Anatomy of a track session
It is traditional at some athletic clubs to do a track session once a week. This photo-essay describes one such session that I coached at Barnet and District AC earlier this winter, at Allianz Park stadium, Hendon (formerly Copthall stadium). My thanks got to the athletes for agreeing to be photographed, and to my friend Dave Woodfall, whose photos they all are. [Click on any of the photos to view larger versions]
It was a mixed group of Senior athletes, whose events range from 800m, through 10k, to the marathon, taking in triathlon on the way. We started with warm-up and drills. Being Seniors they do their own drills, usually in a group, and here I am checking on any ongoing injury issues, or race results since I last saw the athletes. The session was a mid-winter one, consisting of 2 x 1200m, 2 x 800m, followed by 5 x 400m. A tough one, but one that many ‘enjoy’, partly I suspect because of the variety.After a briefing on how the session works we got going on the first long rep. There is usually nervous banter as the athletes line up, although some have already gone awfully quite in anticipation of the efforts to come.
As they come through after the first lap I call out the elapsed time on my stopwatch, whilst out of the corner of my eye trying to see who is going well on the night (and perhaps who is not). Alex is going well.
The Andies are also going well at this point, with the others chasing hard. A variety of styles, knee lifts, arm carriages and other indiosyncracies will be seen. Someone new to the group may get some style feedback, but most of these are too far gone to change!
[Memo to self: have a word with Danielle about that left arm!] Calling lap times, and probably churning out clichéd encouragement – which is unlikely to have any more depth and meaning than ‘well done’.
After each rep they may be some discussion of how it went. And apparently I often share previously heard anecdotes or give a piece of trivia to work out (got to keep minds active). Others may be off somewhere being sick.The next rep, and it looks as though Alex doesn’t trust coach as he is stopping his watch too. When the athletes are spread out I try to call the time, and then write it on my sheet (the back of on old race number) before the next athlete comes by.
After the 1200s and 800s there was a longish recovery, which allowed some story telling, jokes and what looks like a motivational speech from Alex here.
On to the 400s now, and the gaps are too small to record times, so I yell them and then have to scuttle round asking them to repeat theirs to me (‘I wasn’t listening’ or ‘I forget’ sometimes coming back at me).
Nick brings the group home. We don’t have team training kit – they all have their t-shirt bounty from last week’s Watford half marathon. In this (and previous picture) you can see Karen (l) and Joe (r) testing each other.
Feel the strain. After each rep the first thought is probably to get some air into the lungs, and then to add one to the number of reps done. Most work on the addition principle rather than subtraction (ie how many done, not how many left). Remember ‘adaption comes in the recovery’.
Nicky is a very dedicated trainer, who dashes off towards the end of the session most weeks to go and coach her hockey club colleagues. Loving the look of concentration on her face. She is in the zone.
Kat has joined the group to improve her running for her triathlons. These track sessions, together with the hill work I know she has done with Horwich RMI Harriers will surely reap benefits as her tri season unfolds.
Giving feedback to Alex (left) and to Karen (below) is an important part of the coach’s role. Then it is off on the warm down for them and home for me to email formal feedback to all (incl. their rep times).
It is just possible that Karen is anticipating the next session and asking what it will be. It is also possible that I won’t remember, and have to ask someone else if they have read my advance notice!
[Next post: The dark art of coaching]n