Teenage training forum: Building stamina to improve performance

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Teenage training forum: Building stamina to improve performance

sam stevens

Top coach Alan Maddocks continues to describe the training methods used to develop the athletes within his training group, which includes international junior athletes Alfie Thompson, Ben Dijkstra and Sam Stevens. This week he focuses on developing stamina

The Beacon Hill Striders training model seeks to develop an athlete’s three key attributes:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Stamina

In previous articles, I’ve described how we develop both strength and speed. Here, I shall outline the training practices that we use to develop an athlete’s stamina, detailing some of the key methods used to do so. In addition, I will provide a case study of one of our leading athletes – 2016 English Schools’ 3000m champion, Sam Stevens – to illustrate the benefits of the methods described.

What is stamina?

By stamina, I’m referring to the ability to maintain desired race pace throughout the duration of a race and, where possible, to finish at a stronger pace than your opponents. The three key types of training sessions that we use to achieve this are:

  1. Progression runs
  2. Fartlek training
  3. ‘Specific endurance’ interval training

Progression runs

We use progression runs throughout the training year, though there is a greater emphasis upon this type of training during the autumn/winter period. Where possible, we aim to do this type of training on grass or trail. In the winter months, however, we occasionally make use of a 2000m road loop for very similar type work.

Off-road, we use undulating trails at local woodland areas open to the public. These runs can vary from 20 to 40 minutes with the aim of very gradually increasing pace as the run proceeds, with the final few minutes of each run approaching cross country race pace.

Increasing and sustaining pace during the duration of a run has both a physiological impact in terms of constantly stressing the athlete’s cardio-vascular system, and a psychological impact in developing the ability to withstand increasing discomfort. Any graduate of the George Gandy (Loughborough University) training school will recognise close parallels with the famed ‘medium-discomfort’ runs.

Fartlek training

Fartlek training involves using a range of different paces during a continuous run and originated from Scandinavia in the 1940s. It has been a staple diet of world-class runners across the globe ever since.

We use this type of training on a regular basis throughout the spring and summer months, using a protocol derived from the famed ‘Mona-Fartlek’, named after the Australian marathon runner, Steve Moneghetti.

This involves 20 minutes of continuous running incorporating a series of efforts ranging from 90 seconds down to 15 seconds. Our version places a little more emphasis on the longer efforts, and a little less emphasis on the shorter efforts. By working through from longer (and slower) efforts to shorter (and faster) efforts, this develops the athlete’s ability to raise his or her pace towards the end of a race. We have found that this session – done 4-5 days prior to a race – to be very effective.

‘Specific endurance’ interval training

This involves running relatively long intervals at or very near to goal race pace. So, for instance, someone looking to run a 10K in 31 minutes (5 minute mile pace) would look to run 4-5 x 2000m at this specific pace. The total volume of the efforts reflects the race distance, so the specificity of the training is related to both pace and distance.

The primary advantage of this type of interval training is that the runner becomes accustomed to both the target race pace and the demands of the event. This develops movement and breathing patterns that are very similar to those required in competition.

In addition, the runner becomes more accustomed to running with higher lactate concentrations for a sustained period of time, and therefore becomes more efficient at using the lactic system as a fuelling source.

An example of the type of training that we use with our more advanced runners is a session of 5 x 1200m on an undulating path around Charnwood Water, Loughborough. Recoveries are kept relatively short (around 90 seconds) both to more closely mimic the demands of a race and to temper the runner’s desire to run the efforts at a pace faster than that desired.

An alternative session that I have experimented with in the past 12 months involves 2-3 x 6 minute efforts on grass, with a slight progression of pace during the duration of each effort.

Specific endurance interval sessions can be very demanding, both physiologically and psychologically. As such, we tend to place these 7-10 days prior to a target race, to allow for both recovery and full adaptation.

Case Study: Sam Stevens

Sam joined our group in the summer of 2013 as a county class runner with a 1500m best of 4.22 and a 5K best of 17.30 at the age of 15. During the autumn/winter period we re-balanced his training to place much greater emphasis on a diet of steady running and stamina-based workouts like the ones described.

Sam’s improvement was dramatic with a 1500m of 3.57 and a 3000m of 8.36 catapulting him into the top 10 UK ranked U17M the following summer.

In preparation for his success in taking the English Schools’ Senior Boys 3000m title this Summer, Sam included all of the elements described above during the weeks leading to his target race. To bring Sam to a peak for his target race, his last session (6 days prior to the final) was 2 x 6 minutes (6 minutes jog recovery).

Sam was selected to run for GB at the European XC Champs last December helping the Junior Men’s team to a bronze medal in Chia.

In the next article, I shall look to draw together the strands of our training practice, explaining how we integrate the training elements described in recent editions to create a sophisticated and targeted plan for each individual athlete.

Words by Alan Maddocks
Image from Sam Stevens (Sam (38) competing for England at the Lotto Cross Cup in Rotselaar, Belgium last year)