It’s ok to be sore

I’ll let you into a secret…

It’s ok to be sore.

“ …he gave me the confidence to understand the feedback my knee was giving me and when it was OK to push through any pain.”

And Aaron didn’t know the difference anymore between the kind of pain that comes with hard work and the kind that is telling you something has gone wrong.

But if you’ve been unable to run for more than a mile before being crippled with pain it’s a hard one to get your head around.

And if he was to get back running he needed to be able to tell the difference…

Especially as he was training for the London marathon.

But it doesn’t just apply to running.

Your training, regardless of what it is, shouldn’t result in you being in pain.

Yet if you don’t have a few aches and pains from time to time and you likely aren’t training hard enough.

This doesn’t mean you should be sore all the time…

After a tough session then yeah, you can expect a few aches…but day to day?

Nope.

Normal aches and pains should come and go…

They also shouldn’t be in the same place all the time.

If they are, it’s an indicator you might want to check things out before they become a bit more than a minor annoyance.

It doesn’t mean you’re injured, simply that the area is getting a bit overloaded.

Sit back and have a look at what you’ve been doing…

Is there a common factor relating to a particular pain point?

If there is, that might be all you might need is to change things up a little.

So don’t fear pain. Learn the difference between normal training aches and pains and those that are the harbingers of doom.

That way you can be confident about pushing things but also know when you should back off.

How to give yourself a superhero makeover

Ever wondered how Hollywood actors like Hugh Jackman or Chris Hemsworth go from looking like your neighbour to, well, a superhero.

The transformation of Chris Hemingsworth when he first played Thor was incredible.

He went from being your typical average-sized actor to, well, looking like Thor.

And Jackman was the same for Wolverine.

And when you look at their training programmes they’re mental.

But, and it’s big but…

All they had to do was turn up and train.

All their food is prepared for them…

Their daily routine is mapped out for them (Basically eat, train, sleep).

All of which goes to show when it really comes down to it

The foundations for successful training aren’t laid down in the gym or on the road.⁠

But in the supermarket…⁠

The kitchen…

And the bedroom (get your mind out of the gutter)…⁠

If you get your food and sleep nailed down you’ll achieve a degree of success regardless of the programme you use.

Skip these basics and no amount of killer training sessions or well thought out programmes will give you the success you desire.⁠

With food, getting your 5-a-day is the absolute bare minimum you should be doing.

And I’d recommend doubling this over time.

Ensuring that you have a large volume of veggies in your diet does a few different things but the big thing for me is processing power.

Lots of veggies mean lots of nutrients.

Which are essential for hormone production.

This means faster tissue repair of the damage caused by training and a more effective conversion of food into energy.

And therefore super important for recovering from training.

Which neatly brings us to sleep.

Sleep is where most of your recovery takes place.

Anabolic hormones flood your body an hour or so after you fall asleep

And these are essential for tissue repair.

So failing to get a good night’s sleep is to self-sabotage your chances of success.

And even one poor night’s sleep can have a big impact.

Less than 6 hours of sleep has the same effect on your cognitive function as being over the drink driving limit.

Continued poor sleep makes this worse. And the effects of a period of poor sleep are sneaky.

Because you only notice the difference between today and yesterday.

Not between today and how you felt 5 days ago.

You don’t feel much worse but you’re gradually feeling more tired and cranky.

And along with this your performance and ability to adapt continue to decline.

You then need not just lie in but an extended period of time where you’re sleeping well to get back on track.

So do yourself a favour and think more of doubling your 5-a-day and watch how your recovery and performance improve.

That four letter word

It’s a 4 letter word that sparks a lot of controversy.

One that causes genuine offence to some.

A real slap in the face.

(No, not that one.)

But one that has people verging on questioning your sanity when you mention it to them.

“You mean I have to…

REST?”

Yes, you do.

Your training isn’t the most important part of the process.

What you do when you aren’t training is.

For all our obsession with exercise choices…

The intensity…

The frequency…

Cardio or lifting?

Your training isn’t where the magic happens.

Nope…

The magic happens when you get your rest and recovery on point.

When you are taking it easy and allowing your body to catch up with everything you’ve been doing.

All the plans I’ve ever written emphasise recovery.

And having a minimum of 1 rest day every week

And the only people who only get 1 day off are the experienced, well-conditioned athletes.

Everyone else gets 2 or 3 depending on their experience.

And every plan places emphasis on the importance of;

1. Getting to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning…

2. Making good food choices that fuel your training and your recovery…

3. Hitting your 10,000 steps every day.

Because each of these help lay the foundations for improvement.

They enable you to smash the hard sessions that create the need for change.

Get your recovery sleep, food, and basic activity on point and you set yourself up for success.

12 seconds

 

“C’mon, Jim” he screamed at himself.

The fatigue and pain from the last 95Km on the road was etched all over his face. 

With just 5Km to go, his dream was on a knife-edge.

Pedal to the metal he found the last dregs of energy…

The finish line was speeding towards him but the record was slipping away. 

And he finished heartbreakingly short of a new WR.

The Jim in question here was Jim Walmsley.

Jim entered the Hoka Project Carbon X2 100Km race on 23rd January with the goal of setting a new world record. Only to fail by a measly 12 seconds!

The old record was 6:09:14.

And Jim finished in 6:09:25

12 gut wrenching seconds short.

And you might think, a heartbreaking disaster.

But Jim had plenty to be happy about.

For starters, he set a new PB. Breaking his old one by an enormous 45 minutes.

He smashed the US record by over 18 minutes (6:09:25 vs 6:27:44).

But more importantly…

He learned his training plan was spot on.

And you don’t smash PB’s or national records if it isn’t. 

Even if you do (narrowly) miss out on a world record.

Sometimes it just isn’t your day.

Things won’t always go as you hope…

Even if your training is on-point.

Jim’s a perfect example of that.

There’s only so much you can plan for. Especially in a 100Km race.

In Jim’s case, perhaps a couple of re-fuel stops were a few seconds too long.

A strong headwind towards the end of the race.

Or that he was unexpectedly the last man standing with 30Km to go.

All would have an impact.

But Jim knows that he has a training framework that works. One he can use again.

And having a training plan that sets you up for success is invaluable. 

Which is something I’ve found myself and my clients over the years.

Once you have a tried and tested programme you can personalise it to the situation.

There’s no need to go re-inventing the wheel every time.

It doesn’t matter what you do, the same principle applies.

Powerlifting or Ultramarathons stop winging it and build around proven success.

Naked running

“I want you to run naked”

I was talking to a fellow coach recently, when he brought it up that he did quite a bit of naked running.

Safe to say, I was skeptical. 

I mean, I couldn’t picture him getting more than a few hundred yards down the road before getting lifted by the Police.

So I asked – “Do you do it on the treadmill at home?”

He looked at me like I was mental and replied, “No, what would be the point? You know there’s loads of great trails here. I lock the front door and stick the key under a brick as normal and head off”

Now before you think he’d lost his mind. And, maybe wondering how he’d avoided going to jail, he wasn’t talking about not wearing any clothes. 

What my pal meant by ‘naked running’ was leaving your GPS watch at home when you head out for your run.

And I’ve got to say…

Now that I’ve tried it, and ran ‘naked’ regularly — it’s liberating. 

Perhaps more so than running with no clothes on. (Though I haven’t tried that.)

Here’s the thing …

We are so conditioned to track everything, it can take the joy away from running.

When I did cross country back in PE classes at school, you just ran. No watches, no heart rate monitors. 

Just kit on, and around the route the teacher told you to do.

Since 1999, and the launch of the Casio ProTrek, we’ve become tied to the idea of knowing every little stat about our running.

Obviously, this does have some amazing benefits.

But at the same time, you become reliant on it. 

Losing touch with being able to run purely by feel.

Something that is vital if you’re chasing after a PB.

And running by how you feel is what naked running is about.

Once you ditch the watch it’s so much easier to listen to what your body is telling you.

For instance…

If you’ve had a busy week, hitting a certain pace might be pretty hard. 

With no watch telling you you’re going too slow, you’re forced to run by feel.

You have to listen to your breathing, and whether or not you’re straining when you should be going easy.

The big benefit from naked running comes when you put your watch back on.

Because that’s when you can listen to your body and the signals it’s sending you… without checking your watch every 30 seconds.

You won’t need to.

You’ll know if you’re on pace by how you feel.

And you can review things when you finish.

Because, like I said, the tech isn’t evil, you just need to stop relying on it.

So my challenge to you is to leave your watch at home once a week. 

Learn to listen to what your body is telling you and reap the benefits.

The “Warren Buffet” Training Method

Warren Buffet is a boring old man.

With all the wealth he has he still lives in the same house he bought in 1958…

He’s driven the same Cadillac XTS for the last 7 years…

And he didn’t own an iPhone until 2020.

In fact, he’s even pretty boring when it comes to the very thing he’s famous for.

Not one to go for the “get rich quick” he invests in companies with his eye on the long term.

Because it’s a strategy that works.

Ignoring the new, bright and shiny thing he invests in companies with solid foundations. 

Foundations that will allow them to ride out the upheavals in the stock market. Providing a return for their investors over the longer term.

And that’s exactly how you should view your training.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

You want to ignore the Instagram Influencers and stick to tried and tested methods.

Because you want to invest your time and energy into the things that will have the biggest long term payoff…

Not what’s “on trend” today.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

You want to invest your time and energy into the things that will have the biggest long term payoff.

Things like easy, zone 2 runs.

Or lifting in the 70%-80% range.

This builds your durability. 

Meaning you can tackle your training with greater confidence.

This less intense work is a bit like compound interest; it can take a while to see the benefits. 

You can still sprinkle your training with faster, harder, heavier work.

But keeping the more intense work to a minimum makes it easier to recover.

Which in turn means you can train more…

You’ll pick up fewer injuries…

And you’ll build the foundations for future success.

Take the long term view and watch how effortless it all becomes.

Don’t be a weekend (only) warrior

“Jump in the shower

And the blood starts pumpin’

Out on the streets

The traffic starts jumpin’

With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5”

I bet you’re singing along in your head with Dolly as you read.

At the time Dolly was starring in the film 9-5 office working hours for many were morphing into 8-6 and beyond.

And, at the same time, we were seeing the start of the first real fitness boom. (Funnily enough helped along by her fellow star Jane Fonda.)

But with time through the week in short supply more and more people started to double up at the weekend. 

And the idea of the weekend warrior was spawned.

Unfortunately throwing the kitchen sink at the weekend and trying to cram all your activity into two days is a bad idea. 

One that is likely to set you on the path to injury.

So I had to laugh when I saw a piece in Runner’s World about “crash training”.

Crash training has its roots in cycling and is where you do 2 or 3 days of harder than normal training.

This can mean longer or harder sessions or longer AND harder. The idea is to do more than normal for a very short period of time.

But this is done off an already solid base of work. 

And every now and then it wouldn’t be the worst idea I’ve heard.

Yet the article was talking about it being a good idea if you have a job that makes big time demands on you.

That chucking in a couple of big days at the weekend to make up for doing nothing through the week.

And it’s one of the more stupid things I’ve heard. 

It’s a terrible idea for anyone in that situation.

The last thing you need if you’re putting in long hours is a crazy hard weekend of activity.

Far better would be to “Micro-Dose” your training across the week.

If you are time poor through the week I’d much prefer you did daily short sessions with a little bit more at the weekend.

Cut things right back.

And, ideally, get the sessions in before work.

If you’re lifting pick 2 big movements, 1 lower body and 1 upper body, and do some solid but not hard work.

Conditioning? A 30 min easy run before work and you’re done.

Then at the weekend, you can put in a single bigger session if you want to…

Or you can relax with your family knowing you’ve hit the bases through the week.

How Ray-Bans can help your training

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the lovely sunny weather recently.

Annoyingly I’ve discovered I’d lost my sunglasses.

So I thought I might treat myself to a pair of Ray-Bans and Ray-Ban Aviators in particular.

The iconic Aviators have been around since 1937 and, as the name suggests, were designed specifically for pilots. 

The lenses are deliberately large and curved to cover the whole field of vision to keep the sun out of the pilots’ eyes.  

But aside from the inferred coolness of being designed for pilots and them being Ray-Bans.

Ray-Ban Aviators are cool for another reason…

They use science.

By applying a chemical filter to the glass the original Aviators filtered out the blue light. 

The process massively cuts down the amount of light reaching the eye and helps maintain a sharp image.

Then later they introduced a polarised lens that prevents all the horizontal light from reaching the eye.

And this polarising effect isn’t restricted to just your sunnies.

You can apply it to your training.

The idea being that you have a big contrast between your training sessions.

Where polarised sunglasses will cut the light that reaches your eyes in half we want to go further with your training.

And have more of an 80/20 split.

Something that all elite athletes do but is perhaps easiest to see with elite runners.

They stay away from the middle ground. Making sure that each and every session is either hard or easy. 

With the biggest chunk being easy. 

To determine what actually is easy or hard is simple.

Easy =  a Zone 2 heart rate throughout the run.

Hard = either a Zone 4 or 5 Heart rate depending on the type of session.

If they tried to run the way most everyday runners do there’s no way they could clock up 100+ miles a week.

Fail to apply this simple concept and you’ll be plagued with aches and pains…

Regularly injured…

And constantly fail to achieve their goals.

So as an Everyday Athlete this is one of the few times you want to copy what the elites do in their training.

Where normally this would be madness…

A  fast track to injury and the treatment room.

By applying this idea of polarising your training you ensure the complete opposite.

It’s got a proven track record for getting the most out of our training especially if you want to…

Avoid injuries…

See consistent results…

And enjoy your training more…

Because it makes it easier to recover.

And it doesn’t make any difference what type of training you’re doing.

Lifting in the gym?

You need to limit those sessions where you’re hitting weights in the 85%+ range.

So NO maxing out every week.

You can even apply it to something like BJJ.

When you’re rolling aim for 1 hard, evenly matched battle, out of every 5. 

The others can be easier, more technique-based.

You’ll recover more easily between sessions and improve faster too.

So take inspiration from your sunnies and apply it to your training and watch your performance take off.

He ate a whole Chihuahua!

He ate a whole chihuahua!

Well not exactly.

But first a random factoid alert…

Chihuahuas were actually bred for eating.

Anyway, I was listening to a podcast the other day and the guy was talking about how much fruit and veg he ate.

When he totted it up it came out as the equivalent of an adult chihuahua…

Or 2.5kg of fruit and veggies every day!

Now I like my fruit and veggies…

And I’m definitely an advocate of getting your 5-a-day…

But 2.5kg of fruit and veg is extreme.

And, to be fair, he did admit it wasn’t for everyone.

He also went to pains to point out that he didn’t wake up one day and start eating that amount.

He built up to it over a few months.

But the jump in, all guns blazing approach is one many adopt when they start a new programme…

And then wonder why they crash and burn.

It happens with beginners and more experienced athletes.

They’ll jump into a programme without having done the preparatory work.

Then 3-4 weeks in they find they can’t tolerate the sessions and get injured.

It’s why periods of base building are essential.

You can’t work hard all the time. 

There need to be periods of downtime.

Weeks and months dedicated to laying the foundations on which you build to a PB.

These easy periods are what allow you to run faster or lift more.

Too often runners fall into the trap of thinking it’s the intervals, tempo runs, etc that build their speed but it’s not.

Slowly building up the volume and gradually increasing the intensity IS the route to success.

As you work in tandem with your body’s ability to adapt, your ability to do more improves.

You can tolerate harder running sessions.

Add in lifting in the 80-90% range.

Perhaps start using harder, more intense plyometric drills.

Not only that but it’ll be easier to sustain.

So, like the Chihuahua muncher slowly built his veggie intake, take the time to build your base.

You’ll be surprised how much faster and stronger you get as a result of taking your time.

You can’t outrun a doughnut

Do you watch live TV anymore?

If you’re like me then it’s only the recent series of Line of Duty.

With the smorgasbord of streaming services, you can pretty much watch what you want, when you want.

And it’s great.

Nothing on TV that you want to watch tonight?

No problem, there’s bound to be something on Netflix, or Prime, or AppleTV.

All of which tends to lead to over-indulging in my experience.

Why watch one episode when you can watch four?

I mean Netflix is set up for it.

The next episode will start before the one your watching finishes.

It’s a trap we can all fall into.

And before you know it you’ve lost the whole weekend…

Ok, the last time that happened was about 8 years ago pre Andrew.

But it is easy to lose an evening to a series.

And along with the TV binging often comes a bit of extra food.

After all binge TV without some munchies?

I mean, what would the world be coming to?

And you can justify it because you went out for a run earlier.

But not so fast on playing the exercise joker.

Guidelines from the International Society of Sports Nutrition might trump that.

If all you are doing is running for 30-40 minutes 3 times a week, there is NO need to eat any more than normal.

In fact, even if you are training 5-6 times a week you only need an extra 200-400 kcals above maintenance.

And it’s only when you get into the realms of professional sport or manual labourers that you can think of adding a significant amount more.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t have our treats, but you need to account for them.

So if you do grab that bag of crisps you might need to skip something much more nutritious.

And this is one of the reasons so many people don’t lose weight, and even gain weight even though they’re training regularly.

Plus activity trackers only re-enforce this. As they tend towards over-estimating the calories burnt.

So even if you’re hitting your 10,000 steps on top of your training it’s best to think of this as a basic level of activity.

Activity that might allow you to get away with a bag of crisps…

But definitely not feasting on Krispy Kreme doughnuts whilst binge-watching your fav’s on Netflix.