Sam Watts clocked 20.69 for 200m indoors recently and he spoke with AW about his time across the pond
Sam Watts credits moving to study and train at Texas Christian University (TCU) alongside world-class athletes and with access to exceptional medical and health care for such good season form and his speedy UK lead over 200m in Albuquerque.
Speaking of his decision to relocate Stateside, the Woodford Green with Essex Ladies athlete says: “I had missed out on my dream of the London 2012 Olympics. I thought if I go to TCU, get to train and race with some of the greatest athletes in the world and get unbelievable medical and health care and still don’t make it on to an Olympic team, then it just wasn’t meant to be and I had given it my best shot with all the fantastic resources we have here.”
However, while American universities often have high-quality training groups and excellent facilities, the 23-year-old explains that there is also a large emphasis placed on study. He said: “I am majoring in kinesiology, so I spend about 15-18 hours a week in class and also have about 10-20 hours of external studying to do a week. It’s very full-on, but I feel like moving to America has helped me find the balance between doing well in my academics and dedicating the time I need to training. I have classes from 9am to 12 noon and my training usually lasts from 3-6pm.”
Watts’ training programme incorporates a lot of running, often five or six sessions a week. Mondays are usually something like 5x300m in 37sec with 5min rest. Tuesdays are recovery of something like 10x100m relaxed and focusing on form. Wednesdays are 5x150m in 16sec with 250m walk rest. Thursday is speed endurance work such as 10x200m in 27sec off 2min rest. Friday is blocks and acceleration work, finishing with a 400m. Watts includes weights and box jumps on a Monday and Friday, which changes to Monday and Wednesday when racing. He also often runs on weekends.
When back home, he trains with Gladys Bird, who coached him through his teenage years. He says: “Gladys is like a second mother to me and she always used to tell me that three things are certain in life – taxes, death and Sammy running fast!”
Speaking of the difference between the training of American and British sprinters, Watts reveals: “Five or six running training sessions a week is generally what all college athletes do. Some days are just really relaxed running with good form. Due to the medical care we get, I feel we can keep ourselves in good shape, even though we run a lot.”
“It’s very full-on, but I feel like moving to America has helped me find the balance between doing well in my academics and dedicating the time I need to training”
At TCU, one hour before training, Watts goes to what is known as the athletics training room (similar to a physio room in England). He sits in the hot tub or foam rolls, gets stretched and has some work done on any other little problems he may have. After training, he comes back and aids his recovery with an ice bath, cryo chamber or massage.
He points out: “I have a great training group, including a professional, Charles Silmon (9.98 for 100m). We also have a lot of other 10.2-10.3 runners who have also run in the 20s for 200m and a split of 44 in 400m relays.
“My favourite training session is when we do flying 30m and flying 60m, because it gets really competitive and we have fun.”
Another part of Watts’ pre-training routine is music. He says: “Before training, my training partner and I come home from class, blast some music and have a little dance party. What we listen to depends on what we are feeling that day. Before I ran my 20.69 we were partying to Ignition remix by R Kelly, so maybe I’ll listen to that again!”
Three hours before training, Watts eats something like grilled chicken, rice and broccoli and after training he eats in the university restaurant. He jokes: “Unless it’s ‘winging’ Wednesdays’ when we get 10 wings for 5 bucks!”
Having represented Great Britain at the 2011 European Juniors in Tallinn where he placed fifth in the 100m, Watts reveals that his aim for 2015 is to think less. He says: “During training, if we’re running 300m, it’s usually ‘I can’t wait for this to be over.’ I try to stay focused on my technique, which we have changed this year and so far it seems to be working. We have focused on heel recovery, not over-striding during my races and staying really relaxed so I’m not tensing up.”
He also tries to adopt a relaxed mental approach to training, saying: “Me and my training partners are always motivating each other, but we all have fun and we try to take that into the meet. We are doing it in training and running fast, so it does not seem logical to go to the track meet and get all intense and serious. I am so happy with how everything has gone so far, but the key is now to keep focused. I have to keep healthy, keep consistent and improve.”
Monday: 3x300m with 5min rest (by November these get down to 37sec and stay around there). Weights: General lifts (clean, squat, bench) plus on different days we do exercises that focus on the smaller muscle groups, such as leg curl exercises for hamstrings or single leg Romanian dead lift.
Tuesday: 10x100m with 50m walk back recovery (recovery day).
Wednesday: 5x150m with 250m walk back recovery (these get down to around 16 seconds).
Thursday: 10x200m in 27sec with 2min rest.
Friday: Blocks and acceleration work (these can be 30m, 60m, flying 30m, 80m) and we always finish with a 400m effort. Weights.
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes