This last weekend I took part in an excellent British Triathlon Federation course on coaching Strength & Conditioning (S&C).  This qualifies me to design and lead S&C sessions, based around use of body weight.  I now have lots of great ideas and exercises to incorporate S&C into the programmes I set for those I coach.  And it has also given me a very timely wake up call to myself to get back to a more structured and focused approach for my own challenges (more of which later).

I’m conscious that I am a late convert to S&C and, up to now, not a very disciplined one.  When I was a young, skinny fast runner no one talked about S&C – it was all about getting out there and running.  I still have an aversion to gyms.  But older age and injuries have made me realise the need for more focused preparation and maintenance of the body to be able to keep going and get the best out of myself.

When I did the Level 3 Triathlon Coach award we had an excellent introduction to S&C from Alison Rose, the Brownlees’ and Kelly Holme's physio, that helped me get started, both for those I coach privately or in the Club and for myself.  In truth, though, I think I’ve been bigger on the promise than on consistent delivery.  How to develop structured S&C programmes and make them a key part of training, rather than being another add-on that’s likely to get squeezed out?

There was so much in the course, led by BTF’s Ben Leach, to help structure effective, progressive programmes, all starting with a needs analysis.  Key things to look for were covered: alignment, control, posture and balance.  We also worked through how to structure individual sessions to create a well-rounded mix of warm up, specific injury prevention, plyometrics for power, strength and strength endurance.  And of course there was lots of practical getting down to trying different exercises ourselves and coaching each other.

 With thanks to the BBC for demonstrating the Hot Lizard

With thanks to the BBC for demonstrating the Hot Lizard

Some of these were familiar to me – though Ben took us through the key coaching points and ensured each one was done properly.  Others were new and fun to try: watch out for a dynamic Pigeon Pose, Hot Lizard and various forms of Eastern European squats and lunges!

So the big question is: will this newfound enthusiasm last?  What better place to start than with myself and by writing it down here in this blog post so there’s no hiding.  Over the next two weeks, then, I’m setting aside time to prepare the following:

  • some one hour S&C sessions that I can perform once a week and, once I’ve tested them out on myself, have as a ready made stock for those clients who might benefit from them, adapting as needed and building in progressions
  • some shorter, 15-20min selective routines that I can do every second or third day, possibly first thing in the mornings when I’m not swimming and as an extension of my daily stretch routine.  Again there may be some clients who will benefit from these lighter and more targeted sets of exercises.  And if there's the appetite, some could be incorporated into our Brighton Tri Club run session
  • and thirdly, as I get back to running I’ll go back to some advice Alison Rose gave me to finish every run with just a few minutes of calf raises.
 Lunging in Hove, with thanks to Phoebe and photographer Rosie Hallam

Lunging in Hove, with thanks to Phoebe and photographer Rosie Hallam

There couldn't be a better time.  All the people I coach are at the start of their base fitness phase - and some like me are getting over injuries.

Just eight and a half weeks ahead of me I have the supreme challenge of cross country skiing in Arctic Finland.  What a test of strength endurance, balance and control!  And beyond that lies another big SwimRun challenge to work towards, more of which another day.

Big thanks to Ben for a really helpful course and to all the other coaches who took part.  Feel free to use the comments box below to add your own pledge to S&C or other thoughts and suggestions.