Exclusive Interview: Carl Valle

About the Author: Eric Cressey

It’s Tuesday again; time to get the ball rolling on another newsletter!

Article Update

For those who missed it, I had an article published at T-Nation last week; check out 40 Random Thoughts if you’ve actually enjoyed what I’ve been spewing for the past 18 newsletters.  And if you didn’t, hopefully #19 will get you to come around.

Exclusive Interview: Carl Valle

I’ll admit it: I’m somewhat of a snob when it comes to “approving” of what other coaches do.  I’m so detailed and focused in what I do that I expect all of my peers to hold themselves to equally high standards.  The end result is that there really aren’t many people to whom I’m comfortable referring my clients and athletes.  Frankly, though, if someone is being interviewed, they’re people I consider to be in the upper echelon.

Along these same lines, there are not many people with whom I would talk sprinting mechanics for over an hour at 1AM following a random phone call.  Hell, there aren’t many people who can (or will) call me at 1AM period!  Carl Valle can do just that, though.  He’s extremely well-read and experienced, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a coach out there who can boast of being an expert sprint and swim coach – and understand regeneration protocols in phenomenal detail.  I’m fortunate to work with Carl on a daily basis now that I’m up in Boston, and there is no doubt in my mind that we’ll be churning out freaky athletes for years to come.

EC: Hey Carl, thanks for being with us today.  You just couldn’t get enough of me at the facility all day, huh?  Let’s get right to the meat and potatoes.  You know sprinting mechanics better than anyone with whom I’ve ever spoken personally; where did all this knowledge come from?

CV: Just wait until football season starts and you have to deal with my cranky moods if the 49ers are struggling; then ask if you’re getting enough of me!

Good question, though: where does one get good information on sprinting with so many clowns out there spewing misinformation?  Most of my knowledge stems from far better coaches who are willing to share their sources and experiences openly and I have been very lucky early on.  I owe a lot to Mike Corn from the USA Track and Field Coach’s education school for keeping the instructors and curriculum top-notch.  Each year is very humbling to me as I must throw out the ego and learn from not only the speakers presenting, but also from the coaches attending as well.  In order to take advantage of the enormous bank of information available from great minds you must do your homework with your anatomy and physiology to be on the same page.

My coaching experiences with athletes ranging from high school to world-class sprinters were daily reminders that you better do your research because you are dealing with people’s goals and sometimes even dreams.  During my days in Tampa and North Carolina, I felt I was doing the right things but I was very raw and didn’t have the ability to make the daily adjustments and refinements.  If I knew then what I know now, I think I would be the one speaking at clinics instead of the guy in the back scribbling notes!  Remember, wisdom is a product of both knowledge and experience, so do your reading, listening, and experimenting.

EC:  Let’s talk common myths in training for speed.  Where are people hopelessly misinformed?

CV: Myths exist because people are frankly lazy or are less passionate than many of the more successful coaches out there.  Running isn’t a mystery; it’s just elementary physics and gross anatomy and physiology that can be learned by anyone who puts in the time.  Too many people are looking for easy answers instead of investing in solid training information when trying to develop athletic performance.  Why do a cadaver dissection when you lean back and watch a DVD on the couch?  Perhaps the most common problem I see with this industry is so much lack of patience with improving a quality that one resorts to more “magical” methods because the boring and straightforward avenue sounds less attractive when a gadget or guru can do it twice as fast with half the effort.  After a few years of hearing the same myths over and over again from self-proclaimed online experts and traveling snake oil salesmen, I created three categories of speed myth propagators. They are:

The Gadget Guys – Those who push catalog equipment during their presentations and exaggerate the effectiveness of what this equipment can do for athletes.  I find that equipment must be used sparingly and that athletes must learn to control their bodies before adding any outside tool.  Two tools such as sleds and resistance lines are only 5% of most successful sprinting programs.

The Mechanics Masters – These frauds share drills or new theories of running and make things more complicated than they really are.  I do feel that technique is important but many times mechanical errors stem from program design, postural issues, strength and mobility factors, and other coaching needs besides a lack of drills from a DVD.  It’s analogous to a Tylenol deficiency causing headaches.

The Bomb Squad – These guys assume that every “explosive” exercise will develop speed better than foolishly sprinting from time to time.  Every one of these guys has a secret weight program they stole “Mission Impossible” style from the Russians and Germans.  The funny thing is that they always talk about 40-yard dash times of foreign athletes when those countries use the metric system!  Perhaps it was a translation error?

The truth is that speed development requires sprinting, strength and power training, work capacity, regenerative work (active recovery training, nutrition, and rest), and a great coach to artistically juggle those elements.

EC: You get a lot of high school and college athletes looking to get faster; what are the most common shortcomings you see in them, and how do you address these shortcomings?

CV: Most athletes come to me with small injuries that are at the nagging point that could grow into major problems if they are not treated early.  While many different and unique shortcomings exist, the most common three issues I deal with are poor fitness levels and little accountability in recovery factors.  Here are three factors athletes should consider when looking to improving their speed.

Work Capacity – While speed, strength, and power are the primary means to developing athletic performance, conditioning acts as an internal battery charger to the neuromuscular system and can’t be ignored.  So many athletes think they are overtraining, but in reality they don’t have a biochemical platform to self-repair and need to look at developing a specific work capacity to ensure they are supporting the high intensity elements in their programs.

Lack of Regeneration – The ability to improve requires consistency and an ample amount of time and (unfortunately) injury and illness are viruses that can plague any program if you are not doing enough regeneration work.  Everyone talks about cold lasers, exotic fish oils, and ART, but very few athletes get enough sleep and eat healthily.  Get the basics down and then talk about whey protein drinks and sports massage.

Bad Frames – Sprinting and power training work, but most athletes come in needing to lower body fat, correct muscle imbalances, and finish rehabbing injuries.  Athletes are like cars and need to clean out their trunk (get lean), fix their alignment (correct inefficiencies), and sometimes put their car in the shop (physical therapy).  Don’t come to a race shop to soup up your car if it is going to break down any minute on the highway.  Over the last few years I am getting more and more athletes with preexisting injuries that have not been solved and this is my primary challenge.  This is why I am thrilled to have you at Excel to help troubleshoot problems.

EC: I know you’re anything but mainstream in the avenues you pursue to gain your knowledge; what resources (books, DVDs, manuals) have you found to be the most valuable?

CV: Besides Magnificent Mobility and The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, Eric?

EC: Those are in a class of their own, wise guy.  And remember that I’m a powerlifter and you’re a swimmer/runner; natural selection and the concept of food chains dictate that I can and should kill and eat you.  Continue…

CV: Believe it or not, I have found the early Paul Chek information to be useful since his correspondence courses deal with functional anatomy in depth, and, I am a huge fan of the Championship Productions Videos (Track and Swimming) because they share good information from real experts.

Books: If you have some money to spend, here are some good resources. I have about 800+ books and 120 five-inch binders of world class coaching content, so much of my info is from pieces here and there.  Two books that I find to be staples are:

Peak When It Counts: 4th Edition by William Freeman.  If you are serious about real periodization pick up this text from trackandfieldnews.com as well as the texts on sprinting, jumping, and throwing.

Strength and Power in Sport (Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine) edited by Paavo Komi – Very solid information with the best group of authors.  Worth the price and is the standard for any coach wanting to know what is needed to develop freaks.  Everyone has Supertraining, but I don’t find it to be as useful but it is important to review it to keep pushing the limit.

Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set – To be honest I didn’t feel comfortable endorsing products of my friends and colleagues, but not endorsing aggressive corrective exercise would be a disservice. While I like the concept of corrective exercise, the means to evaluate and reprogram an athlete have not worked with my own clients when following some of the less progressive material. While I didn’t attend the seminar in person, the videos you’ve shown me and my knowledge of your abilities has made me realize that it’s going to be a great product that will help a lot of people.  If people are serious, they get the DVD series because it’s a good value and the material will help them do things at a high level themselves and with their athletes.  What I like about what you two did is that you made training an internal movement screen instead of just having people doing tests.  With the hundreds of tests you can do, it’s nice to see why someone is compensating instead of just saying they failed a specific test.  This enables the coach to have a watch dog mentality during all training time and not just the assessment or post-training check-up.  It’s scary that there are people out there who are not even aware of concepts such as building a spine of steel and neurologically smooth coordination.

(Note from EC: This DVD set was filmed in late July, and should be available in mid-to-late September; stay tuned.)

Read the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) World Books. My opinion is that the best minds are in swimming and that is a shame since aquatic sports don’t transfer too well to the rest of the field.  I wouldn’t get my weight training information from a swim coach, but you can learn a lot about the art of coaching from the good ones.

The rest of my information comes from exchanging USB drives at conferences, emails from coaches that type up their workouts, and chatting on the phone.  Half the information I refer to is unpublished content from other coaches that are organized in binders and, of course, locked in a secure storage facility.

EC: You’ve traveled all over the place to see people speak; who are some speakers that everyone needs to experience first hand?

CV: The problem with some coaches is that many don’t present information formally on any speaking circuit or conference because they don’t like to travel or are too busy to speak.  Here are some coaches, experts, and speakers that I find worth the time:

John Berardi, Charlie Francis, Dave Tate, Dan Wirth, Dick Jocums, Al Vermeil, Mike Boyle, Vern Gambetta, Bryan Tobias, Dan Pfaff, Kebba Tolbert, Dave Kerin, Randy Gillon, Adam Lockhart, Mike Stone, Travis Skaggs, William Kramer, Steven Fleck, Brijesh Patel, Landon Evans, Mike Clark, William Sands, Gray Cook, JJ Hunter, Dave Marsh, Phil Lunden, Gary Winckler, John Smith, Paul Chek, Tony Wells, Don Babbit, Art Vengas, Skip Kenney, Richard Quick, Nort Thorton, Mike Bottom, Paul Bergan, Wolfgang Mier, Boo Shexnayder, Mike Young, John Pallof, and some powerlifter named Eric Cressey.

Others speakers may exist, but those are the people I have listened to first-hand.  For example, I enjoy guys like Mike Robertson, John Sullivan, and Christian Thibaudeau but I have not attended any of their seminars.  Mel Siff has passed away, but his presentations were well done.  Some other guys are great resources, but the names I shared come to mind easily.

EC: Fast-forward five years…where is Carl Valle, and what are people saying about him?

CV: I don’t know where I will be in five years, but I do hope people think my efforts are noble in trying to keep the industry evolving and honest.  I am really frustrated with the huge influx of posers and frauds in our field, Eric, and I hope things change soon.  No matter what I do I will still be the guy that reads comic books, drinks too much coffee, and tells jokes at the wrong time – but at least I am known to be a help and not parasite or sellout.  I just want people to think my information is honest and accurate and my training creative and effective.  My goal is to be respected by people I respect.

EC: Word association time.  Name the first sentence or two that come to mind when you see the following words:

Charlie Francis

CV: Brilliant man and simply the best 100m coach of all time, regardless of the drugs involved.  Although forever linked to scandal, very few people know how generous and unselfish Charlie is as a person.

EC: John Berardi

CV: John has the rare ability to make the very complicated simple and practical without losing the effectiveness or key details.  His consulting was a wise investment and I am glad I pushed for his services.

EC: Resisted Sprints with the Sled

CV: They work, but sprinting without equipment can work, too.  I would invest my time running faster speeds instead of running with higher resistances.

EC: The Red Sox Bullpen

CV: I don’t know too much since I wear this Boston Red Sox hat to look like Ben Affleck since he landed Jennifer Garner.  Jokes aside, the bullpen has not been exactly shutting teams down and must rebound or the magic number will be 911.

EC (groaning in lament about the Sox): Excel Sport and Fitness Training

CV: The best facility and staff in New England – period.

EC: That’ll do it, Carl; thanks a ton for taking the time to be with us.  What projects have you got on your plate right now, and where can our readers find out more about those projects and you?

CV: Currently, I am working on two compendiums on training and recovery that have been started and given up on for six years.  If one likes Anatomy Trains or Sports Training Principles, you will enjoy the stuff I am working on.  My goal is to share something I will be proud of and a hardcopy should be available October 31, 2007.

Another major project is the supplement line of which I am a part, and this has taken nearly three years.  The company is called Myonova and we have two regeneration products that are superior; I’m very proud to be involved with them.  The Cytofuse product is an NCAA compliant post-workout formula and we have an antioxidant formula that is years ahead of those of our competitors.  August 31 will be the birth of the new label line, but we NCAA champion teams and many Olympic athletes have already been using the products for over two years.  For more information, go to www.myonova.com and read more about us (it will be up next Friday, August 25).

Finally, I have a few seminars at which I will speak provided it doesn’t interfere with training and my meet schedule; I like these chances to give back the industry.  When the information is solidified, I will email you and you can include it in your newsletter.  In the meantime, readers can contact me at phoenixelitecoaching@hotmail.com.

Newsletter #19 is in the books; see you next week!  Until then, don’t forget that the early registration deadline on the LA Strength and Performance Nutrition Seminar is fast approaching; sign up today!

All the Best,