Training in the Sun with Mel Stephenson!

With the outdoor athletics season having just begun, but with a holiday abroad booked a few months ago I faced the dilemma of how to maintain speed and strength whilst away. At the same time as enjoying my holiday and having time away from training to relax and enjoy myself. You might ask why I chose to take a holiday during what I knew would be athletics season. But with two seasons (indoors and outdoors) and preparatory seasons before those, there’s little time for a break in the sport of athletics anyway so you have to take them when you can.

Part of the balancing act between managing diabetes and doing well in sport is preparation. I don’t have the fortune to be able to decide to train on a whim without checking my blood sugars first and ensuring I’ve eaten the right amount of carbs in preparation. Planning to train when I was abroad on holiday was no different. So I took what I’ve broken down into 5 steps to ensure for success.

Step 1 session Planning-

Deciding what I wanted to get out of the sessions so no valuable beach time was missed. Before I left, I sat down with my coach and we discussed what was to be achieved both whilst away- speed and speed endurance and when I got back- the impending competition on the weekend after my return. We agreed on 3-4 sessions whilst away, breaking them down into speed endurance, pure speed and technical work.

Step 2 what kit to take-

It seems silly but in previous years I’ve tended to bog myself down with too much kit preparing for all conditions. This time I checked the weather forecast and stuck to things that were dri-fit or quick drying and versatile like ¾ length leggings.

Step 3 check Out Facilities Before-

See in advance about training facilities in and around where you’re staying. Sometimes internet usage is expensive whilst abroad so it’s best to check in advance about track or gym usage. I went on holiday to Tenerife which claimed to have a track in both the north and south of the island. My hotel also claimed to have basic gym facilities.

Step 4 Go on Holiday!

On day one of every holiday I always use it to get used to the food and adapt my insulin regime according to both diet and the weather before I start training. I, e- when it’s hot I need less insulin because the heat speeds up the break down and sensitivity of it. I find cold weather has less of an impact. The quality of training is better if it’s not spent worrying about food or blood sugar levels because as at home, nutrition and forward planning are part of the base for successful training.

Step 5 Holiday food-

Obviously I’m a lot more relaxed on holiday with diet than at home as the aim is still to relax and have fun. But on training days I made sure I started the day right. A diet that suits me best in warm weather conditions whilst training, is high in protein and approximately 60 grams of carbs. (My normal amount is about 30-50grams for breakfast at home). The protein tends to come in the form of egg whites and the carbs a combination of fast acting and slow acting- E,g- orange juice and wholemeal toast or fruit like banana.

Like with most ‘plans’ some things don’t always go right. The tracks in Tenerife were either difficult to get to without the use of a car, expensive to use or both. So this is where the prior planning came into practice with adapting the sessions to the suit the facilities available to me.

The first session I’d planned with my coach was to do speed endurance in the form of 6 x 120m at high intensity. With the track unavailable I was lucky enough to find a paved hill stretching approx 150m. I used this same hill for both other speed sessions shortening the distance or for the sake of cadence running down it opposed to up. Near the hotel I was also lucky enough to find a set of 90 stairs where I was able to do a ply metric (bounding session) concentrating on speed of foot turnover and quick impact with the ground.

All in all I was really happy with the sessions completed on holiday, and carrying on training opposed to taking a week out mid-season. It also insured me a consistent blood sugar level throughout the week as I find that when I don’t maintain the intensity or frequency of training my blood sugars rise and I feel ill. Best of all I was rewarded a week later when I ran a new personal best time over the 100m and a seasons best over 200m at a British Athletics League Meet.

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