Interview with sprint coach Håkan Andersson: Fatigue is not necessary your enemy

Checkmylevel had a short interview with sprint coach Håkan Andersson. He has worked over 30 years as a coach including few years as national relay coach. He now coaches sprinters like Johan Wissman (20,30/44,56), Tom Kling-Baptiste (6,65/10,29/20,87, Stefan Tärnhuvud (6,67/10,35). He also hosts every year The Sundsvall Windsprint, international sprint and hurdle carnival.


Håkan, could you tell us about your coaching philosophy? 

I think that a key component for a success and long-term development is to understand and take into consideration that athletes are individuals with different mindset, physiological genome and training background. There is also the relationship between the athlete’s current state and the response to a given training load.  As a coach you have to understand that two individuals might respond very differently to the same stimulus and one individual might not respond to a training load today in the same way as he/she did last week, month or year. To predict how an athlete is going to respond to training is difficult to say the least.

To program an optimal relationship between load and adaptation is very complex, determined by numerous variables, some are well explored but some is still to be.

As a coach I have to take into considerations for example

  • How does the athlete feel, is he or she adapting to the training loads?
  • How much neuromuscular fatigue is the athlete accumulating?
  • What is the athlete’s structural tolerance (muscle/tendons capacity to handle load)?

Fatigue is not necessary your enemy, but in fact an important part of the adaptation process. Fatigue is not a simple reaction to training and competition; it is a complex array of responses that trigger changes to different systems of the body. As I see it overtraining in a the more general term is not a major problem in sprinting, but so is lack of long term speed development and injuries that in both cases can be overreactions to overload and inability to make acute but sometimes necessary adjustments in the training you have planned and prescribed.

One way to safeguard against overload is being more precise to the cause and effect of training by measuring both the workout and the fatigue from it. Measuring just one is helpful, but measuring both gives the coach a monitoring gauge how the body responds to training and how to adjust sessions in the future.


What do you think are the most important qualities/ feature of a top-level sprinter, both physically and mentally?

That sprinting is a “genetic sport” goes without saying. Everybody can develop speed but the rooms for improvements are limited. This span is if you are lucky and maintain healthy usually less than 10% for an entire career and less than 1% per year. In term of physical qualities the ability to relax while producing very high forces in extremely brief time frames is crucial, the ground contact time for a top level sprinter is for example in full flight under 0,09 seconds. Most big sprinting finals are mind games. Everybody is very talented to begin with, everybody is also well trained and prepared. Who will win has usually very little to do with all that though since the winner is usually the person that is able to relax the most while his body is swimming in a sea of adrenaline and extreme arousal.


How do you see the balance between training, competition and rest during the season?

Within the competitive season there is usually a lot more psychological than pure physiological stress to handle as in the preparatory stages. But also here we see large individual differences in the ability to wire down after competitions, to cope with sometimes rather extended and tough travels and constant changes of environments. The people can cope this can usually compete more frequent while others will benefit more from a less frequent competition schedule and instead train more.


Why did you choose Checkmylevel system to assist you in monitoring your athletes and their recovery?

To have an open and honest communicating between coach and athletes is in my mind absolutely crucial but in my experience it is sometimes very difficult for an athlete to be completely objective and even honest, especially in new coach/athlete relationships. The questioning how do you feel today is important but sometimes there is a too fine of a line between optimal training and recovery to be noticed. On the extreme sides underpreparing by going to conservative is rare but being too aggressive is definitely too common and very easy lead into stales and/or injuries.

The Checkmylevel test is very quickly to conduct for the athletes. Both the hardware and the software is very easy to use and I especially like the feature that I personally can switch of the athletes ability to see his/her own testing scores. That particular feature has shown essential for most top-level athletes that tend to be some slightly “neurotic”, especially in the middle of the competitive season. With Checkmylevel I have found an objective compliment to verbal communication, diaries and questioners and most important; as a coach I get an instant feedback in terms of the athlete’s recovery state and readiness to perform the training I have planned for that particular day or period.


Thank you Håkan!