Mitchum Q&A 3: How to Plan Your Training

Hi all,

This lunchtime (1-2pm) we're joined by athletics coach Fuzz Ahmed who'll be answering your questions about how to set and plan training schedules and goals effectively.


Fuzz Ahmed is a former high jumper.  After making his international debut for England at the 1986 Commonwealth Games Fuzz found his way to a four-year sports scholarship to a leading American university, however during this period his career was severally hampered by major injuries. After graduating with a degree in Film and Television Production he returned to the UK where he managed to compete internationally until he retired in 1994. In the latter part of his athletic career he captained the England athletic team on several occasions.

Fuzz has coached international sportsmen and women from a variety of sports, including athletics World and Olympic finalists, rugby and Premiership football players. 

Since October 2009 he has worked for UK Athletics as the National Event Coach for High Jump.

We're opening the discussion now Fuzz so can get stuck in straight away at 1pm (rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once). But that's enough from me - time for your questions! Alice


  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    Hi, Fuzz,

    Is it better to aim for a single, primary target race, and to plan your training towards that, or to aim for a series of races to try to minimise the risk of on-the-day disruptions such as weather or illness?  How would each impact your training plans?

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭
    Ratzer wrote (see)

    Hi, Fuzz,

    Is it better to aim for a single, primary target race, and to plan your training towards that, or to aim for a series of races to try to minimise the risk of on-the-day disruptions such as weather or illness?  How would each impact your training plans?

    I thought we had answered that one on MG image

    My question(s) are sort of related...

    Peaking - how many times a year do you think an athelete can "peak" for say 5k?

    Tapering - do short distances need tapering for?

    I've run my best times the day after a light (say 8 x 200m) track session - that seems quite normal from group experience (whereby often people run their "short" distance pbs in full marathon training for example).

  • Afternoon Fuzz,

    if you have a long term goal or aspiration (say GFA London marathon time) and you are currently a long way from achieving this (or even wondering if it is possible), how should you go about breaking this down into smaller chunks?  My 5 mile PB says I am capable of running at 7 min/mile pace, which would give me a sub 3:15, but my current marathon PB is 3:48 which is a long way shy of 'taregt'.


  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    Hi Fuzz

    How does the focus of your jumpers' weight training change between the off / mid / peak season? 

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭
    Curly45 wrote (see)

    I thought we had answered that one on MG image

    Funny how questions can suddenly jump out of the discussions we have...


    Post target event, how should recovery look, in terms of matching the events parameters of specificity, duration, etc.  Is there any kind of test available to say that one is ready to move on, whether it be to new training or to a down period?

  • Hi folks,

    Apologies for the delay - we're hoping that Fuzz will be online any moment now.


  • Hello Kate,

    firstly as a high jump coach we train for three weeks and have one week recovery per month.

    Each week consists of 5 days of training and 2 days of rest. The recovery week has 3.5 days of training and 4.5 of rest.

    The winter training is far more intense than spring or summer training. Winter consists of 10 sessions per week. Spring is 7 sessions per week and summer is 5 sessions including competitions.

    High jumping is a very explosive event and during the competition phase one has to have almost complete rest to allow those explosive qualities to be exposed.

    It differs greatly from many other track and field events in training for sprinting is similar but requires more speed and endurance elements. Training for distance is not similar at all as it requires large vols of workload with a less subtle taper.

    For team sports this is unique as the peaks are determined by when matches are so most team players need to be at their best almost every weekend!

  • Hi Ratzer,

    At the elite level its important to peak for major games like the olympics and world champs. A one peak strategy is required. At sub elite or international level many peaks are required so the athlete maximises their opportunities to perform at a high level.

    For eg in 2008 Tom Parsons needed to peak twice in one year. The olympic trails in July and 5 weeks later the olympics in Beijing. He jumped a PB at the trials and was within 2% of his best at the olympics so I learned a great deal about how he needs to peak.

    For club athletes being at around 95% level can be held for a longer period of time between 4-6 wks - again maximising competition performance.

  • Hi Curly,

    AS a rule of thumb the shorter distance- the more accurate the taper needs to be. Some athletes find their best performances after large volumes of work with minimum taper and some athletes find their best performances from long tapers and topping up as they go along.

    experimenting during the off-season with changes in workloads and work capacity will reveal much about the athletes preferred physical reaction.

    If you ask the body the right questions it WILL give you the right answers.

    My expertise is not in distance running however the principals of training adaptation and rest are universal in discovering athletic peaks in performance.


  • Hi ferret,

    as a high jump coach I work with 4 and 8 year plans. if an athlete improves by the with of a human hair from training over a 10 year period they would improve almost 20cm.

    This principal can be applied to any event- however we have to take into account physical make up, training capacity which includes time to train and time to recover and the level at which one wants to pursue the goal.

    As a coach to professional athletes, they have all the time in the world to pursue these goals. As an advisor to less full time athletes I have to take into account TIME factors:

    using a large piece of paper i would work backwards from the desired goal over the period of a year. I would then break that year into training adaptation and rest periods- say per month/ per 2 months and I would set targets and goals along the way. I would then analyse what is need to hit each of those targets and goals. I would break down each session so that I moved smoothly towards my end goal.

    This training would not only include running- it would also include nutritional and recovery advise, improvement in running technique and increase in mobility and finally I would undertake a rigorous mental training regime that would allow my mind to stay focused for around 3 hours!

  • Hi Moraghan,

    During the off season we train 9 lifts broken down to 3 lifts per session, 3 times per week.

    During this period we work on 5x5 and 4x4 repetitions. We are always working to around 85% and above but trying the bar very quickly. During the mid or prep phase we work on 3x3 or 5x2 reps at around 92.5-95% Again looking at maximum power output.

    During the competition phase we train one or two times per week- 3 lifts per session and 3x3 to 5x2 lifts, around 85-95% max but the focus is on increasing speed of movement of the bar which as you no doubt know the combination of speed and strength = power!

    Each 3 lifts consist of an Olympic lift, a double leg lift and a single leg lift but the focus is always about power- not necessarily how much one can lift.

  • Hi Ratzer,

    I always allow between 24 and 48 hrs recovery post competition. For an event which consists of 8-10 jumps per comp, so the bigger the effort in competition the more recovery the athlete needs.

    We are not just talking about heart and lungs here. There are many facets to consider, connective tissue, ligaments and tendons, fatigue to the central nervous system and often underlook resting the mind.

    It is better to recover more post competition and have less injury thoughout the year.

    Post season is a different matter. This requires much more subtle recovery. Not just complete rest but often an active rest that encourages the body to realign and a preparation base to be formed for a strong building phase.

    Athlete recovery is very personal. However many athletes undervalue the importance of rest. The training can only have an effect if the adaptation and recovery phase are balanced so one should look at the year as whole. Each week, each month, each training block needs to be looked at and considered when planning recovery post competition.

  • RatzerRatzer ✭✭✭

    Thanks, Fuzz.

    Looking at your answer to Moraghan's question in the gym, I'm assuming your lifts are concentric work?  Are plyometrics of use to a jumper?  Or is there some gain to be had because of the conversion from the run up?

  • Hi Fuzz, what cross training would you reccomend for a mid distance runner?
  • Hi Fuzz, I'm a keen runner but have a reoccuring knee injury- should I continue training and work through the pain or rest every time it flares up? Also any tips for knee injuries?
  • Hi Fuzz,

    What's the best way to get back into training after injury? I'm a long distance runner and have had a break from running after a marathon as I messed up my knees. I'm now ready to start training again but don't want to overdo it or hurt myself again, any advice?


  • Hi Ratzer,

    All our gym exercises are extremely explosive. I work on training movements, not muscles. We also super-set the gym sessions with plyometrics.

    As a high jump coach we do some form of jumping every day! That principle should be applied to all training and disciplines eg a thrower should throw something every day, a distance runner should have elements of endurance every day, a sprinter should do something fast every day.

    Applying this principal further- the best way to get better at badminton is to play badminton.

    Athletics is a very complicated sport. It has many elements of physical skill that are often over looked and under valued. In my experience the most successful athletes are also the best athletes- they can run jump and throw. These subtle elements of physical skill are often not appreciated as great performance is made to look easy.

    Also in my experience it takes between 4 and 6 years to create an overnight success.

  • Hi Archie bobs,

    wow where do i start. depending on what your physical make up is will determine the training that will give you the best results. if you are endurance based and have a slow twitch muscle make up then your training must consist of more endurance and fartlek type of training. If you are a speed based athlete then the balance between endurance and speed must be found.

    Finally as you develop as a mid distance athlete your training will require subtle changes to allow you to fulfill your potential.

  • Hi Alina,

    wow! there are many causes of the injury but in my experience as an observer of runners most are caused by alignment and gait issues.

    if the knees have overworked it means the other two joints on the leg (ankle and hip) are not working effectively or are not aligned.

    If its a recurring injury in one leg then one should look at a subtle gait analysis at the running shop, a change in shoes and finally a strength and conditioning programme for your legs.

    If it's pain in both knees then this can be caused by lack of strength in muscles around your knees, a gait issue or a imbalance in body compensation. Knees are v complicated structures and answering this question over the web is not the best way to find a cure.

    I would recommend seeing a good sports physio or chiropractor or osteopath who works in sport. Also speaking to a good strength and conditioning coach will be a gd starting point to finding a solution to the uncomfortableness of knee pain.

  • Hello,

    Unfortunately I think that's about all we've got time for today. Thanks Fuzz for your expert input; and thanks to everyone for your questions.

    We'll be back next Wednesday with another Mitchum expert, but until then,


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