Helen Clitheroe interview

Keep on learning

Use this time to enjoy being fit and work to a routine, says England Athletics coach Helen Clitheroe – a 15min 5k and 32min 10k runner at her peak

“Even though I don’t have any real goals any more I enjoy being fit and having a routine,” she confirms. “My week now consists of steady running, spin bike sessions and maybe 1-2 run sessions that are intervals or tempo type work. I train in the gym alongside this so maybe 3 sessions a week of conditioning.”

And when it comes to helping others, lockdown has been all about learning new skills. “I would have used the time to work on any weakness and be ready to resume racing when the time came,” she says, agreeing that this is a time we can actually use to our benefit. “I was pretty good at boxing stuff off and getting on with things as an athlete so I hope that’s what I would have done.”

“I would definitely recommend any athlete to spend time doing things that they maybe don’t have the time to fit in as easily. Working on the pre-Hab exercises set by a physio that went by the wayside as well as well as working drills and mobility that can easily be done in your own home. Also listening to podcasts and webinars to further knowledge would be a great use of time.”

She also says a great one we can all benefit from is learning how to communicate better. “I already coached a couple of athletes remotely, so this is something I’m quite used to,” but she adds, the past few weeks she’s got even better. “Good and honest communication is key in any coach athlete relationship but even more so if you don’t get to watch the athlete in training at all.  So, trying to keep those lines of communication open have been important.”

And like all of us, she has had to learn to adapt to ever-changing goalposts. Just in the past few days we can all get out and run a bit more, but racing could still be a few weeks (or more away) yet. “It has been so tricky for all of us,” she agrees. “We will all have had athlete goalposts moved many times during this period of time. So, with most athletes we have stepped back into a bit of ‘winter’ type work with the idea that we can get a good specific build up into a race if and when that happens. A few have enjoyed doing some virtual time trails which has proved a good motivation and have some virtual goals to look to coming up before real racing starts.”

In the meantime, she says, “stay safe!”