How was your weekend running?

The weekend just passed had us thinking a lot about motivation and will power to push through when training or racing gets tough…

Perhaps this was partly due to my taking on Grafman, a Half Ironman event, which comprises a 1.8km open water swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and rounded off by a half marathon at the end. But it was also because it was a weekend of running events that require a lot of mental reserve, such as the Night of the 10km PBs and the North Downs Way 50.

Fittingly enough, the Girls Run the World ultra distance coach, Sarah Sawyer, took home first place this year at the North Downs Way 50 (for coaching advice and mentoring with Sarah, email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk) and another reason my focus was on mental strategies due to a podcast that I did with her last Friday. After all, who better to ask about mental strategies than a woman who came first in the Crawley 24 Hour Track Race a few months ago, running 127.8 miles in 24 hours around a 400 metre track?

You can listen to the podcast later this week, but what was most interesting about our chat is that Sarah didn’t say ANY of the usual things when it comes to mental strategies. Instead of counting, music or mantras, her main approach is grounded in the fact that she loves running and whenever anything gets tough, she reminds herself of how lucky she is to be running. That and switching up her events so that her ‘journey’ to that final event destination goal stays interesting and enjoyable seem to be her main strategies for staying strong.  At the beginning of this year, she focused on the 24 hour track race, then she switched from flat running to the hills to take on the North Downs 50, which leads her on to the Global Limits 200km Stage Race.

So, when I was running my final six miles of my Half Ironman this weekend, with the sun belting down, I reminded myself that ultimately, I choose to do this, as we all do. At any time, any one of us can say, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to do this any more,’ and stop.

We take part and participate because we enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie and the sense of achievement. And if we remember this, that when we train and it feels tough on a tempo run, or a long run when we’re just not feeling it, try to shift your thinking to accept that that discomfort is simply part of your end goal, making you stronger, and helping you to get to the fantastic end feeling of achievement. If it wasn’t challenging, none of us would feel quite so good at the end of it. Besides, it makes the celebratory beer feel even more amazing.

We’d love to hear about your weekend racing and any strategies you use when the going gets tough. Comment below.

How was your weekend running?

Sleep, or more widely, how to maximise your recovery has been on my mind this weekend. This is partly because I was chatting with Jonathan Robinson, exercise physiologist at the University of Bath at the recent Elevate conference, and because it appears to have then cropped up in numerous conversations with clients over the weekend.

Time and again, as runners – and particularly if we ‘re also mums and runners, we tend to focus on running only as our training, and perhaps if we’re really good, a bit of foam rolling and yoga. But this is NOT what we mean by recovery, and if we got this right, we’d optimise our performance, prevent injury and avoid mental burn out.

All the research points to how recovery is the cornerstone of your training, not an add on. Ignore it, and you effectively undermine all those hard training sessions that you’re doing.

So, what do we mean by recovery strategies? 

What might come to your mind are compression socks, ice baths, recovery footwear and the like, but according to scientifically proven studies, your foundations for recovery are simple -sleep, body management and nutrition.

Grantham and Jarvis 2005, Recovery Pyramid

 

Sleep

When we sleep, our bodies get to work, helping our muscles to repair and adapt to grow stronger. According to research in the British Journal of of Sports Medicine  cognition, metabolism and tissue repair are critical physiological processes that contribute to training capacity, recovery and performance and are all positively affected with the right amount of sleep.

What you can do? 

Start tracking your sleep to see how many hours, on average you’re getting. I have a Garmin 920XT watch which tracks not only my sleep, but the quality of my sleep. It’s a helpful reminder to show when I’m not. If you are consistently getting injured, or not seeing improvement despite lots of training, take a look at your sleep patterns.

Body Management

Simply put, this means how you are managing your body. Are you only running or are you adding strength training, yoga and foam rolling?

Recovery methods, such as at home yoga, stretching even for 20 minutes per day can help promote blood flow to the muscles and improve range of movement, which in turns helps you to run with better economy, which means less stress on the body.  Moreover, focused, good quality strength training not only helps prevent injuries. Research shows that the fitter and stronger you are, the less time you’ll need to spend on recovery strategies.

What you can do?

Try a Yin Yoga class, try to remember the poses that are the most challenging for you and do those ones on your own at home. Strength wise, we have lots of free exercises on our YouTube channel that you can follow to build stability. Our more dedicated month long gym or at home strength workouts will launch in a few weeks for our dedicated Virtual Training Hub members. Pre-register here.

Nutrition 

Follow the three Rs, rehydrate, refuel, rebuild. Running is BIG business, and nutrition has kept pace with this resulting in the proliferation of products from protein shakes to beet and sour cherry shots. Some of these can be useful if you have a very heavy training load or are short on time.

What you can do?

You can get all the nutrition you need from the food you eat or drink, whether it’s a chocolate milk/almond milk shake after a run, foods rich in polyphenols, such as beetroots (grated in a salad or juiced with ginger and apple) to help with inflammation, fish, meat or pulses for a protein kick and green leafy vegetables and fruit for a vitamin kick to boost your immune system. It can be useful to keep a food diary for three days, noting what you eat and when you eat, plus when you run. That should be enough, without any expert advice for you to evaluate whether you are eating right for running.

We’d love to hear how you manage your recovery strategies, and if you have any tips that are useful for super busy women.

 

Marathon Mastery Series: How to avoid an upset tummy

As we approach peak training load for those running Spring marathons, we often hear of runners complaining of an upset stomach and/or feeling sick during and after a run. Read on for advice about how to avoid it….

Run strong without feeling ill
Run strong without feeling ill

 

For many runners, stomach pain, feeling sick and needing the toilet urgently, are all unfortunate consequences of an increase in marathon training and long training runs. There are a number of factors at play that cause this, but one could be taking on too much carbohydrate in the form of gels.

‘If you take on too many gels or sports energy products, that’s when you get into trouble,’ explains nutritionist Fran Taylor, www.thebrightonnutritionist.co.uk. ‘Your body can only absorb so much sugar and any excess accumulates in the gut and draws in extra water which all contributes to making you feel pretty uncomfortable.’

Research shows that if you want to run faster and keep going, 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour when running for up to two hours (although remember the muscles hold enough fuel for 90 minutes so you won’t need to start taking them until you’ve run for an hour), which equates to about two gels or 8-10 Jelly Babies.  For runs longer than 2 1/2 hours, aim for 90 grammes, about three gels or 16 Jelly Babies.

The above paragraph should also illustrate the benefits of getting used to gels for racing – it takes 20 seconds to swiftly swallow a gel (and we’d recommend doing it fast, they’re not something you want to savour!) compared to trying to chew your way through lots of Jelly Babies.

But there can also be other factors at play when it comes to runners’ gut.

 

‘When we run for a long time, blood flow to the stomach is reduced in favour of the blood that is powering the muscles to run, and this is  exacerbated by dehydration along with an increase in stress hormones which are released when we exercise, all which can contribute to making you feel sick,’ explains Fran Taylor.

Try to replenish lost fluids when you finish your run and do some yoga stretches (check our YouTube channel for examples) which will help the body to recover and off-set the harmful effects of the stress hormones.

 

Here’s our guide to what you can eat to fuel your runs…

The Food

Gels

Disgusting flavours (Salted Watermelon or Toasted Marshmallow anyone?) aside, gels are easy to swallow and digest, and become available for the body to use as energy almost immediately. But lots of runners avoid them because they taste horrible and this can get confused with people assuming that this is what causes an upset  stomach.

But the reason they cause an upset stomach is usually because someone is taking on too much. Your body can’t use any more than 3 gels in an hour, or 60 grams or less. Then they don’t overload the system and while not tasting great, they’ll do the job.

I can personally vouch for this, I hate gels, hate the taste and the texture, as does almost every runner of every level that I know, BUT shoot them down in one and don’t overdo them and they DO work.  I’m a fan of High 5 Isogels, which are a little bit more liquid than most.

Electrolyte Drinks

If you’re constantly battling an upset stomach and it’s not nerves, switching to liquids may be an alternative. Nowadays, electrolyte mixes from the likes of Tailwind  and Scratch Labs have been specifically designed to fuel the body while moving in the easiest, most digestible form. This can help to a certain degree, but be aware that getting enough carbohydrate in from liquid alone requires drinking a lot. So, it provides an alternative but not without supplementing with another carb source.

Bloks

Performance blocks like Clif Shot Bloks and Honey Stinger Chews (which are also vegan and use honey as their carb source) are similar to gels but come in a denser form. They provide around seven grammes of carbohydrates at a time, and so this can enable you to test at what point, your body reaches overload and you begin to feel sick.

Longhaul Endurance

These food sachets are increasingly becoming popular with ultra runners, who can’t fuel their runs with gels and sweets because it causes bonking not due to hitting the wall but crashing into a sugar wa (keep feeding the body too much sugar and your sugar levels will spike and then fall, which over a long distance race is not sustainable). They come in flavours such as Turmeric and Chicken and Sweet Potato and Sesame, and provide between 32.6g and 23.7g of carbohydrate respectively. Not easy to take on you’re racing at full pelt but worth investigating for training runs.

Sweet Potatoes

Boil or roast sweet potatoes and you’re left with a creamy, fast-digesting carbohydrate which would work well at the beginning of a race, as long as you take the skin off first which contains fibre and which could cause a tummy upset or require a sudden need to go to the loo.

Crisps

Pretty much the first thing I can even think of stomaching after a hard run marathon is crisps. They won’t fuel you as well as gels, but they break up the monotony of just eating sweet stuff and contain salt to stabilise your electrolytes and they’re great for afterwards . If you’ve ever watched or taken part in an Ironman event, you’ll see crisps and flat cola on all the refreshment stations on the run.

Marathon Mastery Series: What to do when injury strikes

Injury happens to even the most seasoned of marathon runners, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sofa stewing and panicking about your diminishing fitness and not being able to reach your marathon goal…

The reality is that being injured very rarely means you should totally rest*. Ninety nine percent of the time, it means NOT running but keeping up your running fitness and strength to ensure that once you’ve recovered, you can get back on track to your goal without losing your hard run gains. All you need to do is find the right run replacement (check with your physiotherapist FIRST) and perform it correctly to you stay marathon fit and prevent you from slumping into the doldrums.

Don’t fear weights, they are your friend

Hit the pedals

If you can’t run, spinning or using a turbo trainer is a great way to keep up your running fitness and marathon training. But the cycling must be intense enough to create the same physiological effects as running, or as close to this as possible. Which doesn’t mean cycling serenely to the shops or going on a casual ride.

Emily Proto, a Sussex runner and massage therapist, who recently came third at the Brighton Half marathon explains what she did when she broke her fibula.

‘I broke my fibula during the Brighton Marathon 2015 and had to pull out at the 10k point which was devastating,’ she explains. ‘I’d worked so hard in my marathon training,  I didn’t want to lose my fitness and so I started using a stationary bike with my focus being on keeping my heart rate as high on the bike sessions as i do when I run.

‘I did things like five minutes easy, 10 x 1 minute really hard, with 1 minute easy rest between and a final five minute warm down. It took 30 minutes and I added strength training. I had eight weeks off and it took me only five weeks to get back to fitness afterwards.’

If you don’t have your own turbo at home, try spinning at your local gym or the excellent Sufferfest training available at David Lloyd gyms or MyRide at Virgin gyms or Freedom Leisure.

 

Cycling is a great way of keeping run fit – if you ride smart. This is me hiding at the back of the shot after the 312 Majorca...that’s the former Tour de France winner, Miguel Induráin

 

Leap In

So many runners opt to swim when they’re injured, which is a great way to keep the body mobile and stretched. BUT to make it as specific to run fitness, you need to get your heart rate up and that means swim interval sets, just like you do with your running pace work. Try warming up for 100 metres, then do 50 metres at 8/10 effort, 50 metres recovery, x 10. Warm down. If you find swimming boring, this will help to keep it interesting and work your body in a way that’s more consistent with running. Your alternative is to do resistance running in the pool with a buoyancy belt on.

You don’t have to get a wetsuit and all the gear, but you do need to be smart about your training

Row, row, row the boat

Not gently down the stream. Yes, you guessed it, rowing is a fantastic way of keeping up your run fitness and involves all the major muscles of the body (in fact, it could even improve your running arm strength!) but be cautious. As with all of these suggestions, seek the advice of your physiotherapist, BEFORE you decide on which cross training to do. If you have a calf or foot injury, rowing will put a similar pressure through the foot with flexion and extension as you push to row. If it’s OK to row, then this is one al over, heart rate soaring workout. There’s some great suggestions here to keep it interesting.

Ring the bell

Kettle bells are a fantastic way of keeping your strength and cardiovascular fitness for running, particularly transferable physiologically to pace and tempo work. Originally invented in Russia, these metal balls with a handle are swung, with the drive coming from the hips and bottom which helps to build stability and prevent injury in the first place. As the bells swings through the air, your core has to kick in to stabilise the body in the swing trajectory. So, that’s one tick for strength, while all the muscular effort required to drive the correct weighted kettle bell raises your heart rate hugely, tick number two.

If done correctly, with a weight that challenges the body, kettle bells are a fantastic way of keeping up your fitness and don’t take long – a TABATA session of eight rounds of 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest works wonders. We would advise you to get correct tuition in kettle bell swinging before picking it up yourself.

 

 

Five Simple Tips for Staying Calm on Race Day

Do you find all your best laid race plans go to pot because you panic on race day? Here’s our guide about how to stay calm from the night before the race right the way to the finish line…

 

 

  • Go out
    You may feel like you want to be alone the day before your race, but socialising could work as a distraction, helping you relax and disengage from the pre-race nerves. An early dinner or film with friends or family could be the perfect solution.
  • Write your own confidence story, recommends sports psychologist, Josephine Perry, Performance in Mind.  Split a piece of paper into two columns, write your goal for the race on the top left, and your mantra on the right. At the bottom left, write your strengths, which you can take from all the training runs that went really well, while on the righthand side, write down three sessions that you did in training where you felt you could nail your goal. ‘It works to remind you of all the training that you’ve done where you have achieved your goals and will help to calm your anxiety by boosting your confidence,’ she explains. 
  • Get prepared the night before  It sounds obvious, and it is. But how many times have your found yourself running around the morning of a race looking for your socks or your safety pins? ‘Lay out your kit, pin on your race number, fasten your chip, prepare your breakfast, plan your journey,’ advises GRTW running coach, Tara Shanahan. ‘Then try and relax, listen to some soothing music, read a book, anything to distract you from thinking about the race.’
  • Take a deep breath – Anxiety tenses your muscles and shortens your breathing, limiting the amount of oxygen available for your brain to think clearly. ‘Find a quiet place and focus on your plan, your mantras, all the stuff that has got you through to this day,’ advises GRTW running coach, Tara Shanahan. ‘Remember, it’s just running, something that you’re doing because you love it; think of the race as the ultimate opportunity, time to do all the things that you’ve done so well in the lead up.’
  • Have a mantra – smile with the miles  ‘In every Ironman I’ve ever done, I’ve wanted to quit,’ says Ironman champion, Chrissie Wellington. ‘That little voice in one ear that says, ‘pull to the side, it’s not going to be your day,’ but I’ve pushed through repeating my mantra, Never Ever Give Up and smile. You’re only as powerful as your mind.’

How much can your mind help to push your body?

If you find it a battle in training, let alone on race day, the key to unlocking improvement may all be in the mind..

Enjoy the journey of improving yourself – the destination will then take care of itself

Don’t forget to join us for our Facebook Live Mental Strategies for the Female Runner, Friday 19th January, 7pm, £4.99. Secure your space via our booking page and join us in our special Run Like a Pro Facebook group wherever you live in the UK for our live event.

 

Whatever goal you set yourself, whether to achieve a promotion at work, build a business, gain a personal best at a race, lose weight or just get to the end of your first 5km, having a firm grasp of your why is key.

Why is this so important? Because when things get hard, such as weighing up whether to scoff a cream cake or resist, or when it comes to running, push your body to run faster in training when it hurts, your brain is constantly weighing up how hard it feels against WHY you’re doing it. If your perception of how hard it feels outweighs your motivation, you slow down or stop. If the opposite is true, you keep you going.

So, there are two ways to improve – train more so that you get used to the feeling and it feels easier OR, increase your motivation so the drive to do it will aways carry you through.

Easier said than done, you might be thinking. But there are some simple tips that will help you to define your motivations so they help carry you through.

 

 

Love what you’re doing

One of the world’s foremost experts on human behaviour, Edward L.Deci, psychologist at the University of Rochester argues that the strongest motivation comes not from some sort of external reward, like more money, increased social standing, losing weight etc, but ‘from the satisfaction that one experiences in doing an activity itself.” So learn to love your fast pace work, do it with people you enjoy training with and even turn it into a social occasion so that after your weekly ‘hard’ session, you go out for a drink together so it becomes associated with a fun pastime that you enjoy doing in and of itself, not just because you’re aiming for a PB.

 

In my own experience, the more I love the process of what I’m doing and embrace it as a way of improving rather than doing it for the end result, the more I enjoy it. Try to  frame whatever it is you are doing as a personal quest to get better—to improve and beat yourself—and focus on the satisfaction you gain from doing just that.

Think of others

Fear, discomfort and tiredness are the most common reasons why we slow down, walk or pull out of training or a race all together.  Yet, people achieve incredible feats of superhuman effort, such as lifting cars, when helping others in danger. So it stands to reason that thinking of others when you’re feeling in discomfort could help to pull you through.

In fact, when Shalane Flanagan, who became the first American woman in 40  years to win the New York City Marathon last November when asked how she’d pushed through the pain barrier, she said:  ‘I was thinking of other people when it started to hurt.’ So try that next time you’re on a hard training run and see if it works.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

Mindfulness and meditation are the big buzz words nowadays and for good reason – if you can meditate and learn to let go of distracting thoughts, you feel calmer, less anxious and gain better focus. It can work to improve all aspects of your life, and the same principles can apply to running. Like meditation where you learn to ‘watch’ thoughts pass through your mind without attaching to them, so too, you can try this method when running. It can help to disassociate from voice telling you to stop running if you’re just starting out, and help to keep you focused to that finish line.  This is one that worked for me in February 2017 last year dong the Seville marathon. And as you can see from the picture of me when I’d just finished, the pain was real but I managed to disassociate from it long enough to get my PB.

 

 

 

 

 

How to choose the right training plan for a marathon

For many of us with our sights set on a Spring marathon, we’re already twenty weeks away from our goal race but how do you find the right training plan for YOU?

If you’ve followed a great training plan , consistently marking off each session, this is how you should feel at the expo – excited and raring to hit the race start line!

Generic plans off the internet and magazines

There are thousands of them all over the internet, printed in magazines, handed out my charities that you may be raising money for but, which one is good? All training plans are generic and we hazard a guess that 85% of them will have been written by men, who don’t have to juggle multiple responsibilities such as work, family, kids and everything else. Regardless of gender, few take into account running history, how many miles you are currently running NOW (i..e your running base), your lifestyle, or work/life commitments.  Recognise this FIRST so that you can acknowledge in advance that it will feel like a clunky fit. It is.

If you go down this route here’s what we recommend

  • Choose one that includes at least four runs per week and starts NO LESS than 16 weeks away from your race goal. Only if you’re very fit, and regularly run marathons should you look at a 12 week plan.
  • Write out your plan – and add your own sessions  print out your plan, or re-write it and plan in other sessions that are ESSENTIAL to help you avoid injury during your marathon training. This should include yoga/foam rolling/basic strength and continuing and sports massage at least every three weeks. Whoever said running is cheap had never run a marathon!

Training Apps

There are numerous training apps on the market, including Runner’s World’s MyRunPlan, and  Training Peaks where you can pay for a plan, which again is generic, but it loads to a calendar as an app on your phone. It’s easy to log in, see what the run is, do it, and mark it off as done. The calendar will reward you by turning green once you’ve completed. Fail to do the session and you get a red square. Training Peak plans are good because you can see clearly what you’ve got to do but suffers the same problems of any of the generic plans that you get anywhere else – except you’ve paid for it.

Personalised training plans

Many running coaches, ourselves included, will write training plans specifically for you. We tend to send you an in-depth questionnaire, followed by a chat on the phone and then we deliver a training plan, specific to your goals, your current fitness, life-work balance. The advantage is that it’s exactly for you. The cons are that if you get injured, fall ill, etc, the plan does not change to accommodate this in the same way as anything generic doesn’t. However, with it being written specifically for you in the first place, the likelihood of injury occurring due to a plan that does not reflect your specific running history is minimal.

 

Mentoring & Coaching

If you can afford it, and you want to run a marathon and enjoy it, race mentoring is the gold service for any runner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in achieving a certain goal time or simply want to achieve a sense of satisfaction with each training session you do, not just the final ‘race’ goal. We charge £100 per month (some companies charge more, some less) but it means you have a personalised plan that can adapt and change week by week, according to how your training is going or the unforeseeable life events that can derail your training for a week or so, leaving you unsure how to proceed.

Plus, wherever you live in the world, your training is tracked via Strava or Garmin so we know what you’re doing – or not doing. It helps to hold you accountable and to help you feel like you’re achieving something with each session, because this method if training is so closely matched to helping to challenge and progress you as an individual; if you’ve ever struggled with a generic plan, you’ll appreciate how frustrating or disappointing it can be when you’re following something too easy or too hard. Where we differ with our plans is that we have a holistic approach, recognising the many elements must be balanced when you’re a woman training for a marathon juggling multiple tasks.

 

THE most important thing, no matter which option you choose is to start thinking about it from about 20-24 weeks away from your marathon goal. And follow a 16 week plan as an absolute minimum.

 

You can read more about our marathon mentoring service here.  Read about one woman’s experience of mentoring here.

 

5 Must Read Tips for Running Ultras

If you are considering entering an ultra, or even contemplating your first marathon, these tips from the GRTW ultra coach, Sarah Sawyer are well worth heeding…

Be a Tortoise not a Hare

There’s a reason why you’ll often see female runners perform better than men at ultras, and that’s because we pace ourselves like tortoises and not hares. My 100 mile PB is faster than some of my male friends who are sub 3 hour marathon runners, and that’s all down to pacing. I tell coaching clients that they should get to the halfway point of a 100 mile race feeling like their race hasn’t even started; do this and in the second half, you’ll tortoise picking off all those hares who have gone off too fast.

Learn how to walk

Don’t be afraid to take walking breaks in ultras; even the elites walk at times. On a hilly course, you’ll get natural walking breaks on steep up hills; on a flat course, I always take a short walking break every 30 or 60 minutes which uses different leg muscles and refreshes my running legs. However, when I say walk, I mean ‘power hike’ and not a Saturday afternoon amble round the shops! (anyone who has taken Sunday runs with us will be familiar with our ‘Be in control of that walk – stride it don’t slump it).

Eat little and often

After pacing, the second biggest mistake I see people make in ultra marathons is not getting their nutrition right. My rule of thumb is to start eating after 30 minutes and eat little and often from there onwards. People often make the mistake of waiting until they’re hungry before they start eating, but this means they’re going to be in a calorie deficit and will be trying to play catch-up all day. I aim for a minimum of 200 calories per hour and I get this from a combination of Mountain Fuel Extreme Energy drinks, Longhaul food pouches, GU Stroopwafels and 32GI Sports Chews. However, one size doesn’t fit all, so test out different things in training and find what works for you. And whatever you do, don’t try anything new on race day…..I’ve done that and it wasn’t pretty!

Deal with problems straight away

Things might go wrong in ultras. You can train and prepare, but there may be things that are outside your control on race day, such as adverse weather conditions, stomach issues, blisters and more. In an ultra marathon, everything is exemplified. So however much the temptation is to wait until the next aid station, where you can, deal with things straight away.

I ran the CCC (100k mountain race in the Alps) this summer and as I was climbing up to the highest point, the weather turned and I was subject to strong winds, freezing rain and snow. I wanted to keep moving and the last thing I wanted to do was stop and get my warm top, waterproof jacket and gloves out of my rucksack on the side of a freezing cold mountain, but I knew that if I didn’t, I’d be cold, wet and potentially hypothermic by the next aid station.

Ultras are like life

Sometimes everything ticks along perfectly, and other times, curveballs get thrown at us. As in life, the most successful ultra runners are those who deal the best with what ultras throw at them when things go wrong. I’ve had races which have gone like a dream and I’ve finished on the podium, and I’ve had races which have fallen apart and I’ve had to slog out a finish. In the latter, the easiest option would have been to quit. However, sometimes the races which go wrong and we have to slog it out to the finish are the ones we learn the most from, and the ones we end up ultimately the most proud of.

Sarah Sawyer is part of our coaching term and can provide one to one virtual coaching and mentoring for ultra marathons wherever you are in the world.

How to plan your running season

Autumn is here and most of us are fully in the swing of running now but now is when a little strategic thinking about your running ‘season’ is vital, particularly if you’ve  signed up to a Spring Marathon (London is 24 weeks way come November 6th!) ….

 

So, you’re a busy woman, juggling a career, social events, motherhood, or ALL of the above plus more. Running? That’s your way of keeping fit, having some me time, socialising and blowing off steam right?

But within this mix of factors as to WHY we run, how many of us enter races left, right and centre, particularly when fuelled by post race endorphins (or wine?) or because your running buddies are doing them?

I put my hand up as having done this in the past. And I understand it. It’s fun to have things to aim for, to motivate and inspire yourself (I once found myself signed up to five marathons in 14 months, from a trail race to road marathons spanning the globe from Mumbai to Istanbul and Italy). But it is when our running goals and targets end up injuring us, leaving us chronically fatigued, or always feeling like we’re not doing enough, that it becomes a problem.

How many times, for instance, have you run yourself ragged training for a race, trying to fit it around work, family, and generally having a life? You end up feeling guilty when you are running and guilty when you aren’t running. Or, perhaps you are someone that finds yourself limping from one race to the other, never quite recovered, carrying an injury or running through it until finally, it takes you out. Sound familiar?

To help you avoid this – and to ensure you end up a stronger, happier, more fulfilled runner, these are our tips to ensuring you have a fantastic running season or year ahead.

 

  1. First, pick your goal race. You can have more than one of these per year, but make sure you follow the principle of progression for each of them. If you can’t, it means you are entering too many of them close together.
  2. For every goal event, have a training plan. It can be one off the internet, designed for you personally, or  one that you’ve written from your own experience. Whatever it is, here’s what we’d recommend in general; 8-12 weeks for 10km, 12-16 weeks for a half marathon, 16-24 weeks for a marathon and 24 weeks plus for an ultra.
  3. And within EACH of these plans, they should have three components;
    • Base phase – 4-8 weeks focusing on endurance/strength and conditioning to prepare you for harder workouts and help you prevent injury.
    • Race specific – 4-8 weeks where workouts become more difficult and specific to your event. So, if doing a marathon, runs including faster sections at race pace, if doing a hilly trail race, runs that replicate this.
    • Taper period – this includes 2-3 weeks of reduced mileage and increased intensity.
  4. Plan in ‘tune up races’ – once you’ve chosen your ‘A’ race, you can and should enter other events but these should be events that help support your main goal, where you can practise pace, your race strategy etc. For marathon runners, this should be a half marathon 4-6 weeks from your race, for a  half marathon, these could be 2-3 races of 10km to 10miles in length, while 10km runners can choose some park runs.

And most importantly, within your training cycle for an individual race – and over a year, there should be recovery periods. If you keep on racing, or have events after events, your body has no time to recover. And it is in this recovery period that your body builds and gets stronger. Ignore this – which is what happens when you follow a scatter gun approach to entering races – and you will eventually find yourself injured. Perhaps not in the first year or even the second, but it gets everyone in the end.

 

Does this ring any bells with you? What’s the most events you’ve ever entered in one year? We’d love to find out so comment below.

 

If you are interested in our mentoring and training plan service, click here to find out more.

5 Running Hacks

Whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting out, sometimes it’s all to easy to allow your mind to talk yourself out of running and then staying the course when you finally are out there… Not with our clever running hacks that will help you reach your endorphin post run high

Barcode laces

So, how many times have you done this? It’s Saturday morning, you’ve got about ten minutes to spare before you absolutely HAVE to get out of the front door if you have any hope of making it to parkrun but you can’t find your barcode? Or even worse, you have to get online, find your login details, download it and print it out.

Sounds familiar? What’s worse is that deep down, you kind of now that you may have thought about this the night before but leaving it until the morning means you have a get out clause if you want to. It’s crazy isn’t it? You know that you LOVE parkrun when you do it and feel fantastic afterwards but still we sabotage it. Well, here’s a way you simply can’t.

Invest in a Parkrun barcode, which costs as little as £4.26 for three and thread one through your running shoe laces. That way, you have no excuse and you won’t spend ten minutes storming round the house in a flap getting even more anxious.

 

 

Work to Run Wear

If like most women you are always  having to rush to either pick up the kids or to work via a commute, chances are that fitting in a run before or after work/school drop-off can seem impossible. The whole thought of having to schlep in an entire change of wardrobe to work or going home, changing and then heading out is just a no-go. But nowadays, it’s so easy to wear something that will pass as office attire and all you need to do is to have a sports bra and trainers to hand so that you can run home from work, or at least be changed within 30 seconds when you get home so  you don’t give your brain enough time to self sabotage.  Check out the range of running leggings at www.hipandhealthy.com, which come in a range of great prints which could be teamed with funky pumps or boots and a plain top and jacket. Obviously, if you work in the financial sector then perhaps not so easy to get away with but there are options.

Make it playful 

We hear from so many women that they get out to run and just can’t seem to get past running for two minutes or that it never gets any easier. The trick is to switch up your workouts and don’t think of it as  ‘Oh, I’ve got to run for 10 minutes non-stop.’ It’s actually far more beneficial to your running development to have a mixture of running workouts, such as a long, slow steady run (and long can be whatever that is to you – one mile or ten) a short, sharp run where you try to run 3-5km as fast as you can at the same pace. And then you can also do Fartlek runs, which simply means choosing a landmark – it could be a lamppost or a bin, and sprinting as fast you can to it (warm up first!) and then recover and repeat 10 more times. In between, you can do bodyweight exercises like push ups or step ups on benches, anything to just make it a little bit more interesting.

Relive the Summer of Love

OK, we don’t mean that literally! But why not try listening to music with a 120 beats per minute or higher. Studies have shown that makes exercise seem easier and elevates your mood as you run. Use SongBPM to work out the BPM of your favourite tracks.

 

Start using Strava

Unlike other running apps, Strava is fantastic at adding extra motivation. It not only keeps track of your own personal records, providing a first, second or third best time notification on any routes or parts of routes that you run regularly but you can also compete for crowns (Queen of the mountain) or cups on parts of routes that everyone else on Strava has run. You may not think you are that competitive but you’ll be amazed at how motivating it becomes once you start using it. Plus, you’ll get to be part of the Girls Run the World UK 900 member club on Strava too where you could find more runners local to run with and some extra motivation from us.

What are your best tips to make running easier? Share them by commenting below.