Elliot Giles: Training hard in the Rainbow Nation

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Elliot Giles: Training hard in the Rainbow Nation


Following on from part one of his recent training blog, UK 800m champion, Elliot Giles, continues to share the experiences from his first British Athletics altitude training camp in Potchefstroom, South Africa


THE SESSIONS were super tough and a lot of the work was done on a Garmin HRM set by pre-camp physiological testing parameters. Sessions were done on the manicured grass track that was more like the putting green at a major golf course.

I can’t profess that I threw up on a session – although I almost did – but the toughest thing was jumping in the ice bath after a session. It was the facility that provided the biggest laugh when my coach, Matt [Yates], slipped and fell in, citing no wonder only the few survived the Titanic sinking!

With every day starting early, it meant early bedtimes too and so the entertainment was limited. Given the final session of the day was held at 5pm and some days featured three sessions that could go through to 8pm with warm downs, etc., it meant that Netflix or iPlayer was as good as it got.

Drinking macchiato with a middle-distance legend

After lunch, however, we would go up to the town to a coffee shop that served awesome macchiato and we would sit round a huge oak table and chat about all sorts. Often joined by Steve Cram, he gave us a biographical insight into his legendary career and how the media works. It was all highly valuable and inspiring to us all to have the voice of BBC Sport talking to us so openly and directly – the only thing that was off limits was the performance of Sunderland FC.

The science and research behind altitude training is still ongoing, with a number of variables that have to be applied to its science. Altitude heights are also open to debate, which is why Potch was perfect, in theory, for middle-distance runners and was selected by Barry Fudge as the introduction point for a number of the athletes. If you get time read into the research by the likes of Doctors Spilsbury and Fudge, it’s very interesting.

Training at altitude was a first for me. My initial thoughts are that it has definitely benefited my physiology and performance. We’re capturing as much data as is possible both pre- and post-camp and will collate it with Barry, Kate Spilsbury and my coaches. However, I like to run free and found it hard to be governed by the Garmin. But it was a must on my debut camp and I didn’t want overtraining syndrome.

The data will be analysed after my final camp physiological tests at Loughborough in February and we’ll modify, adjust the training schedules and apply any new findings to future camps. I’ve already applied some of the findings and advice from the camp and, without doubt, it has assisted my performance.

Seizing the opportunity

The British Athletics altitude camp has opened my eyes to what is needed to reach the top in a very tough global sport. Barry Fudge’s vision and planning looks like it will pay huge dividends for UK endurance running over the next four years. I personally hope, and would like to see, more 19-21-year-old athletes with world-class potential on future camps backed by the London Marathon Charity and British Athletics as this is where you learn so much about what’s needed to reach the top.

If you can’t benefit and take the opportunity offered by one of these camps, you may as well pack in. Basically, if you weren’t to show and exhibit the desired traits and performance of British Athletics’ future vision, I would doubt you would be invited on camp again, so it would be down to you to grab and take the huge opportunity.

This is one initiative and strategy that I view and back as a winning one for UK endurance running on the global stage – and it’s a big four years ahead, starting in front of a home crowd in London at the World Championships in August.

Words by Elliot Giles
Image from Matt Yates (from back row and L to R: Jack Crabtree, Revee Nolan-Walcott, Richard Charles, Elliot Giles and Dale King-Clutterbuck)