Breaking through the 1-mile time barrier

The Challenge:

A few months ago, one of my clients approached me with the goal of reducing his 1-mile run time. Not a problem. So the first thing we did was go for a run and get our benchmark. On a sunny Tuesday morning, we completed a mile in 8 minutes and 23 seconds. Not bad. However, the Athos gear that we use in his training that measures specific muscle effort in the quads, hamstrings and glutes revealed some serious underlying issues.

Figure 1
Athos Live View (left) and Analysis View (right) of our original 1-mile run. Notice the high level of activity from the quads and the imbalances in the glutes and hamstrings.

At first glance, you might not think that muscle effort output is problematic but as it turns out, there is far too much quad and too little glute activity. This suggests poor running form. There is also a pretty large left-right imbalance, especially in the hamstrings, showing uneven muscle strength and condition. We had our work cut out for us, we set our goal to take a full minute off that time. Somewhere in the 7 minute range. To do this, we needed to work on sprints to decrease the overall run time but we also needed to work on strengthening and balancing out the legs with progressive resistance training to not only get stronger but to prevent potential injury.  To do this, we used Athos muscle effort to make sure we were targeting the correct muscles to the right level and we used the Athos Score to track the intensity of each set and workout.  Our goal was to increase muscle effort output in the quads, hamstrings and glutes and to increase the set Athos score during weight training and decrease it during runs and sprints.

The Plan:

Over the next 8 months, we used Athos to target the specific imbalances in his muscles. We did exercises like the Romanian deadlift and the prone hamstring curl to isolate, strengthen and balance the hamstrings.With these, we progressed his set Athos score (his overall effort) from 23 to 39 and his specific hamstring effort scores from 68 to 98.

Figure 2
The movement progression (left) and the Athos Live View (right) of the Romanian Dead Lift. Notice that most of the activity is in the glutes and hamstrings.

To work on the quads and the glutes, we focused on the jump squat, the glute kickback, and single leg step-ups. With these exercises, we progressed his set Athos score from 33 to 39 and muscle effort scores in his quads from  75 to 99.  With these exercises we were also able to increase his muscle effort scores in his glutes from 57 to 89.

Figure 3
The movement progression (left) and the Athos Live View (right) of the Jump Squat. This is an excellent exercise for strengthening the quads, hamstrings and glutes.
Figure 4
The movement progression (left) and the Athos Live View (right) of the Glute Kickback. This exercise targets the hamstrings and glutes.

To compliment the strength training, we also performed interval sprints and running hill climbs. We actually sprinted a lot. We sprinted during almost each and every session. We did this to work on his speed but we also did this to work on his form and efficiency. With the sprints, we actually decreased his overall Athos and Muscle Effort scores and increased his run efficiency. His Athos score during a 1-minute, all-out sprint decreased from 56 to 49.

The Outcome:

Figure 5
Athos Live View (left) and Analysis View (right) of our final 1-mile run. Notice the high level of activity from the quads and the improvement in balance for the glutes and hamstrings.

On July 31st, 2015, he ran a mile in 6 minutes and 48 seconds, blowing our 7-minute goal out of the water. We went from a quad dominant run to a glute and hamstring dominant run. Exactly where we want to be.

Job well done.