Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Last weekend (17th Feb) I was fortunate to coach Jahisha Thomas in the long jump at the the IAAF Grand Prix. It was my first experience of coaching at such a type of meeting. The atmosphere was electric and there were some great performances.
Of course I was interested in the jumps and sprint action and the long jump enabled me to study close up Ivana Spanovic and Cuban sensation (and the man many are now betting on breaking the world record) Juan Miguel Echivarria. Spanovic jumped 6.72m to win and pulled out of her last jump, hopefully to save energy rather than trouble any injury as she gears up for the Euro indoors. Echevarria had problems finding the board in the right position, he was reaching into it quite significantly and not therefore maximising his flight. Nevertheless, he finished with a leap of 8.21m.
I pulled together a short VLOG on my experiences for the YouTube channel and you will find the link below. In time I hope to more closely look at the techniques of Spanovic and Echevarria in order to see whether there is a relevance/transferability from what they do to the jumpers in my group and of course all you other jumpers and jumps coaches. One thing I did see was that their take-off legs were very straight (very straight).
Jahisha jumped 6.36m and had a few take-off issues herself, but she has nearly two weeks before the Europeans indoors which will be a great experience for her (and me if I am able to go). It will be her senior GB debut.
As a coach, the major meetings of the domestic calendar are the ones that matter – that’s for a group who are at a level where podium places at these events and potential selection for major championships are not too far out of reach.
Last weekend five of the group were in action at the Birmingham Indoor Championships – which were trials for the European Indoor Championships, being held in Glasgow in early March.
The two-day meeting started with Jonathan (Ilori) in the triple jump. The standard for Glasgow was 16.50m and Jonathan had a best from last year of 16.28m. He’d had a couple of outings this year and had managed 15.74m, without really hitting the big jump - timing as in all technical events, comes with competition. Looking great in warm-up, his first competitive jump resulted in him stuttering onto the board, rushing his phases and not getting the range needed – still it was 15.64m and promising given all that. Unfortunately, Jonathan experienced run-up issues – not of the same magnitude throughout the comp – but enough to put him off from obtaining the optimum take-off position (crucial for all the jumps). In the last round he managed to get closer to what was required but still didn’t as I say “connect”. Nevertheless, he went out to 15.97m and went into third place, behind Nathan Douglas (16.27m) and Nathan Fox (16.12m). Next to jump was Michael Puplampu and Jonathan’s effort must have kick-started his adrenaline as hitting the board perfectly Michael leapt 16.28m to not only surpass Jonathan but move into first place.
An hour and a half later Alison (Wilder) was up in the women’s triple jump. Alison suffered some technical issues too but managed a season’s best of 12.32m for seventh overall. The competition was won by Naomi Ogbeta who leapt a stunning 14.05m for a British under 23 record. And Naomi looks like she’s got more in the tank.
On Sunday, it was the turn of the long jumpers. Paul (Ogun) began well opening with 7.27m and was unlucky on a couple of jumps to trail into the landing losing around 15cm with jumps in the twenties… as you’ll know if you have been following the YT videos Paul is changing to a hitch-kick and tweaking his running action. Competitions are where athletes default to previous settings and this was partly the case with Paul. Nevertheless, he was running really well and managed to jump 7.37m which was a season’s best and good enough for sixth (this Wednesday he has a comp in Ireland …). Feron Sayers took the win with 7.72m, and having achieved the 7.95m qualification standard for the Euro Indoors last year, will be heading to Glasgow.
Last on the card for me was the women’s long jump with regular group member Sara (Abrahams) and temporary member Jahisha (Thomas) competing (I coached her before she went to the States and am her UK coach). In many ways this was the event many were waiting for as it featured Katrina Johnson-Thompson and Jazmin Sawyers. I also had a sneaky feeling that our girls could be among the challengers. And so it turned out. Sarah managed 6.21m and came in fifth (it was her second longest jump ever). Coaches are never really happy and nor was Sarah as we knew she could have jumped further … that’ll happen on another day. I will say I was happy with Jahisha. She had the Euro qualification distance from a jump in the US in Jan – bang on with 6.50m (although she had an outdoor mark of 6.69m).
I’ll say coaching this comp was not easy as I had not seen Jahisha jump in a comp for a while and I had to re-see and re-instruct … also as she has an American coach (she’s based much of the time in Iowa where she went to university) watching what I said was also important. Different coaches can say the same thing differently. Luckily “we” worked it out and in a tight competition Jahisha jumped 6.36m to finish second behind KJT (6.46m) and just 1cm in front of third placer Abigale Irozuru! There were some of timing issues again, similar to Jonathan, with Jahisha not getting onto the take-off properly and going “up”, rather than out. But second place is second place and she’s on the plane to Glasgow for her first major GB championships.
So, it was a satisfying day for “Team Sheps” and we look forward to more days, better days in fact in the future.
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This weekend 9th-10th of Feb the European indoor trials takes place at the NIA Birmingham. I will have four regular group members competing and a fifth who is back from the US, who has trained with us in the past. It's going to be a busy but exciting weekend. Two are in the women's long jump, and one each in the men's long jump, women's triple and men's triple.
All has been going well in training and it's now down to what happens on the day. All the athletes should be reasonably confident that everything else being equal they will do well. Believing that you can is as important as is valuing the meeting and making it a do-well event.
I will say that the tweaks we have made to the training programme this year seem to have added a little something else to preparations. The two differing inclusions being: 1: a greater emphasis on triphasic weight training and plyometrics and 2: the use of the Freelap timing system systematically throughout the training year since October.
I've written about the use of eccentric and isometric exercises (as well as concentric ones) in the past and also 'talked' about that in some of the videos on my YouTube channel, but what it does seem to have done for many of the group is up their take-off and sprint power. I think this is a consequence of greater leg stiffness and it's particularly noticeable in one of the group in particular (I won't mention any names). Being able to not absorb force (yes not) is a key to jumping, you want to 'hit' the take-off and power out of it at lightening speed - and it seems that specific isometric and eccentric means can aid that.
And the Freelap system being able to really time standing 20m runs and flying 20m runs, for example, has been a great analytial means and also a great motivator for the group. (The system is accurate to 2/1000 of a sec)/ Placing those little yellow recievers on the track and trying to run from one to the other as fast as possible does make the athletes run faster (and that in itself is crucial for improved speed). It's turning into a very useful coach's tool and it's so portable - no taking up of two lanes to record times as with gate systems.
And in 99% of cases the times have improved right up until now and this forthcoming weekend. I'm particularly interested in fly 20m speed and all the guys have moved faster than before - significantly so in cases. We did some of these runs last Saturday, so let's hope for some fast and far great performances this weekend.
Lookout for this video on using platforms to improve and pattern the long jump take-off. Its something that I have been doing for a couple of years now and teaches the penultimate step in particular. I explain how and why it works in the video.
Also if you haven't please do sign up to the Chanel - as a subscriber you will have greater access to the community section where I have been posting some exclusive content, such as short run-downs on what we did in a specific training session and also an overview of a particular exercise.
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This Thursday sees an article in Athletics Weekly penned by yours truly. I follow-up on a previous article which was written by Dr Josephine Perry on the same subject (Choosing a coach). Josephine talks about coaching and ego and makes suggestions as to how athletes should find a coach that has an ego that's kept in check! In my follow-up I agree, but also note that coaches (like athletes) do need an ego. And I also provide a number of reasons as to what athletes should look for in a coach. My comments are written, in a way, from the coach's perspective too. They take into account what I, as a coach, may also expect. Here's a snippet and do check out the magazine.
1. Look for coaches who have had success with numerous athletes over a period of time
It’s easy for a coach to become ‘well-known’ if they coach a top athlete – but talent may be just as responsible for that athlete’s success as the coach’s ability. A coach who year in year out delivers will have the greater consistency and accrued learning
2. Following on, don’t think that not coaching an elite athlete makes a coach of lesser importance. Many argue that the best coaches should in fact be working with the youngest of athletes, teaching them the best habits and optimising their technical ability. So, look for a coach who has improved young athletes consistently.
3. Try to find a coach who has a consistency – a methodology. And ask them what that is. Obviously, more mature athletes will be in a better position to reflect on and question that methodology. On that note, be prepared to suggest to the coach ideas that you think will work for you. Build up trust overtime.
4. Beware of a 'one-size fits all' coaching philosophy. It can be difficult for a coach to not give all athletes the same session (trust me I know), but not everyone will respond the same.
5. Choose a coach that is confident and has a personality (it does not need to be loud or overly charismatic) but one that you think you can get along with. However, make sure that your coach will listen as well as make decisions.
There are more pointers in the article....
I've now started to post some exclusive content in the community section. This is for subscribers, so far I've posted an overview of an actual workout we did (at the time of writing, two Saturdays back) and also an 'exercise of the session'. These are just short videos that contain the the type of content just mentioned and similar. So, do sign-up to the channel to get these and other exclusive content.
Here's an example:
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Last weekend (Jan 20th) the older group members had their first competition. Did it go well?
Well, not as well as we probably hoped for, but nevertheless the performances were still encouraging. The comp was the south of England's at the Lee Vally Centre, London. Jonathan jumped 15.60m in the triple jump and second place. Allison managed 12.29 in the women's event for 5th. These were not bad performances and ones which going on past years would still rank them around 10-15 in the country at the end of the season. But they will do better. Earlier Paul jumped 7.13m in the long jump for fourth,
There's always going to be some timing issues and confidence issues brought on by nerves and the 'pressure' of a comp especially in the horizontal jumps. From my coach's perspective, I could see timing issues and run-up issues. The later are minimal but enough to disrupt those crucial steps into the take-off, where the jump, whether triple or long, is set up. Jonathan, for example, was shortening too much to get onto the board and this will diminish the potential range of movement he can get from the hop - the phase that sets the jump up.
I'll not go into great detail here as partly in response to this completion and the teething problems, I'm working on a 'triple jump faults and fixes' video that should be up on the YT channel pretty soon. Making the videos 'forces' me to really analyse what the jumpers are doing and it hopefully will help others who have similar faults. So, do look out for it.
However your season started don't fuss, invariably if you have trained specifically enough to get you in competition shape, it will take one or two comps to get you fully into the grove. Think about the process rather than the outcome and the distances (and times) will come.
In the video below you'll see some of the action from the group's jumpers in the SEAA champs.
As I indicated in my previous post the indoor season is upon us. In this video I update on how we are preparing and getting ready to enter the indoors. We cover the type of training we do, how to maintain strength and power whilst competing and the need to still look ahead to the summer.
What training are you doing?
I was recently asked by Athletics Weekly to write an overview article on what makes for a good training regime. As the article is not out for a few weeks I can't say too much, however, I thought I would whet your appetite as to what's included with these two points.
A training regime is not just about the 'physical content' i.e. the sessions and the workout content, it's much more holistic and includes diet and nutrition, for example, as well.
Don't chop and change your regime
You need a training regime plan that’s suited to your age, level of ability and training maturity, for example. This may take some time to get right and this is where your experience, reflection and feedback and that of your coach comes into play. Once this programme is established and it’s getting results then unless there is very good reason (such as injury, change in the amount of time you have to train), then your training plan is best only tweaked, rather than revised wholescale.
Now, this does not mean that your training plan should not cycle through various phases (micro, meso and macro phases as they are called), your training has to evolve, and change to create long lasting adaptation. But that’s just it, if you are a ‘training programme butterfly’ then you’ll not derive the adaptation that adhering to a systematic, but cyclical regime will achieve.
Do plan your competitions and know your peaks
Competitions are what you train for, all those miles will be a bit of a waste, for example, if you don’t line up against your peers to test your mettle. However, competitions are stressful – they drain you not only physically but mentally. Do too many and you run the risk of burning yourself out. Conversely do too few and you may never reach peak and PB busting levels. So, plan the main competitions you will be focussing on for the winter (indoors, cross-country, for example) and then for the summer (road, track for example). It’s best to work back from the main comp and ‘fit’ your training plan into this, so that it leads and guides you to your goals. Having that focus back in January will enable you to motivate yourself to push toward that August target/target. And it will also make that target meaningful – so that when the days of the important competitions, you will be fired up and ready to put all that training into practice.
Training Group Update
It's coming into the competition period for the older athletes in my training group. Three-four at least will be aiming for good performances in the British trials which take place early Feb. There may be an outside chance of some making the team for the European Champs which are in Glasgow this year in March, So, do look out for updates on this blog and the youtube channel.
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As some of you will know part of my working life (perhaps I could say vocational life) involves writing. I'm the Performance section editor for Athletics Weekly, for example, This magazine has been in existence since the second world war! I remember reading it when I was at school!
A recent article I had to edit triggered some thoughts - these related to choosing a good coach. In the article the author pointed to a number of factors that an athlete should take into account when making their choice. One was avoiding coaches who don't listen and have a too big ego! Very fair points indeed. This then got me thinking about coaches and ego - so much so that I have penned a follow-on piece, where I address coach selection as it were from the position of the coach.
In pulling the article together it did seem to me that coaches need to have an ego, as athletes do. They need to be motivated and energised. They also need to believe in their coaching philosophy. And this is where some ego is important. However, they must not become intransigent and so ego led that, the coach's ears and mind are closed to new ideas and ways of training and athlete in-put.
I also reflected on my own coaching practise and realised that when I began coaching my ego was probably more over-sized that it is now. "I thought I knew everything there was to know about long jump!". However, I soon realised that I didn't and that I actually had to learn more and keep learning at that to be a better coach. I also had to be willing to ask for help and advice. I think many coaches are afraid to be found out. Found out that they don't know as much as their athletes and peers think they know. Nobody can know everything. Coaches need to be able to develop themselves and they need to be open and not so ego-led (or scared to ask) that they stunt their own development.
Here's a sign of a willingness to share the bad (well, not so good) as well as the good... last Sat I went along to the first meeting of the indoor season for the group, Jonathan was competing in the triple. It was a low key meet, but he was motivated to perform. He looked brilliant in warm-up, but on his second run through he struck the board really hard and tweaked a hamstring. It's not serious as he was able to run and do drills yesterday but nevertheless it's disappointing. Although this was probably one of those things, I have started to reflect as to whether there was anything that we did (or didn't do) in training that could have created this situation.
The first comp of the season all be filled by more adrenaline that usual - you'll move faster and may lose some technical focus. Make sure you are in control of what you are doing and focus on the process of your event (technique) rather than the outcome (distance). Get the process right and the distances will come.
Good luck this season and do let me know how you get on!
First off, Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have a great training, athletic and fitness year and that you achieve all your goals (and of course everything else goes well off the track, out of the gym and so forth!)
I'll still be coaching and am looking forward to seeing personal bests from the athletes at all stages of their development in their career. Regular readers of this blog and viewers of my Youtube channel will know that I try to post content regularly - around once a week. However, I'm only going to post what I consider is relevant content, I don't really fancy being a youtuber with the pressure of 'having' to post - although sometimes I have felt it. The channel has being steadily progressing. This time last year I had just over 1000 subs and now it's getting close to 6000, with a couple of thousand views a day! That's a coaching session and it obviously displays the need for similar content. Perhaps the IAAF or European Athletics should focus more on social media development of the sport otherwise they risk creating a too polished (albeit potentially great) version of the sport that is built on very shaky foundations. Athletes are the lifeblood of the sport, the hundreds of thousands I wager who run, jump and throw around the world. I know they exist as I get contacted from all over the world and my analytics shows countries that I have vaguely only heard of.
I'd like to conclude this post by thanking those who support this blog and the YT channel and to wish you a Happy New Year (again!)!
Oh, I met a young man from the UK who is an inspirational figure and I wanted to get him on the YT channel. Jordan Harry is his name, he teaches memory techniques and speed reading and how to create winning habits to young people all over the world. He's also a triple jumper. I asked Jordan to produce some video for me, and in his very eloquent way he did. He talks in detail about how you can improve your reading habits for example and why this can improve your event performance and learning in general. Do spend the time to checkout the video and his website..
Here's an article I wrote for Peak Performance a while back that may help endurance athletes that read this blog.
Basically it looks at whether sprint training methods, such as sprint intervals, and plyometrics can enhance the endurance principally of runners and cyclists, as measured by variables such as performance economy, maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), and ultimately event performance. (for more from peak performance click here)
Sprinting is obviously a very high-powered activity. During a 100m race around 45-47 strides will be taken by elite males to complete the distance, and the likes of Usain Bolt will be touching nearly 29mph at max speed. Foot contacts will take place in less than 0.09 of a second. It’s therefore not surprising that the fastest men and women spend a great deal of their training time, power training. They use heavy weights, sprint drills, plyometrics and short recovery intervals to improve their velocity and speed endurance. Contrast this with the likes of marathon runners, who even at elite level, will be completing miles in 4.58min, as calculated for 2.10hr marathon, and whose foot contacts will take around 300 milliseconds. With a predominantly aerobic requirement for long endurance events (as opposed to the anaerobic sprinter) it would seem that there would be little reason for employing a sprinter’s short-lived power training techniques. However, there’s a growing body of research that indicates that actually borrowing from the sprinter’s conditioning armoury can boost endurance.
Sprint Interval Training (SIT)
Sprint athletes will, for example, perform runs over 50-500m at intensities from 70-100%. Recoveries will vary in regard to the purpose of the training session. However, 400m sprinters, in particular will often use very short recoveries, running near flat out efforts for 30-45sec in particular, across a number of repetitions and sets. These sessions boost lactate/lactic acid tolerance. It’s this type of training (or more exactly the protocol) that could benefit endurance types.
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