How to Run Hard and Train Smart with Luke Gunn


HOW TO RUN HARD AND TRAIN SMART WITH LUKE GUNN

ASICS Ambassador Luke Gunn is a four-time UK Steeplechase Champion and Commonwealth Games representative who has competed with elite runners for over a decade. Here, Luke explains how the right running shoes, cross-training, and the correct recovery allows him to train harder whilst minimising the risk of injuries.

 


Vary the Distance and Intensity of your Running

Luke comfortably runs 80-90 miles each week by varying the distance, pace, and running surface of his sessions. By mixing up these three elements he can ensure he’s boosting every aspect of his overall performance: strength, speed, and endurance.

“I try to be a bit a clever and not just jog and do track sessions. I vary the pace and intensity of my runs to hit different physiological areas of my training,” he says.

 

Luke’s weekly programme proves that you can maintain a high mileage without putting strain on your body:

SUNDAY

Long run (15-18 miles)

MONDAY

Two short runs (30-40 minutes each). The first is an easy pace, the secondat a 6-minute mile pace.

TUESDAY

Running group session (5-6 miles in total).

WEDNESDAY

Tempo run (5-6 miles).

THURSDAY

Two short runs (30-40 minutes each). Both at a very easy pace.

FRIDAY

Track training (specific steeplechase session, jumping practise or speed work) and another easy run in the evening (30-40 minutes).

Cross-Training Makes your Running Stride Stronger

Luke’s experience at the top level has taught him that running alone is not enough to not only stay healthy but optimise his performance too. Instead, his weekly training programme includes two sessions of strength and conditioning and calf rehab exercises (due to past injuries).

“I do strength and conditioning twice a week, which includes squats, split squats and box jumps,” Luke says. “My event involves hurdling and landing from a great height, so I do lots of controlled plyometrics to ensure that my tendons are being loaded appropriately.”

If you want to build leg strength for the steeplechase, Luke advises adding these two exercises to your programme:

  1. Squats (8 reps, 3-4 sets). Luke squats 80-90kg.
  2. Box jumps (5-6 reps with a controlled landing, 3 sets). Luke jumps 90cm high.

Luke’s strength and conditioning sessions also include calf rehabilitation exercises, such as calf raises and isometric holds to make sure that his stabilising muscles are strong enough.

To promote both “elastic athleticism and injury prevention”, Luke combines 3-4 different exercises in a single set and has 2-3 minute rest periods between each set.

Listen to your Body and Make Time for Recovery

Finding the time to rest your body and fully recover from training sessions is crucial for minimising the risk of running injuries.

As well as rehab training and one weekly physio session, Luke stays healthy by stretching before and after exercise, practising yoga for strength and flexibility, and foam rolling regularly..

“If I finish my run at 9am I usually won’t run again until the same time the next day, so I still get 24-36 hours of recovery,” he insists. “It’s about maximising the recovery and not chasing the miles so much.”

Importantly for Luke, that includes not pushing through aches and pains when you feel like you’re on the verge of an injury. “You have to listen to your body. I’m not afraid of taking a day or two off or doing some cross-training,” he adds.

Balancing Training and Recovery is Always a Battle

Even after more than a decade in the sport, Luke admits that finding the perfect balance between rest, recovery, and improving performance is still a work in progress.

“I’ve experimented with many different ways of training,” he says “I’m training more than I was as an 18-year-old. It’s been a trial and error period of pushing up the miles and increasing the intensity.

“Sometimes it has resulted in injury, other times it has resulted in overtraining and a flat performance. Even at 31, I still don’t feel like I’ve got it right.”

Luke, however, has found a “mutual balance” by combining his running with cross-training, rehab and smarter recovery.

“I do a lot of injury prevention because I’ve been injured a lot in the past, mainly in my calves and my Achilles. It tends to keep the injuries at bay, but it’s always a battle to tow that line between training hard enough and not getting injured,” he confesses.

Ensure That Your Feet Have The Support They Need

Looking after your body includes making sure that your feet have the support and cushioning that they need, especially in training.

Luke believes that training too much in racing flats and lightweight and minimalist footwear, without the correct levels of cushioning or support, can increase your chances of getting cramp or injuries.

For about 60-70% of my mileage I use ASICS Kayanos,” he says, although gauging the ideal percentage is still a learning curve. “I’m currently going to a physio because my ankle has flared up from using flats too much on the track, so I’m still living and learning.”If you’re clocking as many miles as Luke on a weekly basis, it’s also important to keep an eye on when your shoes are starting to wear.When the joints start to ache a bit more that’s usually my cue to book in a physio and make sure that I’ve got a new pair of shoes on the way,” he says.“I normally rotate 2-3 pairs of shoes every 6-8 weeks.”

Performance Watches are Great for Beginners Too

Luke uses his Garmin Forerunner 620 every day as a coach and competitor, however he believes that running watches are especially useful for newcomers. “Heart rate monitors are very important when you’re learning about your body when you’re training,” he states, allowing you to learn what it feels like to run in specific heart rate zones.


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