Ethan Heywood is a British athlete based in Australia. A big talent who has represented Australia in the Junior World Cross Country but has decided to return to his place of birth at some point in the near future. Ethan was born in Norfolk, England but quickly moved to the other side of the world and after taking part in a school race he acquired the 'bug' and has progressed steadily since to an International athlete and is still just 19 years old. Ethan prefers to be on the cross country circuit but has an 8:17 3,000m personal best along with a 14:37 5,000m pb, although he is hoping to set some new times this summer! RunnersLife caught up with the Australian based athlete to talk about training and racing.....
How long have you been running and how did you get into the sport?
When I was about 10 I gave the school cross country a crack, and did reasonably well so I started doing a little bit of athletics, I wasn't fantastic by any means but I enjoyed it and my love for it grew from there.
What is the set up like in Australia?
Essentially we have little athletics from a young age, and then school sport while we go through high school, then it's the state athletics bodies that deal with everything once you get into Under 20s and opens.
Do you get any support?
Not really, occasionally race organisers from over east don't mind giving some funding towards flights or accommodation but most of the costs we have to front up ourselves.
How does sport sit with the Australian life style, seems to have much more focus?
It's good, there is a lot of focus on sport here, it's the lifestyle. It really helps to develop fit young athletes across the board.
Is athletics big in the school set up?
Every school gets into it for the carnivals, but it's not really big. Unless you attend one of the big private schools there isn't regular competition, there isn't much exposure for the sport here in WA, over in the Eastern states it's a lot better though.
How did the cross country season go for you?
The cross country season went really well, I was coming back from a nasty injury that required surgery in January so I'm still not into my full mileage yet, but I'm still not far from fitness and the few races I've had I've ran better than we anticipated.
What are you plans for this summer?
I have big plans for the summer. I want to really improve my times and get into a few top races to get my name out there a bit more. I'll hopefully be heading over to England for some competition, so if all goes to plan it should be a good season
You decided to represent GB over Australia, what were the reasons for that?
There are a few reasons really, but plain and simply it's because I am English and always will be. I was born in Norwich, Norfolk and have always had the intention and desire to run for GB.
Do you follow the racing scene over in the UK?
I do, I like to see how things are going over there.
You will be moving over to the UK soon, how has that come about?
I basically want to move back, I've been back a few times and loved it every time. I'm planning on finishing my degree here at the end of next year and then moving back shortly after.
What will you been doing over in the UK?
Hopefully, training to be a teacher and then working as an Economics teacher for a bit while I'm training and racing.
Have you got any tickets for the Olympic Games?
I don't, I was going to be in England for a holiday just before the games but I ended up not going and consequently missing out!
How many times a week?
At the moment I'm only doing 1 interval session a week, just while I build up my mileage and try and get back to fitness. Normally I guess we'd do two, but different sessions.
Examples of important/key sessions?
Tempo running, as good as intervals. I think it's essential to have those long, faster runs in your programme.
Do you change surface dependant on time of year?
I love cross country, the surface changes between the road and grass while I'm training in the winter and I race cross country regularly. Most of my track work is done on a grass track, I move to the athletics stadium for a few months during the track season, but never for too long.
Nearly all of my training is in a group, or with a few of the guys. It makes the training that little bit easier and more enjoyable when you have good company.
It used to make my skin crawl when I'd have to get up early on a Saturday morning for a threshold session, We did them early on a Saturday when we were training for the World Cross. 'Threshy' sessions would have to be my least favourite, although they're really beneficial so I'll just have to get over it!
When will be the last hard session before a race?
It depends what the race is, if it's a big one then it could be as long as a week before, otherwise I usually take a few days of just running so I don't carry any soreness through.
How long do you start to taper for a race?
For the World Cross, I tapered for about a week, possibly a week and a half. We did one or two smaller sessions just to bring my shape up but nothing too strenuous. From memory it hasn't ever been that difficult. I suppose the difficulties arise when you've got to peak more than once/twice in a season, we kind of got used to how I respond to different things as time went by.
Could you go through some specific sessions?
We might do some 400s/600s to sharpen up for a 1500, or some 1k reps for the 5000. Depends on the time of year really, obviously during the summer.
Can you give a typical week in full training and a race week?
Mon: AM: 45 - 60 easy, PM: 45 - 60
Tues: AM: 60 - 1:15 moderate, PM: circuits/cores
Wed: AM: 45 - 60 easy, PM: Threshy/long reps
Thurs: Rest day
Fri: AM: 45 - 60, PM: fartlek/tempo
Sat: AM: 45 - 60 moderate
Sun: AM: Long run, usually 1:30 - 1:45
A race week would be really similar, just with less running, and no session on the Friday (Assuming the race is on the weekend).
Do you think it's better to do bigger mileage or bigger runs?
If you want to be a competitive runner, you've got to run. So bigger mileage is important, but it's also important to incorporate a Long run, at some point in the week as well.
Do you do much longer running?
I do a solid amount of mileage throughout the year, obviously dropping it in the height of the summer season, and yes in the winter my mileage will increase. It's important to build a solid base to work off for the summer.
What is your longest run of the week?
At the moment, it's only about an hour. But it will be building up to close to two hours once I'm fully fit and healthy and the foot injury is well behind me.
How would you structure your training plan?
We have weekly schedules, but the reality is during the week "the boss" might change his mind about something, or want us to do something else so it changes form time to time.
Circuits and cores are essential for any athlete. Core strength is something that we've always tried to work on, it gets difficult sometimes with a busy schedule to try and fit everything in but I do my best to do what I can. We've always put a lot of emphasis on them. Gym work is good too, depending on the time of year we work on both endurance and power.
We haven't done much by the way of plyometrics yet, but I am hearing things about us bringing it in somewhere. Yoga not so much, but I do work on my flexibility with stretching down after sessions, and isolated stretching sessions during the week.
Group training is not necessarily essential, but it has huge benefits. The hard work seems a lot easier when you're not the only one out there doing it. Not to mention we also have laugh at training, it's good fun. I have a great group to train with, we have a lot of fun at training and everyone gets along great.
Do you go into races with a plan?
I know my strengths, but never with a set plan. Things change, you've got to be on your toes.
What are your strengths and weakness's when racing?
I wouldn't go as far as saying I have any weaknesses, I'm a good racer. I'm not really scared to make the race, I'll run until I have nothing left.
Do you race in training sessions?
Never, cardinal rule... "No racing in training"
Do you ever have superstitions before a race?
I actually don't really... I like to have fresh breath though, that might sound weird but I guess that's all, although I'd have no trouble racing well without it. Not like a couple of the guys I train with, who have lucky undies, earings, socks...
What do you like about the race day itself?
Everything... I love competing, although I guess my favourite part about it is the period before the race, the uncertainty.
Rest / Recovery
After the summer season we always take a break, but only for two weeks or so, then we slowly get back into it.