One of Britain’s top Olympic medal hopefuls has put together a series of fitness videos aimed at primary age children. Jack McKeown talks to Dundee’s Eilish McColgan about how to keep kids in shape.
This year has been a strange one for all of us but particularly so for professional athletes. Right now, Eilish McColgan should have been putting the finishing touches on her preparation for the Olympics before flying out to Tokyo to compete in the 5,000 metres.
It would be the 29-year old’s third Olympic Games. She hopes to take part in the 5,000 metres at the rescheduled Games in Toyko next year before stepping up and aiming for a place on the GB marathon team for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
She would follow in her mother’s footsteps by moving to the longer distance – after winning 10,000 metres silver at the 1988 Olympics, gold at the 1991 World Championships, and two Commonwealth Games gold medals, Liz McColgan went on to win the London Marathon in 1996. Her 1997 time of 2:26.52, which placed her second in the 1997 event, remained a Scottish record until last year.
Eilish says she’s disappointed not to be on her way to Tokyo but that her time will come.
“I was in America when coronavirus hit. We were training in Flagstaff, Arizona and then up in Colorado. It was to be our final big push before the Olympics.
“Obviously there was an initial disappointment. The Olympics is the pinnacle and it’s what you gear all your training towards. But there are much more important things going on right now than sport. People are losing their lives because of this so what we’re going through doesn’t feel very important compared to that.
“Once the initial disappointment wore off it was actually good to have clarity rather than not knowing if it would or wouldn’t go ahead. I would much rather have it in 2021 or 2022 rather than go to one that didn’t feel like an Olympics and had all sorts of strange restrictions. Part of the experience is running in a stadium in front of big crowds and I wouldn’t want to miss out on that.
“In the meantime I’ll focus on keeping getting stronger and faster.”
Last year saw Eilish break her mother’s Scottish 10 mile record to retain her title at the Great South Run and she says she’s getting faster all the time. She grew up in Dundee but now lives in Manchester with her boyfriend and while she’s faced the same restrictions as everyone else during lockdown she feels lucky that her sport doesn’t involve much in the way of equipment.
“I’ve still been able to get outside every day so my training hasn’t really suffered during the lockdown. Other athletes like swimmers have had a much harder time and have had to adopt very different training techniques.
“I’ve been training every day in parks and along river paths. The only thing I’ve noticed is how much busier it has been. People are getting out walking, running and cycling a lot more and I hope that continues after this is over.
“Some countries, like Italy, had much more stringent lockdowns and you weren’t allowed outside for weeks. I know that runners based there have had a much harder time of it so I feel quite lucky.”
In between her daily training sessions Eilish has found time to come up with a series of training videos for youngsters, aided by her sponsors – Dundee legal firm Lindsays.
“I’ve been asked numerous times during lockdown to do stuff for schools,” she continues. “School sports days were cancelled so I was asked to do online presentations instead or send video messages saying congratulations, or virtual shoutouts to kids.
“Lindsays sponsors me and they asked if I would do some exercise videos aimed at local primary schools that would give kids a sporting challenge.
“Although I don’t live in Dundee anymore I grew up there and I started my athletics career at the Hawkhill Harriers – in fact I’m still a Harrier to this day – so I’ve still got a strong affinity to Dundee.”
The series of five short videos were filmed in the hallway of Eilish’s home and involve nothing more than a few pairs of socks. One features the athlete doing shuttle runs between various sock markers, while another has her sitting down with her legs in the air passing the socks under and over her knees.
“The videos are aimed at primary school kids and I wanted it to be really inclusive so you don’t need a garden or a big house or anything in the way of equipment to do it,” she continues. “You don’t even need trainers. All you need are a few pairs of socks, which everyone has, and a little bit of indoor space – even a hallway will do.
“It’s really important for children to stay active during lockdown and it’s also good for their mental health. Lockdown has been difficult for all of us but children must have found it particularly hard not being at school or seeing their friends.
“This is something children can do as a school, competing against each other and seeing how close they can get to my totals. I’d love to see as many videos of children doing is at as possible and I’ll share them on my social media channels.”
Eilish says she would like her videos to live on beyond lockdown and inspire children to work towards their sporting potential “Athletes aren’t just good at things immediately. It took me from when I was 12 and joined Hawkhill Harriers to when I was 21 to get my first place on the Great Britain team.
“We get better through training, practice and hard work. I would love to see youngsters carrying on trying these challenges and posting more clips as they get better and their results improve. Hard work and persistence are among the biggest attributes you need in sport.”
Watch Eilish’s children’s workout challenges here:
Intro – https://vimeo.com/428066539
Drill 1 – https://vimeo.com/428400508
Drill 3 – https://vimeo.com/428415534