My long time friend Dr. Rich Ulm contacted me the other day to report on a very cool conversation he just had with the King of Javelin, Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic.
Jan’s incredible career spanned three decades and has left him in possession of three Olympic Gold Medals, one Olympic Silver Medal, and an amazing World Record that holds to this day. Easily the best javelin thrower ever.
That’s Rich on the left, Jan on the right. A lovely day in Prague.
Rich was a successful hammer thrower, was a college coach and is now a chiropractor/super trainer. He was giving a lecture in Prague (yes, he’s that smart) and managed to get 45 minutes with Mr. Z. Rich and I met at the Ironwood Throws Camp over 10 years ago and have stayed in touch, sharing perspectives and information on throwing and training. And a few jokes..
As Rich filled me in on this unique meeting, he was abuzz with the thrill of hearing the remarkable insights and ideas of this true champion and artist of the event. Here are a few takeaways:
1. Resting Before Competitions
If he was feeling clear in his concepts (“I know how to throw..”), Zelezny would take as many as TEN (10) days OFF of javelin throwing before competitions. Ten (10)!!! Now, he wold do other things, including running, runup work and medicine ball throwing, but NO JAVELIN THROWING. This is very unusual!! In 45 years of doing the javelin, I’ve never heard of so much time off. Five days is the most I’ve heard of. Jan said he did this before the Olympic Games as well as other important meets. He said he needed to feel his best to throw his best. Makes sense to me.
“Important, but not more important than the other training”. He said that moving with the bar was “too limited” to have dominance over the other types of training like ball throwing and getting the runup just right. I’ve also heard of this by way of US Olympic Team Throws Coach and former American Record Holder Tom Pukstys, who told me his sampling of the top coaches in the world agreed – in fact the consensus was it was hard but necessary to keep the top throwers OUT of the weight room. They trained hard, and trained to high levels of strength, but in modalities other than weights.
3. Short Runups in Practice Only
This idea is a perfect example of how you can’t always blindly follow what the top people do. I’ve seen college and open throwers adopt this idea, with – disastrous results!
Zelezny said he used 9 and 7 step approaches only. Well, that’s not really all that short, and his ability to accelerate was, in a word, “unusual”, as in really amazing and impressive. His best 200m time is 21.7. Not really ANY javelin throwers in the US within a second and a half of that, in my guess. So Jan’s speed at the end of 9 steps was likely high enough to have enough momentum for the throw, whereas ordinary mortals might not be able to accelerate enough to reach 6-7m/sec for a good throw.
So be careful with this one. The problems throwers encounter with short runs only in training is that they are untrained at controlling the speed achieved with the full run. They can also get the idea that all the runup is for is setting up to throw hard. This is not good. It can be a problem that many athletes confuse full runup with full SPEED runup and full EFFORT of the throw. It’s good to train the ability to do a COMPLETE runup and a relaxed, easy throw. It’s part of making sure your steps come out right.
Ok that’s the first chapter of this cool story. More to come next time.