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Training for the Ironman

As athletic challenges go, the Ironman triathlon is certainly one of the most brutal. A grueling 2.4 mile swim, followed immediately by a punishing 112 mile bicycle ride, a torturous 26.22 mile run, and the right to call yourself an Iron man (or woman!), even if you don’t win. Most events have a strict 17 hour time limit, typically starting at 7am and ending at midnight.

On February 18, 1978, twelve athletes completed the first Ironman event in Hawai’i. The Ironman is organized by the World Triathlon Corporation and these events are the only ones that can officially be called “Ironman”. Other differences between Ironman and other triathlons include distances, time limits, and time needed to prepare for the event. Most participants in other triathlons spend a few hours a week, while preparing for the Ironman event requires 15-20 hours per week or more.

Preparing for the Ironman

With all the hours needed to prepare for the event, it’s no surprise that injuries, especially overuse injuries, are common. You can minimize your risk of injury with a well thought out training program. The Sydney Chiropractors at NeuroBalance suggest to keep these things in mind as you prepare for this event:

Start slowly – If you’ve been sedentary for a while, you should probably not start with trying to run a 5K tomorrow. Pushing your body too hard too quickly is a recipe for injury. A good rule of thumb is to increase your training intensity by about 10% each week. You will need to push yourself, just do it gradually.

Get the right mindset – Endurance depends a great deal on mindset. Events like the Ironman are not just physically demanding, but mentally taxing as well. Meditation, visualisation, and positive self-talk can all help improve your performance and reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can zap your energy early in the race.

Stretch – Stretching helps increase your range of motion and stimulates blood flow, minimizing the risk of injury and helping with your recovery. Stretching before training (but after warming up) can help calm your mind and prepare your body for what’s to come.

Fuel your body – There is a reason a lot of athletes think of food as fuel, and training for an event such as the Ironman requires a lot of good quality fuel. Healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates are all important to help you keep going. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water, especially if you’re training in the heat.

Treat injuries when they happen – You already know that you’re going to experience discomfort when training for something big, but it’s important to recognise the difference between the kind of discomfort that means you’re successfully pushing your limits, and the kind of pain that indicates overuse. Attempting to push through the pain of an injury will only make the injury, and the pain, worse. If you experience any kind of pain, have it looked at and use RICE, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Enjoy the journey – Training for the Ironman, or any big race, is a commitment. Expect that there are going to be days you don’t even want to get off the couch, much less go out for a run. Make some friends with others who are in training.

Take pride – It doesn’t matter if you win your event, or if you’re the last one across the finish line. Just by showing up and giving your all, you’ve accomplished more than most people ever even attempt, and that’s something to be proud of.

Get support – Ironman is a social activity. It’s so intense that it’s easy to become discouraged or feel like you’ve hit a wall. Having a good support system can give you the push you need to keep going when you want nothing more than to quit.

The Last 7 Days Before Your Big Race

Race Week

The week of an important race is a critical time. Too much or too little stress will leave you with either flat or tired on race day. When done right, a week of tapering finishes off the peak period by boosting physical abilities and sharpening mental skills. Let’s examine how the plan for a peak performance by counting down the days leading to an A-priority race.

Six Days before the Race

For a Sunday race, today is Monday. This is a good day for an active recovery ride or day off since the day before was probably a race effort simulation at the end of a peak period week. Don’t lift weights today or any day this week. Now is not the time to tear down muscle tissues or attempt to maintain strength. If you find yourself exceptionally tired from the previous day’s workout, a day off is wise. This is a good day to get your bike ready for the race by cleaning it, ensuring bolts are tight, lubricating all movement parts, and ensuring the wheels. Most of the rides this week are done on a road bike, but at least one race effort, although short, should be off-road.

On these rides, make sure that everything is working properly. Race day is not the time to discover a mechanical problem. One exception is race tires. These are best saved until the day before the race to protect them from cuts and tiny slivers that could go unnoticed. When installing your race tires later this week, check them for potential problems.

Today and everyday this week, be cautious about how much and what you eat. Due to the increased workload, fewer calories are needed, but the tendency is to eat normally or even reward yourself by overeating. By the end of the week, you may have gained an extra pound or so, primarily due to the storage of water. That’s okay, but avoid adding body fat.

Three to Five Days before the Race

If the race is on a Sunday, this period consists of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Rest is still the most important ingredient, but some intense effort is also necessary. Feeling flat on race day may result from not riding hard a few times this week. Several university studies have demonstrated that a moderate and decreasing amount of high-intensity during a taper week produces better endurance, performances than either total rest or easy slow training. The reason for this is that the rest allows glycogen stores to rebuild, increases aerobic enzyme levels, boosts blood volume, and allows for repair of damaged tissues. Well-spaced, high-intensity training maintains or even improves muscle recruitment patterns. Not doing any high-intensity in this week is likely to leave you feeling a bit weak on short climbs and a little awkward on the bike at high cadence. The speed skill and power abilities are lost first when workload is reduced. Maintenance of this must be paramount in race week.

Brief bursts of intense movement with long recoveries are effective for these days. Another workout sometimes riders complete at this time is 90-second repetitions at race intensity or just slightly harder than they do one of these repetitions for every day remaining until race day. So, if it’s Tuesday and the race is Sunday, five days away, that would be five reps of 90 seconds. Wednesdays would have four of these reps, Thursday three. There is a 3-minute recovery after a trip and then fewer of them done each day. This workout is not stressful. A full recovery is certain by the next day, yet they are long and intense enough to maintain and even sharpen race-specific fitness. At least one of these workouts should be off-road.

Thursday is the best day to pre-ride the course. Pay special attention to the technical sections, places where you might be able to pass other riders, corners in fast descent, and landmarks approaching the finish line. Because it’s off-road, this workout will be hard enough without adding any repetitions or power work. Be careful not to make it long, however. One or two laps at the most if you’re playing close attention is enough. This is best done at the time of day of your race. If possible, stay off your legs for the rest of the day.

Two Days before the Race

This is Friday for a Sunday race. The emphasis today is on making sure you are rested for the race. If you arrive at the race site today, it’s still better to take the day off and ride the course tomorrow. It’s important you get one last day of full recovery. If travelling to the race today, the night before is the time to pack your bike. Travel is quite stressful, so anything you can do to reduce its psychological and physical impact is beneficial. A travel checklist that includes everything you might want to take reduces your fear of forgetting something.

Another stress reliever is travelling with a non-racing friend or spouse who can deal with the inevitable hassles as they arise. Besides staying calm and relaxed as you can today, eat food that you are accustomed to. Drink plenty of water, not sports drink, throughout the day. Go to bed at the time that is normal for you.

The Day before the Race

Today is the last time to work-out before the race. If you’ve arrived at the race venue yesterday, it’s also the time to check out the course. If it is possible, the best time to do this is at the hour you’re supposed to race tomorrow. That way, shadows, wind, and air temperature are likely to be much as they will be tomorrow. Keep this course preview mostly as easy as possible, but attack a few short hills at race effort. Of course, it’s better to have done this earlier in the week, leaving today free to practice your warm-up routine.

Rehearsing all the details of the warm-up today, including when, where, how, and how long will make the real thing easier tomorrow. The warm-up should have enough intensity to maintain race fitness and keep you from feeling flat tomorrow. Avoid rushing through the pre-race administration process. Keep everything in perspective today by minimizing the significance of the inevitable day before the race hassles. Remain calm and collected and don’t let anything frazzle you. Neither physical nor psychological energy should be wasted today.

After all race activities are taken care of, get your mind off the race. Avoid crowds and nervous athletes and stay off your legs and out of the sun. Some possible activities include going to a movie, renting a DVD, watching TV, and reading. Throughout the day, continue to sip from a bottle of water, not sports drink and don’t allow hunger to set in. Also, don’t overeat today. Have dinner a bit on the early side. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and roughage. Eat foods that are normal for you the day before the race.

Race Day

If you’ve carefully prepared during the week, there is little that can go wrong today. Now, it’s simply a matter of following a procedure ritual that hopefully you’ve done scores of times before. The day of an A-priority race is not the time to experiment with new pre-race rituals. Stick with what you know works.

Race day rituals are important because they let you operate without making decisions, allowing you to think highly about what is important for the coming race. There is a confident, focused, and business-like manner about the successful athlete’s pre-race rituals from the moment of waking until the race starts. If you don’t have a ritual established for race day, waking, eating, and travelling, do see priority races and hard workouts develop one that exactly fits your needs and personality. This will allow you to prepare calmly and confidently prepare for an important race.

Overtraining & The Signs Of Burnout

Overtraining is a decreased capacity for work that slowly develops from an imbalance between stress and rest

 

The overtrained athlete experiences declining performance and a nagging exhaustion that no longer responds to a few days rest. These are the best indicators of overtraining and is also known as “Staling”.

When faced with the onset of this condition, athletes are just as likely to increase their training load instead of taking time off. It is a natural reaction to a decline in fitness or performance. It’s quite rare that an athlete will take it upon themselves to rest when things aren’t going well.

Poor performance and exhaustion don’t always result from overtraining, sometimes it can be brought on from ‘overliving’. This is where the stress of training is magnified by the busy lives we lead outside of training and racing. Trying to fit too much into the day. For a working class athlete you are dealing with a full time job, raising children, maintaining the house, keeping a social life and other real life responsibilities. These all take a toll on physical and psychological energy. Combine this with a high training workload and the result is often the kind of decreased performance and chronic exhaustion that overtraining causes.

When and athlete is faced with this dilemma, training is the stress that must be reduced, no matter how low the athlete thinks their workload already is. Calling in sick for work is probably not an option, nor can the kids be told to fend for themselves. The grass still needs to be mown and the washing still needs to be done.  At such times, the only option is to train less and relax more.

Overtraining that is is a result strictly from training and not from lifestyle stress is produced by one or more of 3 common training excesses:

  1. Workouts are too long (excess duration)
  2. Exertion is too high too often (excess intensity)
  3. Too many workouts are done in too little time( excess frequency)

Probably the most common cause in working class athletes is excess intensity. Either the athlete starts anaerobic endurance too soon in the season and tries to keep it going for several months or they space the hard workouts too close together. Depending on your sport, most endurance sports events are about 90% aerobic and 10% anaerobic. That’s roughly the same mix necessary for optimal training. An excess emphasis on anaerobic effort week after week without adequate recovery ultimately leads to overtraining.

Overtraining Indicators

When overtraining is imminent, the body issues warnings.

Physical Overtraining Warnings:

Reduced performance, constant fatigue, weight change, increased thirst, morning HR change, muscle soreness, swollen lymph glands, diarrhea, injury, infection, amenorrhea, decreased exercise HR, slow healing of cuts and abrasions.

Behavioral Overtraining Warnings:

Apathy, lethargy, depression, poor concentration, changes in sleep pattern, irritability, decreased libido, clumsiness, sluggishness, craving for sugar.

 

The indicators of overtraining are not the same for all athletes, or are they consistent for any one athlete. Any single indicator, such as lethargy, is not a reliable predictor of overtraining when taken by itself. Some unique mix of indicators is almost always present in an overtrained athlete.

Many elite athletes have blood chemistry testing done in the preparation or early base phases of their training. This establishes a healthy baseline for later comparison should their training start becoming overwhelming. When they aren’t responding normally to training during other periods of the season, they have blood taken and tested again to see if there are significant differences such as changes in serum iron (a common cause of lagging power and endurance). Blood testing may also help rule out health related issues that may be affecting the athletes performance. A Dr will interpret the results of the blood test.

Such testing may help serious athletes of all abilities determine the cause of poor performance and perhaps even issues like poor nutrition. But regardless of the cause, if the condition is suspected to be overtraining, the first stage of treatment is rest.

Stages of Overtraining

To become overtrained you must pass through 3 overlapping and indistinct stages. The first stage is Overload. A normal part of the process of increasing the training workload in order to cause adaption. If the load is appropriate, it results in over compensation. It’s typical to have short term fatigue when experiencing overload. At this stage fatigue easily decreases with 2-3 days rest, depending on the athlete. It’s also common during this stage to feel you are invincible. That feeling often leads to the next stage.

The second stage is Overreaching. Overreaching is where the workload may rise slightly for a period of 2 weeks or more. Extending your build phase without a rest weeks is another common cause of overreaching. After 2 or more weeks of this, performance begins to decline. This may be apparent in workouts at this time, as high motivation is allowing you to maintain race day performance. Fatigue lasts longer than in the overload stage, but with a few consecutive days rest, it is still reversible. What often happens though is the athlete decides to increase the training workload or skips rest days in order to improve what appears to be a drop in performance. This brings on the third stage.

The third stage is a full blown overtraining syndrome. Fatigue is now chronic. You wake up tired and remain tired all day, yet you struggle to get to sleep at night. Your body is exhausted. Neither decreased training or even a few days rest make any difference. You’re overtrained.

The Geography of Overtraining

The challenge for the serious athlete is the trip to the ‘peak of fitness’ passes through the ‘valley of fatigue’ and dangerously close to the edge of ‘overtraining’. Excessively increasing the training load causes a decline in fitness as marked by performance, pushing you to the edge.

The idea is to go to the edge infrequently, once every 4 weeks or so and then REST. Since it takes about 3 weeks of increasing the training load to overtrain, you need to allow for recovery after no more than 21 days. Athletes of about age 40 or older and novices may need to recover more frequently, perhaps after only 2 weeks of increased training. To go beyond occasional overreaching is to fall over the edge and start the downward spiral to overtraining.

When you enter the valley of fatigue, overtraining indicators appear. You will continually experience excessive fatigue and even poor sleep quality as well as muscle soreness and other indicators as mentioned above. The athlete that has just gone over the edge is often confused about what is wrong., since the overtraining indicators may be few in number and not very severe. When you suspect a hint of overtraining there is only one course of action to take, REST. Take 2 full days of complete rest, meaning 2 days of zero training. Then try a very light easy workout. If still fatigued, take another 2 days off and repeat the easy workout. It could take 5 – 8 weeks of this to fully recover from overtraining. All the while, a great deal of fitness is lost.

Read a first hand account of trying High Intensity Interval Training for the first time.

10 Tips on Meeting Your Competitive Goals

Life is about learning to overcome challenges, and competing in sports is one of the most exciting ways to do that. No matter what sport you are going for, like running, cycling, swimming, or even triathlons, you have started down a new path. You have found something that you enjoy, and now you want to do more, to go higher.

My life has been filled with athletic endeavors, including skiing, swimming, mountain biking, hiking, running and years of working out at health clubs along the way. I was a competitive swimmer from ages 7 to 18. As a child, I resisted the long workouts and racing path that my parents made me take. I thought I was being tortured because I had to work out twice a day in the summer, including swimming the 88 pool laps which equaled a mile.

I realize now that my competitive swimming days were something that actually changed my life. Because I started so young at building muscle and being healthy, it put me on a path of fitness that I have followed my whole life. I believe I am healthier as an adult because of the workouts I did as a youth. Competitive swimming taught me the strong inner drive that I rely upon today.

Here are some easy things to remember as you prepare for your next race, meet or match. I hope these basic ideas will give you the inspiration you need to achieve anything.

 

Be confident

Confidence is the one thing you need more than anything else. Believe in yourself, and know that you are capable of doing anything you want to do. It is all about having a positive mental attitude, right from the beginning. Your mental focus is the power to go the extra mile when you need to.

 

Set goals

This might sound overly simple, but setting goals is another important step on the road to success. If you don’t set your goals, how can you get to any destination? You need to decide what you want to achieve, like what distances you want to do, personal best times to make, and what upcoming events you are going to compete in. It is up to you to set those goals for yourself. This is something no one else can decide for you.

 

Team up

This is another step that I believe is essential to success regardless of what sport you are in. Find someone, or a group that shares your interest. You need a partner that you can workout with, ride with, swim with, run with etc.. Any experience is better if you can share it with someone else. Other people can help you stay motivated and focused. And working out with others will help you measure your progress, while making it more interesting and fun.

 

Work hard

Competing in any sport requires some work. You will find out quickly that it’s not going to be easy, and it’s probably going to be the hardest thing you have ever done. Know this before you start and you will be one step ahead of the game. Whatever results you get will depend on the amount of effort you put into it. The harder you work at training, the more results you are likely to see, and you will be more prepared for your event when the time comes.

 

Be persistent

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is by not setting a regular routine for their training workouts. You have to stick with whatever program you have outlined for yourself, or your trainer has set up if you want to succeed. Your trainer has given you a workout with specific goals in mind. Be serious about your routine and it is important not to miss days or weeks. Breaking your routine is like taking a step backwards. Don’t let anything interfere with your routine.

 

Have courage

Doing something new comes with a unique set of challenges. And when you discover what those challenges are, you will need to meet them with courage. We all have fears about failing, or not being able to reach our goals. It’s ok to fail. What you do when that happens defines who you are. The only way to face your fears is to meet them with the courage to overcome them.

Don’t give up

You have to decide before you even get started that you are not going to give up on your goals when the going gets tough. You will have obstacles to meet like losing a race, or getting injured. Things will happen that you don’t expect. Don’t give in to your weaknesses. Be determined. Just keeping going and you will feel better.

 

Track your progress

It is essential to have some way of tracking your progress. Keep a record of what you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Then you can look back at any time and see how far you have come. Whether it is keeping track of your weight, your times, or your races, this is very important. I have always found that looking back helps me to realize and appreciate how far I have come and motivates me to do more.

 

Reward Yourself

When you get to a point where you have done something, whether it is a small goal or a large goal, like winning a race, you should reward yourself in some way. Celebrate the moment! Give yourself a pat on the back! Have a party with your friends, buy yourself something you have always wanted, especially if it is the right gear you need. You have earned it.

 

Share what you know

Some people may not realize the power in teaching what you know, but this can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. After you achieve a goal, find someone else in your sport who could use a hand. Maybe you have to ask around, or maybe you know a young person who can benefit from what you know. Offer to teach someone a few things and you will discover that the rewards of helping someone else will benefit you in much larger ways than you can imagine.

 

A big thank you to our wonderful reader Karen for this inspiring and very helpful guide to help you achieve your goals. 

If you want to connect with Karen, you can follow her on twitter @idaho1111

Tips For Running With Flat Feet

Running with Flat Feet

Running with flat feet can be incredibly painful for your entire body. Eventually it is going to cause pain to run up your legs and into your back due to the incorrect method of running. Of course, there isn’t much you can do about the shape of your feet, but you can improve the way your feet come in contact with the ground. To do this, you need to seek out special footwear and other elements that are available to you. This way, you can avoid injury and remain comfortable for as long as you run.

Good Support

To start, you want to support your ankles while you run. In order to do this, select an orthotic arch support insert that slides into your shoes. This is going to help improve the form of your arch, which helps reduce the pain you might feel during and after running. Now, the exact kind of arch insert you need is going to vary, so there are a few different ways to go about doing this.

You don’t want to just start randomly purchasing these inserts as it can become expensive, so instead you want to either head to the pharmacy section of your store and use the arch reading machine there, or you want to head to your doctor’s office. Your doctor is able to tell you exactly what kind of arch is best for your feet. On the other hand, the machine can do a pretty good job at reading your arch and prescribing you with the correct arch insert. This is less expensive but it is not as accurate all the time.

Special Exercises

Because your arches are going to be a bit weaker due to the formation of your feet, you need to strengthen your arches to build them up. There are some basic exercises you can do in order to do this. First, you want to start with toe curls. To do this, sit in a chair and place a towel on the floor directly in front of you. Now, with your bare feet, place them on the towel so your knees are right above your ankles at around a 90 degrees.

From here, curl your toes to gather a ridge of the towel under them, then pull the towel towards you. Do this 10 times or so to work this. Of course, you can always do this while you are at work or watching television, so it isn’t something that should take much time out of your day to do.

Best Running Surface


While you run, make sure you run on level surfaces such as a sidewalk or, better yet, a track. Uneven surfaces can cause different areas of your foot to come in contact with the surface of the ground differently. So, this means avoid running on grass. You may want to consider a knee brace if your knees suffer while running like this. A track is desirable because it does have some bounce in it and doesn’t harm your knees as much. Beyond this, select running shoes that are not over padded with too much cushion. Let the insert be the cushion.

 

Thanks to our friends over at Hix Magazine for some very handy tips for those flat footers out there.

 

Having trouble getting out in the cold for a run, check out these great winter running tips

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My First Introduction To HIIT

HIIT me!

Its winter and the time of year where everyone is so busy with life that exercise doesn’t really get a look in, it happens to the best of us. So, while I was on the train home a couple of week’s back I was looking for a quick workout to do before I started dinner and came across HIIT-High intensity interval training.

12 mins and enough of a workout to burn calories for a while after I’d finished seemed like a win win situation to me. After all who doesn’t have 12 minutes to spare? In the spirit of trying something new I decided to give it a go for 2 weeks and then document it for you lovely readers.

 

Day 1 – Optimism

I’m feeling pumped by the time I get in the door at how much time this new workout will save. I estimate I can exercise, make dinner, shower and be in bed by 10pm. Score! The downside is my boyfriend is home already so I am afraid of looking like an absolute loon in front of him. Undeterred I leave him to try and divide my timer into 30 sec intervals for 12 mins while I get changed but when I get back he tells me it can’t be done.

The workout I got from the internet said this would be easy. I’m not amused. I decide instead to just set a 30 sec timer and restart it every new interval until I reach 12 mins. It’s not the easiest way to go but it solves the problem, I just need to keep count until 24. My workout is at an intermediate level due to the dire warnings about how intensive this is but I am fairly fit so I don’t need the beginner level. I set out my plan on the floor, set the timer and get ready to start.

First off air squats-as many as I can do in 30 secs and my timer is beeping before I’m even tired so I move onto push ups and still not even broken a sweat. In fact I’m halfway through and wondering if I should have picked a harder one as this seems too easy. Now I’ve also lost count of where I am so the boyfriend has to yell what number I’m on from the kitchen. He obviously knew this was going to happen.

I’m at 20 when I notice I’ve missed 2 rounds of burpees so this means I have 2 rounds in a row with 30 sec rests between. I do the first set and on that 30sec rest I am dying. I don’t think I can even do the last one but in a show of heroism and commitment to this account I power through it and then collapse. Let me tell you that was hard. I am covered in sweat, hurting everywhere and completely out of breath but I do feel good. Mainly because I didn’t die trying! The boyfriend watches as I groan my way up the stairs to shower and then groan my way back down. My calves and glutes are on fire, probably from the two different kind of squats which shows that you really can target areas in such a short amount of time. I’m in agony but impressed.

The workout follows below. I got the general gist from numerous websites but changed it to fit my needs. This is a 12 min workout where you pick an exercise, do as much as you can for 30 secs and then rest for 30. It is better if you do as many burpees as you can in this to really get the full effect. But a word of warning, if you are not that fit then please pick an easier one. The internet is full of them and it really isn’t worth sustaining an injury if it can be avoided.

 

  1. AIR SQUATS
  2. SQUAT JUMPS
  3. ALTERNATING LUNGES
  4. PUSH UPS
  5. DIVE BOMBER PUSHUPS
  6. GLUTE BRIDGES
  7. PLANKS
  8. BURPEES

 

Day 2 – Aftermath

I hurt, I hurt all over. HIIT works by depriving your body of oxygen so because your body is still fighting to get it back you keep burning more calories long after you’re done. It’s because of this reason though that I hurt so much and why I have to keep taking bathroom breaks to try and stretch my poor legs. I can’t even touch my toes.

 

Day 5 – Going Backwards

Yes it’s taken that long to get back in the saddle. The pain has subsided to bearable level and I’m ready for another attack at it. This time I’m armed with a new downloaded app which yes, the IT department had to try and help me figure out because it was that complicated but its set and I’m good to go. After much fuss I decide there was nothing wrong with my first workout so I’ll stick to it.

Despite giving myself a long recovery period this is worse than the first time around. My arms feel as strong as spaghetti when I try and do a plank and my legs are collapsing on the lunges. I have to huff and moan my way through it and at the end I still feel like I did not put enough work in.

 

Day 7 – I Love my Couch

I was going to go for a run today as HIIT is meant to be used with your normal workout routine to be most effective. I can just about walk and as I’m not trying to be an Olympic athlete I give my run a miss and lie on the couch instead. Eating crisps.

After the first week of this new routine I’m exhausted and amazed at how effective a workout it is. I have always thought that the longer the exercise the better it is for you but I was very wrong. Next week I’m going to try the running version of this to see how it compares to my normal long runs but for now I’m going back to bed.

 

Day 9

It’s Monday, the train is late again and I’m in the door thinking thank god today is a HIIT day. This may be a devil of a workout but it really does fit the time constraints of modern life. My usual run lasts 40 mins to an hour and today will only take up 12 mins of my time in comparison.

It’s a bonus that has me racing to get changed and out the door. Again, I have used the wonderful resource that is the internet for a routine but the basic principal stays the same.

For beginners keep the sprinting short and recovery long and just reverse it the fitter you are. As I was dying last week I have picked a much more sensible option of 30 sec sprints with 2 mins jogging for 12 minutes.

It’s raining outside so I’m not exactly thankful to be out but I keep going with the intention of getting to the end of my street and onto a large stretch of dual carriageway by the end of my 2 min jog. This way I can run straight with very little road crossings to break my stride.

As planned the 2 mins is up when I get to it and I’m off as fast as I can go on the beep. Apparently this doesn’t work as well if you don’t give it all you’ve got on the high intensity side and the best thing is it doesn’t matter how fit you are. Each person’s ‘all out’ is individual so to get the most out of this you really do have to ensure you push yourself.

Beep and I’m done.

I feel ok but then sprinting is part of my normal routine I just do them at the end not all the way through! The jogging does feel good now though and the rain is cooling me down nicely. I’m just getting into a comfortable stride when it’s time to speed it up again.

I have to admit I’m ok for a few rounds but at the 6 minute mark I start checking my timer and hanging my head at how much I’ve got left. The sprinting is getting hard to do with lead legs and my lungs are burning. I’ve also got a stitch, something I haven’t suffered with in a long time.

 

Day 10

I feel like I haven’t got any fitter since day 1 of this routine. I groan out of bed and attempt to stretch a little to ease some of the tightness in my muscles but my hands yet again don’t go to my toes.

 

Day 13

I can move enough today to do a little yoga to loosen up. Going about everyday life has been excruciating, especially walking up flights of stairs. Unlike last week it’s my thighs that are screaming at me but I do think when it comes to exercise that pain really does mean gain.

 

Day 14

I’m back at it!

I know a lot of you must be thinking that there has been a large gap between my exercises but you have to listen to your body. Rest is an essential part of getting fitter, without it you are just going to burn out so I’ve waited until I’m fully capable of handling the intensity before I pull my trainers back on.

This time around it’s a little better. I am still finding the sprints majorly painful but although it’s only the second time around I am finding an ease in knowing what to expect. The changes between the speeds are happening more fluidly and I am enjoying the burn of racing past cars.

I pass a few people who look at me oddly as I careen past them at high speed but this just adds to the overall enjoyment. Plus when I get home I can still touch my toes.

I would definitely keep this routine as part of my overall fitness. It’s only meant to be practised a couple of months at a time and then you can return back to your normal fitness activities. My only warning would be that you need to research carefully based on your fitness level as I’m sure it’s really easy to give yourself quite a nasty injury.

Remember, its high intensity for you, meaning you need to feel like you can’t take anymore but you are still able to finish!

So if you are feeling a little sluggish this winter and are too busy for the gym then give it a go. You can’t talk yourself out of 12 minutes after all.

 

Another great reader story, tell us ur story yousing Contact page or email Ben at [email protected]

 

Having trouble getting outside for some winter running? Check out our survival guide for running in winter

How to Survive Winter Running

I am here to celebrate the joys of winter running. I know it’s cold and dark and rainy, and no I am not superhuman. I do have a job, I keep house, I have a boyfriend and other things I like to do.

Yes I know you all probably like to exercise in the summer and spring but just let me try and sell it to you? If you don’t like it you can go off and drown yourself in hot chocolate.

 

It’s cold!

 

My dad is a boxer and when I was a teen he used to take me with him to the gym. It was a really run down place with absolutely no central heating and utterly freezing in the depths of the winter but I used to watch the men with condensation coming out of their mouths batter their bodies and each other senseless just to keep warm.

After a while I picked up a skipping rope and guess what? You work harder when it’s cold. These days fancy gyms will having the heating cranked up and have you sweating before you’ve even stepped on that treadmill whereas outside you have to burn a lot of calories before you even get a rosy glow.

 

It’s dark

 

I used to think that running in the dark was dangerous, even if it was only 6pm but try it and you will notice quite a few other runners. Wearing high visibility clothes, sticking to busy, familiar routes and carrying your phone will make you safer. Try to avoid tree lined roads with drives though because it turns out that no amount of reflective gear will stop you almost being hit by a reversing car!

 

The weather

 

When I first took up running for my half marathon training the schedule was so tight I had to go out no matter what the weather just to keep up with it. This involved me running in the pouring rain without special rainproof clothes and let me tell you those things are worth the extra money just so you don’t have to drag the extra weight around.

My ex marine buddy took me out in treacherous ice pointing out that it sharpens your reflexes and makes your steps more cautious. I wouldn’t really advise this to anyone as dancing behind him over giant black ice patches almost gave me a heart attack but it did make other running seem easier.

 

Snow

 

I love running in the snow! If you haven’t done it you must at least try it. Do you know running in the snow takes almost as much effort as running on sand? That means that you’re doing twice as much work with the same distance. Add in the cold factors and this means that you really have to keep moving all the time.

Jogging around a snow filled park is so pretty, it’s usually also really quiet because all the saner people are wrapped up at home. Yes your feet freeze if you stand still and your fingers go kind of numb but trust me it’s worth it to have the joy of bounding through white blankets of mush.

 

Clothes

 

The sports gear that comes out this time of year is lovely and does some really nifty things. Base layers are important if you want to stop your temperature dropping from sweat and running leggings are great for keeping you warm. I have a friend who swears by her running gloves which enable her to still go out in shorts and a t shirt.

If you are asthmatic make sure you run with a scarf and everyone should indulge themselves in a cheery woolly hat. Remember that you are going to warm up though so thin layers are best but when it’s snowing I find nothing better than pulling on a woolly jumper to attack the chill.

I do hope at least one of these reasons might have piqued your interest. Aside from the exercise I also run for the headspace so the fact that it’s quieter out there the colder it is really works for me. My iPod contains special winter running mixes with electronic dance music just perfect to help my brain float away.

So go on, get out there and see if jogging past a row of houses with their twinkling decorations doesn’t make you feel smug and warm all at the same time.

 

— More great tips from one of our amazing readers!

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How to Improve Your Reaction Time

Reaction Time

Improve your bunch riding reaction time with these simple exercises. Reaction time is an increasingly important aspect of every sport, especially short duration events when the difference between competitors is marginal. Not only is reaction time a great indicator of the speed and effectiveness of an individual’s decision making, it is also a major component in every day living. Reaction time can be defined by the amount of time that elapses from presentation of a stimulus like a starter’s gun to the initiation of movement like the first pedal strike.

Reaction time is made up of three stages:

  1. Stimulus identification
  2. Response selection
  3. Response programming

Assuming that these three stages do not overlap, then any factor that shortens the length of one or more of these stages will reduce the total reaction time. This reduction can potentially be the winning margin between competitors. There are other benefits that can be gained from improving your reaction time. One of considerable importance is your safety on the road.

There are many factors that can influence the speed of an athlete’s decision making and therefore reaction time. The higher the number of possible stimuli available to the athlete will increase the number of possible responses, in turn increasing reaction time. However, a more experienced athlete can decrease the number of choices available if the same stimulus always leads to the same response. For example, when a cyclist in a peloton hears the shifting of gears, they automatically change gears to prepare for hard effort to avoid being dropped.

Anticipation can be beneficial or detrimental to an persons reaction time. If a rider can correctly anticipate an opponent’s upcoming movement, it almost appears as if they move simultaneously to their opponent. However, to anticipate incorrectly could be costly. To improve reaction time, we must understand the three information processing stages and the mechanisms behind them.

During the first stage, stimulation identification, the athlete identifies a stimulus by a variety of sensory system such as sight and sound. Characteristics of the stimulus such as direction and speed, if any, are identified and passed on to the second stage: response selection.

In this stage, the response to the stimulus is decided. For example, a cyclist that trained might decide to swerve instead of braking to avoid an obstacle.

During the third stage, response programming, a motor program is retrieved. Muscles are prepared for the upcoming movement and the sensory system is orientated appropriately. Once all of this takes place, movement is initiated.

 

How can we improve our reaction time?

By improving neural response, the essential component of quickness, we can maximize force while minimizing the time it takes to achieve that force.

Plyometrics focuses on the speed of muscle contraction and involves the technique of lengthening, then shortening the muscles to produce increased power output. This is referred to as the stretch shortening cycle and is based on mechanical and neurological components of the neuromuscular system.Take for instance a rubber band. When it is stretched and released, it shortens very quickly. The more it is stretched, the greater the force when the stretch is released. This is due to the greater amount of elastic energy.

Plyometrics is composed of three phases:

  1. The eccentric phase
  2. The amortization phase
  3. The concentric phase

The eccentric phase is when the muscle is stretched and the slack is removed from the muscle. This is followed by the amortization phase, the amount of time between the eccentric phase and the concentric phase. The quicker the transition from eccentric to concentric activity, the greater the force is produced. However, elastic energy is lost if this phase is too long. In the concentric phase, if the first and second phases are optimal, there will be an increase in force production with greater speed.

Many things need to be taken into consideration before attempting plyometric exercises. Intensity, volume, recovery period, frequency, age, body size, and competition level will all impact on the type of plyometric exercises an individual should do. However, there are some basic exercises that most people can perform either at home or somewhere nearby. As a general guide, you should maintain sets of between 5 and 10 reps, and it is recommended that there should be 48-hour recovery period between plyometric exercise sessions.

 

Plyometric Exercises

Jumps in Place

These jumps begin and end in the same place and vary in intensity depending on the height and number of jumps. Start in a squat position and jump very quickly with the aid of our arms and end up in the squat position in preparation for the next jump.

Standing Long Jump

In this exercise, your feet should be shoulder width apart. Jump as far forward as possible from the same squat position, and use your arms to assist you in the air.

Standing Long Jump with Sprint

This one has the same technique as the standing long jump. However, immediately after landing, you need to sprint for 10 meters as fast as possible.

Stadium Hops

In this exercise, you need to jump one stair at a time using both legs. You should be rapid without stopping up the stairs. If you want to increase the intensity, try jumping 2 stairs at once.

 

To improve the reaction time, we need to improve the communication between the nerves and the muscles. Plyometrics achieves this while also increasing the elastic properties of the muscles, which is important as the amount of acceleration gained from pushing off a surface depends on the amount of elastic energy in the muscles. This type of training can be very intense, and if signs of overtraining are experienced, allow your body to recover over the next few days or even weeks.

 

13 Tricks To Deal With Start Line Stress

Starting Line Stress

Ever wondered why on earth you need to go to the toilet so much before a big race or event? And even when you have gone, you get to the start line and what do you know, you feel like you need to go AGAIN! It’s a very primal bodily reaction to anxiety. The body starts trying to get rid of water preparing you for either fight or flight, however these days it’s not the lions and tigers causing such anxiety, it’s just a race

Your level of arousal at the start line can have either a beneficial or detrimental effect on your performance. High arousal provides great benefits for power and gross motor skill activities like most typical endurance event starts. Low arousal can be more beneficial for sports or events that require technical maneuvers, concentration and finesse from the start, like maybe a downhill mountain bike race.

If your arousal is TOO great, you can be wasting energy and are less likely to adhere to your pacing strategy. Too low arousal and you’re likely to have a lethargic and uninspiring race.

For most working class athletes, the biggest concern is very high arousal. Being able to reduce your arousal to optimal levels requires the development of coping skills. The best way to learn and hone these skills is by participating in as many races/events as possible. Think of these as practice races. It’s not important where you finish, it’s about becoming familiar with the sensations of being on a starting line prepared to race or compete.

Try using some of the methods below. The more events you can attend before your ‘BIG’ race the more chance you have at finding which techniques work best for you and most importantly honing them. Hopefully by the time you get to your target race, it feels like ‘just another race’ and not OMFG IM SO EXCITED IM SCARED I FORGOT WHAT IM SUPPOSED TO DO AHHHHH#@$%!%@#%@#!!!!! (I’m sure most can relate to that)

 

Some helpful arousal-lowering tricks include:

  1. Physically SLOW DOWN, find some shade, chill out and watch everyone rushing around before the race.
  2. Slow your breathing down and use your heart rate monitor to see if you can bring your HR down as low as possible.
  3. Mentally slow down. Stop thinking about bad things that could happen, and start thinking about those times you achieved something.
  4. In the early stages of your warm up, try to listen to music whilst your body is performing the workout.
  5. Now’s not the time to question your training. You’ve done what you’ve done and now you just need to trust it. When the race starts, GO!
  6. Don’t think about winning and don’t think about losing, think about doing the best you can do.
  7. Race like your still a kid. Enjoy the atmosphere, accept the challenge and as cliche as it is ‘have fun!’
  8. Don’t worry about your competitors, focus on yourself because that’s what you have the most influence over.
  9. Try not to think how the race MIGHT pan out, live in the moment.
  10. Even if you are a nervous wreck, just try and ACT cool. Look around for the most relaxed competitor and just copy how they sit, stand and behave.
  11. Pretend you are just going out for a run or ride with a bunch of friends.
  12. Remember that no matter the race outcome it will still be positive result. If you perform well, you will be happy with yourself, if you don’t perform well, you are going to learn something NOT to do next time.
  13. Remind yourself you are a working class athlete, and if you’re not enjoying what your doing you’re probably in the wrong place.

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Pacing – The Biggest Running Lesson I’ve Learned

Another very useful guide by our reader Matt. If you would like to share your tips, guides or stories, email Ben at [email protected]

I entered my first race, the Great North 10K, in 2011 and finished in 1:05:10. Three years and one marathon later, at the British 10K on 13th July 2014, I finally broke the hour mark setting a 10K PB of 59:20. Why did it take me 3 years to knock 5 minutes off my 10K time? Pacing! And in my case, getting it very wrong!

Start slow and increase gradually

I have to be honest, my first few runs I didn’t really think about pacing at all and just concentrated on trying to reach the finish as quickly as possible which, ironically, actually slowed me down. It wasn’t until I started training for the 2014 Edinburgh Marathon that I realized the importance of pacing and getting it right.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out something before you realize there is a problem. A friend of mind, who was training for the London Marathon at the same time I was training for Edinburgh, noticed that my split times started quickly but would rapidly slow and plateau after not many miles.

Much like how a car’s petrol gauge heads towards empty quicker the harder you stamp on the accelerator, I was emptying my gas tank at the start of my runs and running on fumes by halfway. Not conducive to better times or enjoyable runs.

Since that was pointed out to me and I’ve started concentrating more on my pacing I’ve noticed a big difference. I now deliberately start off very slowly, not much above walking pace. How long I remain at this pace depends on the distance I’m running.

In my early runs I was almost afraid to start slowly as I associated a slow start with a slow finish. For anyone new to running I would advise; be open to starting slow, try it on a few runs. What I’ve found, by starting slow, once my muscles warm up and my brain recognizes I’m running I naturally fall in to my comfortable pace without having to consciously think about picking up the pace.

Rather than emptying your gas tank early on I gradually increase the pace, going up through the gears if you like. Comfortable, steady miles, I have found, have really been the key to quicker times for me and improved my running technique.

Comfortable miles lead to more miles

By not focusing on pace and just letting it come naturally while out running, over a few runs you should discover what your natural pace is. Importantly, this is your pace. I have friends who are both quicker and slower than me. Don’t be worried if you are not as quick as other people, everyone is different. Go with what feels good for you.

Once you find your comfortable pace you can use that as a benchmark. Much like weight lifting and upping the weight when reps become easier, if for example you find 10 min miles comfortable, to up the pace, aim for 9:45 miles. It’s achieveably which is a big mental bonus. From there hopefully not too much effort is needed to get down to 9:30. Then you find you’ve reduced your 10K time by over 3 mins, an improvement not to be sniffed at.

At this point, consolidate.

You are used to your 10 min mile pace so you should feel it when you knowingly up the pace. Over the practice runs you’ve hopefully enjoyed your time on the pavements and found a pace whereby you build up a sweat but aren’t entirely out of breath when you finish. By taking the time to develop a pace you are comfortable with and not pushing for times you are laying the foundations for enjoyable runs and quicker times, when you want quicker times.

Once you have found the pace that works for you, consolidate. Try doing runs of varying lengths aiming to find your pace and stick at it. Also try interval runs or threshold runs where you are actively trying to hit a quicker pace.

If you enjoy your runs you are more likely to keep running.

Once you have banked a number of miles at a pace you find comfortable you will hopefully have built up your stamina and leg strength and are in a position to experiment. Again, start off slow. If you want to run a faster half marathon for example start off with 10K’s and 10miler’s. Once your legs have adjusted to the quicker pace then go for the half marathon.

Again, by banking miles at a quicker pace but over a shorter distance than your goal you have built up leg strength, stamina and improved your cardio and by hitting milestones – quicker 10K, quicker 10mile – subconsciously you are motivating yourself as you run and are making it easier for yourself to hit your goal of a quicker half marathon.

Don’t think, feel

To summarise, pace can make or break a run. Get it right and you are laughing get it wrong and you will feel it the day after. Don’t worry about your pace, let the body run at the pace it wants to run at and you will soon find what feels good for you.

Start slow. If on a training run, build up to the pace you’re happy with and stay there. In a race, start off at your comfortable pace, don’t tire out your legs, then push the pace in the later stages of the race. Keep pacing in the back of your mind but don’t stress about it. Comfortable, steady miles really are the key to enjoyable, better runs and enable you to increase or decrease your pace as you wish.

 

You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattWalby1

If you found this pacing article useful (like I did) you can also contribute to Matts fundraising drive for The Parachute Regiment Charity

Get an insight into High Intensity Interval Training running workout.

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