Sunday, 27 January 2013

I'm out

There are a variety of ways I could’ve begun this post but the title pretty much sums it up. I’m out; completely out of 2013 – as far as running is concerned.
The notion doesn’t sit very well with me but I think I’ve got to the stage when I have to be realistic as opposed to optimistic. For 12 weeks now I’ve done everything to rid myself of my mystery hip injury and it shows no sign of abating. If anyone doubts this please refer here. I say mystery because one day it refers over the left trochanter, the next the right and the next the right groin – though the vast majority of the time I feel as though I have a tight groin – like every minute of the day. The only thing left to do is ask my GP for a referral for further up the chain – which is what I have now done.

I’m not going to drag this post out with an in-depth analysis of what I think went wrong and what the experts have thus far told me. The long and short of it is that I am still injured and I am unable to freeze time to allow it to heal – so that I can still take part in this year’s events.

I’ve already pulled out of the Calderdale. The fling is 3 months from now. The only way I would commit to that now is if my injury miraculously cleared up today – and it hasn’t. I went for a gentle 4 miler this morning and bang - within 20 minutes it started niggling again – spreading out from the groin. A sure sign that all is not right especially when one considers the lack of running I’ve done recently. Call it what you will; the last straw that broke the camels back.

So, considering I need to take a complete break from running I think it’s sensible to un-cancel my Hemorroidectomy. That will take place up to 3months from now and has a 6 week running lay-off thereafter. Perhaps it is a little clearer why I have said that 2013 is a complete wipe out? And that’s not counting any prognosis of the latest mystery set-back.

Yeah sure, I could have the op’ and do some build up to the WHW, Devil’ and High Peak 40 but I don’t want to just complete them. I know I can do them…..with injury. That’s a story I’ve lived. I want it to be different now; train properly and avoid injury.

Anyway, I’ve emailed the organiser’s/directors of the three races held over the West Highland Way and informed them of my decision to pull. I’ve been putting it off for weeks and today I just felt it was time I called it.

Where does that leave this blog? I’m a long way from finishing my four pillars of ultimate performance and reading this now I understand that it would seem how delusional I might seem. All I can say is that I don’t doubt myself. It may be that I am not destined to run and that I have wasted a precious amount of time simply trying to be more mediocre than before.

If that’s the case then so be it, time will tell. I intend to deal with this properly when my body lets me. And as there is still so much for me to share I will resume the blogging when the time is also right.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Strength workouts for runners

Each of these sessions should take no more than 20mins to complete.

A few years ago I learnt a couple of things about weight training that have stayed with me ever since. Before I go on I’d like to share them with you;

1.       When you train one part of the body during a session you must also train the opposite part. This ensures your training remains balanced. For example, if you intend on a bicep session you have to do the triceps too; chest and back etc.

2.       The only body parts/areas that should be trained on consecutive days are the abs (core) and the legs. This ensures adequate recovery and as we all know it is during recovery that improvements in fitness are made.

3.       Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to consume masses of protein either pre or post workout. As an endurance athlete you need 1.3g of protein per kg of body weight every day. Body builders need approx’ 1.7g per kg of body weight. The difference is more subtle than manufacturers of ‘muscle building’ supplements would have you believe.

I use free weights. However, you can use your imagination and utilise your own body weight, household items or pulley machines at your nearest public/private membership gym.

Many of you will be familiar with the terms ‘reps’ and ‘sets’, so I’ll not go down that road. Broadly speaking you should be looking to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise – with a weight that you struggle to do 15reps with.

Now then, having said that, I do something slightly different; I perform each exercise immediately one after the other and then that whole session counts as a set for me. I’ll then rest for a minute and repeat the whole thing again. I do that three times in total. Does that make sense?

I got this tip from the book; the 4 hour body. Essentially, it gets my heart rate pumping a lot more than it would do otherwise, it saves me loads of time and it turns my body into a ‘fat burning furnace’ when I’m at rest.

Our focus is on all body strength. So there are 3 upper body workouts and 2 lower body workouts. As said beforehand, Olga gave me the basis for these routines but I’ve subtly changed them to suit.

Note; if you aren’t familiar with these types of exercise and you feel you might want to give them a try, why not take a note and google or youtube them. That’s what I do, if I can’t visualise something.

Upper body 1 (chest and back)

1.       50 dumbbell jog swings

2.       Decline bench press

3.       Wide arm overhand pull-ups

4.       30 Decline bench sit-ups

5.       Bent over row

6.       30 decline bench twist-sits

7.       Underarm pull-ups

Upper body 2 (arms)

1.       EZ bar curls

2.       20 Tricep dips

3.       Hammer bar curls

4.       Decline bench overhead tricep press

5.       Dumbbell curls

6.       Lying cross over extensions

Upper body 3 (shoulders)

1.       Overhead barbell press

2.       Hammer bar curls

3.       Decline bench overhead tricep press

4.       Alternate overhead dumbbell press

5.       EZ bar shrugs

6.       Bent over rows

7.       Punch bag – all out for 30secs

Lower body 1

1.       Dumbbell squats

2.       Deadlifts

3.       Bulgarian squats

4.       20 Standing calf raises (with 40lb pack on)

5.       40 seated calf raises (40kg on knees)

6.       Hamstring curls (inverted on exercise ball)

Lower body 2

1.       Single leg squats

2.       20 clams

3.       Reverse dumbbell lunge

4.       20 standing calf raises (with pack on)

5.       40 seated calf raises (weight on knees)

In a future post, I’ll show how these are included in my programme but essentially I’ll get through all workouts within every two weeks. I also sprinkle in other strength related workouts in that same time period and in a future post I’ll log what those are specifically. For now though they relate to;

        I.            Core workouts

      II.            Plyometrics

    III.            Physiotherapy workouts

    IV.            Intense circuits

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A new way to train

Around 6 months ago I penned a rather frustrated picture of myself in the curse of a novice runner. It was here that I acknowledged once and for all that four years of trying just wasn’t working out. I had been training hard (too hard) and was on the receiving end of set back after set back. That effort bred inconsistency and ultimately confusion.

I had been training via programmes I had built myself. They were based on military experience, the books I had read, an over-inflated ego and more recently the vast array of blogs I had been following.
The first mistake was the books. Until the last year or so I had only ever read books that were designed for marathon training and alike. I took the parts I thought to be important for ultra running and simply over-cooked them to form an ultra training programme.

The second mistake was allowing my ego to have a say. I believe that some people probably battle with this for a while (whilst others are oblivious) and very much like ultra running, this is a journey you-alone-must go through to bottom it out. I’m not out of the woods yet but I think I have a much better handle of it now.
The third mistake was studying blog after blog. This process really was like panning for gold. For every 50 or so blogs read I would probably find a tiny morsel worth holding onto. Don’t get me wrong, reading blogs is a great pastime but when you’re searching for answers against a backdrop of life’s issues and getting little in return the process is simply frustrating. I don’t tend to read anywhere near as much as I used too.

I understand that we are all different and therefore do not share the same intentions when writing; what might appeal to me will not to others and vice versa. For example, I know that some people find me to be too serious and yes that is one side to my personality.
However, I’m now in a position to share all of those tiny morsels and everything else that I have recently learnt as part of my Four Pillars of Ultimate Performance series; this, for example, is intended as a chapter within ‘Physical Conditioning’.

In the curse of a novice runner I stated that I had been training wrong BUT as it will be shown, I was doing nearly everything that I should’ve been. It just wasn’t structured properly and of course there was too much of it. I’m not talking about mesocycles and macrocycles – I’m on about the specifics of what to do during the week. I also concluded that post by saying I felt I needed help before I resumed training.
This is how I found it; a short time afterwards, and without consciously looking for any advice, I read Steve Q’s post about different types of coaches and how they should match the athlete. This had never occurred to me but made perfect sense. I followed a link from that post to Carilyn Johnson’s blog and from there followed another link to Olga King’s blog.

Olga speaks from the heart and is a straight-talker; consider the name of her blog. When I read that post I was spellbound and immediately felt a connection – one that led me to believe fate had crossed our paths. I acted upon that chance encounter straight away by emailing her.
In the end, the programme I received didn’t look all that different from what I was doing but it had subtle differences, was less time consuming and contained one new thing;

I’m still doing weights. Now however, I’m not trying to kill myself and set the bar higher with every session. This is probably a male thing (or and ego thing), I love doing weights but now I’ve come to realise its true purpose. Running is an all body exercise, just as rugby players must be bulky (to be robust), we must be robust (but in a specific way) to mitigate the continual rigours of running.

I will detail my weights sessions in future posts – like I have said previously though, Olga provided the basis of this new understanding, I have simply revised her workouts given to me.

I’m still cycling on my turbo trainer. This is used primarily as a cross training recovery session. When your running muscles are in need of some time off it is important to realise that you should still train the ventilating muscles – which account for up to 15% of your effort expenditure when exercising.
I’m still doing plyometrics. They’re not as explosive as the type I was doing beforehand but they’re at a good level of intensity and provide the right balance of what is required during my early phases of training.

Now for the big change; the running. This is devised around the McMillan method of running which essentially means that throughout your cycle (e.g. a week) you should run at varying intensities. No longer am I just running easy for most of the week with one lung buster thrown in for good measure.
Instead, this part of the training is incredibly structured by using a heart rate monitor. So for example, weekly (or cyclical) running volume should be calculated on the following basis;

·         Recovery sessions are done at between 65 and 72% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).
·         Base (easy) sessions are done at between 72 and 79% of MHR.
The above should be 45% of your weekly total

·         Marathon paced sessions are done at between 79 and 90% of MHR.
90mins or 12% of weekly total

·         Threshold sessions are done at between 88 and 92% of MHR.
60mins or 10% of weekly total, track 800-1600m

·         Interval sessions are done at between 93 and 97% of MHR.
8% of weekly total, hills or track between 3-7mins

·         Repetition sessions are done at >95% of MHR.
5% of weekly total, 200-400m track
Clearly, this can get a bit technical for some people but you know there must be a good reason for its existence as a method of running training. And besides, if you’re leaving a coach to work it out for you all you need to do is follow the plan.

Please note this isn’t an argument for which method of running training is best. I’m aware there are different ways to train (Lydiard, Daniels, Cavona, etc) but this is my first taste of structured and specific running training. I’m also aware of the differences in training by perceived effort, heart rate range and pace range. For now, I will stick with the heart rate. Training by feel is my ultimate goal as I have acknowledged previously.

Obviously, one would not try to fit all of the zones (above) into a weekly cycle. I follow a process of 1 week recovery and three week progression where each of those three weeks gets incrementally more challenging. And each of these four week blocks are designed with a goal in mind too e.g. strength, endurance, speed, taper etc. So some cycles have more intervals in them than others.
One key thing to remember here though is that speedwork is included in every week. As I  said to the Pirate previously, this fact alone rules out any argument as to whether ultra runners should do any speed training or not.

In terms of physical conditioning, there is only one thing I have not addressed in my lead up to 2013. That is a proper base training phase. Olga has told me that would take 6months to do; therefore I do not have time. My intention is to get the Triple Crown done, take some time off (for my operation – referred to in the previous post) then build back up with said base training in preparation for my as yet undecided goals for 2014.
One other specific, I try to do all of my long stuff off road, on trails.

So I suppose all of this will only make sense if my performances pick up and I become a lot more consistent. Although I have been injured for the last 8 weeks, I am quietly confident that 2013 will be a good year.
Up until I received that hip injury I had been running stronger and more efficiently than ever. For example, I did a 1.5mile time trial on a treadmill and got a pb (sub 8mins) and was noticing finishing my long runs feeling as though I could do the same again i.e. not feeling washed out and ready for a rest.
For now though, I’m taking those nuances with a pinch of salt. Treadmill running for example is done predominantly with the hip flexors whereas natural outdoor running (at speed) can be dominated by the hamstrings (thanks to my mate Chris for this insight). My hip flexors are way more powerful than my hamstrings and always have been. Also, I have seriously addressed my nutrition and mental strength in preparation for 2013 – something else I wish to share as soon as I have the time to do so.
One of the benefits of this new training regime is the aerobic fitness consistency. Almost 2 weeks ago I was delighted to realise that my hip injury had cleared up. However, during that 14miler I pulled my right hip flexor.

I did what I always do and carried on running for another 4 days before I told myself to screw the nut and revert to cross training until it cleared up. As I’ve been following the principles of injury prevention and mitigation (recently penned), I hope I will be clear as of tomorrow’s 4 mile recovery run.
Anyway, by the time I had done that run 4 days after I pulled my hip flexor I was already back to my previous best running pace (at base pace). Beforehand, it would’ve taken me between 5-6weeks to get that fitness back. Needless to say, my confidence is good.

My confidence has also taken a surge recently having read Brain Training for Runners (BTR) and The Winners Brain (WB). I’m doing many of the things suggested in those books and ironically have been for a while now. For example, whenever I have been running within the last 12months my thoughts are focussed on my technique (BTR). More recently, those having read this blog will understand that I have been delving deep within to truly understand myself too (WB). I will write more about these books in future posts but if you want to cover every facet of your own running, I strongly suggest you get them for yourself.
I have essentially missed my strength build up phase (running wise) in my lead up to what is to come. But nothing is ever perfect and I’m fitter now than I would’ve been had I done what I was used too and taken a few weeks off – to recover!

From now until the fling I have two 4-weekly cycles of endurance build up, then a 4-week speed sharpening cycle before a taper. If I could work out how to put the programme on here in an easy to read format I would but I’ve not got the time to re-teach myself photoshop. Perhaps another day, just not this year I’m afraid.
What I might do is summarise a weekly or 4 weekly block in subsequent posts? I will also pen the specific workouts i.e. the nuts and bolts of what makes this thing stick together. As stated, I also really want to share what I’ve learnt about nutrition (Advanced Sports Nutrition, edn 2) and mental strength. But there’s only so much time in a day.

Here’s to later then……….