Taking stock of your winter season and planning ahead is crucial at this time of year, says Matt Long

Your winter training is well under way, but is there anything you can do to upgrade it? Speaking at an education seminar staged by the British Milers’ Club, leading coaches Norman Poole, Andrew Henderson and Bill Parker gave the following practical tips to get the most out of the season ahead.

Recovery

The notion of ‘periodisation’ implies that you simply can’t train and compete all year round. “I believe it is really important to make sure that you have a good enough break after the summer season leading into your winter training,” says Henderson, who has supported coach Steve Cram as part of Laura Weightman’s team.

“It’s very important to recover mentally as well because, the fresher you are mentally, the better it will set you up for a hard winter’s training.” So don’t be afraid to take that short break when you need it.

Avoid injury

Logic dictates you cannot train if you are injured. “Before every session, check all the main muscle groups to ensure they can function properly,” says Parker, who guided the career of World Championships and Commonwealth Games representative Vikki McPherson.

“It’s easy to do, only takes a few minutes and may save you a world of pain and frustration. Doing a bit of ritual stretching is not enough. Isolated quad, hamstring and calf stretches often do not work and may actually cause problems.”

Lifestyle choices

You can’t be fit if you are not healthy. Poole, who helped guide Michael Rimmer (pictured) to European 800m silver in 2010, advises that staying healthy is dependent on appropriate diet and integration of cross-training into the training cycle.

“Day-to-day life, especially sedentary work and studying can play havoc with posture and the ability of the body to perform safely,” says Parker.

Progressive overload

You need to overload your system in order to improve, but unless this is progressive, you risk breaking down. “It is all about making sure that you gradually progress with your winter training,” Poole says. “The big picture is to know your limits.”

Working out the balance between hard days and easy days is crucial, he adds. On a 28-day training cycle, he suggests the ratio can be as variable as 10-21 days of hard work depending on the biological and training age of your athletes.

Goal-setting

Having aims and objectives is an inherent part of long-term athlete development and Poole stresses that all athletes should reflect upon their aims for the 2016-17 winter season and think about how these goals will positively impact the 2017 track campaign. Always plan ahead.

Competition

One way of benchmarking your winter progress is through periodic competition. Poole advises that athletes reflect on how regularly your winter progress needs to be checked by use of competition over either cross country or the indoor boards.

» Matt Long is editor of BMC News and organised the seminar with the support of the British Milers’ Club coaching subcommittee