Training tips

Latest update imageSpeed and strength | On the beach | Short and sharp | Add this to the mix


Use this time constructively and iron out those biomechanical problems in the comfort of your back garden, or even your hallway. We’ll be updating this page regularly; you can use the quick links below to jump to different weekly tips.


Week 1 tips

Training exercises

Practice these skills over about 20 metres, repeating them 5 times, 3 times a week.

1. Bucket and balloon: This is all about learning a better posture and smoother running form.
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.

 

2. Learn to skip again: This simple exercise is well worth mastering as it strengthens your muscles that you use while running without your joints bearing too much load. It also helps to build calf, ankle and foot strength.
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.

 

3. Heel pickups: Use your bucket and balloon skills to put a bit of pace into your legs in a short space.
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.


What to do in ‘this’ period

Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.


Week 2 tips

Running relaxed

Running relaxed and tall is a phrase you’ll often hear; the good news, is that it’s a simple trick to learn.

  • Tightly clenched hands or fists will result in tight neck muscles and a rigid form that burns a lot of energy. To cure that, simply run holding some toilet roll cardboard tubes and don’t crush them. It’s surprisingly effective. No crushing means no tension!
  • Invest in some running sunglasses; not necessarily for the look, rather for the way they reduce the tension, again through your neck. A tightly furrowed brow as you squint into the sun isn’t good; a cool, relaxed look is. Again, simple!

Click here for a more advanced look at how to keep your body relaxed.


Get fit, stay strong

Make a plan

Runners love a bit of structure and a definite plan to their week. The key is, says chartered Sports Psychologist Dr Josephine Perry “we need to acknowledge that we’ve missed out on stuff, the plans we’ve made have changed, and it’s absolutely ok to be really upset. It’s ok to throw your toys out of the pram and sulk about it for a day or two, but then get into proactive mode, and start making a plan.”

So, now is the time to get yourself in gear and we’re here to help. But while there’s no question being fit helps in all sorts of ways, you do not need to go mad and train like never before because you have all this spare time! “What tends to help most runners is having some kind of plan; it’s about setting goals but also being realistic about what’s possible at the moment. Don’t do anything that’s going to reduce your immunity.”

It’s all about maintenance

“There’s no doubt a sensible amount of running is good for your heart and lungs,” says John Brewer, Professor of Sports Science and Exercise at the University of Suffolk. “But you mustn’t use this time to do more than you have before,” he confirms. “High intensity work that you’re not used to will actually suppress your immune system and can cause upper respiratory infection, not good! Similarly, large volumes of work can also cause issues, so it’s all about maintaining where you are.”

England athletics coaches will be helping you over the next few weeks use this period where constructively, working on your weaknesses, rather than try to get you train harder than usual. And for good reason; science says that’s the best thing to do for mental as well as physical reasons. When you’re working on something that you have low confidence in, or you’re not very good at, you can improve quite quickly, and when we find ourselves improving our brain releases a chemical called dopamine which is our reward-chemical – it gives us a little bit of a buzz every time we improve, so when we’re trapped inside and we can’t do what we normally do it’s a really nice way to make ourselves feel good.

Learn a new skill

Again, this is where the experts at England Athletics https://www.englandathletics.org come into their own. There’s an amazing amount of information that’s free to access from drills to core strength and much more. Take this time to learn all about what exercises you can do at home benefit you the most. This should enable you to still use the muscles you would normally use in running but within a smaller area.

Focus on the future

“People shouldn’t feel like they’re failing,” says Dr. Perry. “It’s important that we’re kind to ourselves. We don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve failed in lockdown or in isolation. If they’re deconditioned and they haven’t used the time productively, it’s not the end of the world, but if you have some time on your hands, then why not use it well?”

Top tips for home workouts

  1. Assemble what equipment you have. You don’t need anything specific but it’s great to have some dumbbells, a mat, resistance bands, and a chair or step.
  2. Design a workout. Don’t worry too much about what’s right and wrong to start with – although in the coming weeks, we’ll have plenty of suggestions thanks to the coaches at England Athletics https://www.englandathletics.org – who are all on board. But for this week, just to get you going, choose a list of exercises that you enjoy – sit ups, press-ups, crunches, the plank, that sort of thing. Then decide on set/rest periods- chose between 30 sec-60 sec work/ 30-60 seconds rest. Now all you have left to decide is how many sets you are going to perform. Remember it is best to start easily and leave some space to expand the numbers that you are hitting. If you can do five press ups, with knees on the floor, then brilliant that’s your starting point.  Stick at that for your first 4 days of activity circuit and then try 4 but 1 is knees off the floor.
  3. Set up the room, i.e. make some space! And one other thing, make sure you have some music going and you’re ready!

The British Nutrition Foundation’s six stay-at-home meal tips

  • Shop for variety: Having a variety and balance of foods is the foundation of a healthy diet. If you’re out shopping, look for a selection of foods across the main food groups: fruit and vegetables; starchy foods, like pasta and grains; protein foods, including beans and lentils; and dairy or plant-based alternatives. There may be items available that you don’t usually buy and now is a great time to give them a try.
  • Use up forgotten ingredients: Don’t forget what you may already have at the back of your kitchen cupboard! Now may finally be the time to utilise that pack of lentils or can of mackerel that you never got around to eating – you could even try doing an inventory of what you’ve got so you can look for recipes and make a plan. If you’ve got a few packets with just a little bit left of foods, like pasta or rice, think creatively to use them up – for example, using the last bit of rice to bulk out a homemade soup.
  • Substitute pasta, rice and grains: We all know that pasta and rice are popular staples and, as such, have sometimes been selling out far quicker than other products in the shops. Try using what is available, for example bulgur wheat, quinoa, barley, couscous and noodles. Prepared packs of grains may also be easier to find on the shelves and, although usually more expensive than their dried counterparts, can provide a quick and convenient meal option. Looking up new recipes is a great way to be inspired in the kitchen, but for those wanting something familiar, it’s good to know pasta and rice can be swapped by these alternative ingredients. Good examples of this include combining couscous with a Bolognese sauce, or having quinoa or bulgur wheat with stir fried vegetables.
  • Canned fish and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh: Canned goods come in all varieties and, although some (such as sweetcorn and tuna) may sell out quickly, it is definitely worth considering other canned foods. Sardines, mackerel and salmon all count as oily fish and are rich in protein, omega-3 and vitamin D. Serve on top of salads or toast, or if you prefer something more subtle, they can be added to sauces or made into dips.Canned peas, carrots and spinach are all nutritious and versatile, and why not try something new like heart of palm or artichokes if these are more readily available? Add canned vegetables straight into curries and stews to bulk out your meals. Canned pulses like kidney beans or chickpeas are also a quick, nutritious addition to things like pasta sauces or salads.
  • Go nuts: Nuts butters have a good source of micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamins E and B, and they are also high in fibre too. Add them to Asian inspired noodle dishes or curries, or just have them with fruit or wholemeal bread as a tasty snack.
  • Meal planning: Making a plan for what you’re going to have for each meal for the next few days, or for the week, could really help you work out how best to use the ingredients you’ve got, and what else you may need. If you’ve got the space to do so, cooking and freezing portions using the ingredients you have available to you is a great way of managing your meal preparation around whatever is going on in the house, while cutting down on waste too.

 


Warm ups with Andi Drake

These warm ups can easily be adapted to do in your house or garden.


Week 3 tips

Running posture

If we’ve spent a lot of time sitting at a desk, our posture can be affected. If that carries over to our running, that’s a lot of effort wasted and force coming up through the ankle and knee joints. Tom Craggs gives some tips and advice on how to change your posture to improve your running technique.

Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.


Week 4 tips

Warm up and mobilise

Like F1 cars driving a lap before the green light, you should spend a few minutes mobilising everything from your ankles upwards – initially at a walking pace. Great warm-ups not only reduce the chance of injury, they improve your form and help you run quicker.
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.

Upper body mobility for running

As you move through your running journey, you’ll benefit from small detail. A smooth, relaxed upper body will help you make those final improvements you’ll be looking for.
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.

Week 5 tips

A strong core will improve your technique

Strength, and stamina and complement everything you do.
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.

Webinar

Tuesday 5 May 7pm: Run faster with Olympian Donna Fraser
Multi-talented Donna will be on hand to tell us how she made it from promising school girl to Olympic finalist and more.
Click here to register


Family fitness tips from Kirsty Longley

At home with the children? Kirsty has the answers for you!
This is the time to remember why we run, says international athlete and mother of two, Kirsty Longley. “It is not all about winning races, getting PBs. I feel lucky to be healthy and enjoy running in its most natural form. So, my number one tip is to just run by feel. Instead of specific sessions like 5×800 metres or whatever workout you’ve read is great, crack out the stopwatch and run something like 60 secs hard 60 secs steady and cover a few miles. Or try 6min, 5min, 4min, 3min ,2min, 1min with 90secs rest all these can be run to feel instead of pace using an old-fashioned stopwatch.

If you have a garden, I would recommend doing Yoga and Pilates outside. It’s often overlooked but vital for every runner! Me, I have been doing a Gymnastics workout 45 mins a day with my daughters on YouTube, so we ensure the whole family are staying fit and motivated.

Set yourself daily challenges

  • Do the plank challenge.
  • How many V sits can you do in 30 sec?
  • How long can you hold a headstand for?
  • How many pull ups can you do in 30sec?
  • Keep a diary and log how you feel.

Trust me, you will come back stronger, refreshed and raring to go. Sometimes we are on a forward roller coaster and it’s situations like this we can use our time wisely and put our energy into positive thinking.


Training in the future

As you’re discovering, running is very user-friendly and very inspirational. You couldn’t be in a better community when it comes to sharing a common goal: getting fitter and healthier. So, when you’re ready to explore just how far your fitness has taken you and, of course, we’re all comfortable with the thought of travelling again, we’d thoroughly recommend Club La Santa in Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands. It has all you need for a great family holiday not to mention the world class training facilities. Everyone is welcome from Olympic champions to newbie runners. It has it all and much more, plus the Canary Islands have year-round warmth so time is not a problem when it comes to booking. If you want to experience it right now our official active holiday partner Sports Tours International are bringing the Club La Santa workouts to you on Facebook Live!


Week 6 tips

Stretching exercises

Stretching is hugely important to reduce the chance of injury, increase your range of motion (and therefore speed and endurance) and often overlooked, to relax your mind after a great run!
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.

Hayfever

Hayfever can be a real pain for runners this time of year especially as some medication can be on banned lists. Fear not, here’s some great tips to keep you moving!

  • Tie your hair up before going on your run and wear a hat, cap or other head cover to prevent pollen particles being caught in your hair. And wear wraparound sunglasses to prevent the pollen coming in contact with your eyes.
  • After washing your hands as soon as you get back home, wash your face on high pollen count days. This will wash away allergens so that they can’t cause a reaction, and a cool compress will soothe sore eyes. Changing your clothes and taking a shower will wash away allergens so that they can’t cause a reaction.
  • Ensure the house is vacuumed regularly, especially beds and fabrics to remove pollen, and damp dust surfaces – this removes the pollen without dispersing it into the air. Keep windows and doors closed and use an air conditioner to capture the pollen particles. Keep cuddly toys and blankets in a cupboard to prevent the build-up of allergens on them.
  • Dry your clothes indoors rather than on an outdoors clothesline to prevent pollen particles being blown onto the clothes by the wind.
  • Take a bath or shower at night before sleeping to remove pollen particles from your hair and body. This will also help relax you and help get a good night’s sleep. An NPARU study showed that people who slept at least 7 hours a night suffered significantly milder symptoms than those who slept no more than 5 hours each night. Apply an allergen barrier balm before sleeping to keep out the pollen during the night. Wash bedding very regularly to remove allergens.
  • A healthy diet can also help with hay fever. Eating healthily helps to keep our respiratory system strong. Some foods such as ginger or fresh basil, ease blocked nasal passages, helping us to breathe more easily, whilst others such as spinach and almonds contain nutrients that can help boost our immune systems and help our bodies fight sinus and respiratory infections, which are linked to allergies and hay fever.

Week 7 tips

Wall mobility

Get your whole body working with this simple session
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.


Week 8 tips

Cross training

Get your whole body working with this simple session
Watch below or click to view video on YouTube.


Week 9 tips

Mike Gratton’s top long distance running tips

We’ve published a short interview with 1983 London marathon winner Mike Gratton; click here to go to the interview. Here are some of his top tips for long distance running.

  • The key to gaining endurance is consistency. It is much better to be running regularly than a few big sessions each week – ideally build up to 5 runs per week with a mix of distances and running speeds, the 2 rest days can be active using the gym, yoga or Pilates. For more experienced runners 7 days per week is ideal, with two of the runs being slow active recovery runs.
  • Stimulate your muscles with some running faster. This can be done as an interval session, such as 10 x 2mins fast, with 1 min recovery, or as a tempo run inside your half marathon speed for 20mins (you can do this is a Park Run).
  • Practice your long distance running nutrition in advance – find out what you can run on and have that for race day breakfast, try gels in training if you are going to use them in races, practice taking on water on the run (but don’t run with a water bottle – it unbalances you).

Week 10 tips

High Intensity Interval Training

The perfect session if time is short is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session and better, it’s great for runners looking to improve their endurance. In 30 minutes or less you can use it to become a better runner. So, what are you waiting for?

Basically, when we do a HIIT session we are working so hard that we can’t get enough oxygen to our muscles to meet their demands for the aerobic energy system. When this happens, the body is still able to use glucose for energy, but it does so anaerobically, in other words without oxygen. The waste product in this case is lactic acid. When lactic acid builds up in our muscles, we experience a burning sensation and we rapidly tire so we can’t carry on exercising at high intensity.

  • HIIT training has been shown to increase our VO2 max, which is a way of measuring our aerobic fitness. When our VO2 max increases, there is more oxygen available in our muscles. This means that we can carry on using the aerobic energy system for longer – our lactate threshold has increased so we can work harder for a greater duration.
  • Another benefit is that HIIT enhances the clearance of lactic acid, so the body gets rid of it more efficiently. In a nutshell, this all means that we get fitter and our running ability will be enhanced.
  • HIIT also burns fat a high rate. Glucose is stored as glycogen in our liver and muscles. Studies have shown that HIIT training promotes the use of fat for energy rather than glycogen. HIIT significantly reduces subcutaneous fat, which is the fat beneath our skin, especially abdominal fat, as well as total body mass. But be warned: Because you are working at a high intensity, you are at risk of overtraining.

Your body needs time to recover and adapt after a hard workout. Two HIIT workouts a week is enough.


Week 11 tips

30 minutes is the perfect time to get fitter than ever

To get you up and running for our 30-minute challenge, science and coaches have some good news for you as a runner: 30 minutes is the perfect time to get fitter than ever.

Here at England Athletics, we’ve set you the goal to simply run as far as you can in 30 minutes on Saturday or Sunday each week (following government guidelines while running) and you’ll form part of our team taking on other sports including Badminton England, RFU, RFL, British Rowing, England Netball, Archery GB and British Wrestling – with more set to join. register free via the dedicated Weekly30 Run Challenge section of the OpenTrack virtual running platform .

As runners we all love heading out for a long run, exploring new routes and checking out sights, mentally unwinding – all brilliant and what being a runner is all about. But when it comes to getting quicker it’s best to think shorter – just half an hour is your optimal window. It can be as simple as warm up for 5min, run 20min quite fast (around the pace you imagine you could hold for a flat-out hour), then cool down for 5min. That simple formula forms the basis of all successful distance running – hard, but not so hard that it damages you physically and mentally!

Of course, there are many, many ways of using this half hour. Premier football teams like Arsenal use a session of continual short sharp sprints to adapt players’ recovery systems to the 20 or 30-metre efforts football consists of. Similarly, explosive sports like Rugby 7s use a similar theory to prepare players for instant efforts.

The science is solid. It makes you a stronger runner when it comes to endurance, biomechanically efficient and perhaps most important of all, it’s hugely rewarding.

We spoke to a selection of England’s top runners and here’s a variety of ways they use 30 minutes to maximum effect, something even footballing legends like David Beckham fully understand. He loves nothing more than a blast of Plyometric exercises, or movements that use body weight quickly and efficiently. They are his go-to for getting in a workout when time is short. Plyometric exercises require no equipment and can be done anywhere. He’s also talked about how he enjoys short sprints for conditioning.

Laura Weightman @LauraWeightman

A great session for something like a Parkrun is 5 x 3.30min on the road. I love it!

Emily Diamond @EmilyDiamond11

I like a split 400 (200m, 60s recovery, 200m) or a fast 350m. I really feel this gives a good indication of where I am and I although it’s painful and fills you with lactic, I still love it!

Charlotte Dannatt

I always like a cut down like: 12min, 8min, 6min 4min. Or some sets like 3x(5min, 3min, 2min)

Kirsty Longley @LONGKIRS

I like 2min hard 1min easy continuous for 30min off-road.

Rebecca Johnson

I like a fartlek (something like 10x2min on, 1min float)

Elliot Giles @ElliotLeviGiles

Something like 6x300metres in 35-36sec. They won’t all be that fast but as long as the first four or five are, then I know I’m in shape.

*Don’t forget, it’s easy to get involved, simply register free via the dedicated Weekly30 Run Challenge section of the OpenTrack virtual running platform.


Week 12 tips

Finding new routes on your doorstep

With our new-found, or rekindled enthusiasm for running this is the perfect time to get exploring.

Some of us have enjoyed Strava segment hunting, some of us have benefited from some great initiatives like virtual relays, and points tables for most miles and ascent clocked, which meant trying new paths and routes close to home. Dot Kesterton of Steel City Striders agrees. “During the lockdown, in pursuit of a little height and stillness, I took the path off the road towards Blacka Hill and discovered in its lee less than two miles from home a beautiful nature reserve full of native trees, streams, pathways, ascents and descents, brilliant blue and buzzing with wildlife. It will be one to explore over the coming uncertain weeks ahead.

Similarly, Anne Stockley says “I have lived in St Albans for nine years but only discovered during my lockdown runs that there is a mile-long path through a steep-sided ditch called Beech Bottom Dyke. The Dyke is an Iron Age territorial boundary probably constructed between 5 and 40 AD and an excellent trail running route; you need to pay attention to your footing due to some steep sections and plentiful tree roots. During lockdown it has been beautiful, full of bluebells, but I think it could be eerie on a dark day. It is an atmospheric place.”

And how about this: Trig Point Bagging. Simon James from Run the Wild (runthewild.co.uk) explains: “The beauty of the trig point challenge is that because they are spread throughout the UK, they are very likely to be found hidden away in your local area and as you discover them you can start to venture further afield as lockdown regulations allow! Very approximately they are spaced out at about an average around seven miles apart, so they can form either a multi or a singular bagging objective. The website http://trigpointing.uk/ is a great resource to get you going, by creating an account you can find the trig points closest to you as a means of getting started, as shown below, also shown within the handy app. The points are defined by their appearance. When you have bagged a trig point, log it onto this site and go in search of your next one! Some are out in the open, but there are also quite a few that now sit in forests or more hidden spots and it’s a real achievement when you spot them!”


Week 13 tips

Speed and strength

Dina Asher Smith uses this session to build great speed endurance. Of course, this is a raw speed session but you know what, do it once a week and quickly you’ll be running superbly over 10k in your local road race. Dina runs three sets of 5x150m fast, with a 45 second break between reps. Take about 5min after each set of 5.

On the beach

Emily Diamond, an Olympic bronze medallist as part of GB’s 4×400 team, has this cracker for you that lends itself to the beach. Mark out about 50 metres in a straight line then sprint the 50m. Rest 30sec and sprint back. Repeat until you’ve done 400m. It’s super tough, but really good fun. This works really well in the gym as well, although over a shorter distance. Try to get 20 or 30m in and reduce the rest to about 20sec and run over 400m as the longer session.

Short and sharp

If running really quickly is your goal, then 100m runner Harry Aikines-Aryeetey has this power session for you. It sounds a bit complicated but basically involves running pretty quickly for a short distance to give yourself a rolling start, then flying as fast as you can. So, run 4 sprints where you cruise 30m, then fly as hard as you can for 30m.

Add this to the mix

Sally Gunnell the former world record holder for 400 hurdles and the 1992 Olympic champion, who is now a super fit 50-year-old, has these wise words of advice for all of you who think speed is best left for the youngsters. “Keep surprising your body… swimming, cycling, a Pilates session, then the cross trainer or a 5k run. If you just do the same exercise, week-in, week-out, your body will work out the minimum amount of effort it needs to expend for that activity. But when the body is confronted with something new, it has to work that little bit harder.”