Tips to get the best from your training sessions

happy group run

When you lace up your running shoes and head out for you next training session, you want to make it count. From Athletics Weekly, January 2021, we bring you top tips from athletes who have achieved great things and have learnt what is important.

Dave Moorcroft the former 5000m world record-holder and also a Commonwealth champion is simple and concise with his advice.  He reminds us that being an athlete is a wonderful life adventure, so embrace all the ups and downs as part of this amazing experience. “We do this to make us happy so enjoy every treasured moment.”

Hannah Cockroft a five-time Paralympic champion is also a coach leader so her tips are passed on to those she is advising. Cockcroft advises not to be afraid of change and be open to new ideas rather than being fixed in your ways. On embracing the change and growth mindset, Cockcroft returned to her winning ways. Her changes include new coaches, equipment and a new strength programme. She adds “The old way will always be waiting for you if you decide to change back.”

Colin Jackson the former hurdles world champion and world record-holder is concise with his advice. Jackson says, you should remember not to rush anything, improvement takes time. To work hard and have fun and that training should never be a chore!

Hannah England the 1500m world silver medallist attributes Kelly Holmes, the Double Olympic Champion, to her training mantra. Hannah said best piece of training advice I received was from Kelly Holmes in 2012. I was getting very carried away, talking about racing goals and schedules for the outdoor season to strive for Olympic success and she reminded me very clearly the importance of concentrating on maximising training every day.

Kelly said, all that is important today is that you do the very best session you can, and that you wake up tomorrow not injured or ill so that you can do tomorrow’s training.

Hannah added that the lure and excitement of ambitious goals can distract you from the real importance of delivering good training day in, day out. It’s that consistency that will produce results! Hannah also said she also found this mindset calming. Focussing on the short-term milestones was a lot less stressful than constantly trying to perfect something which was too far off to predict.

Brendan Foster is an Olympic bronze medallist over 10,000m and a Commonwealth champion too.

He states that the first simple lesson he learned was from coach, Stan Long. At 15, he used to get us in groups of five or 10 and tell us to just run together and to chat, talk, laugh and take the mickey out of each other. We weren’t to run hard and we never measured any distance or timed any of the runs. Stan’s idea was that we should run three or four times during the week and race on a Saturday. He would say: ‘Enjoy your runs during the week and as you get stronger you’ll run better when you race.’ Foster adds “There was no structure around it – no stopwatches or pulse rate monitors or anything like that – his whole idea was to get a nice group of lads of similar ability to run together, enjoy it and learn to enjoy running. Many of the group went on to represent GB. Stan wasn’t coaching us to go faster, he was coaching us to enjoy going out for a run and to fall in love with running.”

Steph Twell was a 1500m world junior champion and also has Commonwealth and European medals. Steph believes it’s not how you start, but how you finish each session that counts. Pacing yourself to be consistent in all repetitions and not just the ones at the start is key. Ideally, you should try to stay strong and get further or faster – even towards the end of a session. Because the group will have their own training rhythm, understand that the time or position you finish your rep doesn’t mean everything related to your shape or fitness. Repeatedly putting in the same effort will become easier on race day. Build patterns of success, not just one great rep or session.

Sometimes try reps or sessions you are afraid of. Break them down and make them sizeable chunks to follow your progress. Remember to monitor and reflect on those gains and progressions. Looking back will help you know how to move forwards and remind you of what has gone well.”

Ref. Athletics Weekly January 2021