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Perspective

I listen to podcast series called Don’t Tell Me The Score.  I referenced an episode in a previous blog, The Squeaky Wheel Gets Fixed, and I find that I can take something out of most of the episodes.  Last weekend I listened to a recent episode where the interviewee was Ed Jackson, an ex-professional rugby player who is happier now, as a quadriplegic following an accident, than he ever was before. The episode was simply titled ‘Perspective’. I won’t spoil it too much but Ed goes from being told he will never walk again to climbing mountains.  It’s all about his mindset and perspective and if you are looking for some inspiration from an ‘average person’, this is a great listen.

 

A client of mine also listened to this episode and they write a newsletter for their school. Kindly, they sent me a copy of what they wrote and have agreed that I can share their thoughts on perspective.

 

It got me thinking about perspective… perspective is a strange thing, particularly in these times, where we’re expected to stay in a confined space but take world view. For me, it means coming to terms with the changes and seeing them within the context of wider society, as well as acknowledging our own losses, however minor or major they may be. Last weekend I was supposed to be running the London Marathon. I thought I’d be sad after months of training, and I was surprised when I wasn’t. It did help that this situation has been going on a while, so my brain has had a chance to process the information, and that Manchester marathon was my target race. Manchester was cancelled with only 3 weeks notice… I’d run on average 50 miles a week since January, and had just completed the last of 6 runs over 20 miles. I was looking forward to the taper (and a bit of cheeky carb loading…) when the news came. To many people, mourning the loss of a random race which I stood no hope of winning is bizarre. People are dying, how less important can you get than a marathon? You have probably felt the same about things you have lost, big or small – not saying goodbye to your friends or school, matches, hanging out with your friends, celebrating your birthday the way you want to, missing your exams…. It is important to give space and time to your feelings on whatever you have lost because of lockdown. It doesn’t matter about its importance to anyone else, if it was important to you, acknowledge your feelings about this – are you sad? Angry? Confused? Uncertain? And give your feelings the respect they deserve.

 

But eventually, you need to move on. You need to put things in perspective – view your situation from others point of view, acknowledge the scale of your loss in light of other things going on around you. It is easier said than done, and I know some students are still struggling with organising their life around the new changes. But there are ways to start this process. If you haven’t already got to grips with working from home, or finding a new routine, or dealing with the uncertainty, or managing how much time you use constructively, rather than on social media / games / Netflix etc. here’s some ways you can start:

 

 

  1. Don’t put off the stuff you don’t want to do. You will feel better for tackling it. Get a timetable together. Work out when would be a good time for you to do your work / chores or whatever you’re putting off and get started. Start with half an hour. Then write yourself a little post-it telling yourself what to do next before you finish. This makes it easier to come back to.
  2. Be honest with yourself. This is hard, but you know whether you’ll do something or not. If you’re not going to do it, don’t say you will. Work out why you’re not going to do it and go from there. Are you telling yourself you’ll finish your project by Friday but you know deep down you’ll get distracted? Are you saying you did 2 hours work but deep down know you spent most of it on your phone? Don’t lie to yourself, or you won’t get to the bottom of what’s really stopping you.
  3. Find a new hobby or challenge. Very often if you motivate yourself in one area of life, you can motivate yourself in others. It stems from self esteem… if you feel good about yourself, you will achieve more in all areas of life.  To do this successfully, work out what you need – relaxation? Challenge? Mental stimulation?
  4. Be a squeaky wheel. I know, that’s a bit random, but there’s a saying – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you are struggling in silence, it may go unnoticed and you may not get the help you need. Speak up, ask for help, and we will do our best to support you.”

 

 

I’ve not really told my personal story to an audience before, but in November 2004 I was widowed when my late wife was killed by someone later convicted of death by dangerous driving.  I went to visit a local charity, Wishes4Kids, to discuss donations at the funeral and as I was walking there, a lorry was driving down the main road towards me. For a split second (and it was only that) I had a thought that if I stepped out in front of it I wouldn’t have to deal with the grief any more. In that split second I also realised how selfish that would be and I’d just be leaving our families with even more grief to deal with. I walked in to the charity office, and met one of the nicest people I’ll ever meet, the late Russell Brickett. He offered to set up a fund within the charity in the name of my late wife which meant that we could keep track of the money raised by any events we did.

 

Obviously, I still struggled for a while and it was only watching the Boxing Day tsunami footage on the news programmes that gave me some perspective. Hundreds of thousands of people had lost whole families, homes, villages. I couldn’t comprehend how that must have felt for them, and I was sat at home watching it. Yes, my life at that point was not in a good place, but it was nowhere near as bad as theirs.

 

These events combined gave me the perspective that I could still live my life. I was here and able to do good things in the name of my late wife.  The first event I arranged was myself and a group of friends running the Stratford Half Marathon in 2005. It was from here that eventually I got a charity place in the 2007 London Marathon and fell in love with the event and then running, which has now turned in to my job and passion.  I still run the London Marathon every year for the charity.

 

Perspective can be tough at any time. We all have things that matter to us at this moment in time. We can think that we are bad people when we focus on our problems when there are worse things happening to others. But we have to take time to look at how we feel and look at how we can change things in our lives to move forwards.

 

Out of seemingly bad things, can come positive change.

 

I hope that you can take something away from this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and I’ve set up a very supportive Facebook Community where like-minded people can share their experiences of life and exercising. Please feel free to join and invite others you know who may be interested.

 

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

Obsessed? No. I am Dedicated!

As runners, we all seem to have some strange obsessions. Some of these can be positive, some have little impact on us, but some can really cause mental stress, physical fatigue and in a fair amount of cases, lead to injuries.

 

When controlled the right way, a bit of obsession can be a good thing as it can help lead us to create positive habits of getting out the door when the weather is bad and to try to drive us to improve.  But, we need to learn how to control our obsessions to get the best out of ourselves.

 

I don’t want this to be a deep blog about overall mental health and well-being, but instead look at some of the stranger things that we do as runners that we wouldn’t necessarily think of in normal daily life and how they may impacts. I will offer a bit of advice in to how we can get out of some of our obsessive habits.

 

What is it that we obsess about?  Targets are often the major focus for runners, with running faster or further the most common.

 

Always getting faster! – It is often seen as a sign of weakness if your next run is slower than your last. Who has been guilty of writing on Strava or social media that your run was slower than last time you did this route and how can people help to stop it happening again?

 

This is often more prevalent in newer, less experienced runners who haven’t looked in to how to run different types of run and the best ways of achieving longevity and long term improvements. At some point you will not beat yesterday and when this happens you view yourself as a bad runner. You are not, you’ve had a bad run. Not every run goes well. That’s a fact of life.  I will be writing a further blog about how to vary your running in order to improve your pace and distance in the near future.

 

My advice would be that next time you go for a run cover your watch and try to run as easily as possible and enjoy what is around you. When you get back home, then look at your watch. It will be tough but it is a gamechanger.

 

Targets. Targets. Targets! – As runners we seem to have to set ourselves targets. And when we have set the target we then have to achieve the target or we disappoint ourselves.

 

Yearly – By far the most dangerous of a runner’s obsession with numbers. “This year I’m going to run 2020 miles as it’s the year 2020”. On the face of it there is nothing wrong with that. However, break it down a bit and it is about 40 miles per week. Are you capable of that? Is it realistic? What happens if I miss a couple of weeks with holidays, family reasons, illness, injury, weather events, etc, etc? The club I run for give out awards for running a certain amount of miles each year. I applaud that as it recognises how far people have run in a year and for many, they have ran further than the previous year and shows great improvements.  However, there are always a few people when it comes to the start of December that still need to run X amount of miles to achieve (for example) 1,000 miles. Unfortunately, the X is often about 150 miles and instead of it being a yearly average of almost 20 miles a week, they now have to run almost double that amount.  They then feel pressured to run far more than they have been, they risk injury and not only missing their target, but also not being able to run for a period of time by overstretching themselves.

 

Monthly – If you are setting yourself monthly running targets then you are getting yourself in to potential trouble if not sensibly done. My advice would be, instead of saying to yourself ‘I’m going to run 200 miles next month’, look at what each week of your running will roughly be and then add them together. That is a rough target, rather than picking a round number out of the sky.  If you have an injury or illness in the first week of the month what happens next? Do you chase the miles you’ve missed so that you can hit the monthly target? I would advise against it. You need to accept that what has been missed cannot be made up in the short term without risking further damage.  Instead, look at any period you cannot run as a chance to recharge your batteries, recover, rehab or deal with what has happened and then come back sensibly and modify the weekly plans you had.

 

Weekly – How is your weekly target decided? Is it a round number (for example, 20, 25, 30, etc)? Often, if you write your own plan you will tweak the weekly mileage to finish on a round number. If that is the case you are not planning your runs for the purpose of the individual runs, but more the weekly target.  When I write training plans I don’t look at the overall mileage of the week in any way other than is it progressively higher than the previous week (unless it is a cutback week in which case it is less). I balance the week of running and the weekly total (not target) is just the total of the runs.  So many people look at the weekly mileage and end up doing more, just to get to that round number (especially where the total is 38 miles and you have to run 40 miles to finish with a round number).

 

Daily – We get up with the intention of running a certain distance. If we don’t get to that distance then we have failed. Have we? What caused us not to reach the distance? Was it more sensible to shorten the run (injury, illness, toilet issues, etc)? Did we give up mentally?  Some things you can’t control so don’t worry about them. I would much rather someone shorten their run than try to complete it if they think they will make something worse. My advice is to write down 3 positive and 3 negative things about the run and learn from them for your next run (when you write things down you’ll probably also realise it wasn’t as bad as you thought).  I’ve got the MH Health and Fitness Online Community where people post their daily exercise and give support and perspective to one another as members are at various points of their running journeys. Please feel free to join our supportive community.

 

Rounding – Have you ever purposely finished a run on 4.99m? No? I didn’t think so! The majority of runners are guilty of rounding up their runs by running up and down the street until they hit that magic round number. That’s fine (apart from the weird thoughts the neighbours have about you). But, how many of you have to keep going to the nearest round number (ending with a .5 or .00)? It’s a bit like the competition we had with ourselves at the petrol pump trying to stop on a round number (anyone? Just me?). My advice to get out of this habit is to try, on your next run, to stop before you hit the next mile. It’s liberating!

 

Run Every Day – My first question for those who try this is how long are you planning to do this? Is it for a month for charity? If so, and you pitch the daily mileage to what you are capable of, then go for it but realise that if you get ill or injured it may not happen.  Are you doing this forever? Ron Hill, ex-GB athlete completed at least one mile every day for 52 years and 39 days (he defined this as ‘completing a distance of at least one mile at any pace’). That is an amazing achievement but what pressure was he putting on himself every day to go out and complete that mile. How would you feel when that came to an end? When his streak came to an end in January 2017 he wrote “after 400m my heart started to hurt and by the time I got to the one mile point I thought I was going to die. I was in such pain and I thought in respect of my wife, two sons and friends I need to stop this”. So he nearly risked his life for his running streak.

 

For me personally, challenging yourself is great. I love to set myself goals and targets. However, I am no longer obsessed by monthly and yearly numbers and I can leave my weekly mileage at 59.8 miles and not run the extra 0.2 miles. I can run slower than last week and not start researching faster trainers online. And I can run without looking at my watch.

 

I like to swap the word obsessed with dedicated. Instead of focusing purely on numbers, focus on the process of getting out and getting as close to your goals as possible, while accepting that you cannot hit your targets every time.  Not hitting your goals is not failure, it just gives you more to learn about yourself and your running.  Look long term and think that by doing less one day means you can improve another day.

 

When it doesn’t go right, just think of these words from a popular Disney song that I’m sure a lot of you have on your playlists “let it go”.

 

So stop obsessing, get dedicated and start enjoying

 

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

 

Time For Local Exploration!

I am writing this in England on 22nd April 2020 and using guidelines that are current at the time of writing here. Please check with your own government if elsewhere in the world on your current guidance.

Covid-19 has changed the running landscape for the foreseeable future. No races. No running with clubs. No running with friends. No driving to our favourite places to run. 

At first it can be tough to get your head around this and I know a few people who are struggling to find any motivation to get out and run with the uncertainty of when normality (whatever that will look like) will resume.

However, I think that this gives us new opportunities of exploring our local area and finding new routes from our doorstep that we may not have tried before if we are in ‘training mode’ or if we are restricted by club running routes.  As long as we do not drive excessively to start our run, we can run for our normal daily time anywhere close by. I’d suggest not doing too much as we don’t want to damage our immune system at this point – see this other blog (How to Train in Uncertain Times) I wrote recently.

There are more daylight hours in the coming months, so this gives us the opportunity of running in areas without street lights for more hours (I love running over local fields and local towpaths first thing in the morning).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we find new routes?

Well for me personally, I just run. Instead of taking the turning I usually do, I’ll take the opposite turn and go a different way. I know most of the distances from my house in Leicester so I am quite lucky that I can gauge how long I’ll be running for.  For those less experienced, you can do the same, just turn a different way, but always make sure you can find your way home again. Make sure you carry your phone so that Maps can come to your rescue if needed, as has happened to me a few times when on holiday and exploring (getting lost!!).

Another alternative to this is each day of the week, turn a different way as soon as you can (left one day, right the next, straight on the next, etc) and see where you end up.

There are also a number of apps and websites that you can use to help you explore as well.  I’ll go through a few but there are many more available I’m sure:

 

City Strideshttps://citystrides.com/

This is probably the one I would recommend the most at the moment. This website links with various running apps such as Strava and allows you to create a map of your local area and challenges you to run every street.  You can challenge friends to see how many streets you can run in a week or a month, so it gives you a social challenge without actual interacting with people. It can also be interesting to run on local roads that you have never run on before and to notice things in your neighbourhood you would never usually notice when running with others (I find I run much more ‘open-eyed’ alone than with others).  This is great for staying local.

 

Stravawww.strava.com

Most of us have our runs uploaded to Strava. After all, if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen right? 

Strava have updated their Explore function (unfortunately only part of their Summit membership) so that you can now find new routes around your area. If you allow your location to be used by Strava (I have it on only when using the app) then it finds routes around your area, and these can be refined by distance of run, elevation and surface.  Once you’ve chosen a route you like the look of, you can then save that as one of your routes.

Once the route has been saved you can then edit the route on Strava in the My Routes section and use the route, following it on your phone, including audio cues if you don’t want to be looking down at your phone all the time.  More information can be found in this blog post from Strava.

If you have more time and want to build your own routes, you can do this in Strava as well. It is a little like MapMyRun or Plot a Route and once the routes have been set up you can use these on your phone.  Depending on your watch, (I’ve only ever used Garmin) you can export the file as a GPX file to be used by your watch.

If you prefer to do things directly from your phone, you can download an app called Garmin Connect IQ.  In the app search for Strava Routes and install this add on. You can then send the routes created in Strava directly to your watch when you sync it.

You can also use the Explore function to find local Strava segments. These are part of a route, anything from 50 metres to miles, that someone has created and where there is now a leaderboard of the fastest runners. You can challenge yourself on a segment to get as high up the leaderboard as possible, which can also be broken down in to gender, age categories, year, day and more.  You can also challenge people of a similar pace to you to see who can run the segments the fastest.  

Finally, (keep this one quiet) if you want to be top of the leaderboard (Strava Crown) then you can set up your own segment on part of your route!

 

Garmin Connecthttps://connect.garmin.com/

As I said earlier, I only have experience of using Garmin watches, so I will assume that other watch companies offer the same or similar functionality.

From the Garmin Connect website you can click on Training, Courses and then you can search for courses (routes) in your area, filtering by road, trail, distance and elevation. From here, you can also create your own course, which, on most newer Garmin watches, will automatically upload when you sync your watch. You can export the file manually to your watch as a GPX file if not.  You can create courses via a manual ‘join the dots’ type experience or ‘round trip’ where you set the start point and it works a route for you.  This is definitely worth a play with the create some new routes.

Below are screen shots from the app.

 

Crossroads or Compass Runs

Finally, for those of you who are a little nervous about venturing too far away from home in these times of uncertainty, there is the Crossroads or Compass run (pictured below).

You start at home, run so far in one direction, then back to home, then so far in another direction and then back home, and so on, until you have completed a crossroad.  For example, if you ran one mile away from home, one mile back again and repeated, you would complete an 8 mile run whilst only ever being one mile away from home.  This is especially good if you are coming back from an injury or illness and need an ‘escape route’ if things don’t feel right.

 

OS Maps (Ordnance Survey)

The app is the best version of OS Maps unless you like to carry a paper map. However, the app is paid for and good for randomly following way-markers across fields, but not worth it if you are staying fairly close to home. It is probably better saved for when we are able to run freely without restrictions.

A couple of things that I need to say from a professional point of view: always stick to suitable roads (no running down motorway hard shoulders please); be aware when running off road or in new areas (men and women) and stay safe. Sorry if that sounds scary, it is just the normal general safety advice I would give everyone as a coach.

 

I think that gives you enough to think about. These ideas work just as well if you are new to an area, on holiday (when we are able to do that in the future), or at the present time when you are thinking of new local running routes.  You can also revisit this blog when we are allowed to travel further afield to run so that you can explore more new areas.

Enjoy your new routes and I’d love to hear more about what you find and where you go on www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk and https://www.facebook.com/groups/155082958638805/ 

 

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk  https://www.facebook.com/groups/155082958638805/ 

The Squeaky Wheel Gets Fixed

I’ve always been very conflicted when it comes to writing about mental health and exercise. The reason for my conflict is that I never quite know how to broach the subject to a broader audience (I’m more than happy talking to my individual clients about it though).


In the past I’ve never thought that I exercised for my mental health. For those that know me or my running, you’ll know that I am competitive and that I enjoy training for events and doing the best I can in those races. I can also be my harshest critic when it comes to my own achievements. After all, my mantra for my PB in the 2019 London Marathon was “don’t be a glorious failure”. By that, I mean I was going for a big PB, had I got a small PB or just missed it, people would still have been congratulatory and told me how well I’d done, but I knew that I had a chance to achieve what I want.


This year I was training jointly for the London Marathon and a 40-mile race and was running around 70 miles per week. I don’t really think too much about the mental side of these training runs, I just generally go out and run and then rest when I am physically tired. However, now that all races have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, I was left in limbo. This limbo is the same as everyone else who runs, whether it is starting Couch25K with a friend, parkruns every Saturday or training for races; what now is the point?


I’ve suddenly realised just how much I love pressure free running and how much pressure I put on ‘training’ for events. As the weather has started to improve, I’ve found myself heading over the fields and towpaths near to my house. I’ve even stopped to take photos (something I’d never do when ‘training’). I’ve had all my most enjoyable runs of the year in the last week. No pressure, no training and just running.

Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, grass, outdoor and nature



And this is something that we need to remind ourselves. Most of us take running and walking for granted. Then, when our lives suddenly change and we can no longer to go the gym, work or shopping when we want to, where do we get the endorphins that we are used to? This is why suddenly more people are seen out walking or running. They have nowhere else to go. They cannot run on a treadmill in a gym. They cannot go for a walk around town in their lunch break. They cannot walk around shops 2-3 times a week. And this is where the media is causing (in my opinion) problems and divisions in society.


Suddenly the, usually very supportive, running community are voicing concern that so many ‘non-runners’ and ‘new walkers’ are out on their favourite routes. Yes, they are, but why is that an issue? Ok, so it may not be as quiet as they are used to. They may have to stop sometimes to think about how to pass people and let people pass them. But at least we are all still allowed out to exercise. That has been taken away from other people in other countries. We are still lucky.


So, please do not be put off by what the media and others are saying. We are all entitled to go for our daily exercise. At present when I write this, there are no time limits on how long we can go out for. As long as we are not risking getting into trouble and using the resources of emergency services, you can go out for a longer walk than normal. The only restriction really, is that we stay local and use open spaces near to home where possible (taken from official government information https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces). But as we are lucky enough to be allowed out we should respect that and not take liberties. We would all suffer much more if we had to stay in 24/7.


So, in these times where some people need to be outdoors, running or walking, for their mental health and others are shouting loudly that everyone should stay at home, where do people go to find their safe place with like-minded people? It’s tough. I am part of Facebook running groups where some people are refusing to exercise as it’s not essential to them or they feel that it is wrong in the current climate, others have more time on their hands and are doing more than they usually would and others feel as though they have to stick rigidly to a certain time or distance. Arguments often ensue, people get publicly chastised or even ridiculed (half the time by people who last month had ‘#BeKind’ on their profiles) and then go in to their shell and either don’t want to go out or are scared to participate in online discussions.


However, there is a safe Facebook group. Head Runners was created by Paul Tebbutt as a place where people can talk openly about mental health and how running has helped them. Paul told me “the reason I started Head Runners really is quite simple. I have always used running over the years to help my state of mind as many of us do. I wanted to help raise awareness and create a safe space for people to talk openly about mental health and share their stories about how running has helped them”. Head Runners can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/headrunners I would recommend checking it out.


Another idea to connect with friends who run or walk at this time of physical distancing (I dislike social distancing as currently we can connect online in numerous ways) is virtual walks. One of my clients ran at the weekend whilst on the phone to her friend (obviously be mindful of trip hazards and roads, etc). They really enjoyed being able to run ‘together’ while being apart and have a good catch up chat to pass the time as they would do normally when they run together. This can also be done via apps such as Facetime and WhatsApp among others and you could even share a video call to share your routes.


Finally, the reason for the title of this blog. I’d never heard the saying “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets fixed” until Monday. I listen to podcasts on my runs as I like to listen to and learn from people and as I run a lot, it gives me a lot of learning time. I also found that music often affected my mood, whereas podcasts just let me drift off and listen.


The podcast in question ‘Don’t Tell Me The Score’ is a BBC offering where (mainly) sports people are interviewed about their lives and what they have learnt through sport and life that has helped them improve themselves and help others. There are so many little nuggets of great information and helpful tips in each podcast and you don’t need to be a sports geek to really get benefit from them.


The episode I was listening to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p080zy49 is an interview with former female cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent. They are talking about mental health issues among other things and the interviewer comes out with the statement “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets fixed”.


A lot of people who suffer with mental health problems will never talk about it and will never ask for help. Due to this they do not get help. People were posting after the sad suicide of Catherine Flack that they are there for people who want/need to talk. Unfortunately, most people won’t reach out for help and will tuck themselves away with their own thoughts. This is another reason to look at the Head Runners Facebook group, talk to friends, family, your coach or one of the many charitable organisations such as Head Runners, Mind, or Samaritans.


If you want help you have to be that ‘squeaky wheel’. You must make a noise and either ask for help or make it known to people that you are not in a good place. People will help if you ask for it. Despite what the media (and especially social media) portrays, the majority of people, family, friends and even random strangers are good people and will offer a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on or just an ear to listen to you.


Please make sure you are that squeaky wheel when you need help.


Want to know more about running?
Do you want a personalised training plan or a telephone call to discuss what to do?
Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation
Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com
Martin Hulbert
Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire



How to Train in Uncertain Times

I started thinking about writing this after most of the spring marathons were cancelled and I was asked by my clients how they can keep going between now and when they would normally start to train for their events.

Don’t Overtrain!

I am usually in the ‘cautious’ corner when it comes to possibly overtraining (some of my clients find it very frustrating when I have to remind them that sometimes less is better) as I have been guilty of that myself with my own running in previous years and believe me, it is no fun at all. In the current climate of Covid-19, overtraining needs to be avoided at all costs (more about that later).

Therefore, this is a great time to re-evaluate your running goals. A 16 week marathon training plan for an October marathon, assuming that they will still go ahead, would start at some point in June. That means that we have at least April and May to do something different and still have loads of time to build back up the distances again.

The next couple of months will afford you the luxury of mixing up your running a bit. Whether you want to change your possible marathon finishing time, get faster, just enjoy running, or change your focus on to shorter distances, now is the best time to do this.

So, for most of my clients, we have dropped their longer runs from 16-20 miles, if they were marathon training, down to between 8-14 miles a week (less for some), depending on their targets.  I am asking them not to overdo the mileage and instead, enjoy some runs that they would not do during a marathon training cycle.   That could mean going for runs off-road, it could mean doing some shorter more creative sessions that will help to get back some speed into their legs (shorter faster intervals, mixture of fartleks and tempo sessions, etc)

Fatigue and Immune System

At this point it is important to remember that marathon training is tough, both mentally and physically and sometimes you need a bit of a break from the longer runs and hard, long tempo sessions. You also need to reduce the amount of fatigue that you put through your body, especially at a time like this where we might need our immune system to fight Covid-19 (or more generally cold and flu viruses).

There are some great articles about running too hard or far suppressing and reducing your immune system, but this article written by American coach Steve Magness (famous not only for his coaching but also because he was a main whistle-blower in the Nike Oregan Project/Alberto Salazar doping scandal) sums it up very concisely.

https://www.facebook.com/stephenmagness/posts/10101115712420191

We cannot boost or increase our immune system through exercising (I have been guilty of using those words in the past, I admit), but you can make it less easy to damage by being sensible with the amount of exercise you do. Too much and you can damage and suppress it.

This is a key part of the article:

-Regular exercise practiced over time is beneficial to the immune system. It will make it more robust.
– But like with performance, if you push into or near over-training, your risk of infection likely goes up. It’s not rocket science. It’s stress and adaptation.
– Rather than defining hard/moderate/easy for your training, think of it as drastic changes which alter your risk of infection. If ‘normal’ for you is running 10 miles per day and you continue doing that, you’re likely fine. If normal for you is running 2 miles per day and you try to run 6 miles per day, your risk of infection likely goes up.

My message on the back of this is don’t keep pushing for more and more miles or more and more speed each week. It is fine to do some hard workouts if you usually do and if you know that you are not at your physical limit (they may feel hard at the time, that is fine, but you should not feel destroyed afterwards). So, make sure that you keep your easy runs really easy. If you feel tired then take a day (or extra day) off from exercise, not just running.

You can improve slightly in this period but remember that if you do not currently have a plan in place, you reduce your mileage if you increase your intensity and don’t do anything to really trash yourself. Shorter speedwork is fine if you take your recovery seriously and don’t push yourself in to the red.  For those I have written plans for, I know their running history and can dial it down a few notches, but still allow them to try some runs that they wouldn’t normally do.

Here are a few concepts that will help maintain your immune system. *taken from the Steve Magness article again https://www.facebook.com/stephenmagness/posts/10101115712420191

-Sleep!
-Maintain exercise routines.
-Eat quality food as best you can.
-Don’t fall into a chronically slightly stressed state. Meaning don’t watch or scroll through coronavirus tweets all day.
-Give structure to your day and time spent working on things you enjoy.
-Don’t go to the well in training.
-For the most part, ignore all of the advice on supplements, magic pills, etc. that are “immune-boosting.”
-Manage psychological stress: Find activities you can do to give yourself a mental break: Yoga, reading, meditation, walks in nature, etc.
-Don’t train yourself (or diet yourself) into glycogen depletion.
-If you do decide to a slightly harder or longer workout, replenish with food and water soon after.
-Remember to exercise solo 

Looking Forwards – What Next?

I know that as I write this on Wednesday 25th March things have changed a lot in the last week, with further rumours that more measures in the UK will be forced upon us. That means that as runners we are pointing in a few different directions.

-panic, I want to run as much as possible while we can

-a complete lack of motivation as I don’t know what is going to happen and there is plenty of time before my next race

-carry on as normal and continuing to do what I can

At least with currently only being allowed to run once a day it takes away the urge to run twice a day to get in more and more runs. Double days are likely to suppress your immune system at a time we need it most (yes even you fit and healthy youngsters, this is not going to be nice if you do contract Covid-19).

I can understand those with a lack of motivation at the moment. They have got up to almost peak mileage in their marathon training, or were getting to a peak ready for spring league races and then had it all taken away from them. However, habits form. When we run regularly that becomes a habit. When we stop running, that will also become a habit.  If we stop for too long, then it is tough to then reform the motivation and habit to continue again. Also, and the thing I find hardest to watch from a coaching point of view, is the loss of fitness that had been built up in what has been horrible weather this winter.

This is where having access to a coach can help.  I have amended the training plans of all of my runners who were planning spring races, writing maintenance plans with a bit more speed work for most but less mileage and less distance in their longer runs so as not to fatigue them.  I have also had coaching calls with people I don’t write ongoing plans for. These have been focused on how to construct their own maintenance plan, tips on how to keep going, strength training to minimise injuries and how to keep your motivation when you don’t know what will happen next.

My biggest goal is to keep people active and running whenever we can.  

Want to know more about running or personal training?

Do you want a personalised training plan or a telephone call to discuss what to do?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

Exercise Snacking

Snacking. Is It Any Good?

Exercise Snacking! Please get that in the right order; it is not snacking as an exercise!

 

Exercise snacking as a concept isn’t a new idea. It is basically a different way of getting in your required amount of exercise (the NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise plus some strength training per week).  Gyms have both the equipment (aerobic and weight training) and the convenience (if you can fit a session in around your working life) to make them seem like the obvious choice for reaching that NHS target. What many people don’t realise is that taking one or two sessions of exercise a week can’t make up for the damage done by sitting down a lot in between.

 

The idea that joining a gym is the best way to get fit has been challenged by scientists for many years who have studied the benefits of a range of non-traditional exercise regimes. A well-known is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which may offer similar or even superior effects on health as traditional endurance-based training but in much shorter exercise times.  But what if you are unable to do the really intense workouts that the HIIT requires to be beneficial? High intensity isn’t high intensity if you cannot get yourself to work hard enough.

 

Another form or exercise that has emerged in to the public domain is exercise snacking. This form of multiple bouts of brief, “snack-sized” portions of exercise has been shown to control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout. In a study examining the benefits of exercise snacking, researchers compared blood sugar in participants who exercised for 30 continuous minutes and, in the same group, when they broke their exercise up into three small portions performed shortly before breakfast, lunch and dinner. This “exercise snacking” lowered blood sugar for about 24 hours and did so much better than the 30-minute exercise.

 

Exercising around mealtimes also appears to be beneficial for people with diabetes. A study showed taking a 10-minute walk after each meal can significantly improve the control of blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes compared with a single 30-minute walk each day. These studies collectively highlight the importance of making sure we keep active throughout the day and increasing the amount of energy we use up in non-exercise activities that we normally do during everyday life, from walking up stairs to cleaning the house.

 

I believe that exercise snacking can be the way forward for people who sit down a lot during their normal daily life. I remember when I worked in an office but ran for an hour a day plus I did about 30 minutes a day in the gym. That meant I was exercising for 90 minutes a day on average. It sounds a lot (and to most people it is), but when you work out that it was only 6.25% of my day, meaning that usually 93.75% of my day was spent sitting or lying down; suddenly it doesn’t seem much.

 

Now I am a Personal Trainer I am constantly on my feet, but rarely actually exercising (apart from my one hour of running per day which I still maintain).  What I do differently now is that after each client I train, I try to do between 5-10 minutes of lifting weights or doing some other form of exercises (bodyweight squats, single leg balancing, some core exercises, etc) and when I am in my ‘admin time’ I try to get up as much as possible for 5 minutes at a time, even if that is just to make a coffee.

 

When I train clients, I know that most are inherently lazy when it comes to their time away from our training sessions. Now that isn’t that they don’t want to do anything, it is that their time is precious and they cannot all afford to spend 30-60 minutes at a time working out. Instead, I give them workouts that they can do at home with minimal or no weights (whatever they have available to them). These workouts can be done in whole if they can, or in part so that they make up the 30-minute workouts over the course of the day.

 

Invariably, a fair few end up doing more than 30 minutes a day once it is broken up into small chunks as they enjoy the little and often approach, meaning they don’t notice the time spent exercising (plus the non-exercise exercise such as gardening, dog-walking, shopping, cleaning, moving things, etc).

 

So, if you want to improve your fitness and think that you don’t have the time, you do! You just need to enjoy the benefits of snacking!

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

Need Motivation to Run?

If anyone is struggling for motivation, or finding marathon training tough, this is the last 800m of 2017 London Marathon videoed by myself.

It WILL all be worth it when you finish. There are still some more tough runs ahead, but when you cross the finish line in London, or at any other marathon your are running, you will realise you have achieved so much more than most other people and you should be so proud of your achievement.

 

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

 

How To Run Easy

One of the most common questions people new to running ask me is how they can get their breathing right. They may have been following one of the many plans out there or have been going out by themselves and enjoying their running but finding the breathing bit hard.   If you’ve experienced this, then you are not alone. Below I’ve put some tips that may help you.

The first thing I would say is that it sounds like you’re running too fast. Even if you think that you’re slow, the intensity/effort is probably too much at this stage. What we’re commonly taught in the various programs online is how long to run for rather than how it should feel. If you work on how it should feel (effort), then you’ll likely progress more quickly. However, this is one of the hardest things for newer runners (and some experienced ones) to get their heads around.

So, if all this in mind, here are my top 5 tips for mastering your easy effort level:

  1. The talk test – you should be able to talk in sentences between breaths. If you run with others, then you should be able to hold down a conversation without struggling.
  2. Sing a song in your head – you don’t have to do this out loud, although if you do nobody is going to want to kidnap you! Try to sing a song to yourself and aim to be able to sing a line of a verse of your favourite song between breaths.
  3. Focus on feeling comfortable – this is one of the big ones. Try to relax and focus on feeling comfortable when you run. Sometimes you can overthink things. Just try to feel comfortable.
  4. Feel like you can just keep running – instead of looking at your watch and checking your pace.  Try running at a pace that you feel you could keep running at for much longer than you need to.
  5. Run easy – don’t concentrate on your pace, just focus on effort and it feeling easy. If it feels too hard then it is not easy. If it doesn’t feel easy, slow down until it does feel easy. Don’t look at your watch, other than the time or distance you are running.

Different runs require different effort levels.  If you are doing an interval or hill session, you are going to want (or need) to run at a faster pace (harder effort) than normal. However, when you do not have a specific session to do, or if you are a new/inexperienced runner, you will want to keep the effort level easy.  This should be the case for about 75-80% of all of the miles you complete (this goes for elite athletes as well).

If you feel that you can follow the 5 steps above, you will be surprised how easy and comfortable your running will feel (it may take a couple of weeks of practice).  You will then be able to run further than you thought you ever could.

Try it and see what happens. You might feel that you’re reducing your pace, however you won’t be there for long and you’ll likely be able to run for longer and recover better.

Let me know how you get on!

 

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert Personal Trainer Leicester

London Marathon Training – Week 16

And now, the end is near………

I’m writing this after completing my final London Marathon training run. 945 miles of running so far this year (I’m sure that is more than I have driven), injuries, lack of confidence and now feeling stuffed with all of the carbohydrates I’m consuming; why do we do it to ourselves?

Because we love running and want to push ourselves that little bit further? Or are we just fools as my wife likes to put it?

 

On Monday I ran 6 miles, including 3 miles at my marathon pace heart rate. The MP miles averaged 6.30 pace and my legs felt spritely after less running recently. It was a good run.

 

Tuesday was similar, with a 5 mile run with 3 miles at marathon pace heart rate. This time the MP miles averaged 6.28 pace. Now these two runs suddenly get you thinking that is this pace sustainable for the whole marathon as my HR was actually lower than usual for marathons. My answer is a cautious ‘no’. With my missed runs and leg issues I think it would be dangerous for me to start out at anything quicker than 6.40 pace. If I still feel good at 18-20 miles then it gives me something to push on from, but starting quicker than 6.30 pace leaves me open to a whole world of pain in the latter miles.

 

Wednesday was a single Running Buddy session of 5.01 miles at an easy effort around Knighton Park, further helping my legs taper. It was my client’s furthest run for over 3 years so a successful session for both of us.

 

Thursday was a planned rest day. I was finding the hardest part of my taper was consuming the necessary carbohydrates. I work on a basis of 10g of carbs per kg of bodyweight. Most people would think that this is bliss, being able to eat loads of extra carbs, but as a 70kg male, it is really hard to consume 700grms of carbs each day. I have to make up my carbs with fruit juice and sports drink. By the end of the day I was stuffed and uncomfortable.

 

Friday has been a double day, as I ran a 5 mile Running Buddy session first thing followed later in the morning by my final training run. I ran for 5.30 minutes at a steady pace before running 1 mile at my marathon pace heart rate. This came out at 6.10 pace (totally unrealistic for 26.2 miles). I finished with 5.20 minutes of easy running. Once again my legs felt spritely, even though I felt sluggish due to too much food (I stop carb loading at Saturday lunchtime so that I have digested everything by the start of the race).

 

And that is it. My next run will be around the Good For Age start on Blackheath Common on Sunday morning. I am not sure if I would class myself as ready, but there is nothing more I can do physically or mentally to make any difference now. I have had the most disjointed build up to any of my previous 10 marathons, which has messed around with my confidence as I don’t know how my leg is going to react to the distance and I don’t know what pace is sensible.

 

But, I have no choice now but to get on with it, and as my main target now is to run under 3-hours again (personal pride only) I will set off at about 6.45 pace and then revaluate at around 16-18 miles (unless that feels unsustainable). I want to enjoy it, but as my leg still isn’t 100% and I have a few twinges every now and then, I have resigned myself to a potentially sore run, but I cannot honestly defer my place as it is not that bad.

 

‘Que sera’ as they say!

 

Week 16 Totals: 23.7 miles covered over 5 runs, loads of stretching, rolling and sitting on hockey balls.

 

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

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London Marathon Training – Week 15

Not long to go now. It’s all about keeping healthy, dropping the mileage but keeping up the intensity of your runs. This week was about me trying to keep some of the confidence my last 16 miler gave me.

 

Monday saw me run 6 easy effort cross country miles over the fields from Wigston to Newton Harcourt and then return via the canal towpath and Cooks Lane. My legs were a little tired from the 14 marathon pace miles in Saturdays 16 miler coupled with Sundays 40 mile cycle, but there was not real soreness when running which is immensely pleasing after the last 6 weeks of issues.

 

Tuesday was a just a single run. With the lighter nights the club is now running over the fields again so, after running 3.5 miles to get to the club (a very long route around), we ran the reverse route to the one I ran on Monday. Once again it was at an easy effort run that brought the evening to a total of 10.11 miles.

 

Wednesday was just a single Running Buddy session of 3.37 miles at an easy effort around Knighton Park, helping my legs recovery during the taper.

 

Thursday morning was a 2.5 mile run/walk with my wife as I keep her company on her Couch to 5K sessions.

Thursday evening was the Wigston Phoenix speed session. Due to the lighter evenings we relocate to Manor Road track and this week ran 300m reps with 100m recoveries. Due to wanting a hard workout I kept my recoveries faster than they should have been and ran the 300m reps hard. I was pleased that all 12 of my reps came out within 2 seconds of each other (apart from the excitable first rep). The day finished with a total of 8.94 miles.

 

Friday was a planned rest day so I just did some stretching and leg strengthening, but generally a lazy day.

 

Saturday was my final double figured run of marathon training. I planned the same 10 mile route I ran last year so that I had a marker of where my fitness is, needed for the mental side of things as I have missed some of my more important runs. The start of the run was great and my pace was looking good to where my heart was. However, after mile 3 my heart rate started to rise above what would be sustainable for a marathon so I had to back off the pace a bit. The 6 marathon pace miles I ran averaged out at 6.35 pace. I am pleased with that but as my heart rate was on the higher end of sustainable I think that this pace isn’t a sensible pace to aim for at London.

 

Sunday was spent mainly in a classroom as I was on a course (I know, Easter Sunday!!) but it was good for my legs to recover from the previous day.

 

Week 15 has been mainly positive. As you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned my left leg as much. This is mainly because it is finally getting better. I still have a bit of residual soreness in my foot and calf, but that is from the previous weeks and seems to be improving day by day. If it continues, I may be soreness free for London. If not, I know that it is bearable and I am confident that I can start at a pace of 6.40-6.45 pace and see what happens from there. Not long left!

 

Week 15 Totals: 38.6 miles covered over 6 runs, plus 1 strength session and loads of stretching, rolling and sitting on hockey balls.

Want to know more about running, personal training or nutrition?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com