How to stop worrying about Strava and train using what's around you.

At TP a few summers ago, an athlete was staring intently at the end of his arm and then exclaimed loudly “I’ve got no signal, I can’t do the session!!” There is no doubt that modern technology can be extremely valuable in providing data in both training and (used appropriately) competition, though as with this athlete some people can take it a bit too far.

I don’t care about the details of a training session that a friend and rival has just completed, I’d rather see what happens when we next toe the line together. And I don’t need Strava to tell me that there are no hills at Grove rec.

You don't need a track to track train

As we move towards September it’s often a time of change for many people, not just athletes. A move to university, starting a first fulltime job or off on a gap year working in some far-flung part of the planet. Wristbound technology can be really useful when moving to a new area, sorting out new training routes for example or keeping a check on performance if you are running at any altitude.

But what happens if you are in the middle of nowhere, as some of our number have found on prolonged stays in Africa?? It’s no good hardwiring yourself into track sessions every Thursday if the nearest track is two hours away by plane.

Back in 1954 an Australian by the name of John Landy became the second man ever to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. He was an entomologist and the following year found himself working in the Australian outback for several months. Track work was obviously out, but he wasn’t short of countryside and he made full use of it. He got back in time for the track season and promptly put together a terrific season.

Potato weights

You might think that distance runners have it easy in this respect – we can train as soon as we get out of the front gate. And you’d be right. But people in much more technical disciplines have been equally if not more resourceful. In 1968, the then Czechoslovakia was striving for more independence from the Soviet Union. Lots of prominent people were very outspoken, among them legendary distance runner Emil Zatopek, his wife, javelin thrower Dana, and the peerless gymnast Vera Caslavska, Olympic gold medallists all.

The Zatopeks had of course long since retired but Caslavska was still competing at that time and was intent on more gold medals in Mexico. Six weeks before the Games were due to begin Russian tanks rolled in and, fearing arrest, she fled into the forests of Moravia. With no gym, she trained using potato sacks as weights and tree trunks as a substitute for that most fearsome piece of apparatus, the beam.

Once in Mexico, she added another six medals to her collection, four of them gold, and for good measure got married while she was there. That was the end of the fairy tale however, as once back home she was ostracised for the next two decades.

Be creative

We are all understandably apprehensive of change – we get used to having certain facilities available and having well-trodden training routes. In many cases a change can be very positive, finding yourself at a university with a well-established athletics programme for example, or arriving in a strange city and promptly hooking up with a club or training group (I speak from personal experience on both counts). That’s not always the case of course but wherever you find yourself and whatever the facilities (or lack of them) there are ways of keeping the training going if you are creative and look hard enough, and as we’ve seen that needn’t just apply to distance runners.

Never mind this “no signal, no session” nonsense, the words of John Landy are still as applicable today as they were in the 1950s, use what you have.