As the current European, Commonwealth and World Champion, Dai Greene has taken the 400m hurdle event by storm. The only medal that has so far proved elusive to the 25-year-old Welshman is an Olympic one — which might not have been the case had injury not forced him out of Beijing 2008. So ahead of this year’s Games, we found out how he’s planning to take home some silverware. Or even goldware.
What’s the oddest drill you perform in training?
I do hurdle walkovers where I put hurdles back-to-back and then I slowly walk over them. It looks strange, but it develops my hip strength and flexibility, which are key attributes for my sport. I’ll finish with some short sprints, and perhaps some longdistance running, which is sometimes endurance-based.
My main endurance exercise consists of 24 repeat 200m runs up a hill. Considering that I only run 48 seconds in a 400m hurdles race, that’s a lot of running, yet it needs to be done to make me faster.
Is a good recovery important, then?
Massively important. Overtraining can happen. If I push myself too hard I’ll break down, become ill and miss a week of training. Equally, if I don’t put the right food in my body, how can I ask my body to do something demanding?
What foods do you eat?
Pasta, rice, protein and vegetables are standard. If I don’t eat well then I don’t train well. My favourite meal is chilli con carne with rice, chips and a Yorkshire pudding. But I can’t have it that often, unfortunately.
Have you made a few sacrifices?
Top-level sport is a lifestyle choice, which means I’ve had to sacrifice nights out and alcohol. But the biggest one is my move to Bath [from a training base in Cardiff] two-and-a-half years ago, and leaving all my friends in Wales. But I’m hitting the right levels now, so it’s working out.
What’s the hardest thing about training in your sport?
Producing a lot of lactic acid is a by-product of running shorter events. When I finish a session, I’m often on the floor for 20 minutes, because the lactic acid is hurting so much. I can’t get up to walk or else I’ll be sick. Take a photograph of me after some of those sessions and you’d think I was dead.
Your acclaimed coach, Malcolm Arnold, has a reputation for being no-nonsense. How is he for you?
He’s been there and done it, so he tells you the truth, which is good because I need someone who doesn’t kiss my arse [laughs]. After the World Championships last year, he told me I could go out and make money for the next 12 months, or be the best in the world for five years. That’s his attitude.
What’s the most effective exercise you do?
The burpee, which is a squat where you get down on the floor and thrust both your legs back and jump right back up. They’re a full-body workout that also activates the muscles around your quads.
What’s the best approach for you during a race?
I’ll be honest, for the first 300m I’m not as fast as other racers. But the final 100m is where the extra conditioning and the strength work I do pay dividends. Going that little bit further in training makes that happen.
So what do you do that your rivals don’t?
The best way to simulate fatigue is by racing properly, so one day each week I race in full-on hurdle sessions by myself with a set of 10 hurdles — that’s 95 per cent of my race. Maybe one per cent of the hurdling population will do this, but other hurdlers don’t want to know. I swear by it. It helps mentally, too.
Do you have any other training tips?
I’m a big fan of circuit training with short recoveries. I’d recommend doing 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, then 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off, and you can mix and match the exercises to keep it fresh. And I also endorse running at walking pace, because moving very slowly but bringing your knees really high with your body straight and toes pointed up helps to give you a great technique when you run for real.
Killer training tip: A light wristwatch will do wonders when you don’t have a personal trainer. Despite having a coach, I wear one anyway. It comes in handy for circuit training and it also lets me know how far I’ve travelled.
Dai Greene appears as part of Nike's #makeitcount campaign. Time to do more. Train with us at #makeitcount Facebook.com/nikerunninguk