The Fear of Failing

Fear of failure can be a great motivator to help you succeed in running, it can empower you to push and push and push because you don’t want to be seen to failing in front of your friends, family and peer group so you stubbonly push through the physical pain as the psychological pain of failure is too much to bear.

Fear of failing can also be extremely overwhelming at times, crippling in fact, almost choking you to the point that it stops you performing because your fear turns into anxiety that almost grinds you to a stop. Being anxious at the start of an event can result in a loss of confidence which can in turn affect your run.

In my experience a poor perfermonce often has more to do with the anxiety caused by the fear of failure than any lack in training. I have in the past worried very much about failing in races, running superior workouts and racing well in low key race but then when it came to the big events I’d perform poorly. It took me a few years of racing experience and being creative with strategic tactics to help me get over the fear of failure, hence my advice of standing on the start line in a “superman pose”

I have known many runners would come up with flamboyant cop outs or avoidance tactics before, during or after races to cover the fact that they fell victim to the fear of failure.

Runners set up for failure by putting pressure on themselves by setting goals that are too high, or allow others to do that for them. Then they can worry about letting their coach, their family or their team mates down, they don’t want to be embarressed in front of others, I get that. But it’s ok to fear not meeting expectations, failure to reach goals is part of the process of running, if you are not willing to risk failure you’ll never fully succeed.

And sometimes things happen that are out of our control that mean you also don’t meet your goals, being prepared for this and building up the much needed resilience to stay strong and with integrity means that failure should also be welcomed.

And isn’t this fear of failure so true of our lives outside of running, we are frightened of failure. I’ve had a lot of abuse since I set up RunVerity, I have had “Angel Investors” approach me, upon rebuking their kind offer I’ve been ripped to pieces. Our running group has been threatened by a man who said he was going to play sniper in the bushes and shoot us, I’ve had to contact the police to stop an ex member from harressment, on social media people have said “RunVerity is robbing you” and this week I have been publically humilated by an ex member who thought that was the best way to tell me they were leaving.

My husband says I am fearless, I am, I believe in what I do, but sometimes it hard to have courage in your convictions and be the most unpopular person in the room. You may have noticed I’ve not been myself this week, but don’t worry I’m back, I believe in what I do at RunVerity, make running accessible to all and provice a safe and supportive environment for people to thrive in, not just survive.

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A (simple) explanation of periodization

Periodization is a training cycle/schedule that is divided into periods of time or phases and each phase (known as a mesocycle) commonly has a specific training goal.  The objective of periodization is that each phase prepares the runner for the next more advanced phase so that they develop good foundations and “adapt” to the next phase. Most periodization programs, and these are loosely the basis of what I work on, consist of a base phase of endurance running, followed by a strengthening period of hill training then a sharpening phase of speed followed the all-important tapering phase. This ensures the athlete is ready and prepared and in the best shape possible to “perform” on the day of their race. 

In an ideal world, each individual athlete should have their own training plan because we are all unique and have different lifestyles and demands placed upon us outside of running.  I try to base most of my training plans on this type of periodization because I know that rest and adaptation are just as important as a hard training session and the evidence suggest many benefits to this type of training;

  • It manages fatigue

  • It reduces the risk of over-training

  • It manages load and intensity

  • It aids recovery

  • It reduces risk of injury

However, because we are all individuals and have work, family and other commitments my training plans are generic and have to take into consideration that we are not professional athletes. In an ideal world it would be great to follow a really structured training program (and I fully support a structured plan as you know), but to move onto the next level of running you also need to include in your running week a combination of strengthening and stretching activities so that you become stronger and more able to perform. But this kind of training can come at a price, you have to give a lot of your life to it and to be honest most runners prefer to race once or twice a month rather than building gradually for one key race. We are all interested in self-improvement but we also need to remember to have fun and find a balance between work, family and running.

How do we find this balance between periodization of training for a specific goal race but also wanting to do every race on the calendar for fear of missing out.  Periodization in the truest sense is complicated and it is demanding, suddenly going from endurance runs to hills and then speed can lead to injury, so it is better to gradually blend from one phase to another, building to a high fitness level; enjoy your goal race but then take a break.  This is my approach, look around and see what’s next, it seems to be a belief that if you rest or take time out you will go back to square one in your running. You won’t be, you need to have a dip, some down time so that your body can recover, if you don’t your body will force you into recovery by breaking down, stress has a very good way of finding a weakness in the body and you will become injured.



Over Training

Injuries are the number one reason that runners don’t achieve their goals and this is especially true the older we get.  The most common reason for injuries is overtraining or doing too much too soon and too quickly.

Your body will get stronger if your training volume is increased at the proper rate but unfortunately most runners don’t progress gradually enough as impatiently runners take big jumps forward in their training before their body has become fully used to the last increase in their training load; this leads to a body breakdown and not a body adaptation.  I get it, it is understandable that you want to keep running and racing, it’s like you’ve found a legal drug that you just want more and more of as enthusiasm and excitement grows as PB’s are plentiful.  You jump back into another race in an effort to get even better time after an amazing performance at your last race and you do this within weeks BUT all of this enthusiasm can lead to overtraining and unfortunately you can feel these effects for 6 months or more.

Remember we are all different and whilst one person’s training plan can work for some it may not work for you, don’t look sideways and compare yourself, look at you and what you are doing.

Listen to your body, don’t over race; overtraining can lead to lower resistance to disease, increase the risk of injury, deplete glycogen, exhaust fast twitch fibers and undermine your performance and may have experience all of this recently.

The key is to keep your training under control, I do understand there is a fine line between training to the max so that you achieve your best, and overtraining.  It is better to undertrain slightly than to over train and become exhausted.

Have a look at the checklist below and to see if you are experiencing over training

  • A loss of desire and enthusiasm for training. A desire to stop or an unexplained poor performance in a recent race or training session.

  • A sluggish feeling that lasts for several days, this usually starts with a few runs in which your pace is the same as usual, but it feels more difficult. Next comes heavy legs, you’re tired and slow, no sparkle L You might think you are running your usual pace but in fact you are a lot slower. Your ability to kick during speed workouts or a race disappears.

  • A tired feeling after a full night of sleep, it may be difficult to get out of bed in the morning, you may have difficulty falling asleep or you may wake up often in the night and find it difficult to back to sleep

  • An increase in your morning resting heart rate, this may be felt as a heart fluttering

  • More frequent or persistent colds, headaches and minor cuts healing slowly

  • Upset stomach

  • Mild tenderness or stiffness that doesn’t go away after a day of rest

  • Increase irritability, feelings of tension, short temper, mild depression, loss of confidence, difficulty making decisions, lack of concentration, poor coordination

  • An uncharacteristic lack of interest in running


What do you do if you have these symptoms, don’t do what most runners do if they have a bad race or training session and think “OMG I’ve lost my ability to run so I must train even harder” because you will just dig yourself into a deeper hole.  Instead, pull the plug on your running and cut back on distance and pace when you run or take a few days off. Yes, it may even mean forgoing an upcoming race, it is hard but if you wait too long to back off it may take a long time to return to your top form, you may get injured which will force you to stop running or you just may end up stopping running all together. 

If you think you may be experiencing overtraining symptoms make sure you eat plenty of good food, including carbs and drink plenty liquids (not alcohol).  Relax and get lots of sleep, rest when you can, read a book or watch tv. If you tick a lot of the above boxes stop running for a week.

Running Safely in the Dark

Running Safely in the dark

No activity is 100% safe and one of the amazing things about running is that it gives you a sense of freedom.  However, running is the dark brings about a different set of risks and it is important to make sure you are aware of these risks to ensure you still enjoy the freedom of running.

At RunVerity safety is very important and we all stick together and loop even more now the clocks have gone backwards not only to ensure that we all run together but also to make sure everyone is safe. Here are some tips to help you stay stafe if you run on your own but also to make sure you dig out your refelctive running gear and lights so that you can be seen and more importantly see where you are going.

One of most important thing to consider is to make sure you are seen and are visible to others around you; try and wear bright and reflective clothing or lights, there are a wide variety of lights that can be attached to your trainers or clothing that enable you to be seen.  You are less likely to be knocked over by a bike or car if you are brightly lit up.

If you do run on your own there are apps available that share your real-time location using GPS tracking to a nominated person so you can feel more comfortable knowing that someone is aware of your location.

Try and stick to pavements that are well-lit and populated; if you do run on the road it is always best to face the traffic as you run.

I always carry my phone, ID and money when out running on my own, I know it’s not nice to think about but if you do have an accident you may need to be identified.

Change your routine so avoid doing the same route at the same time week after week, just shake it up a little bit.

If you do sense danger, do not ignore it and brush it off, change your route, turn around and trust your intuition.

If you are unable to run without music because it keeps you going then consider headphones that do not plug into the ear, there are some fantastic wireless bone conductor headphones that enable you to listen to music whilst also hearing what’s going on around you; cutting off one of your senses can put you at a disadvantage.

If the weather dramatically changes when you are out running and there is a thunderstorm with lightening, stop running and take shelter straight away until it passes.

Being attacked by a stranger is very rare however harassment unfortunately is very common for women when out running.

How to deal with rude comments when out running

  • Try not to take it personally, and this is hard because it seems to be directed at you, but try to remember that you do not know how many times they have rolled down their car window and shouted at people or what they have said to other people in that day, so let it roll off your back and do not dignify them with a response.

  • Avoid getting angry and this will be tough, but stifle your anger and ignore them, arguing will not accomplish anything but may ruin your day and your run. You could ask them to repeat the comment again but more slowly, this usually shuts them up.

  • Try not to get into an argument with the rude person, nothing good ever comes from arguing with rude people, turn your attention to someone or something else, let it drop and run on and away from them or the situation. Is this really worth losing my cool over this?

  • Dealing with rude people is an unfortunate part of life sometimes and as runners we get our fair share but the key is not letting them get the best of you, so shoulders back, head tall, if you let them know you’re upset, they are more likely to continue the comments in the future. Stay safe.


Today Facebook told me it was my Faceversary

Today Facebook told me it was my Faceversary!  11 years ago today I joined Facebook, how fitting as I sit to write my latest article on barriers that prevent people from running.  How does my 11-year anniversary fit into writing about barriers that prevent people from running? Read on...

I have spent over 20 years talking to people, men and women, sharing their fears, their doubts and their anxieties encouraging them to either try running or come back to running.  It is a part of my job that I love so much as I feel privileged to be able to listen and alleviate people’s fears so that they can achieve goals that they never thought possible. Sometimes I’m successful at getting people out of the front door and other times I’m not.

In my experience I have found parkruns to be an amazing concept and I have utilized this great free community run for the last 8 years.  My beginner’s running course always finishes with a 5k parkrun and the sheer delight and elation that people show when they’ve achieved this goal makes my job the best job in the world. I am often told that when people start my course, that they look around at all the other beginner’s and mentally tick off who will be able to achieve being a runner in 8 weeks, of course telling themselves that it won’t be them in a month of Sundays!  Week by week my runners are coached, encouraged and supported, often there are tears, more often there are beaming faces as they achieve more running time week by week! “18 ½ minutes! I’m still in shock”

A high proportion of my runners come to me later in life having experienced setbacks that has meant that sport was not an option for them and they gave it up as soon as possible.  For some this may have been the minute they realised they could “bunk” off PE lessons without much recrimination because they thought they weren’t “sporty”, others because they were told they couldn’t do it or they had the humiliation of being picked last for the team in PE.  There are many reasons, and I’ve heard a quite a few, unfortunately these negative thoughts can stay with you for a lifetime.  My job as a coach is to encourage and try and change the negative thoughts into positive ones and give people the skills to achieve, I really do believe anyone can run.

It sounds perfect doesn’t it? But I’m not a miracle worker and it can go wrong and it does. People do drop out of my courses for a number of reasons, life gets in the way, memories of PE teachers take over, feelings of not being good enough, and sometimes it’s because they physically and mentally cannot get out of the front door, 30 years of being told you are rubbish sometimes just can’t be undone.

I’ve learnt so much since setting up RunVerity and I’ve got so much more to learn, one thing I’ve learnt is how particular I am about which parkrun we graduate from, the toilets have to be accessible, there needs to be somewhere for bags to be kept, the atmosphere needs to be friendly and welcoming with not too many runners dressed in Lycra.  The main thing is that the route isn’t laps, I’ve learnt this at my cost as I’ve lost numerous runners on lapped courses.  A graduate who has just completed a beginner’s running course does not see themselves as a runner, I’m still not sure when that kicks in but turning up to a “race” event, (even though it’s not a race it is timed and perception is everything) is often scary and intimidating.  So much fear and anxiety because 5k is a long way; “will I come last? Will the tail walker really walk, what if they walk quicker than I can run, will I hold them up? They might get cross with me and I’ll be able to hear them breathing down my neck, will everyone have packed up when I’m finished, how is it timed, will I be laughed at because I haven’t got the right gear on, why do I need the toilet so many times, my heart rate is out of control, how am I going to be able to run without having a heart attack”. And that’s all in the first 2 minutes.

Having a lapped route where you are passed by other “runners” who seem to know what they are doing because they look so professional can be soul destroying, seeing the same spectator 3 times as they stand cheering you on, offering fantastic words of encouragement like “not far to go” can be off putting when you feel vulnerable as your face is the colour of a beetroot, you are sweating and all of Verity’s words of wisdom have gone out of your head as you remember horrible days of cross country when you thought you were going to die as you came in last, too late to shower as you had to catch the school bus home, sweaty, hot, red, smelly (or was that just me).

 What does an adult do when all these feelings come flooding back again on a lapped parkrun? they leave the course and get in their car and go home, never to be seen again.  I have found many a graduate in the car park crying with frustration and anger because they “gave up” And who can blame them, no-one knows if you are there or not, there is no pre-registration, you just turn up and run, if you don’t finish it doesn’t matter, there won’t be a detention.


For those runners who tame the tiger and grab it by the tail, learning to run and break down these barriers can bring about feelings of euphoria and strength that they never knew they had possessed, they are achieving goals that they never ever thought would be possible “in your face Miss Black! I am a runner!”


However, once more, in my experience it can sometimes all go wrong as PB’s are chased as new runners experience a real honeymoon period where achievements are in abundance. I can advise and say “remember the terrible toos’, don’t do too much, too soon, too quickly” “Only chase one rabbit” “You need to rest and let your body recover”.  But unfortunately injury can occur after years of not running where the body has adapted to a sedentary lifestyle and created weakness’s that rear their ugly head when you put too much stress on the body.  These are the physical downsides of running too many PBs, but what about the psychological downsides of achieving PBs or not achieving PBs.  We are living in an age of envy as we can now compare ourselves to the rest of the world with a swipe of a screen and envy can be for anything, career envy, holiday envy, six pack envy, arm envy and of course run envy.  Our lives are filtered and whitened and plastered all over social media 24/7, we carry our accessible devices for comparison everywhere we go, how many times a day do you check social media? Is it the first thing you do in the morning and last thing at night.  Have you uploaded your latest amazing run on Strava or filtered running photo? and yes I am guilty as I uploaded a great photo of me from the AGEAS 10k last week presenting the very best of my life to all my old school friends and acquaintances? You won’t see the one of me running on Sunday at the RNLI with my big moon face wrapped up in my bandana and my boobs down to my knees! We present the very best of our lives and by doing so we are creating a lifestyle that is not sustainable and most of the times unachievable.  The Facebook app just shows the good bits, the pbs, the great photos, the amazing holiday, the wonderful beautiful friends who are having an equally wonderful beautiful holiday.  The Strava app tells us how good we are up Strawberry Track compared to all our other running buddies and who this week is on the top of the leader board. We are ruled by numbers and therefore we compare ourselves using these numbers.  But not having a pb each week (or a new house, new friends, new holiday) does not make any of you less succesful or your achievements less important. And whilst I am proud of everyone’s achievements and celebrate every success we also have to remember why we started to run in the first place and what’s important.  One very wise runner told me this week


“I feel I have achieved by just getting myself out there, being within a group of people and not feeling like I have made a complete prat of myself, but there is no app for that!”


So happy faceversary J



Resilience in Running – Why do we need it?

What is resilience and why do some people have it and some don’t? Can resilience be taught or is it something that you are born with?  At times we can look at other people and admire their ability to sail through life, some people “beat the odds” and do well despite their experiences of adversity and struggles.  Having resilience is being able to get back up again when the most difficult and challenging life events knock them down but if we feel we haven’t got resilience then how to we “get” it and how can this help us in our running?

I believe that you can learn to become more resilient at any age, when Richard Branson was around six years old, he was in the backseat of his mother's car on his way to visit his grandmother. With about four miles to go, the future billionaire founder and chairman of the Virgin Group started acting up — and his mother, Eve, stopped the car, pushed him out, and told him to find his own way there. Harsh, and I’m by no way encouraging you to try this at home, but I feel a fair example of teaching resilience, because resilience is about developing coping strategies to deal with situations and setbacks that knock us off course so that we become a mentally stronger individual. 

By developing skills so that you become a mentally stronger runner you are giving yourself the best chance of being flexible in your approach to situations so that you are able to bounce back from injury, setbacks and disappointment.

RunVerity’s “tool bag” of coping strategies to help you become mentally tough

Try to be self-aware of your thoughts and emotions when you encounter a setback, did a race that you’ve had to pull out of mean a lot to you and why? Did you not perform in a race that you worked hard training for?  Were there any pre-cursers to the event that placed you off balance?

Optimism – did you notice any good or has any good come out of your setback?

Mental agility – are you flexible and accurate in your thinking, will there be other races or other training opportunities?

Character strength – what can you build upon and learn from this setback that will make you stronger? Could you share your experience with another runner to support them?

Talk to people, share your experiences, we have so much support and knowledge now in RunVerity, no one in our group has woken up one morning and achieved their PB, everyone has worked hard in training and has experienced highs and lows, maybe you don’t think they have but trust me, everyone has had bad races. Ask people about their experiences and see how they coped.

A good technique that I use a lot when I reflect on races or a training run that didn’t go too well is the ABC

A Antecedant – what led up to the event? Was I tired, upset, hungry, poorly prepared

B Behaviour – what were your beliefs and behaviour? Did you believe you could do it right from the start? Did someone say something to you that put you off kilter?

C Consequences – what were the consequences of the behavior? How did you feel straight away and did you carry these feelings over to the next run and the next race and the next one after that?  If you did, does this ABC happen again because your mind set was weakened because you feel bad.

Practice the phrase “It will end”.  This mantra works whilst you are in the moment of running, but it’s only after you’ve had a few experiences of going from feeling like death to feeling great that you truly understand it so trust the process. Most of the time, the discomfort you feel never really gets any worse and discomfort is ok, pain isn’t and it’s learning the difference between the 2. Research shows that people who acknowledge this discomfort are able to run through the uncomfortableness, it hurts everyone at some point but go back to the mantra above.

Lots of people think they have to do long runs, 5K a few times a week is fine. Do short, frequent runs and record what you do and try to maintain this behaviour

Keep a running journey – this can be simple or complicated, it’s up to you but here are a few suggestions of what to record.

-       Time of you run

-       Distance

-       How you felt

-       Weather

-       Terrain

-       Aches and pains

-       Pace

I know a lot of you use Strava and this is great so try and use it to reflect on your runs and spot any patterns of behaviour

 Overall, keep running in perspective, balance the triangle of life, the physical side of running (body), the intellectual and career side (mind) and the spiritual and emotional side (soul).

Yes, competitive running does require sacrifices and running takes priority at times, other times work or family become increasingly important and training is sacrificed, try and maintain a reasonable balance, any time you put too much emphasis on any side of the triangle, the other sides are negatively affected and could be damaged which results in running or family losing out.



Tapering for a Half Marathon

Taper, or tapering, refers to the reduction of exercise before a race. Tapering is believed to be essential for best performance and can take from as little to a week to two or three weeks. Tapering helps bolster muscle power, increase muscle glycogen, muscle repair, freshen the mind, fine tune the neaural netowrk so that it’s working the most efficiently and most importantly, eliminate the risk of overtraining as overtraining can seriously impair performance, studies have shown that by tapering properly can help runners improve their race day performance by as much as 20%. If this is your first or 2nd marathon, it is recommended to give your body 3 weeks to get your body into peak race day performance. Here is my advice for tapering

Tapering for your race is one of the most important parts of your preparation. When the gun goes off it is important that you have some fire and the way to find that fire is to ease off the training in the days, and weeks leading up to the race. Taper for approximately the same amount of days as the length of the race. Try not to fit in any last minute rush miles or long runs, you will be as fit as you will get. Resist temptation to modify your taper based on feelings of being edgy from excess energy and if you feel fat during tapering don’t panic, these are normal feelings so don’t fast or miss meals, as it is crucial to eat enough to maintain energy and health.  Resting the muscles allows them to store more carbs for the marathon effort and in conjunction with tapering, fuelling with carbs will saturate your muscles with glycogen to help power you past the Wall.  This includes carbs consumed in the day going into the race, on race morning and on the run.

So the reason you may feel lethargic and slow is because your glycogen stores are (and should be) continuously full because your low training load isn't depleting them the way it does when you are training hard. You have also become accustomed to lots of activity so when you cut your activity down it does make you feel somewhat weary at times. As I said eat carbs still and protein, drink milk before you go to bed and stay away from people who have colds. Try to drink at least 2 litres of water a day in the final week before the race, it's helps keep the glycogen in your muscles.

You don’t have to cut back on all your activities but there is no use cutting back on the running to substitute it with gardening or cleaning the house or walking around the shops. These activities all require energy and strength and so need to be cut out a few days before the race. Don't jeopardise your chance of running well on race day because the lawn needed mowing or weeds needed pulling up. A few more days of grass growth or dust in the house won't do anyone any harm.  So continue to follow your training plan and doing a final speed session the week before the race will finely tune your sense of pacing, as I said earlier you need to still have fire in your muscles.  Don’t change your pacing for your final week to running slowly as this could make you feel even more sluggish and alter your running form.  This final week is a good time to do a few short runs so 3 or 4 miles at half marathon pace.

Plan to use the time for activity that is going to benefit rather than hinder. If you are used to getting a massage you should schedule time for this (but not if you don't normally have it done). You could also schedule in some flexibility work or yoga, if you are used to it. If the activity is relaxing and not something new to you it may be of added benefit.

Give yourself the best chance you can by taking it easy with plenty of relaxation for a few days leading up to your race and get plenty of sleep.  Tapering can be the most dangerous period of the entire half marathon training programme.  Your body and mind are well rested and peaking for a top performance; it’s hard to hold back when you feel so good but rein yourself in, don’t run too fast or too far otherwise you could blow the entire 16 week build up (or even longer).

Start thinking about the race itself and prepare yourself psychologically, think about how you are going to cope with pre race anxiety, how are you going to maintain concentration whilst racing and running through discomfort and fatigue, start visualising your race, how are you going to break it down, 2 10k's and a parkrun?

The last few weeks of the training plan are a guide only, you have done the hard work so if you reduce your miles in this time it will not make any too much difference, it is better to be slightly under prepared than have OTS (Over Training Syndrome).  If you are feeling tired or have niggles then don’t get hung up on the plan, just reduce it slightly. 

Any questions just ask, we can talk about the race day itself nearer the time




“Mind is everything. Muscle - just pieces of rubber.  All that I am, I am because of my mind” – Paavo Nurmi

Running is so much more than physical fitness and the more I coach and talk to people, to me it becomes quite clear that you need mental toughness and strength to succeed, and by succeeding I mean keeping running.

There is a lot of research out there that suggests our minds can actually change reality, I’m not being all New Age but what I find really interesting about this is how our mindset can influence our health and well-being.  Generally, unless you have had an illness/injury, accident or given blood or a body part away, you can be the same physical person from one day to the next but your mindset can have a dramatic effect on your run and your performance.

Fascinating isn’t it, let’s just pause and think about this statement for a bit, what does it mean?  We can turn up to group on a Monday evening, being the same person from last Wednesday, not different in any way physically, we haven’t put 7 stone on in a few dasy but our mind can “talk” to us and influence how we run that evening.  Brilliant isn’t it (you can see why I studied Psychology!).

We focus so much on posture, cadence, heart rate, lactate threshold etc and whilst you know that these are so important, we don’t spend as much time training our grey matter to ensure that our mindset is just as finely tuned as our bodies.

I’ve long since known that there are many factors as to what makes a person/group successful in keeping up running and I still don’t know all the answers; below are just a few factors that I’ve found that you need (you may notice that few of them are physical)


  • Personal motivation – you want to succeed

  • Personal ability – learning and developing new skills and knowledge to succeed

  • Social pressure – group support, friends encouragement helps keep you focused on track

  • Coach - to help you develop skills, give you feedback and keep you motivated

  • Rewards and incentives

  • Resilience – successful runners are able to bounce back from injury, setbacks or disappointment

  • Positive outlook – have positive thoughts to replace the negative ones

  • Confident – be confident that you will succeed


It all sounds good on paper but how do we learn the above to help improve and strengthen our mental toughness when our lives are so busy, sometimes we can use being busy as an excuse not to run, but to be honest if I used that excuse I’d never run again.

If you’ve not been to a session for a while, in my experience, it isn’t whether you can physically do the run, it’s whether mentally you can actually get to the car park, physically, again unless you’ve had some dramatic transformation or you are injured, your body will be able to do it.  It’s having the mental toughness to put your trainers on.

I haven’t got all the answers but I thought this was a good place to start, acknowledging the importance of our mindset and to accept that you may only have a few reasons to keep running and a bucket load of reasons not to but it’s learning to give our mental training as much effort as our physical training.



Patience isn't a dirty word in RV world

As we approach another RV Beginner’s Graduation course I am reflecting on the key stock phrases that I use as I stand before a group of nervous often frightened would be runners on Week 1.

 Often in the vocabulary of new runners, and in my experience, it’s usually “running friends” that give them this vocabulary of

you need to smash it” “you’re not a runner if you walk” “if you’re talking and running you’re not working hard enough” “why would you pay someone to learn how to run, you just run” “what’s your PB? Seriously, I could walk faster than that” “Oh I saw you out jogging”

I could go on, as I’ve heard most derogatory “myths” that have influenced people who would like to run, who would like to give it a go, but feel that they are not fast enough, good enough, built the right way or they aren’t crushing their PB week in week out so they either don’t do it or give up; and this goes for experienced runners as well as beginners.

Some of my well known phrases are “I want you to finish the session today feeling like you could have done more” “It’s ok to walk, we are at the start of our journey” “It’s ok to talk, we’re working on our aerobic system” “slow it down” “your training age is still very young”.  And I’m sure you could think of a few more as well.

Before I was a coach, and up until recently, I have never been coached, I used to turn up to my running club week in week out and run as fast as I could, I was told I wasn’t working hard enough unless I was physically being sick at the end of a session and this school of thought was that this is what it took to be the best runner that anyone could be. This mindset couldn’t be more wrong, not only did this training impact my short term and long term goals but I was constantly exhausted and over trained.

Patience is a dirty word to most runners as there is this myth that you should run faster, run more miles and achieve your pb right NOW or even yesterday.

The problem with this way of thinking is that runners who do too much, too soon, too quickly (do you remember the terrible too’s?) can end up in the injury cycle which inhibits long term progress because for every two steps forward, you take one step back.

So back to my stock phrases; 

Why should you walk?

  • Walking gives bones, muscles and tendons the foundations your body needs to become a runner without getting hurt.  Walking puts the body through the same range of motion as running just with less impact. Having walking breaks can make the difference between being able to run for 20 mins or 60 mins.

Slow it down,

  • If one foot is off the ground, even if you think you could walk faster, it doesn’t matter, one foot off the ground is running!! The World Record for Race Walking is 37 mins so yes some people can walk faster than I can run but they have to keep both feet on the ground at all times.

Elite runners conduct 80% of their training at a low intensity level and 20% at a high intensity level.  It works for them, they don’t “smash it” or finish every work out exhausted with PB after PB, they become skilled at learning when to train hard and when to train smart.  Research has shown that “normal” runners fail to divide their training in the same way as the elite.

Surely we should be learning from the elite? this is one area that I get my coaching knowledge from and this is what I am passing onto you.

"Research has shown that when coaches wanted an effort level of 1.5 out of 10 from their runners in an easy session most of their runners ran at a level of 3.4.  Conversely when coaches wanted an effort level of 8.2 from their runners on a hard session they only gave 6.2" Sound familiar?

With any training plan and it doesn’t matter if you’ve just graduated from the beginner’s or have been with RV for 4 years, when the run says easy then run easy, and I mean run easy, not out of breath, easy so that you feel you could run forever.

Enjoy it but when you need to train hard, then go for it, challenge yourself, run out of breath, see what it feels like, these hard sessions never last for very long but they are fun and spice up a training plan.

You can’t “smash it” on every run; you have to be where you are right NOW and not where you think you should be or ultimately where you want to be and that goes for everyone experienced and beginners alike.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of the elite, you never know what might happen and remember in RV world patience isn’t a dirty word ;)

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Stop beating yourself up - it's exhausting

There maybe many things that motivate you to run, research suggest that there are 6

Feeling good

Achieving goals

Having fun

Developing skills

Nurturning friends and family

Looking good

These top 6 aren't in any particular order, all are of equal importance but sometimes we loose sight of why we started running in the first place.

Sport by it's very nature is very competitive, we want to win, we want to beat other teams, we want to compete even with ourselves. New technology now allows us to do that in segments, how fast did I go up Strawberry Track, who did I beat, what was my time.  Numbers are embedded into our daily lives, how old we are, how much we earn, how many miles, how fast, what time is it, what was the score, what were your exam results.  Numbers are everywhere.

As a coach I am often asked how do I get faster? I hear friends and family telling their recently graduated beginner "you need to go faster". Those of you who know me will know that I roll my eyes a lot.

So I thought I might explain why. My coaching is embedded within the theory of Athletics 365 which is a multi-event young peoples development programme which introduces athletes to the fundamental skills of athletes which is vital in every sport. The programme is a progressive pathway and the curriculum has been developed using existing resources and material from all over the world and is supported by England Athletics.

The focus is to provide a base on which to build a great skills foundation with a focus on development stages and not the chronological age of the athlete. Athletics 365 focuses not only on how fast someone runs but also more importantly on developing the technical skills required to perform at full potential and move like a champion.  In addition to this it also looks at an athlete's physical, mental and emotional devlopment as well as their lifestyle and social development. 

In theory, this curriculum should be delivered to school age children (4-5 years old) and as they progress and develop with the programme when they reach their peak they should be obtaining Gold, Silver or Bronze medails and this can range from early 20's upwards.

However, most of the athletes that I coach join the programme with an older chronological age and a very young training age, they maybe 36 years old when they start running but have not particpated in sport since they were 14 years old.  So their training age would be very young even though they may not be.  If you take part in another sport then your training age will be older and this is why you will progress quicker as you are building on an already solid foundation.

With this in mind, my coaching and running programmes go right back the basics of building the skills foundation and the emphasis is on the development of these skills so that athletes progress safely and have fun.

I ensure that the foundations are solid so that they can be built upon; in real terms this means having a good base of slow and steady mileage.  Once you have got the foundations you can add some stepping stones that can help you achieve your goal.

Look at how long you have been running for, what is your training age, a few weeks, a few months, a year, even a few years. You may be still quite young, still developing skills, you may be having a bit of a stressful time, remember on the 365 programme athletes naturally go through the teenage years so everyone expects some kind of storm and stress in their lives.

My advice, just smile sweetly when someone suggests that you need to go faster, there is a time and place for this and put the stick down and stop beating yourslef up, it really is exhausing.

Fuel for your longer runs

As some of you are beginning to run longer distances in preparation for the longer races that you are doing, I have written some basic advice about fuel and hydration. This topic area is huge so I’ve condensed it down to what I think are the most important things.

After 60 minutes of running, you begin to deplete glycogen supplies, basically carbs that are stored in your muscles that are the critical fuel for you to keep going now that you are increasing your miles. Fuelling up with carbs before and during running helps you to avoid “hitting the wall” which is where you run low on glycogen and feel like you are running through treacle. Lack of fuel prior to running can cause mental tiredness and dehydration not only limits performance but it can also be life threatening.

Now is the time to start practising drinking and taking on fuel as you start to increase your miles on your training runs. This is just general advice, try different things and see what works for you.

1 If you wait until you are thirsty to drink, it may be too late. Don’t wait until late in the run or until you feel hot; it takes up to 20 mins for the fluid to be absorbed. So drink at least every 30 to 45 minutes for easy training runs and at least every hour in cooler weather. Water is adequate to replace lost fluids for runs up to an hour but beyond that replace fluids and improve performance by hydrating with a sports drinks. Sports drinks supply a low concentration of carbs and replace lost salts, there are lots on the market, you can either buy powder to put into your water bottle or you can buy drinks that are already made up.  

2 Energy gels eg TORQ, SIS, GU contain a number of ingredients that provide instant energy in the form of 30g of carbs. The gels are easy to consume when on the run although can be quite sticky, I would advise having one of these half way into your training run and 2 miles towards the end. Again, have a play around with them, see what works for you as everyone is different.  Alternatively you could eat 6 jelly babies as this would give you the same amount of energy and they aren’t quite as sticky or Dextro Energy tablets which are easily digested.

Experiment with various energy sources before, during and after training runs and practise races until you find what works for you. Please don’t eat them for the first time before or during an important race since they may upset your stomach.