Why a Properly Planned Training Programme is Key to Achieving Your Potential

Since qualifying as a Running Coach it has led me to reconsider my own training approach. For the first time in my running career I have used Periodisation – that is dividing my training up into 3 distinct 8 week phases – instead of following the same training schedule week-in, week-out, month after month.

I started 2016 by deciding on my goals for the year and what I needed to do to achieve this. I then carefully planned my training. I began with my base phase; focusing on increasing the distance of my long run to build endurance, as well as some Fartlek runs to prepare for the speed work that would come later on, and long hills and cross country to build strength. Next I moved into the build phase: maintaining my long run and introducing tempo runs, long repetitions and a mixture of long and short hills. Finally, I have entered my peak phase – fine tuning my speed work with 400m efforts and long repeats.

So the verdict? Well, 3 weeks into my peak phase I have just achieved my goal for 2016 having improved my 10K PB by over a minute. Prior to becoming a running coach my PB had plateaued for many years. So, the hard work and structured training programme has certainly paid off. Furthermore, over the last 4 months I have enjoyed my training more than ever. With distinct training phases it has kept me motivated (I certainly haven’t become stale or bored with my training). More importantly, it has given my the confidence to believe that I can achieve my racing aspirations by simply following a carefully considered, structured training plan. And as a coach, I now KNOW I can help others achieve the same successful outcomes.

So, if you would like me to plan a training programme for you and help you realise your goals then please get in touch. Email me at mcfitness@btinternet.com or call 07717021650.

Advertisements

Why do you run?

This is probably a question which many non-runners ask of runners. After all why would you want to do something that is physically very hard work and makes you hot and sweaty?

For many beginner runners their motivation has come from a desire to lose weight, get fitter, lead a healthier lifestyle, or they may even want to set themselves a personal challenge. They see others completing Park runs, Race for Life, half or full marathons and want to see if they can do the same. Sometimes, being affected by a family illness or loss of a loved one through heart disease or cancer inspires them to take on a running challenge to raise money for charity. The reasons why people choose to take up running are numerous.

My reason for taking up running was literally to see if I could do it – running was not something which I particularly excelled at or enjoyed when I was at school. However as an adult I had developed a passion for fitness, in particular cycling, working out at the gym and attending fitness classes, and as I had built up a good level of fitness I now wanted to see if I could take on running. I had also seen Race for Life being promoted on television and I thought it looked a lot of fun and as my nan had been diagnosed with cancer at the time I decided to sign up for my first Race for Life.  Having completed my first 5K I then felt inspired to join a women’s running group – it was at this point I got the running bug. I loved running with others and as I got fitter I was able to run and hold a conversation. This was the point at which my relationship with running changed. Instead of it being about keeping fit or being a personal challenge it became my ‘therapy’.

The opportunity to run and have a good conversation (without any interruptions) for 45 minutes or so, felt very sacred, especially in today’s busy society. Sometimes the conversations are just chattering about day-to-day stuff, and sometimes it’s a chance to air a problem. The social interaction is wonderful – it’s just like have a coffee morning with a group of friends, except you’re running instead of drinking coffee! Of course, not all my runs are with others. When I run on my own, I find it equally therapeutic. I can let my mind roam, ponder about life, work out answers to problems, or just think up new ideas, or to coin a phrase – do a bit of ‘blue sky thinking’. Either way, running with others or alone is certainly very healthy for the mind. And, as for the post-exercise endorphins; they can change you. Sometimes pre-run I may feel tired from a poor night’s sleep or perhaps not in a particularly perky mood, but after a run I feel much more energised and happier.

I also love running because it gets me outdoors. I love running along in the countryside, exploring new routes, going across fields and finding hidden pockets of countryside I never knew existed.  I love feeling and experiencing the weather – from hot, sunny summer days, to crisp, cold winter days. Oddly enough I prefer winter running to summer running. In the winter we are cooped up inside so much with the heating on, so it just feels great to get outside and feel the fresh air on your face. And even if it is freezing cold when you set out, you come back feeling warm and toast- with a healthy glow! Finally I love watching the changing seasons. Its amazing what you notice when out on a run; the first signs of spring with buds on the hedgerows, blackberries appearing at the end of summer, and of course seeing the wonderful autumn colours. Normally we are too busy rushing about in daily lives that we don’t get time to take in the world around us.

So, if you ask my ‘why do I run?’, well perhaps my answer is that it helps me to live life to the full.

Running when it’s hot, hot, hot

Running in hot weather is tough and runs that you can normally complete quite comfortably will suddenly seem really difficult. Don’t despair – you haven’t suddenly become less fit. In fact continuing to train in the heat will reap its rewards when the weather cools down (n order to cope with the heat your body has to work much harder than it normally does).  To make running in hot weather more bearable try the following:-

  1. Run early in the morning or late in the evening; please don’t take to your run in the midday heat!
  2. Wear lose, breathable clothing.
  3. Carry a water bottle which has been chilled or partially frozen, even if you don’t drink it during your run you can pour the water over yourself as you run.
  4. Find a shady route to run – for example through a wood.
  5. If doing a long run, stick to a short route near your home that you can loop several times and leave out a towel, some cold drinks in a cool bag for each time you pass – plus an added advantage is that if you start to experience heat stroke or exhaustion you can cut your run short.
  6. Run indoors on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym.
  7. Ignore your watch and forget your pace – run on your perceived effort level.
  8. Modify your workouts – don’t do intervals.
  9. Take a walking break every 5-10 minutes to allow your body to cool.

Alternatively consider cross-training. Use the opportunity to have a break from running and try another sport. Cycling is much more comfortable than running in hot weather, or a perhaps you can go for a refreshing swim. Or it may be a good idea to fit in some strength and conditioning work which often gets neglected by runners.

Finally, if you are exercising in the heat make sure you are aware of the danger signs of heat-related illnesses: dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, headache, nausea, feeling disorientated or goose bumps. If you experience any of these symptoms – stop exercising, seek shade and drink a rehydration drink containing electrolytes (or make your own by mixing juice and water with a teaspoon of salt).

Good Running Technique

Most people think that running is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and don’t really consider how their body moves. However making some small changes to your technique can mean your body moves more efficiently; making running seem easier. Ultimately this means you can run further and/or faster and in the long term reduce the likelihood of injuries. So how can we improve our running technique?

  1. Try ‘running tall’ and your head will lift and spine lengthen.

If you are bent over as you run your legs will be hindered and you won’t be able to use your whole leg from the hips to propel you along.  See how much easier it is to run by adopting a tall, upright posture. Remember to look ahead and not at your feet – don’t let your chin jut out. Imagine a helium balloon tied to your head and pulling you upwards.

  1. Push your chest up and forwards.

Make sure your chest is not facing down towards the ground – it needs to face the direction you are trying to travel in.

  1. Try to keep your pelvis level (imagine it’s a bucket full of water that you don’t want to spill) and keep your bum and tummy tucked in.

Remember doing core stability exercises will help with this!

4. Watch your legs

Don’t over stride – if your stride is too long the chances are that you are landing with your knee locked and probably landing quite heavily on your heels. This creates a braking effect and also puts a lot of impact through your body. Make sure that when you land your knee is slightly bent and your foot lands underneath your hips (not way out in front of your hips).

Is your stride rate fast or slow? Count your steps as you run and see how close you are to the optimum of 180 per minute. This stride rate is considered to be the best regardless of how fast or slow you run. By keeping your stride rate up you are more likely to be lighter on your feet, which means it is less of an effort to push off after each time your foot lands!

When you are running try to imagine that your legs are making a cycling motion; as you lift your foot off the ground bring your heel up and under your bottom – this will make it easier to swing your leg through. Then lift your knee up before driving your foot down – this will allow you to apply power as your foot strikes the ground.

Whilst many elite runners land on their forefoot, most of us tend to land heel or mid-foot first and that is fine so long as you are not crashing heavily onto your heels which can often lead to injury, as well as being an inefficient way to run. So pay attention to how your foot lands and make sure you are not landing too heavily on your heel s. If you do land on your forefoot or mid-foot make sure that your heel does makes light contact with the ground to avoid Achilles problems.

When you run listen to your footsteps and think: Quick, Quiet & Light footsteps.

  1. Finally add to that relaxed arms and shoulders and you’re half way there.

Make sure your shoulders are not hunched up and keep your arms loose. If you feel tension in your arms or shoulders when running try dropping your arms by your side and giving them a little shake as you run.

Watch your arm swing – are your arms driving forwards and back and helping you to run or are they swinging across your body? Our arms play an important role when running – if you want to run faster an active arm swing will help propel you forwards (drive the elbows back with the hand moving from ‘lips to hips’). Also your arms have the role of counterbalancing your legs, so if your arms are uncoordinated your legs will be too. If your arms swing across your body this may cause your heels to ‘splay out’ as you run – remember you want to run forwards so make sure your body movements are going in that direction too!

Keep your hands loose and relaxed – don’t clench your fists. Imagine holding a crisp between your thumb and forefinger with your thumb uppermost, then try not to break it! If you do this it will help to keep your arms and shoulders relaxed.

  1. Get someone to watch or video you

Not sure exactly how you run? Then get someone to watch you and ask them for feedback or get someone to video you.

Remember if you want some help with improving your running technique please get in touch. I can offer advice by email, one-to-one coaching or you can come along to one of our small, friendly running groups.

Top Tips for New Runners

Why run?

  • Running, especially recreational running is very much a mixed, varied and inclusive sport as well as a family sport.
  • Anyone with the inclination can run and all abilities can join in together… look at any Fun Run.
  • Age isn’t a barrier, fitness isn’t a barrier and with guidance health issues rarely present a barrier….check out the British Heart Transplant Games.
  • Running is recognised as one of the best sports for managing weight and aiding weight loss.
  • Running burns around 100 kcal per mile so if you start running and eat sensibly you will see a change in shape and size.
  • Benefits also include improved heart and lung function, reduced blood pressure, stress reduction, reduced risk of some cancers and an aid to prevention of osteoporosis in some bones.

 

How can I get started?

  • Come along to our running sessions!

Many people set off alone, perhaps aiming for a local event or as a result of a bet! Others persuade a friend or partner to suffer with them only to find they have very different paces and abilities and soon fall out. Some fitness centres will have a running group and there are numerous running clubs happy to guide the complete novice to the able runner.

 

What are the advantages of joining a club or group

  • Safety!
  • The right advice: pace, effort, distance, stretching, avoiding injury
  • Access to events, coaching and governing body affiliation
  • Friends to run with at other times
  • A social group

 

Isn’t running expensive?

  • Running is cheap compared to the great majority of sports or other forms of exercise.
  • You can run any time anywhere for no extra cost.

 

What shoes do I need?

Running shoes are specific to running.

They have two main functions: cushioning and guidance.

Feet differ. Take your trainers to your nearest specialist shop and get the right advice from the outset… you may save a lot of injury time, and money!

 

What should I wear?

Ladies: Ensure you have a well supporting bra designed for running.

You don’t have to spend the earth, many stores have a good range at sensible prices and a good sports bra will be a good investment regardless of whether you get the running bug.

Everyone: Any comfortable shorts, T-shirt or top will do until you spot the real gear beckoning from the sports rails.

Trainers – see above!

 

When shouldn’t I run?

  • If you have any pain that continues or worsens as you run
  • If you have a temperature
  • If you are unusually tired

Most early injury niggles resolve quickly without intervention with rest from running and a gentle stretch of the area perhaps with a 10 min ice treatment three times a day over the first 72 hours. Your group leader will be able to advise.

Those that persist or worsen should be assessed by an appropriate professional … a

physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath etc. Your GP will be able to refer you to a professional if you don’t know of one.

 

Is running bad for your joints?

There is no supporting evidence to suggest that running specifically is injurious to your joints but if you have a pre-existing condition then take your GP’s advice before starting a running programme.

Running is so adaptable in terms of effort, pace, surfaces and distance that many people will find they can still participate.

 

Do I need to do anything before or after I run?

Always…

  • Warm up…before you put in any effort.
  • Walk, jog, skip, circle arms, feel your heart rate increase and your body temperature rise. If you are planning to run quickly then use some short quicker strides (short bursts of faster running for 10-20 seconds) at the end of your warm up. Be prepared for what you intend to do
  • Stretch….after you run.
  • Stretch the main muscles you used in your session.
  • Again your group leader will offer all the right stretches and mobility.

Eat…

  • Running needs fuel. Don’t expect to run well on an empty tank.
  • Regular meals based around good carbohydrate foods like pasta, rice, potato, fruit and veg.
  • Fish and lean meats.
  • Ensure you have a snack about an hour before exercise; a piece of fruit, a yoghurt, a cereal bar, some dried fruit for example

Rest and Recover…

  • Between sessions you will gain most benefit from your training effort if you recover well. The body adapts to the new stress you have introduced when it has a chance to rest. You will then reap the reward of training and not the demoralisation of injury

 

How do I find out about events and races?

  • Run Britain website
  • Your group leader or running club
  • Your local specialist running retailer
  • You can also find many more online and in running magazines

Word of mouth from your running friends will give you a good idea if the event is suitable for you…if they did it, you can!

Events can be fun and social; many are low key or charity events. They give you a chance to work a bit harder if you want to and may whet your appetite for more.

Health & Safety Advice

Clothing

Please wear bright clothing which will help you to be seen by road users when running.

Footwear

Please wear suitable trainers. Visit a running shop to find the running shoes that offer right type of support for your running style.

Headphones

Headphones must NOT be worn while running with the group as you will need to hear oncoming traffic or other pedestrians.

ID

We actively encourage the use of identity tags at all times whilst out running to enable your prompt identification in the event of an emergency and if necessary for your family members to be informed immediately. ID tags can be obtained from www.icetag.co.uk or www.cram-alert.co.uk. Alternatively you can opt for a Medical Dog Tag. For added assurance please note that your Run Leader is first aid qualified.

Injury

If you feel ANY pain or niggles whilst running, please STOP immediately and inform your run leader. Do not ignore the pain – it’s your body’s way of telling you that you are doing too much!

Food & Drink

Eat a light snack an hour before to ensure that you have enough energy to complete the session, but for your own comfort please avoid eating a heavy meal 2 hours prior to a run.

New to exercise

If you are new to exercise and/or running, remember to take things slowly to avoid over-doing it and becoming demotivated or injured. DON’T suddenly start exercising everyday if you have previously been sedentary, instead start off with 2 sessions per week and after 6-8 weeks you can include a further session.