From "the weakest" to double Olympic Champion
When Alberto Salazar became Mo’s coach in 2011 he famously stated “He was the weakest athlete I’d ever trained — in terms of core strength and being able to do push-ups, sit-ups and single-leg squats. He was a 90lb weakling”.
Alberto Salazar took one of the UK’s most talented athletes and turned him into a superstar. Success has divided opinion about Mo, which is a real shame because he is a lovely guy and a phenomenal distance athlete. Say what you will, a runner with his Championship record is up there with the very best ever, and I don’t say that lightly.
One of the biggest changes Salazar made was turning Mo into an all round athlete. “At the end of races, he would tire and his head would bob around and his arms would flail.” said Salazar. Mo needed to get stronger. “The number one thing that has helped Mo is not the 110-miles a week he puts in on the road, but the seven hours a fortnight he does in the gym.”
You don’t have to be at Mo’s level to take advantage of this sort of training. In fact I would argue that you’re going to see even more benefit as a lesser trained athlete. Mo had years of getting strong via running, but that isn’t enough. Many of us will really benefit from taking time just to get fit for running.
All of Farah and Galen Rupp's (his training partner, and Olympic 2012 10,000m silver medalist) training is geared around them being runners. Rupp, Farah and the rest of the Oregon Project runners do lunges on unbalanced barbells to strengthen their hips and more traditional lifts are done on one leg. They aren't just doing press-ups and sit-ups.
Running is a one legged sport, and so first off being able to stand and balance on one leg is important. Once you’ve done this, then you can start to add in some dynamic movements, such as “The Runner Touch” — strike a pose in perfect running position with one leg in high knee position. Balancing on one leg, bend at the hip and touch the toe that's on the ground with the opposite hand while the leg in the air rotates under and behind you. Make sure that the standing leg remains stable and as straight as possible while enabling you to touch the ground. Be sure to prevent the moving rear knee from crossing the midline of your body while straightening it out behind you. Come back up to running position quickly without losing balance, pause for a second or two, and repeat. Switch legs and repeat. Here's an excellent Youtube video showing the exercise.
We can call benefit from regular strength and conditioning within our training. If Olympic athletes are doing it, then why don’t you? To get better at running you don’t just need to run lots of miles. Why not try to run quality miles and supplement your training with other activities?
What Mo had was a training programme built around him that evolved as he did. The strength and conditioning exercises he was doing at the start of his training with the Oregon Project are very different to the ones he does now. Much like your running training needs to evolve, so do your conditioning workouts.
We would recommend trying to get 2-3 small sessions in each week, perhaps lasting 20-30 minutes. The aim isn’t for you to finish them in a mess on the floor, unable to walk. The aim is to of worked to a sensible but challenging level that will help improve your running.
Do each exercise with the correct form and at a difficulty level that’s appropriate to your strength, balance and co-ordination. If you take too much on and exercise moves with poor form, you’re going to work the wrong muscle groups and possibly injure yourself.
If you have a question about strength and conditioning or would like to know more about how one of our training / coaching plans can help improve your running, please email or call Rich or Ben on 0208 123 8605.