January 2015 really was a new start. After making some much needed fitness progression through the first half of the winter, I increased my training schedule to two sessions a day, six days a week with one full day of recovery. The first week of this new regime was a physical and mental drain. Dealing with the cold, wet and windy early morning starts as well as coping with the increased metabolic cost – creating and maintaining a correct diet and sleeping plan was a shock to the system. Thankfully, the track is only 15 minutes away and my S & C sessions are carried out in my home gym or once a week at Elite MPH (@EliteMPH) on the other side of Southampton – meaning that commuting time is minimised and the recuperation time is maximised. The new program consists of 4 track sessions, 6 S & C sessions and 2 boxing sessions – used both for fitness – building endurance at high intensity – and for engaging and improving the central nervous system – decreasing reaction time and building explosive strength. I have also found that it gives me a vehicle to develop controlled aggression, a key quality for successful sprinting. One of my key struggles over the course of this journey has been discovering how to best adapt conventional lifting techniques to work in conjunction with my amputations. Rich Whitehead (@Marathonchamp) has been absolutely key in giving me training tips for exercises to develop lower body strength, and my brother has helped me turn these into reality.
Being able to add the deadlift into my workout, and by using a 2″ block to increase the working muscle range, I have been able to develop glute strength and stability under load. Hitting a new 160kg PB in January was a highlight and shows strength gains. The other key exercise I’ve found to be incredibly beneficial, especially for the kinetic chain of muscles I use for running, is the clean. I use two variations – hang clean and power clean. Obviously, due to my lack of knees I can’t perform every part of the clean, but my own interpretation of using a straight leg deadlift for initial bar acceleration gives me the explosive movement I need for maximum benefit throughout the range of movement of the lift. I’ve found the power clean particularly beneficial to my acceleration and the hang clean for my balance and core strength.
My sprint coach, Roger Keller (@RogerRoch), has been awesome in maximising the outcome of my winter training season, mixing endurance, acceleration and technique sessions to make the most of the time available. This month, as part of the Parallel Athletics Academy, we were fortunate enough to receive some extra coaching from Tabo Huntley (@Tabohuntley) which really helped me make sense of how to best use the blades and my remaining muscles when running. He gave me some excellent tips for improving my cadence as well as making sure I drive fully through the glutes on each stride to maximise power delivery.
The fourth week of January has been my recovery week and I was extremely grateful for its arrival. Running without the power of the quads and hamstrings acting at the knee joints puts extreme pressure on your lower back. As much as I try to minimise my back to these forces through correct form, my running style now is almost entirely based around the hip flexor / extensor muscle groups and it is incredibly difficult to isolate these movements from the lower back muscles. I find that at the end of each three week block of intense training my back muscles are severely fatigued. By building in the recovery week, which consists of around 7 training sessions of reduced intensity (3 sets instead of 5, etc) alongside proper stretching sessions I find that by the end of the 7 day recovery the muscles are back in business and good to go for the next period of high intensity training – let’s see what the next four weeks brings!