Amongst the parkrun family there are numerous international athletes, Olympians and experienced coaches.
Each week we invite one of them to share their top tips and advice on training and improving your running, whether you’re looking to complete the course without stopping, break 45 minutes, go sub-20 for the first time, or just bag that new PB.
This week it’s the turn of Liz Yelling!
Liz is a two-time Olympian having represented Team GB in the marathon at both the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Some of the highlight’s of Liz’s glittering career include her astonishing marathon PB of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 33 seconds, and winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.
Liz now concentrates on coaching a number of athletes as she looks to pass on her wealth of knowledge and experience to other runners.
Hi Liz! First up, what’s your home parkrun?
I’ve run at 16 different parkrun venues so far, but my home parkrun is Poole, where my PB is 16:29. Having got my red 50 t-shirt, I’m working my way up to the 100 club!
It can be hard to fit in running and training around a work, family and social life – what’s your best tip for finding a work-life balance?
I would not say I ‘train’ per se anymore, but running is an important part of my life and my weekly routine. A good way I find is to run on the school drop-off with the kids on their bikes. I then continue after I have dropped them off to make my run up to around 6 miles.
What is your top tip to new parkrunners on how to improve their running?
The key to improving your running is really to maintain your running frequency, week after week month after month, no matter how often you run. Consistency at any level is the first key to better running and fitness.
What would be your advice to parkrunners who are thinking about going beyond parkrun and training for 10ks and half marathons?
If you plan to train for a distance longer than parkrun, then your first goal should be to increase your longest run. So, if you want to aim for a 10k, then build up your runs over a few months so you can run 7 miles.
More experienced runners who maybe already run further than 7 miles in training would need to think about 10k or half marathon specific speed sessions, such as 6 x 1k at parkrun pace, with 2 minutes of jogging in between to recover.
Many parkrunners find that after weeks and months of PBs and improvements, their running can start plateau. What would you suggest to mix things up?
Review your training and look when you last rested properly. If this has not been for over six months, then your plateau may well be as a result of training fatigue and a rest phase may be needed.
Or, if you plan rest into your yearly training cycle then I would suggest you change one thing in your weekly runs, whether that is to include an interval session, do some hills, or some tempo runs – just do one thing different to add more variety and get out of your comfort zone.
And finally, for those people who want an insight into the training of an elite athlete, what’s your favourite training session and why?
My favourite session has always been hill training. I know that for most people this is a dreaded part of their training week! But for me, I think this is because it is hard whether you are able to push yourself or not, and I love the feeling of the suffering as I struggle to the top. When I was competing at international level I was able to really work a big hill session.
Hills are great for improving speed and strength and can be great for beginners too. Warm up with a very easy jog or walk for 10-15 minutes until you find yourself at the bottom of your hill of choice. This can be on road, or trail, and of any gradient of length you feel ready to tackle. At my peak my hills sessions used to be 12 x 2 minutes running hard uphill, and then jog down to recover in between. I used to love finding a really hard steep hill to run up!
However as a beginner you may choose a slight incline and run up and down your hill between 4-6 times with a walk down recovery. This hill may take you anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute. The recovery can be as slow or as fast as you like, the goal is to have your breathing under control before you start the next hill.
I prefer to work to effort in my sessions, rather than trying to run at a specific pace – that way I am working to how my body is feeling. When I coach my athletes, I feel this allows each person to work to their own level, and it does not over complicate a simple sport.
Hills sessions can be done once a week to once a month depending on your run frequency, and the aim would be to progress the times you are able to run up the hill and maybe extend the length of the hill or vary the gradient of the hill.
Once you have completed the hill session you may feel like you have jelly legs so a good cool down will help prevent too much soreness the following day, so either walk/or jog for a further 10-15 minutes.
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