Chris Erickson is a two time Olympic representative, who competed at both the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympics in the 20km walk. On top of that, he is also an Australian National Champion over the 50km distance. Athletics Exclusive asked him how he manages to do all that, plus manage a family and work commitment.
Lachlan – What made you get involved in athletics?
Chris – My dad Tim Erickson was an Australian representative walker competing at the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games and as one of four boys the odds where that one of us might follow in his four steps so I ended up being the ‘lucky’ one if you like. I started Little A’s in under 8s after my older brother came home from school one day and asked Mum and Dad if he could do athletics with his school mates and I haven’t missed a season since! I enjoyed doing every event but having Dad as a guiding influence meant that whenever that walk was on myself and my brothers did well and generally won our age group, but while my other brothers stopped after Little A’s I kept on going into the senior ranks. Dad coached me to my first Australian team at the World Walking Cup in 2004 and then to the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and up until the time I moved to the Australian Institute of Sport in 2007. Since then I’ve been under the guidance of Brent Vallance but Dad has always remained an integral part of my success and we would speak daily about my training. Now that I am back in Melbourne I work with both Brent and Dad and they are make a great partnership.
Lachlan – Currently, what does a weekly program look like for you?
Chris – I’m currently slowly building my mileage up having had a break post World Championships, concentrating on building up a base before going into specific preparation for the season ahead. In the lead up to World’s I was sitting around 160km a week and my week looked something like the following:
|Monday||PM 10km Walk – steady|
AM 12km Walk
|Wednesday||AM 15-20km Walk
PM 10km Walk
AM 12km Walk
AM 15km Walk
|Saturday||Speed Session (ie 5x3km with 3min recovery)|
|Sunday||Long Walk 35-40km|
Add into that I’m in the gym around 3 times a week doing mainly body weight and core exercises.
Lachlan – What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start to dedicate more time to athletics?
Chris – Don’t too much too early! There is a great temptation when moving into a full time training environment or when devoting more time to your training to simply doing more sessions thinking that will bring immediate improvement. Whilst this may be true it also brings with it a greater chance of injuring yourself and sending yourself backwards rather than forwards. My biggest advice would be that before adding in more sessions or training harder, focus on improving your recovery techniques between sessions. Try recover techniques such as active stretching, cold water / ice baths or contrast baths (ie hot and cold baths), massage and/or physio and eating and hydrating properly. Once you have an ability to recover quicker between session then look to increase the number or intensity of sessions.
Lachlan – What is your goal for the coming season?
Chris – 2014 is a somewhat odd season as the walks have been dumped from Commonwealth Games (don’t get me started on this idiotic decision!). While we still have a major championship in the World Walking Cup in Taicang, China in May, the remainder of the year will be quiet. As such my focus is on the WWC, my performance in Moscow automatically qualified so I have the advantage and being able to have a steady build up to be ready to race 50km in May. We have our National 20km Championship in Hobart in early February so I am keen to get myself back into shape for a crack at my 20km PB. After that I will go into a specific 50km prep upping the miles and focusing on improving the last 10km of the race. I will follow a similar prep as for Moscow and use an altitude tent for 24 days and come out of the tent 10 days before racing. Post WWC I’ll use the extended winter to build up a good base for what will be a busy 2015/16.
Lachlan – You’ve competed at two Olympic Games in the 20km walk, and have several Australian National Championships to your name in the 50km walk. How differently do you approach these two event?
Chris – I competed in the 20km at the Olympics because I couldn’t get into the 50km team. The 50km has always been my preference and I’ve had A qualifiers for both Beijing and London for the 50km but with the likes of Jared Tallent, Nathan Deakes and Luke Adams I was unable to break into the team. As such I had to then turn my focus around and push for a 20km A qualifier to get on the team, luckily being able to do that. Whilst the 50km means you need to put in some more longer walks up and over 30km, the training for the two isn’t vastly different and some of my best results for 20km have come when preparing for a 50km. A big part of the 50km is being mentally prepared, racing smart and having a well rehearsed hydration plan.
Lachlan – In terms of managing work life and your athletic life, can you explain how you go about fitting in enough training to continue to compete at the level you do?
Chris – Moving back to Melbourne having spent 5 years in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport was always going to be challenge, more so considering my wife and I have two young children, but one that I was looking forward to taking on. Venturing into the world of full-time work for the first time was a shock to the system and it took 3-4 months to work out how to manage everything. My coach and I talked about using my commute to work as my training during the week to be able to keep my mileage up where it needs to be to remain competitive and luckily enough I’m able to pull it off and it has been the key to being able to fit in my training. I ride my bike into work at the start of the week with all my gear, walk in and home the rest of the week and then ride the bike back home on Friday. I live 500m away from the Maribynong River in Melbourne and I’m able to walk along the bikepath and then only have to cross a couple of roads in last few km’s to get to work. I also take advantage of the gym at work during lunchtimes a couple of times a week.