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.

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!

Motivation and how it is effected by seasonality

Motivation and how it is effected by seasonality

With summer over, autumn upon us and winter in our sights how does the change of season affect us as human beings? There are claims our brains are affected by seasonality such as huffingtonpost.com article How Different Seasons Affect The Way Your Brain Works, but does this relate to motivation?

Is SAD the only affect on motivation?

With exception of the New Year boost that is apparent from every gym around the world (from my limited view anyway) it seems it just might. There are plenty of articles about SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the shorter the days impact someone’s mood. Just check out the NHS page on SAD where the look at what it is, what the symptoms are and how we may treat it. It is without a doubt that it is a “Thing” and with a change of mood is a change in motivation.

Seasonality Affective Disorder on motivation

Avoid the Extremes…

In relation to your training days summer is by far the best time to get motivated, right? I’m not so sure myself. I am wondering if it is actually Spring and Autumn that are the best times of year to get motivated. After all, we aren’t battling the elements of extreme heat or extreme cold.

With winter giving short days and cold months you can see why it becomes that bit more difficult to have the “get up and go”. Summer on the other hand has the longest of days but with it comes the heat. On top of that there is the holidays and the temptation to join friends and family in social outings. This isn’t conducive to a prime time to motivate. Whereas Spring and Autumn days have a decent amount of sunlight. We have also not quite overcome by the buzz of summer or wound down in the dark months of winter.

…or embrace the challenge!

So, in relation to training and getting the most motivated it’s the less extreme months that allow us to start anew or push harder to reach goals. After all, the elements are in our favour. But Truesapiens enjoy the challenge, check out our “Be Truesapien” page. A run in minus temperatures is like waving a cookie in-front of a Sesame Street character; it just has to be done. It is a defiance of modern day living, its self-proof we can still brave the elements but most of all it’s exhilarating.

Keep it moving Truesapiens

It isn’t easy though when the cold gets bitter or it has been sweltering hot. I myself have fallen foul to the temptations of the temperature controlled gyms. Fact is perfect conditions allow perfection in performance which is great. Just like the invention of light makes us able to work and play at nights. With that said though, if we do not challenge our environment then why challenge ourselves. I’m a big fan of functional fitness but what is the point if I cannot test how I function the extremes!

The only thing I must stress is BE CAREFUL! Mother nature has no mercy and the likes of heat exhaustion or hypothermia is not something we should ignore. So gear up, fuel up and hydrate. Winter is coming and this may be when many may see motivation waver, but this is where TrueSapien’s can thrive!

Winter running

How To Survive An Ultra Marathon

How To Survive An Ultra Marathon

What is an Ultra Marathon? Even non runners will be familiar with the term Marathon but what makes a Marathon ‘Ultra’? How does it differ from a standard Marathon and what does it take to complete one?

Basically an Ultra Marathon is any race that is longer than a Marathon (26.2 miles). Some are several hundred miles long but most are in the region of 30-50 miles. Often off road or ‘trail’ based, popularity in these events has soared as they represent a further and enhanced challenge for se that have completed a standard Marathon.
Here, TrueSapien and ‘Explorunner’ Tim Caldwell kindly shares his experiences and insights gained from his first Ultra Marathon, a 50KM version of The NoMad Ultra earlier this year. Tim, a teacher by profession and a dedicated Father is a keen and avid runner and explorer (Explorunner!). He’s also deeply passionate about encouraging others to be active and to appreciate the great outdoors.

The ‘Ultra’ Challenge

Tim is a regular parkrunner and proud member of Long Eaton Running Club. He had previously participated in events from 5km up to the standard Marathon distance before committing to the NoMad Ultra Marathon that took place in June 2018. What additional challenges would this event pose?
“I felt fairly confident that my legs could take me to the finish line, as I had run over 50k in a test-run a couple of weeks beforehand, made up of a parkrun at Belton House and then an attempt to run home from there (70km away)” said Tim.

Navigation

“What I was less confident about was my ability to run/walk and navigate myself along the course, whilst remembering to feed and water myself appropriately along the way”.
Many Ultra Marathons aren’t fully marshalled, due partly to their distance and most aren’t on city streets like most Marathons. The additional requirement of good navigation certainly adds to the challenge! “After just 2 kilometres, a fellow Long Eaton RC runner and I had to shout towards the speedier starters as they’d already got lost, running away from the route and effectively about to join the path we were supposed to be running away from! Inside, I felt sorry for these runners, but also slightly smug that I hadn’t (yet!) got lost”.

The mental challenge

Due to the heat and terrain, even reaching the marathon equivalent distance of 42.2 km had been far more of a challenge to Tim than the Marathon he’d run only two months earlier. But Tim still had nearly 10km left to go….
“It was only the fourth time I’d travelled this far in one go, so it was no mean feat. What makes me smile now looking back, is that at this point, my mind was now going, ‘Great! You’ve probably only got 10k left now after you got lost and you can easily run 10k in 40 minutes, so a sub 5 hour time is still on!’ Yes, brain, thanks for that. Your optimism delights the sh*t out of me. However, brain, let’s get this straight. I’ve ALREADY run 4 lots of 10k, plus a bit more, and right now, I just want to finish.”

Beyond the Marathon

So how did the additional distance to his recently accomplished Marathon affect Tim and how did he cope? How much more difficult can 10k be??
Tim recalls “As I continued with those last 10 kilometres, it took sheer determination and a monumental effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My thighs were aching, almost feeling like they were detached from my bones and ready to fall off, onto the road. I was grunting like a warthog and it was getting warmer with every step.”Why is this the case? On the face of it an additional 10k should be fairly straightforward right? Wrong. Being an academic guy, Tim has this helpful theory for explaining the ‘actual required’ effort to cover this additional distance. “A 50k Ultra marathon is actually equivalent to 42.2km PLUS another 40km (i.e. 8 actual kms multiplied by 5 because that’s how it FEELS to your body). So in effect, you’re running 82.2km. Train for that and you’ll be about good to go and enjoy your 50k Ultra marathon!”

Other lessons learned

As well as this re-evaluation of the required distance for which to train, Tim also learned other valuable lessons. Regular calorie intake is essential to keep your body and your mind from shutting down. “The pink and white nougat bars that I’d brought with me were sensational. I’ve never enjoyed these more and I scoffed an entire one as I walked through a golf course on the route.” Another valuable lesson learned was that of effective hydration. At one point, inside the final 10km he realised he’d entirely run out of water! At that stage, due to the hot conditions, almost constant water intake is necessary. He’d failed to fully replenish his supplies at the last checkpoint! “I felt I had plenty left, so I’d just topped up conservatively. I won’t make that mistake again!”

Post race reflection

By their very nature, a true challenge should leave a permanent mark on you and improve you considerably as a person and be capable of inspiring others to emulate your achievement. What were Tim’s post-race reflections?
“I really challenged myself with this Ultra marathon race. I learned a lot from the process of training for it, getting and testing the right kit, talking to people, reccying the route, navigating using a range of different sources and seeing what I’m made of both physically and mentally. While I was disappointed with my finish time of 5:36, the fact that I’d finished it without anywhere near as many rests as in my training run was a big positive. I’d run further in one day than I ever have before and other than one navigational issue, everything else had gone really well.”

For a full account of Tims first Ultra Marathon and many other interesting running related posts please visit his blog page timsrunningworld.com

Be TrueSapien. Challenge Life.

The Perfect Workout Routine

The Perfect Workout Routine

There is no “one-size fits all” workout routine, but is there a blueprint for the amateur-athlete to ensure we can continue to strive in our goals and maintain healthy lifestyle? In general, yes there is; in a nutshell it is strength, cardio and skill training. No matter what you do, what your goals are you must ensure you have all three – after all, missing the right muscles for the job, without the heart and lungs being able and a lack of coordination, balance, movement etc… then no matter what your chosen discipline you’ll be falling short of where you want to be.

Eat, Sleep, Repeat, Repeat

There we have it; our perfect routine should ensure your workout is focused on your discipline and contains the right amount of strength, cardio and skill training. Of course, this includes correct nutrition, hydration and enough hours in dream world to recuperate and re-energise but it also must include repetition. Adequacy is easily attainable, anyone can put in just enough effort to take part. But we are TrueSapiens and we are not content with mediocrity. To be the best you can be, to be the master of your art, it takes a lot of time, effort and continuous work. Yes, we must challenge the body and mind with different techniques but that in itself is repetition: hone specifics skills or continually challenge yourself, perfection comes to those who engage in repetition.

consistency in your workout

It’s a Lifestyle Thing

You have most likely heard the words “Consistency is the key” a number of times and there is a plethora of motivational quotes to get us out of bed and back at it (one of my favourites “never stop, never stopping”). It’s a no brainer this one, but very much worth a mention. One point is to not look back, Improvement is something that happens, it is a future state so no need to dwell on what we did wrong or who is to blame. But when there is no motivation left be a routine – we are not always motivated to go to work but we do because it’s our routine and it pays the bills. Let your workout regime be your lifestyle routine, there no opting out as it pays you, which is as important as the bills.

The Missing Workout Element

Most of us with a small amount of knowledge know to warm-up and cool-down. We stretch, engage in mobility exercises and of course consume the right sustenance post workout. However, I believe the perfect workout routine is not in the hours a week where we put so much effort in to improve our performance, it’s in the day to day. It’s our day jobs, our social occasions and our downtime where we pick up our worst habits and bad traits. This is not to ban or constrain what we do, just to be more aware that we are developing outside the gym as well inside. The missing element is the focus to be better day in day out.

We can all be TrueSapien

None of this is primed for elitist only – to be TrueSapien is to be the best YOU can be. If you are stuck to a sofa wondering how to get fit again, if your merely wanting to play with your kids, get rid of an injury or