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 Eleanor Davis!
Eleanor combines her work as a Doctor with running internationally. She has just been selected to run for England at an international cross-country race in Spain in November, which will be followed by racing British Athletics Cross Challenge in Liverpool.
Eleanor is also experienced in the marathon, running a speedy 2:42 at the 2015 London Marathon, and her parkrun PB is 16:54!
Hi Eleanor! First up, what’s your home parkrun?
I grew up in Cornwall so my “home” parkrun is Trelissick in the beautiful National Trust grounds. It’s a great course, nice and challenging on rocky undulating paths through the woods, complete with a vertical hill slap bang in the middle for good measure.
I have recently moved to Chester and have yet to sample the parkrun here. I believe it runs behind the hospital which will be convenient as it is where I work as a Doctor!
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 have worked as a Doctor for 4 years now, mostly working in medical rotations on busy wards. I love my job and, even given the option, wouldn’t give it up.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing working full time and running competitively. In previous years I have suffered from recurrent injury and illness from striking a poor work/ life balance. I earnt the nickname “Dr Boot” for a period of time whilst I was on my A+E rotation, where I seemed to spend more time in an air cast boot than out! I even bought a trendy platform shoe in an attempt to even out my gait whilst rocking the boot!
In August I started a job at The Countess of Chester Hospital, fortunately the Deanary were extremely quick to support me in pursuing both passions and I now work a “less than full time” contract. This has been a fundamental positive change and I am now much healthier and happier for it.
They have also supported me when I have needed time off to compete internationally which I am so grateful for. I am also fortunate to have a very supportive (soon to be) wife, who has to put up with a lot of my obsessional/ ritualistic behavior that running tends to bring! We don’t travel anywhere without a tube of Weetabix.
Advice I would give to others trying to balance sport and work is to plan meals and nutrition ahead. We plan our meals at the beginning of the week and make sure the house is well stocked with nutritious snacks. Eating and sleeping well are two major ways I think I have managed to keep a decent immune health whilst so busy. We are fairly strict with bedtimes, I will happily go to bed at 8:30pm… we compromise at 9:00pm most nights!
The bottom line is that I absolutely LOVE running. Previous injuries that have sidelined me mean that I now never take running for granted so am never loathed to rise early or train late at night to get the work done.
What is your top tip to new parkrunners on how to improve their running?
I would say join a running club. It’s the perfect motivator, a great way to meet new people and push your limits (no matter what your limits are!).
Joining Newquay Road Runners several years ago was the turning point for my running journey, it opened doors to loads of new running experiences and expertise which has essentially propelled me forward to where I am now. I still hold a soft spot for my first club and am still filled with warmth and nostalgia whenever I go to visit.
From my experience, running clubs are inclusive of all abilities and super welcoming.
What would be your advice to parkrunners who are thinking about going beyond parkrun and training for 10ks and half marathons?
I have found that as mileage increasing I have needed to pay attention to the smaller details. Make sure you are getting enough rest and sleep, and eat a well-balanced diet. Help your body recover after big sessions by taking on protein ASAP whether that’s a protein shake or a glass of milk (this is probably just as effective and a bargain!).
Also try to incorporate strength and conditioning into your training plan at least once a week. Try to keep to running specific exercises to avoid unnecessary muscle bulk and soreness from the gym.
Finally, Try to stretch, use foam roller and sports massage if you can afford it.
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?
Keep going and be patient! Don’t make drastic changes or get ahead of yourself trying to chase faster times all the time. Rapid improvements in running run the risk of crashing down as fast as they rise. The key is consistency. If you keep pushing harder and faster all the time you run the risk of getting injured and will find yourself back at square one.
If you are getting frustrated getting the same time at your local parkrun, if possible, do a different, perhaps more challenging one (there are normally many other options nearby). It adds a new stimulus and you may find when you return to your old faithful it feels easier and the PBs come rolling back in.
All above being said… always make time for friends and family, listen carefully to your body and look after your physical and mental health, enjoy the running bug but don’t become consumed by it!
For those people who want an insight into the training of an elite athlete, what’s your favourite training session and why?
I love racing in competitive environments, I am hugely motivated, humbled and inspired by the amazing athletes around me so try to target races with this sort of depth.
I don’t particularly have a favourite session as I like different sessions depending on the day of the week and where I am! All my training and sessions are set by my coach, Helen Clitheroe.
I have recently joined Preston Harriers since my move “up north” and I would say the days that I manage to train with Helen and the group in Preston most enjoyable. Training as a group adds a distraction from the lactate struggle and adds an “in it together” element.
An example of a recent session, five sets of the following:
I like to race courses that are as flat and fast as possible as I’m a bit of a PB chaser, but it is still important to include hill reps in training. Hill training is great way to boost your VO2 MAX (aka your bodies maximal aerobic capacity and effectiveness of utilizing oxygen during exercise).
Prior to all sessions I do 2 miles easy warm-up, and I spend 10 minutes doing a drill routine to activate the nervous system and get muscles firing correctly.
You can follow Eleanor’s progress on Twitter
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