Running Progress. A Perspective on PBs

Running Progress. A Perspective on PBs

What is progress anyway? I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of ‘progression’ recently, but have I been judging progression based on the wrong criteria?

Runner’s Definition of ‘Progress’

Without getting too technical, ‘progress’ is defined as ‘forward or onward movement towards a destination’. As runners we tend to add an extra clause onto that, though: ‘forward or onward movement towards a destination, that is a PB, that I put a lot of effort into’.

I got faster quickly when I first started thinking about, and applying, structured training for running. To begin with, PBs were all I cared about. But then, as tends to be the case with these things, the initial ‘progression’ slows. At that point you have to evaluate why it is that you’re doing something: to validate yourself, or for something more than that?

A Deeper Purpose

Now when people ask me about running I answer pretty differently. I avoid talking about my PBs. Some of you may have noticed that I have removed them from my bio on Instagram. Not because I think people should remove them. I follow some based on times because I want to learn how to train like them to achieve something. But because they weren’t serving the purpose I initially intended them to. They had become a bragging-right. Something that I think can be really toxic. If someone asks me about a PB for a certain distance, I’ll answer, because the chances are they’re trying to work out if we could train together or learn from each other. But I won’t offer it out voluntarily.

A Host Of Benefits

When people ask me about running I tell them about what running has brought to my life in the last six months. I think it’s pertinent to list them here:

  • I’ve met more like minded people, who I can talk to about running and so much more, since July than I have in the last five years.
  • My confidence has accelerated incredibly and now instead of being the person at the party who hides in the kitchen and talks to the same people, I actively attempt to talk to new people (even if sometimes I end up with major foot-in-mouth syndrome).
  • I’ve learnt the importance of investing time into something. Academically I knew how to do this, but my university education didn’t provide the tools as to how this would translate into real life. Hard work can be just that – hard, but ultimately worth it.
  • I say ‘yes’ to almost anything. People laugh as I never ask questions, but running has stoked the fire in me that craves newness and wonder and adventure. The more I can experience, the happier I am. So if you ever need anyone around for the ride, I’m your girl.

 

Progress Depends On Your Objectives

The list goes on. But the point I’m trying to make is that ‘progress’ is what you make it. If you just rely on ‘progress’ equating to PBs, then you’re setting yourself up to fail. All the above (and more) add up to the bumpy ride of life. If we really want to get technical, then I don’t even think ‘progress’ is the right way to look at it. It’s a value-laden term that suggests we should always be trying to better ourselves in some way. It suggests that we can’t be happy with how we are, and means we are always looking towards the future.

So one thing I would suggest is trying to forget the word ‘progress’. Focus on the present, feel the moment, and if you want to keep an eye to the future, then great. But don’t wish your life away. Enjoy the moment. The good runs. The bad runs. The PBs. The foam rolling. And I have a hunch that if you do that, you might notice that the future looks a lot brighter than it did before.

Be TrueSapien. Challenge Life.

For more from me, please visit my blog page!

Health and Fitness – Unique Journeys and Comparisons

Health and Fitness – Unique Journeys and Comparisons

That someone has taken the step to BEGIN or Recommence their fitness and health journey is what counts. Not where they are on that journey.

We Are Unique

Those embarking on this journey do so at a different time, under different circumstances. In different ways and with different aims. Everyone will progress along their journey at different rates dependent on countless factors.

So why would we choose to measure ourselves against someone else? It is meaningless because who are we to judge someone else’s journey? Theirs is unique to them, and about which we may know very little.

Pointless Comparisons

Yes, we can all finish a race and look at those around us. Who finished first? Who lagged behind? And Who was that guy you overtook who looked really fast, but was panting hard on the brink of collapse. And so on…

These thoughts are all very well, and analysis of others is only natural. Indeed, by considering the performance of others, we can sometimes identify why someone performed strongly or otherwise. There may be something we can learn from their training or racing, in order to better ourselves.

But what this analysis of others should NOT lead to are thoughts like, ‘I’m better than him or she’s better than me.’ Such thoughts are as misguided as they are superficial. Feeling ‘above’ those at the back of the field? Being spellbound by the front runner?

NO!!!

A Look In The Mirror

Remember, we are all at a different point in different journeys, with different goals. Respect that fact. Because comparison only serves to demean our personal ambitions and the route we’ve taken to reach them.

The only person with whom you should compare yourself is the younger you. Have you improved your younger self? Or if age is against you, are you succeeding in holding back the years? Look in the mirror before looking around you.

Did you run YOUR best race? Are you doing what you need to do to improve YOU and get where YOU want to be?

Be TrueSapien. Challenge Life.

For more of my thoughts on Lifestyle, Health and Fitness please visit my blog page.

Triathlon Winter Training – Strength and Conditioning Introduction

Triathlon Winter Training – Strength and Conditioning Introduction

Strength and conditioning (S&C), is great for injury prevention, correcting muscle imbalances and posture. It will help you become a stronger, and therefore, faster triathlete.

A Year Round ‘Staple’

Regardless of the distance you are racing, S&C should be a staple of a triathlon-training program year round, despite this title suggesting that it is a ‘winter’ focus. Personally, this has been an aspect of my training that has been lacking, despite my regular core work. I have been planning to incorporate it into my training for a while, but timing is everything.

New To Strength & Conditioning?

If, like me, you haven’t been ‘lifting’ for some time, the delayed onset muscle soreness that comes hand in hand with S&C work can be rather hindering to the rest of your training. This isn’t particularly what you want during the race season. Consequently, I am only just starting to fully incorporate it into my schedule since completing my season on the Gold Coast this September.

I have mentioned several benefits above, and will delve into more detail on them in future posts. In the meantime I will introduce a couple of options that you can do to ensure you are reaping the benefits of S&C work.

 

Where To Start

A great place to start is calisthenics, or bodyweight training. It is (or rather can be!) a less stressful way to introduce your body to S&C work. I feel that it is a highly functional form of fitness. The second option is hitting the bar, no, not for drinks, but for free weights. Weightlifting is a great way to add additional load to your S&C program (literally!) and opens up a number of options to the exercises you can be performing. Therefore, combining weights with calisthenics should hopefully provide the most benefits to your training and racing.

More details of both of these training methods will soon follow in future posts.

To follow my progress as a Team GB Triathlete head over to my blog page!

Be TrueSapien. Challenge Life.

How I Changed My Running Style

How I Changed My Running Style

Soon after I started running, I got hooked on looking for ways to improve. I dived straight in to running literature. At the time, there was a huge ‘barefoot running’ movement in the running community, which seemed to stem from the success of the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

The book was a very enjoyable read (I have re-read it several times since). I quickly followed it up with a book by one of the authors’ influencers, Ken Bob Saxton, called ‘Barefoot Running Step by Step’. You can read about some of my early forays and experiments with barefoot running on my older blog posts.

Both books stirred in me a desire to experiment with my existing running form. I wanted to feel like I could run all day, like the Tarahumara. To run light, strong and silently and stay injury free.

Why The Change?

So, why did I feel this need to change or toy with my running form? Defiance was one reason. A lot of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ seemed to suggest that it was not advisory to change your running technique. To me though, this seemed preposterous. Surely experimenting can lead to a greater understanding, appreciation and technique. The rules of learning, of trial and error and of continued improvement surely were applicable to running too?!

I also wanted to get faster. Based on what I’d read, it seemed clear to me that one way of getting faster was to ensure your running style was efficient. You could say that these books acted like my early running coach. I used the advice the books gave, tried things out and used what worked for me.

My style was unlike ‘real’ runners. I felt like a footballer doing a bit of running and I think I probably looked like it too! I wanted to look more like Mo Farah or Eliud Kipchoge; Graceful, smooth, light and looking like they could run forever.

How I Changed My Running Style

There were a few elements I consciously worked on and they have taken varying amounts of time to get to where I am now;

Which part of my foot hit the ground first.

Up until I read the above-mentioned books, I really hadn’t paid any attention to the mechanics of running. I just went out and ran. The books opened my eyes to seeing running as an art to be improved. My technique could be improved if I took steps to do so. There was actually quite a lot to think about! I changed from being a heel-striker who made contact with the ground way out in front of my body, to a midfoot/forefoot-striker who made contact with the ground right underneath my body. This is generally accepted as good running form.

This did NOT come naturally to me at all! I really had to be intentional about doing this. I had to think about it a lot during my runs. This resulted in an increased leg turnover. My calves aching like crazy after each run for probably about three weeks. I therefore gave my legs more time to recover between each run. Why did they hurt so much? It was because I hadn’t been engaging them properly in my old running technique. I’d been relying more on my upper leg muscles and so my calves weren’t being engaged like they were meant to. After the three weeks of aching calves, I also noticed how much BIGGER they had become! I was using them properly. The result? I was faster, without increasing my perceived effort!

How I hit the ground.

I really did ‘pound’ the pavement with my feet and you could hear me a long way off. So, I consciously tried to run ‘light’ trying to make less sound in my footsteps. I had the following passage from a character called Caballo Blanco, from the book Born to Run running through my head constantly:

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a sh*t how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

I agree with the sentiments Caballo Blanco expresses here. I’m not one to boast about my running prowess. Since my changes however, I have had the odd compliment about my running style.

These two were the really big ones. The third one is one I’m still working on. It’s a longer term project because it tends only to happen when I’m really tired. When I’m unable to think about anything other than trying to keep running!

Using my arms properly.

Most of the time, my arms behave themselves. However, when I really tire, they (particularly my right arm) tend to develop a mind of their own. They move across my body, making my torso rotate. This slows me down just at the key moment I want to be running as efficiently as possible. The ideal is for them to pump up and down by the side of my body. This provides balance and momentum in the direction of travel. I’m conscious of this to a point but need to try to remember and be focused on this when I get tired on runs.

Key Observations

To give some context to the benefits of changing my running form, I wanted to share a few observations:

I now feel like a runner, rather than a footballer who can run.

Like I could run for longer than I ever could before I changed my running technique.

My speed improved! I know that you could argue that this is just down to training over four years, but I honestly don’t believe that. From a debut half marathon of 1:27:32 in 2012, my PB is now 1:19:12 and I know I could run a 1:18 with some dedicated training now, based on my recent 10 mile race (https://www.strava.com/activities/1272325054).

I’ve only had one running-related injury (through doing too much too soon back in 2013). I don’t think I’d have stayed injury free for this long running like I used to.

I try to avoid over-analysing each run I do. But I think it helps to be mindful of how you’re running and what each part of your body is doing. Often what you think is not what is really going on!

Ready For Change?

If you’re considering what your running form looks like, or how efficient your technique is, then there are a few different things you could do.

  1. Head to a running store that offers gait analysis services. These are often provided free to lure you in!
  2. Speak to a running coach, like me(!), who can provide a gait analysis service and provide you with a report that outlines what you’re doing well and what you should aim to develop (as well as tips for how to do so).
  3. Get someone to record video of you running at a few different speeds (you’ll want side on, front on and from the back views!). Then, watch it back and see what you look like. What do you notice? What would you change?
  4. Watch YouTube videos of professional athletes running – pick those who run similar distances to you and watch how they run.
  5. Check out my blog article here on how to analyse your own running form and use the checklist I provide there!

I hope that helps!

Challenge Life – A Lifestyle Choice

Challenge Life – A Lifestyle Choice

What does being ‘TrueSapien’ and living a ‘Challenging Life’ mean to me?
It’s more than just about aiming to be a little fitter. It’s more than intermittently participating in events and then sitting back admiring my achievement. And more than sporadically attending the local fitness class or gym in attempt to attain short term and short lived gains.

A Lifestyle Choice

The way I choose to live my life can only be described as a deliberate and significant lifestyle choice. I completed my first Ironman, Ironman Wales, in September this year. It was a tough but thoroughly enjoyed experience BECAUSE it was a way to TEST my chosen lifestyle. I have heard of several people that complete their first IRONMAN with insufficient training. Then they claim it is the hardest thing they have ever done, and announce that they will never be doing another. Shying away from the challenge rather than facing it heads on.

Born To Push Limits

My reply to these people is we, as humans, are born to push ourselves to new limits. There is something demotivating about accepting average, yet so many choose it. The TrueSapien ethos draws from the roots of evolution, which we as humans have evidently lost over the years. No longer do we have to fight for survival, in turn many people being content with inactivity and idleness.
There is something discordant with how we are glued to our phones, opting for a message over an in-person conversation. We are born to interact, with a need for others to keep us sane. Materialistic posessions only keep us happy short term. This is reflected in the waste we produce and the upsetting, yet dominant reliance on short life technology.

Wide Reaching Implications

The ever-growing population inevitably leads to further demands. At what stage do the resources start to run out? Is this the point when we will inevitably have to return to our roots and fight for our place in the world? There seems a reliance on needing the approval of others to feel ‘happy.’ A strong desire to be just like everyone else. I disagree with this, and will always remain true to who I am. The bright vibrant girl with the curly hair, and never-ending energy.

Environmental Issues

One particular infuriation of mine is the significant levels of food waste, including packaging we create. A reliance on foods that we can’t grow in our own country has led to the roads being full of large vehicles. This not only contributes to global environmental problems, but also ruining much of the beautiful countryside. Even worse, in the next year, the new HS2 network will be built on the fields around the back of my house. Further destruction of wide open land that we’d been blessed with.

The Real Competition

For me the path of least resistance is not the most rewarding and as a result not the one I chose. Other people motivate me, but do not see them as my competition. The only real competition is your past self. Desire to improve must to come from within, else it is not only unsustainable, but not enjoyable.

A Duty To Inspire

My dad has shared many stories of hardship that he had to endure growing up. This made him the strong minded human he is and led to the engraining of many significant values. My siblings and I were, in turn, passed these values. Pushing boundaries is something that can be done in every walk of life, not only sport, but in education, work and in one’s social life. I analyse the human population, and I see signs of devolving, our mental health not improving, but getting worse, and our resilience to much of life’s challenges bordering on non-existent.

 

 

 

I look at myself as a role model for others. I believe, the seemingly impossible, with the right mindset and determination, is in fact possible. In the words of TrueSapien ‘to fearlessly, passionately and grittily inspire an encourage others to unleash their own TRUESAPIEN!’

If you’ve liked what you’ve read and want to learn more about me please check out my blog Pocket Rocket Rach!

Challenge Life. Inspire. Be TrueSapien.

Challenge Life. Inspire. Be TrueSapien.

Why do the majority shrink and shy away from challenge? Has this reluctance to commit to personal challenge become second nature?

Whether it’s a physical challenge, career, personal or some other challenge, people everywhere are systematically wasting their potential. Happy living their lives completely within their comfort zones and never experiencing what life has to offer outside of it.

A Life Of Convenience

Yes, modern lifestyles are made physically and mentally more comfortable to due technological advances. Is it acceptable though, to not use our remarkable bodies and minds to the limits they are capable of?

A Disease

The ACCEPTANCE of Mediocrity is a disease.
Think of the people you know. Not those that you ‘know of’ (that is an entirely different story, distorted by the ‘fake’ success stories on social media). Think of those in your circle of friends, family and acquaintances. How many people do you know that settle for mediocrity or even less when it comes to their health, lifestyle or physical functionality? You probably even know the shit excuses that many of these hide behind. One thing these people are great at is making their ‘excuses’ VERY clear and obvious to all around them. You may even count yourself into this category or at least remember the time that you could.

Mediocrity Everywhere

They are everywhere you look. You’ll notice them at work, in the street or whilst you’re out eating or drinking. It’s clear to see that they are the majority. They have turned their backs on their natural physical instincts and have  lazily resigned themselves to never challenging themselves. In doing so, what example does this set for our future generations?

Competition

Maybe it’s a symptom of our society. Because it no longer encourages healthy competition even amongst our young children! As a result, I’m embarrassed every time I attend my daughter’s ‘Sports day’ to the point I hope it’s fucking rained off each year!
Surely such lack of competition will only accelerate the many negative health and social issues that are prevalent today. These issues are caused almost entirely by the lack of challenge and activity that competition is the catalyst for!
We are a society conditioned to taking the ‘easy’ option at every opportunity. As a result, we repeatedly make excuses for underachievement.

Reject Mediocrity

Because it’s how the majority choose to live their lives DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT.
Can it be right to live your life in the sewers and gutters of aspiration? Shying away spinelessly? Hiding in the shadows of the few that do repeatedly embrace and seek challenge? Never to feel the exhilaration and empowerment that pushing boundaries and experiencing the unknown creates? NO!
Is this an environment that our human bodies and minds are aligned with? If this were so our bodies would be thriving, virtually free from ailment and disease. But they are not. Lifestyle related illness is at record levels and projected to continue to rise at unprecedented rates.

Be TrueSapien

The human body and mind reacts positively to being pushed, to being tested, to being CHALLENGED!
TrueSapiens reject mediocrity by repeatedly challenging themselves, pushing and striving to be the best version of them self. TrueSapiens respect and celebrate their physical abilities. They actively seek opportunities to challenge it’s boundaries.

It is our duty to demonstrate a better way. To lead by example and inspire those around us.
That is the TRUE spirit of the SAPIEN.

Reject mediocrity, challenge life and BE TRUESAPIEN.