Jim, as I started doing interviews of walkers at all levels your name kept coming up as a coach. The odd aspect of this was that you're not on the same continent or hemisphere as the athletes I talked with. Can you give us a little background on yourself and how you came to be coaching so many walkers from so far away?
I am a qualified exercises physiologist and work as a personal trainer. As for coaching in the USA, it's the wonders of Facebook. I made many friends, discussed race walking and then they asked if I would coach them. Erin was the first one, Tammy was another. So now I have about seven over there.
How did you go from personal training into race walking?
It was actually the other way around. I've been a race walking coach for many years. I took up personal training many years ago as well. As for the USA, it basically went from conversations to coaching. I've been working with Erin for five years now.
Were you a race walker before?
I was in my junior days. I used to be pretty good. I had a bit of a break and then took it back up as a senior athlete, except I wasn't as fast. Then a few years later I drifted into coaching.
What kinds of times did you walk as a junior?
The best I ever did as a junior was 14:21 for a 3K. Back in those days we did shorter distances. For 1500 I was about a 6:48.
As a coach, what do you consider the most important aspects of training to build a successful competitive race walker?
I believe in three things: intensity, specificity to the distance you are training, and good recovery. Our training methods are a lot more intense than what's done in the USA. A couple of people have come over to our camps and been absolutely surprised at the intensity that we train at.
Why do think there is such a difference?
It's probably just the culture, we have sort of grown up since my walking days with all high quality. We do long walks at very good quality and obviously very sensible, and we make sure we recover well. We also place a heavy emphasis on core strength, because you have to have the ability to absorb the intense training. Otherwise you will get injured.
If you were training an B standard woman in the 20Km what would this be?
Erin, for example, walks a 20km training session in about 1:46 - 1:50. My girl Kelly Ruddick walks her km's at 5:10-5:15 and her 20k pace is 4:48 per km.
What do you call that kind of workout?
It's just an ordinary long walk to build basic endurance.
How many times a week would they do that?
Erin would do about 3 long walks a week. She does one at 15km, one at 15-20km and one just over 30km and these are done around the same pace, but a little slower as the distance is increased.
Do you recommend speed work?
We have a couple of high quality sessions a week. For example: 6 x 2km or 8 x 1600 at close to 20km race pace. On another day she might do a long fartlek or kickdown session in the morning that are very intense and then in the afternoon add 3 x 1km repeats.
So where's the recovery?
There are two optional days a week. One they can opt to take off or cross train. The other they have to cross train with a non impact exercise. Every fourth week there is an easier week where the kilometers are reduced quite a bit. I put a lot of cross training in second sessions as recovery as well.
Any advice for race day?
I just tell athletes on race day, think of the process not the outcome. If you focus on the process then the outcome looks after itself.
Do treat masters athletes different from elite athletes?
Yes, I do. They have quite a different number of kilometers. Erin gets up to 125-150km a week including cross training. Where as a masters athlete like Tammy she might be high 60s or 70s a week. She also doesn't do the second session a day. It's the same with Dave Talcott. He does more km's, but doesn't do the second session a day.
What's interesting with my walkers here, if we go back to Kelly, is she works full time, has four kids, cleans two houses, so we barely get more than 50km a week out of her. So for someone pushing 1:36 she is simply amazing.
Do you limit the miles due to age or due to life circumstance?
Probably in their cases it's more to do with life circumstance than age.