No, I’ve not been living in a desert recently.
Far from it. I live a few minutes walk, but thankfully quite high above, the River Medway, which has done more than its fair share of flooding since Christmas Day. However, I think I can honestly say the awful weather we’ve had round here has not interrupted my winter training at all. That’s probably not everyone’s story.
My training’s not wholly typical, I am certain. When I returned to the track and entered the world of Masters Athletics nearly 14 years ago, I rather tended to pick up my training ideas from where I’d left off before severe injury to my back, about 13 years previously, had cut me down. Big mistake. One I think many returners to Masters make too, I think. As happened with me, I immediately began falling foul of injuries left, right and centre. In my case, as a (then) 46 year old sprinter, these were mostly upper and lower leg problems. I’ve seen it with others, and seen it lead to some very short-lived Masters careers.
I’m pleased to say I had support from a great physio, Steve Cluney, in those early days. Steve had known me before my Masters years, and properly understood the issues involved in a return to fast running many years later. Steve exhorted me to search out a training pattern that suited me, made me ache in all the right places, and fitted in with my life. This was wonderfully at odds with the perceived wisdom of doing endless reps at the track several times a week, and a weekly gym session. Moreover the advice suited me perfectly. I live in a bit of an athletics wilderness. It was even worse at the time, with no publicly available track for about 30 miles in any direction. I’d also taken out membership of a very well-equipped gym a few years before, which stood almost exactly on my route as I walked between home and my office. It was the progress I’d made at the gym that had encouraged me to return to the track in the first place. Now it was time to see what I could really get the place to do.
It makes me sad when I hear athletes denigrating gyms. I read a piece not very long ago from someone (a distance runner) who had been exactly twice, had concluded that there was nothing he could gain from the gym concerned, and had promptly set himself up to sound like an expert on how no gym would ever be any help to any athlete. Sad.
I’ll not bore with a run down on what I actually do at the gym. This would take a long time, because what I do now isn’t what I did then, and it’s changed innumerable times since then. As have I. My 59 year old body might look vaguely like my 46 year old one, but it seems to work differently! I’m generally regarded as someone who has “aged well”, though appearances alone can be deceptive. In short, however, I do a broad mix of strength and flexibility training that most gyms are well-equipped to support. I use a variety of gym machines and free weights or other loadings. On top of that, I do a regular, carefully-planned amount of high aerobic or threshold work, on a treadmill or spinning bike mostly. These are hard at times, and the end result is seldom pretty. As a sprinter, I spend a lot of gym time working on hip flexibility – vital for me given my history of back trauma – and leg speed work. No good being blessed with lots of fast twitch fibres if you don’t encourage them.
My lifestyle when in full time work, and just as much now, as a freelancer, has a drawback in that it is almost impossible to commit to training with a group of other people. I therefore train solo. I enjoy the company these days, but it was not always so. Health Warning: Beating myself up in training, with no one to check, control or comment on my performance was, I am sure, a contributor to, or perhaps a consequence of, my slide into severe depression a few years back. Streuth, more than four years now!
And of course, as it has thrown it down with rain this winter – the wettest on record in the UK, and regularly blown a severe gale, I have not missed a single session because of the weather. This has actually been my most consistent winter’s training I can recall. I’ve not even had a head cold, just the odd niggles that, with a bit of expert chiro advice etc, I’ve been able to work through.
And yesterday, I won the 60 metres title and came second in the 200m in my age group at the South of England Masters Indoor Championships. I think I can see a connection between that and my good winter.
I’ve got the big 6-0 rushing towards me at a rate of one day at a time, and I’ve learned never to count my chickens, but please treat this as an optimistic blog. There have been rather a lot of the other sort.
(Musical reference in the title this time courtesy of Dire Straits)