When we last checked in with our SKINS SCA athletes, they were about to embark on their new goals for the year. October has brought lots of success to our four athletes, along with the trials and tribulations that running brings.
'Training has been going very well. With the increase in miles this winter, my SKINS have helped me stay injury-free and recover from hard, long workouts. SKINS has also helped me stay warm, achieving maximal blood flow and reducing the chance of illness, preventing any time off training.' - Tommy Shaw
Starting with Tommy, we have had an exciting month. Having had a great start to the autumn season, including a small 5km PB at his opening race of the season, training really started to heat up. With Tommy having his main target for the cross country season taking place relatively early, we consciously decided to finish track slightly earlier to give him time to rebuild his fitness.
With Tommy this season, we have been trying to incorporate more threshold work into his training plan than last year. Threshold work is a fundamental basis for most 5 km distance upward races training plans. In fact, the 'threshold model' is ever more present at the 1500m level now, too. The key thing to manage when adding an increased volume of threshold running is ensuring the sessions' intensity and volume are appropriate for the athlete. When athletes run too fast for their threshold value, they can end up in states of non-functional overreaching. This is where you aren't getting the fitness benefits for your training, essentially training too hard!
We have focused on the discipline of Tommy's pacing and training zones. This is for him to get the desired training effect from the sessions built into the plan. We have had some excellent progress already, with both Tommy's race results being very strong for the phase of training we are in. This was evident in his superb run at the recent English National Cross Country Relays, finishing 11th fastest overall in the u20 category. Furthermore, recent testing shows that his threshold value is very strong! The next few weeks are about sharpening the tools in the toolbox, ready to race the first two rounds of the British Athletics Cross Challenge series.
After a superb summer, which saw Gabby beat her long-standing 5km and 10km PB's, Gabby's current training phase looked to combine her running alongside a new challenge in the form of a Hyrox competition. Hyrox provides a brilliant challenge for the athlete first of all and secondly for the coach! The event blends endurance, power and speed with eight weighted exercise stations interceded with 8*1 kilometre runs. Lasting roughly 60-75 minutes for the top pairs team, this prevents a real physiological challenge.
The duration of the Hyrox event means that to succeed; the athlete will have a large aerobic base of training behind them. However, one of the other key determinants of success is also high levels of strength. Strength and endurance training don't always complement each other. Once more, adding to the complexity of training for the event!
With Gabby's training, we have kept her aerobic side ticking over with bi-weekly long run sessions and weekly interval work. We have reduced some of her easy mileage to give her more time and energy for her strength work to ensure she can maintain the strength element of the competition. As part of her Hyrox work, she has focused on learning the specific strength movements and getting used to running in between exercises. From a running perspective, we have focused on doing a lot of mixed threshold work, trying to add high-intensity periods within threshold sessions to mimic the demands of running a Hyrox event.
As we head into the final few weeks before Gabby's Hyrox events, we will focus on sharpening up and recovery before we assess her running fitness and target a 10km in the new year.
'I have mainly been wearing the SKINS compression leggings to aid recovery after my longer runs. The gilet has also been a staple item while the weather has turned slightly colder.' - Gabby Moriarty
'Some SKINS kit I'm particularly enjoying using at the moment are the SERIES-3 half tights, brilliant in the colder weather for keeping my legs warm. I use the arm sleeves on the track to stay warm but wear fewer clothes. And the running gilet, as we have seen a slight drop in temperature, the gilet is nice to wear over a T-shirt to keep warm on those easy runs.' - Joseph Shirley
With the long-term goal of running the London Marathon in April, the current phase of Joseph's training has focused on him nailing some long-standing Personal Bests over shorter distances. The reason for this is his 5km and 10km times currently hold back how fast he can run for the Half distance and beyond. In both the Big Half and Great South Run, Joseph nearly broke his 10km PB on his way to the longer distance. This is an excellent indication of fitness but is also a big issue during his races. Going so close to his maximal capacity means there is the inevitable slowdown in the second half of races because we currently use too many matches in the first half.
We, therefore, had the vision after the Great South Run to go and target a fast 10km race in the coming weeks. The plan was to get out hard and see how far under 35mins he could go. We weren't too specific on paces simply because we weren't quite sure! In addition, I am not a big believer in setting limits on athletes with splits. This can hold back your mentality when it comes to a race and doesn't always lend itself to running fast! Mallory Park 10km on 29 October was the race we settled on. On a lovely autumn morning, Joseph smashed his previous 10km PB of 4 years. Finishing in 34 minutes and 46 seconds, he took 34 seconds off his last best time!
This now allows us much more flexibility when it comes to longer distances. In the near future, we have an eye on breaking 1hr and 17 mins for the half, which requires a 10km split of 36 mins and 29 secs. Having revised his 10km PB to run that split, Joseph will go at 95.2% off his best rather than 96.9%. In turn, he will have greater energy resources for the race's second half, which lends itself to a higher chance of success.
The plan now is to continue to develop Joe's aerobic speed over the coming weeks. By doing so; we will reduce the energy cost of his target marathon effort for the Spring. In terms of races, we plan to have one more hard effort this year before shutting things down for Christmas and heading to the Marathon block!
Alongside Jo, Mel's primary goal is a return to the Marathon distance at which she had so much success this Spring. Working backwards from the Marathon goal, the aim has been to try and develop Mel as an athlete overall. Manchester's result came from a monumental improvement in performance over all distances. Therefore, we used this period now as a chance to develop Mel's speed, which we felt was a somewhat limiting factor. The rationale behind this is that increasing Mel's top-end speed would filter down into the other paces needed within races.
We have had mixed success so far with this. On the positive side, a 10km PB in August and a PB over 10 miles at the recent Great South Run made the training block a success. However, the form hasn't entirely translated to the 5km distance so far. This has a lot to do with the fact speed training is tough to get right. Both in terms of the volume and the intensity of it. By having a speed-focused programme, you can neglect the heavy aerobic component that underpins all endurance races from 5km upwards. In addition, some athletes don't respond well to consistent and persistent speed work. With Mel's training, I feel we didn't necessarily get the balance between speed and aerobic power quite right.
More recently, we have been micro-dosing speed into the week alongside more aerobic-based sessions. Doing so allows us to practice running fast and developing the aerobic system concurrently. Having a high top speed is great, and it increases the glass ceiling on performance. However, you need to be able to run for a significant period of time before being able to use it. By emphasising speed more and not working on aerobic development, this can increase the energy cost of a given pace and limit performance.
Mel's next big target is to run the MK Winter Half before heading into training for the London Marathon this Spring.
'Training has stepped up a gear now that I'm just under five weeks until my next race, so the compression long sleeves and leggings are my go-to, aiding recovery and keeping my legs turning over when I'm tired! And as the weather has taken a turn, I am living in my SKINS gilet to keep my body just at the right temperature.. which can be a struggle in these cold mornings!' - Mel Hayes