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.

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.

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.

The art of suffering

“The life of an elite athlete is, in the end, the art of knowing how to suffer”

So says Killian Jornet.

If you don’t know who Killian is, he’s probably the best ultra runner in the world. 

And if you want to run ultra distances, knowing how to suffer is the difference between finishing and getting a DNF.

So it’s safe to say Killian is a man who has honed his ability to suffer.

But what is the “ability to suffer” and is it something you can train?

In some respects you can.

Let’s think of the ability to suffer as an override button.

One that allows you to take “manual control” of your body.

We, obviously, have a well developed system for self preservation. One that lets you know when what you are doing is jeopardising your ability to function properly.

There are times when you will automatically override this, such as if you injure yourself when running away from a  tiger.

At this point getting away from the tiger is much more important than your sore knee.

But what if there is no tiger?

If there’s no tiger, then it comes down to you deciding what you are doing is more important than your sore knee.

You have to consciously tell yourself to “man up” and ignore the danger signals.

And it is exactly what Struan did.

Struan is a soldier and an ultra runner.

He was training for the Hardian’s Wall coast to coast ultra and had popped in a few times to keep the niggles at bay.

Race day came and I messaged him the day after to see how he got on.

“Hurt my hip at mile 15. Told myself to “man up” and get on with it. Finished in a disappointing 14hours”

 

It was a perfect example that you can develop a manual override that works just like your automatic one.

As a soldier, especially an infantry soldier like Struan, this is part and parcel of your training. 

Every single soldier I’ve worked with is able to do it.

They all have a place they can go so they can keep on trucking.

And it highlights that it is a very trainable ability.

It’s not that they don’t feel the pain, it’s that they can ignore it.

Now let me say this ignoring pain just so you can finish a race will always come with consequences.

That said…

There are lessons to be learned from what squaddies go through in their training.

You can take the general principles of their training and apply them to your own.

That is to say you make your training progressive.

The squaddies are exposed to increasing demands in ever more challenging environments.

As the demands increase so does their mental toughness and ability to switch the pain off.

For you as an everyday athlete, this still applies. 

You might not want to tackle the Hadrian’s Wall Ultra or go into battle but developing the ability to block out the pain is an asset.

One that you develop through gradually increasing the demands of your training.

It’s like the idea of boiling a frog.

If you drop a frog into boiling water it’ll jump out.

But put it in a pan of cold water and slowly heat it up…

It’ll happily sit there until it dies.

It’s why you start any programme well within your capabilities.

If you jump straight into a heavy duty programme of crazy, hard sessions you won’t last long.

Very shortly you’ll either quit because it’s way too hard or you’ll get injured.

But start off slowly and gradually build up the volume and intensity.

Until you get to the point where you’re sitting in the metaphorical pan of boiling water.

That is how you build your ability to suffer…

To tolerate long, intense runs…

To not say fxxx that to near max loads in a back squat.

And to not only tolerate them but benefit from them.

Now I’m off to do an easy session as I blasted myself with some intervals yesterday.

The Most Important 2 Minutes Of Your Day

We’ve all seen those annoying posts on Facebook or Instagram. A load of shite about morning rituals and how important they are?

That you must meditate for an hour before the sun comes up. 

And get in a killer workout before getting ready for work.

Prep all your food for the day before a bird has sung a single note.

In other words, get up before you went to bed. 

And then you realise that it’s all written by someone who doesn’t have a life. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s value in making a point of doing all of the above…

If you can make it work.

The meditation and meal prep are big time savers, not time wasters.

And if you have the ability to train first thing in the morning then your workout is done and dusted before “the day” can de-rail it.

In fact rituals and habits play an important role in how successful we are in pretty much anything.

And your training is no exception.

Yet one of the most important habits or rituals you can have is often overlooked.

And they are, perhaps, the most important 2 minutes of your training day.

Let me explain…

You can turn your legs to jelly on hill reps…

Sweat so much on the Erg you look like you’re actually rowing on a lake..

Cranking out the reps in the gym for a burn so deep you look like the “Human Torch”…

None of it matters if you don’t get this part of the session right.

Well, I’m exaggerating a bit but it is important.

Be it a hard or an easy session the last few minutes are every bit as important as the rest of the session.

You see, once you’ve done the hard work you want to calm things down as fast as possible.

Because the good stuff, the adaptations that make you stronger, faster and generally harder to kill only happen once you’re finished.

It’s the recovery period between the sessions that you make your gains.

And we want to get into the recovery zone as fast as possible.

To do this finish your run with a couple of minutes of gentle walking.

This should see your heart rate drop below 100 bpm.

Then once you’re inside you want to lie down and pop your feet on a seat and breathe.

Nice and gently, in and out through your nose. 

Pause after the inhale and again after you exhale.

Or spend some time in the “Child’s Pose”. 

A couple of minutes spent in either of these will bring your heart rate right down.

Flipping the off switch on the production of all the hormones associated with exercise and flipping on the switch for all those that help you recover.

Give it a try after your next session it’ll help speed up your recovery.

Running Repairs – a guide to successful running

One of the great things about running is that it doesn’t require any special equipment or gym membership. A bog standard pair of trainers, you really don’t need to be spending £100+ on shoes, shorts and a t-shirt and off you go. Unfortunately, running injuries are ridiculously common.

The big issue that is often forgotten about is, and let’s be honest, running is hard work.

Running at a moderate pace you are looking at 1200-1500 steps in a kilometre.

On an easy run, the forces that we absorb are around 3 times body weight on each foot strike. Or around 320,000kg, strictly speaking, it’s 320,00N but we’ll stick to a measurement we can all relate to.

Continue reading “Running Repairs – a guide to successful running”

The best cardio workouts for over 40’s

What are the best cardio workouts for the over 40’s?

A better question would be…what is the best way to structure a conditioning program for the over 40’s?

Which would then prompt the reply, what are your goals?

Your goals ultimately determine what your conditioning program needs to look like. If you play 5-a-side football regularly then your program will look different to someone who wants to run 5k fast. They, in turn, will look different to someone who takes part in BJJ.

What they all have in common is that they are based on a strong aerobic base and less volume than you did in your 20’s.

stair run

Continue reading “The best cardio workouts for over 40’s”

How to beat DOMS

DOMS – what is it?

DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness is something that everyone has experienced regardless of training history. You don’t even have to have trained to experience it. You have just decorated the bedroom and you have sore shoulders, that soreness is DOMS. Often thought of as a sign of a good training session, nothing could be further from the truth.

In tech speak the pain is caused by an increase in the acute loading that is sufficiently above your chronic loading level that you aren’t ready for. You react to this in an adverse manner that is painful.  The unwanted pain of DOMS is a secondary reason why you should build up the volume and intensity over a period of weeks. The primary reason for the gradual build-up is to reduce the risk of injury. DOMS is painful but it isn’t an injury. A good rule of thumb is to use increases of no greater than 10% per week. Continue reading “How to beat DOMS”