Hicham El Guerrouj's training for the 1997 season
Marco Velediaz Alvarez
Mexico City
On April 1994 I was in charge of the Mexican womens team that participated in the 2nd IAAF/ World Road Relay Championships held at the beautiful town of Litochoro, Greece. Upon arrival at Tessaloniki airport we got on the same bus with the Morocco mens team, the team manager then was Said Aouita, among other things he told me was that they were going to win the race and talked a lot about a young skinny and shy athlete named Hicham El Guerrouj. He said that this young man was going to become the best 1500 runner in history. I thought he was exaggerating a little. Two days later the Moroccan team beat Ethiopia (W. Bikila, F. Bayesa and H. Gebresilasie included) and Kenya. El Guerrouj covered the 3rd stage (5000m) in 13:43. Later, during the track season he appeared at world scene with a1500 mark of 3:33.61 at 19 years of age.
Training.
His characteristics are of a very disciplined and dedicated athlete, not in the sense of going early to bed or "don't do this", he is very professional in his job and always is focused in his training. When it is time to compete he respects and takes into account the tactical instructions in which he gives his opinion also. He is strong-willed, ambitious, and believes he can run the 1500 m under 3:24 [Note: when this was said in 1997 N. Morceli still had the 1500m WR].
Concrete examples are presented next of El Guerrouj's different training cycles. It can be observed that he does NOT work large volumes, but there is a predominant high level of quality. Besides he does not work too much on the track during the year.
He started a training cycle in middle October 1996, the training means are shown in the next table and the details are explained below:
First preparation cycle (from October 18 to November 7, 1996)
(Date)|| a.m. || p.m.
18 || Aerobic endurance || strength work
19 || Aerobic endurance || Physical preparation
20 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
21 || rest || strength work
22 || Power || Aerobic endurance
23 || Aerobic endurance || Physical preparation
24 || Aerobic endurance || strength work
25 || Rest || Aerobic endurance
26 || Aerobic endurance || Power
27 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
28 || Aerobic endurance || strength work
29 || Rest || Rest
30 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
31 || Aerobic endurance || Power
1 || Aerobic endurance || strength work
2 || Rest || Aerobic endurance
3 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
4 || Aerobic endurance || strength work
5 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
6 || Rest || Rest
7 || Aerobic endurance || strength work

Aerobic endurance is of four types:
1) 30-45 min of continuous running
2) 50-60 min of continuous running
For this workout there are no pre-set conditions, he is not asked any specific pace. However, he is demanded that he runs at his maximum at that moment, this varies from day to day and has nothing to do with the season. So, this means that El Guerrouj can run one day between 3:00-3:10/km pace and sometimes at 2:50/km.
3) 4 x 2000 m in 5:10 with 2 min recovery
4) 6 x 1000 m in 2:30 with 2 min recovery

The distances of the repetitions have been standardized because his coach considers important to set a "work rhythm" with high intensity (around 70% for him). For this reason, when El Guerrouj can not finish a certain training session, he repeats the workout the following day, instead of seeking a different solution.

Strength work. He works on the main muscle groups, but the coach believes in work the small ones as well, since those that have major influence in the posture. He utilizes free weights and special gym apparatus. During this stage he dose the following exercises:

 Half-squat 6 x 20 reps with 25 kg bar
Half-squat 4 x 16 reps with 30 kg bar
Squat 4 x 16 reps with 20 kg bar

In machines/apparatus:
Hamstrings 4 x 16 reps
Quadriceps 4 x 16 reps
Abductors 4 x 16 reps
Adductors 4 x 16 reps
Lunges 4 x 20 reps with 25 kg bar
Step-up 1 x 20 reps with 30 kg bar with each leg
Abdominal 300-400 reps
Back 300-400 reps

Power.
He does once a week up-hills 10 x 300 m and horizontal jumps and vertical jumps over hurdles.

Physical preparation. This type of work includes general exercises, drills, stretching, also back and abdominal exercises. The stretching exercises are always present in all training sessions during the warm-up and the end of session.
After this first cycle he competed in some indoor races, which resulted in 2 world records:
1500 m 3:31.18 WR indoor Stuttgart, Germany, February 2, 1997.
1Mile 3:48.45 WR indoor Gent, Belgium, February 12, 1997.
1500m..1st_3:35.31 World Indoor Champs, Paris, March 8, 1997.

Second preparation cycle (March 30 to April 19, 1997)
This cycle started after the World Indoor Champs. During this stage high intensity parameters are added.

 (Date)|| a.m. || p.m.
March 30, 1997 || Aerobic endurance || Strength work 31 || Rest || Race Pace April 1st || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
2  || Aerobic endurance || Power
3  || Aerobic endurance || Race Pace
4  || Aerobic endurance || Rest
5  || Aerobic endurance || Power
6  || Aerobic endurance || Race pace
7  || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
8  || Aerobic endurance || Power
9  || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
10 || Rest || Aerobic endurance
11 || Aerobic endurance || Race pace
12 || Aerobic endurance || Rest
13 || Aerobic endurance || Strength work
14 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
15 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
16 || Aerobic endurance || Power
17 || Aerobic endurance || Rest
18 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
19 || Aerobic endurance || Race pace

Aerobic endurance.
30-45 min of continuous running at 2:50-3:00 or 3:10/km
30 min of continuous running as recovery.

Race Pace
Fartlek: 6-5-4-3-2-min fast running.
Track session: 1 x 1600 - 1200 - 800 - 600 - 400 m with short recovery starting with 1 min going down to 30 seconds!

Power
200-300 Multi-jumps.
Up-hill reps: 10 x 300m with jog back recovery.
Up-hill reps: 5 x 150 m

Strength work
The work is very similar to the previous cycle. The only difference is that the coach sets the total duration of the session:1h 30 min, but El Guerrouj chooses the exercises, using free weights and machines.

Third preparation cycle, May 11 - 31, 1997

11 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
12 || "warming-up"|| speed work
13 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
14 || "warming-up" || Race pace
15 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
16 || "warming-up" || speed work
17 || "warming-up" || Rest
18 || "warming-up" || Race pace
19 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
20 || "warming-up" || speed work
21 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
22 || "warming-up" || Race pace
23 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
24 || Rest || Rest
25 || "warming-up" || speed work
26 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
27 || "warming-up" || Aerobic endurance
28 || Aerobic endurance || Race pace
29 || Aerobic endurance || Aerobic endurance
30 || "warming-up" || "warming-up"
31 || Rest
Race: Adrian Paulen M. 1st_ 1500m 3:29.51

Aerobic endurance.
30 min of continuous running at 3:00-3:10/km
40 min of continuous running as recovery.

"Warming-up" (the original word is "échauffement"). Consists of 30 min easy running and 30 min of several general exercises. The aim is to get an active rest.

Race Pace
10 x 400m between 53-54 seconds with only 30 seconds recovery. He gets help from a "rabbit" the last 200 m in each repetition.

Speed work
10 x 300 m in 35-36 seconds with surges and help from a "rabbit".
6 x 500 m with surges and help from a "rabbit" the first 300 m in each repetition.
From this moment the help from the "rabbit" becomes very important, because he is approaching to the competitive period. He likes this type of sessions, they make him feel like in a race: with unexpected changes of pace, he improves his reaction every time that the "rabbit" accelerates.


Results 1997 season.
He had an almost unbeaten season with the Athens World title in 1500 m_3:35.83. Among his best results were the 3:28.91 in Zürich (August 13, 1997) and Brussels (August 22, 1997) 3:28.92.
Progression at 1500 m
1994 3:33.61
1995 3:31.16
1996 3:29.05
1997 3:28.91
1998 3:26.00

Some notes about:
Altitude training.
He trains several times a year at Ifrane,1650m altitude, at least 3 weeks in each period, although his coach does not consider an indispensable way of training, he always seeks for quality no matter the altitude. They don't believe in going to higher altitudes like Font Romeu (1800m) and Mexico City (2240m) although they have been in these places in the past.
According to British distance athlete Jon Wild who spent 3 weeks training in 1998 "Ifrane is a holiday town for Moroccans. It is quite lively in the summer with festivals and fairs. A very small place of 1500 (without tourists) and seems to attract people from all over. Gabriella Zabo was there in 1998, Julius Achon (Uganda) and the Qatar national team have been training there as well. There are several training places like the Forest. This is a huge area 5 min jog from the downtown through the streets and up a very steep hill into the trees. The paths are of light fine sand and not too soft or too hard but rocky in places. There are many loops to run one called the "Skah loop". The "Lake". It is in fact an old dry lake bed it seems, across a larger grassy area one can find this flat bed with a path beaten around it a stones to mark the way, its completely clear of trees and 2 km around it has stones to measure the distances, so repetitions can be run here. The Park. This is an area near the downtown which has some dirt paths, they run a loop through the park up the road and into the park again. The track is a little exposed out on a plain and caught the wind. They had to pay off the army guards to let them run there with no hassle. "They did not like us to be there when it was the Moroccans sessions, but sometimes it just happened that we were there at the same time, most we had just finished.......
Marco Veledíaz
Mexico City,Mexico
References:
Aouita, Said.(Morocco) Personal conversations (1994)
Daouda, Aziz. (Morocco).Lectures at National Coaching School, Caceres, Spain. October 31st, November 1,2, 1997.

Wild, Jon., (UK). Letter via e-mail (April 29, 1999)