Commonwealth Games 5000m bronze medallist Laura Weightman talks to DWFitness about strength training, altitude camps in Colorado, her hopes for the future and her love of coffee shops.
First of all, can you talk us through the Commonwealth Games - did the race go pretty much to plan and how was it running a 5km at a major event? Will we see you back at 1500m this summer?
The race was incredibly tough. It was one of the hardest races I have ever run, mentally and physically. Maybe in part that is my naivety to the event, I think I still have a lot to learn, but it is an event that I’m excited to see what I could do with in the future. I was delighted to leave the games with a bronze medal.
I am planning to focus on the 1500m for the summer season now. I won’t be ruling the 5000m out in the future though!
Obviously, a fair bit has been said about the heat, but was it a factor for you? How difficult was it to prepare for a summer event at that time of year? Did you do most of your training at home, or did you jet off to sunny climes?
It was very hot when we ran. It was 3pm in the afternoon and it was around mid-to-high 20’s, but on the track it always feels so much hotter! The timetable for the games was released well in advance so I was able to prepare and plan for the conditions.
It was challenging to prepare for a championship in April and with the 5000m being a new event for me, it added another element of difficulty. My coach, Steve [Cram] and I planned the winter out months ahead, we stuck to the plan and I headed to the Games in the best shape I could have.
I was lucky I spent most of the winter in sunshine preparing for the games! I spent 5 weeks January to early February in South Africa and then early March I went to Portugal for a week. We had so much snow in Leeds I spent 5 days on a treadmill, so I booked a flight to Portugal! I was lucky to spend over 3 weeks in Australia ahead of the games, so I was very well prepared for the heat.
How easy or tough do you think it will be to double peak - i.e. get ready for a spring championship, then a great summer? Did it take a lot of planning?
It is a tough year to plan and prepare for, everyone is different and responds differently. It is important to consider both the physical and the mental effects of the games. Win or lose, coming home after a major championship can lead to a loss of enthusiasm. After the games, I took some time to rest and recover, then got back into training. Dropping from the 5000m at the games to the 1500m for the summer hasn’t affected my training to much, we always approach the 1500m from a strong 5000m background.
We tend to only see the glamorous side of what you do, but it must be interesting to look back and see how a certain PE teacher encouraged you, then meeting your first coach at the athletics club and finally moving onto a more successful level. I would think it’s quite like a Fitness First member coming along to the gym, getting fitter and moving up a level etc?
I remember clearly my early days running cross country and athletics at school. My PE Teacher Miss Grant played a huge part in encouraging me to join a club and take up the sport. It was when I joined the local club Morpeth Harriers I met my first coach Mike Bateman, who coached me from 12 to 18 when Steve began coaching me. I owe a lot to Mike, he played a huge part in my development and progressing me through the age groups without pushing me to soon.
When you’re on a fitness journey it is important to look back to see how far you have come. Keep setting small goals along the way to your big goals as these keep you motivated. It is the same for me as an athlete I have my long-term goals for the season and years ahead, but I always have smaller ones along the way to help monitor my progress. These goals really help me keep motivated through the tough weeks of training.
So, currently, you’re in Colorado - fab! How is it there; does altitude training play a major role for you, or is it more just a favourite training venue? Where do you tend to train in the summer - home or in Europe?
I am spending 3 weeks training in Boulder, Colorado to get a training block in before the summer season. I typically have two main blocks of altitude training a year in my program, January and May, then I am based in Leeds the rest of the year and I often sleep in an altitude tent the months in between trips.
This is my first time visiting Boulder, I have been wanting to come for a long time as this is where Steve used to spend a lot of time training. It is a beautiful place to train with incredible trials, cafés and food spots. There’s not much more a runner needs!
When you’re not running, is it a life of coffee shops and kicking back? And how often do you meet up/review your training with Steve? Do you have a large team these days or is it you and a few training partners?
When I am not running I like to spend time with my family and friends relaxing. As an athlete, you spend most of the year in your own little bubble focused on the goals ahead. It is so important to take a step back sometimes appreciate the other things in life.
I am incredibly lucky with the team I have around me. After the CWG I said Steve was the man behind the medal and I wouldn’t have achieved anything I have without him, but he is just the tip of the ice berg! When I went to university in Leeds in 2010 one of the best bits of advice Steve gave me was to go somewhere where I could build a strong team around me which would enable me to create an environment where I did not have to worry about funding and the ‘system’ looking after me. This is exactly what I did, some of the key people include Andy Henderson (Leeds Coach), Alison Rose (physio), Ian Mitchell (Massage therapist), Dane Mitchell (S&C), Andrew Manley (Psychology), Louise Sutton (Nutrition) and the ‘squad’ (training partners)!
Finally, how important is strength training for you; is it a once a week thing or seasonal?
Strength and conditioning (S&C) is a huge part of my training program. It is important to remember that S&C isn’t just about throwing big weights around the gym and searching for that bikini body in time for summer. For me, S&C is a range of exercises that are not limited to the gym. My programme includes drills, plyometrics, rehab/prehab exercises and a weights programme which all develop my overall performance. In a typical week I do weight twice a week, 2 drills sessions and an addition gym rehab-based programme.