Lets Bring Ireland 1500m Back To The World Stage (Taoufik Makhloufi training example)
Ireland has a heritage for 1500m running., Ray Flynn, Nial Bruton, Marcus O Sullivan, Eamonn Coghlan, Frank O Mara, and Shane Healy all spring to mind. We have a crop of athletes in their 20s who have ran sub 4 minutes for the mile. However, the Irish National record dates back to 1982. Ciaran O Lionaird was 0.9 seconds away from the record back in 2011. So how come we haven't really come close to Ray Flynn’s 3.33.5? I don't have a simple answer for that but I can show you what running 3.28 looks like and what I have learned from working with the Olympic 1500m champion, who also won a silver medal in the 800m.
Having worked with a lot of the top middle distance athletes in the world, I can see clear differences between what it take to make it and what some athletes are doing wrong.
First of all, I want to show you the differences in training between what I see in Ireland to elsewhere in the world. Mileage being the most noticeable difference. Irish athletes have an obsession with miles. The more the better, or so it seems.
If you think about how long a 1500m race lasts for (lets say 3 minutes and 40 seconds), then why are we running 90 minutes at a slow pace? Does it really do anything for a middle distance race? There seems to be a common weekly mileage of between 80 and 100 miles a week. Is it necessary to run that amount for a middle distance race?
I will break down the training between mileage, speed endurance sessions, speed sessions, race specific session, gym work and recovery.
What I was surprised about is how little Taoufik ran, mileage wise. His longest run of the week was 70 minutes and that was in February, March and maybe the first part of April. Other then that it was a 60 minute recovery run at a painfully slow pace (9km an hour). This was done in May, and maybe June. After that is was reduced to 45 minutes of easy easy running
for his longest run. Similar to 9km an hour. Weekly mileage was not really a main topic of conversation. It was more about what quality work is being done in the week.
There was never a tempo/threshold running consisting of 20-30 minutes at a certain heart rate. Actually, he never wore a heart rate monitor. There was fartlek session of 4(4minute + 2 minutes) with 2 minutes between every effort. This was done at 3km pace. This was possibly the longest time of hard effort and was done in March and April. This type of session was done on gravel and rolling hills.
The first track session was in late March. It was 3(5x300m) in 45 seconds with 50 seconds rest. It was more focused on getting it done rather then focusing on times.
Another interesting session for this type of effort was 4x600, 4x500m, 5x400, 4x150, 1x300, 1x250.
600m - 1.30s
500m - 1.15s
400m - 59,s 58s, 55s
150m - 17s
300m - 35s
250m - 30s
This type of session was done regularly regardless of the month. Even in February and March there was sessions like 3(5x100) uphill with 75seconds rest between the 100m and 4 minutes between sets. Times would be between 14-15 seconds.
Similarly 7x150 and 7x100 uphill with times as follows.
150 - 21-22seconds
100 - 14-15seconds
Going into June and July, the speed sessions would have changed to 3x(250m + 200m + 150m). The rest between the efforts was 2 minutes and rest between sets was 4 minutes.
2x(4x250m) in 32 seconds with 75seconds between 250m and 6minutes between sets.
Another speed session at altitude (Font Romeu) was 3(3x300). This would have been done 3 weeks before leaving for World Championships in 2015.
The day before every session was 100m reps focusing on form. It would have been below 13 seconds (usually lowering it to 12.5sec) for each one with a walk back recovery. Usually S&C was done before doing the 100m reps.
It doesn't matter if you feel tired in a race. You either run through it and win or run through it and lose. You don't need to listen to your body. Similarly to race specific sessions. You could call this the icing on the cake. You should feel very confident about knowing you hit these times and transfers that confidence into the race.
You are probably aware of the session I uploaded on Youtube of Taoufik. If not have a look of the video here. This was done 10 days before he ran 2.13 for 1000m in Nancy. This was when he became the 4th fastest person ever over this distance. It was a World Record attempt but the pace maker didn't drop out when he was supposed to and Taoufik had to go around him with 300m to go. It put him out of his rhythm as well as his mind.
NANCY 1000m (2.13.08)
This session didn't come easy. He was hurting. In the video you might think he isn't hurting but because of all the session before that with me saying relax your face, relax your hand, relax your breathing. Repetition turned into a habit. A habit it something you aren't even aware of what you are doing. When the session finished, he couldn’t move for around 30 minutes.
However, a workout I didn't record because my battery died on the warm up. This session was way more impressive.
12 min rest
To put this into some sort of perspective, if Taoufik ran 41 seconds for an extra 300m, he would have broken the World Record for 1500m in training. He looked very good finishing that 1200m. However, when he stopped the lactic flooded his muscles and shows that the 600m wasn’t as impressive. So you need to take into consideration that he was going super fast for 1200m. This session was done 10 days before Monaco Diamond League (2015). I was expecting a World Record there. He ran a PB but other circumstances got in the way. Like fearing his competition. Which is understandable.
Roughly 2 weeks before World Championships Taoufik ran a session at altitude (Font Romeu) of;
500m (63.21) splits were as follows
It was a short sharp session. After that, it was about resting up and keeping sharp.
Strength & Conditioning
A lot of people would have commented on how smooth and perfect Taoufiks form is. However, when you are talking about little percentages of difference between 1st and 4th, you need to be extra critical. Yes, if I told him to run 100m and being fresh, he would look good. You need to look at when he fatigues and what happens when that fatigue kicks in. Thats when you can see where the fault lines are. Taoufik had a propensity to sway from side to side. He head would follow. He also had a bit of a pelvic tilt. It was challenging to find small faults in an Olympic Champion but it was worth it.
S&C was geared towards building an efficient power to weight ratio. He has an ability to grow bulky muscle. So it was about building functional muscle and to correct the rocking.
I could talk about what he did in the gym but because it was so specific to him, I would be afraid that other people will do these exercises and think you can give it to other athletes.
This depended on factors such as how he slept, how he felt on that day and diet. His diet was altered every day. What is special about Taoufik is how diligent he was. I once told him that rocket was a great anti inflammatory and especially for the lungs. He went out and bought a bucket of it and ate it like a rabbit. He was about to do the same the next day, and the day after because it was good for him. He didn't really like it which was funny. He also drank clove water every morning. This is also good for lung inflammation. You leave cloves in water overnight and drink the water the next day.
Back to daily diet change. It was important that he ate food according to what training he did that day, and what is to come tomorrow. He took no protein shakes because we wanted to get as much natural product in as possible. There is a lot of inflammatory products in protein shakes such as artificial sweeteners, or else sugar.
If Taoufik was doing a session that day, we refrained from massaging after it as you need your body to learn how to repair and recover itself and let the session have a
n effect. There would be a light massage before the session but it was more to prepare the body for what it is about to do. Apart from those days, he had a head to toe massage every day which was about 2 hours long. I would regularly acupuncture Taoufik (not dry needling).
Stretching and flexibility was also very much used. A lot of people focus on the contraction of a muscle and not the other function of the muscle. Plus his swaying from side to side was partly down to shortening of certain muscles. I would stretch him everyday, and after every run he would stretch himself. Yes, he can touch his knees with his head, which you wouldn’t expect by looking at him.