Milk power fuelling Scot as he continues quest for Olympic qualification
SLIMLINE Scottish middledistance runner Guy Learmonth is single-handedly keeping his local milkman in business. The 800m Commonwealth Games star from Lasswade played rugby with Stuart Hogg as a teenager and used to have the body shape to match. That was until he had a discussion with new coach Rob Denmark, and it was decided that he should ditch all unnecessary carbohydrates such as Oreo cookies, and bulk consume dairy products in order to lose some body mass. He now drinks around four pints of skimmed milk a day, a regime which has seen him drop around three kilos.
While Learmonth – who memorably battled into the 800m final behind the likes of Nijel Amos and David Rudisha at the Glasgow games in 2014 – still feels the same power and explosiveness in the gym as he had in his rugby playing days, the only problem with all this has been a worrying recent habit of running out of legs in the final stages of races. After what he called a lapse of concentration in Athlone last week, on Saturday at the Emirates Arena he was chiding himself for the lack of finishing speed which saw him finish sixth behind Polish winner Adam Kszczot, in a time of 1:47.80. His mood wasn’t improved any by the fact that, as in Athlone, he was pipped by Michael Rimmer, the Englishman who is his main competition in the British indoor trials in Sheffield next weekend.
“I feel more fluid,” said Learmonth, still just 23. “I don’t know how I look but I feel more stable. I’m a work in progress – Rob Denmark has done a lot of work with me and we’ve made big changes. So I’d like to see where I am in two years’ time.
“I’ve stuck to a strict diet,” he added. “No Oreo biscuits – and I love them! I eat a lot more protein now. Especially being at uni in the past, carbs were an easy meal, so I used to be eating them when I wasn’t training, taking in a lot of carbs at night. We’ve scrapped all that. I now have a lot more protein at night. I also drink four pints of milk a day. That’s no word of a lie, I spend about two quid a day on milk.”
Thankfully Learmonth could drink the white stuff until the cows come home. “I wouldn’t mind a milk sponsor,” he jokes. “Or a cow in the back garden! But I haven’t sickened myself with it. I love it, I have it with dinner, breakfast, lunch, you name it. It’s not chocolate milk, definitely. It’s that skimmed stuff. It was like drinking white-coloured water at first. But thankfully I’ve grown to like it. Maybe my body has become used to it.”
As drastic as the changes in body shape have been, they haven’t yet necessitated an entire change of wardrobe. “I’ll never look like Mo [Farah], I don’t think that’s possible.” jokes Learmonth. “Thankfully I haven’t had to get a new wardrobe. My sponsors New Balance kit me, so I’ve only just dropped a few jeans sizes, that’s the only big change.
“I can see progress, because I’ve been going really, really good in training, so I don’t want to make the changes an excuse,” he added. “But maybe the intensity of training means I need just a few more big races, then I’ll be fine. There have been a ton of changes, I’ve come through them – and the performances have come.”
Learmonth, a one-time Border Reiver who was a late starter in the sport at the age of 17, led from start to finish in Sheffield 12 months back for what was his first senior national title. It saw him qualify for the European Indoors in Prague, where he recorded a creditable sixth place finish. While his main target for the season remains the Olympics in Rio, he has no intention of giving up his British title without a fight.
“I’m a wee bit tired, I don’t know why, just a bit flat,” he said. “But I’ll be at the British champs next week and I want to retain my title. The main goal is the outdoor season, to qualify for the Olympics, but I really wanted to do a 1.46 in Glasgow. There are no excuses.
“So I will be working on my final lap. To reach the Olympics, is a dream. It’s the pinnacle for every athlete. That will be my goal this season.”
The cream always rises to the top in Olympic year. But with a little help from his dairy-dominated diet Learmonth hopes to dine at the sport’s top table this August.
I’ve stuck to a strict diet. No Oreo biscuits – and I love them! I also drink four pints of milk a day. That’s no word of a lie, I spend about two quid a day on milk
FOCUSED: Guy Learmonth admits he will be working on his final lap speed as he builds towards Olympic qualification