Firstly, an introduction. I’ve competed as an ‘endurance’ athlete since I was 12 years old, starting off racing as a kid on the track, distances from 800 metres upwards, before competing as a GB U23 and England senior at 3000steeplechase, cross country and road, with the highlight becoming national half marathon champion. I also competed as a GB elite Duathlete for two seasons, competing at World and European champs, before switching my attention to Ultra distance running, coming 5th in the World 50km champs, before a final run for England over 100km in 2013. I now compete solely as a cyclist racing on both track and road for Contour cycles RT. (www.Contourcycles.co.uk) It important to stress I’m not a qualified coach, and what works for some may not work for others. I’ve been lucky enough to have been coached by some highly regarded coaches in my time, and as such have picked up some pointers along the way.
As a distance runner ‘speed’ is a relative term. What is important is to be able to run efficiently and comfortably at a speed required for the target race distance and time. To achieve this I found that long repetitions and short recovery worked well for me. I often completed mile repetitions in training with as little as 30 seconds recovery. For example 5 x 1mile with 30 seconds recovery. Having short recoveries allows the body to closely experience the stresses it will feel during a race. In my opinion there is limited value in having a 5 minute recovery, as this is a luxury never afforded during competition.
I regularly completed in excess of 100 miles per week as a distance runner, running twice a day six days a week, and once on the 7th. I rarely took a ‘rest’ day in the traditional sense of the word (i.e a day off). But favoured Very easy running as recovery. I’m not advocating everyone needing to complete this volume of training, but I am an advocate of consistency of training – far better to be a runner who completes 30 miles a week, week in week out, than do three ‘big’ weeks of training and then have three weeks off injured or ill.
No quick fix
Unless you are exceptionally talented (which few of us are) then in my opinion there is no quick fix to improving as an endurance athlete. However with consistency and a long term approach to training then improvement should be achievable. If you need to lose weight, do it slowly by increasing the volume of your training, not by starting a crazy diet. If you want to improve your speed slowly increase the intensity of your speed sessions, don’t go out and run everything fast! You get the point…..
I’ve seen athletes who have been told “YOU SHOULD RUN MORE ON YOUR TOES’ suddenly start running everywhere on their toes, I’ve then seen them suffer the inevitable stress fractures from such crazy activity!!
Endurance sport isn’t rocket science; the more you do (without getting injured or ill) the more efficient your body will become, and consequently the better you will be. Once you reach a certain level then fine tuning can lead to smaller increments of improvement, but don’t go an buy all the gadgets and gizmo’s when all you need to do is spend more time on your feet, out the door.
LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY
Easier said than done. I’ve been under the surgeon’s knife a couple of times due to injuries caused by overuse. However one thing is for sure, without your health achieving improvement in sport is unlikely to happen. I’ve a big fan of sports massage, both as a maintenance tool and to treat injury, a good masseur should be able to keep you on the road, and ‘feel’ when more serious intervention is required. My current cycle team is sponsored by www.Ask-physio.co.uk who provide sports massage (10% discount if you mention Contour cycles).
When ill DO NOT RACE. My wife spent many years in the sporting wilderness suffering from immune system problems after racing whilst on anti biotics in her late teens. Competing or training hard when ill has probably ended more sporting careers than injury. Unless it’s the Olympic final, there is always another year, another season. It’s not a case of being a hero – you can SERIOUSLY damage yourself pushing hard when ill. If I have a head cold I will try and complete VERY low intensity aerobic exercise – not getting out of breath. If the cold progresses to my chest I will take complete REST. I think this is especially important in young athletes who may feel a pressure to race when ill, to satisfy parents/coaches or team mates. DON’T DO IT!!!
These are just a few things I have learnt during my time as an endurance athlete, mainly by trial and error, and working with some excellent coaches. It’s important to remember we are individuals and what works for some may not work for others.
If you wish to follow my cycle team you can find me and the team on twitter @ContourcylesRT and at www.Contourcycle.co.uk , if you need physio or massage then contact www.Ask-physio.co.uk and remember to mention the Contour cycles race team to get a 10% discount.