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Musings from Rob Griffiths Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant and Triathlon Coach
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Those who train the same - stay the same...
On reflection, one of the main reasons I became a coach is because I've benefited from having some great coaching, from some of the best coaches around. It worked for me and I believe in it... I hope some of their skills, knowledge and know how has rubbed off!
As a much younger athlete and a keen 800m runner, I had the great fortune to be coached by Frank Horwill. In my opinion one of the truly great athletics track coaches that the UK has produced. In 1963 he founded the British Milers Club in an effort to raise the standard of British middle distance running. 17 years later GB held all middle distance world records. His knowledge amazed me and his ability to inspire and encourage is still legendary. One of his regular quotes to our Sunday training group at Battersea Park was 'Those that train the same, stay the same.' He used to drum that into us. He was talking about ensuring continuous progression in volume, frequency and intensity and most of all, he was talking about variety, keeping the body and mind fresh with new approaches to training. What this meant in practice was working at different paces and keeping the body guessing.
Many of us will be approaching the time of the year where we will be thinking about winter training. Some people think because you are going into base work this means its a time to go easy and loaf about until the weather gets a bit better. If we are serious about performance improvement winter is where we go to work on all the things that will help us improve our PB next year. As Frank would say, it's just like baking a Christmas cake - there are some ingredients that need to be included in the mix to call it a Christmas cake. We need to do some long aerobic work for endurance, we need to include technical work to improve our skills to make us more efficient and we need to get strong by including weights and plyometric work for sure.
Frank would also include a mixture of fast pace work, right through out the year. After a tough winter track session he would have us run 6 or 8 x 80m full out. The lads that had just come back to Imperial College after the Summer break and not done too much training used to love those sessions!! He did not believe in the classic periodisation models using macro, micro and mesocycles and used to say that the Kenyans and Ethiopians think that's some type of Japanese motorbike! He argues with some validity that the classic periodisation model does not work and the results from British middle and long distance athletes might suggest he has a point. Especially as the successful ones seem to follow the Kenyan and Ethiopian training regimes.
Frank is a great believer in working scientifically to pace. In 1970 he developed a 5pace training system, after studying the world records of hundreds of athletes. This same system was very successfully used by Peter Coe, father and coach to the great Seb Coe, the ex multi world record holder. Frank believed back then what some of the most enlightened coaches and world renowned physiologists are saying now - that we need to establish a clear race time goal and develop a pace structure around it, aimed at different distances in preparation to reach the race goal.
For example Frank would have a 10k athlete run sessions at 1500m, 3k, 5k, 10k, and half marathon pace, all within a 14 day window. The pace would be based on what he called his 4 (male) or 5 (female) second rule. He believed that if a male athlete could run a 1500m in 4 mins (64 sec per 400m lap) his 3k potential would be 8.30 (68 seconds per lap) and his 5k would be 15.00(72seconds)and so on. Recovery times on these sessions is also crucial. Frank would argue that anyone can run fast repetitions and have a cup of tea and a doughnut after, the key is developing sustained speed.
Here are some sessions based on the above 4 mins 1500 times, which equates to around 31:40 for 10k:
3k - 3 x 1500m @68secs per lap with 3 mins recovery
5k - 6 x 1k @72 secs per lap with 60 seconds recovery
10k - 4 x 2 miles @76 secs per lap 90 seconds recovery
Half marathon - 13 miles @ 5:20 mins per mile.
Sounds brutal right? Well if your are capable of running 31/32 mins for 10k it probably does not sound quite so brutal - but this kind of work is extremely challenging regardless of your standard. The bottom line is it works, these are the sorts of sessions that you find the top African runners doing and maybe this is one of the key reasons they are at the top. I am coaching a good track athlete at the moment, who is improving rapidly using the same fundamental ideas. I will report back as the year progresses.
Posted by Rob Griffiths TrainingBible Coaching UK at 08:48