Hannah England: Return to training after a few weeks off has been brutal

The drills are like something out of the Ministry of Silly Walks

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The Independent Online

Twelve months is a long time, and every year I forget how brutal returning to training is. You always think you'll get back with a bang – my return this week was more like a whimper.

I thought I was easing myself in gently by doing a light half-hour jog with my training group on Monday. I felt absolutely fine for about a mile and then everything started hurting. The rest of the group were about two weeks ahead of me in training terms. On reflection, I just should have gone out on my own.

By the next day, I felt a bit like I'd been through a mangle, my hip flexors really hurt and my stomach muscles as well. My physio kindly joked that my six pack had turned into something of a blob. It's amazing how much difference a few weeks off can make and how quickly you can lose fitness.

By Wednesday, I didn't feel at all great – a hot bath the night before hadn't done much good – so I opted not to go out and train. I've made the mistake of pushing my body when I'm not feeling great, but not this time. Instead, I stayed at home and had apple crumble for breakfast, hardly the breakfast of an elite athlete!

I've also been doing some gym work and weights with my training group. Normally I'm pretty good at my pull-ups, I do three reps of six with no problem at all. This time, it was three sets of two or three, accompanied by laughter from the others. I was struggling with the extra weight from what I had eaten during my holiday in North America.

A large part of it is mental. When my season ended, I mentally and physically switched off and immediately got ill, as anyone would after a stressful bit of work or, say, exams.

So, I sort of went into lockdown. It's amazing how quickly you and your body can get used to being normal, and not worrying about what fruit and veg you're eating every time you train.

I ran with my husband Luke on Thursday and he and his friend were just laughing at me and my stubbornness. I insisted on going with them but by the end, while I wasn't quite sick, I felt rather pathetic. The being sick at the side of the road or track is yet to start, that comes in time, starting next week when my coach Bud Baldaro picks up the training more seriously. This week is just me being eased back into the routine.

The other thing you're trying to do in these early stages is get your core running related muscles used to their movement once again. At the moment, I tend to do those drills by the side of our house, things like high knee lifts and long strides, in effect breaking down your running style.

You have to have quite a thick skin as a middle-distance runner, as people look at you out of their car windows like you're a mad woman, or groups of teenagers walk past you laughing and all you can think is "piss off". To be fair, it's like something out of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Before the week started, I sat down with my coach and we started picking out races for the summer, and that gets you excited even though it's nine or 10 months away.

On Friday, we travelled up to the UK Athletics hub in Loughborough to talk to Barry Fudge, who works as Mo Farah's physiologist. He's been monitoring my training for three years now. He's got a wonderful idea of where I've come from and where I should be going, and he's not afraid to challenge what Bud and I are doing.

He's got a lot of data from lab tests, and in particular the different zones in heart rate and pace. It covers something called a blood lactate curve, and the idea is the faster you go the more lactate you produce.

There's one turning point on the curve for significant lactate and a second which is basically the point of no return – the point where you produce more lactate than you can handle. That's the place you never want to hit in a race. It's all about being able to feel more comfortable with the lactic build-up and thus run faster.

Right now, that's not very fast. I know next week I'll be losing to 18-year-old girls on the track. It's brutal stuff but you know in a few weeks you'll be fine, that it enables you to aim for the big ones at the end of the season.

For me the Commonwealth Games is No 1 but also the European Championships.