Casey Longden

Casey volunteered to be my athlete to use as a case study for my Coach in Running Fitness course. I asked Casey for some feedback on the process and he provided some really useful thoughts that he discusses below.

“Firstly, to say that Alex’s coaching has been really valuable and has helped me to learn more about the science of running and to achieve my best running times to date.

I have been sporadically running as an adult for the last fifteen years but never with any specific goals in mind other than ‘being active’. Whilst taking my daughter to Manchester Harriers running club I decided I’d give it a go too, which is where I started to take running more seriously and met Alex. That was in August 2021, so less than one year ago.

The Development of a Training Plan

Whilst attending club sessions Alex asked me if I would be interested in him helping me with a training plan and we agreed a goal of trying to run a half marathon in one hour and forty minutes (1h40m).

To that point I hadn’t done many ‘event’ runs and the last (and only) time I had run a half marathon was almost ten years prior where my time had been around 1h55m.

To start developing a training plan, Alex first assessed me with a short session in a local park where he looked at my ‘foundations’ – agility, balance and coordination. He gave me a few suggestions immediately around improving core strength and I could tell he is very knowledgeable about the subject.

Soon after we did a ramp text on a treadmill which gave detailed information on my heart rate zones which was something I knew little about previously and was to become a core element of the training plan as we progressed.

The Training Plan

From there Alex provided me with a training plan in a spreadsheet which broke down, by day each week, what he proposed I do. This consisted of:

Details of that day’s session

The details were just that, detailed! I always knew exactly what to do to warm up and cool down, how long a run or other exercise I was doing, what pace I was aiming for or what my heartrate should be to get the maximum benefit.

An example might be:

Hill Reps

WARM UP:
5 mins walk
Walking Lunges
5 mins super-easy run
30s straight leg run
10x Jumping Lunges

MAIN SET:
Find a 10% hill
20x 20 seconds ‘sprint’ up the hill*
Walk back to start point
*focus on getting the leading knee high – this should also result in your trailing (driving) leg becoming fully extended.

COOL DOWN:
5 mins easy run
5 mins walk

Training Emphasis

A short snippet of info regarding the ‘why’ of the session.

For example, with the above hill reps session:

“Strength and reducing overstriding”

Energy System

Which of the body’s energy systems the session would be using.

For example:

“Alactic/Lactic + Aerobic”

Intensity

A simple ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ system to help me understand the activity level that was expected.

The plan contained a large variety of different training. Predominantly it was running-based with different paces or focus on technique but we also included strength sessions in the gym each week too.

The Results

I took the plan and training seriously as I could tell how much time Alex had invested in creating it and I wanted to make sure he got a true return on how well it worked so he could develop it for future clients.

Overall the results couldn’t have been more positive and I have been genuinely surprised by how much my fitness has improved and also how quickly.

We beat the hoped for time of 1h40m with a half marathon time of 1h38m which I was delighted with and I feel like my technique has improved and continues to do so.

A good measure for me is not only the half marathon time but also that when I joined Manchester Harriers I struggled to keep up with the sessions but am now able to match those that I was looking at as being great runners when I started.

I have also lost weight and have found myself naturally wanting to improve my diet to match the improvement in health generally.

So.. great results!

My Thoughts on the Plan

As you can see, with Alex’s attention to detail it’s very difficult to go wrong or to be unsure of what he is advising. However, any time I was either unclear or just interested in understanding more, I spoke to Alex who was always able to explain why the plan was written that way and what the aimed for benefits were.

Alex is clearly interested in the science behind running and has great technical knowledge that, helpfully, he can explain practically. The level of detail was excellent but one of the key things he said to me that really stuck was that pace improvement is most closely linked to volume of running done.

To that end, the plan included lots of long runs that were based around heart rate measuring. Initially this kind of running felt counter-productive – it meant I was running more slowly that I would have in order to keep my heart rate within the expected zones but with some practice that changed and enabled me to run both more frequently and for longer distances.

Following a training plan helped me to push myself harder than I would have on my own but also to take rest when it was necessary; it was a great motivator.

I would highly recommend Alex as a coach; he is very personable with great expertise and having gone through this process with him my running has improved massively so the results speak for themselves.”

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