The first thing you notice when you enter the Lee Valley Athletics Centre is just how big it is. And then you notice the athletes, dotted around the centre going through intense training sessions. The centre echoes with the clink-clink of the Fencers tucked away in the corner away from the blistering runs of the sprinters.
I am at the Lee Valley Centre to learn how UK athletics coach Lloyd Cowan is using the Polar H7 to train his athletes and, more importantly, to talk to Victoria Ohuruogu, Christine Ohuruogu’s younger sister. Competing over the same distance as her sister, Victoria is a sign of bright things to come on the track for Britain. Christine is adamant that if Victoria contunues training as hard as she has been and reaches her potential, she can surpass what she has achieved in her career.
But first, before I can talk to Vicky, I find out more about the the Polar H7. Lloyd Cowan swears by the device primarily because it is simple and effective: He just needs to sync his athletes’ devices to the Polar Flow App on his iPad and training can begin. Previously only available in black, the Polar H7 is now available in Blue and Pink. The device hasn’t been changed, it still uses the same high quality sensors and low energy Bluetooth smart technology to transmit heart rate to smart phones for real time training analysis. The equipment retails at a reasonable £64.50 and is compatible with Apple and Android phones and tablets.
Cowan uses the devise to design special training programmes to suit their specific needs based quickly they recover from their training session. As Cowan explains, in the past coaches would send their athletes out training and use rudimentary techniques such as observing the athlete’s breathing to determine how fit they were: The longer it took you to return to catch your breath, the more work there was to be done. The problem with this method is that it ignored the fact that while your breathing might return to normal, your heart could still be working overtime to return to its resting heart rate. By incorporating the Polar Heart Monitor into his training Cowan took away an uncertainties. He can time how long it takes his athletes recover by observing their live heart rate on his iPad. The quicker it takes their heart rate to return to recover after a period of intense training, the fitter they are. What is more, by regularly monitoring the athlete’s heart rate Cowan can tell long before external symptoms show whether his athlete is coming down an illness or is trying with an injury and act accordingly. That comes especially handy when faced with the determoned, yet stubborn, athletes. They live to compete. Once the tester training session is complete, I have a chance to speak to Vicky.
What impact does using the heart monitoring equipment have on your training?
It’s really good, especially in the winter season when we are doing the longer runs. From September to the beginning October we have a break – we compete until August so we have a six week break where we’re not really doing anything. So you come back in October and you’re basically unfit – I’m still unfit even now. So the Polar heart monitor is really good because you can monitor your progress from being unfit to getting you in shape for the season. After every session you note down your heart rate, next week after the same session, you can see the difference and the progress.
You run short distances, 200m and 400m, have you ever considered running longer distances such as a marathon or a half marathon?
I do a 5K every year. They have a Boxing Day run here [Lee Valley Athletics Centre] every year. It’s good, after Christmas, after eating loads. We come up at 10am every boxing day. I’ve done it every year for the past 4-5 years.
Do you enjoy it?
To be honest, it’s not that bad but I’m not used to it. I think that’s enough for me, 5K once a year. But we run a lot in training. I think the distance would total up total up to 3K but it’s just broken up into short bursts.
How do you keep yourself motivated about to keep running and training?
When I was a bit younger, I just did it for fun. I still enjoy it now but as you get older you see that it’s quite a serious thing. If you want to be good at anything you can’t just rely on your talent. I realised the hard way a couple of years ago that you have to put the hard work in. You reap what you sow, especially in athletics. If you don’t do the work you can’t hide behind anything. You won’t run the times. I think that’s what keeps me motivated.
Your sister, Christine, is an Olympic champion. Does that help keep you motivated?
She’s always giving me pointers and taking my sessions and adding things to my programme. She does help a lot.
What do you do before race day? Do you have any superstitions, any routines?
I have trouble sleeping generally. I try to get 8-10 hours sleep. And that’s it; I just try to be chill. I don’t want to be walking about the day before that’s probably the only thing I do, I just try to stay at home and chill out.
We all know that diet is crucial at your level of competition, but what do you eat on your cheat days?
I really, really love pizza. During my off-season, in the space of three weeks, I ordered about 8 pizzas. All large and all for myself. I went a bit crazy so I am kinda regretting now because I am I’m unfit.
Lastly, What do you love about running and training?
I don’t know if “escape” is the right word, but for me when I used to go to university, coming to the track was always something quite nice. I got to do something completely different. The sessions were quite hard, I’d die after every session, but it was quiet nice and a different environment.
• Polar is the official heart rate monitor supplier to British Athletics. To learn more about the Polar H7, check out this video