What is Trail Running?

On Thursday we are heading over to Queen Elizabeth Country park for an opportunity to run the trails of the park to experience a bit of trail running and hills. Trail running is running off road, generally in the countryside or along a coastline path.  I love trail running, it’s big business now with lots of excellent well organised events that have tapped into the benefits that trail running gives you to your overall running fitness. 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. 

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

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. Running is hard because you don't see the results over night, it takes time, commitment and consistency so one of the things that running teaches you is patience.

 But what happens when you put all that hard work into your training, with the goal race looming up in the distance, getting nearer and nearer but you end up having a setback through injury?

 You probably don’t want to hear this but you have to be extra patient and being injured forces patience upon you. You have to create a plan B (or even plan Z) if you experience setbacks and that can be hard...especially if it seems that everyone else is doing so well. A week can seem like a lifetime...

If you have experienced a setback don't be too hard on yourself, the professional name for it is Runner's Withdrawal 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 come back stronger if they have a comeback plan, listen to advice and be patient.

 Unfortunately, no one is injury-proof and if you are feeling a niggle before you panic and convince yourself that you are never going to run again, 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 immediately. Not dealing with it can lead to long term damage that may mean you have to stop running permanently. WHAT? Sounds scary doesn’t it? And it is.

 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. 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.

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, 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.

Is there such a thing as injury free running?

Running and how to stay injury free is one of the most pressing questions on every runner's mind and as you start to increase your distance and time on your feet here are a few of my golden rules for staying as injury free as possible.

  • Avoid the terrible too's, I say this time and time again, don't do too much, too soon, too quickly

  • Increase your weekly mileage by 10% only and listen to your body, this may even be too much after a few weeks so cut back if you are feeling tired. You need to rest, this is part of the process

  • Let your body be the boss, injuries don't tend to happen overnight, so if you have a niggle, have a couple of days off and rest. If a couple of days’ rest doesn't help, then seek advice from a sports specialist.

  • Get good shoes and if they don't feel right, take them back and keep exchanging them until they do!

  • Keep a diary of your runs, just make notes on the time of day, the weather, how you were feeling and the miles and pace. Try not to be too obsessive about it, just make a record of your runs. It's good to see your progress and you will be able to see patterns emerging, maybe stress at work, your diet, sleep patterns, these can all have an effect on how you feel when running.

  • Cross train, I know we are all really busy but a bit of cross training will really help your running, Pilates or Yoga, a Spin class or lifting weights will all help your overall fitness

  • Respect the miles. 

RV Runner's Workshop

Running lies under the Sports Science Umbrella; it isn’t an exact science unlike for example Physics, you throw an apple in the air 100 times it will come down 100 times.  The same cannot be said when studying the science of behaviour, you put 100 people in a room and experiment on them, you won’t get 100 people doing exactly the same thing, we all have individual differences.

There are many factors that affect people’s running journey/performance and I’ve just listed a few for today’s workshop.  Feel free to butt in and ask questions

How do you find the perfect training plan, the perfect pair of trainers, the perfect energy bar, the perfect fuel? How do you answer questions like how much should I push myself and how much should I rest? How do I know whether my body is adapting and getting stronger fitter, and faster in response to training.  These are difficult questions to answer because there are few universal rules that apply to every situation.

Injuries

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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.

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

Rest & Recovery

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The benefits of sleep cannot be overstated.  It’s hands down the most powerful recovery tool known to science.  Nothing else comes close to sleep’s recovery enhancing powers.  You can add together every other recovery aid ever discovered and they wouldn’t stack up, going to sleep is like taking your body to the repair shop.  While you doze, your body’s recovery processes ramp up to fix the damage you did during the day and get you ready to perform again.  There are four stages of sleep

Stage 1 transition from wake to sleep

Stage 2 we spend 50% of the night in this stage and it is important for memory processing

Stage 3 is the deepest stage and the body releases substances like testosterone and growth hormones to push tissue repair into high gear.

Stage 4 is REM this is where most dreaming happens and where motor and cognitive skills are enhanced.  When you skimp on sleep you’re depriving yourself of REM sleep.

A general rule is seven to nine hours sleep per night, without proper sleep, the body becomes fragile, studies have shown that skimping on sleep makes people more sensitive.

Nutrition & Hydration

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This is a huge and complicated area.  My main advice from all the workshops that I have attended is to fuel well. No gimmicks, no superfoods, no miracle cure, lighter does not mean faster and if you starve your body of the right foods your body will shut down.  Your body is complicated; your energy intake needs to match your energy demands. Just to stay alive and avoid metabolism slowdown women should eat 1,200 a day and men 1,800 a day. We are influenced by this “false gold” that thin is ideal, that I will be happier, successful, healthy, accepted, confident, faster if only I was thin! 

In athletic terms 60% of juniors do not make senior level because they are over trained and undernourished.  If you restrict your food intake your brain shrinks, you can have gastric problems, low carbs mean poor REM sleep, you are more prone to tissue injuries and stress fractures.

Life becomes uncomfortable, running becomes a vicious cycle of injury, poor performance, overtraining to get back to where you were, your thoughts can become facts with no evidence to back them up and you have a continued dialogue of how rubbish you are.

Eat well, your daily calorie intake should be foods that are as nutritional as possible, veg, fruit, carbs, protein. In the 1970’s & 80’s cyclists on the Tour de France would consume plates of pasta, pork chops, sautéed vegetables among other things. Nowadays it’s gels and power bars, shock blocks and isotonic drinks.

 

Training Plans – How to increase your mileage safely

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Goals are brilliant and goal setting should be a process,

-where are you NOW

-where you want to get to

-how you can get there

Each week of a training plan is a stepping stone, a small step towards the bigger picture.  Building foundations and a good solid base of mileage is key to success, once you start increasing the miles, the body will find any weakness that you may have.  Think about all the factors we have spoken about this evening, what is your lifestyle like, are you eating properly, are you sleeping well, are you coming back from injury, new job, new house, new baby. What is your training age?

There are a wide range of training plans out there, running is not an exact science we have established that.  What works for one person does not necessarily work for the another person.  There is no “reliable” plan that has been designed so that if everyone repeats it time and time again they will get the same results.  Plans are like recipes and you have to see what works for you, you add a bit in, does that work, take a bit out, does that work. At each point in our life we are at a different place.  You may have got a couple of half marathons, 10ks under your belt and achieved some fantastic results.  You might be chasing those times; why can’t I be like I was last year.  You are not in the same place as you were last year, last month, we all move on.  We have factors that are out of our control, the weather, hormones, nutrition, sleep, age, the list is endless.  Mentally we may be in a different place.

There are a number of different types of runs, the evidence does suggest that there are three key sessions and this is for a number of reasons.  If you run at the same pace all the time you may not improve as you risk the chance of burning out if you race too much week in week out and you do every race at break neck speed.  In sport coaches use the term periodization which is the systematic planning of training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year which is why I say that you need just one goal to train for. The training plans are based on building up endurance, then speed endurance and then speed then tapering.  To make a complex training programmed accessible to all my plans are based on three runs.  The long runs build up the endurance, the threshold runs (race pace/tempo runs) build up the speed endurance and the interval runs are your hills and speed.  The training plans are not set in stone, some runners have a younger training age than others, if a younger training age then including interval runs in their programme can prove risky as these types of runs put the body under stress and can lead to injury; it is always better to be undertrained than over trained.  

There will always be anomalies to the “rules” there will always be people that run every day and don’t get injured, well this is our perception anyway, remember we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and what people are dealing with in their lives.

Long run

Threshold runs

Interval runs

Psycho-Social Behavior/Mental Skills Training

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In my experience 98% of running is mental skills, quietening the dialogue in our heads that makes running so painful and uncomfortable.  Runners need to build a wall of resilience that makes them robust and gives them confidence.  You need to find your super strength, what makes up your wall of resilience.  Your emotional brain can take over and this is where the best training plan in the world can unravel on race day as you lose the ability to stay emotionally strong. It may be something that someone said that contributed to you not achieving, reflect on why the wheels fell off.

You need to work on mental training as well as physical training

Practice thinking positively, instead of thinking about the pain you are experiencing, think about what is happening to your body from a scientific point of view

I can’t believe I feel disheartened early on – re-evaluate these feelings, you are probably still in the warm up part of the run.

It’s going to be a bad run – not every run can be a personal best run, think about how much you have accomplished recently

            Form images of what you feel like when running well.  The idea is to combine the feeling of confidence with that of moving strongly and smoothly.  Do you run fast like a cheetah, gracefully like an antelope, flow smoothly like a mountain stream or powerful like the wind?

         Call upon these images during training runs so it will be easier to call upon them at critical points in races when you need a boost. Try and use a variety of images, so a powerful one to help you up the hills, a smooth one for flowing downhill and a fast one to gear up for the finishing kick.

         Negative thoughts can creep into our minds, undermining confidence and self-image.  These fleeting moments of self-doubt are particularly damaging during prerace hours and at critical points in the race.  Create a list of positive self-talk or affirmations.  If you get nervous during a race and tighten up, for example, your positive statement could be “I get calmer as the race gets longer”

         Try writing down negative thoughts, then change them to positive affirmations and cross out the negative ones.  Affirmations counterattack self-doubt and reinforce self-image and goals.  Look at them regularly, think about them when you feel good when running.  Use them to pump yourself up during a race or a hard longer run.

You need to build yourself up to make yourself robust and confident, starting with the foundations, all things need foundations which in running are the fundamentals skills that we have worked on from the beginning and continue to work on each session, so the movement skills, these are your bases. 

         Your building blocks are the recipes I often talk about, what works, what makes you strong, what blocks do you need to take out and what blocks do you need to put in to build up your wall of resilience.

         Going back to the pressure, what knocks your blocks down, is it your coach (me), is it pressure of a race, is it other runners? Once you understand what contributes to an achievement or when the wheels fell off you can start to understand how to build your wall up.

         Don’t forget your emotional brain can take over, but by practising visualisation and affirmations time and time again in training and by using the same routine time and time again you will build your wall up.

 

One of the most important things an athlete needs is confidence to listen to their bodies and trust in their training program.  There is no single path to success, but this is a hard lesson for athletes who are constantly comparing themselves to their peers, a habit that can become even more compulsive these days, when athletes share their workouts on strava and other social media.  You can of course look over the fence at what others are doing but ultimately you need to do what is right for you.

Go with the flow of your body, when it’s tired, back off and then go again.  Think about what you are feeling, that’s more important sometimes than a plan that you need to ridgely stick to. Let your body decide what it can do.Go without your watch, what happens if your watch fails on race day? You have to do something about the information that you have seen on your watch, this can have a profound effect on your mental toughness, going too fast and you might panic, going too slow and you might start to have self doubt. Go on how you feel, see what happens, you might surprise yourself.

Fuel your body for everday performance

I attended a brilliant workshop on Sunday with Renee McGregor and Dr Nicola Keay, Renee is a Dietician and works with England Athletics and Nicola is an Endocrine expert who works with dancers and athletes. The workshop was on Optimising Health & Performance and both women are passionate about educating the world of sport on how to fuel the body so that athletes, at any level, can achieve their full potential.

Renee likened the body’s complexity to a London Tube map which I loved, she said that all of our systems were connected and if one went down then it had a knock on effect on the rest of the system…simple! And like London Tube system the body is a finely tuned system that will strive to work and carry on no matter what is thrown at it.

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In relation to sport the message was clear, if an athlete does not have sufficient energy intake (food) that matches the energy demand (training session) then the body will start to shut down. The body will go into self preserve mode as the main aim of the body is to keep it alive, especially in times of stress. This shut down will in turn have a knock on effect on the rest of the bodies system, and this is where it gets complicated. So many links and connections, far too many for me to go into full detail, but I thought some of these effects may be useful for you to know if you are struggling with your training or are blighted by continuous injury or your running just seems to be in chaos.

You may feel some kind of discomfort but can’t quite put your finger on it where the discomfort is, it’s just a feeling of uneasiness which could lead to an emotional response, ie thoughts of not being good enough, not achieving any pb’s or having good runs which in turn could lead to comparing yourself to others. This anxiety can then feed into your thoughts and belief systems which could be related to food, you “believe” carbs are bad for you so you stop eating them and that you need to train more to get better, run more, eat less, get thin then life will be good, I will be successful/happy/healthy/.

Renee talks about this as a “False Gold” that this isn’t reality, it’s an ideal that is sold to us via social media. Not only do we compare ourselves to our immediate peer group but now we have social comparison via all platforms of social media to compare ourselves to which leads to a confirmation bias that we are not good enough! And how that viscious circle just keeps on turning.

Basically, are you eating and drinking enough for the exercise that you are doing, moving more and eating less is far too simplistic to explain the complexities of our bodies, interestingly 60% of junior athletes don’t make it to senior level as they are overtrained and undernourished and have to give up running forever.

Are you experiencing any of the following?


Constipation

Stomach problems

Poor runs

Fatigue

Poor balance/co-ordination

Stress fracture

Soft tissue injury

Mood swings

More colds/illness

Distrupted sleep patterns

Missed periods

All of the above symptoms could be down to other medical issues and it is always worth getting checked out by a Health Care Professional. However, if you are feeling all over the place and are experiencing a couple of the symptoms above, you may not be eating and drinking enough to fuel your body. Your body maybe shutting down, releasing stress hormones that have a knock on effect on your whole bodies immune system as it goes into self preservation mode and ironically you may not be losing weight!

The message from Renee and Nicola was clear, fuel your body so that your body can work effeciently and economically. Don’t have a restricted diet, fill your daily calorie intake with wholesome food that is nutritionally rich. Eat carbs! If you don’t eat carbs you have poor REM sleep and sleep is so important for immune health and recovery. Our body produces a growth hormone that is responsible for physical repair and it is at it’s highest around 12-2am so aim to get to bed early enough to ensure you make the most of it.

I took away a great deal from this workshop, mainly that if I want to run into old age I need to fuel my body correctly, the odd glass of wine and burger won’t harm but constantly yo-yoing and restricting carbs may potentially have a long term knock on effect on my immune system and bones.

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 seem to be frightened of failure in our daily lives which stops us doing things that we really love.. I’ve had quite a lot of critisism from outside sources since I set up RunVerity 5 years ago, at times I have been physically crippled by this critisism and judgement. Too many to mention but at one point RunVerity was threatened by a man who said he was going to play sniper in the bushes and shoot us all, I have been publically shamed on social media, a debate then continued on all of my flaws, but this is not a pity party, 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. Be bold, be strong, remember what you value in life and as Brene Brown says, “Don’t take critisism from people who are not living their life couragiously”.

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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