Q & A With Abiola Beckley

Jannine Myers

Every now and again you meet a person who impresses upon you something so unique about him or her that you can’t help but want to know more; in my case I learned about such a person via a mutual connection and I had to interview him.

Abiola Beckley is one of New Zealand’s up-and-coming Olympic level sprinters, or at least that’s his hope, and after you gain from this blog post some insight into the way he trains and thinks, I’m sure you’ll believe as much as he does that his hope will be realized.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why you should read this Q & A interview – given that we’re endurance runners and sprinting is hardly an endurance sport – the simple reason is that his end goal is the same as ours: to do exceedingly well in his chosen sport (and in life in general), and guess what? He’s succeeding! That means ladies, that he can teach us a thing or two :)

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Q & A with New Zealand sprinter, Abiola Beckley (coloured text is my own emphasis):

Can you provide a brief bio, as well as any other personal details you might like to share?

I was born in Nigeria, and I am 25 years old. I moved to NZ in 2008 and have been living here since then. I served in the military back home called the (MAN – O – WAR). This is the military services for under 18s.

I work as a sport scientist/ fitness trainer at the moment, working with footballers/football teams, rugby players and sprinters mainly.

What is your running history? When did you start running and why? At what point did you realize your potential and start moving towards a professional sprinting career?
I played and trained for football mainly in Nigeria, but I always did athletics just as a social sport, which I always medalled in. Both my parents and grandparents were athletes back in their days too, so maybe it’s just the good genetics 😉

I decided to start running properly in early 2013, after doing a time trial, and clocking a 10.44 (100m). The motivation however mainly came after watching the Olympics in 2012.

Are you self-trained, or do you have a coach? 

I started off self-trained for about 4 months, getting strength training help from Dylan McLaughlin who was one of the fitness trainers in the gym that I trained at. I however did my own track work. I joined Bay Cougars (a high performance sport club) in April 2013, where I competed for a season. I changed clubs in February 2014, and signed with HPC Athletics Club under Coach Suin, who is still currently my coach.

At what point would you recommend that a runner – serious about training and achieving goals – seek out a coach?

I reckon a runner should seek coaching as soon as they decide to be serious with it. We are all like cars… to keep it working, we gotta fuel it, put oil in it and  some other things. Oil and fuel for humans is what we consume. However, to get a car faster, the engine has to be fine tuned and a few things have to be done; this is the job of a coach for us human beings.

What are your race distances and which is your favourite or strongest? Do you currently hold any records? What are your current and long-term goals?

I currently race 100m and 200m, but I’m planning to go back into long jump this season, after 7 years. My strongest distance is 200m, but I prefer the 100m because it is a very short powerful burst and I am relatively quick off the blocks.

All my records from 100m and long jump have been crushed as of last year I believe, but more records are coming soon I assure you.

My current goal is to run some really fast times this coming season; this goal is looking really good, as the off-season training we had this year has been awesome and I’m feeling very strong. We included some gymnastics sessions this year with two-time Commonwealth athlete Mark Holyoake, and the core, glutes, and hip flexors are feeling great! Long-term goals are Commonwealth in Gold Coast 2018 and Tokyo Olympics 2020.

What motivates you to train each day? And how do you push yourself on days that you don’t feel like training?

I am self-motivated to train because I have my eyes on the prize and I like to go to bed knowing that I am better than I was the day before. I know missing one day of training can delay my end goal for up to 6 months, so I like to make every day, every hour, and every rep count. Just like every other person, I have days that I struggle to stay motivated, but I have random alarms through my day that go off and remind me of why I train. The tone of this alarm is however Dr Eric Thomas’ voice; Dr Thomas is the top inspirational speaker in the world at the moment.

What does a typical training day look like for you? I’m curious to know how much time is allocated to track workouts versus strength workouts. Can you give an example of both a track workout as well as a strength workout, and how long each takes?

Training days change depending on the cycle we are on, how close to season, and what sessions we have on. Closer to season, we train twice a day: one early morning workout – mostly track or grass work for up to 2 hours – and another training in the evening – mostly plyometric, strength or power – for up to 2 hours again.

Also, closer to season track work takes more priority over strength, and track sessions can be speed endurance, speed, fitness or acceleration. Depending on what session it is, we can take up to 2 hours or under 1.5 hours. Strength work however generally takes up to 2 hours and the exercises typically include the three big lifts (squat, bench press, and deadlifts) and some other accessory work.

A common practice among successful athletes and entrepreneurs is going to bed early and rising at the same time every day? Is that the norm for you too?

I get up around 5am every week morning but the time I go to sleep varies, depending if I have to cook or not haha. On weekends I get up around 6am, so I get a bit of sleep in.

Do you have time for a social life?

I try to make some time for social life, but I never let it disturb my training. I cancel on people quite a bit, because if I plan to do something with someone and I later get a message from Coach to train around the same time, I cancel and reschedule. Sacrifices have to be made; time for social life will always come.

How important is nutrition to you? Can you describe what a typical day’s meals and snacks might be, and if timing is important to you with regards to pre and post-training?

Nutrition is important to me, especially closer to season when the work load increases. I feel like I don’t recover enough for the next session if I don’t eat well. A typical day of eating for me is:

Breakfast

About 4 slices of fruit bread with lots of bacon and egg, and chocolate milk

Lunch

Rice with stew and lots of steak, and some vegetables

Dinner

Kumara (sweet potato) with more steak or chicken, and vegetables

I consume lots of fluid through my day and eat lots of snacks through the day. Snacks like nuts or chocolate milk mainly, and I also have small meals through the day.

I think timing is quite important pre and post training. I try to consume my food at least 2 hours before training, and I would have some snacks or a banana about 30-45mins before training. I would also have a meal within 45mins after training in order to replenish my body. I don’t like the taste of protein shakes, so it’s all meals for me and I’m sure I get enough protein from my meals.

Do you ever eat “junk food” or drink alcohol?

I eat junk sometimes when I’m out with my friends… but not very often at all. KFC is my weakness 😂😂😂. I’ve never consumed alcohol in my life. I’m the one sober driver you can count on haha.

Do you think endurance runners can learn anything from sprinters? Maybe in terms of drills, biomechanics/form etc.? And are there any specific track workouts that you think would benefit endurance runners?

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I think endurance runners can learn a few things from sprinters in terms of drills, form, and biomechanics, in order to be more efficient runners. Though the running form of a sprinter is different from an endurance runner, I think endurance runners can still learn some useful exercises, for example, exercises that help them learn how to fire the necessary muscles when running, as well as glute activation drills.

I have seen a number of endurance runners that don’t activate their glutes when they run; it is understandable that they try to minimize any unnecessary energy expenditure, but in doing so they lack the ability to “kick” during the last few kilometres. I’m no distance running expert, but I am just looking at it from a general biomechanics point of view. Maybe that is what a normal running form should look like for an endurance runner?

You’re featured in a Rebel Sports ad that shows you sprinting 100m, and the ad says that you’re practically airborne for 88 of those 100m – is that true? And if so, what do you attribute that to? How did you get so strong and agile?

Yes, I am air-borne for about 88 meters of those 100m. This is why I like to sprint and long jump. I’m addicted to speed and being air-borne. Sprinting has a few key attributes that need to be trained. Some of these include stride length (optimal), stride rate (maximal), ground contact time (minimal) and hang time (minimal). But also, the strength and power comes from training, hard work, persistence and consistency.

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 Some useful links:

running.competitor.com/2014/03/training/don’t-separate-mental-training-from-physical-training_27280

janninemyers.com/2016/02/why-regulating-your-sleep-and-getting-up-earlier-is-a-winning-formula.html

Energy-Loaded Chia-Coco-Walnut Cookies

Jannine Myers

I’m “that person” who never lets any food or ingredient go to waste. I will find a way to use pretty much everything in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, even if what needs to be used up doesn’t seem to go with anything else I have on hand. Earlier this week for example, I had about a 1/4 cup red miso paste left, so after a quick scan of my refrigerator I knew I had enough vegetables to make an easy coconut-miso curry. Yesterday, as I was taking something out of the pantry, I saw a few almost-empty packages and jars and decided to get busy baking :)

The end result: these energy-loaded Chia-Coco-Walnut cookies!!! Delicious!

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Here’s how I think I made them (hard to remember since I didn’t follow a recipe, but I’m pretty sure the following ingredients and directions are accurate):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 cup Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 cup Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free oats, plus an additional cup pulsed into flour
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup organic raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup black chia seeds

[You don’t need to use gluten free or organic products; that’s just what I had on hand]

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Heat coconut oil and agave nectar in a microwaveable bowl, then mix well and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Combine all remaining ingredients (reserving 1/4 cup oat flour) in a large bowl.
  4. Add the slightly cooled coconut oil and agave to the dry ingredients and mix well. If the mixture is too moist and sticky, add more of the oat flour until you reach a dough-like consistency that holds well.
  5. Roll mixture into balls and place on baking trays and press the balls down using the bottom of a glass.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. After the cookies have been out of the oven for about 10 minutes, place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Book Review – Rocket Fuel by Matt Kadey

Jannine Myers

Have you ever considered that maybe the only difference between you and your closest competitor/s is nutrition? That even though your athletic ability is near-equal, she has the edge on you because she’s got her nutrition down and you don’t. Well no need to fret; Matt Kadey‘s book Rocket Fuel is exactly what you need to take the guess work out of all your meals!

A James Beard award-winner and Registered Dietitian, as well as avid cyclist, Kadey says that his motivation in writing Rocket Fuel was to give ideas for quick meals that support athletic lifestyles. He hopes his book will encourage athletes to get excited about making their own meals and snacks and less inclined to buy pre-packaged and processed foods.

Broken down into before, during, and after-workout recipes – that have been carefully developed with a “simple-to-make” goal in mind – Rocket Fuel makes it easy for you transition from store-bought to home-made meals. But it offers much more too:

  • 126 recipe ideas for power-packed foods, snacks, and light meals including bowls, puddings, wraps, sandwiches, bites, balls, squares, bars, drinks, patties, cakes, stacks, drinks, smoothies, shakes, soups, muffins, sliders, pies, rolls, DIY energy shots, and all-natural sports drinks.
  • 33 Before, 43 During, and 50 After Exercise recipes
  • 79 dairy free, 85 gluten free, 76 vegetarian, and 33 paleo-friendly recipes
  • Smart-yet-simple sports nutrition guidelines for before, during, and after exercise
  • Complete nutrition facts for every recipe

If you want to gain the competitive edge on your competitor/s, get your copy of Rocket Fuel now.

Rocket Fuel by Matt Kadey

Rocket Fuel by Matt Kadey

A few interesting comments by Kadey:

  • Regarding all the hype lately about fasted workouts, i.e. the idea that running/cycling in a fasted state helps your body to rely more on fats as a fuel, Kadey believes there’s no harm in trying it. However, he suggests that you keep in context what your goal is; if your intent is to push the pace at some point, you probably won’t be able to handle the higher intensity for very long in a fasted state. Athletes who would benefit more from this type of training are those who are training at more moderate and lower intensities.
  • Early onset of fatigue during a run can be due to low blood sugar levels, as in the case of a runner starting out in a fasted state. In some cases however, a runner may experience early onset of fatigue despite eating just 30 or 40 minutes prior to running. The reason for this is likely because the choice of fuel was some type of easily digested simple carb, and since there was a gap of “waiting” time, the runner may have experienced a drop in blood sugar right before she started to run. Kadey recommends eating something with a little more substance that doesn’t have a high glycemic response, hence the reason most of his pre-workout recipes contain a little fat and protein (to promote more of a drawn-out versus rapid energy release). Note: if you wish to take a gel prior to a long run or race, it’s best to take it within minutes of starting to run; taking it right before shouldn’t cause an adverse reaction because your muscles will use up the sugar as soon as you start running.
  • And finally, a little fun fact: Kadey debunks the myth that bananas help to avoid or stop cramps. Many athletes, he says, think that bananas help to alleviate cramps because they contain potassium. But the latest research suggests instead that it’s really to do with muscles being put under more tension than what they’re used to. In races for example, athletes often go harder than what they have conditioned themselves to handle during training workouts. So no, bananas won’t take away your cramps….

Baked Cashew Oatmeal Bars

Jannine Myers

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, so here’s one that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. I got the idea actually from a friend’s Facebook page; she’s a fitness and health coach who advocates as I do, a mostly whole foods approach to diet. On her page, she showed a picture of her young son demolishing a baked oatmeal bar, and in her comments she added, “It’s the perfect low glycemic option and high in fiber…….”

Admittedly, my bars probably don’t meed the same standards as hers (she didn’t post her recipe so I have no way of comparing), but I am taking a guess since the glycemic and fiber profile of mine are not quite as favorable. However, on the plus side, they are much more nutritionally dense than commercial bars – they contain less sugar, healthy fats, and 4g of protein per slice -.and they’re perfect for rushed on-the-go breakfast snacks or mid-afternoon energy slumps. Give them a try and see what you think!

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup cashew butter (soak raw cashews in hot water for at least an hour and then pulse into a butter)
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 1/8 cup raw honey and
  • 1/8 cup agave
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ¾ cup Bob’s Redmill gluten free one-to-one flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cashew butter, coconut sugar, honey and agave, egg, coconut oil, and vanilla until fully combined.
  3. Add in the oats, flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  5. Allow to cool in the pan, then cut into bars and store in a sealed container (they freeze well too).

You Have A Training Plan, But What About A Race Plan?

Jannine Myers

Most of you presumably train for races with some specific goal in mind; a goal other than that of “just finishing.” Whether it’s a goal of finishing under a certain time, achieving a new Personal Best, or winning an age-group or gender award, I’m willing to bet that how you go about achieving that goal is built into your training plan. But, in a recent blog post by Coach Greg McMillan, he mentions that the “perfect race” is often related to perfect execution, and so maybe the key to achieving your goal also depends on having an equally strategic race plan.

According to McMillan, a good race plan is one that involves risk, as well as an ability to manage that risk. That reminds me by the way, of a podcast interview in which Bob Larsen (Meb Keflezighi‘s coach), said that Meb was initially looked at not because he was exceptionally strong and fast (many of his college peers were apparently faster), but because he was bold enough to take risks in races.

If you’ve never been much of a risk-taker on race-day, here are five steps that McMillan recommends:

1. Expect the voice – know that you’ll eventually reach a point in your race where you’ll encounter “the voice.” You’re already familiar with it; it always shows up in mocking fashion, often catching you off guard and throwing you off pace. The best way to challenge it is to expect it and be ready for it.

2. When in doubt, go for it – if you have any inclination at all to pick up the pace at some crucial point in the race, don’t allow yourself any negotiating time. Those split-second decisions are often the ones that later cause regret because you chose the conservative instead of aggressive option.

3. Know yourself – you know exactly what mistakes you’ve made in the past, so make it your mission to not make those same mistakes again.

4. Kick – there’s no reason to hold back when the finish line is in sight; give it everything you’ve got and sprint! As obvious as this step may sound, not everyone does it. I really believe this is a strategy worth practicing in training, especially as I have personally experienced – twice now – a second place finish due to the runner behind me passing me with a strong finishing sprint.

5. Risk everything – what’s the worst thing that can happen? You might completely bonk and end up with one of your worst race times ever, but as McMillan so rightly states, “Races are a chance to explore your limits,” so why shouldn’t you?

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Check out the full article here if you want to read more, or if you’re interested in Greg McMillan’s coaching services.

You Might Be More Susceptible To Overtraining Than You Thought

Jannine Myers

Most runners are familiar with the term overtraining, but what they might not know is that it appears to affect recreational runners much more than originally thought.

Because overtraining refers to a decline in performance due to excessive stress on certain parts of the musculoskeletal system, we tend to associate it with professional runners who spend much more time training, and at much higher intensities. But Dr. Inigo San Millan, PhD., says that blood biomarkers showing up in recreational runners are increasingly revealing signs of overtraining.

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Dr. Millan believes that the reason these biomarkers are being seen more and more in recreational runners, is because unlike professional runners, recreational runners don’t have an entourage of training and recovery specialists facilitating everything they do on a day-to-day basis.

The following points highlight how and why a recreational runner might find him/herself in an overtrained state:

  • Runners, in general, tend to be A-Type personalities; they are by nature hard workers and goal-achievers. While it’s clear that recreational runners don’t train at the same level and intensities as professional runners, many – especially A-types – still train with as much purpose and determination; the problem is that they are often just as zealous in other areas of their lives, and therefore, unintentionally negligent when it comes to ensuring optimal recovery conditions.
  • A “zealous” and busy recreational runner for example, might have a lifestyle outside of training that keeps her from getting adequate sleep. When she wakes up consistently feeling tired, she might be inclined to tell herself that fatigue is a normal part of training and should simply be tolerated; she’lll therefore continue to stick to her training plan and make no modifications. A professional runner on the other hand (or her coach, at least), is more likely to recognize early signs of overtraining and accordingly reduce the training workload and/or intensity.
  • Diet might also play a role in the occurrence of overtraining symptoms. The average recreational runner might know a lot about training, but a little about nutrition. A professional runner makes it her job to know how to properly fuel both during and outside of training. Interestingly, a too-low carbohydrate intake appears to be a common factor among recreational runners who suffer from overtraining.
  • Recreational runners are more likely than professional runners to try and “make up” for missed runs by overcompensating with extra intensity and/or miles. Additionally, recreational runners often run too fast, believing that the harder they run, the faster they’ll run. Professional runners understand however, that slow, easy runs are an important part of training as they help to heal minor damage from previous runs by pushing oxygen-rich blood through the legs.

So there you have it; your more advanced running peers are probably less likely than you to suffer the adverse effects of overtraining! With that in mind, take care when you next take on a significant training goal, especially if you’re someone who holds yourself to high standards in everything you do.

Here’s a few quick tips:

  1. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Consult with a nutritionist if you’re not sure that your diet is supporting your training efforts.
  3. Remember to slow down and take it easy on recovery days, and make sure that you actually rest on days that you should be resting.
  4. Minimize your stress levels, to the best of your ability.
  5. Schedule regular massage visits once you begin to approach a peak in your training workload, and use your foam roller if you have one.

Happy and safe running ladies!