The Olympic 5000m finalist tells Katy Barden about his simple and traditional approach to training
Innovations in science and technology have influenced athletes hugely, but Olympic 5000m runner Andy Butchart’s approach to training is simple and traditional.
“For me, it’s about cumulative weeks of hard work rather than fancy sessions and drills,” he says. “I think the way to perform at an elite level is to find the training methods that work best for you and applying them.
“Then, if the training you’re doing isn’t working for you, it’s having the courage to change the training and to test something else.”
AW: What are the essential components of training at this time of year?
“I go into training with a positive mindset, it’s like I fake fitness,” he admits. “I’ll say to myself ‘I’ve done 10 weeks at 100 miles a week so I’m going to be fit’.
“I might not have done anything at race pace, but I’ve got a huge base. I focus less on race pace at this time of year than the summer.
“When it comes to the summer we’ll be on the clock and that’s all well and good, but you have to have a balance – especially in January – of effort rather than times.”
AW: Favourite session at this time of year?
“I love a ladder (pyramid) session. At this time of year it’s on the grass and it’s not about how fast I run, but how much effort I put in, which is why I like it.
“I also love a ladder session on the road. I can really motor and can run really quickly, surprisingly fast to be honest, and I can go home after that session and know I’m in good shape.”
AW: Least favourite?
“Sometimes a Sunday run can drag. If I’m on my own it can definitely be the most tedious.”
Having the courage to make a change
A lot has changed in the past 12 months for Butchart; he thought his immediate future lay in America after moving to San Diego to work under coach Terrence Mahon.
With the relationship not proving to be a fruitful one, however, he then relocated back to the UK with his girlfriend – now fiancée – Lynsey Sharp and both athletes are now settled in Loughborough.
Taking his own advice, the man from Dunblane had the courage to make a change when things weren’t working out.
By Butchart’s own admission, last year was a big year. This year is a bigger one.
A TYPICAL JANUARY TRAINING WEEK
Butchart, who trains mainly alone but is currently to be found at a training camp in Kenya with the likes of Mo Farah, will average around 105 miles per week at this time of year, with the emphasis on building a big training base going into the summer.
MONDAY: am – 10 miles; pm – 5 miles (“a very relaxing day”)
TUESDAY: am – session day. “I always like to do fartlek sessions on the grass. For example, 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 minutes (off 60sec recovery) followed by gym; pm – 5 miles
WEDNESDAY: Medium to long run, 12 miles approx, plus physio
THURSDAY: am – 10 miles; pm – 5 miles
FRIDAY: Session e.g. 4 miles tempo then 8-10 x 200m
SATURDAY: am – 10 miles; pm – 5 miles
SUNDAY: Long run, about 16 miles
“I find that I get a lot of my form from hill work,” says Butchart. “Once or twice a month I’ll exchange the Tuesday session for hills, but I sometimes just add hills in, like on a Thursday, I might just finish the run with 8×30-second hills. I wouldn’t call it a session, it’s just striding out, holding form.”
Butchart also does core most nights from home (“it’s literally just stuff off YouTube,” he says; “it’s not rocket science”).