One of the world’s most promising blade runners, Felix Streng took time out to speak to Emma Cluley about his training
After breaking on to the international scene in 2013, Felix Streng has wasted no time in making his mark on the track.
With one year left as an under-20, the German sprinter became a double world champion last season and finished just 0.14 seconds shy of the T44 200m world record.
Streng, who was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and juggles his training with an academic schedule, had his talent spotted after requesting to undertake some research on disability sport at his local athletics club: “I came across my club’s webpage and emailed them to say I needed information as I was writing something for school. I trained with them over three days when they then asked if I would like to join the sports school there.”
It took little time for the 18-year-old to become involved in a sport he previously knew little about. “I went back home that night and told my parents that I needed to make a decision,” he explains. “Two days later I arrived at school and a year and a half on, I’m still here.”
Under the watchful guidance of coach Helena Hermens, Streng begins his week with a general fitness session during the school day involving sit-ups, planking and paddling. He is required to carefully focus on his core muscles to ensure his hips remain high when sprinting. “It helps with my stabilisation when I’m running. I did a lot of gymnastics and badminton before I moved to athletics and did similar training there. I follow what my trainer tells me – she makes the plan and I trust it” he adds.
Following a warm-up and stretching, he will join his small group of young blade runners for coordination drills of ladders, plyometrics and acceleration runs – something he repeats a further three times over the course of a week.
The session progresses with start practice and coordination-focused step runs, taking two steps at a time for two repetitions. These are repeated five times with each set broken up by a two minute rest period.
With sprint races often separated by milliseconds, leading from the gun can be the difference between first and last place. He uses Tuesdays to focus on the same aspect of his fitness, performing a series of sled pulls.
An often-asked question centres around what difficulties having a carbon-fibre blade brings to training in comparison to an able- bodied counterpart, but Streng insists there are few. He says: “I don’t really think a lot about having an impairment and often don’t really feel like I’m disabled. It’s sometimes things like having to do stuff on one foot because I have no heel on my blade – that makes it trickier. I have no muscle down there at the bottom so it’s hard to make the smaller movements. Generally, I don’t think there is a lot of difference between us.”
“When I come over to the UK, its great how British Athletics gets such crowds into the meets and I’m impressed with the standard”
Despite being born without his right foot and part of his lower shin, he follows a plan not dissimilar to an able-bodied sprinter. One notable piece of Streng’s training puzzle is a relay session halfway through the week – a vital part of his routine.
He explains: “I’m running in the 4x200m with non-disabled athletes as we qualified for the German National Championships. We wanted to make sure we had a good run and training for it together helps to get to know each other better. It’s good that we can make a team and compete together as para and able-bodied athletes. This is something which I hope to see more of in the future and integration is vital in spreading the disability movement.”
Streng completes his only weekly weights session in the gym on Wednesday afternoon which comprises a series of squats, lunges, hamstring and quadriceps curls. He adapts the exercises to suit his individual needs.
The Bayer Leverkusen AC athlete explains: “I have to make changes when I’m squatting – I prefer to squat on the front as on the back I tend to topple backwards due to my balance difficulties. I have no stabilisation in my right ankle and so I learnt to lean forward in a way instead.”
The bulk of the third mid-week session is very much jump-focussed with it being devised to enhance explosive capacity and it sees Streng perform various single and double-leg bounds over 20m, along with a sequence of box jumps.
Thursday acts as a day where he can relax following his in-school general fitness session.
The hard work doesn’t cease and Friday afternoon introduces small hurdles into his varied programme. Performing 60m rhythm runs helps to regulate strides – a more difficult task when having a singular blade – ensuring that he works both legs equally to ensure strength is balanced.
His week finishes on a Saturday morning with a longer sprint session completing a series of 120m, 150m and 200m runs which he finds the most challenging and these precede further core stability work. Fortunately Streng is able to recover on Sundays, the only complete rest day of the week.
With a hard winter training spell now almost completed, the 22.22-second 200m athlete now has his sights set on Swansea later this year where the IPC European championships will take place in August, although he isn’t counting his chickens just yet.
He says: “Over the 100m I think there is going to be a strong field with Jonnie Peacock running and over both the 200m and 400m there is David Behre from Germany. So I just want to run well and build on last season. I’m not looking to win, but I want to have a good race there.”
It won’t be the first time the relative newcomer to para-athletics will go head to head with his rivals on the track. He got a taste for competing with such names last season when he lined up at the Sainsbury’s IPC Grand Prix final in Birmingham before returning to the UK soon after for the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games finishing sixth in both.
He says: “It was really impressive – amazing actually. When I come over to the UK, its great how British Athletics gets such crowds into the meets and I’m impressed with the standard.”
Streng’s main focus is the Rio Paralympics in 2016. However, with his admittance that there are a number of emerging blade runners coming through the ranks in Germany, he remains tight-lipped about his medal prospects. “The T43 and T44 are to be combined in Rio which makes it more difficult, especially over the longer distances because we have to combine having a normal functioning leg with a blade, whereas they have two blades, so it makes it trickier,” he says.
“Having said that, I think the Brazilian, Alan Oliveira the reigning champion, can be beaten.”
TYPICAL TRAINING WEEK
Monday: (am) General athletics training: body stabilisation. Sit-ups, plank, paddling (pm) Warm-up, stretching, coordination (ladders, plyometrics), accelerations. Starts: block or standing. Steps coordination: running up steps and two steps at a time 5×2 reps (2min rest between each set). Medicine ball work: 2x10x10 throws
Tuesday: (pm) Warm-up, stretching, coordination (ladders, plyometrics), accelerations. Sprinting: flying 30m. Sled pulling (2x30m, 2x60m). Specialist stability training: straps in the ceiling, core stability, wobble boards
Wednesday: (pm) Warm-up, stretching, hurdles coordination. Gym weights: squats 40kg 10×2, lunges 10×2, quad, hamstring curls 10×2. Small jumps, ankle jumps 2x20m, reactive jumps on box jumps, one leg jumps 2x20m. Accelerations. Relay training: 4x200m (changes only)
Thursday: (am) General athletics training: body stabilisation. Sit-ups, plank, paddling
Friday: (pm) Warm-up, stretching, coordination (ladders, plyometrics), accelerations, rhythm runs with small hurdles 60m 2×2. Starts 6x30m
Saturday: (am) Warm-up, stretching, coordination (ladders, plyometrics), accelerations. Long sprints: 2x120mx2 (6min rest), 2x150m (7min 30sec rest) 1x200m. Core stability
Sunday: Rest day
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes