Thomas Barr on standards set in Rio and the benefit of a run in the sun

The Irish 400m hurdler is currently training in Torremolinos

BY Cian Roche 07:12 Friday 14 April 2017, 7:12 14 Apr 2017

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

'Two weeks in Torremolinos, it's gonna to be tropic.'

Well, not quite. Sure, the sun is an added benefit, but warm weather training is no joke for Thomas Barr.

The Irish 400M hurdler is currently in the process of fine-tuning his running; improving his stride pattern and building up his ability to maintain speed under race conditions. 

His two-week pre-season training camp alongside 20 other high performance athletes in Spain this month has given him the chance to dust off the cobwebs. 

Readjusting to training hasn't been easy, but the 24-year-old is happy to have gotten the "winter slog" under his belt.

"Training in the heat is good in a way because it kind of signifies the end of the winter season," he tells Newstalk.com. "We’re getting into faster stuff and longer recoveries. There’s less beating up the bodies.

"This is time for tuning up your running and trying to work on different hurdle technique. Improving the stride pattern, working on new things."

It's under these relaxed conditions that Barr works best. His performance in Rio saw him finish mere milliseconds outside of a medal position in fourth and that time four years previous would have guaranteed him a place on the podium.

"I was injured for a lot of last year, so my training and preparation was a bit haphazard. My training wasn’t ideal, I missed about three months. Then I was able to run out of my skin in Rio.

"For me to be able to do that with so little training, that gives me confidence going into this year.

"From another perspective, because I was so fresh going into the Games last year with very little competition in my legs and I raced with no expectations. There was no pressure on me to perform.

"I was relaxed and that’s where I am able to perform at my best. That’s the mentality that I have to get back in."

So while the next Olympic cycle is only beginning, training and standards will be geared toward Tokyo 2020.

It's under these conditions Barr will test himself in order to get back to peak performance and consistently reach the levels required for a place on the podium. 

"Out here, all we have to focus on is training, eating and sleeping right.

"That’s the environment that I love. Being pulled away from all the other stresses of what’s going on at home.

"We can take full recoveries without the muscles getting cold in between."

The Waterford native took five weeks off after his final competition post-Rio. His final race in Zurich signalled the end of a turbulent year and gave him a chance to reflect on what was achieved on the biggest stage in global athletics.

"I found it difficult to switch off after Rio. Because of how well I did, that’s all people wanted to talk to me about. I felt like I hadn’t switched off fully, but I did switch off in that I didn’t train.

"I stayed away from the gym and the track, but obviously I had a lot of media and PR responsibilities to fulfill when I do come back."

Thomas Barr after finishing fourth in the 400M Hurdle Finals in Rio. Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Barr found himself the talk of Irish athletics and a bronze in the event would have secured Sport Ireland's target of three medals at last summer's Games.

But with that now behind him, the focus returns to the track and the upcoming competition season.

"I’ve already had intervarsities and that went OK. It was more of a season opener - a pipe opener just to see where I was.

"It gave me an idea of what I need to work on when I’m out here.

"The training will help me peak for two stages of the season. I’ll have one peak now at the end of May or so and into June.

"It be hard up until maybe two weeks before competition and then we'll begin to taper off. We’ll focus on the shorter, faster stuff."

Upcoming events such as the coveted Diamond League showpiece at the end of May is undoubtedly the target and will offer an insight into where he needs to improve.

The sun will offer some comfort for now, but Tokyo 2020 is looming just over the horizon.

On 7th May, Thomas Barr will hit the road simultaneously with tens of thousands of runners worldwide to help find a cure for spinal cord injury, thanks to the Wings for Life World Run App. The app allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to join the global movement, sharing the experience right down to a Virtual Catcher Car and your name on the Global Result List. Registration is now open for everyone at wingsforlifeworldrun.com.

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