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Running: How to do it Better – Insights from the Cheltenham Science Festival

Two key messages shone through to me as I sat and listened to former Olympian and world renowned sports scientist Greg Whyte and sports nutritionist and Ironman triathlete Asker Jeukendrup at the Cheltenham Science Festival talk.

  1. Follow a Programme
  2. Increase your Strength
  3. Hit all aspects of running fitness

There was a fair bit of talk about fueling yourself with fats vs carbs, the differences between men and women but as far as explaining how he helps his runners, Greg discussed the importance of setting goals and building a plan towards them. We all know about Goal Setting these days and it’s pretty easy to pick an event for motivation.

Building a Running Programme

When it comes to building a programme, Greg used terms such as Micro-cycle, Meso-cycle and models of Periodisation (see wikipedia for an explanation). Greg works with all sorts of people, from Elite Athletes to celebrities.

Greg Wyte and Eddie Izzard

He even designed the programme Eddie Izzard used to run 27 marathons in 27 days across Africa!

Would Eddie even have been able to complete one Marathon without following a programme?

Greg also expressed the dangers of picking a programme online. These programmes are not personalised and cannot be amended as life gets in the way. 

Increase your Strength

Certainly the most under-utilised suggestion was for runners to get in the gym to improve our injury prevention and speed.

Strength training is now widely accepted among elite runners as a must have part of their running programme. It should vary in demands according to the progress (periodisation) of your running so that you’re not doing hard sessions when you’re supposed to be in a recovery week with your running.

Hit all Aspects of Running Fitness

Most club runners are familiar with interval training and speed sets but for those hitting the pavements alone in the hope that any kind of running is going to make you faster Asker Jeukendrup said it best “if you only run slow then you’ll get really good at running slow”.

Now few of us think we’re running slow when we go out for an even paced run but Asker’s point is that we could be running faster if we broke some of our trainings up into fast run, followed by slow run, walk or stationary rest, then repeat the fast effort.

Bringing it all Together

A good running programme which covers all bases discussed can unlock hidden potential for all abilities of runner.

Requirements of a good running programme:

  • Periodisation model which progresses your speeds and distances gradually but consistently to peak for targeted events
  • Speed training which helps your body learn to relax at slower speeds
  • Interval training teaches your body to process the lactic acid which makes your body burn when running faster, up hills and into the wind
  • Long runs which increase the size of your fuel tank so you always have more to give in the final mile of your race
  • Strength training which improves the efficiency of your muscle contractions and decreases your risk of injury
  • A coach you can call on when life get’s in the way and you slip out of sync with the programme

So how will these valuable insight’s from one of England’s top coaches influence your training?

About the Author

Conor is the Head Coach and Founder of Cheltenham Running Club. His experience as a Strength & Conditioning Coach, Triathlete and Personal Trainer ensure members are educated on best practice in regards to training progression while also nurtured through the early stages of fitness development.

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