After excelling in multiple sports growing up and a successful career in the armed forces, training to become what he calls a ‘fitness generalist’, one lofty pub bet set Tom Evans on an entirely new trajectory, which redefined him as an athlete.

Sitting across from Evans in his garage gym, I’m struck by the relative simplicity of his setup- a wall mounted squat rack, a barbell with a small selection of bumpers plates and a few kettlebells; a variety of medicine balls and bands rest on a sparsely populated rack above a lone Bosu ball, and of course- a treadmill. I note that I’ve seen far more comprehensive setups in the sheds and garages of trainees whose goals are far more general, and far, far less lofty.

Evans, after all is currently one of the most celebrated runners in Britain, in multiple disciplines. You’d be forgiven for picturing an Ivan Drago-esque fitness facility, and subsequently attributing his successes to a finely tuned, high tech strength and conditioning regime, completely unrealistic for those of us just looking to shave a few minutes off of our 10k time, but as Evans explains- S&C for endurance training doesn’t just enrich the process on multiple levels, it’s also much more accessible than you might think.

The story of Tom’s entry into the world of endurance racing is worthy of its own Hollywood treatment, during his career in the army his training was in his own words- ‘generailst’ at best and- ‘old fashioned’ at worst, and despite his multi-sport background before joining the forces, he admits he may never have knowingly run more than a 5k. This all changed in 2016 though, after some friends completed the ‘Marathon de Sables’, finishing the gruelling 251km ultra marathon across the Saharan desert in the top 300. Sharing a drink in a local pub after their return, Tom made the undoubtedly braggadocio fuelled bet that he could best their finishing position, despite having zero previous experience in endurance racing. A few laughs were no doubt exchanged. But six months later something very interesting happened; Evans did compete in the desert race, not only that, but he became the first non sub Saharan African to finish on the podium, propelling him head first into the world of professional endurance racing.

Is there more to his success than simply pounding the pavement?

We endeavoured to find out.

Evans opens by explaining that all of the training in the world will fall largely by the wayside if you haven’t focussed on building a strong, technique based foundation-

‘It’s about fostering good technique, but good technique for you if you watch the top finishers in the 10k at the Rio Olympics, they’re all going to look very different.’

Once your running is nailed to perfection though, Evans says additional, specific, strength work will make a nigh on unquantifiable difference to your training, providing a multi fronted support package to your efforts.

“Everything serves a purpose. For me, my training starts and finishes in the gym.”

Evans is a firm believer that replicating the work and stresses of his sport, in the gym enables him to continue making improvements whilst not over stressing his body with the specifics of runnings. ‘I might want to just suffer a little bit longer, or spend time on my feet, or maybe it’s about trying to practice my nutrition, but without being sat on the couch.’

Getting down to the nitty gritty, he says to analyse and take stock of upcoming races and events, and to build any specific strength and conditioning work around your findings

“What are the opportunities in any given race? What are the risks? How can my strength training prepare me for those? Box step ups for uphill trail runs? Rear foot elevated split squats for downhill scrambles?”

When pressed on just how much time he spends on training, and how that breaks down, Evans response may initially seem like a Herculean effort-

“12 hours of solid running per week, gym sessions focussing on strength 5-6 hours per week, and an additional 5-6 hours per week on mobility and conditioning.”

The volume and sheer hours involved look daunting, but the reading between the lines the important thing to focus on there for us mere mortals is the actual split of work. Coming in at a convenient 50/50 ratio of running to gym time, it’s easy to see how you can structure your own training frame work around your current commitments. If you’re ready to take your running to the next level and are currently plugging away at 3 hours on the treadmill a week, a reciprocal amount of time focussing on your strength, conditioning and mobility could be your ticket to unlocking new PB’s.

If you don’t have the time to invest, perhaps counterintuitively, lowering your running volume and turning your attention to the quality of the miles you’re ticking off, whilst simultaneously upping your time in the gym, could be your answer.

“In order to improve your running, you’ll have to run more, there’s no arguing that. But for me endurance sport is about consistency, my strength and conditioning allows me to be more mobile, to be stronger which enables me to be more consistent.”

Evans also asserts that another benefit of his S&C work is that it enables him to keep on working, even if an injury does rear its head.

“If I start noticing any niggles when I’m running, I can work around those in my S&C sessions, which enables me to keep working, even when I can’t run. Keeping that consistency, whilst also rehabbing.”

S&C isn’t going to guarantee you’re completely injury free, but the truth is even a 5% decrease in risk is hugely significant, especially when multiplied over the huge training mileage that endurance sports dictate.

In terms of the minutia of the work involved, Evans explains that most people are surprised when they hear his approach to sets and reps.

“You don’t need to do super high rep work, which people expect.”

Evans continues to explain that he gets enough high rep work in through his running, a work rate that simply can’t be replicated with resistance training 

“What I want to do is make my body as efficient as possible at recruiting muscle. More muscle can equal more endurance. If you’ve got a factory with a hundred workers and only 60 of them are actually working…that’s not going to be an efficient factory. That’s what I’m aiming for, efficiency.”

He also makes the valid argument that endless bodyweight reps provide initial wear and tear on your joints, which accumulates quickly, especially when partnered with a huge volume of pavement pounding. Intelligent, albeit heavier, resistance training at a lower rep range may be a more sustainable approach.

“I can get more bang for my buck doing six reps, well and controlled.”

To that end, he kicks off every training run in his minimalist garage facility with 10-20 minutes of mobility work, using resistance bands or weights to get everything firing straight away.

“My training starts and finishes in the gym.”

So, how can you make Tom’s record breaking training philosophies work for you? Evans delivers his most immediately actionable, pre and post run tips to help you on your journey from couch surfer to road warrior.

- Before you head out the door or hit the treadmill, spend 10-15 minutes working on a 50/50 split of mobility and activation, what Evans calls ‘running yoga’. Giving yourself time to not only get physically switched on, but more invested in the run ahead.

- Start from the ground up, articulating each joint and moving to create blood flow throughout your body. Use bands and weights where necessary for assistance and to create extra resistance.

- Use this time to assess, should you even be running today? Is your target pace realistic? Would your time be better served in the gym?

- Perform basic weighted, banded or bodyweight exercises to get your posterior chain firing. Focus in on your hamstrings and glutes, getting them ready for action. Think- lunges and single leg deadlifts. Use weights if you can, remember we’re trying to train the body to recruit as many fibres as possible.

- After each run, there’s nothing wrong some basic stretching, but now you’re fatigued it could be the best time to work on any race specific work that you know is on the horizon. If you’ve got a race with a lot of hill time coming up, for instance, now’s the perfect time to work on your calf strength, not only increasing your strength endurance, but elongating your session creating more general endurance stimulus.

- Perform another post run assessment, did any of your pre run niggles persist? Did any new ones arise? Now’s the time to begin the recovery process. Grab a resistance band to help articulate any stiff joints.

For anybody who’s ready to invest in their quest to get ‘race ready’, Evans delivers his recommendations for your home gym arsenal, and let’s us in on the why’s and how’s.

A squat rack/rig and barbell“Having a rack is incredible because you can do so much from it, whether it’s loaded calf raises in a safe manner or squatting. You can do everything. 80% of my exercises are around the rack. Whatever your bodyweight is, enough weight that you can load up to 15-20% more than that is perfect.”

Kettlebells“So diverse, you can do so many different exercises. Whether it’s the standard kettlebell swing or squat. With running there’s a lot of balance, so you might be holding a kettlebell in one hand while you’re doing walking lunges, so your body is having to adapt and improve its balance. Have something around 50% of your bodyweight and something around 25%.”

Resistance Bands Selection“You can use them for strength, you can use them for mobility, you can use them for conditioning. You can put them in your hand luggage when you’re travelling or keep some in your car. You can never have too many.”

Whatever your kit, Evans recommends a variety of weights so you can ensure progressive overload and continued progress.

“Once I’ve mastered a weight, I’ll make the exercise more difficult by slowing it down or doing more reps, now the easiest way to progress is to add more weight.”

Looking at Tom’s kit recommendations, it’s clear to see that strength and conditioning from home, even for a running phenom such as Evans, is far more accessible that you might think.

Evans mantra that ‘every session serves a purpose, every movement serves a purpose’, could be one of the contributing factors to his success. If you’re ready to adopt this yourself, here are Tom’s top three movements, ready to enter your training rotation.

- Single Leg Deadlift - “This trains your posterior chain and also helps your balance, so it really is running related. This becomes really useful for me if I’m heading into a race with lots of climbing, as I’m predominately using my posterior chain.”

- Barbell Back Squat - “I’m doing this for muscle recruitment, and to teach my muscles to fire, especially my glutes. These are a major muscle group in running and I want to be as powerful as I can through my glutes.”

- Core Exercises - “Movements that focus particularly on my obliques (rotation). With trail running you’re constantly twisting in and out of trees so you want your core to be strong, I’m teaching my body to be able to stay upright, so that all my force is moving forwards.”