Arguably the country’s most prolific coach, the St Mary’s and AFD guru is one of the busiest people in athletics, as AW discovered

As any coach of elite athletes knows, the coaching role extends far beyond attending training sessions each day.

Nobody can criticise Aldershot, Farnham & District stalwart Mick Woods’ commitment to the sport, with the endurance coaching guru typically leading three training sessions a day either at St Mary’s University or the Aldershot club base and spending many more hours speaking to his athletes and planning training.

Such is his determination to leave no stone unturned, coaching is something of a 24/7 occupation for him. Truly passionate about what he does, Woods has no plans to slow down just yet. Recently he took us through what is a typical day.

The working day

I get up at about 6.45am and the first thing I do is look at my phone. I will have a selection of texts waiting for me, even at this time of the day, but unfortunately it is not down to popularity! Most have usually been sent the previous evening by athletes who are based elsewhere around the UK requesting training sessions for the day ahead.

I spend about 30 minutes responding to any queries and sending out sessions. I typically get more than 50 texts in a day, which has been made easier by the fact that I now have an iPhone. I used to have an old Nokia, which would always get jammed up. I like to think I am keeping up with the latest technology!

After a quick breakfast, I leave the house at 8.15am to embark on the 45-minute journey to St Mary’s University. I started at St Mary’s in 2003 when I was employed by UKA in a management and coaching role at the Endurance Performance Centre.

In 2009 I was unfortunately made redundant by UKA and my role changed to a part-time one, jointly funded by St Mary’s University and London Marathon. However, luckily in August last year I reverted back to working full-time, my position funded by the university and London Marathon.

“I like seeing athletes come through and improve and I coach athletes to race. As I get older, such a busy lifestyle is becoming more of a challenge, but I do not envisage retiring. Athletics is in my blood”

Traffic-permitting, I am in the office at 9am, where I respond to any urgent emails and speak to athletes who have queries about their training for the day. I have to make spur-of-the-moment decisions about whether athletes are fit to be training that day and advise accordingly.

At 10am, I meet athletes outside the athlete accommodation to start the warm-up. I borrow a bike from Josh Moss and ride down to Bushy Park. With often more than 20 athletes jogging two-by-two behind me, it can attract quite a few funny looks and noisy car horns as we go on our way.

Once at Bushy Park, I have a bit of time while the athletes do their strides. Often there will be one or two athletes who are coming back from injury, so I speak to them and make decisions as to whether they should be completing the full session.

A typical session on a Tuesday might be 3x5mins (2mins recovery between) and 5x3mins (90secs recovery between). The group is mixed ability, with guys such as Richard Goodman, John McDonnell, Adam Clarke, Rowan Axe and Daniel Woodgate leading it out. I try to ride along at the front and push these guys on, but every so often I will wait to ride alongside and encourage

the stream of athletes following in their wake. I am usually grateful for a bit of a breather! Athletes know that they cannot back off, as even if they cannot see me they know I will be watching and they hear my creaking gears and words of encouragement.

After each rep, athletes continue jogging and group up with those of similar ability to start the next rep. It is a fantastic environment for running and we see numerous other athletes such as Scott Overall and Andy Vernon coming the other way. After a debrief, the athletes warm down and jog back to St Mary’s. When we get back to the college, my old legs usually feel like they have done the workout with the athletes!

I get changed and go to eat my lunch in the canteen, where I catch up with athletes. I go back to the office and meet Craig Winrow, with whom I share the room, and do some admin work. We have recently moved office to make it more accessible, but this leads to an endless stream of people, which makes it difficult to get on with work. Perhaps we should lock the office door!

At 4pm, I run a second session, but this time on the track for athletes who had lectures in the morning. This is usually a smaller group of about 10 and we might do something like 3x1000m (200 jog between), 3x600m (200 jog) 3×400 (75s rest). I return to my office afterwards to read any emails and collect a few bits and pieces, before collecting Steph Twell and hitting the road at about 5.45 to go to the Aldershot club session.

While driving, I answer several phone calls on Bluetooth. We get there a bit late at 6.30pm due to the traffic, but my life is a constant rush. Due to the flooding, this winter we have unusually been training a lot on the track. This is a bit of a holiday for me, as it means I don’t have to spend 30 minutes measuring out loops and putting down cones for the athletes to run round!

The main session comprises of 1 mile (lap jog), 4x800m (200 jog), 6x400m (75secs rest). There is a good group of girls, with Steph, Lily Partridge, Emelia Gorecka and Beth Potter chasing the guys and running 4:56 (mile), 2:24s (800s) and 68s/69s (400s).

With a range of ages and abilities at the club, there is a need for a number of options to the core session, such as shorter 4km and 5km variations. I split the groups and decide which athletes are doing which session. I feel satisfied with what I have seen in the session and, after speaking to the athletes in the car park afterwards, I leave for home at about 9pm.

Home life

There is a saying “there is no rest for the wicked” and therefore I think I must have been very bad in a previous life! Even when I get home from training in an evening, I have to deal with a number of phone calls from athletes, many of whom are not based in the area. I cannot just relax and watch television.

My wife prepares my meal so it is on the table at 9.15pm and while we are eating we manage to catch up on everything else going on in our life, but that is the only time I get for this. Any coach at a good level will tell you that even when they are not coaching or the phone is not ringing, there are always things to think about and things to do.

What I like about what I do

For me, being paid to coach is something that I never thought would happen. However, I have maintained my involvement at grassroots level at Aldershot and that is very important to me.

I have been a member of the club since 1964 and it is a big part of my life. I like seeing athletes come through and improve and I coach athletes to race. As I get older, such a busy lifestyle is becoming more of a challenge, but I do not envisage retiring. Athletics is in my blood.

» This is a version of a two-page feature in the April 24 issue of AW which is available here or digitally here