Why we train on varying surfaces

If you have ever been to Portsea back beach you’ll see sand hills rising dramatically away from the raging surf. It’s amazing to think that Australia’s best-ever runners used these sand hills to build up their leg muscles and dramatically expand their aerobic capacity. Try running up one and you’ll see what we mean. Iconic coaching legend Percy Cerrutty never let his athletes near a track until he was sure they were conditioned for racing.

While sand hill running has largely gone out of fashion, varying surfaces for running are still vitally important. This is why we still retain our training base at St Bernard’s. Our Club heritage has fortunately given us the perfect training base. Based in a geographic bowl, we have (a) a smooth, soft grassed surface for sprint and distance drills and reps; (b) hills that rise out of the bowl to give us strength and aerobic capacity; (c) stairs for improved cadence and specific leg strength (calves/quads); and (d) a private environment where we can safely train on our own out of the public eye. In short, the St Bernard’s training base ideally incorporates all the variety needed for an athlete to build strength, speed and endurance. OK, we don’t have sand hills but you can’t have everything!

Of course, we have our Keilor Park base as well. But in a perfect world, we’d prefer to keep track running mainly for actual racing. Some of our coaches believe training on grass gives you extra strength and flexibility. Importantly, grass training provides a bit more ‘give’ which both reduces the chance of injury and helps build strength. Once you move to a track you immediately ‘feel’ faster and that may also give you a psychological race-day advantage.

In summary, for all the reasons outlined above, training at St Bernard’s is strongly recommended for those who can get there. Naturally Keilor Park will also be available for those who can’t easily get to St Bernard’s.

By Paul Kennedy

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