Train like an athlete: 5 strength training tips from Dr Duncan French at Team GB Workshops Fitness First
In preparation for the Rio Olympics next year (yes, next year!), the GB official sponsor Fitness First has teamed up with Team GB coaches and the English Institute of Sport to offer members a series of weekly workshops that will inspire and motivate them to train like an athlete.
With tips and advice in four main areas – Strength & Conditioning, Nutrition, Psychology and Physiology hosted by Team GB coaches – newbies and dedicated fitness fanatics alike have the chance to learn top tips and get advice on how to make improvements in their training plans.
If like me you’re fascinated about what it takes to be one our top class athletes or you simply need a motivational nudge to step your plan up a gear, it’s worth checking these workshops out. You too could become what Fitness First are calling #EverydayWinners.
Last week I popped down myself to Fitness First Bishopsgate, broken arm and all, to talk to the strength and conditioning coach Dr Duncan French (view the other Team GB coaches involved in the workshops here). Responsible for coaching international, world and Olympic athletes from a variety of sports, from football and basketball, to taekwondo, he offered a few tips on how runners can use strength training to make them stronger without bulking up.
1. Strength and conditioning helps prevent injuries
If all you do is run, you will focus on the same set of muscles all the time which can lead to injuries and overuse. Add in a few strength and conditioning moves and you’ll not only build up a strong system of support but you’ll also improve your mobility and have the strength to transfer force from one foot to another.
2. Work on a power to body weight ratio
It can be tricky getting the balance right when you’re a runner, especially long distance. Essentially you want to be strong but without too much bulk (something I’ve always struggled with as my legs are prone to building muscle). Think about it – when you run a marathon you’re carrying your body weight on your feet over 10s of thousands of steps if you have a lower body weight, it’ll be easier.
3. Go for fewer reps with a longer rest time
Try 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps with a resting time that is longer than 90 seconds in-between. This will help your body get rid of lactic acid, prevent a build up of too much bulk and keep your muscles in tact and legs strong.
4. Progress slowly from body weight exercises to free weight exercises
By body weight exercises, Dr Duncan French suggests trying sets of single leg lunges, lunges, squats and then moving on to free weight exercises. This will allow your body to slowly get stronger without overloading it and building too much muscle.
5. It’s all about calories in, calories out
Fundamentally, you have to watch your diet when you’re an athlete. If you’re trying to lean off, you need to be aware of what you’re eating in terms of calories in, calories out or as Duncan said eat a balanced diet. And it’s tricky as you need fuel to power you round. The best exercise I found for me when I was training for the Marathon des Sables was to write down everything I ate, how far I ran and my mood on a daily basis. Yes, it was laborious at times but simply the act of writing stuff down made me more aware of how much I needed to get me through.
How have you incorporated strength and conditioning into your running plan?