Winter Training Motivation

Winter Training Motivation

There is no doubt about it, it’s cold. The ice on my car windscreen says so. How is it possible to stay motivated for your fitness journey during the cold, dark and wet winter months? Let’s look at the problems we face with winter motivation and discuss some ways to keep going even when the odds seem stacked against us.

Why is winter training so tough?

Not only is it cold but for the full-time worker we seem to be living in eternal darkness. Out come the layers, the lights and the vitamin D and the summer bike moves onto the turbo for the indefinite future. Also, is it just me, or does getting ready to anything take twice as long in the long winter months?

I like to think of myself as a mentally strong girl. However, I do in fact seem to struggle with winter motivation more than I would like. I was having a particularly rough patch last year. Then, one of my friends reminded me I am, in fact not a superhuman. Like everyone else my body needs rest.

I am guilty of viewing myself as different to much of the population. This perhaps, a result of my obsessive nature and desire to be the best I can be. I often push myself too far, and in one circumstance to breaking point. It’s only in the last year that I have begun to decipher between being lazy and my body calling out for a rest. One of the most valuable life lessons I have learned.

What’s your why?

I recently wrote an article for my blog about my ‘why’. For me it is crucial in terms of motivation. If you are not working towards something it can be very easy to fall out of love with what you are doing. This results in feeling lost and a struggle for motivation. So, ask yourself; why do I do what I do? You might surprise yourself. Once you have answered the ‘why’ question, look at what is stopping you putting the training in. Now I am not talking in terms of work or family commitments, but mentally, why are you holding yourself back?

Forming the habit

I have had a number of people ask me how I manage to drag myself out of bed for a 6:30 swim or run. Well it’s because I have made it a habit, it’s part of my daily routine, and you might say I would feel lost without it. The alarm goes off, I get up and I get on with it, knowing that I will always feel better for having done the session. The winter months are all about building strength to be enjoyed and used in the summer months. Don’t get me wrong, very occasionally there will be a day where I choose to sleep instead, but this goes back to my previous comment about deciphering between being lazy and my body calling out for a rest.
I often find the hardest bit of a session is getting out of the door, so if you get that far you are 60% there.

Manipulating the mind

I often find myself picturing a time I felt particularly strong, for example running along the red carpet at the Ironman Wales finish line. I use this to drive myself forwards, because if you have done it before, you can do it again. Retaining a strong and positive mindset is crucial to training and racing, and if you can’t seem to do so the issue might be bigger than you think. I also find having a mantra really helps, mine is:  ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’

If you really find yourself in a hole, it might be time to look at your life as a whole. Something might be out of kilter and need addressing. be it work, family, or social life. If something is stressful and drawing on your energy, it will have an impact on the rest of your life too.

If you have any other top tips, feel free to comment below.

Be TrueSapien. Reject Mediocrity.

Thanks for reading and be sure to head over to my blog page!

Pocket Rocket Rach

Interval Training – An Overview

Interval Training – An Overview

If you’re serious about improving your running, Interval Training should be a key component to your training plan. It is simple and can be done in numerous ways. On the road, track or treadmill, varying distance or a time. it really is that simple.

So What Is Interval Training?

Interval TrainingInterval training is a physical activity consisting of alternating periods of high and low intensity activity.

That’s great but let’s put it even more simply. Run hard and run fast followed by a period of recovery repeated a number of times. The key to it is consistency. The time or distance at which you work hard must be repeatable, as is the time or distance you select to rest.

Benefits Of Interval Training

Interval training has many benefits. This is why most runners who take their running seriously, or want to achieve their goal add it to their programme.

  • Time Saver – Due to the nature of interval training it can’t be done for extended periods of time. This means it can easily be fitted around your busy day.
  • Calorific– There are some out there who purely run to manage their weight. Due to the intensity of interval training, you will burn more calories than if you went on a long run.
  • Healthy Heart – Over time your heart will get stronger meaning that it is able to pump more blood around the body per beat. The less beats your heart needs to do the less it gets used and the longer it will last.
  • Faster and Longer – Interval training will help teach your body to deal with lactic acid build up. The result of this means you can go for longer and harder before tiring.

Example Interval Session

These are just some of the benefits to Interval Training. Now let’s look at an example session.

Treadmill Session

Warm Up

10 minutes at a steady pace to warm the deep muscle tissue followed by some dynamic stretching to activate and mobilise the joints.

Interval Session

  • Stand with your legs either side of the treadmill belt and increase the speed to 19 kph and allow for 1 minute to pass.
  • On 1 minute get on the treadmill and run for 40 seconds.
  • Once 40 seconds has passed stand either side of the belt for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 9 times.
  • Following the 9th effort recover for 1 minute and low the speed to 18 kph.
  • Once 1 minutes rest is up get back on the treadmill and repeat however, this time for 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.
  • Repeat 9 times.

Cool Down

5 minute light jog followed by stretching.

Now this is an example of the session. You can adapt the speed to suit you. However, remember that it should be high intensity. It isn’t designed to be comfortable but I guarantee you will feel great when it’s done.

I will be back over the coming weeks with some other ideas and alternative sessions. In the meantime, you can read more advice and insights from me at my own website.

Be TrueSapien. Challenge Life.

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!

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!

‘The Secret’ To Being Fit And Healthy

‘The Secret’ To Being Fit And Healthy

Is there a ‘secret’ to being fit and healthy?

Being TrueSapien is as much about challenging attitudes and beliefs as it is to be challenging ourselves physically. After all, the former is usually the catalyst to the latter, right? There is no right or wrong, only opinion based on your own core beliefs. What is important, in fact CRUCIAL, in enabling you to live your best life and setting a worthwhile example, is that you QUESTION YOUR BELIEFS, make them YOUR OWN, not just INHERIT them.

In the coming months, we will be featuring insights from TrueSapien and runner James Wilson on the above as additional food for thought. You can find out more on James’s fitness journey and the accompanying ideas and insights on his own site HuntingThirty.
In this first instalment from James, he gives us his insight into… ‘The Secret’ behind being fit and healthy….

A duty

You have a duty to be fit and healthy. Moreover, you have a duty to STAY fit and healthy.

This duty is:
1) to yourself – give yourself the best prospect of a long and vibrant life, free from ailments;
2) to your family – ensure you can ‘be there’ for them, and reduce the chances of becoming a burden (which would unfairly diminish their quality of life);
3) to the state – lessen the chance of being admitted to hospital or reliance upon health services, to minimise financial implications for taxpayers and the state.

Seeing through the myths

Many people talk of how you can get fit, stay fit or what training plans really work. They talk of how you can lose ‘weight’, keep it off, and what diets really work and an abundance of idle chit-chat about ‘miracle plans’, ‘miracle diets’, ‘miracle solutions’ and so on.

You could do worse than ignore this talk if you are a beginner who wants to improve their health and fitness, and fulfil their duty. That’s because all this talk is superseded by a goal that must be reached if someone is truly serious about changing forever.

What is the goal and ‘The Secret?’

Simply put, the easiest way for you to get fit and STAY fit, is to become DEPENDENT on exercise. Just as a compulsive gambler can’t resist a wager. Just as an alcoholic becomes desperate for a drink. If you exercise consistently enough, you too will acquire a DEPENDENCY. But it will be a healthy dependency. Once you stick at it long enough, and your body and mind begin to understand the numerous benefits associated with regular exercise. You will become DEPENDENT on it to make you feel good and keep you feeling good.

A positive cycle

When you exercise, endorphins are released in your body which reduce pain, ease stress and boost feelings of positivity. Don’t fret about staying motivated. You only need to stay motivated long enough to acquire the dependency. After that, motivation will not be unnecessary, because you will be hooked.

It won’t take long before your body and mind actually NEED exercise. And when you feed that addiction, you will indeed ENJOY the experience of exercising. From that point onwards, you will be the person you wanted to be, and you will begin to challenge yourself further. You will have to try very hard to break your new-found dependency and return to your old sedentary lifestyle. But why would you want to go and do that?

Be TrueSapien. Challenge Life.