GAINcast Episode 203: Speed reserve (with Gareth Sandford)

Middle-distance running requires a unique interplay of aerobic and anaerobic energetics. Historically, however, research on the events has centered on the aerobic side. Physiologist Gareth Sandford has sought to correct that imbalance by looking in detail at anaerobic speed reserve. He joins this week’s GAINcast to discuss his work and look at how to profile athletes and develop individualized training for complex events.

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Notes and quotes

Gareth Sandford is a post-doctoral research fellow at Canadian Sport Institute Pacific. Sandford came to our attention with his doctoral work analyzing the 800 meter run. He travelled the world to dissect the event, coming up with some interesting and novel findings. He continues to support track and field, but also has a background across many sports and continents.

  • 0:00 – Introduction and GAIN update
  • 4:30 – Introduction to Gareth Sandford and the 800-meter run.
  • 7:15 – Sandford’s background and current role.
  • 11:45 – Summary of Sandford’s dissertation: “The 800m is thought of as primarily aerobic. There is an important aerobic part, but it is not just that. We have a good idea of the aerobic physiology of the 800 meters, but when we talk about the speed and neuromuscular side, there was no reference point.”
  • 15:00 – Rethinking speed reserve and maximum sprint speed.
  • 18:00 – Fatigue and freshness: “If you cannot maximally express force fresh and have the biomechanics to do that, then you won’t be able to beat them even if you star the race on the last lap.”
  • 20:00 – The evolution of 800 meter tactics and physiology: “Championship finals used to have a slower first lap, which the physiology required is more similar to the 1500m. Over the last decade, tactics have been to go out hard and hold on. That requires different physiology.”
  • 28:45 – Talent ID and development.
  • 31:15 – Profiling athletes: “All the things that determine your aerobic capacity and maximum sprinting speed: how many of those things have we trained? And what are the current limiting factors to moving those things along?”
  • 36:30 – Balancing speed and endurance work: “In sport we end up in thinking it’s volume OR speed. The reality is the best programs are doing the best year round, with a bit of a bias in one direction or the other.”
  • 44:30 – Implications on strength and conditioning and learning how athletes express force.
  • 50:30 – Training tactics, video analysis, and preparing for racing.
  • 55:00 – Parallels to training in swimming and examples of developing a training model.
  • 1:00:30 – Individualization in a large group environment.
  • 1:04:15 – Influences from sprint research, team sports, and more.

To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.

Further reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:

  • The GAIN Master Class Series continues in December with our next speaker: Angus Ross, our guest on GAINcast 83. The monthly interactive series features speakers from all aspects of performance. Sign up now to subscribe to hear these events and others in the series.
  • The GAINcast is also sponsored by HMMR Media. Join HMMR Media to get access to a vast library of online training resources, video, articles, podcasts, and more. This month’s theme is sports technology, so check back for more on the topic.
  • You can reach out to Sandford and learn more from him on Twitter (@Gareth_Sandford).
  • Sandford’s entire dissertation is available here. You can also find more of his papers and research up on Research Gate.
  • The work of Peter Weyand was also reference in this episode and Sandford’s dissertation. You can learn more from him on GAINcast 89 and in the article “Sprint Exercise Performance: Does Metabolic Power Matter?