Indoor Season 2018 Opened

I ran my first indoor race in 6 years on Sunday. The plan was to open up the indoor season on January 7th, but couple weeks ago coach said he would like for me to run a practice race on the 17th of December in Sabadell. At first I thought it’s way too early, but said I will think about it and see how I feel after my training camp. It would be good training if nothing else.

I had a really good training camp in Egypt even I was a little sick, but felt really tired early in the week so I only made the decision to run the race after Thursday’s training. On Thursday everything finally clicked with my starting blocks and I did the best and fastest starts I have ever done. I felt really good and was ready to run on Sunday.

On Sunday’s competition day I felt really weak, super nervous, and didn’t manage to do much correct in the warm up. In the race, the start was as bad as my usual starts have been, so I did not manage to do anything similar to what I did in training. I stood up from the blocks, accelerated badly, came too close and straight up to the first hurdle, and jumped too high. Also I was stepping across before the hurdles (which prevents proper take off and pushing to the hurdle) and twisting after the hurdles, the things I have worked on not to do, and already manage to not to do them in training. So basically, I did everything completely opposite of what I have done lately in training.

My time was 8.43. At first I was really upset about the time, as I wanted to run, and know I can run, a lot faster. I was also upset that I did so much wrong in the race, even I have just managed to fix all these issues in training. But after thinking about this, I realize I did run the best season opener ever, in December, when it’s still a month to the real competition season. I ran the best season opener ever after a really hard training camp. I ran the best season opener ever after not running indoor season for 6 years. The best part really is, that I ran the best season opener ever with all the possible mistakes I could have done.

Now I have a few weeks to become more confident with the newly learned starts and fixed technique, so I can do it in competition also. This race was perfect for training purposes and to take off the nerves from the first real indoor season competition, so that I won’t do the same mistakes again. I’m not satisfied if I do something wrong, so that’s why I’m still not happy with the outcome of the race, but I know I will run a lot faster when the real competitions come. I know I can run the goal I have set for myself.

I’m very excited to keep working to run a good time already on indoor season, even the real goals for 2018 are in the outdoor season 🙂

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Why Egypt is a great place for a warm weather training camp

When I said I was going to Egypt for training, people asked if there are tracks in Egypt. Clearly there are tracks. But why should you go there?

To me, Egypt is the most interesting country in the world with the best food, beaches and things to do/see.

Olympic Center Maadi

Olympic Center Maadi

View from the hotel room.

The sports center in Maadi, on south side of Cairo, is very convenient as there is a track, two gyms, a hotel and restaurants, all at the same place. The area is closed and there is a security with a metal detector on both the gates and the entrance to the hotel so it is very safe place to be.

The track is empty all day, until the clubs come train there in the evenings. The access costs normally 50LE so just over 2 euros. You can definitely feel like you’re in Egypt as there is a small mosque right behind the 100m start line and you hear the prayer call five times a day.

The Tolip Inn Maadi hotel is also very decently priced, and if you are invited by a federation, you can get it with the price of Egyptians and sports federations, which is half of the price. The cheap price includes breakfast and WiFi. The hotel has all day room service and a bottle of water costs 18 cents, a pasta 50 cents and a big plate of chicken and rice 2 euros for example. I was ordering drinks and food all week and final price was 220LE, which is 11 euros.

Prices

Flights to Cairo are quite cheap from all around Europe and hotels are cheap also. When you arrive to the airport, you just have to pay 25 euros or dollars with cash for a visa. The airport is a great place to exchange money also as the rate is much better than anywhere in Europe. You can buy almost anything while in Cairo and feel like you’re not spending anything as even expensive meals are max 4-5 euros. Even when shopping on the markets, the prices are really cheap for Europeans. Also, if you know any Egyptians, you will not spend anything at all. Egyptians will offer you everything everywhere and not let you pay for anything. I paid my camel tour guy a nice tip and that was it the whole week.

Facilities

Track in Maadi

The tracks in Cairo are in decent condition and mostly have everything you might need like hurdles etc. There are many tracks and also it’s possible to use private gyms, which are really nice. I went to try BeFit 360 gym and it was one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. They also had a restaurant with healthy breakfasts, smoothies, salads etc, and even a lot of gluten free options. Honestly I’m not a salad person but the salad I ate there was the best salad I have ever had.

Things to do in Egypt

If you go to normal training camps to Spain or Portugal, your activities are limited to going to the beach, shopping and going out. In Cairo there is more history and culture to see than almost anywhere in the world, and plenty of other things to do. You can visit the pyramids, the museums, take a boat trip on the Nile, go see other attractions, and even the beaches are just couple hours drive away. The beaches in Egypt are in my opinion the best in the world, so that should be included in the trip. You can also go out to nice clubs and do your shopping and other normal things. There is everything you can imagine to do and more.

The food

Appetizers

Egyptian or Arabic food is my favorite food. Everything you try is so delicious and for an athlete’s diet it’s also healthy. There are soups with herbs, a lot of fruits, hummus and other protein filled appetizers, and a lot of well seasoned chicken and meat. The portions are huge and normally Egyptians order food for about ten people even if it would just be two people eating, so you’ll never be hungry. Egyptian lemonade is amazing and doesn’t taste like anything I’ve tried elsewhere and their other drink, sobia, is my favorite drink ever. It’s like coconut milk but better. I really thought I was gonna gain weight on this one week long training camp as I was eating so much, but really the food is so healthy you can eat a lot and be ok.

Food in EgyptFood in Egypt

The people

Egyptians are amazing. They take care of you and make sure you always have everything. They’re outgoing and friendly and want to show the best things about their country. When I needed to use blocks for example, two girls came to pick me up in the morning to go to a track where I could do some starts with them. As soon as you walk into someone’s house they ask what do you want to drink and eat and you can’t really say no to eating. Only problems I have with Egyptians are that they’re always late and 99.99% of them smoke. I hate smoke and really know only one Egyptian person who doesn’t smoke. The lateness is something that I can deal with since it’s always expected. The crazy traffic in Cairo makes it rather impossible to be on time anywhere and it’s normal to be late all the time. But the good things about Egyptians make you to be able to overlook the smoking and lateness 😀

Is it safe?

I have never felt like I wasn’t safe in Egypt. The US feels much more unsafe than Egypt. Actually the US the is only place on earth where I don’t feel safe all the time. Of course I couldn’t go anywhere alone, but there’s no need to. Someone is always willing to take you anywhere. The traffic might seem crazy and people have no idea what lanes are, but after a while you get used to it and even the driving seems rather safe. There are police and security everywhere and you always go through security and metal detectors to hotels and any attractions.

Let me know if you want to know more details about where to go, or how to do a good vacation or training camp in Egypt!

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A little more exotic warm weather training camp, in Egypt

Who knew you would need to go to a warm weather training camp when you live in Barcelona? Until last week the weather was fine, but last week and this week it’s max 10-14 degrees during the day and much colder in the evenings when we normally train. That’s not a weather to sprint and getting over hurdles is impossible and even dangerous. Luckily only one day it was so cold we couldn’t do training 100%, but otherwise even rain hasn’t disturbed any training this season.

But to go to Spain? Portugal? Tenerife? South Africa? Or even Cuba?

Monte Gordo, Portugal

As I had plenty of vacation days still to use this year, I thought I should go train somewhere for a week. I was thinking about going to Monte Gordo in Portugal as it’s just a short flight away, but unfortunately for the hundreds of European athletes there at the moment, the weather is exactly the same as in Barcelona.

Tenerife, Spain

Another option I thought about was Tenerife as flights inside Spain are super cheap, but that sounded just too boring since I’m going on my first proper holiday the whole year. Tenerife is also full of European athletes this time of the year.

Cuba

I also thought about Cuba as I’ve always wanted to go, but I heard that the track my friends train in on camps is in bad condition, but should be renewed by February. Maybe next time…

South Africa

My next option was South Africa, as there are good facilities and it’s another favorite place for European athletes, but I’d like to go when I have good friends there so that had to be moved to another time too.

Cairo, Egypt

I love Egypt and have a lot of friends there so Cairo ended up being the choice this time. The weather is warm, the food is amazing and there are so many things I still haven’t seen even I’ve been there before. Many people have asked me are there tracks in Cairo? Yes there are a lot of tracks and in decent condition. The track and gym I will be using are in an Olympic training center in Maadi, on south side of Cairo. My hotel is at the Olympic center, so it can’t get any more convenient.

I have six days of really hard training in Cairo, and after returning back to Barcelona the weather should be nice again, so preparation for the indoor season can continue well.

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Hurdle training

I started running hurdles when I was 14-years-old. I ran them couple times at age 13, but then I was a high jumper. At age 14, I ran the national indoor record for 14-year-olds and realized I might have some talent for this. Hurdles always came really naturally for me, and I love hurdle training, so after that age I only focused on hurdles. When I ran well in World Youth Championships at age 17, I started taking it more seriously. Still, when I was asked why do I run hurdles, I said: ”I’m too slow to be a sprinter.” 😀

I have been training in Finland with multiple coaches, in the US with multiple coaches and some of the world’s best hurdlers, in London with multiple coaches, and also seen hurdle training in many other countries. Now I’m training in Spain. It has been very interesting, everyone works different way, and you just have to find the way that works for you. I believe I have now found the best training for me.

What makes you a good hurdler?

I have always been good at hurdle drills and hurdle technique, but have been lacking power, explosivity and speed. The best hurdlers are really fast and powerful. This does not mean you have to lift 100kg power cleans, but you have to be able to use the power at the track and be explosive. This is a thing that we have been focusing on this year, and it has been working really well. At the moment I am faster than I’ve ever been. For hurdles the main focus has been rhythm.

Frequency

In hurdles your step length doesn’t matter the same way it does in sprinting. There are only 8.5 meters between the hurdles, and it’s all about who can take the three steps between the hurdles fastest. I have been quite good at this before, but the lack of explosivity and speed has made the space between the hurdles a little long for me especially at the end of the race, and I haven’t been able to utilize the quick steps I can take. Also my trail leg (the leg coming over the hurdle from the side) has been slow, so that’s been another main focus in training.

Good exercise for trail leg

Hurdles with one step is one of my favorite exercises for the trail leg. You really have to get the leg around quick as the next hurdles comes up so fast. I normally do 5×8 hurdles with 14 feet spacing (this is 12 my coach’s feet). Sometimes I do this with 84cm hurdles, but mostly with the lower 76cm hurdles.

My favorite hurdle workout

In the video there are pretty much all the exercises I do on my favorite hurdle workout. It’s all about rhythm and frequency. First is little hurdles with one step, with seven feet spacing. Then three steps with ten feet spacing. The short spacing makes you really have to be quick and move your feet fast.

Then it’s time for higher hurdles with normal 13 meters start, but 7-7.75 meters distance between the hurdles. This is a great way to work on the rhythm and also to bring the trail leg around quickly.

Normal training week

I train six days a week and on two to four of these days I do some hurdles. Normally once a week just the one step drill, once a week a workout focusing on the rhythm, and once a week hurdles with more regular distance and with more hurdles. I haven’t done any starts yet at this point in training, but this will soon be done at least one or two days a week.

My first hurdle race indoors is already 7th of January, and I hope to be ready to run fast. You never know what to expect in the first race of the season, but I hope it will be as happy surprise as my first race outdoors. It’s looking great right now! 🙂

Liga Catalana hurdle

Warming up for my first hurdle race in 5 years, May 2017.

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