Saturday morning is peaceful. The surrounding houses are still asleep as we’re loading the car with kit ready for today’s session. We’ve been up before 8, preparing for our run and this means, yes you guessed it, coffee, and toast, and maybe a second coffee.
I always like to get a bit of sustenance at least an hour before these sessions so I don’t get a heartburn. We’re three minutes late, but Tyler is later so it’s all good. Unlike the suburbs of Leeds, Roundhay Park is bustling; runners, walkers, football matches, CrossFit and even canoe polo on Waterloo Lake (rather them than me!). It’s great to see so many people out and about.
Lacing up the Asics and we’re off for a warm-up jog. I anchor the group trying to slow everyone down, thinking, ‘what happened to easy jogging to warm-up?’ Then the anchor rope snaps and I’m dropped, but that’s fine as I’m happy taking it very easy, it’s a big session ahead. Coach Liam has set us 30mins of interval work; 15mins build tempo into 5,4,3,2,1 minutes descending effort. These are the tough days that make the difference.
I’ve been really trying to figure out my run training over the past year. The ‘mid-career’ break I took from racing this summer has given me chance to really figure out what will take me to the next level and hopefully secure a spot in the Tokyo Olympic Games. I spent hours listening to podcasts, Magness and Marcus being one and Running Rivals another, as well as reading books and articles to figure out what the best in the world do. Essentially, I’m still figuring it out but here are a few key principles I’d advise if you want to improve your running:
Tom’s top run tips
- Consistency, find a weekly volume you can sustain without getting injured or too tired to hit those key sessions.
- Don’t be afraid to go really easy, I used to be a sucker for counting miles and running to achieve a total. Now I just run to feel and often take it easy, my mileage is lower but I’m feeling fresher for sessions.
- Hit one or two sessions a week with intention. These are the ones that count, get in the zone where you’re focussed on your movement and form, you’re aware of fatigue but you can deal with it and don’t distract yourself with negative thoughts. Go easy before and recover well after. You’ll thank yourself on race day. A good friend of mine Marc Austin, medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, has the best philosophy on this, he just says “you can only feel that you’re running and that’s all that matters at that moment, that you run and you feel yourself running forward” – that’s how he got on the podium, such an inspiration.
- Recover, go easy after your run, you have to rest to adapt, and that doesn’t mean not training, it just means going easy. That could be a gentle jog, a spin, or even a walk. Just recover from the hard work you’ve done, and a bit of social activity (given the restrictions) actually will boost recovery due to hormonal interaction of testosterone and cortisol (Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness, pp. 100-102).
- Find a run group to suit your ability, you’ll get so much more out of yourself with friendly competition.
I walk to ‘our tree’, an oak sapling. Understated, yet on a strategically placed piece of ground which is at the start and finish of our interval loop and so, where we leave the kit. I swap my trainers for spikes; we’re on a field in December, grip is essential given the conditions. There are six of us, adhering to government (Covid) guidelines and we’re all ready. A bit of banter before we start, about the length of Jack’s spike(s). He doesn’t take it too personally, yet I know he’ll get some vengeance towards the end of the session.
“Going in 10, 5, 3,2,1”. Ease into it, tuck in. 15 minutes is a decent amount of time and then we have to get faster! Tyler sets a decent pace, we all tuck in happy for him to dictate the route. Jack moves next to him, just to get a better view of the ground. We do a lap in around eight minutes and everyone looks easy. I feel we need to up the tempo and weave through the group and replace Tyler’s position, the screw is tightened slightly and the group condenses and focuses. The next 7 minutes need to be wound up… we finish as a group, and everyone has done well, 3 minutes recovery. I walk and Jack jogs ahead, clearly unfatigued by the first rep. He jogs back to us, like a loyal sheepdog rounding up the flock. I’m not running until I have to! Now the hard part, descend from 5 minutes down to the last minute being the hardest. I won’t break down each rep, but we go as hard as Coach Liam has set and it’s a ‘burn-up’ for the last two reps. I’m really impressed with the group’s commitment, we’re all in a good place for December and I got out-dipped by everyone, I’m showing my age!
It’s a very easy cool down jog, and as a group we arrange the next session of the day, a 90km easy ride into the Dales. We’ve got an hour and 15 minutes until we meet, not long, but given we’re in December, daylight is a factor. A double fried egg sandwich with Branston Pickle sees me through. And mugs of tea, I like to live on the edge in Leeds and go with PG Tips, haters gonna hate…
It takes 20 minutes to get ready for riding these days. The amount of layers is excessive, but my Huub thermals are perfect for this weather. I’m early for a change, it’s tactical. It means I can set the pace. We roll out very nice and easy, 170 watts and no complaints as everyone is feeling the 10k effort we did 90 minutes ago. Our regular stop, Riverbank Cafe in Burnsall is back open after the national lockdown and we all get warm drinks and cake to see us home, the coffee is exceptional and ‘fatboys’ legendary. This is essential winter riding etiquette. It’s a tailwind home, we pick the pace up from 26km/h to 29km/h. Thankfully the forecast didn’t yield the rain it had predicted. The beautiful thing about the last five minutes of riding from where I live, is that it’s downhill. No need to pedal, and we’re all glad of it, it’s been a tough day so far.
Once home, a quick clean of the bike and I’m changed for, yes, another session. This Olympics isn’t going to qualify itself! It’s only an easy jog, but I’ve found that if you can do double runs, they really help with recovery as well as continuing the aerobic development of the day. Plus, the loop calls by my local bottle shop, it is stout season after all.
Saturday completed and I’m content. The numbers don’t always show a successful day, it’s all about just showing up. PR’s will be a challenge in mid-winter but it’s all about the attitude and psychology. Just turning up and giving your best on the day itself goes a long way.
There aren’t many days left until the New Year and a new season. The nerves start to tingle but in a good way. I feel I’m in a good place and ready to step it up. This side of Christmas is all about setting yourself up, ready for smashing the New Year!
For more training insight follow Tom on Instagram: @tomwbish
Top image by Ryan Sosna-Bowd