As a running coach, I think it’s really important for athletes to undertake a regular, moderate programme of strength and conditioning and to improve their agility, balance and co-ordination and their flexibility alongside their sessions for running speed and endurance. I would write sessions for all of these into plans for athletes if they were not already doing regular gym work, yoga, pilates and stretching.
As an athlete, I’m a lazy arsehole who will do the absolute bare minimum I can get away with. In spite of that, when Mary Twitchett mentioned her Monday circuits session I thought I would add it to my weekly plan. I had to do something, having not done anything since Andy Matson’s circuits last winter.
Those were brilliant, by the way. Have a look on Facebook for AM Active. The next set of sessions is due to start soon and if you are close to Huntingdon, I can thoroughly recommend them. Andy’s coaching is affirming and his group of athletes work very hard indeed and have the results to show it works.
So, if you haven’t done any S&C for almost a year and – this is the important bit – you’re a bit of an idiot, of course you’re going to throw yourself into the first session back with some gusto. Especially if it’s on your rest day the day after the County Cross Country Championships. Mary ran through the 20 stations, gave us a brief but thorough warm up and set us to work.
Fifty seconds per station. I can’t remember them all. I could barely remember what each of them was when I was doing them. Some of that is down to the emotional and physical pain I was going through at the time. The mind is after all merciful and will not let us relive memories which are too painful. However there are some highlights.
Leg press. It was one of those inclined plane jobs. I have no idea how much weight was on there. Probably not that much because I could move the plate well but I was feeling the effort. Mary had me adjust my foot position and keep my knees about a fist-width apart. That one went quite well.
Leg lifts. Straight legs until that became impossible, then bent legs.
Press ups and dips. One press up, then walk the legs forward and dip. Resting on a couple of kettlebells. Now, I am useless, truly useless at press-ups. I don’t think any instructor or coach would say I have done more than three proper press ups in the past 52 years. However, I grabbed onto the kettlebells, bent my arms a bit so my chest just about visibly dropped towards the floor then managed to straighten my arms again. One. I’m calling that one One. Then walk my legs forward until they’re out in front and dip. One. For some reason, I’m better at dips. That definitely counted. Walk back. Two almost certainly wouldn’t have counted for anyone else and if I were honest with myself, I would say it didn’t count for me either. If I were honest with myself. I’m not honest with myself. Two. Walk the legs through. Dip. Two. And so on.
Shotguns. On my back on the bench, med ball held out behind my head with straight arms then pulled over to my waist and sit up keeping my back straight. Once I’m upright, hold the ball out in front of myself and stretch out as far as my back and hips allow. That’s not very far but I’m a bloke and I’m a runner and all of that is tight.
Burpees. Oh God, burpees. Once, a few years ago, Ben did a fuck-ton of burpees for his birthday after parkrun. He asked for people to keep him company and I did a couple of sets with him. Not well and not for long but I did them. They are the worst form of self-inflicted pain I know. The combination of controlled explosive power and agility, balance and co-ordination you need to do them well and efficiently escapes me. They’re also a huge drain on your cardio reserves. I think I managed three last night before it all went a bit Pete Tong.
Side plank. This one had a couple of variations to wake up the glutes properly, neither of which I really had the strength to do properly.
An easy plank thing, hands on a box. Left knee to left elbow at walking pace, then the other side. Ten reps. Left knee to right elbow at walking pace then right knee to left elbow. Ten reps. Repeat all four but faster for 10 more reps each, then faster again. I thought that went quite well. It’s similar to a sprint drill I do to feel fast feet but with a bit of mobilisation built in. As long as you keep your core as still as possible and drive your legs you’re fine.
A couple of TRX tortures – a plank and a hip raise. The hardest part of those was getting into the stirrups, to be honest. Plank to pike would be a hideous progression and one I remember from Rachel’s TRX Yoga sessions a couple of years ago. They weren’t really yoga but they were excellent supported mobilisation exercises.
Deadlift. I felt manly doing this. No idea how much weight was on the frame but my technique was good and I was able to hit a rhythm and keep going.
Bouncing on my toes. Small explosive movements, keeping my feet together. Again it’s a sprint drill. If you’re an endurance runner, you think that sprint drills aren’t worth bothering about but they can help some of us when we’re tired towards the end of a race focus on staying light on our feet, balanced and poised, if only for the cameras in the finishing area.
Short rest, drink of water then round again. for 2×20 seconds.
The other athletes were a mix of runners, rowers and triathletes. They were all amazing. Everyone was good at something and some were good at nearly everything so they could concentrate on really working hard.
I now hurt everywhere. I am hearing complaints from those small interior abdominal muscles which have had to do little more than compress a belch for the past year. Those complaints are loud and they are long and they contain an impressive amount of fanciful invective. My shoulders and chest hurt from the bench press and press ups. My quads are more tender than my heart was after Il Postino. I even, for no discernable reason, have a painful hairline. Yup, horripilation results in DOMS.
Okay, I exaggerate a little but not as much as you might think. I had to can tonight’s track session in favour of a couple of steadier runs. I’ve done just over five miles in total this evening and my legs are mashed. Tomorrow really is a rest day. I’m coaching a Run For Your Life session in Sawston in the evening and I hope I won’t have to do much running around. It’s a Couch to 5k session so it shouldn’t be too strenuous for me.
I really shouldn’t leave nine months between circuits sessions. It’s really not good for me.