The one legged runner

When I started to work with Roddy knee pain was robbing him of the enjoyment he got from his morning run.

A 2:30 marathon runner, he really felt he wasn’t running freely.

The pain wasn’t crippling him but it was always there.

Some days it was barely noticeable but on others, it was like toothache nagging away at him.

But always worse after a longer run.

He couldn’t comfortably get into certain positions in his yoga classes.

Especially those that required a deep flexed knee position..there he got a sharp pain.

And even the child pose was really uncomfortable.

He was one of the classic “uninjured” injured athletes I see regularly. 

You can still train and play but you don’t feel like you used to.

The years haven’t been kind and accumulated niggles are having an impact.

Movement is a bit restricted.

Nothing seems to flow the way it used to.

In part due to tissue adaptations but mostly down to the behaviors you’ve learned to allow you to keep on trucking.

Great on the one hand…it allows you to keep training but, eventually, a real handbrake in terms of performance.

There often isn’t a need for big changes or to take a complete break.

It’s much more about finding the gaps in your training and filling them…

Checking how you move and work on any glaring restrictions…

And helping you solve the problems yourself.

Roddy, like many, had lost the ability to balance on one leg.

As soon as he got into that position he felt like he’d fall over.

Yet being comfortable here is essential to pain-free running.

It’s your mid-stance position.

If you are unable to get there you’ll load your leg very unevenly.

What you start to see are three compensations when you are running.

  • The knee flexes too much when your foot hits the ground
  • The knee extends too fast.
  • A lateral drop of the pelvis on the support leg

These aren’t just limited to runners…

Pretty much anyone with knee pain will demonstrate them.

The reason for this?

A lack of posterior knee stability.

You need the calf and hamstring working as a team to prevent the early knee extension.

This in turn places you in a position where the whole leg is working better.

You don’t get excessive knee flexion.

The glutes then have time to do their job and the lateral tilt disappears.

And like I had planned it that is where Roddy is now.

Not just running without any pain but running faster.

Yet his training isn’t geared towards running faster… he’s all about enjoying his running having left his competitive days behind him.

But here’s the kicker…

He’s running around 30 seconds per km faster with no extra effort.

How’s he doing this?

Because he’s got two legs again.

For the last few years, he’s pretty much been running on 1 leg.

His injured leg barely contributed to pushing him forward.

He says it’s most noticeable on hills where he feels a lot more powerful and doesn’t slow down anything like as much.

If your knee pain has been impacting your ability to train…

If sitting for long periods means throbbing pain around your knee…

Or your knees are starting to go snap, crackle, and pop when you stand up.

I’ve put together my top 3 knee pain exercises here for you to get started.

My Top 3 Knee Pain Exercises

You’re gonna get injured

Let’s be honest, if you play any sport or keep yourself fit and active…

Sooner or later you WILL get injured…

And if you’re training for the type of conflicting goals we’re talking about here… like squatting heavy and running a marathon the chances go up.


Because you’re trying to cram everything from max strength to LISS sessions into your week.

It’s the main reason for athletes suffering from the aches and pains I talked about in yesterday’s email.

Or at least trying to do everything from every programme is the problem.

If you’re aiming to hit some big numbers in the gym and out on the road you can’t simply bolt two powerlifting and  10K programmes together. 

There simply isn’t enough time in the week to do them 

Sure, we can reduce the chances of this happening.

That’s why I encourage a decent strength training programme…

And why I hammer on about having a BALANCED training regime

But eventually, it will happen — you WILL get injured.

Which poses an even greater problem…

Which is that if an injury isn’t treated properly, the long term effect can be even worse than the initial injury itself.

To illustrate that, I heard a line a few years ago that went something like…

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can cause permanent damage”

Let me explain what that means (and what it’s got to do with any injuries you might get)…

Every injury you suffer is like an insult to your body.

We all get insulted at some point in our lives.

If you’ve got supportive friends, caring parents, etc… that insult will be barely noticeable.

You’ll brush it off. And you’ll get on with your life like without any lasting consequences.

What if the opposite were the case?

Or if it happened often enough?

Or it was a serious insult?

In this situation, you’re like the kid who got bullied the whole way through school…

The mental scars could last a lifetime…

Leaving you riddled with underlying self-doubt and social anxieties that spill over into everything you do.

The injuries you pick up are just like this.

If it happens often enough…

Or if it’s serious enough…

It will start to affect other areas of your body.

But a good rehab plan is like having caring friends and supportive parents.

You come through the experience with no lasting consequences.

Because it deals with not only the pain but why it’s there in the first place.

Because a good rehab plan is an active one.

One that teaches you to move well again…

Makes you stronger…

And, ultimately, prepares you for the activities you enjoy doing.

Something that you won’t get by with a “rub” and doing a bit of stretching can’t do.

There’s a dead whale on the beach

What’s the best way to dispose of 8 stinking tonnes of rotting whale carcass?

I’ve no idea either.

But I know it’s not the way that Oregon’s highway division decided to do it.

Back in November 1970 they had a 15m long, 8-tonne humpback whale wash up on a beach.

And nobody could think of the best way to deal with it.

Bury it on the beach?

Nope, it’ll eventually resurface.

Chop it up?

They couldn’t get any volunteers.

Blow it up?

Yeah, let’s blow it up.

I mean, I get it, it’d be quick and easy.

Plus, who doesn’t like an excuse to play with dynamite?

And that’s what they did.

They planted a metric shit tonne of TNT around the carcass and blew it up thinking it’d all go out to sea.


They ended up with 8-tonnes of putrifying whale flesh raining down across half a mile of beach…

And the film crew who were there to report on it for the evening news.

And the “let’s blow it up” approach is what a lot of people do with their training.

Goong for the big bang approach with Metcons everyday…

HIIT as their only conditioning…
And maxing out the big lifts every session.

It makes sense in some ways, less time commitment…

No getting bored cruising through an easy zone 2 cardio sessions…

Max singles are cool.

But as the video shows, it’s doesn’t always work out well.

Now, none of these approaches are gonna leave you covered with rotting whale guts…

But you don’t need to knock your pan in every session to make progress.

If you limit the “blow the whale up” approach for a couple of sessions a week you’ll do way better.

Filling in the other days with easier sessions.

Ones that allow you to work on other aspects of your fitness…

Like zone 2 conditioning or lighter hypertrophy work in the gym.

Both of which support the big sexy max effort sessions.

They might be the kind of sessions that don’t get like when you post them on the ‘gram but they are the cornerstones of your success.

Limit going crazy to a couple of times a week and in 6 months time you’ll be emailing me about the mad PBs you’ve been setting.

I nearly forgot. Here’s the video

The Quest for Being (Slightly Better Than) Average …


To be better than average.

It sounds like a bit of a low bar to aim for, doesn’t it?

The thing is it doesn’t take long before being better than average is actually pretty damn good.

I’ve never been particularly great at anything.

And whilst when I was younger the idea of being great at something was definitely appealing…

When I played rugby I definitely dreamed, as most boys did, of playing for Scotland. But, whilst I was a good enough player but I was never going to get paid to play.

Because there’s a lot of extra stress that comes with being really good.

I had a friend who played high-level rugby tell me he couldn’t sleep the night before a game.

I mean who needs that…getting stressed about something that’s really a hobby?

Definitely not me.

And as I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more interested in being good at lots of things.

Having less of a specialist focus allows you to have fun and enjoy all the health benefits from different activities.

Powerlifting for the over 40’s is great. 

But the lack of cardiovascular work will bite you on the arse eventually if it’s all you do.

With runners, this flips around…

Yes, you ain all the health benefits from running but lose out on valuable upper body strength.

But given that there really isn’t any need to specialise as we get older why should you?

Especially as you can be both fit and strong…

That they aren’t mutually exclusive.

My 5K time is 8 minutes faster than the average for a UK male…

I could rock up at a powerlifting meet and not get embarrassed…

And my 5K row time on is in the advanced category.

No, I’d much rather be a jack of all trades.

Easily able to run to the school pick up when I’m late without sounding like a dying donkey…

Able to comfortable maneuver 3 by 2 slabs around the garden without thinking my back might explode…

Or carry boxes up and down stairs all day when we moved from our top floor flat.

But the funny thing is that if you decide to get good at a number of the different aspects of fitness.

Then you will stand out.

Not just in your age group but in any gym you care to go into.

Keep both feet on the ground

You want to improve your running…

You know that outside of running getting stronger can help…a lot.

You take the time to have a look at what exercises are the best ones to help improve your running…

Put together a little programme for yourself full of single leg exercises and head off to the gym.

Full of enthusiasm to get going.

A few weeks is you notice some of them are starting to get pretty tough to perform.

They were fine when they were light but you struggle for balance as the weight has gotten heavy.

And that’s the problem with the…

“Unilateral training is better for athletes” way of thinking.

They are great for athletes but they do come at a cost…

A lack of stability.

Once you get above a certain weight the need to stabilise your body goes through the roof.

Which kinda takes away from the sole reason you’re in the gym is to get stronger.

And to make significant strength gains we need stability.

Without the stability of two feet on the gym floor…to maximise force and therefore strength.

One way of getting aorund this is to use the safety squat bar.

This frees your hands and allows you to hold onto the rack.

This can be a total gamechanger brining the stability of a bilateral stance to the movement.

It really does let you load it up a lot.

But not everyone has a safety squat bar. 

You can get around this by using dumbbells.

Dumbbells lower your centre of gravity, which helps massively but you can be limited by your grip strength.

Which brings us back to good ole squats and deadlifts.

Unilateral training is great and there are a host of benefits to doing it but bilateral work is still needed…

Even if you do spend all your time on one leg when you’re running.

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?


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…


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.


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.