James Dasaolu: How to train like a champion athlete

For many young athletes, getting advice on a career in their chosen sport from a gold medallist and sub 10-second 100m runner would be a dream. Mazda made it a reality. It gave a group of promising sprinters the chance to take part in a training masterclass with James Dasaolu, the European 100m champion.

James visited Nottingham Athletics Club and hosted a training session one chilly winter evening. He was joined by Leon Baptiste, a Commonwealth 200m gold medal winner and British Athletics coach. Working with a group of sprinters that included Charlotte McLennaghan, a promising Under-20 runner, James and Leon hosted the exclusive training session for the next generation of athletes. Here’s how it unfolded…

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Loosening up the limbs


First James and Leon jogged a lap of the 400m track with the athletes to loosen up. James said: “Before a training session, I spend 50 minutes to an hour warming up. You have to prepare your body to run at high speed. It’s difficult in this country because the weather is so cold which makes it easier to injure yourself. As well as that, the warmer it is – and you are – the more power you can produce.”

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Getting the most from your muscles


To cover 100m in less than 10 seconds you have to stretch and strengthen your muscles. James had the Notts AC sprinters lying on the ground, first on their front, then their back. He explained: “These exercises work on the posture. They help with core strength and aid mobility. It’s really helping the athletes to get the most out of their bodies by using their muscles at full length.” (James with Leon Baptiste (left), Ben Mattinson and Tom Mann)

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Listen to your body


Warming up is vital for any athlete if you’re going to avoid injury, something James knows all about. He revealed: “The most important thing I’ve learnt is that you should listen to your body. Never try to run through pain. I’ve pulled my hamstring and pulled my back. But there’s nothing you can do about the past; you just have to learn from it. At the moment, I’m in a good and happy place.”

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Working on your technique


A more intense session followed the initial warm up. This involved a series of drills including running forwards at slower than walking pace with an exaggerated movement. James explained: “This gets you to think about your technique. For example, last year I felt that my hands were a bit messy when I was running. Doing technical sessions like this helped me to tidy that up.” (L-R James Robinson, Tom Mann, Louis O’Connor, Ben Mattinson)

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Making a great start


After they’d warmed up, the athletes listened to some of James’s tips. He advised: “If there’s one area of sprinting to work on it’s the start. If you don’t get a good start, you are making life hard for yourself. I’d rather make a good start and have everyone trying to catch me than have to catch everyone else.” (Here the athletes practice what he preached)

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Eating your greens


Once the training had finished, James answered questions from the young athletes. “Weaknesses? I’m a big doughnut eater! Other than that, I eat a really balanced diet with carbohydrates, proteins and greens. I let myself have one chocolate bar a week and I don’t drink alcohol.”

James Dasaolu Masterclass: The power of the mind


Being a top athlete involves more than training hard and running fast. James admitted: “I’ve always been a fast runner so the physical side was clearly there. But I didn’t realise how powerful the brain is. I went to one competition and hadn’t trained for three to four weeks. If I’d focused on that I’d have been nowhere. Instead I focused on the benefits of not having trained and still being competitive and things came together for me.” (James with (L-R) Charlotte McLennaghan, Tom Mann and James Robinson)

James Dasaolu Masterclass: Emulating your idols


“Linford Christie was my hero,” James revealed. “He won Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth gold medals in the 100m and he still holds the British record. I’d love to take it off him! Standing on the podium as European champion made me proud to be British. I really enjoyed the moment. I want to experience it more.”

For the athletes it was a unique experience. Coach Dave Hourd said: “They’re a great group and they train really hard so to see and hear first-hand where that can lead was a real inspiration.” Sprinter Charlotte McLennaghan added: “It was fantastic to get some tips on training and technique from someone at the very top of the sport.”

Nottingham Athletics Club sprinters: back row: Louis O`Connor, James Robinson, Coach Dave Hourd, James, Charlotte McLennaghan, Tom Mann, Ben Mattinson; middle row: James Anderton, Duncan Cox, Molly Ferguson; front row: Madeleine Tomes, Tara Pigott, Evie Winter

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