Personal Best 101: Tips to your fastest 5k #1 – The Warm Up

PersonalBest101_5KThe 5km Time Trial is a classic weekly event on every running clubs schedule. Both back of the packers and racing snakes love to use these to get in a good quality workout and to test their progress when preparing for longer events.

Fast and slow alike love to crack a personal best over the 5km time trial, so over the next 6 weeks I will be offering weekly tips to help you do just that:

Tip #1 – The Warm Up

To run a fast time trial your body needs to be ready to run hard from the word go. In order to do that, it is important to prepare your body for the hard running to come with a good warm up.

The pre-run warmup does more than just warm your body enough so that you are able to brave removing your tracksuit.

It also:

  • Increases blood flow to the muscles enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Stimulates the energy-releasing reactions used during running and makes the muscles suppler.
  • Prepares your muscles, joints and tendons for greater range of motion.
  • Raises your heart rate, preparing your heart for the increase in exertion.
  • Focuses your mind for the upcoming hard effort.
  • Primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for running.

How to do a warmup:

Allow at least 15 minutes for your warm up. The fitter you are and faster you plan to run, the longer the warm up you will require. Plan to finish your warm up just before the start of the 5km, otherwise you will cool down again and lose a lot of the benefit of the warm up.

Start with very light jogging and gradually increase the effort every minute so that in the last 3 minutes you are running only slightly slower than your planned 5km time trial effort. This run will be 10-15 minutes long depending on your fitness level.

legswingsFollow the jog with a few dynamic stretches for example: leg swings, arm swings, walking lunges, bum flicks.

If you are a very serious racing snake then finish off with 4 x 100m acceleration runs.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

Go smash that PB now!

Coach Kathleen


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Marathon Nutrition in 12 Easy Steps

When running a marathon you are not only faced with the challenge of covering a substantial distance, but also ensuring adequate intake of energy and fluids to offset the losses. The gains from getting your fueling strategy spot on are big, and the losses from getting it wrong, are devastating. The challenges faced by many marathoners, especially novice recreational runners are:

a) You don’t run a full marathon in training so there is this unknown territory

b) The market is swamped with products, each claiming to be the best

c) Our bodies all respond individually

This means a lot of experimentation is required in training to find what works for you.

The challenge though, especially for novices, is where to even start! I have therefore provided 12 tips that will help you navigate your way through the energy gel jungle and avoid the bonk:

  1. Practice, practice, practice (timing and amounts of fuel and water) during long training runs. Don’t only practice at slow paces, practice at or close to marathon pace as well as your body requires more fuel and your gut is under greater stress when going faster.
  2. Fundamental physiology shows that the most efficient fuel source is carbohydrate.
  3. Start the race with a full tank! If you have carbo loaded then your muscles will have up to 2 hours of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) available.
  4. Studies have shown that consuming a combination of glucose and fructose makes more energy available as your body is using two troops of transporters. So check the labels. Glucose will often be listed as maltodextrin, this is a complex glucose which releases slower so is more effective than pure glucose.
  5. The only “magic” ingredient is carbohydrate (and maybe a shot of caffeine). The shorter the ingredient list the better.
  6. If consuming caffeine, practice in training! It can lead to unplanned loo stops.
  7. It is best to stick to one product throughout the event.
  8. Aim to consume 150 to 200 calories per hour. This is best spread over 15 to 45 minute intervals.
  9. Start fuelling as early as 15 minutes in to preserve your glycogen stores. Once you hit the wall you will be doing the death march home.
  10. Start the race well hydrated. Prehydrate with both water and electrolytes. Cosume 500ml to 750ml of fluid, if possible with added electrolyte, per hour. Less in cooler conditions or when going slower. If you notice dry crusty salt on your skin or your ears seem blocked, then you are not drinking enough. Overhydration is more of a danger in well supported races. So if you finding you need to urinate a lot or your tummy feels bloated then cut back. Drinking small amounts continuously is the best.
  11. Save the sugary coke for the last 5km!
  12. Again…PRACTICE!!

All the best. Pop me a message if you have more questions.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

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Many regular club runners approach me wanting to improve their times over longer distances like the half marathon and marathon. The common approach is a hit and miss approach which involves hammering away at the goal distance weekend after weekend, hoping that one day times will improve. There will possibly be some improvement, purely because the runner is running more and getting fitter. However, a more strategic approach is required to see real and quicker results with few missed attempts.

In helping the runner plan their training smartly, one of the first questions I ask is, “what are your times over the shorter distances?”. The answer to this question provides many clues as to where the shortcomings are and what to focus the training on. There are normally two scenarios.

Scenario One: The goal pace for the longer distance is faster than what the runner is able to run over less than that distance. For example, someone would want to run a sub 4 hour marathon, yet they struggle to run 2 hours for a half marathon. In this situation, the smart approach would be to first spend time improving times over 5 kilometers, 10 kilometers and then the half marathon. Marathon goal pace should feel comfortable over these shorter distances. From this point the runner can then focus on marathon specific training with the confidence that they are able to run the required pace. At least to halfway! Now just to sustain it!

Scenario Two: The runner can run a very fast 5 kilometer and 10 kilometer, maybe even a fast half marathon, but is really struggling with the marathon. In this case the shortcoming is often not doing enough long runs, or not long enough long runs. Also not doing any longer training runs at marathon goal pace. Other factors to consider would be inadequate race nutrition or whether the runner is doing too much and going into the race overtrained.

The above example was for a marathon runner, but the principles remain the same for someone wanting to improve over shorter distances.

A simple formula to predict your potential times over different over and under distances is Frank Horwills formula which is simply to: add 10 seconds per kilometer (12 seconds for women) to your pace as you go up in standard distances and minus 10 seconds (12 for women) as you go down.

For example: A male who is able to run 20:00 (4 min/km) for 5 km has the potential to run the following times over longer and shorter distances:

DistancePotential Pace /kmPotential Time
3km4:00 – 10 sec = 3:5011:30
10km4:00 + 10 sec = 4:1040:40
21.1km4:10 + 10 sec = 4:201:31:26
42.2km4:20 + 10 sec = 4:303:09:54

So using the example above, if you are wanting to run under 3 hours 10 min for the marathon, you want to work towards being able to run about 1 hour 31 minutes for the half marathon.

In summary, when planning for a specific goal, it is important to compare your current ability over shorter and longer distances to see where your shortcomings are. It is also important to have a coach look at your training history to see why the shortcomings are there. And finally, approaching your goal with a smart strategy will increase your chances of success!


Coach Kathleen

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We are taught from a young age that we are each unique. Unique personality, unique looks, unique physiology, unique minds. There is no one like you!

And the same comes to you, the runner. You can train exactly like Eliud Kipchoge, but you will never be Eliud Kipchoge. In fact, with all respect, you won’t even be able to train like Eliud Kipchoge. His training is designed his body, mind and professional athlete lifestyle.

Runners all have different muscle types, body types, heart, lungs, mindsets, personalities, lifestyles. And lets not forget, different moms and dads which have passed on their genes! All of these differences play a big role in determining what type of and how much training is best for each of us individually. What might result in a personal best for one person, might not do the same for you.

This is why they refer to coaches as both scientists and artists. A great coach is able to apply the science to your unique humanness and lifestyle in a way that will bring out the best runner in YOU.

Then of course there are the unpredictables –  illness, injury, work, travel, family commitments etc. All factors that greatly influence your race preparations, but which a one size fits all training plan is not able to adapt to.

While not everyone has the privilege of receiving personalised coaching, you can become your own best coach simply by logging your training carefully and taking note of what works for YOU and what does not. Then just keep on doing what works.

It really is as simple as knowing your own body and mind, finding your best lane and sticking to it!

Let me know how you are getting on.

Coach Kathleen


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Legendary coach, Peter Coe writes: “The response to a stimulus is specific, therefore the training must be as specific as possible to each element of the event. Inappropriate training is unnecessary stress – this can be very harmful”

Want to become a better runner? Run more! For the average club runner, it really is that simple. Your body will adapt to what you ask it to do most often. Sit on the couch often, and you will start looking and feeling like a couch potato. Run often and you will start looking and feeling more and more like a runner (and less like a potato!).

While other physical activities (or “cross training”), will help your body’s conditioning, it will never 100% match the demands of running, something will be lacking or even counterproductive to running. So there are gains, but when your capacity available to train is limited, you want to get the most gains per hour and the most effective way to spend that time would be to run.

The benefits of running more regularly and longer are:

  • Stronger more efficient heart, lungs and bigger better oxygen transportation highways to your running muscles. While other sports give some boost, running long is still the most effective.
  • Strengthening of the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons specific to running. The average runner is taking at least 5000 steps over a 5km, that is a lot of repetitive motion. People often make the mistake of avoiding running to avoid the aches and pains, but actually running is what you need so that your body can be conditioned to repeating running movements over and over. Unless you have an actual injury, the best way to get less aches and pains is get more conditioned to run, …by running more! And more regularly!!
  • You will develop mental resistance to fatigue. The reason why HIIT type training is so popular, is that it is actually easier for your mind to push through for short time period. However if you want to run long distances, your mind needs to stay in the game for a long long time. The more often you run and the longer you run, the tougher your headspace will get!
  • You will improve your running economy! Huh? Basically you will be exerting less effort at the same pace. Now that is good news. A lot is spoken about running form, and there are some basics that are good to know, but overall, if you are running often and long, your body is clever enough to find the path of least resistance. i.e. your brain will adapt your style to expend the least energy. Running form classes have a place, but these are more to create some short cuts for the brain to get to be more economical faster. The rest it will figure out!

If you are still not convinced that the best way to becoming a better runner is to run more, then we only need look at the elite distance runners of the world. With all the advances in training methods, technology, gyms, if you look at their training methods, the core of their training is, you guessed it, a lot of running.

So, to start with, get running more regularly, slowly increase the length of your runs. Why not try a running streak for a month!? That in itself will bring great improvements. In my next blog I will give some tips on getting more specific in terms of training to run specific goal times.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen


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While most elite athlete’s would quote the mantra “Run, eat, sleep, repeat”, most of your average club runners go more by the philosophy of: “Enter race, eat, sleep, freak out because race is coming up, run, run, run, get sick or injured from cramming, run race anyway, vow to start training sooner next time, repeat“.

Training start/stop is a bit like having a slow puncture. Fitness we gain is continuously “leaking” and progress is very slow or even reversed.

There are important scheduled recovery days (which follow after run days!) or times in the year, such as after a marathon, when you must give your body a good break. For the most part though, you should always be running.

Many people are looking for that magic training programme, but if you examine the ways of the best in the world, the secret sauce is not some magical workout (although they do do some pretty hard ones!), the secret sauce is that they are always running. Everyday, every week, every month.

If you are struggling to be consistent, here are some tips to help you get on track:

  1. Reduce the length of each run to an amount that is easy to manage and fit into your daily routine. Then, keeping the length the same, increase the number of days you run by 1 day a week. Once you are consistent on 5 days, start adding 5 minutes to each run per day.
  2. Measure your runs in time not distance. Then just focus on getting the time done without worrying what people will say on Strava about the distance. When you are tired it is easier to motivate yourself to get out because even if you go really slow, if you just complete the time on your feet, you have achieved your goal for the day!
  3. Join a group! It is much easier to get out there regularly, plus the conversations and chirps definitely make the time pass faster!
  4. Diarise your weekly runs ahead of time. You will be less likely to be “stuck in a meeting.” Runs are serious commitments!
  5. Run early in the morning if you can. You will feel fresher and you will have more energy for your work day.
  6. Clean up your diet and get more sleep. If your body is healthy, well fueled and rested, your runs will be more enjoyable and more likely to repeat.
  7. Get good running gear, especially the right running shoes. Enjoyment factor will go up, again leading to more likely repeats.
  8. If you have not yet joined a community like Strava, DO IT! It works.
  9. Vary your routes.
  10. Don’t think about it until you are too far from home to bail!

Let me know how you get on.

Coach Kathleen


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The following blog is the first in a series aimed at guiding the average everyday runner who would like to train smarter and get better results for their efforts.

The first rule is the following:



Recently I received a request for help from a runner who was struggling to run beyond 5 or 6 kilometers. On questioning what training he had been doing, it turned out that he regularly runs 3 x 5 kilometers per week. Now while he was still “unfit” to run 5 kilometers, that training would have been beneficial. However now that his body is able to complete the task, very little further adaptation will take place. Why? Well, there simply is no need to as his body is already “fit” for 5 kilometers (plus a little extra which the mind will be able to squeeze out). In order to go beyond 5 kilometers with ease, this runner will need to start gradually running further and further until his body adapts to his new goal distance. The same goes for getting faster, getting stronger etc. Unless you challenge your body beyond its current limits your fitness will reach a point where it levels out.

There are various ways in which you can make your training more challenging. Some variables are:

  1. Volume – that is volume of a particular workout and overall volume in a training week
  2. Frequency – How often you train in a day, week, month, year…
  3. Pace – How fast you do your workouts. This also includes pace variations such as fartleks and intervals.
  4. Resistance – making training tougher with hills, sled pulling etc. Also adding strength training to your schedule.

All of the above however need to be implemented smartly and be specific to your goal in order to reap the full reward. Something best worked out by an experienced coach.


The body needs to rest in order for fitness adaptations to take place. In the same way that we get grumpy when we don’t have enough sleep, your body also gets “grumpy” a.k.a “overtrained” if you just keep pushing hard and don’t ever back off. Recovery could be complete rest or slow jogging. I generally do not categorise most cross training as recovery as it is usually still a hard workout on the body and mind.

On the opposite side of the scale, resting too much can also result in your body not being challenged enough and you will be going 1 step forward, 2 steps back all the time, basically going nowhere.

Coaching is, for the most part, getting this equation of increasing challenge and optimal recovery as perfect as possible for maximum results.

So if you find yourself not progressing, have a good look back at your training, are you doing same old same old and never getting out of your comfort zone? Or are you training so hard that you are permanently doing the death march through the valley of fatigue?

Let me know how you get on and if you would like professional guidance from a coach then check out our Trainsmart package where the thinking is done for you here.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

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How to Select a Training Plan

A house is built from the foundation up not from the roof down.

In our current age of digital information sharing overload, it is possible to find a training plan online for every distance from 100 m to 100 miles. You can download workouts from those of the world’s elite to the marathon plan of a New York housewife. As many of us have come to learn though, the challenge is not lack of information, but knowing how to choose the training plan which is the best for fit for you the individual.

I therefore decide to provide a few pointers that will hopefully help guide you towards finding the best fit for you:

  1. The first few weeks of the plan should very closely match your current training in terms of volume, intensity, number of training days and types of workouts.

2. Does the plan fit into your lifestyle? See what the maximum number of training days and volume the plan builds up to and assess realistically if you will be able to stick to the plan taking your other lifestyle commitments e.g. work, family, travel etc. into consideration.

3. If the training plan includes interval type workouts (track, fartlek, hills etc.), choose a plan that has workouts that your are likely to actually do. For example, most average club runners will never head to a track for a track interval set, but might consider doing some fartlek work.

4. Does the plan include enough recovery? A hard training day should always be followed by one to two easier training days and every few weeks should include a whole week of reduced training.

5. Does the plan include types of workouts that you have never done before? eg. track workouts, hills, very long runs. If it does then check that they progress slowly and allow for you to get used to these new workouts.

6. Is there some variety?

7. Does the plan make time promises? No training plan can guarantee that you will run a certain time just by following that plan. While the plan might specify training paces for that time, these are based on a virtual person. Have a coach help you calculate a realistic goal and then train towards that on a plan designed for your personal training history, ability and lifestyle.

8. Finally – How realistic is it that you will follow the plan? The plan might look very romantic, but if you have to honestly assess your lifestyle, ability and training preferences, will you actually do it? If not, rather find something a little less romantic that you are confident you will be able to stick to.

Hope this helps give some direction! Have more questions? Pop me an email.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

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You Won the Two Oceans Lotto! Now what?

For many the long wait to hear if they are one of the lucky winners of a 2020 Two Oceans Ultra or Half Marathon entry is finally over. Congratulations to those who are in! And a special welcome to the novices!

Now that the admin is out the way, it is time to get your focus face on and start training! And would not advise leaving that to luck! So I decided to compile a few tips to help you have a great journey to the start line come Easter 2020:

  1. Find a coach! or at the very least get hold of a good plan for you. (In my next blog I will discuss choosing the “best fit” training plan)

2. Patient consistency is the secret to getting to the starting line fit, healthy and injury free. Do not panic. There is enough time left to train. Building your training slowly will make you less prone to injury, burnout and illness which will mean fewer interruptions to your training and ultimately better results.

3. Pencil your training into your December/January calendar first, and then plan your holiday activities around your training. Get more festive season training tips here.

4. If you are travelling out of town for the holidays, find out about running clubs or races where you are going to that you can join.

5. Get those injury niggles NOW! Don’t wait until you cannot run at all!

6. If you are running the ultra marathon, your race nutrition is vitally important for a strong run. Start planning and practicing from the start of your training. Don’t wait until race expo to buy your “magic” potions and lotions!

7. Strength and mobility training should be incorporated into your training two to three times a week. This will not only help you to be able to cover the distance easier but will also make you more resistant to injury.

8. Be realistic about your goals. It is important to honestly assess where you are at and how fit you will be able to get instead of just choosing a number that sounds good. Chasing a time outside your league will only leave you despondent and worse still even injured or overtrained.

9. Rest is as important as hard training on your journey. The fitness gains come during the recovery days. One of the mistakes I see many social runners making is that they replace their rest with hard cross training. While cross training has many benefits, it must be seen as training and incorporated into your training schedule as a workout, not recovery.

10. Nutrition is your petrol for the journey. If you are not fuelling your body with enough quality food, you won’t have enough energy to complete your training and neither will your body be able to repair itself afterward. When it comes to endurance sport, carbohydrates are king. Carbohydrate stored in the muscles as glycogen remain your body’s no.1 choice of fuel. Be sure though to get as much as possible from grains, fruits and vegetables. Take it easy on the Krispy Kremes!

Good luck with the preparations and if you remember nothing else, remember this:


Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

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Running for life

There is something really special about being able to look back over a year, two years, five, ten, a whole lifetime of running and remember the roads traveled, mountains traversed, personal bests smashed, fatigue overcome and most importantly, friends made and laughter had.

running journey

Many know that starting a running journey will be epic. The challenge however is always getting past January. Past the time when the honeymoon romance of new beginnings, endless sunny days and post run swims have given way to the reality of work deadlines, traffic and school homework.

Getting up early for a long sunrise run has lost that warm fuzzy feeling, yet the dark, cold mornings, lunchtime crunch runs and post run hot chocolates with running buddies, hold a romantic adventure of there own, if you just keep on keeping on.

To help you, here are ten secrets to start in 2019 and keep going for a lifetime:

  1. Make running part of your lifestyle, not an optional added extra.
  2. Join a running group, or two or three. There is an African proverb that says, “if you want to go far, go together”.
  3. Set a personal challenge. Be it a race, specific distance, running streak or specific time, just break out of your comfort zone. Most importantly, give the challenge a deadline!
  4. Explore new routes. Run your world!
  5. Look after your body. Good nutrition and daily maintenance are key to minimizing interruptions. And don’t forget the importance of sleep!
  6. Introduce someone new to running. Nothing like it to ignite the passion again.
  7. Get involved volunteering at an event. Watching others enjoying their journey reminds you why you started in the first place. Plus, you really gain a new appreciation and respect for event organizers.
  8. See good gear as an investment in your happiness. Replacing your shoes regularly will help avoid injury and wearing quality clothing made for running will just make your runs so much more comfortable.
  9. Watch great running clips on YouTube. Feed your dreams!
  10. JUST DO IT! -enough said

Make 2019 the start of no looking back!

Coach Kathleen

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Is cross training helping or harming your running

“I only did a spinning class/bootcamp/watt bike…”,  a defense I hear fairly frequently as a coach. The reason for the “only” in the sentence and the slightly defensive tone is that the schedule for the day said “REST” or easy recovery run. 

While I will agree that cross training can add benefit to your running, even though it totally goes against the law of specificity, the gains can become losses if these sessions are not smartly planned into the overall training program. 

Training to improve performance involves a well managed rhythm of stress, rest, adaptation, stress, rest…with the greater percentage being rest or easy recovery exercise and only a small percentage stressful training e.g. high intensity intervals or very long runs. Should this ratio be switched around then the continuous prolonged stress on the body puts you at risk of descending into the valley of overtraining. Worse, if you are already under a lot of lifestyle stress from work, family etc. then the stress overload could lead to stress response shutdown, clinically referred to as adrenal fatigue.

And this is where cross training comes in, if your body  is already fatigued from training (plus potentially under additional stress), then doing a hard “cross training” workout, even though it is not running, is still putting the body under further stress and merely compounding the fatigue.  

So how best to incorporate your cross training? If you are going for high intensity cross training that leaves you pretty pooped then be sure to precede and follow these days with an easy recovery run or a rest day. If you already have a high intensity run workout in your training schedule, then you might want to alternate one week run session, one week cross training session. Unless you are able to handle to hard sessions a week, but most recreational runners only cope with one.

For those using cross training as recovery,  replace your recovery run (not rest days!, training is training) with gentle recovery alternative exercise eg. gentle spinning on the bike in low gears, easy swimming etc.

Manage your fatigue well and you will reap the benefits of your chosen cross workout.

Coach Kathleen



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