Q & A With Abiola Beckley

Jannine Myers

Abiola Beckley is one of New Zealand’s up-and-coming Olympic level sprinters; at least, that is his hope. In a recent interview with him I was able to document not only some interesting personal details, but also aspects of his training that although mostly relevant to short distance running, would nonetheless be insightful reading for longer-distance runners.

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Q & A with New Zealand sprinter, Abiola Beckley

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 in my mind and remind me of why I train. The tone of this alarm is 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