The UK Athletics National Endurance Event Programme completes its winter ‘homework’ at Loughborough University on Saturday 3 March – while most of the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team heading for the IAF World Cross Country Championships in steamy Mombasa, Kenya, on 24 March will fly out on Monday 5 March to the UK Athletics preparation camp in Durban, South Africa.
Workshops at the National Squad get-together will be based around the 5 rings that UK Athletics recognises as being crucial in developing maximum performance in any event. The ‘rings’ are: fundamental movement skills, which are basic to advanced motor skills that underpin athletic performance in every event; psycho-behavioural aspects – the mental abilities and fitness required to train and compete with peak efficiency and effectiveness; lifestyle, the often neglected external factors that can play a significant part in enhancing or detracting from top performance; “technical and tactical”, the techniques and tactics required to master specific events, and strength and conditioning, systematic and sustained preparation of the physical components necessary to address the demands of the event.
And there will be more ... a group training session in Holywell Fields in the morning; and, after the 5 rings workshops, UKA Senior Coordinator for Endurance Spencer Barden and Professor Andy Jones will explain the sports science testing programme which has been set up for National Squad athletes to access. In the final session of the day Barden, supported by the UK Event Coaches. will present an overview of the summer endurance competition programme, giving athletes and their personal coaches the opportunity to ask any questions before they plan their all important summer season.
This is the third major squad meeting of the winter to be organised by the UK Athletics Event Management Group for Endurance.
The first get-together at the Park Inn Hotel, West Bromwich, on 18 and 19 November comprised a welcome and introduction by Andy Paul, UKA Head of Athletics Development; Dr Noel Pollock on ‘Lifestyle factors and their effects on the immune system’; UKA Senior Performance Manager for Endurance Alan Storey / Prof Andy Jones on ‘Endurance Progression – the three ages for man’; event specific workshops by UK event coaches Nick Anderson, Bud Baldaro, Steve Benson, Andi Drake, John Nuttall, Sarah Rowell, Mark Rowland, Dave Sunderland and Norman Wilson plus Mark Clarke of Trainsmart; a forum on UK Event Coaching; physio Mark Buckingham on ‘injury prevention’; Andy Jones / Andi Drake on ‘physiological effects on training’; plus ample opportunities for the athletes to hone their training.
Among the attendees to comment on the weekend, ultra runner Chris Finill (Harrow AC) emailed Spencer Barden to say: “Many thanks indeed for putting together the weekend's events. I am very confident that the Ultra Squad appreciated all the work this involved and will benefit from the talks and lectures given. I also think it was a very helpful idea to bring together different disciplines / events as it creates a much more integrated feel to what is the very diverse sport of athletics.”
The second squad meeting on 17 February involved the middle distance, steeplechase, 5000m/ 10,000m / cross country and marathon groups meeting at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium. Simultaneously, the disability group met with Glynn Tromans, the UKA disability performance manager. In addition, the race walkers met at Leeds Met University on Thursday 15 February-to Saturday 17 February.
A total of 70 athletes and 20 personal coaches took part in the Birmingham weekend, as did mentors and former Olympic medallists Wendy Sly and Mick McLeod plus all of the UK Event Coaches.
Of the athletes, most of the seniors in the Norwich Union GB team for the World Cross Country Championships joined in the training sessions, as did top Juniors including Adam Hickey and Lee Carey. The marathon brigade was represented by Liz Yelling, Natalie Harvey and Tracey Morris while Chris Hart and Hatti Dean were among the steeplechasers in attendance.
There were two key discussions. One involved gathering feedback from athletes and coaches on the winter season for 2007-2008. The other featured Professor Ron Maughan getting athletes and coaches thinking deeply about how to prepare to race and train in hot climates. His presentation on heat acclimatisation and fluid intake was particularly pertinent with this summer featuring major championships for all age groups from Seniors to Under 18s – not to mention the World Cross in Kenya!
In the event specific groups, the 800m / 1500m runners were advised by Craig Winrow and Nick Cooper, who works with skills and drills at the UKA Endurance Performance Centre at St Mary’s University Twickenham; steeplechasers did barrier work on the indoor track with Spencer Duval and Dave Sunderland; and the longer distance athletes talked about training loads and learnt how Mick McLeod made his transition up the distances to win his Olympic 10,000m silver medal.
“It was a good day,” Spencer Barden summarised. “There was a good turn-out, which was encouraging. The main focus is on coach development – making sure the workshops we are delivering is a real benefit to the coaches as well as the athletes. It is eminently clear from the positive feedback that this is what the coaches and athletes want to assist with their development at this level. We shall be aiming to serve up more of the same at Loughborough.”