Croy Thomson’s A to Z of Handy Hints for Athletes of Many Ages

Written originally with junior endurance athletes in mind, and including contributions from fellow coaches and young athletes, the alphabet has something for everyone. Enjoy!

EXCITING NEW FEATURE! Yes, the much-anticipated A to Z of Handy Hints to Help You Get Through This Very Odd Winter.

A is for Adaptability – be prepared to adapt your clothing, footwear  and expectations to the conditions ,the route and the time available to you.
Runners in the snow
B is for Be Safe! – Run where and when it is safe to do so. Consider the weather, underfoot surfaces, bright clothing, is the route well lit, are there people to go with, staying in sight of others. See also H for Headphones and I for ID.
C is for Company – Running solo is all very well, but try to take someone else along, who can at least keep you in sight. Under 13s should definitely keep a tame adult nearby. Always tell someone where you’re going.
D is for Daylight – Think ahead on when you can run in parks, playing fields and golf courses. Try to plan your days (and evenings).
E is for Eat –  Eat the good stuff and plenty of it. Iron-rich foods include green leafy things, meat, nuts, raisins, broccoli, beans, carrots. Eat pasta, rice, potatoes … eat everything put in front of you (not the plate).
F is for Footwear – Wear trainers, trail shoes and spikes that fit properly. You’re all growing. There’s a tendency to wear trainers well past their worn-out date (they’re comfy, yes, but they’re not protecting your feet, ankles, shins, knees …). Wear the best shoes you can for the surface you’ll be running on.
G is for Gloves – Keep your hands and fingers warm and you’ll train/ race better. A spare pair of socks makes a decent pair of gloves if you’re stuck. Mittens keep hands warmer than finger gloves (your fingers can get close together and keep each other warmer, the wee souls.)
G is for gloves
G is also for Golf Courses – Always check they’re allowing people on, to walk or run, but if they are, they’re fabulous places for a run. Be aware of other people. Stay off the putting surfaces!
H is for Headphones –  Please don’t wear headphones while running, it’s dangerous.
End of.
H is also for hydrate –  Even in cold weather, your body will heat up when you exercise, and you’ll lose fluid. Take on water at least after your sessions: dehydration can make you feel dreadful.
I is for ID bands. – The Park Run people issue wristbands that carry personal details in case of accidents. Some form of identification on you or in your clothing is a good idea. Allergies and medical conditions are worth including. Name, address and a contact phone number are basic requirements.
I is also for Ice – Be aware of all surfaces at this time of year. What you think is dark pavement might just be the slidiest slide you’ve ever had the misfortune to slide on. Thanks Matthew Cox for the reminder (based on personal experience, I believe).
J is for Just Run – Forget all the sessions, stopwatches, whistles, races: the main thing is just get out over the doorstep and get a run in, enjoy the fresh air, think about nothing much, relax away from books, lessons, screens, chores … enjoy yourself, you’re one of a tiny minority who run as well as you do. Run for yourself.
K is for Kitbag –  What’s in yours? Everything you need for the session and right after? Water? A snack? Clean dry socks? Change of shoes? Poly bag for wet kit? Toilet roll?! We’d love to compose the perfect list, so let’s hear your suggestions.
L is for Listen – To your coach. To the traffic. To what’s coming up behind you. Most importantly, listen to your body – listen to those wee aches and pains, that sniffy nose, that feeling of tiredness that doesn’t go away, that need for sleep, that glorious feeling when you’re fit, strong and jogging easily with your pals on a Sunday morning warm-down.
M is for Mobile Phone – Carrying your mobile phone when out running helps keep you safe – you can be tracked with it, for one thing. On the other hand, running while looking at the screen is dangerous. See also Headphones.
N is for Never Worry – Please don’t fret over sessions you can’t complete, or not hitting your targets. It happens to every athlete, from elite to beginner, and worrying really is a waste of energy. Look forward to the next one and how good it’s going to be.  Neil Gourley allows himself a maximum of 24 hours to brood over a bad performance ( and the same for feeling chuffed about a good effort )
Neil Gourley
O is for Over-Training – The temptation to do that little bit more can be hard to resist, but don’t give in to it. Do your sessions as well as you can, as consistently as you can, and improvements will come. Signs of over-training include poor sleep, constant tiredness, getting annoyed at unimportant things. Take at least one day off a week. See Zeds.

P is for Positivity –  Simply by stepping out the door for a run is a massive positive in your favour. There are positives to be found in every session – even what feels like a disaster can teach you something. At Giffnock North, we don’t never not got no negatives.

P is also for Pals – Keep in touch with your mates, message everyone in your bubble, however briefly. Include everyone, chat, and encourage each other. Sport is about more than sport: it’s also about friendships and some of them will last you a lifetime. We’ve seen it happen and it’s great.

Q is for Quality over Quantity (though Quantity has a Quality all its own) –  A shortened session done well is worth more than a session done half-heartedly or hurriedly. If you have to shorten your session, so be it, that’s okay, but still make it a good one. As Seb Coe’s coach said, “Never stray too far from speed.”

R is for Rest and Recovery –  Rest and sleep are incredibly important parts of your training and life as an athlete. Regular sleeping and rest days help your body recover from hard efforts, and grow stronger. See also Zeds
S is for Stretches –  Give yourself a greater range of movement for no extra effort, plus make yourself more able to avoid injuries and recover from them. Build stretches into your day, whenever you think of them, and soon you won’t even know you’re doing them. It’s improvement in movement, for free!

S is also for Self-Management – Try to arrange your day, get everything done: you’ll be glad. Doing stuff for yourself prepares you for the day when your coach isn’t there to provide you with safety pins. You’ll be more confident, more resilient, more able to seize the day.

T is for Talk to your Coaches –  We have solutions to just about every imaginable question. Never be afraid to ask what you think might be a daft question: the daft bit is to not ask. Daft questions often lead to funny conversations and brilliant solutions. What if Newton hadn’t wondered, “Why do apples fall?”

T is also for Team-Mates –  Your team-mates keep you going, keep you smiling, amuse and bemuse you in equal measure, send you bonkers messages, remind you where sessions are happening, give you the goss, listen to your ideas. Right now you can’t meet up, but you can keep in touch.
T is for Team-Mates
U is for Uphills – Hill sessions are speed work in disguise. Do them in small sets of twenty seconds, twenty-five, thirty and so on, on the one incline, or throw a few into a running route in a park or golf course. Variety is good! Don’t overdo it.
U is for Understanding – Understanding that all your training and resilience in coping with Covid will prepare you well for coping with competitions as well as other challenges you may face in life.
V is for Vitamins –  Vitamin C is good for you in many ways, including helping your body absorb iron, which is important for young men as well as young women. Orange juice, watermelon, carrots, peas, broccoli, sprouts and tatties are all sources of Vitamin C. Caffeine reduces your body’s ability to take in vitamin C.
W is for Weather – Always weigh up the weather before you go out: truly windy, drenching, icy conditions can make a session almost worthless. Same goes for too hot. However, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, as they say in the Russian Army (Russians know about bad weather).
W is also for Wash Your Hands –  a good rule at the best of times, it’s never been more important than now. It’s a top tap tip.
X is for in-between 8 and 600, or 10 and 400 – Okay, okay, the letter X is always trixxy so forgive me this once. (If you’re doing the 6X800 one, stick a flat-out 200 at the end, it’s great 5k training. Pace and recoveries are up to you: see also Adaptability and Self-Management.)
Y is for You’ll Never Run Alone –  we’re here for each other and that includes you. Everyone
Childrens race at the Festival of Running, Rouken Glen Park
Z is for Zeds – Always get your zeds, eight hours a night. Your body needs good quality sleep to help it recover and grow. Turn your screens off well before you go to bed. You’ll feel better, think better, study better, train better, conquer the world better, okay maybe not the last one.
Z is also for Zatopek – You knew he’d be here, right? The only athlete ever to win the 5,000 metres, 10,000 metres and marathon at the same Olympics. In his life he showed inspirational inventiveness, adaptability and determination in overcoming astonishing obstacles, not all of them sporting. Emil never gave in, so don’t you dare.
Emil Zatopec
Many thanks to Croy Thomson and all who contributed.