Hill Sprints for Endurance Runners

Hill sprints. Along with strides, these are probably one of the best secret weapons in your speed work arsenal. Short, intense but with a good pay off over time. If you haven’t done them before, have a go this week…

 

What are hill sprints:
Maximal effort runs up an incline. Each run is short – 10-15 seconds in duration, followed by a good recovery (very slow jog or walk back down). 4-8 repeats is plenty, depending on your running background.

 

Why do hill sprints?
Hill sprints are a safe way to practice all-out sprinting – the hill means less impact is absorbed when you sprint so less chance of injury. They strengthen key muscles and tendons, much like a strength session, except the incline is the resistance rather than weights. It utilises the same mechanisms as plyometrics and strengthens the hips, glutes, quads and calves. Like strides (bursts of controlled pace over 10-15 seconds), they help recruit muscle fibres (particularly ones that endurance runners don’t often recruit) – very useful for engaging the muscle fibres you’ll want to use at the end of a race. They also may help you improve your cadence, focus on form and reduce ground contact time by improving neuromuscular connections – the speed at which signals are sent to muscles. Really useful too for those sprint finishes or overtaking on hills!

 

When should I do hill sprints:
Do them during or after an easy run. Or before a marathon paced or reasonably hard (but not all out) session to fatigue your legs slightly and help represent running on tired legs. They do not constitute a hard workout in their own right but should be used as an add on much like you would strides. Although they are max effort, each is short, and with a longer recovery, should not leave you fatigued the next day.  If you have a coach, make sure you follow their guidance with which runs to add these in to.

 

How to do hill sprints:
1. Warm up well – at least a mile, possibly with some accelerations to get your legs turning over. Respect that you will be asking your legs to work hard.
2. Choose a hill between 5-10%, steep but it doesn’t have to be cliff-like!
3. Jog gently to the bottom and from a jogging start, sprint up the hill as fast as you can. GO HARD!
4. Focus on form – run tall (not leaning into the hill). Keep your cadence high, shorten your stride and emphasise your arm movement to drive you forward.
5. It may help to have a mantra or go to phrase to help you push something like “explode, explode, explode” works well to drive you forward in an explosive manner.
6. Don’t go over 15s, it’s a max effort. Walk slowly back down, make sure you are recovered, and go again.
7. Repeat 4-8 times (lower end for beginners, if you are coming back from a period or time off or you are not used to hill work or sprinting).

Go all out and enjoy! Do you do hill sprints? Got any tips for runners just starting out with them? Do you prefer hill sprints or strides? Tell us more in the comments below.

 

 

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Coaching Tip – Tapering for a Marathon

Back in 2020 I wrote a blog post on tapering for your marathon. For this week’s coaching tip, I bring back the key points of this article and remind you of the importance of recovering completely before you embark on 26.2 miles.

 

What is tapering?
-Tapering is reducing your training before your target race, giving your body a chance to recover from accumulated fatigue and reach a peak in performance. The taper should be 2-3 weeks in length, meaning you don’t lose fitness, but go into your target race fresh and full of energy. Although a 3 week taper does mean you may lose a little fitness, you won’t notice it, and this is outweighed by the recovery you should feel. However, if your training season has been interrupted or shortened by injury etc. you may want to consider a 2 week taper (details below).
During the taper, you want to try and keep frequency of your runs the same (if you run 4 times a week, keep to that), and keep a little intensity (speed). However, you will drop some of the speedwork and reduce the mileage to allow the recovery to take place. You should also include a little bit of marathon pace work in runs during the taper, to make neuromuscular connections – get your brain used to telling your legs to run at that pace.

Planning a 3 week taper
– 3 weeks out, mileage should be around 65% of your previous (highest) week. The long run will be between 14 miles (less experienced runners), and 16 miles (for more experienced runners). Use this opportunity to practice pre-race routines like fuelling and clothing.
– 2 weeks out: your mileage should be roughly half of your longest week, and long run will vary from 8-12 miles depending on experience.
– 1 week out: down to 25% of the mileage you were at. Take another rest day or two (depending on your current frequency) and include marathon pace work. Drop any extra exercise such as gym visits or cross training at this point. An example last week schedule is on the original blog: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/tapering-for-your-marathon/

 

Considering a 2 week taper
If your training hasn’t gone to plan (e.g. reduced training for injury or illness), and you want more time to build fitness and / or confidence, a 2 week “aggressive” taper is worth considering. To do this:
– Keep your training high 3 weeks out, peaking with a long run.
– Drop back to 50% of the mileage 2 weeks out, and follow the pattern above for the final week
– Be careful that this allows you enough time to recover properly.

As you start the taper, you may worry that you haven’t trained enough, haven’t hit paces on all your runs, etc. maranoia (the well-known paranoia of marathon training) will probably kick in. However, the old adage that it is better to go into a race slightly under trained than overtrained and tired is very true, so stick to your guns, take time to recover, and reach the start line as fresh as a daisy and ready to race! Good luck!

 

Key resources:
Full blog post on How to Taper can be found here: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/tapering-for-your-marathon/
MH Runners Club webinar on Preparing for your marathon: Tapering, racing and recovery, where tapering and a lot of other useful topics are discussed at length, can be accessed in MH Runners Club (www.mhrunnersclub.co.uk)

 

Other useful blog posts include:
Carb loading and race day nutrition: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/fuelling-a-marathon-carb-loading-and-race-day-nutrition/
How to determine your marathon race pace: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/how-to-determine-your-marathon-race-pace/
Building mental toughness: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/coaching-focus-mental-toughness/

 

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Want to know more about running or personal training?

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Martin Hulbert

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How to determine your marathon race pace…

Deciding how to pace your goal marathon race is always a tricky one. You may be a first timer with or without a goal time, or an experienced marathoner with a specific target time, but at some point, you’re going to have to take stock of your training and racing to date and decide what pace you intend to set out and run 26.2 miles… this isn’t something you want to get wrong – too fast and you risk hitting the wall, too slow and you don’t do your hours of training justice. So how can you decide what to do?

 

There are several ways of tackling this, but first:

 

What is your goal?

For first timers, the target is often to get round in one piece without too much pain… so looking at a number of runs you have already completed, especially if near race distance (e.g. 16-20 miles) will give you a good idea of what pace you can sustain. If you’re not near race distance yet, you can use past race or run experience to extrapolate either by using a calculator or a formula (as discussed below).

 

If you have already done a marathon (or several) and want to improve on your current pace, you may already have a goal time in mind. You now need to reflect on how your training has gone, what sort of fitness level you are at, are you injured or niggly? Did you or are you struggling to sustain your paces in training? You also need to consider how much time you have left – the further away your race, the more ambitious you can afford to be, whereas if you’re starting the taper, don’t count on building fitness now.

 

There are various ways to help you set the right race pace for you:

 

Doing a test run at the proposed pace (or several): 
Decide on your distance, do a test run or couple of runs and see how your pace feels. A great way of doing this is to add  5-10 miles at that pace into a longer run (don’t do the whole long run at proposed marathon pace or you risk overtraining). The pace should feel reasonably comfortable for a good part of the segment (depending on how long you have until your target marathon) and you should be able to hold the pace throughout the segment. Slowing towards the end is a sign that you may have been too ambitious in your goal and perhaps need to reduce the pace a little (consider other factors too, like did you fuel well enough, is it poor weather, hilly or just a bad day – which is why several paced runs are better than one for this).
You can then use an online calculator to see what time you could finish if you run at that pace for your race.

 

Doing a race / using a calculator:

Doing a race is a great way of predicting a marathon time – longer races are more useful – e.g. a half marathon will be a better predictor than a 5k. Run your race hard and review your finish time. It does depend on how far out you are from your marathon, a hard half will be faster than marathon pace, so your target marathon pace will be slightly slower than that half time. For example, a 2 hour half marathon (9.09 min/mi) may equate to a 9.25-9.30 min/mi pace over the marathon. Some online calculators give an idea of what race times may translate to over different distances (a few are given at the end of this page to help). They vary in accuracy so try a couple, and remember, the nearer the distance of your test race to your target race, the more accurate the result.
Some people quote formulae to predict – you may have heard marathon times as double your half time and add 10-20 mins. For example, a 1.45 half time will double to 3.30, and so this runners target time may be 3.40-3.50 for the marathon. This can work but can also vary wildly depending on your speed, experience and training. A faster marathoner is likely to be much nearer the double and 10 mins than a slower marathoner who may need to double their time and add up to 40 minutes. The best thing to do is to use that pace as a starting point and test it out (see testing out pace on runs above).

 

Using Heart Rate (HR) data or perceived effort
This can be unpredictable but works for some. Remember HR and perceived effort can vary considerably depending on sleep, stress levels, elevation, weather, menstrual cycle, hydration levels, caffeine and other factors. HR data from training runs should be used rather than races because HR is often spiked by the stress of races, and make sure the source of your data is as reliable as possible (ie use a chest strap or equivalent where possible – wrist based monitors are not as accurate). Marathons are generally run in zone 3 – 70-80% of maximum HR for the majority. This is just below your lactate threshold (the point at which lactate accumulates in your muscles faster than you can remove it). You would expect your HR and perceived effort to increase through the race as your fatigue levels and effort levels increase. You can find out more about calculating your HR zones here: https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a20812270/should-i-do-heart-rate-training/

Both HR and perceived effort are tough to use for longer races as when you’re well tapered, or nervous about your race, they can change. Remember – a race start is a stressful place for most of us and will cause increases in HR or perceived effort before you’ve even started.

 

Getting professional advice:
This is one of the best ways to decide on race pace, and can come in several forms.

  1. If you’ve followed a specific training programme that is aimed at finishing in a particular time, and you’ve nailed your training paces, this should help you decide.
  2. If you have a running coach, definitely discuss it with them!
  3. And of course you can ask online, and there are some amazing knowledgable people who can help, but don’t forget, they don’t know your training or running history, and whatever information you give online is just a snapshot, so make sure you weigh up any information or advice given very carefully.

 

Adjusting race pace
Once decided, you should stick to your race pace wherever possible, and make sure any reason for changing it is valid. If you haven’t already been that person that shot off too fast in the marathon, I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories of people who have. Don’t change your marathon goal pace because you feel great during the taper (yes, marathon pace does feel much easier when you’re well rested!), or at the start of the race (adrenalin does funny things to your decision making processes!). But on the other hand, don’t feel you have to stick to it rigidly if there is a good reason – hot or bad weather, niggles or feeling unwell all fall into this category.

I hope this was helpful to you in planning your upcoming marathon. Deciding on race pace is a tough call, but a review of your training and taking an evidence based approach is probably the best way to go. Whatever pace you’re running at, I hope your marathon is a positive and successful experience.

 

Have you already decided on your marathon pace for this autumn? Do you have any tips or stories about pacing that you can share? Or a reliable way of working out your pace? Please let us know…

Useful resources:
There are a lot more calculators available, this is just a few that my clients have used. They vary considerably so make sure you test out any suggested paces before committing, and do share any calculators or resources you use for predicting paces.

V.dot calculator: good for using race data to work out equivalent finish times for different distances, and training paces: https://runsmartproject.com/calculator/

McMillan calculatorhttps://www.mcmillanrunning.com
Strava calculator: This is great for giving you splits for each mile – worth printing off and putting round your wrist etc. If going for a specific time https://www.strava.com/running-pace-calculator
Runner’s World pace calculator: Good for calculating training paces – https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a761676/rws-training-pace-calculator/
Metathon – uses Strava data to predict a finish time. Most find this over-optimistic but it is interesting https://www.metathon.com

 

MH Runners Club webinars on How to Train for a Marathon  https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

MH Runners Club Ask the Coach sessions https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/mh-runners-club/

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

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Coaching focus – mental toughness

Control your mind to race better

In the words of Amby Burfoot, runner, author and ex-editor in chief of Runners World “if you train your mind for running, everything else will be easy”.  I’m not sure I totally agree with that but he has a point.

As runners, most of us are diligent about our sport. We practise our running, log our miles, analyse our splits, fuel our runs and attempt some form of strength and conditioning. We get that all of this matters, and put in the work. Many runners, however, don’t deliberately focus on the mental aspects of running – or train the brain to keep running when the going gets tough. Some believe you’re either born with mental toughness, or you’re not. And sometimes it can even be used as an excuse not to push hard in races. Undoubtedly, backing off is sometimes the right thing to do, but not every time. Sometimes its the golden opportunity to practice mental toughness.

There are lots of ways to build your mental toughness, but today I am focusing on two areas in particular that may help you gain control of your mind and banish negative thoughts that may undermine your race performance. These are the art of being present and the importance of deliberate practice.

Running in the Present

In a race, remembering past issues or fearing the discomfort that is to come is common, but unhelpful – its more information than your brain can, or needs to process at that time. An ability to be present just in the moment – exist only in the current breath, the here and now, will help you to calm your mind and find a state of flow. You are not the same you as you were on your last run, or will be on your next run. You may have had more or less sleep, may be more or less well hydrated, your nutrition might be better or worse, and what are your stress levels doing? Your capacity to run will vary day by day. By existing in the moment, you can step back from the negative chatter, the doubts and other thoughts in your head and make better decisions based on your current sensations and your immediate environment.

 

Meditation or mindfulness are great training tools for training the skill of being in the present. Training your mind to meditate means stepping back from the chatter, doubts and other thoughts in your head, becoming aware of them and allowing them to pass. Don’t expect to clear your mind but work towards disengaging or managing your thoughts instead of fighting them.

 

These techniques are best practised for the first time outside of running, when you’re calm and have time rather than when you are being physically (and sometimes mentally) challenged.

Try some of these to start with, but there are many ways to meditate or be mindful, and lots of very useful resources on the internet or apps you can use to help.

Start by finding a quiet space and setting a 5 min timer on your phone. Lie or sit comfortably, where you are not actively engaging muscles to stay upright.

  1. Imagine your mind is a clear blue sky and your thoughts are puffy clouds that move across the sky. Simply watch the thought clouds pop in and out of your mind. They are temporary. They don’t have to distract you. Be aware of your inner monologue – once you are aware of it and can separate who you are from what you are thinking, you can begin to identify and dismiss non-productive thoughts both in rest and on the run.
  2. Try lying on the floor and breathe slowly. Notice your breath. Without trying to change it, count how long it takes you to inhale (count at a slow pace). Then start to draw out and lengthen your exhales to match the count of your inhales. Keep your breathing relaxed. If you lose count, start again, it doesn’t matter, just keep coming back every time you drift away.
  3. Lie on the floor in a passive position. As you breath out, imagine that your bones are getting heavier. Start at your head. Imagine it sinking into the floor. Move to your shoulders, your back, your arms etc all the way down to your feet. If your mind wanders, pull it back to the present and continue.

 

The next stage is to adapt one of these techniques to practice on the run… which brings us neatly on to the art of deliberate practice.

 

The importance of deliberate practice: 

Drawn from the book Bounce, by Matthew Syed, there is an often quoted fact that we need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something. This is often misquoted as 10,000 hours of practice, but there is a big difference between practice and deliberate practice – its not enough to just show up and go through the motions – in running terms, it’s not simply the miles, its the quality of those miles that makes you better.

 

Something for you to try:

– At the beginning of every workout, identify something you struggle with and set an intention to practice that thing. For example, if you struggle with negative self talk on the run, try adapting some of the mindfulness techniques talked about above.
– Focus on being present in the run, on your breathing in and out, or on your form. Set yourself a mantra to remind yourself of being present, count your in and out breaths, your footsteps or count from 1-100 repeatedly (as practised very successfully by Paula Radcliffe).
– Try identifying your negative thoughts, seeing them as clouds or bubbles floating by, dismiss them and replace each one with something more productive.
– Set yourself a mantra to address your target – if you fade, the mantra “be strong” or similar may work. If you find you start shuffling, a mantra like “pick up” or “bounce” or “fast feet” might help.

These are just a handful of suggestions – find something that works for you, that you deliberately practice on your training runs and can fall back on when you race. Even the elites find the going tough, and need to work on their mindset, as Olympic gold medal winning triathlete Jess Learmonth with testify to.

 

Do you work on your mental toughness on the run or in a race? If so how?

Do you meditate or practice mindfulness regularly? Does it help?

Share your thoughts and ideas with us below. 

 

Other useful resources:

MH Runners Club webinars on marathon training and nutrition https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

MH Runners Club Ask the Coach sessions https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/mh-runners-club/

 

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

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#MHrunners

Coaching Focus: Improving running form and efficiency through core work

One of the cornerstones of becoming a strong runner is building your core strength to run more efficiently and faster for longer periods of time. A strong core can improve form (in particular stop you slumping towards the end of a long run or race), cut injury risk and help you generate more power, therefore increase speed.

 

What is your “core”? 
The term “core” is used to describe the whole musculoskeletal area around the middle of your body – as a rule, core work should strengthen all the muscles that support the pelvis and spine. This will include your abdominal muscles (transverse, rectus and obliques), lower back (erector spine), glutes, pelvic floor, hip flexors and even your hamstrings.

 

How often?

The great thing about core work is you can do so much without equipment, and little and often is best way. 5 minutes makes a huge difference. Research suggests to make something like this part of your routine, it needs to piggyback on an already established habit. Think about when you want to do your core work. Do you want to do 5 mins after every run? Or 5 mins whilst dinner is cooking? Link your time with another habit and it’ll stick much more easily.

 

What to do:
There are a lot of core moves to do, which is great for adding variety and interest to your routine. The thing to remember here is that we are runners and we want to do moves that help our running – these tend to be dynamic (moving) core moves – so instead of a straight forward plank, try a plank where you move your legs, like a spider plank. And other compound strength moves such as squats, deadlifts etc also work your core.

 

A few core routines are listed below. These are sets of 3 exercises, where you could do 30-40s of each, take a 10-20s break and then repeat the set twice more for a total of around 5 mins of core work …or switch it up and do two sets of two workouts. All of these exercises work multiple muscle groups but I have listed the main one they target in brackets. Try not to take a break between exercises to increase core fatigue.

Don’t forget, there is a twice weekly follow-along core session in MH Runners Club (www.mhrunnersclub.co.uk) every week if you want more suggestions of core exercises that will benefit you as a runner. And if you’re already a member of the club, doing 2 of these 5 min core workouts in addition to the 2 club workouts will really help you see improvements.

Workout 1:

  1. Single leg glute bridge (glutes, hip flexors) Single Leg Glute Bridge
  2. Bicycle crunches (transverse abs, rectus abs, hip flexors, obliques) How to Do the Bicycle
  3. Side planks with reach (obliques) https://youtu.be/-ruAdV34H54

Workout 2: 

  1. Dead bug (coordination, transverse abs, hip flexors, pelvic floor) Dead Bug – Abdominal / Core Exercise Guide
  2. Russian twists (obliques) How to Do a Perfect Russian Twist | Female Bodybuilding
  3. Scissor kicks (rectus, transverse abs, hip flexors)  How to properly do the scissor kick core exercise

Workout 3: 

  1. Plank with alternating arm and leg raise (balance, coordination, transverse abs) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk3tZEJ-Qwg
  2. Superman (lower back) Exercise Tutorial – Superman
  3. Toe tap (rectus abs, hip flexors, obliques) https://youtu.be/Ml2xTP45jVQ

Workout 4: 

  1. Spider plank (obliques, abs)  How to Do Spiderman Plank Crunch Exercise
    (or if you’re feeling brave – Scorpion plank press up (hip flexors, obliques, upper body) “SCORPION PLANK PRESS!!”  Functional Fitness move (Core, Shoulders, Chest, Glutes)
  2. Windshield wiper (obliques, rotational core strength) How to Do a Windshield Wiper | Ab Workout
  3. The Boat (lower back, rectus abdominus, hip flexors) How To Perform The Boat Core Workout In 60 Seconds | 60 Seconds To Fit | Brawlers

 

How to get stronger
Once any of these moves start to feel easier, you can do them for a few seconds more (move from 30s to 45s for example), add resistance (weights or bands, depending on the exercise), or make yourself more unstable, which means your core has to work to stabilise you more. Using an exercise ball or bosu ball can help with this. Don’t forget to vary it up too – there are lots of options to shake up your workout.

 

But it hurts…
None of these exercises should hurt (especially your neck). If they do, check your form carefully. Consult a professional for a form check or adaptations if needed (for form, it is quite useful to video yourself to check).

How often do you do core exercises? Do you have some favourites that I haven’t mentioned (or any that you hate)? Share your thoughts and help motivate others!

 

Other useful resources:

MH Runners Club webinars on Strength & Conditioning For Runners  https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

MH Runners Club Ask the Coach sessions https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/mh-runners-club/

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

The Importance of the Long Run

It’s that time in marathon training – the mileage of the long run is increasing, and runners seem to be divided like marmite. Some love and embrace the increasing distance, others see it as a chore to be ticked off each week. Which camp do you fall into? And do you really need to run long every week?

 

It actually doesn’t really matter what you’re training for, from 5k to marathon, if you’re a distance runner, you would most likely benefit from a regular long run. The long run is about getting you ready to perform – Robert Wallace, a 2.13 marathoner, says “They’re the mainstay of any training programme. You don’t get results immediately. It’s like saving pennies….  Over a year [the benefits] really accumulate.”

 

Why run long? 
Long runs improve running efficiency (teaching you to conserve energy and run as effortlessly as possible), and offer both psychological and physical benefits – cardiovascular improvements include increased mitochondria and capillaries, and recruitment of different muscle fibres. Long runs also strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments – all of these are beneficial for racing any distance, not just the marathon. But for the longer distances, it also provides a dress rehearsal for the race (breakfast, clothing, fuelling etc.), and a chance to build mental strength and confidence.

 

Run easy or run hard?
There are two main types of long run that you will come across.

Easy long runs – Hard long runs can be too taxing on a weekly basis. Running 60-90 mins slower than your marathon pace for a few hours reduces stress, makes the run more enjoyable and brings lots of aerobic endurance benefits. Running easy also gives you a chance to work on mental strategies such as dealing with boredom and building patience. It teaches you to make wise decisions and run more efficiently.

 

Long runs with pace segments – these are great for practicing race pace, improving your speed endurance and working on mental toughness but can really take it out of you so these shouldn’t be done every week. Varieties include progressive long runs, long runs containing intervals, long runs with a certain number of miles at marathon pace, or even a long run with a faster parkrun on the end!

 

The one type of run you don’t want to do is a full distance long run (over 14 miles) at marathon pace or faster. You may think this will build confidence and help you prepare, but actually you accumulate all the tiredness and fatigue of a paced long run, but without some of the key benefits. You will quickly find yourself over-trained and struggling to recover.

 

Do you need to do a long run every week? And how far?

Firstly, you shouldn’t do a long run every week. Once you get over a comfortable distance, often about 12-16 miles, you should include a drop-back week every 3-4 weeks where you drop your distance by 25-50% to give your body a chance to recover (remember, adaptations happen when you stress your body, but then allow it to recover). If you are particularly injury prone, you may want to consider running long every 10 days or every 2 weeks.

 

Distance depends on a number of factors, including your level of your experience and your goals. If you’re fairly new to a marathon for example you may benefit most from building up to one 20 miler, but my more experienced runners often do as many as six 20+ milers, going up to 23-24 miles (with the longer runs usually at an easy pace).

If you’re not marathon training, distance of the long run can be more flexible. Greg McMillan, well known running coach, suggests 90-120 minutes. Other coaches go by percentage of weekly mileage – where the long run doesn’t account for more than 25% of total mileage. Most coaches suggest including some pace in long runs for non-marathoners, e.g., a faster finish, depending on what distance you are doing.

 

How to get it right: 
1. Preparation is key. This includes fuelling well, before, during and after the run. Remember, anything over 90 minutes and you should be eating on the run.  According to Runners World columnist Joe Henderson “You need to keep your glycogen stores continuously high if you want to maintain training effectiveness”. i.e., you can run fasted, but you won’t get the same training benefits. Hydration is another one to consider – do you need water with you? Can you stash water along the route? Clothing (and Vaseline if you’re prone to chafing!) and safety also need some thought.
2. Don’t give headspace to negative thoughts. If you’re not enjoying your long runs, work out why. Bored? Find something you enjoy (new route, meet a friend half way, new playlist, audiobook or podcast etc. Sign up to a race or group run for added distraction.
3. Chunk it. Don’t think about the run as a whole thing…break it down and focus on one segment at a time, especially if you find the distance you are doing overwhelming. Consider having little rewards on route – walk break or jelly baby every mile, gels every few miles, ring a friend at half way etc. Try crossroads e.g. for 20 miles go 4 miles out and back, 3 miles out and back, 2 miles out and back and 1 mile out and back. This gives you a chance to focus on each segment as it happens rather than the whole distance.

 

There are downsides to running long. It is of course time consuming and running too long too often and you raise the risk of overtraining or injury. It’s also easy not to recover properly – you need to refuel and hydrate properly (regardless of appetite), rest and definitely no hard run for a couple of days after.

But, if you can, stay positive, embrace the long run and enjoy it. It’s a privilege to be able to complete these runs, whatever your pace. It puts you into a minority of the population and your achievements should be celebrated.

 

Do you love or hate the long run? How do you stay entertained on the run? What are your favourite routes, distances or types of long run? How do you prepare for your long runs? Please share any experiences or tips below!

 

Other useful resources:

MH Runners Club webinars on marathon training and nutritionhttps://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

Runner’s World article giving a table of possible long run distances for non-marathoners:https://www.runnersworld.com/advanced/a20794978/why-non-marathoners-still-need-long-runs/

My blogs on carb loadinghttps://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/fuelling-a-marathon-carb-loading-and-race-day-nutrition/

And how to recover from a marathonhttps://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/how-to-recover-from-a-marathon/

MH Runners Coaching Tip on Post Run / Race fuelling https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/coaching-tip-post-run-and-race-fuelling/

 

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

Coaching Tip – Stretching!

Do you stretch at the end of a run or workout?

Our “what’s the first thing you do post run” theme on the Facebook daily thread recently was most revealing…only two of you mentioned stretching after you run! You’re not alone, stretching is often seen as optional, or done separately as a discrete workout rather than post run (yoga, Pilates, rest-day stretch etc)….but just a few spare minutes a day can make a big difference.

 

Why bother to stretch after a run or workout?

Running is a repetitive movement. It forces your muscles into set positions, creating tension and changing their length over time. Our modern lifestyles add to this – forcing the shortening of some muscles over extended periods of time… sitting at desks, driving etc. Stretching helps release the tension in the muscle and return it to its original length. It can reduce the risk of injury (evidence is a little mixed on this), increase mobility / range of motion, increase flexibility, and promote blood flow to the local area (therefore aiding recovery).

 

 

How to get started in less than a minute a day…

The benefits of a post-run stretch are generally well accepted, the problem is actually getting round to doing it – working out a routine and making it a habit. Here’s some ideas on how to make it practical and make it stick:

  1. Work out the main muscle groups you want to stretch, test out different stretches and stick to ones that are quick and give you maximum benefit. (I’ve focused on hamstrings, adductors, quads and hip flexors in this short video, but you may find your calves or glutes get tight too and may want specific stretches for them).
  2. Keep it really easy to do – the harder or longer you make the stretching session, at least to start with, the less likely you are to stick with it. If you did these four exercises and held the stretch for 15-20 seconds, you would be stretching for just over a minute.
  3. Habits are easier to stick to if you tie them to a trigger. Post run is perfect, get in a door, head straight to your space and do it. Stick a post it note up with the stretches you want to do so you don’t need to look them up.

 

 

Your challenge this week is to do a minimum of two of the four stretches in this video  after EVERY run this week (easy effort ones too!). Put a reminder somewhere so you don’t forget, and let us know how you get on. Share any alternative or favourite stretches you have below.

 

 Safety notes:

– If you already have a cool down / stretch routine, this is not designed to replace it. This is for runners who don’t currently do anything post run except check Strava / eat / jump into the shower (please note, feel free to check Strava / eat whilst doing these but the risk of slipping whilst trying to contort yourself in the shower is quite high…)

– Breathe! Don’t hold your breath whilst you stretch. Breathing is good.

– If it hurts stop! If the muscle is tight, ease off slightly and then repeat more gently, but if it actually causes pain, do not continue. You should be able to feel tension in the muscle that you can hold for 15-20s without pain.

 

– I am talking about static stretching here. Don’t do static stretching pre run (it elongates the muscle so increases risk of injury) and don’t bounce when you static stretch – it doesn’t change the stretch and increases risk of injury.

 

If you enjoy this, try some of these:

More stretches for runners: https://www.nhs.uk/…/exercise/how-to-stretch-after-a-run/ (this has quite a nice calf, ITB and glute stretch you could include in your routine)

More info about stretching post-run: https://www.health.harvard.edu/…/the-importance-of…

For more info on creating and sticking to new habits, try this podcast: https://drchatterjee.com/how-to-build-good-habits-and…/

 

 

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 free 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.

 

I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

 

Coaching Focus: Breathing

Following on from a recent Q&A, this week’s coaching focus is breathing. Firstly, to be clear, it *is* a good idea to breath whilst running… Not doing so can cause significant harm! But seriously, improving your breathing is seen as a possible way of increasing oxygen uptake and decreasing the risk of side stitches and cramps, as well as reducing stress before or during a hard run or race.

 

This week, why not think about your breathing whilst you run? Do you follow a particular breathing pattern? Have you tried different breathing techniques? Pick a run this week, focus on how you breathe, and maybe try one of the changes suggested below.

 

Baseline

Start your usual run. When you’re warmed up and a little way in, count how many steps it takes to inhale and exhale. You’re not looking for a particular number, this is just to give you a baseline of how you currently breathe. Then try one or more of the techniques below, or play with your breathing pattern in your own way, and see which feels more comfortable to you. You can also play with deep breathing drills to improve your oxygen intake before or after running, and relaxation breathing techniques to relax before a hard run or race.

  1. Nasal breathing: This is useful for checking you are running at a very easy effort. Oxygen intake is restricted so it’s ideal for stopping you running too hard. One to try on a very easy effort run.
  2. Match your breathing to your cadence: breathe in on each left foot strike and out on the right. Or breathe in on left foot strike and out on the next left foot strike. Which pattern feels better to you?
  3. Try a different breathing pattern. Alter your breathing so you breathe in for more foot strikes than you breathe out e.g. 3:2 – breathe in for three foot strikes and out for 2, or a 2:1 pattern.
  4. Try using breathing to reduce your heart rate whilst running easy. If you feel your heart rate rising, slow down. Then breath in slowly for a count of three steps and release. Repeat 2-3 times, and note your heart rate at the start and the end.

 

Please don’t take this too seriously and if you find that something doesn’t work for you try something else. The main thing with breathing while running is to find something that you feel works for you and that feels natural. Whilst these techniques can help some, for others, one of the worst things would be to have to think about breathing whilst running.

 

Have fun and enjoy this – and don’t forget to post below to let me know what you are planning to do and how you get on.

 

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 free 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.

 

I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

 

Coaching Tip: Post Run and Race Fuelling

This week’s coaching tip is about post-run or race fuelling. This is a really important process and something a lot of runners get wrong. All runs need some sort of post race fuel. For shorter, easier runs, this may just be your next meal e.g breakfast containing carbs, protein and fat if you’ve done a morning run. But for anything hard or over an hour, post run fuelling should be planned in advance to satisfy your body’s needs so that it can rebuild / repair and cravings don’t take over later!

 

Good recovery fuel should have a mixture of carbs and protein in a 3 or 4:1 ratio – that is 3-4g carbs for every gram of protein. It used to be accepted wisdom that the best window for refuelling was within 30 mins of the workout, and although this has been contested by recent research, it won’t do any harm to aim for that, and for women it’s thought to be more important to refuel sooner rather than later. If you are not planning to have a meal in that time, have a snack immediately after and aim to have your next meal within 2 hours post run.

 

Here’s just a few ideas to to get you started:

  • a formulated recovery shake or bar (check the nutrition to make sure it has the right ratio)
  • A protein shake with added carbs eg banana, dates, honey
  • Eggs on toast
  • Milk or a milky drink plus an egg sandwich or a peanut butter bagel (skimmed milk has slightly more carbs than full fat, check the nutritional info on plant milks)
  • Yoghurt, muesli, chopped banana and honey
  • Beans on toast

 

If you’re like me, eating always sounds easy, but the harder or longer your run, the more blood is diverted away from the stomach and the less hungry you’re likely to feel. This is a particular problem for some runners but if you learn to make refuelling a priority, you will recover faster and feel better. If it makes you feel slightly nauseous, take small bites of something you fancy and as blood returns to your stomach, your appetite should return too.

 

Don’t forget to hydrate as well – glycogen stores can’t be refilled without available water. An electrolyte drink such as High 5 zero is perfect for this.

 

This week, aim to plan recovery fuel for any run over an hour, or a harder session such as tempo or intervals, and share below what you plan to use to recover.

 

This really is an easy win that ALL athletes should take seriously! And don’t forget to ask any questions you have here or in the weekly “ask the coach” live sessions

 

Other resources on this that you may find useful include:

MH Runner’s recent webinar on Nutrition for Runners

My blog on recovering from a marathon: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/how-to-recover-from…/

 

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 free 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.

 

I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

 

Coaching tip – Cadence. Is higher better?

Most runners have heard of cadence (the number of steps you take in a minute), and will have an idea that 180 is what they should be aiming for. This originates from coach Jack Daniels’ research into elite runners, and has been popularised over time. But are we worrying unnecessarily if we don’t fit the perfect criteria?

 

Why focus on cadence?

Cadence is probably the easiest metric to measure and control, especially if you have a running watch, which is one reason why it gets so much attention. It’s thought that optimising cadence can not only speed us up (running speed is the product of cadence (stride frequency) and stride length. Increase your stride frequency (cadence) and/or your stride length and you run faster), but also can improve form and change landing to mid foot, which in turn decreases injury risk. A recent study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that slight increases in stride cadence led to significant reductions in loading on the knee and hip joints, which, they hypothesise, might help prevent some of the most prevalent running injuries.

 

However, the often quoted 180 spm was an average cadence, so at times, these elite runners will have been running at a faster or slower cadence, rather than a metronomic 180. Your cadence will (and should) vary over time depending on a number of factors – what pace are you running at? At marathon pace, your cadence should be slower than when racing a 5k. Cadence also varies with leg length, height and terrain – trickier terrain like rough trails results in a higher cadence as you will be more stable, for example.

 

And some runners are just outliers – they don’t fit the formula. Take the famous Jim Walmsley, who despite beautiful form, ran 12 seconds slower than the world record for 100k with an average cadence of 161! https://www.strava.com/activities/4670542009/overview. It’d take a brave coach to mess with that! Some sources also quote Kipchoge as running his record-shattering marathons at cadences that were almost always between 190 and 200 steps per minute (spm), well over the recommended 180 spm. Again, I’m not sure I’d be trying to changing his cadence to fit a formula.

 

So what does this mean for us?

We often get stuck into a habit, such as cadence, that our body is used to and has become efficient at, but may not be optimum, so this may be worth investigating if you want to try something new. If your cadence is lower than 180, speeding up foot turnover may speed you up – to a point. (Of course, it may actually be detrimental if it decreases your stride length or if your cadence is already high, so don’t just assume more is better). Whilst I’m certainly not encouraging you to aim for a “magic” number, it is worth experimenting and getting to know yourself better. Your your task this week, then is to

– Note your current cadence (either by counting foot fall for 30s and multiplying by 2, or by using your watch)

– Play with increasing your cadence on one of your easy runs. Does increasing your cadence speed you up? Make your run easier? Improve your form? If so, focus on practising it. If not, put it out of your mind. There may be easier wins.

 

How to increase your cadence:

There are a number of ways to increase cadence:

– Use high beat music

– Use a metronome app

– Swing your arms faster to move your feet faster (see resources below)

– Simply repeat “fast feet” to yourself over and over again whilst running, and observe what happens.

 

How do you feel? Do you speed up? Do you feel comfortable, or do your feet pitter patter (a sign you may have shortened your stride length too much?). Make a note of this self experiment and let us know how it goes. Have you worked on cadence before? Did it make a difference? Share your thoughts on this topic with us below.

 

Some useful resources:

Increasing cadence through arm movement: Form video 2 https://www.facebook.com/groups/mhrunnersclub/permalink/936237400507241/

Should I increase my cadence: Q&A session with Martin on 1st April, Question 1 https://www.facebook.com/groups/mhrunnersclub/permalink/923606095103705/

Great article on why we may be overthinking cadence:

https://www.outsideonline.com/…/stop-overthinking-your…

If you decide you want to increase cadence, McMillan website has a good workout to use to help you: https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/cadence/

 

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 free 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.

 

I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

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

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners