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

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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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

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

 

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Injuries can make you a better runner

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I have never enjoyed going to the dentist, but I have learnt over the years that magical home remedies work for a limited time only. Eventually, I need to put on my brave and face the dentist chair. So these days, I save myself weeks of misery and just make that appointment.

Many times we have the same approach with our running injuries. We rest, we try all sorts of rubs and tapes, but weeks or even months later we are either miserably hobbling along just dealing with it, or have stopped all together. And many times we could have saved ourselves much misery and fitness loss if we had just made that physio appointment.

It is a bit like getting a flat tire on your bicycle. If you keep on cycling with the flat you are going to cause more damage and it is not going to be much fun. If you just park it in the garage, it also ain’t going to magically inflate itself over time. You need to ultimately fix the leak and – this is a very important and – remove anything sharp still stuck in the tire that could cause a new puncture.

Running per se has often unfairly got the blame for many injuries. Yes, the injury might have occurred while running, but lets get real, there are not too many injuries you can suffer while sitting on the couch. The problem rarely lies with the running but more with a body that is not primed for the demands of running.

If you never put water in a cracked glass, it will never leak.

In the same way, we all have varying degrees of muscle weakness, joint immobility and flawed running movement patterns. Running does not so much create the problem as it exposes that we have a problem. And the more you run, because of its repetitive nature, the more likely something is going to show up. Especially if you do the classic “too much too soon.”

Now while this has all been sounding a little doom and gloom up until now, there is good news. A large percentage of running injuries can become pain free and our running joy restored IF we find the thorn and take it out of the tire.

Getting to the cause and applying corrective measures to improve muscle strength, joint mobility and correct movement patterns (a.k.a all the homework your physio gives you that you never do!) can not only nail that nagging injury once and for all, but you will come out the other side a stronger, more efficient runner = greater running joy and improved performance. I’ll take that!

While there are exceptions, such as injury due to structural abnormalities that cannot be altered, the majority of chronic injuries need not remain chronic.

Any therapist, be it a physiotherapist, biokineticist, chiropractor etc. worth their salt will be able to:

#1 – Determine the underlying cause of your injury.

#2 – Not only reduce the pain so you can continue running, but also assist you with steps to take to rectify the cause (i.e. remove the thorns from the tire).

#3 – Educate you on maintaining your body in a strong, healthy, balanced state while training to reduce injury risk and improve performance.

So next time you face injury, see it as an opportunity to sort out some weaknesses and come back an even stronger runner than before!

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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When all is said and done

CoachKat1

In our modern age of information overload we have so much
training advice at our fingertips that our challenge is not finding a training schedule, but deciding which advice to follow.

Over the years of my own training, coaching and researching the methods of other coaches, I have seen that there are a number of similar threads that run through every successful coaches’ programmes:

  • Regular daily running.
  • The greater percentage of training is long easy running.
  • Easy training is easy and hard training is hard.
  • Recovery is prioritized.
  • There is a periodic rhythm of training and rest.
  • The programme builds slowly.
  • Endurance and strength before speed.
  • Training pace is mostly based on effort and “feel”.
  • Training sessions are simple to understand and implement.
  • There is always a hill session in there somewhere.
  • The weekly LSD is a cornerstone workout.
  • The training emphasis and types of sessions vary throughout the year.
  • A lot of training is done on soft surfaces.
  • Attention is given to mobility, stability and rhythm work.
  • Nutrition is balanced and simple.

The conclusion of the matter is this: Keep it simple, run far, run often, run happy!

Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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TAPERING: Looking at the bigger picture

mountain-1209533_1280I have heard numerous conversations recently about what is understood to be the final touch that will turn all your months of hard training into a personal best on race day.

The general proven approach is pretty much the same, cut back volume while maintaining frequency and include some high intensity to keep the mitochondria happy.

The questions arise when the magic does not happen. I took a bit of a broader look around the and throw out a few additional questions that the runner needs to ask him or herself.

1. How tired were you at the start of your taper?

The goal of tapering is to create the optimal conditions for an already healthy, fit and strong body to get that last extra recovery and adaptation to “raise the bar” so to speak, that one last notch that will result in what we call, Peak Performance.

I often encounter runners who are very relieved to start their taper and get some downtime. Chances are, these runners are already long over fatigued from too much overload and/or poor fatigue management. Their bodies are just trying to get back to par, never mind  thinking of peak performance. Depending on how far down the valley of fatigue you have gone, come race day, you might still be down there or only just reaching ground zero.

2. What did you do between your taper runs?

After months of going from run to kitchen to couch to run plus kids, work, shopping, cleaning…you suddenly have all this extra time and energy on hand. This could result in you getting so busy with other neglected tasks and engagements that you are actually running around more than when you running never resting!

Another challenge is to not start stressing about gaining weight. True you will be burning less calories per day, but restricting your intake too much out of fear of weight gain could end up depriving your body of the nutrients and energy it needs to recover, repair and rebuild.

3. How much training have you actually done?

Lets get real, the best taper in the world cannot make up for lack of training. If you have not put in the hard yards, then you need to rely on luck. In fact, if your training has been very low, then it is better to keep training normally and only rest up the last 3 days before the race.

Finally, magical performances are few and far beween, but they do exist, and are so worth the hard training. Most of our joy as runners however comes from the everyday journey with like minded crazy people, running, laughing and living together, everyone on their own personal limit pushing journey!

Keep on going for it! Because you can!

Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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A Celebration of Journeys

The amazing thing about running is that many runners may run the same road, but no one runs the same journey.” – facebook.com/distancerunners

fb_img_1522583049779.jpgIf you are a regular follower of my blogs you will be familiar with the phrase “it is all about the journey”, something I remind runners of often. For indeed it is. Race day itself is just one of many adventures along the continuum of the life of a long distance runner. The race is not a destination, but a passing through onto new challenges, new highs , new lows, new laughs, new pain and most importantly, more amazing humans, old and new, that you get to share the road with along the way.

As a coach I have the massive privilege of  helping navigate many runners’ personal journeys. Ordinary men and women who juggle family, work and running on a daily basis to achieve their dreams.  Everyday champions!

Follow  this link to hear what some of our everyday champions had to say about their journeys.


Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 12/12 – You’ve Got This

superhero-2503808_640Welcome to paranoia week! Focusing on work is going to be a big challenge as your mind keeps drifting to Saturday and on every run those little buggers doubt and fear are going to want to torment you.

You have done the hard work, your body knows what to do, silence those voices of doubt, chest out, superhero grin on, You’ve got this!

 

Here are 10 basics to keep you focused:

  1. Stay off your feet!
  2. Trust your body!
  3. Remind yourself of those long runs where you felt strong.
  4. Don’t overthink your race.
  5. Stick to foods that you are used to.
  6. Stick to the race nutrition strategy (and product!) you have rehearsed.
  7. Talk about something other than the race (at least now and then)!
  8. Go to bed early on Thursday night.
  9. Triple check that your timing chip is on your shoe!
  10. Encourage your running buddies and enjoy each others race week quirkiness.

Folks, it has been great sharing this journey with you, Run with joy!…because you can!


Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 11/12 – KEEP CALM (unless being chased by a zombie)

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We have arrived at the final phase before race week, The “Freak Out” phase! If you live with an ultra runner, good luck.

In the second last week before the race, your biggest challenge is that you have way too much time to think. This is when those little voices of doubt come to torment you. So what to do in order to stay calm and sane?

  • Do not join the conversation. If you have done the training, you have nothing to fear. Also, stay away from negative talking runners.
  • Go back to your training logs for reassurance. The work is done, now trust your body!
  • Resist the temptation to add in “just one more” hard long run. You will feel a little sluggish and grumpy, this is a normal part of tapering. A bit like a drug addict coming off a high! It is rest that is needed to convert all that hard training into superman fitness.
  • Try not to think too much about the race. Go watch a movie, read a non running book, spend some quality time with friends and family (without talking running!) …
  • Do not stress about every niggle you feel.  If it is something you were feeling in your last long training, get it seen to by a professional therapist. The rest of the random little aches and pains are a normal part of the tapering process, your body is in hyper repair mode ahead of the big day and the best thing you can do is to spend plenty time off your feet and allow it to do its thing. Everything is going to be more than okay.
  • Don’t become a germaphobic. The paranoia is more likely to make you sick than the actual bugs. Get in good immune boosting nutrition and then be nice to people.
  • Avoid obsessing about the weather forecast, you cannot change it, you can only be well prepared.
  • Do sleep. You will start feeling very awake and even a little hyper as the tiredness wears off. Don’t see this as a cue to go partying all night. Your body is busy repairing and your immune system is likely on the low side, best thing you can do to help it is to get good quality sleep.

Finally, give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far! You are a champion already!


 

Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 10/12 – Taper Time

CoachKat1Congratulations, the hard work is done! We have now entered the easiest training phase, but the most important preparation phase of your Two Oceans journey. This is the phase where all your hard work can be converted into a great race or completely undone. It is a bit like baking a cake, this is the point where you need to put the batter in the oven and just leave it alone to rise. Training now is just gentle ticking over with a few short sharp sessions to keep to the fires burning.

Remember: We want to get to the start line healthy, strong and injury free!

(A word of caution: If you have missed a significant portion of the past 3 weeks training or are currently struggling with illness or injury then it is wise to get professional advice from a coach, doctor or physiotherapist on whether it is advisable for you to still run.) 

As you start to cut back on the training and your body starts to relax, your immune system will also let down the guard a bit. It is therefore important in this time to get in plenty of good nutrition and sleep and to minimize other potential stressors as far as possible. If you do pick up a head cold or the flu, allow enough time to get completely well. You are going to make no gains by trying to keep training.

This is also not the time to try anything new!

In the last 3 weeks reduce your mileage while maintaining the frequency (this is very important to prevent feeling sluggish on race day!)  of training. ie. if you were training 4 days a week, continue to train 4 days but cut back the mileage. A good general guideline is as follows –

With 3 weeks to go – do 75% of your usual weekly mileage, with 2 weeks to go – do 50% of your usual mileage, in the last week follow a schedule of short runs with a few acceleration runs.

3 Weeks before should be your last very long LSD and should be at the most 32 km. If you did a big one with 4 weeks to go, only do a 20 km. A long run of 40 km or more takes at least 4 weeks to recover from! 2 Weeks to go, only do 90 min- 2 hours or 18-20 kilometers.

If you were doing strength work in the gym – cut back to light bodyweight exercises in the 3rd week before the race and in the last 2 weeks use your gym time to focus on activities that aid recuperation such as foam rolling and gentle stretching (Or just chill out in the coffee bar!).

Below is a sample schedule for the last week before race day:

Sunday: Easy 30-40 minute run

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 5km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

(If you are going for a massage before the race, it should be no later than the Tuesday, closer to the race and it can leave you feeling flat and sluggish)

Wednesday: 4km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Thursday: REST REST REST!!! This is the most important rest day. Feet up! If you must go to the expo then walk around as little as possible. Thursday is also the most important day to do most of your carboloading and to get to bed very very early.

Friday: 3km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Saturday: GO TIME!


Coming next week…

This phase is the time where you are probably going to have the most doubts about whether you will be able to achieve your goal and you might start feeling some panic set in. Next week I will be discussing strategies to stay calm in the final build up.

Keep running, laughing and living TO THE MAX!

Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 9/12 – Maintain

construction-703807_640With just under 4 weeks to go until race day, you have just entered a bit of a no man’s land period of your preparation. The big training is done, but it is not time to taper just yet.

This week feels to me a bit like the stretch between the half marathon mark and the 32 kilometer mark in a marathon race. You need to stay focused on the basics, keep it steady, take careful note of your hydration and fuel status and then just ride out the kilometers before that final 10 kilometer push.

The same goes for this upcoming week, it is all about maintaining your body by keeping on doing what you have been doing and paying close attention to your health, allowing space for the body to heal from the hammering it has been taking.

  • Don’t try anything new in training. Keep it steady and take time out if experiencing any overtraining warning signs.
  • Pay extra attention to your nutrition. Your body is likely to be quite depleted at this point. Make an effort to get in regular sit down balanced plates of whole food and top up with some veggie juices and nutrient dense smoothies. Think immunity and fuel.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. Get any nagging aches and pains seen to by a running specialist physio. This is probably the best time to take a few days off if that is what is needed.
  • If you are feeling any cold or flu symptoms or just sleep deprived, take a mini break!
  • Replace one of your weekly runs with a TLC session for your body. Some ideas: Go for a massage or do some self-massage, give your feet an epsom salt soak, do an hour of foam rolling, mobility and stretching.
  • Replace your shoes if they are needing replacement.
  • Give your mind a break by doing some watch free runs!

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

RUN.LAUGH.LIVE

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 8/12 – Time to Knuckle Down

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Race day is so close now you can smell the sweet scent of taper. Just two more weeks of digging deep! Keep moving!

At this stage of your preparation there are two dangers:

Firstly – Losing momentum:

You might find yourself struggling to motivate yourself to get up for those early morning runs and weekend long runs loom like mountains before you, especially if you had your qualifying marathon as a motivation deadline and that is now ticked.

Should you be feeling a little over it, first step is to take two or three days completely away from running. You won’t loose any fitness and the breathing space to sleep in or just play with the kids after work will do you good. Next, you need to remind yourself why you started the journey in the first place, pat yourself on the back for of all the hard yards you have covered up to now and then knuckle down!

Some tips to help keep you motivated around the final bend:

  • Run with a group as often as you are able
  • If you don’t feel like running, commit to just heading out, even if just to go once around the block. You will very likely find yourself feeling great once you have just taken that first step out the door.
  • Do a couple of runs without a watch. Just run. As fast as you feel like. As far as you feeling like. Stop to enjoy the view and chat to people without worrying about needing to press pause!
  • Reward yourself with some new gear.
  • Run somewhere new
  • Set yourself some mini challenges on your run
  • and finally, tell someone why you run! Amazing what a little reminder can do for your motivation!

Then, the second danger – Overcooking your training:

Watch out for these signs of overtraining and back off the training for a while –

  • Higher than normal heart rate while resting and sleeping that seems to be a trend
  • Moodiness
  • Continuous bouts of colds and flu
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Struggling to complete regular workouts
  • Heavy legs
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Continuous muscle aches even when at rest
  • Ongoing niggly injuries (get them seen to by a physio!)

Take it easy out there!

Coach Kathleen

Driven by passion, pursuing excellence.

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