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Ireland's top running coach on which training aids are worth using

We speak to John Shields about the training methods he uses with Ireland’s leading athletes.

RECENTLY CROWNED ATHLETICS Ireland coach of the year, John Shields, has given us his thoughts on some of his sport’s training aids.

Though he said coaching was something of a guessing game when he started out three decades ago, it’s a different ball game now.

Shields has nurtured some of the finest talents this country has ever produced, so it goes without saying there’s some method to his training techniques, some of which he has disclosed below.

Foam rollers and trigger pointing/balling

“These are fantastic techniques to release muscle tension and is an absolutely vital part of our training, to my mind.

“Before every session we do here in Santry we’d spend 10 minutes foam rolling and trigger balling the hamstrings, glutes, back and hip joints. We do that all the time and it’s an important part of our warm-up.

“All my athletes have trigger balls and foam rollers now.”

For a previous article we did on foam rolling click here

Training with ankle/body weights…

“I wouldn’t be a huge fan but there’s a purpose.

“If someone is injured and trying to strengthen a particular area then weights should be part of that rehab process.

shutterstock_222525631 Source: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

“I’d be careful of putting any weighted jackets on athletes, however.

“We’re all the time trying to bring forward their technique and make them efficient as they can be. But the weight works against this and maybe affects their posture. It’s counter-productive to what I’m trying to do.

“There’s a place for weights – but it’s in rehab.”

Movement analysis

“We were guessing when we started all this 30 years ago. Now, we have everything we need: we have a machine called an ‘opta jump’ which measures an athlete’s time on the ground and time in the air. We have high-speed cameras to see what’s happening frame by frame and they can see what they’ve done wrong.

“As a coach it’s sometimes difficult to explain what we want to say but to show them what they’ve done and what changes they’ve made makes a massive difference.

“Coaching is not the ‘what we do’ anyone, but the how we do it.”

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