We asked our AW panellists to offer their best advice when it comes to training

Colin Jackson: former 110m hurdles world champion and world record-holder

“Remember not to rush anything, improvement takes time. Work hard and have fun – training should never be a chore!”

Holly Bradshaw: European bronze medallist

“Always listen to your body! Backing off for one session doesn’t mean you’re slacking off or losing anything. If I had listened to my body more as a young athlete I wouldn’t have had as many injuries and missed out on some amazing major championships.”

Holly Bradshaw. Photo by Mark Shearman

Brendan Foster: 10,000m Olympic bronze medallist and Commonwealth champion (pictured, top)

“The first lesson I learned – and the simplest lesson of all – was from my coach Stan Long. When I was around 15, he used to get us in groups of five or 10 people and tell us to just run together in our group and to chat, talk, laugh and take the mickey out of each other.

“We weren’t to run hard and we never measured any distance or timed any of the runs. Stan’s idea was that we should run three or four times during the week and race on a Saturday. He would say: ‘Enjoy your runs during the week and as you get stronger you’ll run better when you race.’

“There was no structure around it – no stopwatches or pulse rate monitors or anything like that – his whole idea was to get a nice group of lads of similar ability to run together, enjoy it and learn to enjoy running.

“Out of that group, some of the lads are still running and some went on to run for Great Britain, while I did a few things as well.

“Stan wasn’t coaching us to go faster, he was coaching us to enjoy going out for a run and to fall in love with running.”

Steph Twell: former 1500m world junior champion, Commonwealth and European medallist

“Remember it’s not how you start, but how you finish each session that counts. Pacing yourself to be consistent in all repetitions and not just the ones at the start is the key. Ideally, you should try to stay strong and get further or faster – even towards the end of a session.

“Understand that the time or position you finish your rep doesn’t mean everything related to your shape or fitness. Repeatedly putting in the same effort will become easier on race day. Build patterns of success, not just one great rep or session.

“Sometimes try reps or sessions you are afraid of. Break them down and make them sizeable chunks to follow your progress.

“Remember to monitor and reflect on those gains and progressions. Looking back will help you know how to move forwards and remind you of what has gone well.”

Tim Hutchings: Commonwealth, European and world cross medallist

“My overriding piece of advice is a philosophy my coach Frank Horwill trumpeted.

“It is to regard the mind as a muscle, to keep exercising it with incremental increases in ‘work’, just as you would any other muscle that’s needed for running.

“Hand in hand with that goes the acceptance that your ‘mind muscle’ needs rest too, that it must be worked and rested in the right rhythm, and that it can get ‘injured’ in the same way that any other muscle can.

“Once that is understood, it enables you to confront each session as a challenge that has to be overcome.”

Tim Hutchings. Photo by Mark Shearman

Hannah Cockroft: five-time Paralympic champion

“Don’t be afraid of change. For so long, I trained in the mindset that it’s not broken, so don’t fix it and I didn’t change anything for years.

“But this then meant that I didn’t grow with the sport and I didn’t really progress with it, to the point that I didn’t win anymore. So don’t be afraid to try new things – you will know if it’s right for you or not.

“Don’t just follow the crowd – do the research, try it and learn from it. It’s the best way to grow as an athlete. For me, this has meant moving to a new club, a new strength and conditioning coach, learning to use new gloves and new equipment and trusting my training to try new tactics. Only you can decide what works best for you, so be brave and give things a go. The old way will always be waiting for you if you decide to change back.”

Dave Moorcroft: former 5000m world record-holder and Commonwealth champion

“Being an athlete is a wonderful life adventure, so embrace all the ups and downs as part of this amazing experience. We do this to make us happy so enjoy every treasured moment.”

Hannah England: 1500m world silver medallist

“The best piece of training advice I received was from Kelly Holmes on my birthday in March 2012. I was getting very carried away, talking about racing goals and schedules for the outdoor season to strive for Olympic success and she reminded me very clearly the importance of concentrating on maximising training every day.

“She said: ‘All that is important right now is that you do the very best session you can tonight, and that you wake up tomorrow not injured and not ill so that you can do tomorrow’s training.’

“I think the lure and excitement of ambitious goals can distract you from the real importance of delivering good training day in, day out. It’s that consistency that will produce results, not coming up with the perfect plan months ahead of time! I also found this mindset calming. Focussing on the short-term milestones was a lot less stressful than constantly trying to perfect something which was too far off to predict.”

Lead photo by Mark Shearman

» This feature was first published in the January edition of AW magazine, which is available to order online in print here and read digitally here

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