Coaching Tips

Coaching tips from Head Coach Ian Legg.

Coaching Update – week commencing 1st June

For this weeks session I am going to suggest another ‘pure speed’ type session. Remember we can only run fast if we practice running fast regularly!
Afterwards I am going to tackle a great question posed to me by Peter Callaghan.

So to start – the suggested Session – Pure Speed 2

You need to get to somewhere with a short / sharp/ steep hill and also a flat area as well so you can run fast on. I will use the short grass hill by the steps at Scaur bank, and then the grass by the play area for flat running, but a road hill is also perfect.
Warm Up. A decent warm up is essential, including some fast strides to prime the muscles and neurological pathways for some intense effort!

Set 1

6 by short steep hills 20 to 30m max.
Coaching points. The hill sprint is explosive. Drive your arms, high knees, fast leg action, high knees. 6-8 secs is all you need.
After each hill sprint get to the flat surface and sprint out 50m. Have 3 mins rest and repeat, 6 times in total.
Rest 10 mins jogging.

Set 2

6 by 200m fast (not flat out, running smoothly) with a 200m walk / jog between each rep.

So now to the question from Peter Callaghan.

“Why can’t I get my heart rate high enough when doing a pure speed session?” This is an important question because if we can’t raise our heart rate to Zone 6 – (anaerobic power zone ), then we will not effectively train that energy system. This will then limit us reaching our full racing potential because our training programme is ‘missing ‘ training the full range of energy systems.
So what is limiting the rise in our heart rate. There are a number of reasons:-
1. Age (sorry Peter). The older you get the lower your heart rate and the harder it is to raise it into the ‘explosive ‘ training zone 6. We have to accept that limitation, but not a reason to ignore trying this type of training regardless of age – quite the opposite as discussed in previous updates.
2. Biomechanics. To sprint we need to train our bodies to work to a greater range of movement than we would doing steady long distance running. If we are not bio mechanically efficient, we can’t run fast and therefore our heart rate will not raise itself high enough to ‘train’ the energy zone we are focusing on.
3. Physiology. We need to be strong and powerful to run fast (compare the physique of a top sprinter to that of Mo Farah). Yes I hear you say but I want to compete over the same race distances as Mo, so this doesn’t matter to me. Not true. Mo Farah is very strong and is capable of squatting a significant amount of his body weight (as was Paula Ratcliffe in her prime racing days). So looks can be very deceiving. If we actually examine more closely the physiology of top distance athletes, yes they are usually lean, but also very strong to allow them to sprint fast. If top athletes know strength is a critical training ingredient we should pay attention!
4. Type of training. If we don’t train across the energy zones and we do most of our training at aerobic heart rate zones our bodies develop more Type 1 (Slow twitch) muscle fibre as a result. Fast twitch muscle activation ( Type 2), will provoke a higher heart rate response. More fast twitch muscles equals a higher heart rate when they are activated.
So what can I do to improve my explosive speed and allow us to train effectively in Zone 6.
1. Running drills. These help improve running efficiency and actually are short explosive efforts, so help train the body to do explosive / fast/ controlled/ precise movements. All excellent to help make you run fast.
2. Strength and conditioning. I have spoken about this already in a previous update. Do not ignore it. I have already given you one session on this (Oregon Circuit). I will offer up some more in the future.
3. Weights. A build from Pt2 above. Done properly these are invaluable, but must be done correctly. Again I will try and pull something together and share.
4. Plyometrics. These develop power and require a combination of strength and speed. They must be done very carefully and properly to avoid injury and I really suggest they are carried out in a supervised coached session. They involve a series of explosive jumps, hops, bounds and help convert strength into power. I will do a specific session on this for those interested – hopefully at some point in the not too distant future!
5. Regular fast running. Again I have spoken about this previously. To get your body conditioned to running fast (and training the correct energy zones) you have to work at it. This means regular sessions conditioning your body to the stresses of that energy zone.
So in summary, we need to focus on a range of specific types of supporting training to gradually condition our bodies to be able to train in heart rate Zone 6 (anaerobic power). By doing this, ultimately this type of training (along with other sessions) will enable us to run as fast as we can over our chosen race distance. ……..simple!
As always any questions please reach out to me or the coaching team.
Ian Legg

Coaching Update – week commencing 11th May

Developing Pure Speed

When we meet on a Wednesday evening we talk about going off to do a ‘speed’ session. In fact we are actually doing what is termed a speed endurance session or even a strength endurance type session.
To train for pure speed we are doing efforts up to 20 secs maximum and trying to run as fast as we can – yes sprinting! Why should we worry about these type of sessions if we are not trying to beat Usain Bolt? If you continue to train at one pace you train only one of your energy systems ( normally the aerobic energy system) and our bodies are clever and adapt to the training load and our performances start to plateau. So it is imperative for continued long term improvement to train other energy systems and incorporate speed training. This stresses our bodies in different ways and as the body adjusts to the training load it gets stronger and ultimately faster regardless of the distance you race over!

Session Detail

Long warm up, that must include some drills and strides that are getting increasingly faster. Imperative to warm up properly for this type of session.
Main set
Get a decent flat surface, road, path or side of a football pitch.
3 sets of 3 by 90m sprint efforts (about the length of a football pitch).
Some important points
1. 3 mins between each effort and 5-6 mins between sets.
2. Note: recovery times are important. If you shorten the recovery you are not training the correct energy system, and it becomes a speed endurance session.
3. Each effort should feel very fast, but try and stay relaxed when sprinting with good running form.
4. I break up each 90m effort into 30m sub sections and do the sets as follows below:-
Set 1 – 30m smooth, 30m fast, 30m flat out
Set 2 – 30m fast, 30m smooth, 30m flat out
Set 3 – 30m flat out, 30m fast, 30m smooth
A decent cool down at a very steady pace. Your legs will be tired.
If you do this session properly your legs will feel very sore and stiff for a few days afterwards so make sure any other running for 2-3 days afterwards is at a steady pace or you risk injury.

For those who haven’t read enough…………

I am going to finish this week by explaining a little about training plan structures in response to 2 questions from Victoria after last weeks update.

Qu:1 – Should I train for speed and endurance at the same time?

The short answer is yes – definitely. Any training programme should include 4 staple ingredients.
These include:
1. Building endurance (long slow runs);
2. Tempo runs (fast runs getting you used to racing)
3. speed sessions where you train over shorter distances but run at speeds quicker than race pace.
4. strength work and I discussed the importance of this the other week in a previous update.
All these elements should be included in your weekly training programme. Depending on the event(s) you are training for, the mix of these ingredients will alter to achieve optimum performance for your chosen event and the emphasis of these elements should alter at different times of the year.

Qu:2 – Why is my endurance improving much more than my speed?

You may find your endurance is improving most of all, it will do. This is the aspect that you will get most improvement from when you start running for the following reasons:-
A) you are most likely to be running at a pace which develops the aerobic endurance capacity most of all – ie longer distance; slower paced running
b) aerobic endurance improves very quickly when you start running and because of this a common ‘mistake’ we make is to keep doing the same training with the expectation of continued improvement.
C) developing speed takes the longest time to produce improvements in times, and normally speed sessions are harder to do alone – and therefore this aspect tends to get ignored, but ignore it at your peril.
So in summary, don’t avoid speed work and hence the reason why as a club we tend to focus on different types of ‘speed’ sessions at the weekly club training night.
As always any questions please reach out to me or the coaching team.
Ian Legg

Coaching Update: Suggested Session – Week Commencing 27th April

Before I suggest a session for this week I just wanted to say a word to those who had been training hard for a spring marathon. London should be on at the minute as I write this. I appreciate that you may be disappointed and frustrated, but the wise man tell us “worry about the things you can control, not those you can’t”.
So with that in mind be positive and think how you use the postponement to your advantage. Firstly and importantly the training is not wasted. Long term improvement comes from consistent training and all the work you put in over the winter is ‘money in the bank’.

I would encourage you to mix the training up a bit now. Assuming your race is rescheduled to October take the next 2 months to change your training emphasis.

  • Cut the long runs.
  • Do some speed work, do some more of that Strength & conditioning.
  • Set yourself some short distance goals -5k or 10k improvement ( even if you can’t do a proper race get a measured route).

Just continuing with your marathon race plan again now I venture is a mistake. You will become stale and your body needs different training stimuli to improve. So mix it up and build back up for the Autumn off a reduced training plan -10 to 12 weeks will be plenty.

Solo Parlauf – this weeks session
We normally do this in pairs and it’s great fun, but in lockdown we have to do it ourselves.
Session Description: 3 sets of 9 mins running with 3 mins recovery between sets.
Get to a football pitch. Start at the half way line ( on one side of the pitch). Run hard round half the pitch , so you stop at the half way line on the opposite side, brisk jog across the pitch along half way line back to where you started, repeat again….keep going and stop after 9 minutes and rest for 3 mins. Another 2 sets of 9 minutes.
It is important to pace yourselves. The hard efforts should be consistent and should the time for the jog recovery. You need to be consistent for the duration of the 9 minutes.
1 mile warm up, 1 mile cool down.
Variations
Intermediate – 3 sets of 7 minutes, 3 mins recovery between sets
Starter – 3 sets of 6 minutes , 3-4 mins recovery between sets.
As always with the above any questions please reach out to me or one of the coaches.
Final note. My fellow coaches have been working hard to update our normal sessions and they will appear on our newly launched website soon (if not there already).
Stay safe, stay healthy.
Ian Legg

Suggested Session – Week Commencing 13th April: Oregon Circuit

Hope you have all managed to survive another week in lockdown. I noticed that a few of you tried to do some hill reps (and variations thereof). Well done!

My suggestion for this week is an Oregon Circuit. I have seen an explosion of online workout sessions that you can do in the house. Well simply put an Oregon circuit incorporates a number of strength and conditioning exercises into a typical running session.

Description
Warm up. Run a mile and then take 10 mins to do the warm up exercises and drills that we would typically do on a Wednesday evening. Finish the warm up with a few strides.

You are then going to spend the next 20 to 40 mins (depending upon your fitness level and how intense a workout you want) doing the circuit. In terms of the running, elements just treat it as a mini fartlek (speed play!). I like doing this session in a park ideally and I use Scaur Bank and Raby Park to give me some flat running areas and the opportunity to add in some hill efforts. Run for 2-3 minutes and decide what you want to do whilst running. It could be easy jogging, some short sprints, accelerations, mini hill reps (uphill and downhill) – you decide! After every 2-3 minutes you stop and do a short set of exercises. One set of exercises at each station (see below)

I use the following order – Arms; Core; Legs (and repeat 3 times) during the workout doing different exercises at each stopping point.

Station 1: Arms – 10-20 Press ups. Focus on straight body. If you need to, do the press up from your knees.
Station 2: Core – Plank. 60 secs; or 3 sets of 20 secs. Focus on straight back; squeeze shoulders and glutes, and force belly button to your back. No bum in the air!
Station 3: Legs – Double leg squats 10-20. Focus on straight back, knees not going forward or inwards when you squat.
Station 4: Arms – Dips. 10 -20. Use a bench or fence and bend arms and sink your bum towards the ground. Harder option is keeping straight legs; bend your knees if needed.
Station 5: Core – Side Plank. 60 secs; 30 secs each side, and change after 30 secs. Hard version hand on ground and a side crucifix position; easier rest on your forearm and keep other arm resting on your side when side planking.
Station 6 :- Burpees with a jump. 10-20.
Station 7:- Arms- Pull Ups if you can find a bar to hang off!. If not lie on the ground with your arms out to the side and raise your hands off the ground by squeezing your shoulder blades together. 20 of them!
Station 8: – Sit ups with a FLAT BACK. Raise your knees to a right angle to the floor and arms straight out to the side of the knees. Just little movements where you squeeze glutes and core muscles and slightly raise shoulders off the ground. 10-20.
Station 9:- Single leg (pistol) squats. 5-10 each side. Arms out for balance and straight leg out in front on the leg not supporting your weight. Controlled squat and controlled back up.

Finish with a mile of easy jogging back home and 5-10 mins gentle stretching.

I suggest trying to do this session once a week.
I will talk more next week about structuring your training.

Have fun and stay safe.
Please reach out to me or the coaching team if you need any other advice. We are here to help where we can.

Ian Legg

Suggested Session – Week Commencing 6th April – Hill Reps

Find a hill near you, ideally one not too steep. I like doing a hill circuit like Raby Park, so there is fast downhill running as well as uphill resistance. If that is not possible find a hill that is approximately 200m long.

Advanced – 3 sets of 4 by one lap. 90 secs recovery. Each lap is approximately 400m. Divide into 3 sets of 4; take a longer recovery after each set of 4.

Intermediate – 2 sets of 4 by one lap. 2 mins recovery between efforts and 3 to 4 mins between the 2 sets.

Starter Group – 2 sets of 5 by half a lap (approximately 200m); walk / jog recovery back to the start. Again take a longer recovery after 5.

Remember when you do the efforts you are trying to make each rep the same pace as the others.

Feel free to message me / or post if you have any specific queries or coaching questions and I will try to incorporate in my updates.