Clyde told us the tale of the 400m world record that many thought Johnson was capable of long before he broke it. From it comes the story of another of Hart’s tricks to boost fitness.
Clyde said: "In 1999 he decided he wanted to break the world record. But he got injured and didn't run another race before Seville - so it shows you can race train and not race to run your best. He had run 43.39 at Gothenburg in his seventh race so he could have broken the world record. In Seville his splits were 21.2sec and 31.7sec. In the semi-final his splits were 21.0sec and 31.5sec and then he walked in. The way he ran on that could have been sub-43sec. But he'd decided that he wanted to do it in the final.
"So [in order to help break the WR] in 1999 we put in an additional drill. He'd run 37/38sec to 300m, then take 1min and then have to run under 12sec [for 100m]. He'd take 5min rest and do three. He got down to 11.2/3sec. We had started it early in the year because your body learns and adapts.”
But Clyde also knows that more is not always better.
"Once we were in another catch up situation. We went to three work outs a day getting ready for the championships for about 11 days. He would work out in the morning, do running in the early afternoon and lift after that."
But after that 11 days Johnson was cooked and went back to a more normal routine.
Clyde learned other ways of getting extra fitness out of his athletes. He took pieces of knowledge from one area and applied them elsewhere.
"When a guy I coached said he wanted to break 4min [for a mile] I said you have got to know what it feels like to run at that speed so he ran 15 x 200m in 30sec off 30sec rest. It got his body settled at running at 30sec pace, he got to doing 24 at that pace.”
Hart adapted this for use by Johnson to add endurance to his training given even he could not sustain three sessions a day!
"After practice we would do a 30sec 200m as part of the cool down for Michael. Then he did a 30sec 200m, 30sec rest and then another one. He said that hurt more than the workout! That little extra push made a difference. You don't have to be 10% better than your opponent, you just have to be 1% better. We even got to a point of doing 3 x 30sec 200m and two sets.
"The Australian scientists have come to the conclusion that the 400m is more aerobically demanding that people had ever thought.
"Only 10% of the 400m is anaerobic. But the more aerobic work you do the more training you can do and that comes out in competition.”
11. IN THE GYM - NO SHORT CUTS & CONDITIONING THE KEY
In the gym - no short cuts
Clyde told how Johnson developed his weight training routine. He said: "In 1988 Michael didn't like to lift. He was just doing the routine - just doing what he had to. He needed a long term plan. Other people were using drugs.”
The significance of 1988 was that it was the year of the scandal of Ben Johnson’s positive test in the Seoul Olympics. Hart and Johnson knew it would take hard work to stay clean and beat the drug cheats.
"So I said we have got time to get where you need to be if you work in the weight room. This registered and he spent a lot of time working on his abs and hamstrings. He was a demon in the weights room for five years. My assistant would work out with him and it was something else to see them work out in that room - there were no short cuts. People think there are short cuts but people who want instant results are not going to get there."
Conditioning the key
Clyde kept going back to the theme of conditioning being key. He said: "Your body has two engines. One burns oxygen the other is anaerobic. The longer you can use engine one the more that delays going on to engine two.”
‘Going lactic’ means a build up of waste products. Clyde likened this to the build up of ash in a fire that then inhibits the proper burning of the remaining fuel. Going to the anaerobic system means more build up of lactate which is like the ash. So the late you move to the anaerobic system the better.
Clyde said: "I had thought you would have to train fast to run fast. I no longer think that. You have to know how to run fast and you need a coach who teaches you to run fast. You need drills to enhance your fast twitch fibres but then it is a matter of conditioning.
"Michael ran a 0.6sec difference between his first and second 200m in the world record. He could do that because the difference between his 200m split and 200m speed was good. Even pace is the best way to run. You were never going to beat Michael Johnson by beating him to 200m."
12. FROM 400m TO 200m & CRILL AND STRENGTH TRAINING
Switching from 400m to 200m in championships
It was hard to do specific training for 200m in major champs because of all the rounds including the 400m. But Hart had a few ways of helping that transition to occur.
"At Gothenburg we realised Michael had the slowest reaction time in his heat. We went to the warm up track and did reaction work. That still worked the nervous system and got him switched over from the 400m. The music he listened to for the 400m was a lot more mellow than for the 200."
Clyde Hart’s drills and strength training
In terms of drills Clyde keeps it simple. He said: "We do high skips, low skips - it is basic mechanical stuff - I have never seen a kid run sideways in a race yet. The backwards runs we do use. They do stretch out the hamstring and you push off with the feet. We don't do high bounds."
"We also do as many steps as you can in a small space - for example 10 yards."
Another drill his athletes do is what he calls 'Speedmakers'. For this you run the width of a football pitch as slow as you can. ‘Pitter patter’ (fast feet) into the corner then explode - no build up. Run 60 yards fast with full relaxation – what Clyde calls ‘jaw bounce’ as your face is fully relaxed. When you are at 60 yards stop using your arms. You are not putting on the brakes just relaxing and slowing down. Do 4 of these sprint. The 800m guys do 5 laps, then 4 then 3 then 2 then one.
The athletes do use the gym: "There are certain muscles that need strengthening in the weights room. We feel that abs are key and the upper body is more important than some people seem to think. We do hamstrings and compensate with the quads. There are a lot of pull-ups and dumbbell work, lots of flies, a lot of sit ups with weights."
In conclusion Clyde told us: "Very little of what I do is scientifically proven - it is based on 40 years experience."