Pacing Advice

Training Your Pacing

We all have busy lives and it’s hard to fit training around work, family and generally just life.  There are hiccups along the way, illness, injury, bad runs, new jobs, the list is endless.  To top it off there is a lot running jargon that is hard to get your head around.  So how do you make sense of it all.

The most common mistake runners make is starting out too fast on race day, you are feeling refreshed as you have tapered for this race, you have worked hard each weekend with the longer runs in the rain, snow and sunshine and you are now on the start line.  The first few miles feel good! Wow I am amazing all that hard work has paid off, look at my pace it’s brilliant.  However, by starting out faster than goal pace and putting “time in the bank” you are actually burning through your available carbohydrate stores faster and your will almost certainly run out of fuel and crash. 

Try and use the 4-1 rule, for every 1 second per mile faster than optimal pace you run in the first part of your run (mainly for a half or for a marathon) you will give back up to 4 seconds per mile in the final part of the run.  For example If your race pace was 10 minute miles and you averaged 9.45 minute per mile in the first part of the run you are likely to find you can only average 11 minute miles for the final part of the run, so the 15 seconds turns into 60 seconds towards the end of the race as the ratio between 60 seconds and 15 seconds is 4:1

How do you progress in finding or increasing your race pace?

There are 3 golden training sessions to any training plan.  If you get these sessions into your week you give yourself the best opportunity to enjoy your race and achieve your goal.  They add a bit of variety into your plan, but remember these are just guidelines and it won’t be a disaster if you don’t manage them week in week out, they are options to give you an opportunity to add variety to your runs.

If you are fairly new to running, I would only advise 2 of the 3 and if you are only able to get out twice a week, then the long run is vital and either an interval session or a bit of speed play in a group run where you sprint between two lamp posts, or run all the way up Strawberry Track and back down, is more than enough. it’s just getting the body used to being out of breath. Unless you are an experienced runner please do, not do all three of these sessions as this can lead to doing too much too soon and therefore potential injury

The golden sessions are

1               Training Pacing Session (Tempo Runs)

2               Long Run

3               Higher-Intensity Repeats (Interval Training)

 

1 Training Pacing Session or Tempo Run

The training pacing session or tempo run teaches you to physically and mentally run at your target race pace and by practicing your target race pace it enables you to be comfortable so that you learn to pace yourself as evenly and as efficiently as possible.  If you don’t know what your training pace is and that you just want to get round then use a pace that you can comfortably talk at.

Start your tempo run at a moderate pace of 45 to 90 seconds per mile slower than your target race pace.  For the middle section of your run increase your pace to your target race pace and get used to how that feels, if you are out of breath and struggling then you may need to adjust your target pace time to a slightly slower time, if they feel easy then you can adjust your target pace time to a faster time.  You then finish your last mile with a moderate 45 to 90 seconds slower than your race pace.  Most training plans that I do have a tempo run which increases in distance each week and then drops down again once you move into your peak training weeks.  Remember, the plans are recipes and it’s good to see what works and what doesn’t and these tempo runs are a good indicator of what you can achieve. These are hard workouts as the miles increase.            

2 Long Run 

The long run is all about building endurance for your race, if you want to successfully race long, you need to properly train long.  The benefits of the long run are numerous

It builds the foundations from which you can add the extra beneficial sessions which reduces the chance of injury.  I like my athletes to have a good base foundation of miles so they have built up slow twitch muscles.

Builds the aerobic system

Prepares the body for the physical stress of running long

Provided an opportunity to practice fueling and hydrating properly

Prepares the athlete for the mental stress of running long

Long runs should be completed at a pace of about 45-90 secs per mile slower than your target race pace.  Do not run these long runs too fast, the old fashioned school of thought which is “being more is always better” is not the case for long races. You cannot wing long races and if you do too many long runs and race these runs you will not be training effectively which may jeopardies your performance on race day.

 

3 Higher Intensity Repeats or Interval Training

 

These runs are simple repeat drills done at a high level of effort with an easy timed recovery jog in between.  If you do short repeats of 800m or less at about your 5k pace and long repeats over 800m at your 10k pace.  Generally, these repeats should be completed at a pace at least 30 seconds per mile faster than your target race pace.  This type of training increases your race pace and builds confidence.  You will soon discover that what used to be a pace that was hard is now quite comfortable and when you do push your pace you are used to the uncomfortable feeling this gives you.

 

Please do not panic, ask me if there is anything that you don’t understand, if the next race is your first race then just follow the advice of not setting off too quick but if you would like to improve on your time then take some of the advice about mixing the training runs up.  The most important thing is that your longer runs should be run at a slower pace than normal and on race day don’t go out too quick, this will make the race really unenjoyable which may lead you to hanging up your trainings forever.

 

When is it time for new trainers?

There is no definite answer to this question as it depends on so many factors, however in my experience one thing is for certain that running or starting running in battered, worn out shoes is the leading cause of running injuries and can be as bad for you as running in shoes that just don’t fit you.

Running shoes are a consumable so even though you may have had them for a long time but not run many miles in them, you do need to be mindful of whether they are doing the job of protecting your feet/ankles/knees/hips as with any other consumable they do have a shelf life.  However, they are generally more expensive than many other consumables and people do treat them as long term products and tend to hold on to them for a long time.

Trainers are designed to have a shelf life, if you think of the cushioning of the midsole of a trainer as being similar to bubble wrap so with every step you take some of the bubbles burst and just like bubble wrap whose bubbles have been burst you end up with an cushioned and flat support system where there was once cushioning. 

The knock on effect of this cushioning breaking down is that the rest of the support and structure of your shoe also breaks down which can result in you not running in the same way as you first did when you were originally fitted for your trainers.  This means that your feet, calves, quads, hamstrings and hips may not go through the same motion as they first did when you were first fitted for your trainers.  The knock on effect of this is that the body will compensate for this mismatch and this compensation leads to not running as efficiently as you once were which can result in niggles or a long term injury.

As the breakdown of your trainers happens slowing, you don’t just wake up one morning and the trainers are no longer effective, it may be hard to pinpoint exactly when you need to replace them.  Here are my top tips for recognising the signs of when to replace your trainers

You start to have niggles in places that you’ve not had niggles before, it may be that you are starting to have aches, pains or injuries that you have not had before

 

You have run over 500 miles (again this is difficult to determine as weather and terrain can also play a part in the deterioration of the trainer)

Even if you have had your trainers for a long time but you haven’t run the suggested miles in them, adverse heat and cold can break the trainers down if they have been thrown in a cupboard

The rubber on the outsole has worn down on one side more than the other

If your trainer bends in the middle easily (the support has therefore broken down)

There is little or no give when you press firmly on the inside of the front of the shoe

 

New Year New You?

As we approach week 3 of 2018 how are you feeling? Have you succeeded in keeping your NY resolutions? Are you feeling flat and glum because Christmas was a write off due to illness or injury? If the New Year hasn't started out as you planned it to be then my advice is to ditch the NY resolutions and make a plan to achieve little goals throughout the upcoming year.

You all know I love a plan and I love little plans even more. Some runners just run and when a race comes along that they feel like entering they just do it, they don't really have a plan.  Other runners have detailed plans that they to stick religiously, their year is seperated into phases and cycles with a specific training goal at the end.  Sometimes it is so confusing and knowing what the right thing can seem chaotic and unclear. 

Lots of coaches feel it's important to follow a detailed training plan and whilst I believe a plan is important to help reduce injury and to make sure you are ready on the start line, the truth is that the majority of runners want to enjoy running and want to enjoy doing well in several races over the course of a year and not just one.  

I believe the most important aspect of training is for self improvement, mentally and physically whilst also having some fun and not taking running too seriously. Most people have outside factors that can affect training and whilst it would be lovely to be able to devote your life to running realistically a 150 mile week is highly unlikely (Shalane Flanagan NY marathon winner 2017 ran 130 miles a week whilst preparing for this marathon!).  

I believe that training for an event is exciting, especially if it is your first one or if you have a specific time goal in mind.  However when you train for an event, your first 5k or your first marathon your training requires that you put your body under a certain amount of stress so that your body can adapt to the stress, and subsequently get better and improve. Remember when your first minute felt like a marathon? Your body was stressed but you soon adapted to it this stress and as you adapted you became stronger and fitter and more able to run for longer.  However as you progress and as you increase your miles you may find that after the huge surge of improvement of 0 to 5k that you may be a little disappointed as in the subequent weeks or months that there seems to be very little improvement in your perfermonce.  

There is a fine line between doing too much too soon and actually seeing an improvement in your times as you increase your distance; remember life gets in the way sometimes, work, family and illness all play a part in how a training plan can pan out. I believe you do need a goal to focus on so that you don't plateau and become disheartened about your running.  But running isn't always about beating last years time or how good you were 10 years ago, it's about what is happening right now, at the place you are right now.  Small goals achieve outcomes, ok so you may have fallen behind in your training due to illness, injury or life but focus on what you can do today rather than what you could have done. You may not be able to beat last years time but could you run just because you can run, could you use the upcoming Stubbington 10k as a training run, even run with someone else to help them.  Be kind to yourself, draw a line under what you thought you might have been able to achieve and focus on the here and now.

For those of you who have been with me for 2 or 3 years reflect on how far you have come and acknowledge the progress you have made and remember, your training age is still very young and we all have to have a downward trend in our running journey. It is our bodies way of adapting, winter is for hibinating after all.

Work out what you really want and write it down, a good brain storm can help you see what is really important to you.  Have you entered races that you just haven't had the time to train for, have you set unrealistic goals and become injured as you've just been juggling too many balls in the air.  Try setting realistic goals, maybe marathon training isn't for you just yet if you have a full time job and lots of family committments.  You could focus on shorter distances that don't take up as much family time, set yourself a goal of trying out different parkruns in other local areas.

Talk it through with me, that's what I'm here for, be honest, send me your brain storm and see if there is anything I can suggest that will help you achieve your goal.

Do you need any extra help? Have you thought about yoga/pilates/strength training that would compliment your running.

Fun, yes running is meant to be fun and race organisers are trying to make it that way, big bands supporting you with music as you run past, food stalls, merchandise, massages, goody bags, medals of achievement.  Most races now have a festival feel and are a celebration of running and whilst I whole heartedly support plans that will guide you to achieve your running goals, sometimes we have to just accept where we are right now, dust ourselves off, get up and start again with a different plan.  Remember Shalane Flanagan, it took her 13 years to achieve her goal of winning NY marathon.

 

Runner’s Fuel Sample menu

The following sample menu gives you an idea of what you can eat in a "normal" training week, it is only a sample, there are lots of recipes in the previous article and ideas on what you can snack on so have a go at mixing it up a bit if you don't fancy my suggestions.  I would love to hear some feedback and if you find this useful then I can do more.

Week 1

Monday

Breakfast                    3 scrambled eggs with 1 wholemeal pitta bread

Mid Morning               Choose one from the snack list

Lunch                           Salmon Wrap

Mid Afternoon             Banana and peanut butter sandwich                                   

Evening Meal              Feta and Sweet Potatoe

 

Tuesday      

Breakfast                    Stewed fruit and yogurt, honey to taste

Mid Morning               Choose one from the snack list

Lunch                           Prawn and Orange Salad

Mid Afternoon             Oat cakes with peanut butter or hummus

Evening Meal                 Mediterranean Chicken

 

Wednesday

Breakfast                    Breakfast shake with a fruit of your choice

Mid Morning               Choose one from the snack list

Lunch                           Chicken wrap

Mid Afternoon             Chopped apple with almonds or nut of your choice

Evening Meal              Italian-Style Beef Stew

 

Thursday                  

Breakfast                    Porridge

Mid Morning               Apple and nuts

Lunch                           Orange Beef Sandwich

Mid Afternoon            2 x Rice Cakes with hummus or peanut butter

Evening Meal              Roasted spicey sweet potato and halloumi bake

 

Friday

Breakfast                    Summer Fruit Smoothie

Mid Morning               Banana and peanut butter sandwich

Lunch                           Smoked salmon and rocket sandwich

Mid Afternoon             Dried Fruit and nut

Evening Meal              Sweet potato and lentil Curry

 

Saturday

Breakfast                    2 eggs with a wholemeal bagel

Mid Morning               Oatcakes and peanut butter or hummus

Lunch                           Advocado and Feta Toasts

Mid Afternoon             Banana

Evening Meal              Gazpacho Chicken Salad

 

Sunday

Breakfast                    Porridge

Post run                       Mocha Shake

Lunch                           Baked Sweet Potatoes and Beans

Mid Afternnon             Pitta chips and cottage cheese

Evening Meal              Roasted Ratatouille Chicken

Training Recipes

Here are some recipes for you to try out, they are full of nutrition and very simple to do.  Fuelling as a runner isn't about diet it abouts making sure you get maximum nutrients in your daily calorie intake.  Try and eat foods that are nutritious and make things from scratch.  Having fruit as a snack is brilliant if you are feeling peckish and having the odd burger or piece of cake at the weekend is fine if you eat healthily for the majority of time.  It's about making sure you can meet the demands of your training plan which is anything from 5k to a marathon. 

Breakfast

Breakfast Shake

½ cup of fat free Greek yogurt

¾ cup of skimmed milk

¼ cup of rolled oats

1 tsp clear honey

Blend until smooth and serve straight away

 

Summer Fruit Smoothie

10 raspberries

5 strawberries

1 tbsp redcurrents

1/3 cup fat free Greek yogurt

Handful of ice

1/3 cup skimmed milk

Blend until smooth and serve straight away

 

Banana & Almond Smoothie

Good for recovery or breakfast

1 ripe banana frozen (being frozen is optional)

1 cup of skimmed milk

2 tsp Nut Butter

Peel and chop the banana then put it in a blender with the remaining ingredients.  Blend until smooth and serve straight away

Stewed Fruit

Put a handful of frozen blackberries, cherries, blueberries into a pan with 2 tbsp of water and sugar to taste and slowly simmer.  These can be served with natural greek yoghurt and a handful of nuts

Scramled egg pitta

This is a good breakfast or lunch option the day before a race or just if you fancy a change to your normal routine.

2 large eggs

1tbsp skimmed milk

1 large wholemeal pitta bread

Salt and pepper

Apple chutney to serve

Whisk up the eggs until fluffly, season with salt and pepper and pour into a non stick saucepan over a low heat and cook for 2-3 mins until stiffened.  Toast the pitta then slice open, spoon in the scrambled egg mixture into the pocket of the pitta and serve hot with the chutney.

Black pudding, poached egg and Asparagus

Grill 2 slices of black pudding, poach 2 eggs and steam a handful of aspargus and serve when cooked.

Lunch Suggestions

Mackerel Pate

I love this as it's full of protein and easy to make.  You can have this with pitta chips (see below)

2 Peppered smoked mackerel skinned and boned fillets

2 tbsp cream cheese

2 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt

Juice of a lemon

1              Put everything in a bowl and mash up, you can use a food processor or blend with a fork.

2               Put in a bowl and over with cling film, this is good with pitta bread, wholemeal crisp rolls or oatcakes.  Keep refrigerated for up to 2 days

Pitta chips

Why: Pitta provides fibre and slow releasing carbohydrates to power you through any afternoon slumps. These baked versions are far healthier than any shop-brought crisps.

Ingredients (serves 2) 

2 x wholemeal pitta bread

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional) 

Seasoning

Method

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Slice the pittas in half, width ways, so they are into really thin slices, then cut into smaller triangular shapes.

Grease a baking tray with the oil and then lay out the pitta. Season and put into the oven for about 10 minutes until crisp.

 

Mushroom, spinach and Halloumi Salad

1tbsp olive oil

300g mushrooms, thickly sliced,

1 garlic glove, crushed

300g halloumi, drained and sliced

150g cherry tomatoes

150g baby spinach leaves

1 handful of basil leaves

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp clear honey

2 tsp dried oregano

Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.  Remove from the pan and leae to one side.

Add the halloumi slices to the pan and cook for about 4 mins, turning once, until golden on both sides.  Remove from the pan and leave on one side.

Put the tomatoes, spinach and basil in a large salad bowl.  Add the mushrooms and halloumi and toss gently to combine.

Mix together the balsamic vinegar, honey and oregano in a small jug, then pour over salad and serve straight away.

Prawn & Orange Salad

150g mixed salad leaves

3 Oranges, divided into segments

1 ripe adovado, peeled, pitted and cut into chuncks

250g cooked king prawns

1 red onion finely chopped

1 raw beetroot, peeled and grated

50g walnuts chopped

For the dressing

1tbsp of nut oil

1 tsp clear honey

juice of 1/2 lime

Put all the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss them together lightly

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small jug and drizzle over the salad, toss and serve straight away

Serves 4

Salmon Wrap

Serves 2

200g grilled or canned salmon, skinned and flaked

2 tbsp plain yoghurt

1 1/2 tbsp lime juice

2 wholemeal torilla wraps

1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced

2 handfuls of shredded lettuce

Mix the salmon with the yoghurt and lime juice

Divide the salmon mixture equally between the wraps and top each one with half the avocado, tomato and lettuce.  Roll and fold each wrap to encase the filling. Serve straight away or wrap in cling film for a portable meal.

Chicken wrap

Why: The classic chicken wrap provides a healthy balance of carbs and protein, plus fibre from the wholemeal wrap. Adding the leaves gives you a nutritious dose of iron and vitamin C. It’s also super quick to prep.

You need: one wholemeal wrap, half a chicken breast, 1 tbsp pesto, small handful rocket or spinach, sun dried tomatoes.

To assemble: Cook your chicken breast by poaching in hot water or roasting. Meanwhile spread the wrap with pesto then slice tomatoes into small pieces. When the chicken is cooked slice half of it and arrange in the wrap – use the other half for the next day, and add tomato and rocket, then wrap up.

Smoked salmon and rocket sandwich

Why: sometimes a simple sandwich is all you want. This sandwich is full of heart healthy fats and omega-3 for your joints from the salmon and avocado.

You need: Two slices of bread of your choice (ideally wholemeal, seeded or Rye), two slices smoked salmon, ½ avocado, butter to spread, lemon juice and black pepper.

To assemble: butter the bread, then layer on the salmon and slices of avocado, squeeze with lemon juice and add black pepper. Wrap in foil. 

 

Green Club Sandwich

3 slices wholegrain or rye toast

3 tbsp ready-made houmous

1 small avocado (100g), stoned and sliced

1 handful rocket leaves

8-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced

Method

Toast the bread and spread humus evenly over one side of each slice. On one slice of bread, lay half the avocado, rocket and tomato. Season with pepper, then cover with another slice.

Pile on the rest of the avocado, rocket and tomato, season again and top with the third slice. 

 

Baked Sweet Potatoes and Beans

4 small sweet potatoes

1 tbsp smoked paprika, plus extra to serve

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

splash of Worcestershire sauce (Lancashire sauce is a veggie option)

2 x 400g cans mixed beans in water, drained

400g chopped tomatoes

4 tbsp light soured cream, to serve

Method

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Pierce the sweet potatoes a few times with a fork, then cook them in the microwave on High for 8 mins or until soft. Rub with 1 tsp of the paprika, 1 tsp of the oil and some seasoning. Transfer to a baking tray, put in the oven and cook for 10-15 mins until crispy.

Meanwhile, make the beans. Cook the onion in the remaining oil until soft. Add the garlic, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and the remaining paprika, and cook for a further 1-2 mins until sticky. Tip in the beans, tomatoes and a splash of water, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are ready.

Serve the sweet potatoes with the beans on top, a dollop of soured cream and a pinch of paprika, if you like.

Avocado & Feta Toasts

4 slices of seeded bread

1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped

60g feta chees, crumbled

Juice of 1/2 lemon

pinch of dried chilli

Toast the bread

Put the avocado, feta, lemon juice and chiili flakes in a bowl and mash together

Top the toast with the avocad and cheese mixture and serve immediatelya

 

Orange beef sandwich

Ingredients

4 slices wholegrain bread

115g sliced roast beef

55g blue cheese

1 orange, peeled and cut into segments

140g spinach

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Beetroot or horseradish sauce

Stack it

Spread a tablespoon of the beetroot-horseradish sauce on one side of each of the bread slices and top two of them with an equal amount of roast beef, cheese and orange segments. Next, toss the spinach with oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Top the orange segments with the greens and
the remaining bread, sauce-side down.

Serves 2

Thai chicken sandwich

Ingredients

4 wholewheat pittas

120g chopped cucumber

1 small carrot, grated

1 spring onion, sliced

2 tbsp mint, chopped

Juice of ½ lime

1 tsp sesame oil

Pinch of salt

250g cooked shredded chicken

Toss the cucumber, carrot, spring onion, mint, lime juice and sesame oil together with a pinch of salt. Spread the sauce inside the pittas and fill them with an equal amount of the chicken and the cucumber mixture.

Serves 4  

Some ideas for fillings for sandwiches either in wholemeal bread, pitta or wholemeal wrap unless otherwise stated

Meat and fish

Overly processed meat has a deservedly bad reputation, but there are some health-conscious choices out there. These are a cut above the rest.

Black Forest ham A stellar protein-to-fat ratio of 10:1, and this dry-cured and smoked cut also contains less sodium and sugar than other hams.

Rotisserie chicken It may not be cut and packaged, but all you have to do is pull the juicy, seasoned meat off the bones. To slash calories, ditch the fatty skin.

Roast beef This lean cut contains energy-boosting iron and less than seven grams of fat per 100g.

Smoked salmon A good source of protein and omega-3 fats, which may help post-run muscle soreness. Tastes great on rye bread, too.

Turkey breast Nearly fat-free, slices of turkey breast are almost pure protein.

Vegetarian

For a stomach-filling veggie sarnie, load your bread with one of these standout options.

Halloumi Made from sheep's and goat's milk, this lower-fat cheese is firm and slightly salty. It doesn’t melt when grilled or fried, so it's a great meat replacement.

Portobello mushrooms The steaks of the veggie world add meaty bite to sandwiches. Snap off the stems, then roast or grill the caps until tender. Packing a mere 42 calories each,

Smoked tofu Smoky flavour, meaty texture and rich in protein.

Tempeh Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh provides beneficial bacteria for improved digestive health. Heat the pieces in a frying pan or on a grill.

Cheeses

OK, so cheese adds calories, but it also significantly pumps up the taste – and offers some nutritional benefits. ‘Think of cheese as a way to add bone-building calcium and muscle-friendly protein to your sandwiches,’. Portion control is key, as is choosing wisely. Here are some of the most common options, stacked in no particular order:

Emmental Tastes great and the fat helps make your sandwich seem more filling.

Feta Even full-fat versions of this salty cheese have a fat content that isn’t too alarming. Eat it after a sweaty run to replenish sodium levels.

Blue cheese The ripening process involved in making cheeses such as Roquefort or Camembert elevates levels of cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory compounds that help guard against heart disease. Their strong flavours also mean you’ll probably be satisfied with less.

Cheese slices Heavily processed cheese lacks naturally occurring nutrients.

Goat’s cheese Look for a brand made with grass-fed goat’s milk for a cheese rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats. ‘Softer cheeses like goat’s and fresh mozzarella tend to have fewer calories because of their additional water,’

Mature cheddar Packed with protein and the flavour intensifies over time.

Toppings

For a more dynamic sandwich, think beyond lettuce and tomato to enjoy exciting new flavours and textures, and hefty nutritional benefits.

Baby kale Less bitter than standard kale and the leaves can be eaten whole.

Fruit Sliced mango, orange segments, grated apple and sliced figs add sweetness along with key nutrients such as vitamin C.

 

Evening Meals

 

Gazpacho Chicken Salad

I have this the evening before a run, not only is it tasty but it's easy to make and very transportable.

Slice a cucumber into long strips with a peeler; squeeze out any excess water.  Toss with 500g of shredded chicken, 2 chopped peaches, 350g halved cherry tomatoes, 1 sliced yello pepper, ½ diced red onion, half a small, day-old baguette cut into cubes (or WHOLEWHEAT PASTA), and 75g feta cheese.  Drizzle with a dressing made with 80ml extra virgin olive oil, a few leaves of fresh basil, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Serves 6

 

One Pot Chicken Casserole

Another good option for the night before a race

4 Skinless boneless chicken breasts

1 large onion, cut into chunks

4 large carrots, cut into chunks, 2 large parsnips peeled and cut into chunks

2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Juice of 1 orange

1 tbsp clear honey

1 handful of rosemary leaves

1 litre of chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Pre heat oven to 180

Put the chicken breasts into a large casserole dish and surround with the onion, carrots, parsnips and potatoes.  Mix together the garlic, orange juice honey and rosemary and stir into the dish.  Finally, pour the stock over the chicken and veg and season.

Cover and cook for 45-60 mins until the vegetables are all cooked through and the chicken juices run clear.

 

Italian-style beef stew
 

1 onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

300g pack beef stir-fry strips, or use beef steak, thinly sliced

1 yellow pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced

400g can chopped tomatoes

sprig rosemary, chopped

handful pitted olives

Method

In a large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil for 5 mins until softened and turning golden. Tip in the beef strips, pepper, tomatoes and rosemary, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the meat is cooked through, adding some boiling water if needed. Stir through the olives and serve with mash or polenta.

 

Summer Chicken

Ingredients

 tbsp olive oil

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

200g pack cherry tomatoes

3 tbsp pesto

3 tbsp crème fraîche (half fat is fine)

fresh basil, if you have it

 

Method

Heat the oil in a frying pan, preferably non-stick. Add the chicken and fry without moving it until it takes on a bit of colour. Turn the chicken and cook on the other side. Continue cooking for 12-15 mins until the chicken is cooked through. Season all over with a little salt and pepper.

Halve the tomatoes and throw them into the pan, stirring them around for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Reduce the heat and stir in the pesto and crème fraîche until it makes a sauce. Scatter with a few basil leaves if you have them, then serve with rice and salad or mash and broccoli.

 

Mediterranean chicken

Chicken is packed with protein, B vitamins and zinc, which boosts the immune system. The nitrates in the spinach help boost oxygen delivery to your muscles.

Choose your wholemeal pasta                                     

500g fusilli, conchiglie or penne (cooked) 

Then mix in…                                    

300g cooked and chopped chicken                                    

400g baby spinach                                   

55g sliced sun-dried tomatoes

40g diced feta

Toss with the dressing                                   

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil                                 

1 tbsp red-wine vinegar                                 

2 cloves garlic, minced                                  

2 tsp Italian seasoning 

 ¼ tsp black pepper

And garnish with…                                    

Toasted pine nuts

 

Feta and Sweet Potato

A great recovery meal after a training session

4      Sweet Potatoes

1 bunch of spring onions chopped

100g feta cheesed crumbled

Green salad leaves and cherry tomatoes

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC and pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork, then bake for 40-45 mins until cooked through and tender.  Remove from the oven and cut in half

Prehear the grill to medium and very carefully scoop out the sweet potatoe flesh, keeping the skins intact.  Mix the flesh with the spring onions and feta cheese, then spoon the mixture back into the empty skins.

Grill the sweet potatoes for 5-10 mins until golden brown and serve with a tomato salad.

Roasted spicy sweet potato and halloumi bake

For this recipe you can use a variety of vegetables for the roasted vegetable bake, adding in squash, other peppers, carrots - whatever odds and ends are in the fridge. You can also add a can of chopped tomatoes if you want to add some more juiciness to the dish.

Ingredients

1 red pepper, cored and sliced into thick lengths

1 courgette, cut into thick rounds

3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 tbsp olive oil, plus a little for drizzling

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 medium red onions, peeled and cut into wedges of 4-6 pieces per onion

1/2 aubergine, cut into chunks

1 red chilli, sliced

Paprika - a few sprinkles

250 g (8.8oz) light halloumi cheese, cut widthways then into chunks of 1cm thickness

15 pepperdew peppers roughly chopped

15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 handfuls of coriander, roughly chopped

Juice of 2 limes

Handful of seeds (optional) 

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/170 fan

Prepare all the vegetables then spread them out on a baking tray, pour over a few glugs of olive oil and mix into the vegetables with hands, adding seasoning and the chopped garlic and chilli. I often add a few sprinkles of paprika too.

Roast for 25 minutes or until they are tender.

Add the halved cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped pepperdew peppers, and halloumi to the dish. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

Scatter the chopped coriander on top of the dish (you could also add mint here if you desired). Squeeze the lime wedges over the dish to give an amazing tang.  

Sweet Potato & Lentil Curry

This recipe is so simple! It'll take you around half an hour including cooking time, so easy to make after a busy day at work and the perfect winter warmer for those cold February evenings. Again you can add some additional veggies if you desire,

2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

1 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp mustard seeds (any colour)

1 tbsp medium curry powder

100g red or green lentils, or a mixture

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

500ml vegetable stock

400g can chopped tomatoes

400g can chickpeas, drained

¼ small pack coriander

natural yogurt to serve

 

Method:

Heat oil in a large pan, add onion and soften for a few minutes. Add the spices and cook for 1 min more, then stir in the lentils, sweet potatoes, stock and chopped tomatoes.

Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20 mins until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Add the chickpeas, then heat through.

Season, sprinkle with coriander, and serve with natural yogurt.

 

Roasted Ratatouille Chicken

1 onion, cut into wedges

2 red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

1 courgette, cut into chunks

1 small aubergine, cut into chunks

4 tomatoes, halved

4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

4 chicken breasts, skin on

few rosemary sprigs (optional)

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Lay all the vegetables and the tomatoes in a shallow roasting tin. Pour over the olive oil and give everything a good mix round until well coated (hands are easiest for this).

Put the chicken breasts, skin side up, on top of the vegetables and tuck in some rosemary sprigs, if using. Season everything with salt and black pepper and drizzle a little oil over the chicken. Roast for about 35 mins until the vegetables are soft and the chicken is golden. Drizzle with oil before serving.

Snacks to mix and match:

The key to your snacks is to also try to include a little protein in there, thus stopping the sugar high followed by ravenous hunger that returns. 

A banana with peanut butter (see below)

Oat cakes with peanut butter or hummus

Oat cakes with Makerel Pate (see below)

Half an avocado with salt, pepper and lemon

Pitta chips (See below)

Sweet potato wedges (See below)

Vegetable crudités with hummus

Mixed nuts

Low fat Greek  yoghurt with berries (or any other fruit).

Chopped apple with almonds 

 

Banana & Nut Butter Sandwich

Slice the banana in half lengthways

Spread the Nut Butter across one half of the banana and then replace the top like a sandwich.  This can be eaten straight away or wrapped and transported for later.

Mackerel Pate

2 Peppered smoked mackerel fillets, skinned

2 tbsp low fat cream cheese

2 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt

Juice of 1 lemon

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth

Chill in a bowl and it will keep for up to 2 days

Sweet potato wedges

Why: Sweet potatoes are full of slow releasing energy so they will see you through an evening run. Plus they contain vitamin C for immunity, anti-oxidants for recovery and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce DOMs (the ache you feel in your legs after running). You can prepare these ahead of time and portion them out for the days ahead.

How: 

Ingredients

3 x medium sweet potatoes

Seasoning

½ tsp paprika

Drizzle of oil of your choice

 

 

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Chop up the sweet potatoes into wedge shapes.

Then put them in a baking dish and drizzle the oil on, use your hands to coat the potato in it, then sprinkle on the paprika and seasoning to your taste. Place into the oven for about 20 minutes. Check and shake tray, then cook further if necessary until potato is cooked through and slightly crispy. 

Pitta chips

Why: Pitta provides fibre and slow releasing carbohydrates to power you through any afternoon slumps. These baked versions are far healthier than any shop-brought crisps.

How:

Ingredients (serves 2) 

2 x wholemeal pitta bread

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional) 

Seasoning

Method

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Slice the pittas in half, width ways, so they are into really thin slices, then cut into smaller triangular shapes.

Grease a baking tray with the oil and then lay out the pitta. Season and put into the oven for about 10 minutes until crisp.

 

Mocha Shake

3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp instant coffee powder

300ml skimmed milk

200ml coccnut water

handful of ice

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Poor into a class and servie straight away

What is Trail Running?

Trail running is running off road and generally in the countryside or along a coastline path.  Trail running environments are really beneficial to your overall running fitness as well as your mental health and well-being.  The main difference between road running and trail running is that you have to really look where you are going as you are having to deal with the constant change under foot; no two steps are the same as you are running on a natural obstacle course.  Why is this beneficial? Trail running takes the pressure off running, it’s an opportunity to build strength and endurance and forces you to slow your pace down.  Running on uneven surface and varied terrain really challenges the muscles of the lower body more than a flat firm run – so your muscles need to work harder to maintain your balance and keep you upright.  This in turn helps keep your core strong, helps keep you agile and coordinated.  Running on hard road surfaces doesn’t have the same effect on the lower body muscles as the smooth surface helps you keep your balance.

The distraction of looking where your feet are going can take your mind away from what you are doing and it can create a meditative peacefulness that is sometimes difficult to achieve in a paved and populated environment as you are dodging dogs, roads and pedestrians and sometimes abusive comments.  I’ve never heard a sheep call me a “moose”!

I’m not going to lie, you have to be careful when running on a trial route, even if you do the same route week after week you can see a difference as the weather changes the terrain.  One day the trail may be dry and hard, the next it may be wet and sloppy.  Popular routes like the South Downs way are prone to not only seasonal changes but changes due to the temperature, erosion of bike traffic as well as foot traffic.  One week you may have to negotiate your way around a very large puddle, the next it may have vanished or indeed got even bigger.

Trail running tends to focus on time on feet rather than pace and miles, it’s an opportunity to unwind and take a look around (when you reach the top of a hill), you can walk the hills and take the pressure off yourself to beat your pace, time, distance.  It's a time to re-charge the batteries and allow yourself to just breathe and enjoy the run. Running off road teaches you to be three or four steps ahead of turns, roots, rocks and puddles, these skills are transferable as when running in a road race having the ability to maneuver quickly enables you to get out of the way quickly if someone just stops in front of you or if someone throws an empty water bottle into you running path. 

Sunday’s trial run along the well-worn route of the South Downs way is a great introduction to trail running, there are uneven paths, chalk paths, puddles, uphill’s and downhills as well as roads, yes you do have to be careful under foot and look where you are going, you do have to watch out for the odd walker and mountain biker (saying hello is compulsory), the views are stunning though and worth the uneven terrain.  Trail running will make you a stronger runner. it will add spice into your training plan but it is also important to remember that it is different to road running so there are some precautions to take.

  • Always run with your mobile phone, a sports drink and at least one gel/some jelly babies/flapjack
  • Check the weather forecast and if there is a slight chance of rain take a waterproof
  • Layers are best in the winter as the weather can change quite quickly and once you are on a trail no-one can come and pick you up; you have to turn around and head back in the direction you came and this isn’t fun if you are cold.
  • Take a hat/buff and gloves in winter (see above)
  • If you go on your own always tell someone where you are going and what time you hope to return and don’t go off the beaten track, stick to well know routes

I love trial running, I ran the Endurance Life Coastal series in 2012/13, the series consisted of extreme coastal paths around the British Isles and I ran the half marathon distances.  I was on my own for the majority of the races, I just took myself off and completed them, some weren’t 13 miles, they were 15 plus, these races made me strong mentally and physically; they were hard but I loved them. 

How Running Can Change Lives

At what age do we stop enjoying running? We are built to run and as children we run everywhere, around the playground, down to the shops, running just because we could and it was fun.  When did that fun stop? 

 I clearly remember the day that I stopped enjoying running and became self-conscious, it had been our school sports day, I can’t remember what I had taken part in but I remember walking with my mum down the street and some other children were laughing at me and pointing out my beetroot face, I hadn’t been aware of this, I’d just run and enjoyed it, now I felt stupid with my sweaty big beetroot face.  I’m not sure girls in the 1970’s were meant to get hot and sweaty, in fact how long has that stigma lasted? How many times are female athletes scrutinized over their appearance when they are in the deep throws of a race/jump/football match/swim, Rebecca Adlington was famously affected by the negative press attention that she received about her appearance and not about the Gold medal that she won!

After my initiation into the awareness of what sport made me look and feel like I was a reluctant athlete in secondary school, I’d attempt to try out for the Netball trails, I never got into the team, it seemed that only the girls who were chosen for the teams where the girls in the top form, the thirteen-year-old awkward girl who never felt good enough and who got a big shiny beetroot face soon gave up.  What other teachers who taught the school curriculum discouraged students to excel in their topic, in Math if you weren’t good enough you were encouraged, supported until you achieved, why didn’t that happen in PE? In fact I was actively encouraged to not attend PE lessons, the fake sick notes were never questioned excusing me from lessons, hiding in the bushes on the cross country run until the group came back round was never noticed and I certainly can’t remember attending a parent’s evening where my parent’s questioned my sporting ability, they certainly questioned other subjects but never PE.  You guessed it I just gave up and took up smoking instead, I was quite good at that as it turned out.

Fast forward twenty years with 2 small children in tow and the smoking habit kicked, my Dad was now a seasoned runner having himself kicked his smoking habit and he had returned to his beloved sport now in his 40’s.  He ran most weekends and with 2 small children and a naval husband who was away a lot of the time, I spent many hours supporting Dad at his various races.  I enjoyed the atmosphere and the time away from the children and was mildly curious about these events.

We were away one Christmas in France and as Dad was getting ready for his run, I asked if I could join him, of course he said yes and off I went.  I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was dying, my chest was so tight and my legs were on fire. But Dad said to me “Slow down, take a walk break, then go again.  Run and walk in between lamp posts” and do you know what, I did and I was hooked, I could breathe, I was given permission to walk and recover.  The weather was perfect, cold and crisp but I was doing it, I was actually doing it.  I felt strong and invincible, was I a runner, could I be a runner, would this be a possibility?  On returning to our cottage my mum asked if I was ok (remember my bright red beetroot face?) I think she thought I was going to pass out but from that moment on I couldn’t wait to get out and do it again.  Running gave me a super strength that I’d never had before, it made me feel good about myself. And that’s how I started, run/walk in-between lamp posts, slowly slowly building up to running 2 lamp posts, then 3 until I was running 3 miles without stopping.

Running has changed my life, I wish I had been encouraged as a teenager but like so many others, boys and girls, it was always about competition, beating people or other schools, it was about winning and not so much about just taking part and enjoying it.  Some running clubs are still like that and I will share my experiences of this with you at a later date but the reason I set up RunVerity was because I believe in inclusivity, regardless of ability, as I know how much running can change people’s lives.

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Cold Weather Running

Winter Training

Cold weather running can be a burden to the runner as the cold can have a significant effect on your body’s responses to exercise with increased health risk. The paths can be wet, narrow and slippery and you have to watch your footing as you can slip and slide around in the dark.

However, the biggest obstacle is putting your trainers on and just getting out of the front door.  The thought of running in cold weather can have a profound psychological effect on you and can become a bit of a barrier as it’s dark now before work and afterwards.  Just the thought of going out again in the cold and dark as the cold wind whips your face and burns your lungs….it hurts and so it’s easy to say “I’m not going out for a run today, it’s too cold and dark and depressing”. Then one lost run can turn into many and we go into a downward spiral thinking that we’re not good enough and we’ve missed too much and everyone will be faster than me. Sound familiar?

Fitness is a year round endeavor and keeping positive is part of the challenge so think of cold weather training as a challenge to overcome rather than a mountain that seems too high to climb.  How does a mouse eat an elephant? One bit at a time, so take cold weather training as one run at a time, see it as a way to keep ahead of all of the people who are sat on the couch, focus on your goals for the spring as you emerge from the winter stronger and fitter.  And most of the time I’ve found that the weather isn’t as bad as it looks you just need to be prepared.

The good news is that running in cool or moderately cold temperatures can bring faster race times, remember how horrible it is to run in the heat as the sun zaps your energy?  When you run in cold weather there is  less blood needed to transport heat to the skin for cooling and more blood is available to send needed energy to the working muscles in the legs.  It's a different story if you are running in extreme cold temperatures and luckly we don't really get too much extreme cold weather in Whiteley but running in temperatures of -37 degrees C reduces both your core body temperature and maximal aerobic power which can affect performance plus the extra clothing can also restrict your movement.

If you have sensitive bronchial or asthma cold air can irritate these conditions as inhaled air attracts moisture and heat from the body and can cause dryness of the mouth, a burning sensation in the throat which can lead to coughing.  Wearing a protective cover over the nose and mouth helps most runners as this cover traps the exhaled moisture and warmth of the next inhalation and reduces the above symptoms.

Dressing for cold weather running

The key is to wear the right clothes in the right combination, so dress to stay warm but not too warm, a base layer and a t-shirt with long leggings should be suffice. Dressing in layers ensures you trap your body heat.

Dress to keep dry, a waterproof jacket over the top of your running gear acts as a layer to help you stay drier and warmer.

Dress to protect the extremities, toes, fingers, ears, face and head

Warm up and cool down

A proper warm up is even more important in winter because exposure to cold stiffens muscles and joints.  Starting training runs or races too fast on cold days could result in muscle strain and standing shivering can use up essential fuel stores. Warm up the muscles as well as the heart rate and if you are racing just keep moving/slow running right up until the start.  In winter it is important that you bring extra layers so you can put these on for the cool down especially after interval training as getting cold quickly can lead to injury.

Don’t forget to drink as you can still be dehydrated in cold weather and allow your body to adjust to the cold so don’t go out too fast in the group runs.  Try not to pay too much attention to your training pace on very cold days, just go fast enough to keep warm.

All in all winter training can be fun, running together in the rain, cold and snow brings a sense of acomplishment and achievement, a shared experience that brings us closer together.  I've always said the hardest bit is putting your trainers on and getting out of the door, but by sticking with your training your will have the strength to run faster when the flowers boom in the Spring x

Post Race Blues

Post race depression is quite common but yet again something that isn’t really talked about. These feelings of depression can be quite overwhelming and take us by surprise, yes running releases amazing endorphins but things like injury, bad races, training ruts can all mess around with our heads. These feelings can be especially common after you have trained so hard for a goal race like the GSR or Gosport Half even if you had a good run you may be feeling unsure of where to go next because of these unexpected feelings.  There may be a big hole in your life now where the long training runs once were, training for a specific event makes you focus on your diet and your lifestyle so when it suddenly vanishes and the euphoria of achieving what you set out to achieve has diminished you could be left feeling as flat as Flat Stanley!

If the race didn't go as planned or if you didn't make the start line due to injury or if you ran an amazing PB at Gosport you could still suffer from post race depression or runners blues, don’t worry there is help at hand. Try not to underestimate these feelings because they can leave you drained and down about not only our running but also our lives in general. You will also be tired, running a half marathon is hard and it's a long way, so be kind to yourself and rest. Once you acknowledge that it is really normal to feel this way it can put things into perspective and you can put some constructive plans in place to make you feel better and prevent it from happening again.

Know What's Next

Try and think about what’s going to happen next, learn from what went right and what may have gone wrong.  Would you have done the training differently, if you are injured did you do too much too soon.  Try and plan for just another 4-6 weeks and include in these plans very specific recovery runs. These can include cross training, we have fantastic leisure facilities at Holly Hill that you can pay as you go. There are some brilliant sessions on there at all times of the day and night, have a go at some, try something new; spinning is a great example of low impact training that is a great fat burning exercise and any cross training will compliment your running sessions and your running in the long term.

Have some Post-Race Goals That Aren't About Racing

These can even be goals that have nothing to do with running, learn to swim ;), decorate a room, enjoy a no pressure park run, try a different park run venue, volunteer at a park run or at a local race, give something back and don’t hide away.

Get back out there and run

When we are consumed by the training plan that has taken over our lives for the last 3 months and are focused on pace, energy gels, early morning runs, extra runs before a session we can forget the sheer joy of getting out there and running; no pressure, no watch just for the pleasure of it, be pleased that you are able to run, don’t try to accomplish anything until you are ready.  If you injury has prevented you from running, start back slowly, look at Spring goals and focus on getting fit enough again to train for another goal.

I’ve always said running is hard and it has been a huge source of angst in my life but I stand firm that as runners we know enough to know that most things in life do pass and are not permanent.  Take comfort in the resources available to you, the community that we have created, come and help out at the beginner's, talk to your running buddies at RunVerity and do the best to make sure that any runners blues you may have won’t last for long.

x

How to deal with being injured

When to Give Your Body a Break

Even if you did everything you could to prevent a running injury that ping in your knee or tweak in your foot may still happen. Unfortunately, no one is injury-proof but before you panic, wait to see if the pain resolves itself within 24 to 36 hours. If it does, and you feel OK after your next run, that probably means you’re good to go, however if you limp or notice a change in your running style, you need to stop and address the issue as this can lead to long term damage that may mean you have to stop running permanently.

Feeling sore but still able to make it through a run without too much misery? Just back off your distance for a week or two and stick to easy runs. You’ll need to skip any Thursday night speed sessions too until you’re back to at least 75 to 80 percent of your usual weekly mileage.

One strategy when you’re feeling pain is to practice a shorter stride, particularly for Achilles, knee and hip pangs. Working toward small, quicker steps takes pressure off your joints, reducing further injury risk. Icing after a workout is also helpful for acute injuries when inflammation is evident, like swelling, redness, tenderness or pain; use the cold compress for about 10 minutes at a time,

If you are in so much agony that you can’t leave the settee head to a sports therapist to get it checked out and take the following advice;

Why isn't the answer to a running injury ever "Just keep running a lot.....it will go away"

Running is hard as you don't see the results over night, it takes time, commitment and consistency but one of the things that running does teach you is to have patience.

So what happens when you have put in a lot of hard work and you end up having a setback through injury? You have to be extra patient and being injured forces patience upon you. You have to create a plan B if you experience setbacks and that can be hard...especially if it seems that everyone else is doing so well. A week can seem life a lifetime...

If you have experience a set back don't be too hard on yourself, the professional name for it is Runner's Withdrawl Syndrome and it is very real and can have a huge psychological effect on your state of mind. Fortunately running injuries are rarely permanent and runners can come back stronger if they have a comeback plan and try to be patient.

Here are my top tips for helping you have a comeback plan

Don't deny that you are injured, you have to deal with it and accept your injury but you may also experience some anger and depression and refuse to stop running, however you will reach a point where the pain forces you to stop. You will be able to return to your training plan if you allow the healing process the time that it needs.

Stick to a routine, walk when you would have run, by sticking to your normal training routines you will still gain the psychological benefits of regular exercise.

Keep up running friendships and support others in races, supporting is a great way to experience the race without the stress and it is appreciated by runners so much.

Cross train so that you don't end up feeling lethargic, go swimming, do yoga or pilates, strength training to build up muscle strength, go biking, it will really help fill the void.

Most importantly return to running with realistic expectations, start slowly and build gradually, set goals and don't do too much, too soon with too little recovery.

 

Pre-Race Advice

You will find your own rituals before a race but here are just a few bits of advice that might make any run/race a little less stressful.

The day before your race eat sensibly, drink plenty of water and set out your race gear so it’s all ready for you in the morning. Set 2 alarms just to make sure you don’t over sleep and eat breakfast even if your stomach is churning, try not to eat anything that you haven’t eaten before, you don’t want it reacting to you half way through the race. In your bag make sure you have warm layers for after the race, paracetamols, tissues, something to eat after the run (some kind of sandwich made on wholemeal bread and a packet of crisps and some water).

Set off in plenty of time so that you don’t get stressed trying to park and if possible try to car share with someone as it makes the whole experiece more fun. Make sure you drink plenty of water or lucazade, again don’t try anything new, but it’s fine to not have anything an hour before the race starts. You will want to go to the toilet a million times this is just mother nature getting rid of the nerves, Imodium is very good for calming the bowels down, but if you haven’t taken it before a run before, don’t start now. Just accept the fact that you will need to poo a lot of times before the start line (And so will the rest of the runners hence antibacterial hand wash after you have been to the loo and a strong stomach for the smell!).

We will do our usual RV warm up so try and find our flag if it is being used or get to the arranged place as soon as you arrive.  As soon as you get to the venue, most big runs have organised warm ups but I always like to do ours first. After the warm up make your way to the starting line and keep moving around as much as possible and don’t panic, you are part of one big show and everyone is nervous around you. As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superwoman/man and mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead and tell yourself you are invincible.

The race itself

Pacing – You will suffer for a long time if you don’t pace wisely, if you start too fast or surge too quickly you’ll exceed your threshold and waste glycogen supplies, going too fast sets you up for failure, the result being you will either a long struggle over the last several miles or you may even drop out. Run at a comfortable pace for you and only you know what this is. So monitor your pace and race the mile you are in, try not to overthink the race and try to visualise it in your mind, set goals to get to certain mile markers or landmarks and then set out to knock them off one at a time. Take walk breaks if necessary, if you are having a bad day then don’t panic, alternate running with walking if your body just can’t keep running non stop. Better to finish than stubbornly run until you can’t take another step or cause serious injury. Ease into the run, see the first 2 miles as a warm up, stay as calm as possible and save your mental energy for the second half of the run. As you ease into the middle section of the run, let your mind wander, but don’t let your pace slip. At halfway see where you are, how do you feel, if you feel good this will give you a mental lift, if you are off a little bit and struggling then readjust your time goal. Break the last miles down, think mentally it’s an RV session and you can do it. Again just live in the mile and be assured that it will end, as you near the finish line, the crowds will give you a great boost and remember your sprint finish. Find your super strength and use it, it may be a sprint finish, it may be that you never give up no matter what, but focus on your achievement. Remember most importantly run tall, pockets to sockets and snap, crackle and pop! Trust your training, your body doesn’t know how far it has to run, it will just find the energy to meet the demands of the run so trust this and don’t give in to negative thoughts. And remember to smile, collect your goodie bag, pick up your bags and come and share your story with us all at the RV meeting point. Good or bad, it’s just part of the running journey.

Running..an Art or a Science

The Art of running

Anyone, and I mean anyone can run the first mile of a race at a fast pace, we can all boast that we were on for a sub (30min 5k/60min 10k/2 hour half/4 hour marathon) but it's how you finish the last mile that counts.  There seems to be a rush to run as quick as you can but in my experience this often leads to disaster in many ways, you can become injured and be out of running for a long time, or you hated the actual race so much it's put you off running because you didn't like the feeling it gave you or you were sick at the end or for a few days afterwards.  Getting the pacing right for any run/race is an art and can take many years to perfect it, there is a fine line between running a PB success or a PW disaster.  This fine line can be the difference between whether you hang your trainers up for good or just chalk it down to experience, dust yourself off and try again. 

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and we can get caught up in the lead up to a big RV event and getting caught up and running a race just a bit faster or a bit slower can change the energy system that our body is using and this can lead to disaster.

What makes it more difficult is that your sense of reasoning goes out of the window as you stand on the start line, adrenalin pumping, heart racing and crowds cheering you on.  My advice? Give your pace in a race some serious thought before you get to the start line.  

It may interest you to know that every current world record from 1500m to the marathon has been set by the athlete running a negative split....what is a negative split? A negative split is where you run the second half of the a run faster than the first.  Basically you don't run your first mile as though you are Paula Radcliffe (Paula holds the world record marathon time for any women and her first half of this run was run in 68.02 minutes and her second half was run in 67.23 minutes).

The Science bit....

Distances of 10 miles or half marathons should be run at or slightly above your lactate threshold pace....WHAT???!!!

"While lactic acid contributes to why we hurt at the end of races, lactate is actually a source of energy. Your body breaks down glucose for energy and a by-product of this process is lactate. During easy running, your body reconverts and recycles this lactic acid back into energy and efficiently expels the waste products. Therefore, the production of lactate will remain relatively constant while running at an easy aerobic (talking) pace, which doesn’t require a huge demand for energy.

As you continue to run faster and demand more energy, the production of lactic acid will slowly increase. At some point, whether it be too fast a pace or holding a steady pace for too long, the production of lactic acid will soar and your body will no longer be able to convert lactate back into energy and expel the waste products. This point is commonly referred to as your lactate threshold. The lactic acid then floods into system, muscle power is diminished and you begin to slow down (I refer to this as the bear jumping on you!) Ultimately, lactic acid is one of the largest contributors to why you slow down as the race goes on."

The idea is then that if you run slightly slower than this threshold for as long as possible, particularly at the start of the race, you prevent waste products from building and causing fatique.

The aim is to get to the last quarter of the race with energy to kick those last miles and finish strong.  To do so you must start the first mile or two of a race slightly slower than goal pace.

You can soon learn where your lactate threshold is and this is a great thing to do and on a few runs you should listen to your body and your breathing and get a sense of where you feel your threshold is.  I often race without a watch so that I can pace on how I feel and this has worked for me in the past.  Remember it's a journey and sometimes we will have epic fails after months of training but as I said, running is an art and a science, a bit like a recipe, we see what works, what doesn't, take a bit out or add a bit in until we find what works. So running is a bit of both, an Art and a Science.

Race Day

You will find your own rituals but here are just a few bits of advice that might make the race a little less stressful.

The night before your race eat a sensible meal, drink plenty of water and set out your race gear so it’s all ready for you in the morning.  Set 2 alarms just to make sure you don’t over sleep and eat breakfast even if your stomach is churning, try not to eat anything that you haven’t eaten before, you don’t want it reacting to you half way through the race.

Wake up at least 3 hours before starting time and give yourself plenty of time to fuel up, dress, recheck your bags.  I always arrive at least 2 hours early as there is too much at stake if you arrive late, large crowds make simple tasks take longer, it’s just the way I am.

If it is warm then stay in the shade as much as possible, if it’s cool, wear a throwaway outfit or plastic bag to keep warm, but don’t overdress as you will warm up as you run.

Don’t waste energy with a running warm up but don’t get stiff by standing for too long either.  Every 15 minutes or so move around but don’t stretch before you run. 

Know where the starting line is and as the race gets close position yourself so not to get caught in a crowd and not be able to make it to your planned starting spot.  Don’t panic, it’s part of the show in big races and everyone is nervous around you.

As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superman and mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead and tell yourself you are invincible ☺

The race itself

Pacing – You will suffer for a long time if you don’t pace wisely, if you start too fast or surge too quickly you’ll exceed your threshold and waste glycogen supplies, going too fast sets you up for failure, the result being you will either a long struggle over the last several miles or you may even drop out. Run at a comfortable pace for you and only you know what this is.

So monitor your pace and race the mile you are in, try not to overthink the raceand try to visualise it in your mind, set goals to get to certain mile markers or landmarks and then set out to knock them off one at a time.

Take walk breaks if necessary, if you are having a bad day then don’t panic, alternate running with walking if your body just can’t keep running non stop.  Better to finish than stubbornly run until you can’t take another step or cause serious injury.

Ease into the run, see the first 2 miles as a warm up, stay as calm as possible and save your mental energy for the second half of the run.  As you ease into the middle section of the run, let your mind wander, but don’t let your pace slip.  At halfway see where you are, how do you feel, if you feel good this will give you a mental lift, if you are off a little bit and struggling then readjust your time goal. 

Break the last 3 miles down, think mentally it’s an RV session and you can do it. Again just live in the mile and be assured that it will end, as you near the finish line, the crowds will give you a great boost and remember your sprint finish.  Find your super strength and use it, it may be a sprint finish, it may be that you never give up no matter what, but focus on your achievement.

As soon as possible after finishing, drink at least 500ml of water and eat some carbs and continue reloading over the next few hours.

Remember most importantly run tall, pockets to sockets and snap, crackle and pop! Trust your training, your body doesn’t know how far it has to run, it will just find the energy to meet the demands of the run so trust this and don’t give in to negative thoughts.

 

And enjoy xx

The Hay is in the Barn

There are only a couple of weeks before our some  big RV outings, Bournemouth, Pieces of 8 and of course the GSR. I know some of you are feeling nervous and believe me nerves are normal and part of the process. Sometimes it’s about how we manage those nerves, you may have been injured and are worrying about how you will do on race day as you don’t want to be injured again and not be able to run again if you push yourself too far. Your training may not have gone to plan because life has got in the way.  You may have had a rubbish run in the last few days and thought how am I ever going to run 8/10/13/26 miles!. Whatever you are feeling nervous are about, remember, it’s how you deal with these nerves and stress that paves your running journey, you may have to adjust your expectationsm, you don't have to prove anything to anyone, it's your journey and hopefully you have learnt a lot along the way. For instance did you ever think you would be able to run 6/8/10/13/20 miles ever and enjoy it? Have you enjoyed the structure of the training and seeing how far your body will go, don't you just love your body and what it can achieve? Wasn't it great fun all running together? Seeing all the multi-coloured tshirts running along on a Sunday morning, isn't it great to share this experience with others and feel less isolated, people sharing experiences brings us closer together.  My words of advice to you now is there are no more miles that will make a difference to your race so make sure you don’t do anything stupid to risk not making the start line, don’t chase the miles.

Your reduction in miles in these coming weeks mean that you should feel fresh ahead of your race and even if you feel strong, don’t be tempted to do any more than you should, ease off as you are nearly there. You may even feel rubbish as you reduce your miles and I bet you are all questioning your ability as to whether you will actually be able to run the race, but this is normal as your body is preparing for the goal as it stores up all of your energy, you are a thoroughbred horse disguised as a plow horse whilst you are tapering, you can take your disguise off on the start line.

Because the hay is in the barn,(I like this northern phrase)  my advice over the next few weeks is

Take off your watch, it is relaxng to run with no time goals or restraints, just run as you feel

Drink plenty of water

Eat well and sleep well (recipes to follow)

Prepare yourself for the physical and mental challenge that awaits you, respect the miles, do your best. If you don’t achieve your goal, don’t worry, failure is also good, it teaches us that it’s ok to fail and it’s ok to get back out there and try again, my super-strength is my tenacity and dogmatic nature, I just never give up!

Adjust your goals, if you don’t feel up to the challenge then that is ok, if your training has been hampered by injury, lack of time or family commitments then just think positively about being able to run and be part of a magical carnival with people cheering you on with enthusiasm and admiration.

Whatever you do and how ever you do it, the key to keeping motivated is to keeping running fun :)

Run for 60 Week 8

So here we are on week 8 of Run for 60.  Life may have got in the way and you may have not made it to training and it might have been hard to find the incentive to keep on going especially if you have just lost your mojo and can’t get your head around focusing on this new goal. Finding your motivation to get out and run especially when you have finished work and the last thing you want to do is leave your cosy front room, it’s easy to put the run off. Running is hard and it’s difficult developing mental toughness, you remember the feeling of finishing a run when the hardest thing to do is just put your trainers but running with friends can give you an incredible confidence boost which you can build upon and this will help you get out there again next time. So here are my running tips for starting to enjoy running again.

1 Have fun. If you don’t have fun running you won’t stick with it. Do the majority of your runs at a relaxed pace and enjoy life around you, tune out or just chat but make sure escape the daily pressures. My main piece of advice, don’t make running another stress in your life, if you do you could burn out and running won’t be fun anymore. Run without your watch, you’ll be surprised how relaxing it is.

2 Register for races. Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself, sign up to a couple that you know other people are doing, or do a different park run. Make the races achievable and reachable but adjust your goals if life gets in the way (See point 1).

3 Remind yourself of the health benefits. Why did you start running in the first place, was it to improve fitness, loose weight, feel good about yourself. Remind yourself of how far you have come from when you first starting running and every time you get out and run you reinforce that positive behaviour which in turn helps to achieve your goal. Remember those feelings of personal achievement and pleasure when you completed your first 5k from the beginner’s group, keep those feelings in sight.

4 Prepare your clothing before you come home from work. Have everything ready to go so you don not need to spend anytime preparing or even thing about what you need. The same goes with preparing what you are going to eat in the day so that you don’t get tempted to have a large meal when you get in as you are so hungry.

5 Invest in the right running clothes for running . Having the right clothing is as the seasons change is essential, so invest in the right clothing and it will make getting out so much more bearable.

6 Plan rewards. Plan some rewards for yourself, short term and long term, this could be massages, pedicures, manicures, buying new clothes. Anything that works for you, remember running is hard but it’s also meant to be fun, remember the benefits are so rewarding and in my opinion so worth the effort. x