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.


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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.