COACH JOSHUA: TRAINING SIMON, SKINS CCO
Training for not one, but two Marathons?! SKINS CCO, Simon is taking on sport's ultimate challenge, the Marathon, but he's not doing it alone. SKINS Head Running Coach Joshua is training Simon in his pursuit of athletic excellence.
I started working with SKINS CCO Simon in April 2021, and at this point, he was struggling to maintain a consistent schedule without picking up injuries. Our aim was to complete the Hackney Half Marathon that September and, in between, focus on getting a period of training built up without any time lost through illness and injury. Due to his demanding role at SKINS, we knew it would be challenging to fit in a large amount of training, so we focused on making our training as efficient as possible to get the most out of Simon.
INITIAL TRAINING BLOCK
The initial training block went well, with us getting a few Half-Marathon-based interval sessions built into the latter stages. Our primary aim of no injuries was successful, and Simon finished the Hackney Half-Marathon in 1 hr 51 mins. We were both pleased, but the life of an athlete means there's always room for improvement! We agreed that with more training and better race execution, we could get more out of his performance.
Then, disaster struck. Having just entered the Milton Keynes Winter Half and getting started on our new schedule Simon picked up an injury that put him out for two months. However, for most, whilst that time on the sidelines would mean a period of total detraining, Simon's impressive determination meant we focused on putting a large base of cross-training in the pool. I attribute most of Simon's success in 2022 to this period, where he applied himself and trained hard in the pool whilst we rehabbed his injury.
In the darkest moments of training, we learn the most about ourselves. Here we found that Simon was extremely driven, highly motivated and willing to put himself in challenging situations. All three are the perfect characteristics to work with as a Coach.
IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM
The aim of 2022 was to have another good go at the Hackney Half and get more race experience under his belt. A particular highlight for me was when straight after a flight home from Australia, Simon equalled his 10km PB at the Vitality London 10km event. And, of course, when Simon managed an 8-minute PB at the Hackney Half. He'd obviously caught the bug because Simons's first response was, 'I want more!'
From this point, Simon has gone from strength to strength, his dedication to training has been faultless, and we have seen PBs over 5km, 10km and a significant PB over the Half at the Big Half in September with a time of 1 hr 38 mins.
A SUSTAINABLE TRAINING SCHEDULE
What we've achieved so far is down to a sustainable schedule with a focus on quality over quantity. I genuinely believe that the most important thing for endurance runners to focus on is their aerobic profile. How can we make runners efficient and robust without overloading their bodies with too much heavy loading?
Simon runs 5x a week with a dedicated intervals session where we work on his threshold, speed and aerobic strength; we also have a good sized long run in there (90mins+) along with 3x shorter runs, including strides at the end of them. All in all, the volume sits at around 5hrs in duration, ranging from anything between 30-40 miles in the week.
Now, we are about to conquer a completely new challenge and are preparing for a distance over double that of what Simon has ever raced before - and we have two of them to train for!
TRAINING FOR NOT ONE, BUT TWO MARATHONS
Knowing Simon's training history and the demands of the upcoming events, we won't be radically changing how he trains. But, naturally, with the Marathon distance, we must focus on further advancing the aerobic energy system. This will come through increasing the duration of his Sunday long run, and the inclusion of some Marathon paced elements in these long runs.
These elements will help advance Simon's maximal lactate steady state (for running nerds, this is the first deflection in the lactate curve), which is around the physiological zone we run the Marathon at. We will also aim to increase the duration of the run we do the day before the long run. By doing this, we induce a level of fatigue pre-long run that puts Simon in a more Marathon resembling fatigue level going into the long run. This training method is known as cumulative fatigue. By enacting this within the training block, we can replicate the fatigue of the Marathon without having to run 26 miles in training.
THE LEAD UP TO THE MARATHON(S)
The long and short of it is, in the days leading up to the long run, we will be training for the final 2-2.5hrs of the event rather than the first 2-2.5hrs. I have found this method to be a more efficient method of training for the Marathon and one that yields greater success rates.
We will also be keeping the #PGC1WorkoutWednesday within the plan to keep up a good level of speed within the training block. This will help make the Marathon pace feel comfortable and advance Simon's top-level physiology, which will drip down the chain and improve economy, lactate threshold and aerobic power both in the cardiovascular system and at the muscular level.
THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
The final piece of the puzzle is to think about is how we train for two Marathons with just a few weeks between them? Usually, we plan the peak in training volume to be three weeks out from the Marathon, with a taper phase helping sharpen the body ready for race day. However, with the double Marathon, we need to induce a little more loading closer to the first race, so we don't see a drop in fitness between the two races. How we navigate this will depend on which Marathon we think will be the better one to target for a PB and which we simply use as experience. This is a really exciting challenge for me as a Coach, and I look forward to helping guide Simon through this process.
Q&A WITH SIMON, SKINS CCO
WHAT GOT YOU INTO RUNNING?
I ran my first competitive Half when I was ten and ran track competitively throughout my youth. All that ended abruptly with a football injury that resulted in a bone transplant in my knee. Not being able to compete, I lost interest. I have maintained a fitness level throughout my adult life, primarily through swimming, but when I got involved with SKINS three years ago, it inspired me to get back out there. I could only manage 2km on that first run, and my lungs felt like they were on fire, but I persevered. Josh and I started working together in 2021. Since returning from a foot fracture in late 2021, my training and performance have shown real progression. All thanks to the Coach!
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT RUNNING?
Flexibility and instant gratification. SKINS is a global business, so I travel a lot. It doesn't matter where I am in the world; I can go for a run, just step out the door, and away I go. I prefer an early morning run. You get to see the world from another perspective at that time of day, a different rhythm. Sydney Harbour, as the sun breaks, is a great way to start any working day. SKINS is a great brand to be involved with, but working across different time zones and teams can be both physically and mentally challenging. Running gives me the space to process and organise my mind. It's that moment in the day when I am uncontactable. That and the instant boost of endorphins keeps me at my most productive.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR THE MARATHON(S)?
Progression. Not one to sit still or be complacent, I always like to have something to aim for. It keeps me focused. I always maintained that I wouldn't do a marathon. I was happy running Halfs; why would I put my body through all that!? After finishing the London Big Half back in September with a PB, I still had a lot left in me and realised that I had a marathon in me…so I signed up for two.
WHO ARE YOU RUNNING FOR?
For the London Marathon, I'll be running for Ability Bow. Working with exceptional athletes, at all levels, on a daily basis through the SKINS brand really focuses the importance of the work that Ability Bow does. As the legend Bill Bowerman said, 'If you have a body, you are an athlete!' By providing access to resources and exercise programs to people of all abilities, Ability Bow really is changing people's lives in a positive way. I'm really happy that I can support such an important local charity on my first Marathon on home soil. If you'd like to donate to this incredible cause, you can do so here.
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