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FITNESS Finding the Balance Even for Twell, it can sometimes be difficult to balance training and life. Handing in final year dissertations or long work-days can eat into training. Twell has found the best way is communicating with her coach and sharing work pressures with him. She says: "We sometimes adjust training. So I might miss an evening session but do a longer run in the morning. I can fit in the same distance and feel less stress about not training that night." Asked if she feels bad about changing her routines like that, she says: "I wouldn't feel guilty at missing a session if I'm doing it for the right reason." But then reveals her gold medal secret when she adds: "I never skip a run." And she means never. When she has a break between lectures she goes for a run not a coffee. Like most students, Twell loves music but her favourite 'Noah and the Whales' lyrics are for running not just dancing. Even her dissertation is a study of exhaustion and muscle pain in racing.

runner. Her love of that sport sounds in her voice: "The cross country events are underestimated - I think it's the hardest event. It's a world stage and a really classy event." The first woman to win back-to-back junior titles she links her Olympic ambitions to being on those winning teams. Her hero, Paula Radcliffe also started life as a cross-country runner. And like Radcliffe, Twell hopes her winning path will also lead to marathons. But just in case you think running is a fairy tale, remember that Twell was left disappointed at the World Cross Country Championships earlier this year. This is the real test for any

athlete. And far from being discouraged, Twell headed to Gurnsey to race and win in a strenuous four-day running festival. She was happy with that result but when she adds: "It's like a test of human endeavour. That's what I love" you get the feeling she's talking about much more than just one race. And somehow that treadmill in a tent doesn't seem so strange after all. "Steph Twell is training to victory in the new NikeWomen Fly Bold Sister+ Low shoe featuring Diamond FLX technology, created especially for women to enhance multi-directional movement." Running in Ireland Athletics Ireland @ www.athleticsireland.ie Hypoxic Chamber in Ireland @ www.oneescape.ie Nike footwear @ www.nike.com

At the Races Twell's race day preparation begins the night before when she visualizes how she will run the course before she sleeps. Of course her experience helps as she has run all the major courses by now but even a beginner can try this technique. She talks over the course with her coach, and includes his instructions in her visualization. She says: "I think that's a huge tool that people can use." Another tool she recommends is focusing on how well training has gone. She says that thinking about successful days can give you a reassuring boost heading into a race.

Warming Up for a Race Over the years, Twell and her coach have developed different warm-up routines for each distance. She sees it as an art-form and when asked why it's better than a standard routine she says: "For me it's part of developing yourself as an athlete. I suppose if you have a standard warm-up you eliminate cause and effect. If things go wrong, you can't think it might be because of that extra explosive drill. But I feel you should be flexible; drills shouldn't be set in concrete." Her warm-up for an 800 metre race includes speed drills and an aerobic workout. While preparation for a five kilometre race is really a double warm-up with five minutes movement to get loose, then stretching followed by a ten minute warm-up with ten longer strides to finish. And then it's time to run.

Focus Your Ambitions Twell was first noticed as a cross-country

11 www.LifeandFitnessMag.ie - June/July 2010

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