‘The Best Ever’ – The Training of Hicham El Guerrouj

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The Best Ever? – with 2 Olympic golds, 4 world championship golds and multiple world records; it is hard to argue against El Guerrouj’s claim to the title of ‘The Best Ever’.

Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco (R) wins the men’s 1500m final, Olympic Games Athens 2004. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS

Runner’s Tribe took a look back over the training of the great Hicham El Guerrouj.

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Hicham El Guerrouj
Hicham El Guerrouj

DOB: 14th September 1974, Berkane, Morroco.

Personal Bests

  • 800m: 1:47.18
  • 1500m: 3:26.00
  • Mile:  3:43.13
  • 3000m: 7:23.09
  • 5000m:  12:50.24

Highlight

  • Olympic 1500m Gold, Athens 2004.
  • Olympic 5000m Gold, Athens 2004
  • World Championship 1500m Gold, Athens 1997.
  • World Championship 1500m Gold, Seville 1999.
  • World Championship 1500m Gold, Edmonton 2001.
  • World Championship 1500m Gold, Paris 2003.
  • World Indoor Championship 1500m Gold, Barcelona 1995.
  • World Indoor Championship 1500m Gold, Paris 1997.
  • World Indoor Championship 1500m Gold, Lisbon 2001.

Altitude training. 

El Guerrouj’s coach did not view altitude training as the most vital element of training. It was all about quality training. However, El Guerrouj did train several times a year at Ifrane, at 1650m altitude.  El Guerrouj would spend approximately 3 weeks at altitude during each training stint.

Training 

El Guerrouj’s training was broken down into cycles.  Notably, El Guerrouj did not run huge volumes, but his training involved a lot of quality work, certainly more quality than quantity.  El Guerrouj kept his track work to a minimum except leading into races.

El Guerrouj’s training was broken down into cycles.

Cycle 1: Preparation

Training diary example

Day Morning Afternoon
1 Aerobic endurance Strength work
2 Aerobic endurance Physical preparation
3 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
4 Rest Strength work
5 Power Aerobic endurance
6 Aerobic endurance Physical preparation
7 Aerobic endurance Strength work
8 Rest Aerobic endurance
9 Aerobic endurance Power
10 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
11 Aerobic endurance Strength work
12 Rest Rest
13 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
14 Aerobic endurance Power
15 Aerobic endurance Strength work
16 Rest Aerobic endurance
17 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
18 Aerobic endurance Strength work
19 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
20 Rest Rest
21 Aerobic endurance Strength work

Aerobic Endurance. 

Cycle 1 aerobic endurance sessions involved four types of work: 

  • 30-45 min of continuous running 
  • 50-60 min of continuous running

    The pace of these runs varied ut were generally quite quick.  The goal was to run hard, depending on how he felt that day. The pace therefore, varied from 3:00-3:10/km pace to 2:50/km.
  • 4 x 2000m in 5:10 with 2 min recovery 
  • 6 x 1000m in 2:30 with 2 min recovery 

Strength work. 

During cycle 1, weights and strength work was a crucial and regular part of El Guerrouj’s training. These exercises included: 

Standing with a bar:

  • Half-squat 6 x 20 reps with 25 kg bar 
  • Half-squat 4 x 16 reps with 30 kg bar 
  • Full-Squat 4 x 16 reps with 20 kg bar 
  • Lunges 4 x 20 reps with 25 kg bar 
  • Step-up 1 x 20 reps with 30 kg bar with each leg 

Machine/equipment based weights:

  • Hamstrings 4 x 16 reps 
  • Quadriceps 4 x 16 reps 
  • Abductors 4 x 16 reps 
  • Abdominal 300-400 reps 
  • Back 300-400 reps 

Power

Cycle 1 power workouts involved both bill reps and also horizontal and vertival jumps over hurdles.

An example of a common hill session involved:

  • 10 x 300m hill reps with jog back recovery

Physical preparation

El Guerrouj’s physical preparation exercises involved basic body conditioning type exercises such as general abdominal/core exercises and stretching.

Cycle 2: Preparation 

Training diary example

Day Morning Afternoon
1 Aerobic endurance Strength work
2 Rest Race Pace
3 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
4 Aerobic endurance Power
5 Aerobic endurance Race Pace
6 Aerobic endurance Rest
7 Aerobic endurance Power
8 Aerobic endurance Race Pace
9 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
10 Aerobic endurance Power
11 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
12 Rest Aerobic endurance
13 Aerobic endurance Race Pace
14 Aerobic endurance Rest
15 Aerobic endurance Strength work
16 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
17 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
18 Aerobic endurance Power
19 Aerobic endurance Rest
20 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
21 Aerobic endurance Race Pace


Aerobic Endurance

Hicham El Guerrouj – 2004 Athens Olympics

Cycle 2 aerobic endurance sessions included:

  • 30-45 min of continuous running at 2:50-3:00 or 3:10/km.
  • 30 min of continuous running at an easy pace as recovery. 

Race Pace 

Cycle 2 Race pace sessions examples included:    

  •  Fartlek: 6-5-4-3-2-min fast running. 
  • Track session: 1 x 1600m – 1200m- 800m – 600m – 400m with short recoveries starting with 1 min going down to 30 seconds! 

Power 

Cycle 2 power sessions examples included:

  • 200-300 Multi-jumps. 
  •  Up-hill reps: 10 x 300m with jog back recovery. 
  •  Up-hill reps: 5 x 150 m with jog back recovery.

Strength work 

Cycle 2 strength work was very similar to cycle 1. The sessions usually lasted approximately 90 minutes.

Cycle 3: Racing Time

Day Morning Afternoon
1 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
2 “Warming-up” Speed work
3 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
4 “Warming-up” Race pace
5 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
6 “Warming-up” Speed work
7 “Warming-up” Rest
8 “Warming-up” Race pace
9 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
10 “Warming-up” Speed work
11 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
12 “Warming-up” Race pace
13 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
14 Rest Rest
15 “Warming-up” Speed work
16 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
17 “Warming-up” Aerobic endurance
18 Aerobic endurance Race pace
19 Aerobic endurance Aerobic endurance
20 “Warming-up” “Warming-up”
21 Rest Race Day


Aerobic endurance.
 

Cycle 3 aerobic endurance sessions included:

  • 30 min of continuous running at 3:00-3:10/km 
  • 40 min of continuous running at an easy pace as recovery.

“Warming-up”

This consisted of 30 minutes of easy running and 30 minutes  of several general exercises. The aim was to recover during these sessions in a gentle, yet active, way. 

Race Pace 

Cycle 3 Race pace sessions examples included:

  • 10 x 400m between 53-54 seconds with only 30 seconds recovery. El Guerrouj was usually helped by a “rabbit” the last 200 m of every repetition. 

Speed work 

Cycle 3 speed sessions examples included:

  • 10 x 300m in 35-36 seconds with surges and help from a “rabbit.” 
  • 6 x 500m with surges and help from a “rabbit” the first 300m in each repetition. 

The use of the rabbits were very important. They asisted El Guerrouj prepare for the vigours of hard racing and also helped him prepare for mid-race accelerations or changes in pace.

The Best Ever

El Guerrouj wins Olympic Gold – Athens 1500m, 2004.

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Some more viewing- Hicham El Guerrouj sets a world record in the mile

 

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