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The ‘Athletepreneur’ – An Interview with Nick Symmonds

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Our friends at Runner’s Tribe caught up with 2 X Olympian, 2013 World Champs 800m Silver Medalist, Run Gum CEO and successful ‘Athletepreneur’, Nick Symmonds for an in depth chat on retiring from track and the epic journey’s which now lay ahead for this multi-talented individual as he takes on the Honolulu Marathon.

On December the 10th you’re going to run your final race at the Honolulu Marathon. Why this race as your last? Do really think this will be your final race?

When I hung up my spikes last month at the 2017 US Outdoor Championships, I didn’t want that to be the end of my running career. It certainly was the end of my track and field career, but I needed to set a new goal, and running Honolulu, running my debut marathon made a lot of sense. As far as that being my last race ever, I’d be surprised if it is, but I’m not going to overlook this particularly daunting goal, I’m going to stay focused on it, and if I do set another running goal, it will be after I complete the Honolulu Marathon.

Do you have a target time or are you just taking it day by day and then maybe set that closer?

No, I want to break three hours. I think that’s a very realistic goal for me. I talked with my coach, Danny Mackey, who said the over under for him would be three hours. He’d be surprised if I ran slower than 3:15 and surprised if I ran faster than 2:45. So that’s kind of the sweet spot right in the middle there, three hours is what I want to break.

What’s the max weekly mileage you’ll get up to there?

I’ll probably work up to about 50 or 60. If this was my only focus then I’d be running 70 or 80, but I’ve got a lot of other irons in the fire there, so training full time at this point is unrealistic. I think on 40 or 50, maybe as high as 60 miles per week, I can run my target pace.

Have you thought of the possibility that you catch the marathon bug and keep training?

Unlikely, but there’s always a chance, right?

Going back to your career, any regrets or things you would have done differently?

Not on the track, I think I did a great job. A short stocky kid from Boise, Idaho, who goes to a Division 3 school and ends up being ranked number two in the world; about as well as I could play the cards that I was dealt. Off the track, I wish I’d done a few things differently. I wish I’d been more active on social media. I wish I’d travelled to a few different places that I wanted to visit. There’s only so much you can do in the time that we have, with training being the number one focus. I think I did it 95% of the way that I wanted to do it.

The world championships in 2015, are you content and happy that you boycotted the event? Does this linger in your thoughts much? The what could have been?

I’m very confident that I could have medalled there, but what would that mean? Just putting a little bit more money in my pocket, and being another pawn for USATF in yet another high-performance setting. I wasn’t inspired to do that. I’m not sure how much your viewers know about USATF, but they’d been stealing money from me for a decade at that point, and I was tired of it. So, I just wasn’t interested in working for them as a servant anymore.

Do you have any ideas as to how athletes could better monetize their careers as ‘Athletepreneurs’?

Being an ‘Athletepreneur’ (athlete-entrepreneur) is hard because athletes really need to be focused on their performance, they need to be focused on running as fast as they can or throwing as far as they can. Entrepreneurial business takes a lot of time, energy and focus, and that’s time, energy and focus that can’t be put towards sport. So, I don’t necessarily encourage the ‘athletepreneur’ lifestyle, but if an athlete is interested in building their brand, the easiest way to do so is on Social Media. Don’t just use Social as a way to post cute pictures of yourself, it’s a way to interact with your fans. View it as a way to grow your fan base. Brand building is the most important part of entrepreneurial business, in my opinion.

It’s always perplexed me why shoe brands don’t use their elite sponsored track and field athletes in the majority of their mass marketing. What are your thoughts on this and how it could be improved on?

I’ve been on a lot of those photo shoots, and a lot of the time what the marketers will say is that elites look too intimidating, they’re unrecognisable for the average person. In this particular economy where leisurewear is so popular – picking up in some cases the majority of a company’s bottom-line – being relatable to the average person is extremely important in the narrative that they’re telling. I think it’s really important for consumers to recognise the fact that these shoe companies are not in it for growing the sport, they really don’t care about that, they’re in it to protect their interests and grow their bottom-line. They have a duty to look out for their shareholders, they really have no responsibility or moral code to grow the sport. I think that if people berate Nike or Adidas, or some of these major players, for not working harder to grow the sport, that’s really not what they’re here for.

Right, that’s understandable, isn’t it?

It’s absolutely understandable. The people who are here to grow the sport are the USATF and IAAF, and the non-governing bodies, but because they have become extensions of the shoe companies they are not doing their job. Here in the States, the USATF might as well be a branch of Nike, the way that they are.  

Talking about new initiatives, what did you think about Australia’s Nitro Athletics?

I saw that and it was fantastic. I thought that was a great idea. I didn’t get to watch it all live, but just the idea of let’s repackage track and field and make it more popular, make it more consumable for today’s audience, let’s bring track and field into the 21st century. I really respected what they were doing down there.

Team Australia – Nitro Athletics 2017

As an entrepreneur now, what’s your day look like?

Yeah, I get up at about 5 or 6am and I try to get my miles in before work. We generally then work 9 to 5 or so. I’ve always admired these marathoners who were able to balance all the things they were trying to do in a day, from training to family obligations and work, and now I am that guy! It’s not easy.

‘To Rest is to Rust’ – How many hours of sleep a night do you need usually to productively function?

My number one rule of training is to never wake up to an alarm, and if I’m getting up at 5 or 6am, that means I’m going to bed at around 9pm every night. I don’t miss those hours after 9pm, most of those hours are spent watching crappy TV or you’re out at a bar, and I never really liked those things anyway. So, I work my butt off till about 5 or 6 pm and go home and have a couple beers and eat dinner, then I’m exhausted, and I wake up again and do it again every day. I feel stimulated physically and mentally, living my life that way, and I love it. I absolutely love both aspects; I love training, and I love going into the office and working.

What are some of the tough lessons you’ve learnt about being an entrepreneur and following through with things?

Well, you just don’t have any certainty, and you really have to embrace this world of risk. To do it right you’re going to be highly versatile. You’re always going to be wondering what the next obstacle is, and that obstacle is going to hit you in the head, and you’re really going to have to work your way around it. If you like stability, if you like certainty, then do not become an entrepreneur. If you like waking up and having absolutely no idea what’s going to come across your desk that day, then by all means, this is the life for you. We worked tirelessly for three years to build up the Run Gum brand here, and we’ve seen a lot of success and some failures. If it all came crashing down tomorrow, we’d have to just lick our wounds and start all over again. But that’s the reality, we’ve seen multi-billion dollar businesses that have been around for decades, go crashing down, and that’s the reality of being a business owner. At any moment, the economic winds can shift and everything can change.

Right now, I think that we’ve got a great team, my business partner, Sam, and I, have done a good job building this brand and building this business, and I think the sky is the limit for Run Gum. But we are going to have to keep being diligent and keep working our butts off.

How important are agents and managers to deal with sponsorship and getting starts in big races?

Unfortunately, an agent is necessary, and I say unfortunately because most of them are crap, they’re just really not qualified to do their job. Some of them are great. I had Chris Layne as my agent, I really lucked out when I met him in 2006, he was a phenomenal agent for me. If you’re an upcoming runner and you’re trying to get sponsored or you’re trying to get into races, it’s not going to happen without an agent. These meet directors don’t want to talk to ten thousand athletes, they want to talk to half-a-dozen agents and get their athletes that way. It’s much more bang for their buck; if they spend 20 minutes talking with an agent they can get a hundred athletes no problem. But, again, if you get stuck with a bad agent, you might as well kiss your career goodbye, because they’re going to take your money and they’re not going to give you anything in return for it.

How long was your break at the end of each season? Did you run at all during this time?

When I was younger, I used to take two weeks off at the end of every summer. In about September, I’d call it, and take at least two weeks off. As I got older and older, I felt like mentally, maybe not physically, but mentally that I needed more of a break, and my breaks got up to about a month. I would take the entire month of September off. It’s not that I’d just sit around getting fat, I’d be out hiking, fishing and boating, I like to stay very active, but for me mentally, it would take at least four weeks, nearing towards the end of my career, where I would need that before I felt even an itch to start training again.

You’ve just summited Mount Hood which we loved watching (check out the video below) after three attempts and it definitely was no walk in the park. What’s the next peak you’re looking to conquer?

I’m actually going to be climbing Mount Ranier here in a few weeks, and if you thought Mt Hood was cool, wait until you see Mount Ranier. It is the most heavily glaciated mountain in the lower 48, and it is very very dangerous, I’m spending at least 2 or 3 hours a day researching it, because I’m not intending to go up and not come down, I want to summit that mountain and come back down and live to tell the story. I’m kind of just working up getting experience and knowledge, as my plan is to climb Everest sometime in the next decade. I’ll keep you guys updated on those plans as they develop.

For the first time ever we now have Australian Ninja Warrior showing on our TV’s and it has topped the ratings. How was your experience on American Ninja Warrior?

I competed in American Ninja Warrior back in 2015 down in LA and it wasn’t great. I’m a one trick pony, I can’t even run the mile very well, I run 800 metres and that’s about it. The athletic ability required to be good at those Ninja Warrior courses is something that I’m lacking.

You’ve done so many different things, have you ever been approached to do a film on your career?

No, never, I guess since I wasn’t approached I decided to start my own Youtube channel, if no one is going to make the movie then I’ll tell it myself! If you go to my Youtube channel – just go to Youtube and type in Nick Symmonds (click here to visit Nick’s channel) – you can see all kinds of the adventures that we’re getting up to.

Business plans for the future?

It’s full steam ahead on Run Gum right now. We’re growing very quickly, we’ve just gone through a big hiring phase and we’re up to about ten employees now. The sky is the limit for a product like this, 90% of Americans use caffeine on a daily basis, and we have 100 milligrams in every packet. We’re going to continue to grow Run Gum especially as people try it and see the advantages of putting caffeine in a chewing gum as opposed to sugary acidic drinks, they love it. If you’re in the US you can get it at rungum.com or amazon.com, and if you’re overseas you can go to vitacost.com and can order it and have it shipped internationally.

Thoughts on Donavan Brazier and how good he can be? Who else should we look out for to make a major impact on the sport?

I think Brazier is very talented, he’s shown that he has trouble sometimes with championship events, not making it out of the prelims at the Olympic trials last year worried us. As far as 800m running goes, he is the guy to watch.

Clayton Murphy in the 1500m could be dangerous, I know he is an 800m runner now but I think the 1500m is his future. I’m always interested to see what Matt Centrowitz does, and a couple other players. I think as far as the 800m goes, I would love to see Donavan take down Johnny Gray’s American 800m record of 1:42.6. It’s been on the books too long, and I think Donavan’s the kid to do it.

What was your mindset for your best races throughout your career? Meaning do you remember being more relaxed than usual when you clocked a PB or more nervous or did it constantly vary?

I know there are some psychologists that say you have to be in a certain mindset to have your best performance, but I had great performances in a lot of different mindsets, from not giving two-cents and just going out and phoning one in during 2013, I was really over it and I ran my second fastest time ever. I’ve gone into races under high pressure, extremely nervous, like I did in London and ran my PB there. So, I think a lot of it is people try to overthink these things. Just show up at the line and shut your mind off and let your body do what it does.

LetsGetRunning.co.uk Podcast with SOS CEO James Mayo

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On this episode Shaun and Jermaine chat Running Hydration with former international athlete and founder of SOS rehydrate, James Mayo.

We discuss hydration myths, tips and tricks and discuss the story behind SOS Rehydrate; how one too many bottles of red wine got James, his wife Blanca, and his brother Tom thinking…

Nick Symmonds: From Half Miler To Marathoner

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It’s not uncommon for an athlete to go up in distance throughout their career. Some go from the 1500m to the 5,000m, or the 10,000m to the half marathon, but few have ever increased the distance by over 50-times! Yet that is exactly what former World 800m Silver Medallist Nick Symmonds will endeavour to do when he runs the Honolulu Marathon this year.

Brooks Beast Nick Symmonds is hanging up his track spikes, but his racing flats still have more miles ahead. For his last professional race, Nick will compete in the Honolulu Marathon this December with a goal of running under 3 hours.

For the athlete who specializes in the two-lap, 800-meter run, training for and running 26.2 miles will be a test and an exciting new challenge. Brooks Beasts Head Coach Danny Mackey will continue to coach Nick through this event.

“I work with middle distance runners on the Brooks Beasts, but the marathon might be my favorite event personally, so I’m excited to coach him in it,” said Brooks Beasts Head Coach Danny Mackey. “Nick is naturally competitive and goal oriented so I know he’ll commit to the training, but the marathon can be an equalizer and it will definitely test him.”

A post shared by Nick Symmonds (@nicksymmonds) on

Nick will adapt his training by:

  • Increasing his mileage per week by more than 25 percent to a minimum of 70 miles per week,
  • Modify his lifting workouts from being explosive with heavy weights to being strength oriented, dropping weight and increasing repetitions, so his body can hold up for more than 2 hours of hard running,
  • Increase the amount of long threshold and tempo runs instead of the shorter, speed intervals he currently focuses on,
  • Begin to incorporate marathon race pace speed work into his long runs,
  • And, to fuel for a race that’s longer than 2 hours when he’s accustomed to racing for fewer than 2 minutes, Nick will begin consuming simple carbs during long training runs to keep his energy up and prepare for the race.

“This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve met hundreds of runners throughout my career who have completed marathons, but I’ve never done one myself,” said Brooks Beast Nick Symmonds. “The challenge is exciting and I’m eager to begin training for it. I’ve got the help of Brooks Beasts Head Coach Danny Mackey, our team nutritionist and other Brooks resources to see me through to the finish line!”

Check out how Nick fuels for training

AUDIO: There’s A War On Sugar. Is It Justified?

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History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes…

Many experts believe that we are currently in a ‘Big Tobacco moment for the Sugar industry’, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the parallels warrant warning.

However, given that nutrition studies are not very robust compared to many other fields in biological science, some still claim that the ‘jury is still out’ on the issue of sugar and its effects.

Less than two months ago, this subject was the topic of investigation and discussion by Freakonomics co-author, Stephen J. Dunber.

How much sense does this all make? Dunber discusses the topic with a regulatory advocate, an evidence-based skeptic, a former FDA commissioner, and others.

The full audio is available below. Click HERE for a link to the full transcript.

Clayton Murphy Chases The Double

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via LetsRun.com 

We’re not sure if one can become a legend as a 22-year-old, but Clayton Murphy is going to test the waters by running the 800m and 1500m at this year’s USATF Outdoor Championships, attempting to become the first man to win both in the same year since Glenn Cunningham in 1933.

Murphy, the 2016 Olympic 800m bronze medallist as a 21-year-old, sent out a tweet today linking to an exclusive story by Dave Hunter on RunBlogRun where Murphy said he will attempt to pull off the double that is unprecedented since the professional era of track and field began in the United States.

Cunningham’s double came when the U.S. championships were organized by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Rick Wohlhuter won both the 800 and 1500 at the 1976 Olympic Trials, but at the time, the Olympic Trials was a separate meet from the U.S. championships. The Trials also had a longer week long schedule more conducive to doubling.

Murphy told Hunter that he and coach Lee Labadie have been contemplating the double for a while. “I kind of made the decision about the possibility to double toward the end of the indoor season…I didn’t race after April as much as we could have. We’ve more or less been in a training block since the April racing. We kind of wanted to just train and build strength to push this double.”

Murphy at World Relays

Murphy at the 2017 World Relays

The schedule is conducive to a double attempt with Murphy only having to run twice on day 1.

Thursday, June 22:
4:00 pm 800 – 1st round
7:44 pm 1500 – 1st round/semis

Friday, June 23:
8:11 pm 800 – semis

Saturday, June 24:
2:41 pm 1500m – Final

Sunday, June 25:
1:20 pm 800m – Final

If Murphy is going to win the double, he will have to beat some stiff competition including Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz. Most track fans thought they would have to settle for either Murphy vs. Centrowitz in the 1500 or Murphy vs. Donavan Brazier in the 800. Now they get both matchups at USAs.

It is fitting Murphy will have to go through Centrowitz if he is going to pull off the double because at the 1976 Olympic Trials, Wohlhuter completed the double by beating Matt Centrowitz — Matthew’s father — in the 1500.

At the Trials in 1976, the 800s and 1500s did not overlap. The 800 concluded on June 21 and the 1500 did not begin until June 26. Here are the results of the finals.

Screenshot 2017-06-12 at 10.55.55

Screenshot 2017-06-12 at 10.55.51

Wohlhuter went on to earn bronze in the 800 and finish sixth in the 1500 at the 1976 Olympics in Munich. He remains the last American man to contest both events at an Olympics. No U.S. man has ever run both at Worlds in the same year. David Krummenacker did run both events at Worlds, but never in the same year — he contested the 1500 in 1999 and the 800 in 2001, 2003, 2005.

It also is fitting Murphy is trying to emulate Wohlhuter, as last night at the Portland Track Festival, Murphy came up short in breaking Wohluter’s 1000m American record, the oldest American record on the books.

Wohlhuter was on hand for the attempt and held the finish-line tape. Afterwards, he and Murphy met for the first time which you can see in the video below.

Murphy then told the assembled media he had not made up his mind on what he was going to do in terms of the 800 or 1500m at USAs.

Team NZ 1 Win From America’s Cup Final

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Falling behind early on in the day to go level with the Swedes at 2-2, the Kiwi’s bounced back with 2 more wins of their own to take a commanding 4-2 lead.

New Zealand now sit on match-point in the America’s Cup final decider, but it wasn’t without some last minute drama as Blair Tuke explains in the video below.

Going Han Solo: The Andrew Wheating Story

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Andrew Wheating is from “back east”, yet has spent over a decade holding some sort of Oregon-team membership card.

In college he ran at the University of Oregon, which was then by followed Oregon Track Club. Throughout that time he has been to two Olympic Games, and his 3:30.90 for 1500m ranks 4th all-time in the U.S.

At the beginning of the year it was announced that Wheating would leaving Oregon TC, following the likes of Sting and Beyonce by launching his solo career. However, rather than heading for the bright lights of a big city, Wheating is keeping his Oregon license plates and staying in Eugene – which is where our very own Jemma Simpson (a former member of Oregon TC herself) sat down for an update on all things Andrew.

Interview with Andrew Wheating 

Stay tuned to see the video Andrew made…

Like all public figures, Wheating prefers to be followed on Instagram rather than in person.

One above the rest: Sir Ben Ainslie

in AMERICAS CUP/INTERVIEWS/SAILING/SOS MAGAZINE/SOS PRO'S/UK by

There has always been evolution within sport. Athletes continually jump higher, run faster, or hit harder than they have before. The rules almost always stay the same; the basketball hoop is still 10 feet high, the goal posts are 8 yards apart, the track is always 400 metres around. Yet in the oldest international sporting event on the planet, the rules are almost never the same.

At the 35th edition of the America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017, Ben Ainslie will compete to bring the Auld Mug back to Britain where it was first contested in 1851. In doing so, Team Land Rover BAR would be the first British outfit to ever win the event.

The modern America’s Cup is barely recognisable to what it once was. For next years event, Land Rover BAR will have a boat that is designed entirely around the output that its sailors can provide.

This creates a unique situation whereby the design and fitness crew must collaborate closely. The sailors are the engine, which means Ainslie’s crew must be as fit and athletic as possible.

We sat down with SOS athlete Ben Ainslie to find out what him and his crew are doing to be as powerful of an engine as possible.

It’s been said that as the nature of the America’s Cup has changed, sailors have gone from being power/sprint athletes to more similar to endurance athletes like 10km runners or cyclists, given the need to produce constant power. How does this change the focus in training?

The focus has now changed from a requirement for short busts of intense power to much more of a constant power output over 20 – 30 minutes. This is needed to create the hydraulic power necessary to control the boat. Our sailors now train with much more of an aerobic endurance focus. Also, due to the introduction of an overall weight-limit of the crew, weight maintenance is now a critical factor.

You’d need to have an incredible aerobic base with which to then build specific endurance on for different roles on the boat. Given that you officially launched the Great South Run last year, can we assume that running is your go-to?

I do love running but sadly a long-term back injury currently prevents me from any serious running. My main tools for aerobic training are the ‘Watt bike’ and a trusty paddleboard.

“It won’t be easy, and it definitely won’t be fun… but it’s achievable.”

Improvements in training are entirely dependent on recovery, yet training for the boat is incredibly time consuming. How do you prioritise this time to rest with such a demanding schedule?

Our head trainer, Ben Williams, does a great job of factoring in the time spent on the water and amending our onshore training accordingly. The time on the water is incredibly stressful for the sailors both physically and mentally, so balance is crucial in order to avoid burnout.

“The boat needs a lot of power, and it hasn’t got an engine. We need to maximise what the boys can produce in a 20-40 minute window – not too dissimilar to a cycling time trial”.

Scott Dixon has said he can lose up to 7lbs from sweat during an IndyCar race, while you are essentially navigating a race car on the water – how important is keeping fluids down for you and the boys on the boat?

Hydration is going to be a critical factor in this next Americas Cup. The conditions for racing in Bermuda in June are going to be incredibly hot and very humid. Given the physical stress the sailors are under they’re going to need to work hard to retain fluids and need the best performance drink available.

An interview with Steve Vernon – Coach of New Balance Manchester

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Britain is currently in the midst of a distance-running renaissance not seen for decades. Although there were numerous standout results at the Rio Olympics from British athletes, the true indicator of depth has been the quality of performances at home.

At the British Trials for the European XC Championships this winter, the Top 4 automatic spots were taken by athletes that had either broken 13:10 for the 5,000m, 61 minutes in the half marathon, or 28 minutes over 10,000m.

One of the driving forces behind this progress has been the investment of resources into smart coaching and infrastructure to facilitate a model of group training. With the support of New Balance, Steve Vernon has been able to implement this successfully with his New Balance Manchester squad based in Stockport.

We spoke to Steve about the driving forces behind his team, how he manages the inevitable differences between athletes and what sets NB Manchester apart.

 

Your team seems to follow a similar model to your transatlantic cousins in Boston? 

Professional running teams in the USA have been a proven success ground for world-class distance running over the last 5-10 years. Performance athletes are central to New Balance as a brand so supporting athletes in a team environment is something that New Balance were keen to do as part of their global strategy. The professional Team in Manchester is one of the first of its kind in Europe and we are creating an environment that supports athletes to be the best they can possibly be.
Good communication is absolutely essential and I make sure that I am clear with how training is set out each week. I have a training philosophy that I explain to every athlete that joins the team so they know what to expect from the start. I do however appreciate that not every athlete will respond and adapt in the same way to a particular stimulus so although the majority of the training is group focused the schedules are all individual. We meet every day for training and I give the options for athletes to do second runs alone or with training partners that run at a similar speed on recovery runs.

Putting together a full-time training group is a delicate balance; some athletes inevitably find themselves pushing when they shouldn’t be, and everyone has their own routines. What steps do you take to create a balance that everyone can benefit from, despite having individual strengths and weaknesses?

Distance running is an individual sport but I have a culture where everyone supports each other as a team. When the gun goes they inevitably want to beat each other but I ensure that competitiveness is managed in training and they save it for race day!

The increasing number of professional training groups throughout the world has pushed the level of performance up considerably. What makes New Balance Manchester different from other set-ups?

As I mentioned earlier this group in Manchester is quite unique in Europe as there are very few, but we are starting to see more and more groups emerge in the UK especially. We have an athlete house where 4 of the guys live and then everyone else lives within 6 miles of the NB house and training venues.

The athletes are predominantly supported by New Balance, but also receive some support from British Athletics/Welsh Athletics with regards to altitude training camps. The environment we run in is quite spectacular as we are 10 miles from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District National Park with miles of trails, canals, and parkland to run on. We have the option to run on the flat or up and down hills, which I feel is essential to distance running success. There is a strong club structure in the UK and we are lucky to have the support of the local club Stockport Harriers to use the track and its facilities. 

Stockport obviously has a lot to offer, yet few would argue that it could be easier get out the door in warmer conditions. You recently had a training camp in Spain – is this something you will do on a regular basis? What benefits did you see in your athletes?

The weather in the North West of England has a bad reputation but it’s wet and mild all year round so despite the summers never being amazing it is often a nice (15 – 20 degrees centigrade) temperature to train in. We hardly ever get snow in the winter so it rare we have to change plans because of really bad weather. As long as you don’t mind getting a bit wet and muddy occasionally it’s pretty good. Oregon has similar weather and they don’t do too badly over there!

Despite my positivity of the Manchester weather we do like to get away in the dark winter months and Spain in January was simply a chance to get in some quality training, Vitamin D and a change of stimulus for the guys, which I believe can help during the winter grind. I use altitude training and like to get at least 2 camps in for 4 weeks in each year.

 

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