The NI and Ulster Endurance Squad Pilot took place in Gortin just outside Omagh from Friday 25 September until Sunday 27 September 2015. 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 25 September

Friday evening began 30min later than planned because it took longer than expected to check all the athletes into their accommodation.


The athletes then undertook a dynamic warm up (see sessions to the right) 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.

We then returned to the hostel and performed a brief core workout that focused on Trunk Bracing (see sessions to right). The athletes then made themselves food while the coaches in attendance went through a brief workshop on basic endurance physiology.

The athletes then went to bed at 23:30.

Saturday 26 September

Starting at 10:00 the athletes repeated their Dynamic Warm-up before moving on to a basic Introduction to Plyometrics (see session to the right), which saw them complete around 170 contacts across two key areas:

  1. Introduction to landing mechanics
  2. Reactive plyometrics

The athletes also undertook some basic foot and ankle conditioning exercises. All these progressions were produced by Athletics NI’s Physical Preparation Lead Laura Kerr and Tom Reynolds led these sessions on the day.

After a short break, Tom Crick then led a 15min session where we looked at video of several top endurance athletes training and racing and pulled out the key features that made their running technique efficient. We then went on to introduce three Basic Running Drills (high knee variations – see sessions to the right) that can be used to practice these common elements.

After the running drill practice the coaches then stayed to revisit some basic concepts around running drills and look at video of the three drills being performed by a competent athlete along with common mistakes to look out for.

The athletes then took lunch and relaxed before heading up to Gortin Glen Forest to undertake the planned hill session.


After performing a 10min warm up jog around one of the trail loops some of the coaches went off to look at the hill trails. Upon inspection it was decided the original hill trails were too narrow for such a large number of athletes to negotiate safely and so the planned sessions were redesigned to make use of a wider tarmacked hill that existed in the forest.

Based on the sessions the athletes had originally chosen to undertake the group was split into three and athletes performed somewhere between 6-10 reps of hills lasting either 30s, 45s or 60s in length. As a group we felt this was a suitable alternative to the session originally planned and we hope it is acceptable to those coaches who were not in attendance.


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 up a shallow hill and then another 10min warm down jog.

After eating food and relaxing for the evening the athletes went to bed at 23:00.

Sunday 27 September

Sunday began at around 10:00 with the athletes returning to the Glen to undertake the planned Long Run.


Based on our experience of running the 1.5km and 2.2km loops as a warm up on Saturday 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. This was made possible because members of Omagh Harriers kindly volunteered to show us a longer route and run it with us. This was a slight change from the originally planned session, provided to personal coaches prior to the Squad day. However, all the coaches in attendance agreed it was an improvement.

Athletes who were running for less than 50min ran around a 2.2km loop for their allotted period of time. Meanwhile athletes running for more than 50min were lead around the new longer loop by a member of Omagh Harriers before returning  after 50min to undertake the 2.2km loop for the remainder of their session. Athletes in this group still ran for their allotted period of time.


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 General Strength physical preparation session. This comprised exercises focused around the following themes:

  • Single Leg Progressions
  • Lunge Progressions
  • Hip Hinge Progressions
  • Push Up Progressions
  • Bridging Progressions
  • Split Squat Progressions

Full details of this session can be found to the right.

The squad then finished the day with a repeat of the Bracing circuit performed on Friday. This time we cycled twice through each of the exercises. The athletes then 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.

However, a special mention should go to Teresa McDaid for assisting with supervision of the female athletes overnight and to Tom Reynolds for helping me look after the male athletes and for pulling together the Physical Preparation sessions. Laura Kerr provided a lot of the curriculum content for the day.


Training Elements

Dynamic Warm Up

  • 20m Easy Skip (cue “knee up/toe up/arm action”)
  • Walking knee to chest squeeze x 6 each side
  • 20m Easy Skip
  • Bodyweight squat arms in front x 10  (“heels down/hips back”)
  • Walking lunges x 10 (“step over the knee/vertical torso/coordinated arms”)
  • 20m Easy Skip
  • Hip hinge x 10 reps
  • 20m Lateral skip left
  • Sumo squat x 10 reps
  • 20m Lateral skip right
  • Lateral lunge to 90 degrees and slide back x 5reps each side
  • 20m Easy Skip
  • Reverse lunge to high knee x 10 reps
  • 20m Easy Skip

Trunk Bracing Circuit (Core Work)

  • 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

Introduction to Plyometrics

Landing Mechanics and Principles of Landing

  • Squat jump stick for 5 reps (x2)
  • Counter movement jump stick for 5 reps (x2)
  • Squat jump with 180 degree twist for 5 reps (x2)
  • Standing Long Jump over 1.20m forward for 5 reps (x 2)
  • Alternate leg line hop and stick over 1.20m for 5 reps (x2)

Foot and Ankle Conditioning

  • Toe up heel walking
  • Heel toe roll and calf raise walking

Reactive Jumps

  • Pogo in place for 20reps (x2)
  • Pogo forward for 20reps (x2)
  • Alternate foot pogo for 20reps (x2)

Running Drills

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

Introduction to General Strength

Single Leg Progressions

  • Single leg quarter squat & hold 30secs each side (x2)
  • Single leg quarter squat 8 reps (x2)

Lunge Progressions

  • Reverse lunge 8 reps each side (x2)
  • Walking lunge 15m
  • Walking lunge with dowel overhead 15m (x2)

Hip Hinge Progressions

  • Kneeling hip hinge x 12
  • Standing hip hinge 12reps (x2)

Push Up Progressions

  • Alternate shoulder tap from push up position 30sec (x2)*
  • Push to giant cone from knees 10 reps (x2)*only did 1 set
  • Push up to giant cone 8 reps (x2) *only did 1 set

Bridging Progressions

  • Bridging from heels 20 reps (x2)
  • Single leg bridges 12reps each side (x2)*


  • Inchworm walk out 2x6*

Split Squat Progressions

  • Split squat and hold 45secs each leg (x2)
  • Split squat and hold with dowel overhead 45secs each leg (x2) *only did 1 set)

Trunk Activity

  • Reverse trunk curl 12 reps (x2)*


++ NOTES ++

*please note that this activity was not performed during the pilot but would normally be included in progression. We have included extra notes where needed.

Acknowledgements: Progressions produced by Laura Kerr.