How they train – Ryan McLeod

Distance runner explains the hard work and altitude training that has led to his solid improvements

Posted on February 23, 2012 by
Tagged with + + +
Ryan McLeod (Mark Shearman)

Ryan McLeod has been on the international circuit for many years, gaining his first GB vest in 2003 when finishing 54th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne. However, after a few setbacks and a string of unsuccessful races, he teamed up with coach John Nuttall in 2007. This coaching relationship appears to be working favourably, especially after a successful 2011 winter campaign, which saw a breakthrough performance when finishing 13th at the European Cross Country Championships in Velenje, Slovenia.

His father, Mike McLeod, the “Elswick Express”, won silver over 10,000m at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the best Olympic performance by a British male athlete to date in that event.

Having such a high-profile parent can put a great deal of pressure on some young athletes, but not McLeod Jnr. “My mum and dad had always encouraged me to try all different sports when I was growing up,” he says. “They left me to find my own enjoyment in sport. It was only when I reached the age of 15 or 16 and I realised that I could be good at athletics that I became more motivated to succeed and try to be the best. My dad is happy if I am happy and running well. We rarely actually talk about my training.”

A promising start to his 2011 summer season saw him significantly improve his 5000m PB by 14 seconds (13:41.35) at the Mount Sac Relays in April followed by a 10km personal best (29:04) at the Bupa Great South Run and a strong 3000m run (7:56.81) beating the likes of James Walsh and Ricky Stevenson.

However, in his own words, he took “a bit of a gamble” halfway through the season and opted to train in Font Romeu for three weeks with Oregon Track Club, alongside the likes of Mo Farah and Chris Thompson. “Training in Font Romeu went really well, too well in fact,” he said. “I over-trained a bit, but I felt in such good shape that I got carried away.”

A disappointing few weeks followed his stint in the Pyrenees and his below-par training performances began to have an effect on his confidence. “Sessions started to go really badly, it felt so hard to recover between reps, and these were sessions which had previously gone so well,” he says. “I had no idea what was wrong. I thought it was just a bad patch, but I knew something was not right.”

A fourth place in the UK World Trials and a ‘DNF’ in the 5000m at Crystal Palace all contributed to an early end to a once promising season for the Loughborough-based 26-year-old.

He discovered his lack of form was due to low magnesium levels.

“I was extremely down about the whole thing, and hated myself for pulling out of the 5000m,” he says. “It took a while to get it diagnosed and also to get the required supplements, so I had about four weeks off in total.” However, once his magnesium levels were back to normal, the optimistic athlete got straight back to training and set his mind on the next goal, making the GB team for the European Cross. He succeeded after gaining an automatic qualifying spot when finishing third at the UK trials in Liverpool. He adds after helping Britain to silver medals in the team event: “I was really pleased with my run in Velenje and the way we performed as a team, but I am always looking back to see how I can improve and if I had committed earlier in that race, I may have placed even higher.”

McLeod is ready for the challenge of 2012 and he plans to make his debut at 10,000m and try for the Olympic 5000m qualifying time early in the summer.

“I would be silly to say I wasn’t aiming for the Olympics,” he says. “Everyone has breakthroughs, and you don’t know when they’ll be. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully it will come.”

He took on board his father’s training ethic from a young age. “He got his head down, worked hard and got results,” he says. “He let his performances do the talking. I like to follow this work ethic. I’m here for the feeling of winning and to see how far I can push myself, I don’t really know how far I can go, though.”

McLeod adds positively and refreshingly: “I won’t be giving up, that’s for sure. I have invested a lot of time in my life to running. It’s sad to see people leave the sport. That won’t be me.”

Training

Typical week in winter (approx. mile pace in brackets):

» Monday
(am) 45 minutes (7:30).
(pm) 60 minutes (6:30).

» Tuesday
(am) 35 minutes (7:30).
(pm) Track: 25 laps – 200m hard (31.5sec), 200m easy (44.5sec).

» Wednesday
(am) 75 minutes (7:00).
(pm) 30 minutes (8:00). Drills: Various hurdle drills over 10 hurdles, walk-overs: forwards, backwards and side-ways. Skip-overs: forwards, backwards and sideways. Two forwards and one backwards. 1kg medicine ball above the head, repeat all the drills. Conditioning weights: 40kg calf press, 15kg hamstring curls, 40kg traps pull-down, 5kg arm drives, 10kg core twist.

» Thursday
(am) 60 minutes (7:30).
(pm) 50 minutes (6:30).

» Friday
(am) 70 minutes (7:30).
(pm) Rest.

» Saturday
(am) 5 x 4min 50sec road hill.
(pm) 40 minutes (8:00).

» Sunday
(am) 1 hour 40 minutes (7:30).

Weekly mileage: Approximately 100 miles

Typical week in summer (approx. mile pace in brackets):

» Monday
(am) 40 minutes (7:30).
(pm) 60 minutes (6:30).

» Tuesday
(am) 35 minutes (7:30).
(pm) Track: 5 x 5 minutes with 2 minutes recovery (10km effort averaging 4:39 for one mile).

» Wednesday
(am) 70 minutes (7:00).
(pm) 25 minutes (8:00) plus drills (as in winter).

» Thursday
(am) 50 minutes (7:30).
(pm) 40 minutes (6:30) or optional tempo run at approximately 4:55-5:00 pace for up to 40 minutes.

» Friday
(am) 60 minutes (7:30).
(pm) Rest.

» Saturday
(am) Track: 2km (5:40), 2 x 1km (2:45), 5 x 400m (62), 5 x 200m (30).
(pm) 30 minutes.

» Sunday
(am) 90 minutes (7:30).

Weekly mileage: Approximately 85 miles

Leave a Reply