How they train – Gemma Steel

The Charnwood athlete has gone from club runner to one of the best in the UK in around two years. John Nuttall, her coach since April this year, outlines her rise to prominence.

Posted on December 1, 2011 by
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Gemma Steel (Mark Shearman)

Gemma Steel’s background came through club running and rapid progress has seen her selected for GB teams in 2010 and 2011. However, she wanted more structure to her racing and training programme to be even more competitive.

During the first few months of coaching her, it was a case of learning how she coped with different training stimuli, having previously done the same types of sessions repeated over an extended period of time. That training lacked balance and progressions so this needed to change if she was going to continue to improve.

She started some specific track work and races in order to gather information on how well she adapted. The first race wasn’t good (9:29 for 3000m), but the second was much better (15:47 on her 5000m debut). This year was never going to be a full track season, so having already been a key player in the RunBritain series, that became the focus for the rest of the summer. The series went well and she ran some good races up to half-marathon distance without really putting in the work required to excel. All of these would provide useful information for the future and on where she may be heading in terms of her running career.

Once the track season finished, crosscountry became the focus and it was the first opportunity to train within a more structured regime at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough. Her annual training now comprises of four main phases with logical progressions into 2012 where she will target 5000m and 10,000m on the track.

Some cross-country and road races will act as preparatory exercises and general assessments as to how her fitness is progressing. Any success during the winter will be a bonus as the main priority will be to peak on the track.

Physiological testing and altitude training trips will act as “bolt-ons” in terms of identifying and developing strengths and weaknesses. Strength and conditioning sessions will promote physical robustness and, when coupled with drills, will improve running mechanics and economy.

The four training phases are structured to build endurance and gradually knit in more specific training components at the appropriate times. There is an optimaI balance between recovery, steady, tempo and track-specific training to ensure sustainability and peak performance. Volumes and intensities of training are athlete-specific.

Dr Barry Fudge at UKA continually assesses progress in all areas and provides projections as to how these parameters compare against the best in the world, as well as predictions of performance at any given distance.

Phase 1: Build-up phase

Targets: Safe/effective loading, aerobic development and integration of all key training components.

» Monday
(am) 6 miles + light drills.
(pm) 6 miles.

» Tuesday
(am) 5 miles.
(pm) Track: 10km volume session with short recovery such as: 6×5 minutes (1 minute recovery) or 25 laps fartlek.

» Wednesday
(am) 12 miles.
(pm) Weights – foundation phase, skill development/conditioning.

» Thursday
(am) Tempo running, such as: 20min, 20min tempo, 10min.
(pm) 5 miles.

» Friday
Rest/swim.

» Saturday
Long hills such as: 5x4min (shallow gradient) jog-back recovery 6mins.

» Sunday
15 miles. Core 5 x per week/stretching.

Phase 2: General preparation

Targets: Continue aerobic development, increase quality of track/hill training, loading in weights room and introduce light plyometrics.

» Monday
(am) 7 miles + drills (walking/foot contact).
(pm) 7 miles.

» Tuesday
(am) 5 miles.
(pm) Track 8-10km volume or hills alternating fortnightly, such as: 20x400m [45sec recovery] or 6x3min hills jog-back recovery – steeper gradient.

» Wednesday
(am) 12 miles.
(pm) Weights – Loading phase/ introduction to light plyometrics.

» Thursday
(am) *Tempo/build runs such as: (1 mile5 beats [3mins recovery] ) x 3 = 9 miles volume.
(pm) 5 miles.

» Friday
Rest/swim.

» Saturday
(am) Grass 10min, 5x3min, 5x1min [90sec/3min recovery].
(pm) 5 miles.

» Sunday
15 miles.

Core/stretching 5 x weekly. *Tempo run: if an athlete has a range of 165-170bpm as per lab test, then one mile would be done at 160. The next mile would be within this range (165-170) then the next in 175. This could equate to 5:30/5:15/ 5:00 for somebody like Steel.

Phase 3: Pre-competition

(including Font Romeu April, blood/treadmill monitoring pre/ post). Targets: Develop race-pace e ciency, short, steeper hill phase, introduce easy week cycle, increase reactivity drills with weights.

» Monday
(am) 7 miles + drills/strides.
(pm) 7 miles.

» Tuesday
(am) 5 miles.
(pm) Track: 8-10km volume such as: 10x1km (75 seconds recovery).

» Wednesday
(am) 12 miles.
(pm) Weights/drills/plyometrics.

» Thursday
(am) Tempo/hills such as: 20min tempo [5min recovery], 8x45sec hills steeper gradient.
(pm) 5 miles.

» Friday
Rest/swim.

» Saturday
(am) Grass/trail such as: 10min [5min recovery], 10x1min [1min]/[5 minutes]. (6 minute back-to-backs)*
(pm) 5 miles.

» Sunday
15 miles. *Back-to-backs: 15-second sprint, 15-second rest for 6mins.

Phase 4: Competition – non-racing week

Targets: Maximise speed endurance, practise tapering, maintain aerobic fitness. Peak!

» Monday
(am) 6 miles + drills (activation).
(pm) 6 miles.

» Tuesday
(am) 4 miles.
(pm) Track multi-pace 8-10km volume, such as: (4x1km [90sec]) [3min], (5x400m [90sec]) [3min], (2x1km [90sec]) [3min], 4x200m [90sec]

» Wednesday
(am) 10 miles.

» Thursday
(am) 7 miles build-up run.
(pm) 5 miles.

» Friday
Rest/swim.

» Saturday
(am) Track multi-pace 4-6km volume such as: (4x500m [1min]) [5min], (3x400m [2min]) [5mins], (2x300m) [3min] + sprints.
(pm) 5 miles.

» Sunday
12 miles. Core/stretching 5 x weekly.

Phase 4: Competition – racing week

» Monday
(am) 5 miles.
(pm) 5 miles.

» Tuesday
(am) 5 miles.
(pm) Track session 4-6km volume such as: 12x400m [1min] + sprints.

» Wednesday
(am) 10 miles.

» Thursday
(am) 5 miles.
(pm) 4 miles + drills/strides.

» Friday
Rest or jog/stretch.

» Saturday
Race (jog/stretch in morning if evening competition).

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