July 13, 2017

Thomas Röhler

(info about Thomas Röhler)

Into the training of a javelin thrower

Thomas Kieller

Photo – Copyright JenJavelin

Thomas Röhler: Javelin thrower.

Well trained and with a slender physique, Thomas Röhler is one of the most explosive athletes at the top level of the javelin throwers. Before he chose is path in his actual sporting discipline, he did some triple jump and high jumping. At 18 years old, he turned towards his passion. Over time, he has refined his technique in javelin and results followed. The German man from Jena has realized numerous times throws beyond 90 meters. Yet, his best performance came in Doha, Qatar in 2017 with a throw of 93.90 meters leaving his opponents way behind. Besides this victory, he has finished first in competition on several occasions including five times at the German Athletics Championships. It remains that for this specialist of the javelin his best realization is without a doubt his gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with a throw of 90.30 meters. This is simply the culmination of his hard work.

The phone-interview took place on July 6, 2017 at 08:30 when Thomas was in Jena, Germany, two days before the 2017 German Athletics Championships where he has participated in. The interview was done in English.

Physical qualities required

Thomas Kieller: How did you start in this sport?

Thomas Röhler: In Germany, we have a system where all kids who are interested in sports start with running, jumping and all you can do in track and field. That way, they can know the basic movements. If I remember well I was in second grade which is about seven or eight years old. I really liked the sport and we had a good team. I started that way in track and field. After that, I did some sports in high school. The program is called "sportgymnasium" in Germany. There you train a little bit more like two to five times a week and you specialized in an event. For me, it was the triple jump and the high jump because I was small. The throwing did not make any sense at that time. However, I always love the throwing. It is important to point out that since I was a kid I like to throw stones from the shore. I was throwing everything for distance. It is something which followed me my whole life. It is also the reason why at the age of 18 I changed my training group for the throwing squad. I was doing well in the triple jump. I finished 8th in the under 18 in Germany, but to be honest it was not really what I loved. There were some structural changes and it was easier for me to try something else. From that day on, I’m a javelin thrower.

Thomas Kieller: What are the physical qualities required in javelin?

Thomas Röhler: Some people think that you have to be super strong to make the javelin fly, but it’s more about how to handle the forces which are applied in the throw. For example, when we released the javelin, we have one ton of weight on the left foot which in my case the block foot. So, it is quite a lot. It’s those forces that your body must handle with. You need good stability and good balance. You need to be really fast and explosive to make the javelin fly far. Also, we must not forget that you must be technically precise.

Thomas Kieller: Did your background in triple jump help you?

Thomas Röhler: Yes, I think it helps with the foot work, the rhythm and also these days the most important thing I see is taking risk. Well, the javelin is a risky event like the triple jump. When I was younger, I learned that taking risk lead to better results but you also need to handle it the right way.

Training in javelin

Thomas Kieller: Could you tell me is javelin more about running or about the core and upper body strength?

Thomas Röhler: The javelin is a big mix of a lot of different things. To make it easier to understand, I can say that to throw for distance 80 % comes from the lower body and just 20 % is arm and upper body. So, it is more about the core and the legs and we train consequently. There are a lot of different trainings. We do a lot of stuff to make us faster. Also, we do strength training but not with too much weight. It is really explosive exercises that we do. We also do gymnastic in order to get the coordination and the body control. Of course, there is some running because of the 30 meter run up which we have in the event. So, we need some running and sprinting.

Thomas Kieller: During off-season, what kind of training do you do for running?

Thomas Röhler: We don’t do endurance at all because it makes us slower. It is something proven. It is why during off-season we are trying to keep the running training in a small scale. Sometimes, we do 10 times 200 meters, but it’s all mix up in circuits. We usually combined the running with some strength circuits or with some CrossFit training. It is how we involve the running in the off-season.

Thomas Kieller: And what kind of exercises do you do for your strength, outside or in a gymnasium?

Thomas Röhler: We always want to get as much as we can from the whole body when training. I’m a fan of the circuits. We have three different circuits for off-season (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). The last one is the most exhausting one. Wednesday is the one which is the most technical. So, the lifts are faster and more technical per se. Monday and Friday are just really exhausting. Believe me, really exhausting! It’s for the general fitness and it last 35 to 45 minutes without a break. So, we are trying to have really efficient training. This type of session prepares us for a one hour competition and it helps us beat the other guys in the last run.

Thomas Kieller: We can see that one must throw the javelin in an explosive manner to have success. The javelin can reach speeds beyond 110 km/h (68 mph). Javelin is quite a physical sport and you can be prone easily to injury. What do you do to prepare yourself in order to avoid injuries?

Thomas Röhler: First of all, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Read the signs that your body gives you. I learned this over the years. Secondly, it is more about the training. I am friend of the slackline. You go barefoot on it and you can do a lot of stabilization moves. We took all the stabilization training that is done usually on the ground and we do it on this line in order to make it more hard and wobbly. We found out that it is good for all the small muscles that you usually don’t work out with the strength training. Also, doing this during the season keeps the body in balance.

Thomas Kieller: Do you do some stretching and what is your point of view on this matter?

Thomas Röhler: Oh well! The stretching is really something which is discussed. I will do the stretching when I feel that I need it like after a hard training or when you come out of competition. So, you can do the stretch the next day or two days after. Before the competition, it is a dynamic warm up. No stretching! We want to keep our body explosive.

Thomas Kieller: Do you do movement for flexibility? We can see that when you are throwing the javelin the legs are quite apart.

Thomas Röhler: It comes from the dynamic stuff we do and also from the gymnastic exercises. In gymnastics, you need to be flexible and you need quite an elastic body. It’s what we are looking for in the throwing.

Technical aspect

Thomas Kieller: In Javelin, you have to do a lot regarding the technical aspect. What is your approach concerning the running?

Thomas Röhler: In javelin, it is about the rhythm. And in the rhythm, you want to gain some speed but it is optimum speed that we are looking for. We could all run much faster but we have to handle the speed and the actual throw. So, we are looking for optimum speed and a nice rhythm.

Thomas Kieller: You don’t go full speed... Also, could you explain the two steps in the running?

Thomas Röhler: First, let me say that sometimes in training we try to go full speed, but actually we cannot throw at this speed. However, you want to push to the edge.

Concerning the run, we start with the normal running and then we go into a five steps cross-over. Actually, I go for a five steps. Some other guys go for seven steps. We do all this to prepare us for the throw. We want to be in a nice position.

Thomas Kieller: And can you explain the mechanics of the throwing?

Thomas Röhler: There are several key things that the thrower should look at and one of those is the nice alignment of the javelin in a good angle. Also, the right foot should stand under your center of gravity so you can apply the most forces into the throw. After that, you need a proper block which means the left side for every right hand thrower. The left knee must not bend, it is a straight block. It is how the javelin works. It sounds easy but it’s hard.

Thomas Kieller: How can a person improve his technique?

Thomas Röhler: If you are into it, when you see the javelin fly you can understand what you did wrong. The javelin is really fair on this matter. It is why some people can train by themselves. I call them the self taught javelin throwers. They can train without a coach and they can see what they are doing. This is special for this event. We do the technical stuff like the run up, we throw and then we see the javelin fly for some seconds. You can look at the way the javelin flies like the way it starts and the angle. With this information, we can see what we did technically wrong and that helps us for the training. So, sometimes, you don’t need a coach. However, you need a coach for innovation in the training, structure and discipline.

Thomas Kieller: I know you did a throw of 93.90 meters and a few over 90 meters. However, is there something you want to improve physically or technically?

Thomas Röhler: Physically it can be dangerous. If you develop physically too fast, it is harder to keep the technique as good as it is. It’s a game between improving technically and physically. I have to work at it step by step. So, I will just follow the way I train. I’m always changing a few things in order that the body cannot be used to it. Finally, I will see how far I will go.

Thomas Kieller: Where is the discipline going now?

Thomas Röhler: I think the javelin is one of the sports which have gain a lot with globalization and by the technical development we have. The whole public can go on YouTube and they can check out the training we do. They can learn from that. We have a lot of knowledge from the researches which have been done.

Javelin is the event with the most countries throwing in the world top 40. I think there are 26 countries in this list. This is amazing how many countries are involved in this sport and they get technically better because they have access to the knowledge with Internet and they have more tracks to train. So, as soon as one person has a javelin he can develop.

Last words

Thomas Kieller: You won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with a throw of 90.30 meters. We can say that your training paid off. How was your Olympic experience?

Thomas Röhler: It was my first Olympic. It is what every athlete works for. You want to compete at the Olympics. If you are in good shape, you have trained well and you are in good position in the world rankings, you aim for more. I wanted to succeed at the Olympics and this is what I did. It’s a dream came true. It is a good feeling and it is hard to describe.

Thomas Kieller: In the world of javelin is there a bond between the throwers?

Thomas Röhler: At the moment, the Germany squad is really doing well in the javelin. Sometimes we gather for camps, for biomechanical testing, etc. There we exchanged knowledge and after that we continue working on our individual training. To combine our individual approaches, that makes us better.

On the international level, the men javelin is a fair group. We are competitors but still we are kind of friends. We can sit together and have a cup of coffee. I know it’s not the case in every sport. In the men javelin, we know that everyone in the top 8 can beat the other ones the other day. So, it keeps us fair and respectful.

Thomas Kieller: In Germany, there is a tradition of good throwers in javelin. Now, it will be the 2017 German Athletics Championships on July 8th and 9th, 2017. For Germany, are those games a good place to make progress in javelin?

Thomas Röhler: The German Athletics Championships is where we get a lot of attention from the media. It’s important to show the sport and the young talents to the fans and it is also important economy wise. It is what the nationals are best for. It will not be the event where the athletes will produce the best results, but it will give a great show of sport.

Thomas Kieller: Thank you for this interview. It is very interesting to know more about javelin.

Thomas Röhler: You are welcome. Bye.