Monday 20 August 2012

Olympics heroes and hopefuls; ones to watch out for in Rio 2016

As with 99.9% of the population I have been glued to the screen for the past two weeks watching with delight at the continued unfolding of Team GB success at the London Olympics.

The big athletic stars are now ingrained in our memories forever; Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, David Rudisha, Usain Bolt, the US female dream team, Christine Ohuruogu, Sally Pearson.

But what about the blossoming stars? Who will shine through come Rio 2016? My top five athletes to watch out for in the forthcoming years includes;

1) Adam Gemili
Gemili, 19, won gold at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona with a 10.05 100m. Only Dwain Chambers has ever run faster as a junior. He qualified for the semi finals at the Olympics but unfortunately didn't get through to the finals. Nor did the men's 4x100m relay team place this year, as Gemili misjudged his timing in the handover.

Gemili is also a talented football player but this year has officially dedicated his time to perfecting his sprint. Let's hope it stays that way over the next four years.

2) Katarina Johnson-Thompson
We've had Denise Lewis, and now Jess Ennis. Could Rio 2016 be the year that Katarina Johnson-Thompson achieves her own gold? She performed exceptionally well at London 2012, setting a new British junior record (and breaking Ennis's past record) by finishing 15th and breaking two of her previous pbs and equalling another.

She's had knee injuries in the past, but had intensive rehabilitation to set this right. It didn't seem to impair her this year.

3) Jonny Brownlee
I don't do triathlons because I know how painful they are. You only have to look at Jonny Brownlee after he finished third in London 2012, running off mid interview to vomit on the sidelines, to understand this. I find it mind boggling that Brownlee, 22, after swimming 1500m and cycling 43km, ran 10km in 29 minutes and 37 seconds. That's quick.

Bearing in mind Brownlee got a 15 point penalty at London 2012 for setting off too early on his bike and still got a bronze, he'll be hot on the heels of gold-winning older brother Alastair at Rio 2016.

4) Jodie Williams
Williams, 18, is the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships Gold medalist in the 100m and 200m. Williams unfortunately did not make an appearance at London 2012, after pulling a hamstring at the 100m Aviva trials. Up until that point, she was running consistently strong races.

One of the US's greatest female runners of all time Allyson Felix described her as someone with great potential.

5) Joe Thomas
Another runner plagued by injury this year, Joe Thomas is an 800m runner with a pb of 1:46:20. He was set to run in the London 2012 Olympics, but developed a stress fracture following a heel and shin injury. Like Gemili, he also battles with conflicting interests. In Thomas' case it's music. He has even gone as far to say he doesn't really like sport.

Without injury, Thomas is one of our best 800m hopeful, and could follow in the footsteps of Coe, Cram and Ovett. The question is whether he really wants to.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Got the stamina? How to improve your running speed

Hill reps, Ally Pally

I recently completed the marathon des sables. This means I'm now pretty good at racking up the miles. However this also means I'm now pretty slow.

I've lost all the speed I used to have (even though this wasn't much it was still more than what I have presently)

So my current challenge is how to build that speed back up but keep the endurance in time for Ealing half marathon at the end of September?

I'm following a Runner's World half marathon schedule. It's really good but I'm adapting it slightly to take my strengths and weaknesses into account.

1) Fartlek within a steady run
Fartlek running basically means warming up before running at speed for a time, then jogging to recover before repeating. It's an unstructured speed session. This can mean your session is either really hard, or really easy, depending on how much you push yourself.

For runners training for shorter 5-10k distances, it make sense to run shorter bursts. Runners like me training for half marathon plus have to try and stick it out for longer bursts of speed.

2) Horrible old short speed session
My speed session intervals vary from 400m up to 1500m sessions. I tend to run these on flat surfaces; track if possible, or the treadmill.

I hate these sessions with a passion as they hurt! But I try to remember two things when I am doing them. 1) Keep your form. Maintain strong arms and legs and keep thinking about your technique. 2) Keep your pace. There is no point going all guns blazing on rep 1 to shuffle on in come rep 10. Know your rough limits and stick to it. Try to keep the same speed for all reps.

3) Threshold running
Threshold running means running "comfortably hard". Also known as a tempo run, threshold running increases your ability to fun fast, but over a sustained distance. Threshold running trains the body to use oxygen efficiently by increasing the lactate threshold. This means your muscles are able to deal with lactate acid better than before, so you tire less quickly.

Tempo runs need to be done over a fair distance. So for a half marathon, runners need to build up tempo runs up to around six to eight miles.

How to know if the pace is right? You need to be able to sustain the distance without stopping i.e. it's not race pace, but it needs to be feeling like it's challenging (and you'd like to be able to stop if you could!)

For me these runs are crucial, as I now need to build up speed but over endurance.

4) Hills
Ah hill repeats! How I love thee. Like speed intervals sessions but uphill. I'm incorporating these into my training about a third of the way in, and doing them once a week, nothing more as they are very intensive.

As with the interval sessions, the key is to keep good form and maintain the pace. Hill repeats build great strength in your legs, meaning you will be able to further without tiring.

5) Strength work
Combined with hill training, targeted strength work firms up those thighs no end. I'm focusing on my quads, gluts and hip flexors and doing two sessions a week.
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