Interview with Martin Yelling – Performance coach

Martin Yelling (MY) is a performance coach and co-founder of Yelling Performance. He has a background in competitive running and a wealth of knowledge that he has used as the founder of the UK’s most popular running podcast; Marathon Talk. He can also regularly be found advising a number of different magazines and newspapers on all things training including. He can regularly be seen presenting and speaking at running and endurance events including on the main stage at the Virgin Money London Marathon expo, where I (MM) saw him doing a talk at my second London marathon and was inspired by his presentation.

MM: For the 2015 London marathon expo, I caught the end of your speech, where you were talking about dealing with hitting the wall in the marathon, could you please expand on your thoughts behind this?

MY: Hitting the wall can be avoided. With appropriate training, the right nutrition and a great pacing strategy the probability of detonation in the latter stages of a marathon is significantly reduced. Failure to pay attention to these three primary things and the final few miles can certainly get problematic!

MM: How does mindfulness whilst racing aid marathon performance?

MY: I think it really helps to learn techniques that can help you stay calm, focussed and direct your thought and energy in a productive way. Staying in the moment and noticing things as you run, then choosing to respond accordingly, appropriately and relevantly, rather than as an auto response can help raise your game in marathon running, particularly during the later stages when relaxation, great control and calmness are more important to dial into.

MM: You’ve coached World champions Olympians and Paralympian’s what common traits do they have which make them successful, that non professional athletes can implement?

MY: I enjoy working with athletes of all abilities. Actually you don’t need to be a world beater to have some incredible qualities that we can learn from. The World’s best athletes do have a real sense of commitment, determination, strength, steely focus, and drive that can help achieve goals – this can also be a curse though as it’s also these qualities for constant improvement that can lead to physical breakdown, emotional instability and mental health issues! The truth is, in my view, that a well rounded, healthy, reasoned, productive and balanced approached, often that is process rather than entirely goal focussed can bring about the best in athletes of all abilities.

MM: Sometimes people want to run the marathon to find something outside of themselves to boost their confidence, through your coaching how do you show your clients how to focus and enhance the strengths they already have?

MY: I help them to realise their own strengths and how they can be an asset to their performance and then how they can reach deeper to optimise the things they are good at. We use simple reflection and mirroring techniques, confidence boosting training sessions, lots of questioning, and plenty of personal encouragement and belief.

MM: You’ve run sub 3 hour marathons, and my goal is to work towards a sub 3:05 marathon, with my PB 30mins of this, what advice would you give to someone like myself looking to improve their time?

MY: Reflect back on what you know works for you. Build more of this in. Ask yourself key questions about previous build ups and take out the chaff. The stuff that is wasted effort. Instead focus on things that make a real difference. This might be more or faster running, extra miles, longer runs, more rest.

MM: During your running career from running races to Ironman events, what’s the toughest experience you’ve dealt with, and how did you overcome it?

MY: The hardest thing to do was to quit my attempt at running the whole 630miles of the South West Coast path in 2016. It was tough because it felt like I was quitting when the reality was that my frame of reference around completion needed to change and I’d failed to incorporate the bandwidth into my fierce daily schedule to allow that to happen. I think it’s important to be easy on yourself as well as drive yourself.

MM: What exercises most commonly do runners neglect in your experience, which would improve their performance?

MY: I think when you’re younger you can roll through pretty much anything. As I’ve got older I’ve found I’ve started to neglect the basics and really noticed it. Stretching, yoga and pilates really help runners range of movement and technique.

MM: After snapping your achilles tendon in 1998, it shows that injuries are a part of running. It’s not always easy to deal with, what advice would you give to runners for coping with injuries?

MY: To listen intently to your body so that injury can be prevented rather than reacted to. Often as runners we tend to push on through injury onset instead of wake up, listen and respond – usually with rest. It’s ok to have a few days off to nip pain in the bud. With longer term injury I’d say that things do heal, they do get better, it’s always possible to get back running, just be patient and don’t rush.


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