The second edition of the NI and Ulster Endurance Squad took place in Share Centre just outside Lisnaskea from Friday 30th September until Sunday 2nd October 2016.  This report explains the key elements of the squad weekend so that coaches and athletes who did not attend can benefit from the information that was delivered.

Friday 30th September

Friday began with athletes arriving and checking into their accommodation between 6.00 – 6.30pm before beginning their first workout.

Workout 1: Easy Run

The athletes undertook a dynamic warm up  before going for an easy run of between 20-30min as specified by their personal coaches.

Easy running is used in long runs, supplementary runs, warm-ups, cool-downs and active recoveries between higher intensity intervals. It constitutes Zone 2 of a six zone training system.

The primary benefit of easy running is that it enables you to run more distance without greatly increasing stress on your body. Easy running also develops the capillary network, stimulation of fatty acids and aerobic enzymes.

Running too fast during Easy Runs can have a detrimental effect on sessions performed later that day or later in the week. Simply resting between harder runs on the other hand will not allow accumulation of mileage, possibly negating further fitness benefits.

Easy Runs are performed below the Lactate Threshold (LT) between 61-80% of maximum Heart Rate (HRmax). Athletes should be able to talk easily at this intensity. Therefore, coaches often encourage this to ensure athletes do not run too fast.

While the athletes were out for their easy run around the mixed terrain trails located on site, coaches in attendance participated in a discussion on the topic of  ‘What it takes to win in endurance’, facilitated by Tom Crick. Once the athletes returned to the sportshall they performed a brief core workout that focused on Trunk Bracing (see session below).

Trunk Bracing Circuit x2

  • Side plank from knee (anti lateral flexion) – 30s
  • Shoulder tap push up (anti rotation) – 30s
  • Deadbug  (anti extension) – 30s
  • Rolling plank (anti rotation) – 30s
  • Monster walk with mini bands (glutes) – 10m*
  • Push up climb from forearms (scapular setting) – 30s

Catering staff then provided coaches and athletes with food. Athletes went to bed at 11.00pm.

Saturday 1st October


Starting at 10.00am following the arrival of all Open Squad athletes at 9.30am, the athletes repeated their Dynamic Warm-up before moving on to a basic introduction to co-ordination and mobility which saw them complete a series of simple and complex drills which can be viewed here: Hurdle Drills Video

  1. Forward hurdle walk overs with arms out to the side.
  2. Side facing hurdle walk with dowel overhead.
  3. Pendulum swing hurdle walk  – Swing right leg, followed by left leg round the outside of the hurdle on each side. This drill challenges and increases hip mobility and glute strength.
  4. Dynamic pendulum Hurdle Walk

The athletes also undertook some basic foot and ankle conditioning exercises including rolling heel toe walks and double and single leg calf raises.All these progressions were produced by Athletics NI’s Physical Preparation Lead Laura Kerr and Allister Woods and Adam McMullen led these sessions on the day.   Following a short break we then went on to introduce three basics high knee progressions that can be used to improve posture, stability and stride mechanics.

  • Walking high knees for 5m (x 2)
  • Skipping high knees for 20m (x2)
  • Running high knees for 20m (x2

After the running drill practice the coaches then stayed to revisit some basic concepts around running drills while the athletes took lunch and relaxed before heading up to Florencecourt to undertake the planned running session.

Workout 2 – Aerobic Running Session

After performing a dynamic warm up, delivered by Allister Woods and Adam McMullen athletes went for a 10min warm up jog around one of the trail loops while some of the coaches went off to look at the trails where the session was due to take place.

Athletes were then split into groups based on their ability and based on the workout selection the athletes had originally chosen to undertake. Details of the session can be seen below:

2 sets of 4/3/2/1 mins Aerobic Fartlek with 1 min jog rec between reps and 3 mins jog between sets.

Once all athletes had completed the main component of the session they were given the option of completing between 4-6 reps of a hill lasting 60m in length.

Hill sessions are a form of “Specific Strength Training” for endurance track runners. They overload the running action and so can also be categorised as Specific Development Exercises (SDE) using Bondarchuk’s Exercise Classification Hierarchy (ECH).They develop local muscular strength and endurance in the lower body. They can also be used to develop various energy systems depending on the parameters chosen for the session.

The session finished with four easy strides of around 80m and then another 10min cool down jog.

After eating dinner athletes and coaches gathered in the seminar room where Tom Crick facilitated a discussion regarding

‘The Lifestyle of an Athlete’.

Some of the areas for discussion can be seen below:

Lifestyle Support over-reaching



Following the Lifestyle workshop and a short break, athletes where split into 3 groups. One group, led by Allister Woods completed the bracing circuit which this time included some bridging from the heels. The second group, led by Adam McMullen participated in some flexibility work to ensure that they weren’t too tight after the previous sessions and the third group, led by Tom Crick took part in an aqua jogging session.

Aqua jogging has become popular because, unlike cycling or using an elliptical machine, it is quite similar to over ground running, at least in terms of the muscles used and your range of motion.

After all groups had a chance to take part in the aqua jogging session, athletes relaxed in the common room before going to bed at 11.00pm.

Sunday 2nd October

Sunday began at around 10:00 with the athletes returning to Florencecourt to undertake the planned Long Run. Athletes had since been joined by Rio 2016 Olympic Steeplechase athlete Kerry O’Flaherty for their long run. 


Following a dynamic warm up the athletes were split into 3 groups, anyone running between 20-30mins, 30-40mins and 50-60mins. The coaches in attendance decided that it would be more beneficial for athletes running for more than 50min to use a longer loop to avoid boredom and for everyone else to stick to the shorter loops.There were three loops available at Florencecourt National Trust Park for athletes to choose from. The first is roughly 2000m long and fairly flat while the second is around 3200m and again was fairly flat underfoot. Finally there is an 8000km loop for anyone who wishes to run over a longer distance with the route being slightly more challenging in terms of varying gradient.

Long Runs are typically performed in Zone 2 and are “Easy Runs”. They should occur below LT at around 80% HRmax. To ensure athletes do not run too fast they can be encouraged to talk while running. 

After lunch the athletes then returned for a Q&A session with 2016 Rio Olympian Kerry O’Flaherty who discussed her progression from a junior athlete right through to her gaining International selection on High Performance athletics teams. She discussed with the athletes the importance of putting in hard work and remaining dedicated and disciplined throughout their training.

The athletes left promptly around 15:00.


Without naming everyone individually, we would like to thank all the coaches who attended not only for being open with their discussion but also for helping monitor the athletes’ form during both the physical preparation and running sessions. Several coaches were also kind enough to run with the athletes on the warm ups and long run to make sure they got around the course safely and this was very much appreciated.

A special mention should go to Teresa McDaid for assisting with supervision of the female athletes and her contribution and expertise throughout the weekend. Thanks to Tom Crick, Allister Woods and Adam McMullen for helping look after the male athletes and for supervising the Physical Preparation sessions. Laura Kerr provided a significant amount of the curriculum content for the day and I would like to thank her for taking the time to develop an effective Physical Preparation program.

Report Provided by: Allister Woods-Athletics NI Running Participation Officer

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