advantages were given and not made. Consider: Michael Phelps. Height. 6' 4" or 193cm Haile Gebrselassie 5' 5" or 164cm Now consider that Gebrselassie has a longer leg measurement than Phelps. Gebrselassie has the leg length of the mean of a 180cm tall person, while Phelps has the leg length of a 176cm tall person. Don't feel sorry for Michael as he has size 14 (Europe 48 - 50) feet, and his ankle has 15% more flexibility than other elite swimmers - but a whopping 30% more flexibility than the normal population. So with his super short legs, super long feet, plus Dolphin tail flexibility, this gives him great power in his legs. While Gebrselassie's ultra long legs helps him have an amazing stride length without effort. Add to this his tiny 54kg or 119lb body weight. To put that weight into perspective, Nicola Spirig is not big for a world class ITU female athlete, however on race day she is the exact same weight as Gebrselassie. Continuing with anatomical advantages, we can add Phelps wingspan is not only greater than his body height, but is a whopping 10cm greater at 203cm. He is also extremely light which gives him an amazing strength to body weight ratio as does Gebrselassie. These are very real genetic advantages. So coach, why does this have relevance to me, to my run and/or to my swim? It has great significance when I watch athletes with shorter than normal legs being taught techniques that their body cannot deal with. While you might be able to hold it for 100m, and at best 1500m, it breaks down dramatically over the long distance, even more so when your tired. In swimming, the 'ultimate' in swimming dogma is 'Distance Per Stroke'. Closely followed by the need to use your legs and kick. What we need to do, is understand that elite sportsmen and women in single sport techniques often have advantages we do not, which makes it so hard to integrate with your body shape. Hence I need to educate age groupers, especially those that have had no real sport background in their early life but have found triathlon has helped change their life. If you struggle at implementing these intricate instructions, there is a better way, that with less training, one can maximize your performance. A lot of the time I can say for sure, that less is more. This is not rocket science. Just remember what is good for Michael Phelps can be totally destructive for you. What is great technique for Haile Gebrselassie could very well have you walking the last hour of your competition. Just the way I see it!