After ducking under 52 seconds for 400m for the first time in 2014, Emily Diamond is looking for further improvements

A former world and European junior 200m finalist, 23-year-old Emily Diamond has adapted her training programme in recent years to train for the one-lap event. After a year which saw her run 51.95 in Germany and claim two bronze medals as part of the 4x400m relay team at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, the Bristol & West athlete has officially become a 400m runner.

Nevertheless, the ambitious athlete intends to run some 200m races as speed training to improve her one-lap best. She says: “My strength in the 400m is my speed, due to my 200m background. I am aiming to improve my 200m PB (23.30), which should aid my 400m by enabling me to go through the first 200m of a 400m race in 24 seconds or quicker and fairly comfortable, while still being able to finish the race strongly.”

Diamond trained with Jared Deacon during her university years, a period that saw her win BUCS and England Athletics under-23 200m titles. However, having left Loughborough at the end of 2013, she felt a change was needed and so moved back to Bath to train with Dan Cossins, her coach before university. The group do their track workouts at the university and their weights sessions in a new weightlifting gym at Beechen Cliff School, to which they have exclusive access in the evenings.

“My strength in the 400m is my speed, due to my 200m background”

She explains: “We have a really good training group, including Danny Talbot, Andy Robertson, Sophie Papps and Elliot Rutter. Elliot is my main training partner as he is the only other 400m athlete in the group. It works quite well as, although he has a PB of 46.39 and is obviously a lot quicker than me, he gives me a few seconds headstart and tries to overtake me, whereas I have to try and stay ahead.”

As for her favourite and least favourite training sessions, Diamond still feels like a short sprinter at heart. She reveals: “My least favourite training session would be three sets of 350m/100m with 60 seconds rest between the two reps and 10 minutes between sets. I love doing 250m/150m with the same amount of recovery, though. As I have come from a 200m background, I tend to prefer the slightly shorter sessions. However, I enjoy the longer sessions, once I have finished and recovered as you really feel like you have accomplished something.”

Having missed out on individual selection for last year’s European Championships despite running the qualifying time the weekend before the deadline, as well as being taken out of the 4x400m team for the Commonwealth Games final, Diamond describes 2014 as an “up and down year”.

However, the determined athlete will have these thoughts in her mind right through her remaining winter training and adds: “It’s taught me how much it means to me to run for my country. Never again do I want to be sat watching the team compete in a final from the stands.”

Indeed, Diamond has high hopes for 2015. She explains: “My aims for this year are to be selected for both the 400m and 4x400m relay at the European Indoor Championships as well as the World Championships and bring my PB down to low-51 seconds.”

As well as the physical training, she has also focused on improving her mental strength in a quest to improve her times. She explains: “My main weakness is in my head. I’ve struggled mentally in the past with the 400m, but I feel I turned a corner after I ran my PB last year.”

“I’ve struggled mentally in the past with the 400m, but I feel I turned a corner after I ran my PB last year”

Choosing to adopt a holistic approach to her sport, Diamond also puts a lot of emphasis on her diet. She says: “Since I rejoined Dan’s training group, my diet has improved massively. As well as our training plan, Dan also gives us an outlined diet plan of what we should eat each day, depending on what training sessions we have and how much carbohydrate we require. I try and follow this as much as I can.”

However, keen to point out that this is not an unhealthy obsession, she adds: “I don’t go to the extreme of weighing out each ingredient in my meal. We get our body fat measured frequently to check we are not too lean or vice versa.”

Diamond also has a couple of jobs around her training programme and explains: “As I do not have the luxury of financial support from the UKA World Class Performance Plan, I work as Dan’s personal assistant for his business as well as recently joining Sports for Schools, where I visit primary schools to try and inspire the kids to take part in a sport.

“It works perfectly around training as I can do my PA work from home and I can pick and choose which dates I am available to visit the schools.”

WEEKLY TRAINING OUTLINE

Monday: Evening weights session. I do one Olympic lifting exercise in this session (power clean, hang clean or snatch) as well as various hamstring, abdominal and arm exercises. This is my shorter weights session of the week.

Tuesday: Lactic track session such as multiple 300m off a short recovery.

Wednesday: Aerobic session: longer running reps or a bike session. Reps will work down over the weeks from multiple six-minute runs to several two-minute runs, as I approach the competition period. As I get closer to the competition period, the length or number of reps I do decreases and/or my recovery time increases. This enables me to run each rep faster and improve my sharpness ready for racing.

Thursday: (am) Technical session. (pm) Speed endurance session, such as multiple 150m.

Friday: (pm) Weights session with the main exercise either being deadlifts or squats. Again I do several other exercises for my hamstrings, arms and abs.

Saturday: Rest.

Sunday: Short speed session – typically 60m-90m sprints or flying 30m timing gate runs.

» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes