Thousands of athletes from all around Northern Europe head for sunnier climes in the springtime. Portugal and Spain are key destinations for those not chasing the dollar and Florida or California sun. The Algarve in particular with its ideal (at that time of the year) temperatures, and facilities, perhaps is the number one destination nearer to home venue. It was, in any case for “Team Sheps”, as the athletes have christened my training group, this year. Plus, when we got to the track at Monte Gordo and saw Cindy Blallaut and Pascale Martinolagard in full flight, we thought, well, if it’s good enough for them…
Getting the balance of training and rest right is crucial on WWT. Many athletes get unnaturally inspired and leave too many hot performances in hot conditions on the training track… in the wrong country with no judges! WWT is the start of the final prep for the season and it’s not the place to be laying down too many PBs and racing training partners as if Olympic gold medals were at stake. As a coach you need to be prescriptive and controlled in the workload offered. Your athletes will often want to do more, when that extra session or even effort could leave their central nervous system depleted as well as their general energy systems. There’s also injury risk.
I’m a firm believe in the “less is more” approach to training. If I recall correctly it was Dan Pfaff who when asked about how much training is needed to reach peak performance answered: it’s not how much but how little. There are many spurious activities and “extra” sessions that really won’t have a significant effect on the athlete’s performance. Working out training loads is also a very specific equation for each athlete and this is the bane of coaching for us largely amateur coaches, we’ll have large-ish groups and therefore less time to be individual specific. I do, however, as I say, work on the basis that less is more and so all those that I coach tend to follow this approach (unless they are naughty and go into their rooms and do extra circuits – now who could than be?).
See below Jonathan using the graded run-ups...
The guys in my group that are at US colleges report back to me and say, coach gave us 15 x 150m runs as a recovery session. Recovery for what, running a mile? Apparently as no time is often stipulated the runners inevitably get “carried away” and run what would normally be a speed endurance session for a 400m runner in my eyes at a pace that leaves them knackered - so, so much for recovery there.
Well, we’ll do a good stretch, chance to re-elongate muscles, some balance and proprioception work and some mental rehearsal work i.e. walking through technical movements whilst inputting as much thought into the process as possible. There is of course pool work as another recovery session. Rest and good quality sleep are also very important and the WWT camp training programme must have rest days and half days. So guys no partying…
The great thing about WWT is athlete (and coach) focus. In the next part of this blog I’ll write about developing the triple jump technique of Jonathan Ilori over the time spent in Portugal and give ssome further thoughts on athletic fun in the sun.