AuthorBen Foulis

HomeArticles Posted by Ben Foulis (Page 6)

Wee, Sweat & Tears, My First Half Marathon

working class athlete wee-sweat-and-tears-my-first-half-marathon

This is the concluding piece from our wonderful reader who has shared her experience and transformation from alcoholic smoker to healthy half marathon finisher. Be sure to read her first 2 stories “Taking your first steps to becoming a runner” and “OK I can run, now how do I get better?” If you have a story you would like to share, email Ben at [email protected]

“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.”- Steve Prefontaine.

If you’ve taken up running and are looking for something to aim for then a marathon will be the ideal thing to push you. A Half Marathon is the best starting point because it’s shorter and has the benefit of still being difficult to complete as a beginner.

If you are thinking of entering one then obviously training is crucial

What you do to prepare will help you to complete it safely both psychologically and physically. There lots of resources online from long distance runners providing excellent and simple training schedules. I gave myself 6 months to go from a non runner to my first half but 3 months is the bare minimum that most training schedules span.

They are broken down into days of the week and will slowly increase your mileage at a steady pace. Rest and cross training days are also given each week to make sure that you train safely.

I found that keeping in mind why I entered was the best training tool I had

Signing yourself up to run 13.1 miles is sheer lunacy and on low days you’ll need a good reason to keep going. So whether you’re entering for the experience or the competition keep it at the forefront of your mind. Believe me, some days it will be the only thing getting your trainers on!

Race Worries

Half marathons do have strict rules and etiquette involved. If you’re about to enter please note the band of runners you qualify for. This is decided by your estimated completion time. It’s not difficult to work out-either time yourself running a mile and average it or look at the groups.

Some races have them split into professional, intermediate etc so just find yourself the appropriate section. This is the most important thing to make sure you get right when entering. Putting yourself in the right place just means that on race day you’re grouped correctly and everything runs as smoothly as possible.

So, now you have your training schedule and entry sorted there are a few things will help you on race day

Have the right shoes!

Please ensure you have the best trainers possible for the day. I ended up with a fracture in my right foot at the end of my first Half and all because I wore the wrong ones. Don’t wear a new pair on the day itself though, make sure you have worn them in and know they feel.

Read and remember the rules

The rules are there for a reason. In an event as large as this the organization is paramount and a lot of work goes into making sure it’s safe. Just take the time to read the guidelines set and use them on the day.

Be aware of other runners!

Sounds obvious but I spent a lot of my time dodging people that seemed to have no concept of this. Move over cautiously if another is overtaking you and don’t run directly in the path of someone behind you.

Be careful what you do with the energy drinks

Seriously, the sides are littered with the bottles because that’s where they are supposed to go! Don’t just randomly throw it behind you or it will hit someone and it really hurts if it’s not empty…

Finally be nice to the crowds

High five the kids (if you have energy left) and smile at the onlookers who have come to cheer you on. These people are supporting you, appreciate it!

Bearing these in mind will not only help you enjoy the day they will help you be part of it. Even though it’s a competition it still revolves around everyone working together and this includes you.

My First Race

It’s 7am and my running buddy is trying to call her mother in Lithuania. Even though she’s done 2 of these already she’s nervous as hell which I’m not finding reassuring.Thankfully the weather looks good. We’d been expecting snow as it’s October so to train I’d been running in the pouring rain.

Thankfully there it’s dry and the skies look clear which I take as a good omen

As she gets up and makes breakfast the nerves start to kick in. I hadn’t slept well, sure that I would never complete this race. Also I had only run the most of 8 miles straight due to me getting confused on a treadmill that worked in kilometers and not miles.

Panic makes me stupid.

I don’t want the breakfast she’s bringing which is boiled eggs and porridge but I eat it because I’m about to put my body through hell.

We get to the race early and stand like sheep in a pen. This is a race with 30,000 entrants making my nerves rocket.  I watch as others stretch and wonder if I should do the same but instead I get our picture taken with our numbers pinned to our chest, me beaming like a maniac. I have to use the bathroom 5 times before we get herded to our starting positions and I’m worried about toilets along the route.

My nerves are at their highest now

Everyone is in their group and we watch as the front get their starting gun. It’s cold, it’s packed and I wasn’t prepared for how loud this would be. There is dance music playing and a man on a podium is doing warm ups with the next group to go. I go through it in a daze and just before we set off I hold my friends hand and tell her good luck.

Then we are off

This moment is the most important, setting your pace at the start. I didn’t, nerves caused me to run flat out for 6 miles flat. At the mile 6 marker I stop to drink. The queues for the port loos are so long that I pee behind a house. I’m that worried about time.

Back on the track my legs are starting to hurt and I’m on my way to agony. Every mile is marked which I’m sure is just to torture me. I get to mile 8, stop to drink and realize I have to change how I’m running or I’m going to burn out.

Desperately I look for an escape route and aside from an ambulance there are none

I check my time and calculate that if I don’t get moving then I will be stuck with the clean up van at the end. This is my fear zone, I don’t want to be the last person. A quick check behind me shows there is still a large crowd so I turn my music up and pick a runner.

There is a girl next to me with bright green leggings who’s cutting a steady nonstop pace. Breathing deep I push to sprint as long as I can, feeling euphoric as I pass so many other runners.

When exhausted I stop and walk until I see green leggings and set off on another sprint. This combination is working but the pain is still building.

At mile 11 I see an orange line ahead with crowds cheering. Confused I run full pelt towards it thinking that the markers are wrong and this is the finish. I cross the line with burning lungs and notice it’s just a very brightly lit point and knowing I’ve used up reserves I start to cry. I tell myself to stay calm and walk until I see green leggings.

Hiccuping sobs I sprint again

Repeating that I have only got 2.1 miles left. I can do it!! I carry on until the 12.5 marker and when green leggings gets to me I decide to run this section continuously to give myself the best time. My feet feel like they have needles stuck in them, my legs are about to give way and my core is burning. Ignoring it I painfully run the last stretch. It’s getting louder, with more crowds and I’m so weak their faces are blurring. I come to a stop when I see people milling about.

Confused I notice I’ve now finished without knowing it

A smiley volunteer gives me a goody bag and I raid it for the medal. When I get it around my neck I’m so ecstatic I could faint. I check my time-2hr20 and it’s better than I could have hoped.

I cry again when I realize my goody bag has no chocolate


Continue Reading

OK I Can Run, Now How Do I Get Better?

working class athlete ok-i-can-run-now-how-do-i-get-better

Written for by one of our amazing readers. Want to share your stories or tips? Email Ben at [email protected]

This is a continuation from Taking Your First Steps to Becoming a Runner

“A run begins the moment you forget you are running.” –Adidas ad

You’ve started to run but are finding it difficult to work through the pain and exhaustion. Sound familiar? You may be well over your target or just under, unable to push yourself just that little bit further.

I found this bit the hardest just because it meant I had to push myself. Running small distances a couple of times a week would have kept me ticking over just fine but I needed to know what it was like to really work hard and how much my body was actually capable of.

To learn how to improve my performance I began to stuff myself full of research between runs, reading everything from magazines to online forums. I would come home from an evening run and read them in bed that night. It became an addiction but in my quest I found the most important tool I needed to improve my performance – food.

Every runner knows what it’s like to come back from a run and want to eat the kitchen bare and the longer my distances became the worse I would be.

I’d collapse next to the fridge and raid it, not even giving myself the time to cook something remotely healthy. It took me a while to learn the link between stuffing myself full of cheese and the muscle aches which crippled me.

The link between diet and exercise is crucial because food plays a major part in both preparation and recovery

A week into my new streamlined diet and I felt faster, lighter and in much less pain. If you are thinking that you don’t have the time to fuss about with ingredients then don’t panic because with a full time job neither did I. Instead here is a small list of foods that if you regularly add to your diet will make a massive difference.


This was the simplest thing to add and the most effective. Just a few oranges a day combated my muscle aches due to the vitamin C. They don’t stop the pain while you run but do help you ache much less afterwards.


Apparently runners need about 70 per cent more protein and this is the perfect way to get it. Chicken is a lean clean protein that your body can use effectively and Selenium will protect your muscles.

Dark Chocolate and Almonds

These are packed full of vitamin E and antioxidants amongst other things. 4 squares of dark chocolate is really the maximum and if you eat them with almonds you get a delicious guilt free sweet treat.

Whole grain pasta

Pasta will become your god. It’s easily digestible, helps you restock energy and control your metabolism. It’s also quick and easy to cook after a long workout and does fill you up.

Bear in mind that making your diet better is not about losing weight, it’s about performance

The correct diet with exercise will help you lose weight but it’s all about finding one that suits you. The right one will work wonders for your body and mind and most importantly give you the energy to work that bit harder every time you get out there.

Cross Training

If you are training for a race or even just want to improve your stamina then cross training is essential. I learned this the hard way! A fortnight before the half marathon, my running buddy had given me free gym membership leading up to the race and I was ecstatic.

I had been doing nothing but pounding pavements, yoga and muscle exercises for over 5 months straight.

I was bored

The thought of a pool or treadmill was so welcome that I was in the gym with her the same day I got my pass.  While we were there an instructor was running a class on leg exercises on mats in the corner so we went over to join in.

I have to admit I thought I was going to breeze through it. I had used my legs every day for months; they had to be strong enough for this! I remember smiling smugly as I got into position with my back against the wall and my knees bent, arms out almost like sitting in an invisible chair.

We just had to hold the position until told otherwise and I struggled. My thigh muscles were on fire, my arms were shaking and I was sliding down the wall in exhaustion. The instructor barked at me so much over my awful performance that I cried.

I learned a valuable lesson which was work EVERYTHING

Becoming a one trick pony with running is silly, your body needs all the strength it can get. Any chance you have to fit in different exercises do them. Even something as simple as skipping will pay dividends.

A way to counteract it and balance out the stress is through yoga. I cannot express enough how good this practise is for you as a runner. Yoga will stretch you out making leaner muscles. It will build your core enabling you keep the strength in your form while you push it to its limits. It will teach you how to breathe and it will relax you.

It doesn’t matter whether you go to a class or get a DVD because honestly even a few sequences will help you immensely. Plus do it enough and you’ll become bendy pretty quickly and there’s a lot more perks to that than you may think.

Taking care of yourself

It’s important to remember to treat yourself well when you’re practising any kind of fitness but especially running. It is such an intensive and all body way of keeping fit that being more mindful of you will keep everything balanced.

Make sure that any new aches and injuries are cared for properly before you get back out there. This is as vital as taking proper rest days between runs. You can only build muscle, and therefore run further, if you let your body repair itself and form new muscle and you can only do that if you let it rest.

Make sure you take those days off seriously

At least 1-2 days a week should be spent doing no exercise AT ALL. It sometimes helps to take a more holistic approach to fitness the further on you progress.

This is simply about creating an outlook on you as a whole and not just the exercise. Your body is a machine that houses a variety of intensely complex systems, psychological as well as physical, so treat it in the manner it deserves.

There are all sorts of alternatives to the way you exercise and the way you manage it. Taking a browse around health food shops and online alternative therapies may also offer a range of ways to help you look after yourself better.

Cigarettes and alcohol disappeared for me about a month into my running regime and instead an obsession with shakes, bars and herbal pills became prominent.

I was always trying to find the quickest way to deal with problems rather than the best way. It was like running was becoming a metaphor for my entire life! I have learned various methods through my journey that I have found through trial and error and I will include a few examples.

To start with, protein shakes aren’t for everyone, I know because they weren’t for me. Instead to build up my energy reserves I drank chocolate shakes made with soya.  Soya is a lot easier to digest than dairy so if you want a mini boost after a run they are excellent.

Cutting out red meat from my diet whilst training for races was immensely effective because by limiting myself to pulses, more veg and white meat I was not only giving my body a much more varied supplied of ingredients to repair and rebuild itself but also foods that it found easier to digest and metabolise.

It’s mainly about trial and error

Your body will start to tell you what it needs and you will learn to listen. This takes the guess work out of it and paves the way for your body and mind to become in sync. After a while you won’t need to think about looking after yourself it will just happen making a very happy and healthy you.


Continue Reading

6KU Fixie Bike Review

For 200 bucks, you can get yourself one damn good lookin fixie.

Now for anyone who has spent any time in the cycling world, will surely know that $200 does not get very far at all. A nice set of pedals maybe? So how on earth could you get a bike of any sort of quality for 2 Benjamins?

Put fun first

That’s exactly what 6ku do with their bikes. I’ve had more fun riding around on my $200 6ku test bike, than my $7000 specialized venge + power meter. Why? It’s fun! It’s a bike I can jump on, in my jeans, skate shoes (no lycra required) and zip downtown to do what ever I need. Throw a cheap bike lock around it, and not have to worry about it.

For starters the frame shape and somewhat dish wheels are classic and fit right in with the cafe racers. It doesn’t look like a toy bike or a walmart bike. It’s trendy. It may weigh a ton compared to my carbon Venge, but hey…. I don’t plan on taking any STRAVA KOM’s on it. This is where I am saving money, the steel frame is all I need for my down town fixie.

I can bang 6ku bike around, I can lay it on the ground, I don’t have to worry about scratching it, it’s my little $200 toy!

As for riding, it’s far from boring, the steep head angle makes it ride just like my proper track racing bike. It’s twitchy! this aint no cruiser, this is a very quick steering for quick reactions in traffic and on the sidewalks. Or just creating my own slalom courses in town around bollards, signs and trees.

The 6ku fixies sharp steering coupled with very comfy and responsive riser bars very reminiscent of my mountain bike, make for a fun riding experience. Not to mention the wide 28c tires, I’m finding myself riding over all sorts of stuff like curbs and steps just cuz I can!

The front brake is decent enough for most commuters, but given my multi disciplinary racing background (track, road and MTB) I am finding myself pushing this bike beyond its braking capabilities.

Which is not very good!

I’ll probably scour ebay for some cheap front and rear shimano 105 stoppers, but then they will still cost more than the entire bike. So maybe not, maybe I should learn to curb my enthusiasm. Maybe this is a positive aspect of the bike that it entices me to take my life into my own hands 😛

The pedals and grips are cheap, but effective on the 6ku bike. The grips are comfy and the pedals are plastic enough not to gouge holes into my legs when I ‘mess up’. What I like most is that they are simple cheap plastic flat pedals. For once I don’t need cleats and I can wear my casual shoes. Plus if I ever break them, I should be able to replace them for under $10. The hand grips are pretty comfy and go nicely with the riser handlebars.

As for the saddle, it’s perfect for my race hardened derriere…

but the commuter only rider may opt for a comfier option. It’s not as hard as any road cycling saddle, but like I said, the typical commuter may find it harsh.

Of course for the price the wheelset aren’t exactly going to be your mavic cosmic carbones,  but jeez they’re not bad for the price. If you keep them cleaned, maintained and don’t ride through much dirt or grime, you should easily get a few years out of them.

The rear wheel has a flip flop hub so you can change from fixie to single speed pretty darn easy. The standard gearing that comes with the bike is really in the sweet spot for me, it’s fast enough that I can hit all the speed I need for around town, but it’s small enough I’m not walking up hills.

I really can’t compare this bike to my road/track/mountain bikes…6ku-fixie-review3

because it really is a different machine. It’s not trying to be the lightest, stiffest and fastest (which is lucky cause it is neither) but it does trump most other bikes I’ve ever owned in the fun and usability.

I’m always finding excuses for myself to get out on my 6ku fixie, leaving the lycra and cleats behind and just enjoying cruising and exploring on 2 wheels, just like when I was growing up as a kid!

Continue Reading

Think Like a Bumblebee Train Like a Racehorse

working class athlete think like a bumblebee train like a racehorse

Some would argue that psychology in sport is equally as important as skill and conditioning. You see examples of it everywhere. The underdog triumphing over the favorite. Carlos Sastre‘s Tour de France winning time trial. Liverpools 2014 winning streak and Manchester Uniteds fall from grace.

Times when quantifiable performance attributes and statistics become null and void due to the grey matter that is sports psychology. But how does one exactly describe or even prescribe a dose of sporting psychological grey matter to the typical athlete?

How else but with animal metaphors 🙂

There is a fantastic story about bumblebees and racehorses that I want to share with you. It’s a story that every single athlete of any sport or any level can absolutely take something away from it. I am unsure of the origin, or even the factual accuracies, it doesn’t matter, it makes for a good tale.

Think like a bumblebee, train like a horse

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…. ok well lets say ‘a few years ago’, a group of scientists took interest in the humble bumblebee. They believed the bumblebees incredible flying abilities could unlock secrets to flying and maneuvering in outer space.

Many questions were asked of the bumblebee

How do their relatively small wings produce enough lift for their over sized hairy bodies?

How could their round bodies and awkward body position when flying, defy so many aerodynamic principles, yet have the aerial agility and precision like no other?

After weeks and weeks of tests, studies and cups of coffee, the scientists made their conclusion:

“Bumblebees are not capable of flight”

Luckily for the bumblebees, no one told them they couldn’t fly, so they just went about flying around as usual. The best minds in science had concluded that the poor bumblebee could not physically fly, but the bumblebees believed they could so they did.

(Please no one tell them the truth!)

Already I can see you putting two and two together to see how this relates to your own athletic abilities. It highlights that one of the most important pieces of the sporting success puzzle is your capacity to succeed and your ability to believe in yourself.

Henry Ford said something like:

“If you think you can or you think you can’t… you’re probably right”

The bumblebee thinks it can fly, so it does.

But what about the racehorse?

Well, they are not too different to you and I. They train to a periodization plan. They do specific endurance and interval training. They eat a performance based diet and even use heart rate monitors!

Psychologically though, they are very different

Racehorses never question their training and preparation.

When prescribed a training plan, they follow it without question.

They don’t go out to cram last minute training in because they are worried they haven’t done enough.

They don’t get down in the dumps after a poor race performance.

At the starting gates they get nervous like us, but they aren’t judging the other horses by the size of their ‘calf muscles’ or their shiny coats. They know they are there to give their all and that’s all that matters. They aren’t affected by guessing what will happen during and after the race.

They are just free to run as fast as they can

The racehorse lives for one thing. To get faster. The horse is solely focused on this and the results just take care of themselves.

To succeed in sport, the first thing you need to do is believe in yourself. Just like the bumblebee. If you don’t believe in yourself and your capacity to succeed, all the physical training in the world won’t help you.

You also need to have the focus of a racehorse. Dedication and trust in your training. This is especially hard when you are doing a periodized training plan. You need to stick to the plan and trust it. Just because you are not seeing immediate benefits, doesn’t mean it’s not working.

Trying new things and chopping and changing diets and training after every poor performance is a shortcut to failure. Don’t be distracted by all the ancillary aspects of your sport. Remember…

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing

Get faster, get better, do your best. The results will take care of itself.

7 Effective Post Workout Recovery Methods

working class athlete 7-Effective-Post-Workout-Recovery-Methods

Undertaking certain activities after a race or hard workout may enhance recovery. Many of the recovery methods below speed recovery by:

  • Slightly increasing the heart rate
  • Increasing blood flow to the muscles
  • Accelerating the inflow of nutrients
  • Reducing soreness
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Relaxing the nervous system

Experiment to find the things that work best for you.

Recovery Method 1: Hot Shower or Bath

Immediately following the cool down and recovery drink, take a hot shower or bath for Ten to fifteen minutes. Don’t linger, especially in the bath tub as you will dehydrate even more.

Recovery Method 2: Active Recovery

For the experienced athlete one of the best recovery methods is to pedal easily for 30 minutes on a bike several hours after your hard workout and before you go to bed.

The intensity needs to be extremely light with your heart rate well below Zone 1. Light exercise in water can also be effective.

If you’ve traveled away for a race, swim or merely paddle about in the hotel pool for a few minutes late in the day before winding down for the day. Inexperienced athletes are better off just relaxing.

Recovery Method 3: Massage

Apart from sleep, most athletes find a massage by a professional masseuse is the most effective recovery method. A post race rub should employ long, flushing strokes to speed the removal of the waste products of exercise.

Deep massage at this time may increase muscle trauma. After about 3 days, the therapist may apply increased point pressure, working more deeply.

Due to the expense of massage, some athletes prefer self massage. After a hot bath or shower, stroke the muscles for 20 – 30 minutes, working away from the extremities and toward the heart.

Recovery Method 4: Sauna

Several hours after a workout or race, you might find that a dry sauna speeds recovery. Do not use a steam room as it will have the exact opposite effect.

Stay in the sauna for no more than 10 minutes and be sure to drink fluids while you are in there.

Recovery Method 5: Relax and Stretch

Sit back and be lazy for several hours. Your body wants quality rest. Stay off your feet whenever you can. Never stand when you can lean against something. Sit down when ever possible. Even better lay on the floor with your feet raised against a wall or furniture.

Sit down on the floor and stretch gently. Overused muscles tighten and can’t seem to relax on their own. This is best immediately after a hot bath or sauna and just before you go to bed.

Recovery Method 6: Walk in the Park or Forest

A couple of hours after finishing a difficult workout or race, a short slow walk in a heavily vegetated area such as a park or forest generally seems to speed recovery for some. Abundant oxygen as well as the aroma of grass, trees and other plants are soothing.

Recovery Method 7: Other Methods

The sports program of the former Soviet Union developed a science of recovery and employed several methods with their athletes that may or may not be accessible to you. Many are also unproven in scientific literature.They included:

  • Electromuscular stimulation
  • Ultrasound
  • Barometric chambers
  • Sport psychology
  • Pharmacological supplements including vitamins, minerals and adaptogens like ginseng.

These require expert guidance.

[wpramazon asin=”B0053HINN6″]

[wpramazon asin=”B00F2Y5B6W”]

Taking Your First Steps to Becoming a Runner

working class athlete taking-your-first-steps-to-becoming-a-runner

Written for by one of our amazing readers. Want to share your stories or tips? Email Ben at [email protected]

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”-John Bingham

The above quote is going to be a mantra if you’re taking up running for the first time because trust me, it isn’t easy. Why you’re deciding to pull on those running shoes and brave the rain is more important than actually doing it.

The reason why is the energy that will keep your legs pumping when you can’t take anymore, it’s the shove that will get you out the door.

Running is all about the mind

Forget what you’ve heard about it being really hard on your body and focus on those runners you see at the park doing lap after lap. They are where you need to be because they have achieved the mental space they need to keep going.

I know this because I am a runner myself. I enter races, I like what it does to my body and I feel good but it’s not why I run. I run because I can.

When I started I was overweight and lazy, stuck in a stressful desk job and drinking to excess. Oh and I was smoking so I wasn’t the best candidate to start with. I had a friend who was blonde, thin and successful. I mean she really had the whole package-beautiful, intelligent, driven and I was jealous.

For some absurd reason I thought that she was just born that way and her life would continue getting better while mine would get worse. I would go home and eat myself into a miserable frenzy after we met just because I couldn’t stand feeling so useless any more.

One day she asked if I wanted to enter a half marathon with her

She had already done 2 in the just below average time range of 2hr10 and wanted to beat this time in a third. I said yes without thinking and then I went home to panic.

I calculated my chances of being fit enough to enter and panicked again. It was May and the race was in October. This gave me 6 months to go from my current state to being able to run 13.1 miles without dying before the finish line.

That night I opened a bottle of wine and tried to drink myself hopeful. It didn’t work and instead I came into running with a hangover and a heart full of dread. I was sure that my body wouldn’t be good enough to meet the challenge and it wasn’t. But my head was.

Get the right gear

So, if you’ve found the reason for getting out there then new trainers are essential. Some sports shops will get you on a treadmill to check how you run so they can match you to the best shoes possible.

This is a good idea if you have the time and money. Especially if you notice that your everyday shoes are worn in certain places or you suffer from joint pain. There are a lot of different trainers out there and finding ones to suit you may take a while but it is worth it if only to prevent injuries in the future.

If you find sports shops a little intimidating then you can find loads of good advice online but it really is better to get someone to look at your feet and test they fit. Also, there are always sales on in stores at certain times of year so you may actually get a better deal.

Trainers are the most important thing

Although there are a few other pieces that while they may not seem essential now will become your best friends. Ladies, you’re going to need a good sports bra.

I know for first time runners the clothing market is going to seem vast but in my experience good running leggings with a back zipped pocket for house keys and a pair of anti sweat sport socks are minimum enough to get you going. If you need music then an arm strap to hold your phone will mean you are set.

Get out there

It’s been proven that you will have a more effective workout after work than before. It’s all to do with your circadian rhythm so if you like to work with yours then choose this time to run. If you are up with the lark anyway and want to squeeze in that run before a day in the office then do it.

Contrary to what experts say the only person it matters to is you. You are doing this for yourself. It’s your time so take it whenever you want. Once you build a routine your body will start to need it, meaning it will dictate the times for you.

Once you’re all kitted out and at your doorstep ready to go it may be seem daunting so here’s the time to remember that you were literally made to run. That slightly overweight, probably very unfit bone and muscle machine that you drag around every day is going to thank you for this.

We ran for food and safety once upon a time and even though we now have cars and get food delivered, that does not mean that our bodies have adapted to it. Saying that, fitness needs to be built so start with a walk.

Not only does this warm you up but it gives you a chance to adjust to the movements, adapt to the temperature and put your head in the correct place before you begin to pick up the pace. Walk for as long as you want but as a beginner 15 minutes is probably the shortest time you need.

It is best on your warm up to walk to a park or a reservoir and there are a few reasons why

Firstly the sights of trees or a body of water will calm you and make the experience more serene. Secondly you can check out other runners, cyclists and general fitness buffs as you go. This is a great time to pick up new exercise techniques and you get to join in the general camaraderie of being out with others all doing the same thing.

Thirdly and most importantly you can track your own fitness levels. I picked a park with a 2 mile circular path when I started and it took me about 3 weeks to run around it non-stop.

This is what will motivate you

The internet will tell you how long that path is and make it your goal to complete it without stopping. It doesn’t matter so much about the length right now all that does matter is that it’s a single achievable goal.

When starting I found it really helpful to get a running app. These things are great. You pick the first level and gradually it will go from you running 1 min without stopping to 5 min without stopping. I found I didn’t need it after 5 mins but it can be used for much longer.

It’s encouraging and a little like having a Personal Trainer with you plus it takes away the problem of having to keep check of the time which is a pain. And remember don’t be discouraged if you can’t even do a minute. Nobody is fit the first time they do this it’s just going to take perseverance and practise.

While you are jogging take note of the things you see. These little landmarks are going to be vitally important to you very shortly. That swing with the red seat is going to make you feel euphoric and that wonky tree means that you will be rewarding yourself with chocolate when you get home. For now, this route should be your best friend so as it’s your first time jogging look and enjoy.

Whenever you need a boost tell yourself you are now a runner

This is it, officially you have joined the ranks of many out there who are choosing to change their lives and believe me this will change your life. Don’t let the negative thoughts in that say distance or time dictates what makes you a runner because they don’t.

Getting out there and working at it does. You run therefore you are a runner. It is that simple.And most of important of all enjoy it. It will give you more than you put in.

[wpramazon asin=”B003JNYULA”]

[wpramazon asin=”1482046628″]

Continue Reading

Are You Overtrained or Just Low on Iron?

working class athlete are-you-overtrained-or-just-low-on-iron

Quite possibly the most common nutritional deficiency for endurance athletes, especially women, is a lack of iron. A major problem with iron deficiency is it mostly goes undetected. A 1988 university study found that 45% of it’s female cross country runners had low iron levels compared to 78% of the male runners. In another study in 1983, 80% of female runners tested also had low iron levels.

Causes of iron deficiencies include:

Athletes most at risk of iron deficiencies include:

  • Runners
  • Women
  • Endurance athletes
  • Vegetarians
  • Heavy sweaters
  • Dieters
  • People who have recently donated blood

Symptoms of low iron include:

  • Recurring illness
  • Increased injuries
  • Loss of endurance
  • Hearing problems
  • Low power output
  • High HR when exercising
  • Chronic fatigue

The reason iron deficiencies go un-diagnosed so often is the symptoms are very similar to those of overtraining. The typical athlete treats the symptoms as overtraining, takes a break from training and returns feeling rejuvenated. However not long after resuming training, the athlete finds the same symptoms coming back again.

What should you do if you suspect low iron levels?

For starters you need to get a baseline blood test. This should be done in the off season or when your training volume is extremely low. You need to get your baseline levels for serum ferritin , reticulocytes, haptoglobin and hemoglobin.

When you suspect iron deficiency get another blood test. Be sure to fast before blood tests and don’t do any exercise 15 hours before hand. Your GP will help you understand your results. If your results show symptoms of iron deficiency, a follow up blood test may be required to confirm or rule out iron as the culprit. Your indicators may appear normal based on the reference range, but low compared to your baseline.

If your tests show and abnormally low iron count, you will need to increase iron intake in your diet. A great option is to have a dietician analyze your eating habits to determine sufficient iron intake. The RDA for women is 15mg a day and 10mg a day for men. Endurance athletes should get more.

A typical American diet contains roughly 6mg of iron per 1000 calories consumed. This means that women who restrict their calorie intake to 2000 a day can very easily become iron deficient. Particularly if they are also training.

Dietary iron come in 2 forms, heme and non-heme.

Heme is from animals and non-heme is from plants. A very small amount of iron consumed is actually absorbed by the body. However heme iron absorbs better at roughly 15% opposed to non-heme where only about 5% is absorbed by the body.

Therefor the most effective way to boost iron is by eating meat, especially red meat.

Plant sources of iron include:

  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Lima Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Soy Beans
  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Dried Fruits
  • Baked Beans
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Brussels Sprouts

Be wary that iron absorption of the above mentioned sources is decreased if eaten with the following:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Wheat
  • Cereal
  • Egg Yolk

Don’t use iron supplements without the approval from your GP. Some people can get a condition called Hemochromatosis. This is an iron overload and is marked by toxic deposits in the skin, liver and joints. Other symptoms for excessive iron actually mimic those of low iron ironically enough.

Be wary that the 2nd leading cause of poisoning children is actually by iron supplements.  The leading cause is Aspirin.

How Water Directly Affects Your Race Results

working class athlete how-water-directly-affects-your-race-results

A lot of working class athletes don’t drink enough fluids. This leaves them continually teetering on the edge of dehydration.

When in this dehydrated state, recovery is compromised and the risk of getting sick increases.

Drinking water throughout the day is one of the easiest and most effective ways of boosting athletic performance. Because sports drinks and most fruit juices are high to moderate on the glycemic index, the best fluid replacement between sessions is water.

Dehydration reduces plasma. This makes the blood thick and forces the heart and body to work harder to move it. Even when slightly dehydrated, performance intensity and duration are negatively affected.

A 2% loss of body weight in fluids will slow your racing performance by about 4%.

That’s almost 5 minutes in a 2 hour race! When time is critical, as it is in most endurance sports such as cycling, running and triathlon, you must keep well hydrated to keep the pace high.

A 68kg adult will lose a bit more than 2 liters of body fluids a day just in living. This does not even include training. Half of this is lost through urine at a rate of about 30 mL per hour. Heavy training or a hot and humid environment will increase the loss to 8 liters daily through sweating.

Unfortunately, the human thirst mechanism is not very effective.

By the time we feel thirsty, we are already on our way to dehydration. After long and intense training or racing, it can take 24 to 48 hours to rehydrate if thirst is the controlling factor. In complete contrast, a dog will drink up to 10% of its body weight immediately after exercise, replacing all lost water.

It’s important to drink water steadily throughout the day even when you’re not thirsty. You can use your rate of urination and urine color as guide. You should need to visit the toilet at least once every two hours during the day and your urine should be clear to straw colored. If you’re not achieving these standards, drink more.

Why Todays Lunch Is Ruining Next Weeks Race

working class athlete why-todays-lunch-is-ruining-next-weeks-race

Having the 4 macronutrients, protein, fat, carbohydrate and water, together  in a mixed diet not only keeps you healthy, but has so much to do with how well you train and race.

More fat equals more endurance

In recent studies examining the effects of diet on human and animal performance, scientists have found that an increase in dietary fat enhances aerobic capacity and endurance. Also the longer the exercise goes for the more benefit the diet had.

However there seemed to be no significant benefit for short high intensity efforts. Though increased carbohydrate intake slightly improved performance over the shorter duration.

A major downside to eating a high carbohydrate low fat diet…

was the increased production of lactic acid. The increase in lactic acid was not only during exercise but also at rest. This is put down to the idea that the body trains itself to use carbohydrate as the primary fuel source and in turn limits the bodies ability to utilize fat. So once the carbohydrate stores are depleted, it’s struggle time.

With high carbs come high risks

Studies have also found that high carbohydrate low fat diets result in increased risk of coronary heart disease. These diets increased the chance of low HDL (good cholesterol), high LDL (bad cholesterol) and elevated triglyceride levels.

There is still no definitive correlation between diet and health (theories are changing constantly), but for the time being, it is safest to stick to a balanced diet containing all 4 macro nutrients for performance and health.

Decreased testosterone levels have also been found to be a side effect of low fat diets.

Testosterone is a very important hormone that helps rebuild the tissue that has been broken down by exercise. When fat was increased in subjects’ diets, testosterone production also saw an increased. Eating fat in its natural state like in lean meats, plants, nuts, seeds, and natural oils appears to have no negative effects on health.

A lot of  cultures live quite well on high fat diets based on these kinds of foods. The issue with the typical American diet is that most of the dietary fat is saturated, hydrogenated, altered, processed, or artificial. Eating fat is not a problem unless its chemical structure has been altered by food producers.

As with general health, the foods you eat a week before an event may have a direct effect on your performance on the day.

Don’t ruin your hard work in training with bad food

All those weeks of training for your target event, all that time and dedication you have put in, could be undermined by poor choices in food leading up to your race.

When making your final preparations for a target race, your performance may improve if you’re eating a moderate fat diet in the vicinity of 30% of total calories and by carbohydrate loading for two to three days before. On the morning of the race, a pre-race meal should include up to 200 calories for every hour until race start.

So, if you eat three hours before starting your warm up, you would be looking to consume no more than 600 calories. Most of the calories for events that take two hours or less should try to come from low to moderate GI carbohydrates. Small amounts of protein maybe included.

Endurance performance in longer events may benefit from including a bit more fat in this meal.

Periodization of Diet

The perfect diet for peak performance will vary from person to person much the same as the perfect training plan varies from athlete to athlete. Not everyone can just eat the same thing and the same amounts and get the same results.

What was available for our primal ancestors to eat for the last 100,000 years is important for what you should eat now. The bottom line is that you must work out what combination of food works best for you.

If you have never experimented with this, don’t automatically assume you have found it already.

You may be surprised at what benefits can be found when changes are made at the dinner table. Be sure to make diet changes gradually and allow at least three weeks for your body to adapt before making judgments based on how you feel and your performance in training.

It typically takes at least two weeks to adapt to any significant changes before seeing any kind of results. During this adaptation period, you may feel tired and under perform in training.

For this reason, it’s best to try diet changes very early in your season or after your target race is over.

Be aware that as you get older, changes may occur in your body’s chemistry, requiring additional changes to your diet. An optimum diet to enhance performance and recovery involves not only eating moderate amounts of macronutrients but also varying the mix of these foods throughout the year.

Protein should serve as the anchor for your diet and should stay fairly consistent throughout the year as fat and carbohydrate rise and fall alternatively.