Thursday, 11 August 2016

Are You Stopping Your Child Reaching Their Full Athletic Potential?

Less jogging, more speed

Firstly, I'm not saying it's not important for children to be aerobically fit. Far from it. Unless they're specifically training to be an endurance athlete, and require a specifically high maximum volume of oxygen (VO2 max), endurance-type training can be done when they're older - even marathon runners need to be able to sprint. Having a high VO2 max does not need to be taught, it can be trained. It has no upper ceiling whether you start training during childhood or as an adult. In fact, because the cardiovascular and respiratory systems have not fully developed until adulthood, you’re probably wasting your time training VO2 in children.

Speed is king….

Of all the physical attributes that help athletic performance, the one that is coveted above all others is speed - speed is king! The first across the finish line on the track, beating the outside man in American football, the first to a through ball in football; to do all this you must be faster than your opponent.

Why is it important?

It is argued that speed is nature not nurture, and there is a large genetic component to an athlete’s peak performance potential, but without the right nurturing at the right times, that athlete will likely never reach that full potential.

Speed needs to be coached, it cannot be trained....

Speed is a catch all term which includes:

  • ·         first step quickness
  • ·         acceleration
  • ·         maximal speed
  • ·         game speed

Each component requires high levels of coordination and are complex skills in their own right. Like other fundamental movement skills, the above need to be coached and developed progressively throughout childhood. During this time a child’s central nervous system is developing rapidly, allowing them to learn these skills more effectively, proficiently, and to a higher level than they're capable of as a fully mature adult.

What to do….

Do you coach a junior sports team and prescribe jogging or long runs for ‘fitness’?


Instead, create small-sided games that challenge their sport specific fitness. Keep the games short to keep them interested, but make it hard work and give them a good rest between each game. Coach top speed running, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction footwork, lateral and linear running, the basics of strength training, and plyometrics. This is hard work in itself; they won’t need extra ‘fitness’ work.


coach speed when they 're most likely to benefit from it, and train aerobic fitness once they're adults and are already fast.

Pub Quiz Trivia: Mo Farah runs the last 400m of his 5000m races at under 51 seconds.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Do you 'exercise', or do you 'train'?

When we think of exercise and training we think of them as one and the same, and on the surface, they are. If we get a little bit more specific though, we can use these words to describe why we go to the gym and what drives our workouts.

What do I mean by this?

Last year 1 in 8 of the UK population signed up to a gym membership. Every week, either before work, during the lunch breaks or after work these people go to the gym, either to exercise or to train.

When I describe someone that goes to the gym I place them into two categories, those who go to exercise, and those who go to train. If they go 3-5 times a week, look to get their heart rate up, push around a few weights, catch up with friends, and de-stress, these people are exercising. When I think of someone who is training when they go to the gym, I am describing someone who is using the gym as one of many tools, to help them reach a specific goal.

As a strength and conditioning coach and a personal trainer I work with a variety of people who all come for various reasons, I work with international athletes, ‘weekend warriors’, and the general public, each with their own specific needs/goals. The athlete comes to me to help them reach the top of their sport and/or to keep them there whilst making sure they are robust enough and free from injury so they can handle all the competitions they have to compete in that season. Weekend warriors come to me because they want to be fitter, faster, and stronger and/or they want to go through a whole season without getting injured. The general public come to me for a variety of reasons; wanting to look good, feel good, lose weight, get fitter and/or reduce pains and aches they feel every morning when they wake up. They all follow a training programme that works on their specific goals and through constant assessment and progression their training evolves to help them reach these targets. They are all training with an ‘end point’ in mind. Whether that’s becoming world champion, playing a whole season of rugby without injury, losing weight, or getting rid of aches and pains that plague their everyday life is irrelevant.  Their time in the gym is to help them reach that goal and can be measured by whether they succeed. They’re whole attitude towards training, recovery, diet and lifestyle is working towards their goals. These people are training.

So…. Do YOU exercise, or do you train??

It doesn’t really matter, unless you are not reaching your goals. If your goal is to be the best you can be at a sport or recover from an injury, maybe just exercising isn’t enough, maybe you need to train, make sure your work out matches your goals.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Stop Treating Your Gym Training Like Home Improvements.... Quit DIY And Ask For Help

If you find that you don't have the time or even the knowledge to get what you want to get done, ask someone for help - an expert - someone you trust, its what they're there for.

Ive been working as a strength and conditioning coach since 2012 and since then I have continually learnt more and more. I have many people who I look up to as experts in my field; these include my university lecturer, Ian Jeffreys, my first boss, Nick Ward, my current boss, Spencer Brown, as well as some top American strength coaches, Mike Boyle, Dan John, and Eric Cressey, and FMS (functional movement screen) co-creator Gray Cooke. Each of these has provided me with great insight into how to train an athlete, each with their own philosophies. Thanks to all of these mentors, I am a better coach. Having this wealth of resources has been fantastic to me as a coach. However, as an athlete myself, and some who's looking to keep on training, it hasn't been fantastic at all.

Needless to say I have allowed my own training to fall to the wayside...

Running a business and making sure I can pay my bills each month has made it very hard to focus on me. This as well as having so much information available to me to create the perfect training programme for my needs, has meant I have literally got nowhere. I write myself the perfect programme to follow and within a week, Ive changed it beyond recognition and/or Ive overloaded it with too much for me to do, Im cramming in too much (yes even though I know better, Im guilty of trying to do too much in one training session).

Sometimes when we have so many responsibilities in life to deal with, work, paying bills, looking after children etc... other areas of our life that are, maybe, lower down on our list of importance, fall to the way side. These things include, but are not limited to, our nutritional needs and how we train and whether either of these factors is helping towards your long term health and fitness goals/needs.

Something that has taken me a long time to realise, or admit to myself is...

Something that has taken me a long time to realise, or admit to myself is, I shouldnt be afraid to ask for help. I believed I had to do it all myself, after all I am an expert in this stuff. The truth is I need someone to take on the responsibility of managing my training for me, someone to plan and outline how my training will pan out over the coming months. Doing this has already freed up so much mental energy for me, all I do now is make sure I have an hour free each day and follow the programme, and if anyone asks why Im doing something, I just say because coach said so. This is extremely liberating. Now I have delegated responsibility for my training to a trusted expert my stress levels have dropped and I know I will get where I need to get to.

If you find that you just don't have the time or even the knowledge to get what you want to get done, ask someone for help - an expert - someone you's what they're there for. You immediately feel a weight lifted off your shoulders, and maybe, you'll finally reach your goals.

All The Best, Paul