Sunday, 9 December 2012

How bad do you want it?

Training has really kicked on now, and I've completed three weeks of training 6 days a week. My body is adapting to the intensity of the training now, and after some much needed advice on my diet, I'm also eating much more nutritious food and feeling more energetic as a result. Allied with having stopped drinking alcohol almost three weeks ago, I'm becoming much healthier and if I can just phase out my desire to eat delicious cakes I'll really be flying! With the temperature dropping and the propensity for snow/ice to disrupt training, we've been doing a lot more gym and core work recently, which is proving to be really valuable. I've lost about 3 inches off my waist, and can feel my power to weight ratio increasing steadily. I also went up to Lee Valley on Wednesday and did a sprint circuit training session with Rikki Fifton, a British international sprinter. It was a really intense session, but he gave me some good tips on technique and running angles, which I'm hoping to build into my training more steadily. I've also signed up for 3 open invite indoor sessions between January to March. They are all over 60m, which I've never competed at before, so I'm pretty excited about gauging my improvement over the first half of my race, as this is where I feel I'm weakest. I've only got a few weeks to properly prepare for the first event, so will be really pushing on and working on the technical aspects of my start and drive phase in the run up to the New Year. January is going to see me increase the training to 9 times a week, before ultimately taking it up to 12 times a week towards the end of February. Balancing this with the demands of a full time job will be pretty exhausting, but I'm confident it can be done. Someone once said "most people don't run far enough on their first wind to realise they have a second". I've a feeling that come next April when the outdoor season starts, I'll be on my third or fourth.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Power of 10

There has been a bit of a lag in updating this due to my birthday last weekend, and a lot of training has taken place between the last update and now. This week was the first week I trained 6 times, having increased from 3 to 4 times last week. In addition, I've filled in and sent off a food diary to a friend who is a personal trainer, to get feedback and suggestions for how I can improve my diet. Nutrition is becoming increasingly important, as the step up in training means that I need to be getting the right fuel so I can recover quicker and train harder. I'm starting to see the training I do as the equivalent of putting money away every month, with the competitions being the chance to cash in. I'm now officially a member of London Heathside athletics club, which means I'm eligible to compete from January in the indoor league, and then from April when the outdoor season starts. I've also signed up to a website called Power of 10, which allows you to track your performance over the course of a season, and ultimately between seasons. We did our last 7x200m endurance session last week, switching to 150m, 300m, 450m, 300m, 150m session, which when done in trainers rather than spikes is pretty brutal. We are still doing the same shorter acceleration sessions on Thursdays, and I'm beginning to feel much more comfortable in these now which is pleasing. Whilst I'm far from technically perfect, I've come on leaps and bounds over the last 3 months, and I hope to continue on this upward trajectory over the next few weeks. The weights sessions are already starting to pay off, as I feel like I'm exploding out of the blocks more, although my legs do feel noticeably more tired if I don't stretch properly. As a result, I'm going to start doing a session of pilates one morning a week, and hopefully try and get one sports massage a month to keep myself in the best shape possible. In spite of the fact that I've upped the training to 6 days a week, I'm still not training at an Olympic level. I've been researching what other athletes do, and they generally train twice a day, 6 days a week. I don't think my body could handle that yet, as it is still adapting to the intensity of training that I'm doing, but I'm hopeful that come April I'll be in a position to step it up. his is the best example I've found so far: I've also now set myself some intermediate goals, as although Rio is my ultimate target, there are other things I feel I need to aim for in the meantime to build up to that level of performance. As such, this season I'm aiming to set a new personal best and a new club record for London Heathside, whilst hitting the 10.75s mark, which would put me in the 'Target 100' group of UK Athletics. In 2014 there are the Commonwealth Games, which come just a couple of weeks before the European Championships, which a lot of elite athletes prefer to focus on, meaning that the door could open for someone like myself. 2015 is the World Championships in Beijing, before the April - August period of 2016 when the Olympic squad will be finalised. A long way to go between now and then, but I'm genuinely excited at what might lie ahead.

Monday, 12 November 2012


It's been another gruelling week of training, but one where I feel like I've turned a bit of a corner. I cut out drinking almost entirely 2 weeks ago now, and I'm already feeling the positive benefit on my fitness. On Tuesday night, we did 7x200m sprints, which to date had been a recurring session of exquisite agony. This week, however, felt much easier, and I was able to push myself harder and faster than previous sessions. Thursday saw us focus on our starts again, and the acceleration phase of the race, with us doing 3x30m, 3x40m, 3x50m and 2x60m sprints. While this is still the weakest part of my race, it's an area I'm seeing rapid improvement in, most probably due to the distinct lack of quality I was demonstrating 9 weeks ago. Yesterday's session was meant to be 'light', which was a little misleading. We did circuit training, including press ups, sit ups, squats, single leg squats, and hyper extensions. We did 20 reps of each exercise with a 30 second rest, before repeating. This was then repeated in its entirety, before we did 8x80m sprints. Safe to say I was absolutely shattered by the end.

Over the past week or two, I've started to do a lot of reading around motivation and sports psychology in an attempt to learn what separates the very best from the also-rans. There are some really fascinating examples of people overcoming adversity or people having no faith in their ability, and them going on to achieve great things.

I think I'm both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. I think the majority of my motivation comes from my belief that I can do it. But, there are also two things people have said to me in the past which are always in the back of my mind. One is a family friend saying to me, as a 16 year old "you'll never be the athlete your Dad was"; the other, was when I was 20, and when I said I wanted to play professional football, replied "you'll never make it, no chance". While the second person was proved to be right, it was the instant dismissal that I recall so vividly, and that definitely focuses my mind when I'm feeling tired or lethargic at training.

I read a quote from Michael Jordan this week, which was "I can deal with failure, everyone fails; it's not trying hard enough that I couldn't live with". And that's where I find myself: working hard, and determined to find out what I'm truly capable of.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Picking up the pace

It's been a difficult week in training, as we have predominantly focussed on the weakest part of my race: my start. On Tuesday, it was 8x60m sprints, focussing on getting to the end of the acceleration phase and into the drive. For whatever reason, I've never been particularly strong over the first 30m of a sprint, coming into my own in the second part of the race. Lining up against people who excel over 60m, consequently, was a challenge, both physically and mentally. There is always a fair bit of banter flying around in training and I guess I'm trying to make sure I remember to break down my race into its parts, rather than panicking if someone gets out faster than me and almost bypassing the acceleration phase of the race by getting upright too soon. Thursday was another session which predominantly focussed on the early stages of a race, with the session including 3x30m, 3x40m, 3x50m, 2x60m and 2x80m. With minimal rest in between each run, it was a really tough session which was almost entirely anaerobic. By the end my frustration was starting to get the better of me, in part due to exhaustion and also due to being frustrated that my body seemed to be unwilling to do what my mind told it to. My coach was encouraging though, and said my technique was improving quickly, which was something to cling on to. On Friday night, I watched documentary called Personal Best which tracked the careers of 3 British sprinters in the run up to this summer's Olympics. Watching them go through hell, training until they nearly collapsed, pushing their bodies to the absolute physical limit, was in equal measure inspiring and daunting. It certainly painted a rich picture of just how hard they're willing to work, and reminded me I've got a long way to go if I'm going to achieve my goal of going to Rio. The session this morning was really good, exclusively working on our core with a range of medicine ball exercises for over an hour. I still need to shift about half a stone, and this, along with the weights sessions which will start this coming week, will help me achieve that. I've been pestering the coach to give me the weights routine for a while as I want to get a head start on everyone else, who won't be starting for another few weeks yet. So, starting this week, I'll be doing the following sessions: Session 1: Bench Press – 3x12 Squats – 3x12 Clean & Jerk – 3x12 (all at 50% of bodyweight) Upright rows – 3x10 Pull overs – 3x10 Single leg hip raises – 3x10 Eccentric calf raises – 3x20 Sit ups – 3x20. Session 2: Bench Press – 3x12 Overhead squats – 3x12 Snatch pulls – 3x12 (all at 50% of bodyweight) Seated dumbbell press – 3x10 Pull overs – 3x10 Single leg hip raises – 3x10 Eccentric calf raises – 3x20 Sit ups – 3x20. I've got to do these for the next 4 weeks, before increasing the weight for the first three exercises of these sessions to 60% of my bodyweight, ultimately building up to 92.5% of bodyweight after 16 weeks. I have a feeling that I'm about to find out just how tough it's going to be to get to the top.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

And so it begins ...

As some of you may already know, I'm hoping to run in the 100m final in Rio in 2016. There were a number of factors that led me to this point, but it was chiefly borne out of frustration at my inability to get a ticket to the 100m final for the Olympics this summer. I appreciate that it seems unlikely, and frankly I'm not particularly surprised that most people's first reaction when I tell them is to laugh. Personally, I've got an unshakeable belief that I'll manage it. If I don't believe I'm going to do it, how can I expect anyone else to? Either way, I thought I'd write a blog of my experience of training, competing and hopefully success over the next four years.I started training again at the beginning of August with London Heathside at Finsbury Park. I'd not done any serious athletics training for 8 years, so was prepared for the worst. Buoyed by my unexpected 2nd place finish in a 200m race the week before, where I thought I was going to train but accidentally turned up to a comp, meant that my spirits were slightly buoyed, but I was determined to be pragmatic about how difficult this could be. This definitely turned out to be the right decision; after years of playing football, my technique was atrocious and I was relying entirely on natural pace. Judging by the rest of the people I'm training with, I'm alone in this - they'd just come off the back of a full season and appeared to be absolutely flying. After a gruelling first session, I woke up the next day and could barely walk as my calves were so painful. A sign of things to come ...Over the past 8 weeks, I've been training 3 times a week, for an hour and a half at a time. There are some pretty rapid individuals that I train with, and this along with the fact that my coach competed in the UK youth games when he was younger, and has been having coaching training from an Olympic coach, has meant my motivation levels have gone through the roof. After adjusting to the hill runs, anaerobic workouts, speed endurance and intensive technique building, I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere. We did our season base lining the other week, and I ran 12.07 for the 100m. The coach thinks with continued conditioning and training, by the time the indoor season arrives in the new year, I'll have taken a second off this time. Personally, I'm hoping for more. I've broken 11 seconds in the past, and if I get my technique, and hopefully my start, right, I'm hoping to hit 10.7 this season.The Olympic qualifying time is 10.23 seconds (I think), so ultimately that's the first aim. If I can hit that time by the 2014 season, I'll be well on my way. However, just reaching that time doesn't guarantee selection, as there are some really talented sprinters out there already: Adam Gemili, Mark Lewis-Francis, Simeon Williamson, and Craig Pickering to name but a few. Also, if I'm going to be competing in the 100m final, I'm going to need to be going sub-10 seconds. Right now, this seems a long way away, but I'm confident that with the right coaching, and if I make the necessary lifestyle choices, that it's achievable. It's a lot of pressure that I've put on myself, both internally, and externally by telling people that this is what I'm aiming for. I'm only doing this for myself, but at the same time I'm aware of the need to be able to back up what I'm saying I'll do.There'll be updates intermittently as to how training and race preparation is coming along. Already looking forward to the next update!