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5 Lessons We Can Learn From The Elite

Posted by Rachael Fairclough on

Run Geek test team member and St. Helens Striders coach Rachael Fairclough looks at what we can learn from an elite runners training routine.

Some of you avid athletics followers will know that Alyson Dixon from Sunderland Strollers will be representing Team GB in the Olympic Marathon Rio 2016 in a few weeks time. All Alyson's training is uploaded onto Strava and I have spent some time as an aspiring Coach analysing her sessions to see if we can apply any principles to our own training. I see plenty of runners across all levels train too hard, race poorly and not think about adequate rest or training periods. I believe that Aly is self coached, and you don't need a Coach to have some structure in place to make your training beneficial. Here are my top 5 tips from the Elite:

1. You don't need to run fast all the time

At least 80% of Aly's runs are between 7:00 and 8:00 minutes per mile. This is someone who races her marathons at 5:30min/ mile! What can we learn from this? Your tempo runs are for race pace. Your efforts are for faster than race pace. Everything else can just be enjoyed as you like. You don't need to kill yourself on every run and nor do you need to do every long run at race pace. Mix it up! Recovery runs are just that- intended to get the blood pumping around the body and flush out waste product.

2. A good warm up will set you up

Aly's warm ups are usually 3 miles long! Of course she is a long distance athlete, but she never skimps on a warm up. The better the warm up, the better your training session. Again, this helps prevent injuries and also means you are physically ready for the session ahead. I would suggest a minimum of 1 mile and some active drills before a speed session. You may also want to spend the first 10 mins of a tempo run warming up by running easily before you begin the tempo element.

3. Know your limits

If Aly isn't having a good run, she knows when to stop and go home. Know your body. You will gain nothing from pushing yourself when you aren't feeling well or in the right place. There is always tomorrow. Injuries take a long time to recover from- so do what you can to avoid getting them in the first place.

4. Rest is good

After London Marathon this year, Aly took 2 weeks off completely. Her next two weeks were a mixture of easy runs and biking. What's the rush? All too often people rush back from a heavy race and wonder why a) they can't return to their previous form and b) why they get injured. We lead busy lives -often working full time, kids, family and other commitments. We don't need to make it harder for ourselves. Enjoy the rest and the eating :)

5. Everything is part of a bigger plan

Aly doesn't do junk mileage. Everything is part of a larger plan with the aim of "peaking" on the right day. So ask yourself- am I doing too much unnecessarily ? Or is this going to benefit me? If you have a target race in mind, work backwards from this date and see if you can build your training and taper around it. 8 weeks is normally enough for some change to take place. Rome wasn't built in a day, and improvements over any distance takes time. The key to performance is consistency. There will be little benefit from running 10 miles one week and 25 the next and then back to 10. The body will adapt to consistent training therefore rather than squeeze extra runs in, just try and keep each training week as consistent as the last. Exceptions are made to marathon plans whereby there is a clear progression onto longer runs, but this is usually capped at a 10% increase- and therefore still consistent.