Posts

How to Recover from a Marathon

Marathons are tough on your body. Sorry, but that is a fact.  Recovering from a marathon is a critical component of a perfect training plan but is something that is often neglected.

Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from a marathon, you will increase your risk of injury, limit your long term potential and increase the risk of overtraining symptoms.

Muscles, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to their limits during a marathon.  Muscle soreness and fatigue are the most obvious signs of damage in the days following a marathon.  One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners found that both the training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fibre necrosis (premature death of cells) that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up to 14 days after a marathon.  It will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.

Muscle memory and coordination are also compromised. This will make repetitive stress injuries more likely when running faster/harder in the weeks after the race.

recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised for up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome.  This also increases the risk of contracting colds, flu and other illnesses

Therefore, it is important that marathon runners have a 2-week marathon recovery plan that focuses on rest, recovery and a gradual return to running.

 

The First Hour

Congratulations! You’ve completed your marathon.  As soon as you cross the finish line (in a race or virtually) your legs go from running to ‘incapable of movement’. However, don’t stop! Recovery starts now and the best thing you can do is to keep moving. Slow is fine but keep moving.

Get yourself into some clean, dry clothes and comfortable shoes as soon as you can (if you are travelling to your marathon, remember to take everything with you).  Some people swear by recovery shoes, compression tights or other products to aid recovery. If they work for you then change in to them as soon as you can.

Walk for at least 10-15 minutes to cool down, instead of sitting down immediately. This will help two major issues:

  • Low blood pressure often occurs immediately after a sudden stop. This will make you feel dizzy or possibly faint.
  • Walking will promote blood flow to clear your muscles and blood stream of by-products caused by the marathon (lactate, cortisol, adrenaline, etc).

At most marathons, there will be fluids and food available at the finish line. Take advantage of these or have something either in your kit bag or with your supporters. Focus on the following:

  • You are probably dehydrated. Start drinking fluids as soon as possible.
  • Focus on carbohydrate-rich foods. I know that you have probably had enough of these with your carb-loading, but you have just run 26.2 miles and you have burnt a lot of energy.
  • If possible, include something with protein in it to help to start to repair damaged muscles.
  • While the perfect advice is to eat a large nutritious meal, realistically any high sugar or processed food will help to start the refuelling. Treat yourself.

 

Later That Day

As per my previous advice on keeping moving, a shower is often better for your recovery than a bath on marathon day.  With a shower, you are staying on your feet and it is easier to continue to promote blood flow through your muscles. The best way to do this is a contrast shower.

A contrast shower is simple. Just alternate between hot and cold water. The hot water dilates your blood vessels and increases blood circulation. The cold water constricts your blood vessels and decreases blood flow. The contrast of the two creates a pump effect that further flushes your muscles and blood of the by-products of your marathon (lactate, cortisol, adrenaline, etc).

  • Start with a hot shower (don’t let it burn) for 2 to 3 minutes
  • Slowly turn down the water temperature from hot to cold
  • Take a cold shower for 1 minute
  • Repeat the hot and cold cycle for 10 minutes
  • Place the water stream on any painful or sore areas for added relief.

The cold water may be a bit of a shock at first, but you soon get used to it.

After your shower it is time for more substantial food, especially if you were unable to east much straight after finishing.  As with earlier, while best advice is to eat a big nutritious meal, just eating is best. The ideal is a mix of carbohydrates and proteins in a 3:1 mix. Being honest, often my go-to post-marathon meal has been a large burger and chips from a motorway service station on the way home (burger has protein, bap and chips are carbs)!

Depending on what time you finish your marathon, think about having an afternoon nap. Sleep is the best time for the body to repair muscle and generally recover.

Finally, go to sleep earlier and ideally try to get as much sleep as possible. Your body will thank you for it tomorrow.

 

The Next Day

After a (hopefully) good night’s sleep you will be ready to continue your recovery.

Aim for some form of active recovery today. No running though!  If you have access, swimming or cycling on a static bike can be a good form of active recovery. You are not looking to build or improve fitness, but just to move your muscles.

If you do not have access to a pool or static bike, go for a gentle walk for 30 minutes. Once again, this is in no way a training session or power-hike. It is a gentle walk.  If you have any niggles (not aches, these are normal) or really sore spots, stop the exercise.

Now is also a good time to get a massage. Keep it light. Deep tissue massage at this point can be detrimental to muscles that are trying to repair damage. You want the massage to promote blood-flow.  Deep tissue massages are best kept for 1 to 2 weeks later.

Make sure you still keep sleep as a priority and keep eating, even if you have to get back to work.  If your job involves sitting at a desk, try to take breaks where you can stand up and move around. Easy movement is good in the days after a marathon so that your joints do not stiffen and your muscles continue to have blood flowing through them.

 

The Next Few Days

Stick with prioritising sleep and food, but now try to start getting back to a more normal way of eating as the week goes on.

Keep cycling and swimming if you can and also include walks. and as the week goes on, increase your walks from 30 minutes up to 45 minutes if your legs are starting to recover. Listen to your body and if your legs say no, stop and go home.

When you can comfortably walk for 45 minutes, it may be the time to try a very easy run the following day (not before Thursday though).  When you do feel ready to run, aim for a 20-30 minute run. The goal of the first run is to test how your legs feel. If your legs feel really heavy or if anything hurts, stop and walk home and give your recovery a few more days before trying again.

You are not proving anything to anyone by running earlier, further or faster than your legs want to. Park your ego as if you don’t respect your recovery, the injury, illness or overtraining symptoms mentioned earlier are likely to come back and get you in a few weeks.  Now is not the time to test if you are invincible.  Remember that muscle memory and coordination are compromised. This will make repetitive stress injuries more likely if you don’t allow recovery.

 

Week Two Onwards

When your running does feel comfortable and niggle free, you can employ a reverse taper (build up miles in the opposite way you tapered prior to your marathon).  Do not try to do too much too soon and don’t try to run hard or race unless you feel 100% recovered.

I’ll reiterate it again, be sensible and you will be able to continue running with no extra risk of injury.

 

Going Forwards?

Make sure that you are recovered first. So, I wouldn’t advise booking any races in the first 2-3 weeks after your marathon.

Some people can suffer from post-marathon blues. You’ve invested so much time and energy in to your running that you may feel a bit of a void. When you feel like this, it is then good to have a focus to get you back running again so go and look at some races and see what you want to do next.

Some people will only do one marathon a year and then focus on shorter races. Others use a marathon as a stepping stone to an ultra. Some will just want to continue enjoying their running. Some people may want to better their finish time and look for accountability. A few of my clients came to me after marathons wanting to improve in future races.

Whatever will motivate you to keep running after you’ve recovered from the marathon, please keep going. Completing a marathon is a big achievement so don’t waste all of that fitness you’ve built over the last few months.

 

  • Enjoy basking in the glory of completing your marathon
  • Recovery sensibly or pay later
  • Enjoy your future running

 

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.

 

Do you want structured training to keep you running after your marathon?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

 

 

Fuelling a Marathon. Carb Loading and Race Day Nutrition

There are two big fuelling traps that runners fall in to before they run a marathon.

 

  1. They go into the race under fuelled
  2. They eat loads the night before

 

Carb-loading has evolved over the years. In the 1970-80s there was the process of doing a really hard run the week before your marathon, then having little or no carbs for 2-3 days before eating a very carb-heavy diet for 3 days leading into the race.  This was in the belief that if you emptied the muscles of carbs, when you then introduce them again your muscles will hold on to them.  However, some runners would get really run down with 2-3 days without carbs, some fell ill and with the more recent sports science studies showing little benefit, the carb-depletion phase is very rarely used nowadays.

 

The practice of carb-loading though, is very much still alive and recognised as essential to good endurance performance.  This is because unless you are going to run your marathon at a very easy effort your body will be burning mostly carbohydrates.

 

According to research from the Mayo Clinic, runners working at a moderate intensity will use up their normal stores of glycogen (energy stored in muscles) after about 90 minutes. Unless you are planning to beat the world record by half an hour, you will need to top up your energy levels in order to continue running without issue.

 

To help to increase this 90-minute period you should try to increase the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles you should be increasing your carbohydrate intake in the three days before your marathon. This is not increasing calories but increasing the percentage of carbohydrates you consume – the Mayo Clinic suggests that about 70% of your calories should come from carbohydrates in those final three days.

 

As you’ll be tapering and running less (see blog for how to taper) the increase in carbohydrates will be naturally increasing your glycogen stores.

 

How should we be getting the carbs?

A three-day carb-fest sounds great, but in reality, it is hard to be able to eat enough carbohydrates for the needs of a marathon and you risk feeling heavy and bloated on race day unless you carb-load wisely. Choosing low-fat options may help, as fat delays stomach emptying and promotes fullness, something you don’t really want just before race day.

 

Those who are prone to gastrointestinal distress should choose low-fibre carbohydrate sources. Too much fibre may result in diarrhoea or cramping on race day. White bread, white rice, pasta, sports bars and sports drinks are better compared to the brown, more fibrous options.

 

Another way to increase your intake of energy is to consume carb-rich drinks. Not only will this increase your carbohydrate intake, but it will also help to fully hydrate you prior to race day. You can include fruit juices or sports drinks as your carb-rich drinks.

 

How much carbohydrates is enough?

Most information relating to carb-loading suggests consuming between 7-10g of carbohydrates per 1kg of bodyweight. Personally, I always aim to go for the 10g per 1kg as then if you fall short (it is tougher than you think) you will still be way above the 7g per 1kg minimum amount.

 

I start to increase my carbohydrate intake from breakfast on Thursday (when running a Sunday marathon). The key to carb-loading is preparation. You need to look at the amount of carbohydrates in a portion size of foods you are likely to eat. Then choose the foods with the highest amount of carbohydrates as that means eating less food overall.

 

I will have written a list of what I need to eat in advance and have bought everything. This way I can break up the foods and drinks into manageable amounts, plus it is thought that most people can only absorb 90-100g of carbs per hour. I continue this through Friday and then on Saturday I eat 90-100g of carbs from waking until about 3pm when I have a normal sized carb-rich evening meal together with sports drinks.

 

As I mentioned earlier, most people think a massive carb-rich meal on the Saturday night is the most important thing to do. However, depending on the speed of your digestive system, if eaten later in the evening, the meal may still be sitting heavy in your stomach as you start the marathon. This increases the risk of having stomach issues during the race. By finishing the carb-loading process by mid-Saturday afternoon, your stomach should be emptied the following morning.

 

This is my carb-loading menu to give you an idea of what I consume in the days before a race of half marathon distance and above.  If you do not eat any of the foods on the menu then please look for foods you do eat that have similar carbohydrate values (you should be able to open this photo in a new tab or save it to view it in more detail).

 

 

For those of you who like to weigh yourselves before races, you may notice an increase in weight of 2-4lbs. However, this should be fluids and not body fat because each gram of carbohydrate stores about four grams of fluid. Once you get running you shouldn’t notice this and it is a good thing as, you’ll start more hydrated and need less fluids during the marathon. Don’t worry about the number on the scales.

 

Marathon Day

Your race day breakfast should have been practiced as part of your long runs. You should aim for 1-4g of carbohydrates per 1kg of bodyweight, about two to four hours before you run. This will help to promote steady blood sugar levels early in the marathon. I tend to have my breakfast about three hours before the start and then sip on a sports drink while heading to the start, finishing about 30 minutes before running.

 

During the Marathon

If you think of your glycogen stores as your fuel tank, you want to stop that fuel running out during the marathon, known as “hitting the wall”. A lot of new marathon runners will have heard horror stories of people who can’t run a step further and end up painfully shuffling to the finish while others run effortlessly by. All that has happened is that those hitting the wall have failed to prepare properly or have failed to follow a sensible race day plan.

 

Proper carb-loading will have helped to fill your fuel tank and what you consume during the race will stop that fuel from running out.

 

As with breakfast, this should have been practiced during your long training runs.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 30 to 60g of carbohydrate per hour for events lasting 1 to 2.5 hours, and up to 90g of carb per hour for events 2.5 hours or longer.

 

As most people reading this will be aiming for a finish time over 2.5 hours we should be aiming for as close to 90g of carbohydrates per hour as possible. If you haven’t practiced with 90g of carbohydrates per hour, don’t expect your stomach to be happy with this on race day. Stick to roughly what you’ve practiced with and you know your stomach can tolerate.  For any future events, practice consuming more carbs each week on your longer runs so that your stomach will tolerate more in your next marathon (there’ll always be another…..).

 

Start to consume carbohydrates after the first 30 minutes of the race and then keep taking them at regular intervals, taking in as much as you know your stomach can tolerate.

 

I always stick to sports nutrition products when running a marathon. These have been designed to be consumed while running and work as quickly as possible. Carb-gels usually have around 20-25g of carbs per gel and so 2-3 of these per hour will keep the energy levels of most of the quicker runners topped up. Gels are easy to consume and many now can be taken without water. These are better for those working at a harder effort when it may be difficult to chew whilst running.

 

For those who are running for over 4 hours, or those running at an easier effort or taking walk breaks, energy bars or real food can be used as well as or instead of gels. Taste fatigue (when you get fed up with the same thing or flavour) can occur for those who are running for longer and a variety of carb sources may help. You don’t want to get fed up with what you have with you and then stop consuming carbs as this will eventually end up with you hitting the wall.

 

Just remember that you want to be consuming carb-rich products if not using sports nutrition. Some people use jelly sweets as an alternative, just make sure you have enough and know how many to consume and when.

 

Finally, always carry a little extra. There is always the possibility of dropping something as you run.

 

It is useful keeping a food diary around your long runs and races. You can log what food and drinks you consume, how many carbs in each product and how you felt and performed in each race. You can then replicate this for future races (there’ll always be more).

 

A big caveat to all this information is that those with diabetes or other specific health conditions should always speak to their doctor or consultant before adjusting their carbohydrate intake. Plus, those with any specific allergies or intolerances to certain types of carbohydrates may need to do further research to minimise possible illnesses or stomach distress.

 

Finally, if you’ve completed every run on your plan, eaten all your carbohydrates, drank all your fluids and consume your carbs regularly during the race, you can still hit the wall. This is because the final piece of the jigsaw is pacing. Aim to run at an even pace based upon your realistic and practiced target time. If you go out too fast you will be burning your energy too quickly (think about your fuel tank when you speed in your car). Once you get into energy deficit you cannot consume enough carbs to pull it back without slowing right down or stopping. Even starting 10-20 seconds a mile too quickly can cause an encounter with the wall.

 

I give the runners I coach, when they are going for a specific finishing time, a 10 second per mile window based on their target and training times. If they keep each mile within this pace window and fuel as discussed above, there should not be any energy deficit and they should be able to finish strong and evenly paced. If in the last few miles they feel good, they still have the energy to push on and finish faster.

 

To summarise:

  • Consume 7-10g of carbs per 1kg of bodyweight from Thursday to Saturday afternoon (for a Sunday marathon)
  • Eat a normal sized carb-rich evening meal the day before race day
  • Have a practiced race day breakfast of 1-4g of carbs per 1kg of bodyweight
  • Don’t start too fast
  • Aim to consume between 50-90g of carbs per hour during the race

 

If you follow all of this, I have no doubt that you can have the best race day experience possible. Marathons are hard work, but let’s not make it any harder than it needs to be and let’s make sure we don’t encounter the fabled wall.

 

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 or personal training?

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

 

 

Tapering for your marathon

Tapering For Your Marathon

Over the last few months your training should have been gradually getting harder, you should have been running more and more miles, both your midweek and long runs.  As you have now completed, or about to complete your longest week and your longest run of your training, you may well be thinking about the taper.

 

What Is Tapering?

A taper is a reduction in training intensity before a major race or event to give the body time to recover and adapt to reach a peak in performance.  Simply put, you are going to reduce mileage for the last couple of weeks before your marathon so that you don’t have tired muscles when you start your race.

 

As your training builds, your fitness will increase with your increase in mileage. However, as your training builds you will also notice your fatigue (tiredness) levels increase. As you can see from the example graph below, I coach people to have cutback weeks every 3-4 weeks. This is to lessen the ongoing fatigue that runners feel during training. It also helps your body adapt and recovery, lessening injury, keeping motivation to train, and helping you to push harder and further in the next few weeks. For those who use training plans without cutback weeks, the line of fatigue (black on the graph) will just increase and increase until you are just knackered and lose the motivation and energy to train, or suffer an overtraining injury.  By cutting back every now and then you lessen the fatigue and can push harder next week.

 

 

  • Fitness builds as mileage builds, but so does fatigue
  • Cutback weeks reduce fatigue
  • Peaking (Taper) phase reduces fitness a little but fatigue by a lot, meaning you feel fresh on race day

 

And this is where the taper really comes in. I like to call it a peaking phase as that sounds more positive to most runners, especially those going for a certain time or personal best.  You are reducing your mileage over the course of usually the final 3 weeks. The taper period will vary from 2-3 weeks depending on the mileage you’ve been doing, how hard the weeks between 10-14 have been (if you have had a week out for any reason a 2-week taper will be better) and how your body reacts to higher mileage. For the purpose of this blog I’ll use a 3-week taper.

 

Week 13 will be your highest mileage week. You will be doing your longest or hardest long run at the end of your hardest block of training. You should feel tired and ready for lower mileage.  That is a good sign because it means that you have loaded your body with fatigue which means you will create fitness adaptations with less mileage.

 

If you are having a 3-week taper you will start to lose a little fitness before race day. However, it is not really noticeable (only really from physiological testing) and you will actually feel fitter on race day due to the reduction of fatigue. As you can see in the graph your fatigue levels drop dramatically in the final two weeks. The bigger the gap between fitness and fatigue the better you will feel.

 

How to Taper

Week 14 should contain roughly 65% of the mileage of week 13. As an example, if you ran 50 miles in week 13 you want to run roughly 33 miles in week 14.  I would usually say the long run in week 14 should be between 14 miles for less experienced runners to 16 miles for people on higher mileage.  Include some miles at your race pace to get used to it during a longer run. Practice your pre-race breakfast and the fuel you will consume during your marathon.

 

Week 15 should see your mileage total being roughly half of your longest week (13). This means that there is not a big reduction from week 14 and it mainly comes from the longer run, which will vary from 8-10 miles for less experienced runners to 10-12 miles for those coming from higher mileage. Include some miles at your race pace to get used to it. Practice your pre-race breakfast and the fuel you will consume during your marathon.

 

Week 16 (race week) is where the most noticeable change comes in. You want to be at roughly 25% of the mileage from week 13 (this doesn’t include race day miles), so from 50 miles a week you will be running around 12 miles only.  A typical race week for people I coach will be along the lines of:

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – 5 miles (1m steady, 3m at race pace, 1m very easy)

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – 4 miles (1m steady, 2m at race pace, 1m very easy)

Friday – Rest

Saturday – 3 miles (1m steady, 1m at race pace, 1m very easy). Run in race kit

Sunday – 26.2 miles at race pace!

 

You will notice that you are still running regularly in this final week. Doing nothing just gets your legs conditioned to doing nothing. You want to still be running in that final week, but from previously running far longer than these distances, plus the rest days in between, your legs should start to feel more rested and more bouncy as the week goes on.

 

The second thing to note is that there is still a certain amount of intensity in your runs. There are known neuromuscular connections that are built by practicing race pace. In the final two weeks before your race, you should include some amount of race pace miles in each run. This means that on race day you are used to how this pace feels and more importantly, it feels normal.  People in the past have complained about either doing nothing in the final week, or running very easily and then on race day their race pace feels really hard. That is just a lack of practice.

 

Tapering after compromised training

I’m writing this in September 2020, 4 weeks before the Virtual London Marathon. This year has been very disjointed with the spring cancellation of marathons.  Some people expected the autumn rescheduled events to be cancelled, some have lost motivation with the uncertainty surrounding the lack of definite events, some have been homeschooling, been injured, ill or just couldn’t be bothered. For those, depending on how your recent weekly mileage has been you may want to consider the following.

 

If you have not trained much in the last few months and still need to build mileage for fitness or confidence reasons, you can have a 2-week taper.  If so, look above at the week 15 information but reduce mileage by 50% of your week 14.  Then continue week 16 as described above.  The is known as an aggressive taper and something similar will also be used by some more experienced runners who find a 3-week taper doesn’t work for them.

 

It is important that your longest run is no closer to race day than 14 days. You may struggle to reduce your fatigue levels enough if your long run is 7-10 days prior to race day. You also do not get any physiological benefits in the last 10-14 days, you just risk starting with tired legs.

 

Race Week

Make sure that you use the extra time in the last week to prepare your race kit, get your race day plans finalised (if you haven’t already) and prepare your carb-loading (another blog to follow on that).

 

Think of your taper as the icing on your cake.  The taper won’t work without the training base and the training base can be compromised without a well thought out and executed taper.  Do it right and everything will be in place for you to hit your targets on race day.

 

Stay positive, be confident and trust in your training.

 

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?

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

 

 

 

How to Run Easy

As a coach one the biggest things I have to teach and remind runners is how to run easy. I originally wrote a post about this in 2018, but feel the need to update it.

 

When we start running, we tend to run as far as we can at a pace that feels ‘normal’ or ‘comfortable’. We tend to run until we can’t run any more, possibly having a walk break before running again.  We build up these runs in distance but tend to keep the pace the same over every run.  We improve our times, often in parkruns as they can be run every week (pre-Covid), maybe also in races of a longer distance. However, at some point, we tend to either injury ourselves or our times plateau.  This is because we are effectively racing every run.

 

If you are lucky enough to plateau before injury strikes, we then think that we need to try harder or run further, usually at that same pace we are always running.  By doing this, one of three things will happen, we either get injured as we are now racing more; we begin to get disillusioned and fall out of enjoyment with running; or we end up causing illness due to the level of fatigue we build up.

 

How do we change this?

A lot of runners will run at what they call ‘easy pace’. Being honest, some coaches are also guilty of using this phrase and prescribing paces for easy runs. These paces are often derived from training calculators found on the internet.  However, this just doesn’t always work. For example, I can tell someone to run at 9.00min/mi pace as that usually feels easy on flat ground. However, what do they do when they run uphill? 9.00 pace suddenly feels hard. If they run in to a headwind at 9.00 pace that will again feel hard.  How many times do you see people writing on Facebook or Strava that they found their easy run ‘really hard today’? If they found it hard then it wasn’t easy!

 

To get around this we need to forget about an ‘easy pace’ but instead learn how to run at an ‘easy effort’. You need to try to learn how a run feels. If it feels tough then it’s not easy. If it feels steady then it’s probably not easy.  It needs to feel easy.

 

There are a few ways of practising this. Firstly, you need to forget about your pace and cover your watch (unless you need to know the distance, in which case set your watch for easy effort runs so that you can only see distance).

  1. The Talk Test – you should be able to talk in full sentences. Now that we are allowed to run with others, go for a chatty run with someone of a similar ability and have a good natter. It is often those runs that feel the best, because you are chatting so you naturally slow down.
  2. Sing – You can sing out loud (less likelihood of you getting kidnapped) or just sing in your head, but mouthing the words. If you can do that, it will control your breathing and keep your effort easy.
  3. Relax – As you are not running to a certain pace, just relax and enjoy being outdoors. Listen to some lower tempo music so that the beat doesn’t dictate your speed. Maybe listen to an audiobook or podcast instead. Or simply just concentrate on your surroundings and how you feel. You should feel that whilst your legs may get tired as you approach your long distances (remember what is long for one isn’t for another), but your breathing should always remain consistent and relaxed.
  4. Focus on Your RPERate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a scale created by Gunnar Borg to try to give a standardised approach to how you are feeling when exercising (see the scale below. Borg original scale was based on 6-20 but he then simplified it on a scale of 1-10). When running at an easy effort you really want your perception of exertion (how hard you feel you are working) to be in the range of 8-11 of the original scale or 2-3.3 on the newer scale.

Borg - Rate of Perceived Exertion

  1. Don’t Overanalyse – I tend to get people to think about effort and not what all of the numbers mean. Some people run to heart rate as in beats per minute (BPM), some people set their watches to heart rate zones (usually set on a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Plans vary through from 3 zones to 7 zones). However, all of these are very personal to the individual and require a very accurate heart rate monitor and the knowledge to be able to spot anomalies, for instance when you are fatigued, running off road, stressed, etc. If you can run to feel then your pace and heart rate will come out in the right areas.

 

Why do we want to run easily?

The biggest key to running improvement is consistency. To build endurance and fitness you need to be able to increase your mileage. To increase your mileage in a sustainable way you need to run the majority of your runs at an easy effort. To increase your speed when running, you need to practise running faster. However, the stresses this puts through your muscles, tendons and joints means that you cannot always run fast (personally I like to use the word ‘hard’ instead of ‘fast’ as speed is relative to the individual, whereas effort is the same for everyone).

 

I tend to try to stick to a rule of roughly 80% of easy effort miles (not runs) and 20% harder miles, both in my running and my coaching of runners. I find that this works the best for most people and this theory has long-standing foundations in training (Mo Farah will run upwards of 100 miles a week to compete in 5k & 10k races, but 80% of those miles will be easy effort).

 

This concept was originally spotted by an exercise physiologist called Stephen Seiler in the late 1990s.  He found a consistent pattern when analysing the training of elite athletes across a number of sports such as running, cross-country skiing and rowing.  He coined the phrase ‘polarised training’. Basically, you either run easy or you run hard.  You will only tend to run at a ‘steady effort’ when trying to practise race pace for longer distances, such as half or full marathons.

 

Since then, numerous books have been produced on the subject, including 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald. Whilst this is a really good book to get to the science behind why easy effort running and polarised training works for the majority, it does have it’s flaws in that sticking to the training zones and heart rates prescribed can be really frustrating.

 

So, it’s time to lose the focus on pace and think about effort. Run to feel. If the run says ‘easy effort’ make sure it feels easy. If the run says ‘run hard’ make sure the effort is hard.  You only need to look at your watch when practising certain paces, and anyone who is coached by me knows that isn’t that often.  You’ll find your easy runs more enjoyable and you’ll find that you’ll then be fresher for your harder runs.

 

If you read this and think this is challenging, the chances are you are running your easy runs too fast. Now let’s go and practise!  Enjoy!

 

 

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

 

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