Your 1 Mile Time Means Nothing

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Brutal post title, huh?

Maybe a little extreme but let’s get right into this.

This is the time of year where we give our athletes back to their sport coaches for fall sports.

We work with a ton of soccer and football players. Some of our athletes have been training since last Thanksgiving in the effort of getting stronger and faster.

There are a lot of sport coaches that are receiving athletes that have busted their butts all offseason to come back ready to play.

…and now we get to hear the camp horror stories.

These coaches are either uninformed or trying to prove a lesson but this is when athletes get over and improperly conditioned.

To a lot of coaches, preseason means “lets smash these kids as hard as possible.” It would be a lot more refreshing if these coaches took more of an opportunity to teach, strategize, and coach.

It should be the responsibility of the athlete to show up in shape and ready to go. If they don’t then they either get cut or benched. If only it was that simple.

Maybe this is why I am not a sport coach. Anyway back to the whole mile thing.

Some coaches give their athletes some conditioning tests and a common one I hear is a timed mile. Why a timed mile? I have no idea.

If this is a track athlete that runs the mile then I would definitely want to know their mile time.

The Easy Argument

Soccer players (for example) do not ever run a mile at the same pace in their game so there is no specificity in a timed mile.

Instead, the sport is a series of sprints with varying rest periods, repeated for the whole game.

condo test

Unless the sport requires a slow, steady pace for many minutes then a timed mile does not really indicate who is in shape for their sport.

Where it gets Complicated

An athlete with a garbage aerobic system is going to struggle to have the juice at the end of the game.

A mile fits in the aerobic energy system or training.

So why is the mile bad again?

The mile is only one form of the aerobic energy system.

Performing 12 sprints that take 10 seconds to run with 45 seconds rest also trains the aerobic energy system.

We use the ATP system to get through the first few sprints but sustaining for 12 reps becomes more aerobic.

Is there any place for long, slow distance in sport? Yes, but that is way beyond the scope of this article.

The Solution

The preseason is absolutely not the time of year to be performing general long distance cardio.

As we get closer to the actual season, the athlete should be training in a manner that is similar to the sport.

To continue the soccer trend, I want to see:

  1. How the athlete can sprint
  2. How they can recover from the sprint
  3. How they can repeat those sprint efforts
  4. What do their sprint efforts look at the end of the game

Their 1 mile time? Not useful for me in the preseason.

If the point of the conditioning test is to see who is ready for the season then something much closer to the sport is needed.

Repeated sprint ability tests are awesome choices for a soccer player. They can show how the athlete recovers from the rest period.

Let’s say that we are going to do 10- 50 yard sprints (25 yards down and back). If the first one is run in 8 seconds and the last one is run in 11 seconds then we have an athlete that does not recover well. They are really fast to begin with but they cannot keep it up for 10 reps.

On the other hand we can have an athlete run their first one in 9.3 and their last one in 10.2. There was only a 10% drop off from the first and last indicating that this athlete is capable of sustaining multiple sprints. They might not be as fast on the first rep as the previous example but they can maintain it a lot longer. This athlete is much more in shape for soccer.

I would want the second athlete in my preseason camp and I could care less what they run a mile in.