Whether you’re a coach, leader or athlete, you’re probably not able to do what you’d like to right now. However, whilst you may not be able to train or coach in the way that you’d planned, now is an ideal time to bring your knowledge up to speed.
Our regular Coaching webinars, part of our Athletics & Running for Everyone @ home campaign, are covering a variety of topics and range of disciplines. Whilst these sessions have been bringing expert advice to coaches and leaders, many of them are also useful for athletes too.
For example, Tom Craggs, an England Athletics Regional Coach Lead for Endurance, was on hand for a Q&A webinar recently and answered a number of interesting questions. You can click here to take a look (you will need to sign-up for Athletics Hub or login using your existing URN number and Athletics Hub password) or read more below.
One of the more topical questions came from ‘Jane V’, who asked “How can you keep up endurance training if you don’t have a treadmill or an indoor bike?”
As Tom pointed out, we are still currently able to train outdoors as long it’s within the guidelines on social distancing (click here to read more about the guidelines) and we’re careful not to risk putting the health service under any extra pressure.
“You need to be realistic. You need to accept that we can’t do everything that we want to do,” said Tom. “But there are things that we can do in other areas.”
As well as focusing on strength and conditioning, Tom suggested dynamic bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, drills and circuits to maintain aerobic fitness.
“The reality is try not to separate your strength and conditioning from what we’re doing to develop your heart and lungs,” he said. “Your body is one system and, sure, you might not be able to do your 45-60-minute runs [if you can’t get outside for exercise] and unless you’ve got a treadmill or an exercise bike, there is nothing that we can do that’s going to make up for that. But we can work other areas that we may have neglected. So instead of focusing on the negative, we’ve got to focus on the things we can do.”
Training for the track
Another question particular to pandemic restrictions came from “GM”, who asked what sort of training should be set for 800m, 1500m and 5000m athletes in the current climate. Tom’s view is that it was a similar situation for these athletes as for those focusing on other distances.
“We are still able to get out and train [just not at a track],” he said. “[There’s] lots of debate over whether we should be going out and running hard and the effect that has on the immune system. Hard training sessions appear to not have such a damaging effect on your immune system as we once thought, so for me there’s nothing wrong with athletes going out and putting in [quality] training sessions, [provided they are healthy and looking after their recovery away from the track].”
However, he pointed out a quandary athletes have due to the uncertainty of when competition will restart. “If you’ve got your athletes moving into a peak of training … you run a risk if you start to extend that peak right through to maybe a late track season possibly even pushing into September… It’s different for different coaches… For me, I have my athletes into doing slightly more relaxed sessions; they’re still good-quality sessions, but we’re doing more like Fartlek sessions, so they’re taking the stress off those efforts … just to take some of the mental stress away, if anything. The training’s become slightly less specific…”.
Recovery in sessions
The first question of the webinar was ‘Jeremy’ from Wycombe Phoenix Harriers, who asked about recovery times within sessions for beginners.
“If you’re working with adult beginners, their actual training age – even if they’re 30, 40, 50 – is quite young,” said Tom. “And what that means is, unless they’ve been doing another sport or they’ve been a really active person in their general life, their aerobic foundation is not that well developed. What you’ll find is, if you’re doing a hard interval session, it’s going to take them a little bit longer to recover…”
“What I would say is try to think about what you’re going to get out of a session. If you’re trying to focus on getting those athletes to run a little bit quicker, to build speed, fitness or confidence, you might need to give them a little bit more flexibility to extend those recoveries [to keep the quality].”
The area of warm-ups can often lead to much confusion. ‘Michelle D’ asked for tips on warming up and whether this would be different for particular types of sessions, for example easy runs or sessions.
Tom began: “Warming up, for me, is part of your long-term development as an athlete so if we’re setting warm-ups as a coach not just to get you ready for that individual session or run, they’re contributing to your athlete’s overall fitness and development.”
However, for an easy run, you can be a little more flexible when it comes to warm-ups, he continued. “For most people, we’re time-limited,” he said. “So start easy. If you’re new to it, start walking and then build into an easy run.”
For other types of runs, it’s important not to neglect a good warm-up, said the prolific coach.
“For a harder session, absolutely I would be looking to do a structured warm-up,” he said. “You will see some of our other webinars where we run through a RAMP warm-up, which is a great way to do it.
“For a long run it depends. If it’s an easy long run, I’d start slowly. But for every key session, I would be looking to drills, looking to do strides. It reinforces good technique and it will build overall strength and fitness.”
‘Donald M’ asked how a coach should go about determining training load for a particular session. Tom answered that current technology can be a great aid when it comes to working out the optimum volume of effort within an interval session.
“It depends how into data you are,” he said. “You can use Training Peaks or Strava. If you’ve got a heart-rate monitor on and you’ve got a reasonable sense of what your max heart rate is that will you give you a reasonable stab because your GPS or your heart rate monitor will be able to do is tell you after the session how long you spend at particular heart rates and it will give you a reasonable sense of what the load of that session was.”
However, he cautioned against an over-reliance on fitness watches which make an estimation of how an athlete has recovered for the next session. “Just because a training load may have been high-intensity or it may have been more like a tempo session, it doesn’t necessarily tell you how much time that athlete’s going to need to recover from it. That’s where you need to be a little bit careful with your watch sometimes. A lot of the new watches will come up saying, ‘You need 24, 48, 72 hours to recover from this session.’ It’s taking a guess. What it doesn’t know is about you, how well you sleep, what your nutrition or stress levels are like and that stuff needs to be factored in.”
“So yes, look at training load but also look at the recovery profile of the athlete. In terms of training load, the more data you’ve got, the more accurate you can be with it.”
If you’re interested to find our more about our free Coaching webinars, click here to view the full schedule of webinars being delivered across the coming days and weeks.
You can also click here to visit Athletics Hub and access recordings of our previous Coaching webinars (located in the Coaching Resources section)
If you’re interested in Running, then click here to visit our Running @home section which has a range of expert interviews, tips and advice for runners of all levels.
You can also click here to find out more about our RunTogether – providing fun, friendly, supportive and inclusive running opportunities for everyone: whatever your ability or time availability. Visit the RunTogether website to find out more and search for a RunTogether group near you.
(Please note – group activity is currently suspended in accordance with government guidelines)