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


Posted in Uncategorized



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


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Injuries can make you a better runner


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


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

When all is said and done


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


Posted in Uncategorized

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


Posted in Uncategorized

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.” –

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


Posted in Uncategorized