Athletics: Johnson urges quick return to training for Tokyo aspirants

(Reuters) - As athletics’ elite rest up from the latest world championships on record, 12 times global gold medallist Michael Johnson has some advice for Tokyo medal seekers: don’t stray too far from the track or exercise room.

FILE PHOTO: American sprinter Michael Johnson talks to media at the briefing of 2024 Olympic Games candidate cities Paris and Los Angeles ahead of final election of 2024 Olympic host city, in Lausanne, Switzerland July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

“If you take too much time off, that’s just going to extend the amount of time you have got to take to get back into training shape,” the former 200 and 400 meters world record holder told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“And there’s not going to be that kind of time.”

Track and field athletes had 348 days from the end of the 2015 Beijing world championships to the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics (August 30, 2015 to August 12, 2016).

This time the difference is 299 days with the Doha championships concluding on Oct. 6 and athletics at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics starting on July 31, 2020.

“If it were me, I would probably not take more than a week completely off after the season,” said Johnson, now a BBC analyst.

He offers the advice not only as one of the world’s top all-time sprinters but using the experience of his staff at Michael Johnson Performance in Dallas, where hundreds of athletes in sports ranging from global athletics to the National Football League come to enhance their athletic development.

While sitting on the beach or spending time with family after a strenuous 2019 season no doubt would be the preferred option, athletes are understanding that long breaks will not be forthcoming this year, Johnson said.

“Many of the athletes I’ve spoken with have already made plans to significantly shorten, if not pretty much eliminate the traditional off-season break,” the 52-year-old Texan said.

“Maintain as much (fitness) as you can. I wouldn’t let the type of conditioning get all the way down to zero.

“If you do, things will go much smoother when those rapidly approaching November days of training return.”

(This story updates to add quote marks to paragraph 11)

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge