The world of middle-distance running has been largely dominated by Africans in recent years, but three Norwegian runners have dominated the European circuit and are close to challenging for medals on the world stage.
What’s strange is that they are all from the same family. What’s stranger is that they are all coached by their father, Gjert Ingebrigtsen, who previously had no running background.
Gjert developed his own training philosophy, not through experience or from dogmas that are universally accepted in athletics, but through studying scientific research and the different training approaches used by past athletes.
That led him to come up with a formula fairly unique to the running world, and one that has reaped rewards. All three of his sons (Henrik, Filip and Jakob) who have pursued a career in athletics have become European champions over 1500m.
So here is a look at some of the key pillars of the brothers’ training regime.
The most striking feature of the Ingebrigtsens’ training plans are regular double interval sessions. It’s virtually unheard of for athletes to complete hard sessions twice a day on a regular basis.
But, almost every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the winter months, the Ingebrigtsen’s do a session like 5 x 6minutes in the morning and then come back in the evening for a shorter session like 25 x 400m.
According to Gjert, the reason they are able to perform these workouts without breaking down is that the intensity of the session is strictly controlled. They test their blood using a lactometer between reps to make sure lactate levels aren’t going above four millimoles per litre.
This is in line with the training philosophy of Marius Bakken, who is said to have inspired some of Gjert’s ideas, and means the brothers can recover more easily. Many physiologists argue there is little aerobic benefit in going above that intensity, so they rarely do - unlike most western athletes.
They also closely monitor their heart rate during easy runs to make sure they aren’t working too hard, and have even been known to walk up a hill if their heart rate is going to high. All this enables them to do about 25 per cent of their training at a higher intensity, in comparison to the 15-20 per cent achieved by most athletes.
A big emphasis is placed on neuromuscular strength in order to improve running economy.
In the reality TV show called Team Ingebrigtsen that follows the family, Henrik, Filip and Jakob are often seen lifting weights. They do this to increase their power output so they can travel further with each stride while still using the same amount of effort.
Time in the gym is complemented with regular hill sessions which are completed on Saturdays throughout the winter. Typically, they’ll do around 20 repetitions of a 200m hill at a fast pace.
Race Pace Intervals
Before competition, the overall volume of training decreases and the hill sessions are replaced with race pace work which could be 300m reps at 1500m pace.
They’ll also do fast strides in the few days before racing which serves to increase muscle tension and also increase the number of muscle fibres they can recruit.
This means they are primed when they come to race, and it clearly works given the Ingebrigtsens’ excellent racing records.