Jenny Meadows is an Olympian, World and European medalist and the fourth fastest British woman over 800m. I wanted to know some inside secrets on how she made this happen…
I love watching Jenny running on the track. She always gives 150% effort. She’s such a gritty runner; she pushes hard in every race. Can us slightly less talented runners learn from Jenny’s training ethos, and how she has approached running, to improve our own performance? Hell, yes! (Don’t skip to paragraph 4 here, you need to do some work first…)
Learn to control the controllables
“I find a huge part of running is what goes on in the mind, both before and during a session. I try to ‘control the controllables’ by concentrating on what I can do to ensure I get what I need out of a training workout. We all feel tired occasionally, we all suffer anxiety leading up to training sessions or competitions, and lets face it…. we all compare ourselves to others! I try to remember that running is my own personal journey and that it is ‘my thing’. This helps me refocus and decide what mindset to chose, after all we run out of choice. I usually think about how I would feel if I didn’t complete the workout or chose not to compete, and this is usually enough stimulus to get my mind back on board and channel positive thoughts.”
Chill out runners – and learn to play with speed
“One of my favourite sessions is a fartlek session (which loosely translated means ‘play with speed’). This can take many forms and can easily be adapted to suit varying levels of runners. I would usually do this type of session for 20-30mins duration and include a few minutes at the start of an easy jog and warm up and again a few minutes at the end of jogging to cool down. A typical session for me may look something like: 5mins jog followed by 10 minutes of 20 seconds of faster effort with 40 seconds easy jog recovery between and then 5mins easy jog cool down. The session is 20mins duration but you are getting 10 x 20 seconds of good paced running in there and the heart rate is actually really high for the whole 10 minutes work section of the workout. Obviously the duration, pace and interval lengths can change dependent on experience, fitness level and objective of each runner. This is a good session to do if you aren’t feeling that motivated as by the end of it I usually feel fresher and more motivated than I did at the start.”
Carry on camping – at home
“I used an altitude tent extensively between the period of 2011 and 2012. I did find it very beneficial prior to going to altitude training as it allowed me to adapt prior to travel and I seemed to hit the ground running as it were once I arrived at the altitude training camp. I also found that when I returned from altitude training the benefits of training at high altitude lasted longer through continued use of the altitude tent. The negative side of altitude tents are firstly the noise of the generator – it does take quite some time getting used to, and also the loneliness of being ‘cooped’ up in there. It is recommended that you sleep in the tent and also spend additional time during the day getting up to 12-14 hours exposure per day in order to realise the best results. I found that this was unrealistic to achieve so was unsure whether I was committing the time to sleeping in the tent and not really benefitting from it as much as I hoped I would be. Since 2012 I haven’t used the tent and can report that I am sleeping much better! Sleep is obviously also a very important aspect of a runner’s life so perhaps one negated the other.”
The bit we’ve been waiting for – you CAN enjoy your treats (this includes cake)
“As far as nutrition goes I don’t deprive myself of anything. In the past this has just not worked for me and I end up actually craving treats and then giving in to them and eating more! Instead I try to eat sensibly and everything in moderation. If I am having a treat then I make sure it is a good one and one that I will really enjoy! There is nothing worse than having a treat that is just not satisfying.” Jenny, we truly love you. Forever.
OK, I don’t think most of us are going to invest in an altitude tent, but we can all try to control the voice in our head that doesn’t like it when we wander outside our comfort zones, we can all introduce a bit of speed into our sessions (there’s no point avoiding it any longer… do it this week) and when you’ve trained hard you can let yourself enjoy your cuppa plus cake. Jenny says so.