Trust the taper….But don’t trust your thoughts!

Just a short training focus today… a brief reminder to all runners about to race….  Do not trust your thoughts during the taper! The taper is vital, and you need to follow your taper plan completely, but for a lot of tapering runners, as they get nearer their target race, the mileage drops and nerves set in. This generally means one of two things…

 

  1. Your runs feel great. You are nailing the taper runs, feeling bouncy, running smoothly, and the little chimp on your shoulder is chatting away “wow! This feels easy. Maybe I should review my target pace. Maybe I should go a little bit faster on the day. I’m clearly fitter than I thought I was!” Do not be fooled! You are well rested, you may not be carb loading yet, but if you are eating well the decreased load is replenishing your glycogen stores. You may be getting more rest as you are not running as much. Lots of things going on – embrace the fact the taper is working and you will be in a good place for race day, but don’t change anything! Review your entire block of training as that tells you far more about your pace than your taper does, and consult a coach or experienced runner that you trust if you want a second opinion (try not to consult Facebook!)

 

  1. Or maybe you’ve gone the other way – you feel rubbish and your runs have gone to pot. Your legs may feel like lead, a short distance at race pace seems insurmountable and your Garmin is telling you you’re unproductive (although why are you listening to your Garmin – you know it is fickle and untrustworthy!) Stop and take a deep breath. Remember why you are running during the taper – it is to keep your legs turning over and to practice running at marathon pace (regardless of how it feels). You are under high pressure with the impending race and the expectation that you should feel great in the taper. It doesn’t always work like that and it doesn’t usually mean anything for your race. Don’t panic!

 

 

 

Above all, please remember, you cannot predict your race performance how runs during the taper feel – unless something major happens (like a proper injury, not maranoia induced niggles!). Judge your potential race performance on your training and above all STICK TO YOUR TAPER PLAN. Unless you are very logical, completely unaffected by pressure and nerves, or have consulted an experienced runner or coach who you trust, do NOT deviate from your planned taper.

 

Good luck for the taper and if you have any questions, please post below.

 

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What to do to prepare for your marathon (and avoid taper madness….)

What to do to prepare for your marathon (and avoid taper madness….)

 

Getting close to your target race? Started to taper and getting slightly paranoid? Here’s a few ways you can spend your time constructively preparing for the race. Resting, recovering, and carb loading (if appropriate) have to take priority, but you can also do some mental preparatory work ready for what is to come. Here are some top tips to help you make the most of taper time…

 

  • Rest
    This has to be a priority. Keep any strength and conditioning work that doesn’t tire you out, but reduce weight sessions (lower intensity, lighter weights and shorten duration) or replacing with stretching, mobilisation and foam rolling. Whilst taper time is a good time to get the things you’ve been putting off during training done, don’t over-exert yourself. Now is not the time to completely renovate the house or dig out the garden. Don’t risk being under recovered or potentially injuring yourself.  This blog explains more why rest and recovery is needed: mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/coaching-tip-tapering-for-a-marathon/

 

  • Eat well.
    Your body needs to use this time to repair and replenish your glycogen stores. Keep nutrition on point – protein, carbs and healthy fats, don’t change too much, and certainly don’t try and cut back. Your pre, during and post run fuelling will be slightly less as the duration and intensity of your runs decreases, so no need cut back further. As you get nearer the race, consider your carb loading and fuelling strategies carefully. This blog may help you: mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/fuelling-a-marathon-carb-loading-and-race-day-nutrition/

 

  • Prepare your race kit and check your pre race plan.
    Make sure you know what you need, what you’re wearing etc. Try it out on your runs during the taper period. If you need accommodation or parking, are they sorted?

 

  • Write down your reasons for running:
    Knowing your why, and being able to access it when you’ve been running a long time and are tired, can really help when it gets tough. There’s a lot more on this available – now might be a great time to access the Coaching Talk mindset videos available in MH Runners Club: www.mhrunnersclub.co.uk

 

  • Work on mental techniques:
    Hopefully you have been working on mantras and other techniques during your runs to get you through tough patches during the marathon. It really helps if you have practised these during long runs and races in the training period. But it’s not too late if you haven’t, you just may need more reminders to use them during your race as they won’t come automatically. You could try printing them out and making a wrist band with reminders on, or writing them on your arm. There are lots of ideas for in race mindset, but some favourites of my clients include:
    Creating memory miles – some people dedicate every mile or a mile for each of the last six to someone they love. This can help focus your mind and give you motivation to make that mile as good as possible.
    Fine tuning a mantra – whatever mantra you choose (aggressive, relaxing, positive, bossy) make it work for you.
    Reflecting on previous runs – looking back on the runs you nailed previously will help increase your feeling of belief that you CAN do this. Writing them on post it notes and sticking them in visible locations around the house may help.

There are lots of other strategies available, get researching and select a few (not too many, don’t overwhelm yourself) that resonate with you.
Visualise a local run – run the same route over and over locally (3-6 miles is perfect) so that when you have that far to go in the race, you can re-picture your home route in your mind and know you don’t have far to go.
Dismiss negative mental chatter – practice rebuffing any negative thoughts that cross your mind. For example, your brain tells you “I’m too tired….” Your response could be “Of course, its a long race, but you’ve done this before and nothing actually hurts. I’m just going to get to the next water stop and then do a form check”

 

  • Research the route.
    If you haven’t done this race before, work out where the water stops are and how this coincides with planned gels, look at key points on the race to help you break it down. What notable landmarks etc are there on route? Can you look out for them and check them off? At London I love to tick off Cutty Sark (around 10k), Tower Bridge (around 12 miles) and the Docklands (18-20 miles) and then I know I’m on my way home!

 

  • Make a new playlist
    Some people don’t enjoy running with music, but if you do, now is the perfect time to make a playlist of your favourite music. You may even want to make a specific playlist for the last few miles.

 

 

  • Relax! You’ve done the hard work, the race is the finale, the icing on the cake!

 

And very briefly, definitely don’t do any of these….!

Don’t worry about phantom injuries and niggles (of course you still need to get real ones checked out);

Don’t have a sports massage the day before;

Don’t do extra exercise to “take your mind off it”;

Don’t panic if running feels hard or go the other way and adjust your marathon pace because you now feel super rested and fit!

And optional extra – don’t drive everyone insane with incessant marathon talk (although this may be unavoidable and is possibly they least damaging!)

 

There’s probably loads more… what do you do, and what have you done that you now know you shouldn’t do, during the taper? Share below to keep us all busy!

 

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Why you shouldn’t feel you can maintain marathon pace in training.

If you have ever targeted a specific time in a marathon, you have probably had the thought “how on earth am I going to maintain this pace for 26.2 miles?”. If so, you are definitely not alone. It may be that your marathon pace is too fast, and you need to pull back, but more likely, it could be the fact that these worries are normal, and you shouldn’t feel you can maintain marathon pace in training. Here’s why…

 

  1. Cumulative fatigue. Your long run or pace section doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It will usually happen at the end of a heavy week of training, and the tiredness and stress (physiological and psychological) from not just that week’s training, but all the training in the block before will contribute to you feeling like the pace is unsustainable. In fact, your marathon plan may even aim to make you more tired before a long run, to get you practise running on tired legs. Cumulative fatigue is a vital part of marathon training, but it is difficult to quantify so often gets overlooked. However, come marathon day, if you’re training correctly, you will be well rested and tapered for the actual race and run on far fresher legs.

 

  1. Reduced glycogen stores. Related to the above point, your normal weekly training runs will have helped reduce your glycogen stores, which affects both your physical performance, but also your mindset as your brain uses glucose too. Hopefully you’re topping up on carbs regularly and fuelling runs longer than 90 mins during the run, but you will not have had the rest and full carb loading that you will (hopefully!) undertake prior to race day, so it will impact on your performance. Don’t worry, you’ll carb load in the days before the race (which along with resting will top up your glycogen stores), and on top of that, fuel well in the morning and try and take on board 40-60g carbs an hour during the actual race.

 

  1. No race support. On your long and paced training runs you won’t have the amazing race atmosphere, the adrenaline rush at the start, any possible crowd support, other people to run with or race, no drinks stations and other support, and no finish line to count down to. You also have to make decisions on route choices, road crossings, etc, which also causes more mental fatigue. It all makes a huge difference!

 

 

So, if you don’t feel you can maintain the pace in training, how do you know its your marathon pace?

 

The best way to be confident of this is to base it off your training. Even though you haven’t run the full distance at pace in training, you should have tested out your proposed pace for some miles (8-14 miles ideally) during your long runs or steady runs during the week. How did it feel? Comfortably hard? It may feel too hard for 26.2 miles but you should feel reasonably confident of completing another 2-4 miles at that pace in any run where you practice marathon pace.

 

Another way of confirming marathon pace is to run a tune up race. A typical one would be a half marathon 4 weeks out from your target marathon. You can then use an online calculator to work out your equivalent marathon pace (or double it and add 10-20 mins). However, the calculator estimates vary considerably – the best way by far will be to get an experienced running coach to write your training plan and review your paces throughout, or ask a coach to review your training logs and suggest a suitable pace.

Above all, remember, if you can hit the paces in training segments, don’t let that little voice in your head tell you that you can’t hold it for 26.2 miles. You’ll be rested, fuelled and pumped full of adrenaline, so believe in your training and go for it!

 

How are you feeling about your current marathon pace? Please tell us in the comments below…

 

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Coaching tip – How to run intervals. 

If you want to run faster, you have to practice running faster. There’s no doubt that running interval sessions on a regular basis is a great way to do this. There are workouts to suit almost every type of runner, and all sorts of race, distance or time goals. But the purpose of this is not to tell you what to run (plenty of workouts to be found on the internet) but rather HOW to run intervals effectively, and make the most of your hard work, and lets face it… suffering!

 

It seems easy on the surface – go out, run hard, run easy, repeat lots of times, job done. However, for a truly effective interval session, there should be at least a little bit of planning…. Think about these tips before you next go for an interval session and make the most of your hard work:

Disclaimer: please note – these tips won’t work for everyone, or for every session. Read through, weigh up the options carefully, choose what works for you or seek advice from a coach. And don’t run intervals if injured or harbouring a niggle.

 

Top tips for before the session:

Fuel and hydrate properly.
If it’s an early morning session, have a little something to eat beforehand. Make sure it is easy to digest and contains simple carbs, such as half a banana, some dates, a gel or sports drink. If you have more time (for example, before a lunchtime or evening session) have a small meal 3-4 hours before and top up with a snack (as suggested above) just before if you think it will benefit you. Now is not the time to skimp on a few calories if they could help you run the session harder or faster.

 

Prepare your watch
Consider what information you will need during your workout. How are you going to know when the distance or time of each repeat is up? Will you set it on your watch before the workout or look at your watch during? Have you got the right data on the screen for your run? If running hard, I usually set it as a session so my watch beeps when I reach the end of a segment, and then run by effort without looking at my watch. But if you are running for a pace or time, you may want this on your watch screen. Personally, I like to have a timer, lap pace, and distance on my watch screen during intervals, but don’t have heart rate.  All of this can be done on Garmin Connect and transferred to your watch (if compatible) and I am sure that other makes of watch will have similar ways of doing this.

 

Where are you going to do your workout?
For an interval session, you want to cover the same distance or time repeatedly, with rest periods in between (jog, walk or stationary). To make your intervals are comparable, you would ideally run back and forth on a single piece of road or track, covering the same ground each time. To achieve this, pick a point to start your interval. Run until it is either your time or distance is complete, and then continue in the same direction for half the recovery time or distance. Turn around, run the second half of the recovery, which will take you back to where you just finished your first interval, and from that point, start interval two. This means that you are running backwards and forwards over the same piece of road and means every second interval will be directly comparable – if one direction is slightly uphill, the other will be slightly downhill or if the wind is against in one direction, it will be in your favour in the other. Running the same piece of road will also enable you to form visual cues for the route which may help you run harder. So, if you know where your reps start and finish, you know you have a finish line and not just waiting for your watch to beep.

For safety, please consider the actual location of this piece of road or pavement for your training carefully. Check the length of the route and be aware of any potential hazards – is there enough lighting (especially in winter)? What about traffic or pedestrians? Pot holes, tree roots, large puddles etc). Is the path very twisty or undulating (this may slow you down). Ideally you want a flat, smooth piece of road, but this isn’t always possible.

I tend to run along the piece of road I’ll be doing my intervals in my warm up, or the day before during an easy run, just to understand where any potential issues may lie. There may not be a perfect location for you, but it is trying to get a stretch of road that is as safe as possible for you.

 

What will motivate you to run harder?
Will you want to run to music? If so, do you have the right type of music ready? I don’t run intervals to music – I like to have a clear mind to help me focus and push harder, but many of my clients find it helps. When I used to run with music I would have a very upbeat playlist for interval sessions. If you were to use calmer or downbeat music, will this slow you down? Will you run harder if running with people – in which case, can you coordinate workouts with someone else or take part in a track session? Do you need to prepare a mantra in advance to help when the run gets hard?

 

Tips for during the session: 

Warm up well!
A good warm up may be a mile or so of a gentle pace. In the second half of the mile, put in 2-4 10-15 second accelerations to get your legs and brain ready to go faster. If you usually do mobilisation exercises or drills before running hard, stick to your routine.

 

Run to your goals
If your goal is to run hard, don’t look at your watch. Focus on the goal and run to feel. If it is to a pace, make sure you stick to that. Most sessions you will want to try and keep each interval roughly the same, so if your goal is consistency, don’t go all out on the first interval.  Run hard by feel, but don’t sprint at the end as you will need to recover for the next repeat.

 

Embrace your recovery and take it easy!
Be consistent with recoveries as well as the harder intervals.  If you have a minute to recover, and walk 30s of that minute, and jog the next 30s, make sure you do that for every recovery. Unless your plan has specific instructions to the contrary, allow yourself to recover properly. Catch your breath by walking or jogging slowly to enable you to run hard again at the next interval.

 

Use the lap button!
If you haven’t set the session as a workout on your watch, consider pressing the lap button at the start and at the end of each interval so that you can see the stats for each repeat and recovery when you get home (and so your coach can eyeball your efforts!).

 

Practice building mental toughness.
This is a great opportunity to practice the mental skills that will keep you running when it feels really, really hard. It is a great chance to practice positive self talk, learn how to dismiss negative thoughts and push through when your mind is telling you to quit. Think about how you will motivate yourself to keep going, keep running hard. Being mentally tough is a skill, and interval sessions give you a chance to develop this ready for your next race.

 

Tips for after your workout: 

Cool down properly.
A mile jog (keep it easy….make sure your heart rate has a chance to come down) and a quick stretch of the key muscle groups is ideal.

 

Refuel and rehydrate.
You have worked hard and need to replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle. If you are not having a meal straight away, have a large snack with a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein as soon as you get in and have a meal within the next two hours.

 

Make sure you rest or run easy effort the following day
Don’t run back to back hard sessions as it dramatically increases your risk of injury.

 

 

And, of course, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back! Interval sessions are not easy and rarely fun. But they are very satisfying when they are over.  And, a regular interval session will help you improve your speed, strength and running form. So embrace the suck, and enjoy the results!

Do you have any top tips for interval sessions? Any sessions you love or hate? Or love to hate? Please do share in the comments below. 

 

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Setting Meaningful Running Goals

It’s the time of year when many runners are reviewing their annual goals and setting new ones. However, setting meaningful goals for the year isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some runners know exactly what they want to achieve – maybe to complete a specific distance, run a certain time in a race, or complete a number of miles for the year, and now need to work out how to achieve this goal. Other runners may simply want to relax and enjoy their running without the pressure of specific times. Or you may be in a third group, where you know you want a target to motivate and excite you, but haven’t decided what that will look like. Whatever category you fall into, read on, there’s useful advice to be found below…

 

Why set goals?
Research has shown that setting specific goals, in running and in other areas of life, helps to motivate you and create a sense of excitement and fun. They contribute to an increased commitment and performance, but can have a dark side too. Runners who don’t meet their goals, for whatever reason, can see this as a personal failing, that they just aren’t good enough or not progressing enough.

 

So how can you set meaningful, positive, running goals?

  1. Set specific goals
    They don’t need to be race target times – they can be improvement based (e.g. to get a PB at a specific distance); consistency-based; socially based (joining a club, starting run leading, volunteering at parkrun etc.); or even simply completing a certain distance or running further than you’ve ever run before. SMART is the acronym you’ve probably heard before, but it still stands true (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed – where timed stands for when you plan to achieve it by, rather than a race time!)

 

  1. Go for tiers of goals – A, B and C
    Success should be viewed on a spectrum rather than one specific point. Who knows what will happen that is beyond your control – you may get ill or injured, or face poor weather conditions on race day. External factors shouldn’t mean your hard work is wasted and setting a tier of goals can solve this. Your A goal should be what would happen if everything goes well in training and on the day – your ideal (realistic) outcome. The B target would be a very good outcome that would make you happy and C target something you would be satisfied with. For example, if you want a sub 4 hour marathon, and your current marathon best time is 4.20, you could set your A goal as anything under 4 hours, your B goal as any PB (under 4.20) and your C goal to be run a great race and make good decisions in tricky circumstances– a process rather than a result oriented goal.

 

  1. Set process goals as well as target goals.
    Celebrate the smaller wins not just the overriding goal. Annual goals are particularly tricky – anything could happen in the next year (as we found out in 2020), so have some wins along the way. Maybe you celebrate completing all the long runs on your marathon training programme, doing some smaller races, getting out 4 times a week instead of 3…Consider a ladder of smaller goals building up to your main one.

 

  1. Know your why.Research suggests that athletes who are happy long term have an internal and positive why. Make sure your why isn’t just about external validation, it is one you are excited to pursue, regardless of what others think.
    Make sure you enjoy the daily process required to achieve your goal. If you don’t like long runs, consider whether training for a marathon or ultra is really for you.

 

  1. Make sure your goals are challenging but realistic for you.
    As a coach, I find that clients often set unrealistic or overly challenging goals.  For example – some goals are incompatible – mileage targets or run streaks often cause problems as they don’t always go well with time or race targets. High mileage can cause fatigue and reduce your top end speed, run streaks can force you to try and run when you shouldn’t be, increasing the risk of injury.Realistic goals also work within your limits – we all have physiological limits (is that 15 min 5k honestly a realistic goal for you?), as well as lifestyle limits. There’s no point fighting things that are out of your control. Consider whether what you are sacrificing is worth it, or whether you can adjust timeframes (not all targets have to be achieved this year!)

 

Goals chosen – what next?
Write them down! Somewhere you can revisit them. Break them up into ABC tiers and then look at smaller goals – basically, the steps you need to accomplish in order to achieve this goal.

Consider what support you want in achieving your goals – do you want to share? Do you want help with training? Who do you ask if you have questions? How do you motivate yourself or make yourself accountable? And who are you going to celebrate your success with?

Don’t forget, for support and help you can turn to a coach – you can join my Facebook group for free, where you will find a friendly supportive environment to help you achieve whatever you want https://www.facebook.com/groups/mhhealthandfitnesscommunity

You can join MH Runners Club where you can get weekly coaching advice in the Ask the Coach sessions (as well as workouts, coaching advice and more) https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/mh-runners-club/ .

Or you can visit Martin Hulbert Run Coaching and look into getting a personalised plan and support to help you achieve your targets https://www.facebook.com/MartinHulbertRunCoaching/ .

 

A final word – write down your goals, share them if you wish, enjoy the process of working towards them, but please remember progress isn’t linear. As long as you are consistent and improving, you are winning!

 

Good luck with your 2022 goals – let us know what you decide on and how you get on!

 

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Feeling Christmassy? How’s your running motivation?

Some runners find Christmas and the ensuing changes in routine, means finding time to get out, or sticking to a schedule gets much harder. Here are my top tips to keeping going over the festive season – remember, you can still enjoy your running, but you don’t have stick to your normal schedule if it doesn’t work for you and your family…

 

If you’re following a plan, change it to suit your new schedule. If you have a coach, tell them how your needs are changing, and get your plan adjusted to fit. If you don’t have a coach, get advice from runners on Facebook groups or MH Runners “Ask the Coach” session to help adapt your current training. I know that I’ve been asking my clients what days they want to run over Christmas as some people love running on Christmas Day, for example. Others will never even consider the idea!

 

Be flexible. You may have other demands on your time – family, friends, pressie shopping, decorating etc, if you have to miss a day or two because life (or the weather) has got in the way, that’s fine. Accept it and don’t try and cram any running you’ve missed – that is a recipe for creating niggles and possible injury.

 

If you have time but can’t get out (no babysitting etc), consider doing a home workout. Stationary bikes, HIIT workouts etc. Will add interest and keep up your cardiovascular fitness whist not adding the additional stress of trying to find a free moment to get out without kids etc.

 

If you’re short of time, but can get out, try a tempo run or intervals. Go short and hard, and then enjoy time with your family and friends.

 

Lacking motivation to get out the door? Change it up a bit and have fun! You could get Christmassy…make a Christmas themed playlist to run to, sign up to a festive 5k or Christmas parkrun and get dressed up…. How about making the most of running in daylight if you’re not at work for a few days? Or going off road? Why not drive somewhere new to run? Lots of new options to try out.

 

Don’t worry if you need to keep it easy – especially after nights out, or heavy meals. Christmas is a time for over-indulgence, but it doesn’t always work well in combination with harder running. Don’t beat yourself up, just get out the door and enjoy.

 

Above all, don’t forget that the new year will bring new running goals. Take this time to relax and reinvigorate – it’s okay to take a day off, have a lie in, or simply spend time with family or relaxing rather than exercising. Sometimes a break is just what you need and means you can come back refreshed in the new year.

 

What are your Christmas running plans and top tips? Please share below to keep us all motivated! 

 

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Want to know more about running or personal training?

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Why coaches love fartleks…

The word may make non-runners giggle, but the best distance runners in the world do fartlek workouts regularly, and so should you. Here’s why…

The word fartlek is Swedish for speedplay, and that’s what it is – literally playing around with speed. It is an unstructured (or semi-structured) continuous run where periods of different speeds are mixed in. You can make it as simple, or as complex as you wish, and therein lies some of the fun. It’s a relaxed, fun and varied way of bringing speed training into your running.

 

There are lots of ways of doing fartleks (see the list below for some ideas to try out) and each brings benefits. The purpose may be to build speed, or endurance, or getting your legs turning over faster pre race, or making neuromuscular connections – the benefits are numerous and will depend on what speed and distance you do your faster paces at. Fartlek leaves a lot of control to the runner – you can choose paces and distances for your efforts, without necessarily having a detailed structure. Unlike speed training on a track, it can be more representative of racing as you cover a variety of terrains, at a variety of training and unlike intervals, you don’t rest or recover fully between.

 

They are a great way to introduce faster running into your schedule without having specific pace targets to meet which can reduce pressure, especially for less experienced runners. Fartleks put the runner in control – feel good? Run the hard bit harder. Tired? Try running at 70-80% effort for the harder sections rather than 90%. Unlike so many of our runs nowadays, you can also ignore your watch and just run by feel, or by visual cue.

 

 

So how do you run Fartleks?
Whilst some of your run may be at easy effort, this is a workout, so warm up well (usually 1km-1mi easy effort) and then introduce some speedplay. Below are some workouts for you to try. Make sure you cool down and stretch after.

 

 

Fartleks by time.
If you’re running the faster segments by time, you can ignore pace and go by effort, rather than by numbers. Ignore the terrain, part of the beauty of fartlek runs is that they work on road, off road, on the flat or over hills.

Try one of these workouts:

  • One min fairly hard (70-80% effort) each half mile or km or mile, the rest of the distance easy. You can do this with 2 mins as well. If you’re feeling good, up the effort to 90%.

 

  • Alternating hard / easy effort over the course of your run e.g.
    1 min hard effort / 2 min easy effort
    2 min hard / 4 min easy.
    Or mix in some steady work such as 3 mins easy / 2 mins steady / 1 min hard.

 

  • “Mona” fartleks – a session used by distance runner Steve Moneghetti. Start with 10 min warm up then
    90s hard / 90s easy x 2
    60s hard / 60s easy x 4
    30s hard / 60s easy x 4
    15s hard / 15s easy x 4.
    Cool down.
    Vary your hard / easy paces depending on your target race. If you are going for short distances, take your easy very easy, and run the hard as hard as possible. If you are focused on longer distances, run steady rather than easy on the easy segments.

 

  • 6/5/4/3/2/1-min efforts, getting faster as you go through, with 90 secs easy or steady running between; or four sets of 3/2/1 mins, with 60-90 secs ‘off’ between the efforts and sets.

 

 

Fartleks by distance or other cue.
If you don’t want to worry about time, or want to run without looking at your watch, doing Fartleks by visual cue or distance is a great way to go. If you’re doing this, don’t worry about time, or pace. Go on effort, and enjoy!

Try some of these to get you started: 

  • Run easy for half a mile, steady for half a mile, hard for half a mile, drop back down to easy.

 

  • Use visual cues to run hard then easy e.g.
    Lamppost Fartleks – run hard to one lamppost, jog to the next. If you don’t live in a built up area, try running hard to a gate, easy to the next, or any other visual cue.
    Junction Fartleks – run hard to one road junction, easy to the next and repeat (don’t run hard across the road without looking!)

 

  • Hill fartleks – great hill training without the repeats, run a reasonably undulating route and every time you hit an uphill, run hard. Then take the downhills and flats at an easy effort.

 

  • Group Fartleks – run in a group. The first person decides on a time or visual cue to run hard to, then the next group member determines the length of the easy segment. Switch between all people in the group determining the pace and length of the next segment.

 

  • Audio cues – there are some great podcasts out there that provide audio cues for Fartleks. For example, the cross run podcast has beginner, intermediate and advanced fartlek podcasts you can listen to when running and give audio cues of when to change pace and what to.

 

 

Above all, Fartleks are there to be enjoyed. They should bring flexibility and freedom to your running whilst allowing you to experiment and practice at different paces. Get out there and enjoy!

Do you have a favourite fartlek run? Please let us know below.

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

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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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What is “Good For Age” and why does it matter?

Over the last week you may have seen a lot of Facebook posts about the London Marathon as emails have gone out offering “Good for Age” places. So what does this really mean, and why is it a goal for so many British runners?

 

 

There are three ways to get a place in the very oversubscribed London Marathon. The first stop for most runners is via the ballot. Applications for the ballot usually open for the following year straight after the race takes place, but with thousands of applicants per place, you may be lucky straight off, or you may be waiting years to be successful. A second route is to apply for a charity place and commit to raising a sum of money in order to run, usually ranging from £1500-£2500. This is hugely worthwhile – London Marathon fundraisers have raised over a billion pounds for charity since it was first run in 1982 – but is understandably a big commitment. The final method is to qualify by time. Your choice is to qualify as an elite runner (I wish!), a Championship runner, or with a Good For Age Place. Championship (champs) runners are competing in the British Marathon Championship competition. Current champs qualifying time is under 2h40mins for men and 3h14 for women – a very challenging time. The final time qualifying category is Good for Age (GFA). These are a set of times staggered by age, on the principle that achievable marathon times decline by age, so older runners can qualify with slower times. These times are still tough, but more accessible to amateur runners, so are popular with runners as a challenging goal to aim for, and a good way to get a coveted place in one of the World’s greatest marathons.

 

 

To qualify this way, you need have run a certified marathon in a qualifying time, within the qualification window and then submit the evidence. London Marathon publish full details on their website here: https://www.tcslondonmarathon.com/enter/how-to-enter/good-for-age-entry

 

Times and the qualifying window can vary from year to year, but for example, for a place in the 2022 London Marathon, a 48 year old male runner (now you know my age!) had to run 3h10mins and a 48 year old female 3h53 mins at a certified measured course between the 4th October 2020 and 3rd October 2021. They then would have submitted evidence of their time (often a web link to the marathon results), evidence of British nationality (photo of passport in my case) and evidence of UK residency (photo of a bill or bank statement showing address). The qualifying period for the 2023 London Marathon is currently open and closes on 7th August 2022. So if you think you can achieve a GFA time, make sure your marathon is within the qualifying period.

 

Why don’t women have to run as fast as men to qualify?
Women don’t run as fast as men over the marathon distance. However, the disparity between the times is larger than the percentage difference between elite male and elite female marathoners, and this is because London Marathon tries to get an equal number of male and female good for age runners. As there are less female applicants, the times are comparatively slower, a fact often bemoaned by male runners struggling to meet their faster time!

 

Does running within the time guarantee you a place?
Not always. London Marathon cap GFA places at 6000 (3000 men and 3000 women). If more than this apply, the cut off times will be raised evenly across the age categories, making it tougher to get in.

 

So how do I get fast enough to qualify?
That’s the hard bit. Very few runners are simply good enough, as shown by the amount of entrants above. Achieving a qualifying time generally means following a well-designed training programme consistently for 16-18 weeks, and for most runners, it will probably take more than one marathon cycle to achieve the goal. Using myself as an example, I first achieved a GFA place in my 4th marathon.  It may also take strength and conditioning work to help prevent injury, good recovery and looking after your nutrition. All of this is where a coach can come in useful – they can individualise your training to you so it fits around your life, keep you accountable and motivated, and of course, produce a plan that is personalised to get you to your goal as quickly as possible.

 

 

However you decide to get your place, and whatever your goal, very good luck – and drop me a line if you need any help getting there.

Will you be targeting a place in the next London Marathon? Have you managed to get a GFA? If so, do you have any tips for our members?

 

 

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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You can run faster! (Why you should talk to yourself in the third person when running)

You can run faster!  (Why you should talk to yourself in the third person when running)

Self talk is a massive thing in running. Everyone has an internal dialogue when they run, all those random thoughts that go through your head before and during the run or race. Elite athletes focus on exactly what, when and how to talk to themselves in order to keep going when the running gets tough, and so should you too.

The changes don’t need to be big. Simply focusing on using the term “you” instead of “I”, and keeping your internal chatter positive can have a surprising effect on your race times.

 

For example, according to research published by Bangor University in Wales, cyclists rode faster when they addressed themselves as “you” rather than “I” in self talk statements. The scientists had 16 men do 2 x 10km time trials on a static bike. During the first trial, they talked to themselves as “I” and in the second, they referred to themselves as “you”. In both cases, they kept the self talk positive (they were specifically taught how to convert negative self talk into positive self talk – which has proved to improve both endurance and speed).

The outcome? When using the term “you”, the cyclists were 2.2% faster (knocking 24s off the time trial on average), even though they rated their effort level as the same.

 

So why does this work?
It is thought that using the term “you” promotes distance from the situation (“self-distancing”) which means the athlete thinks more clearly about the run or race and makes better choices, effectively “taking on the perspective of a supportive onlooker” according to Noel Brick, a leading sports scientist.

 

And the best thing? Its not hard to do. It just requires a little preparation and quite a lot of practice.

 

How to improve your self-talk:
1. Awareness of your internal chatter is key. Think about how you talk to yourself when running gets tough. If you can, think of a time when a run went well – what were you saying to yourself at the time? And an example of when it didn’t – what phrases kept coming back to you?
2. Analyse the phrases you said to yourself. Were they positive (keep going, well done, etc), or negative (my legs hurt, I can’t do this)? Did you focus internally (how do I feel, is my breathing too hard?), or externally (just got to make it to that lamppost!)?
3. List the ones from your successful run. How can you adapt them to make them even more useful? Can you put them in the third person?
4. Review the ones from your negative run – can you turn these around to make them positive? Negative self talk is inevitable, but you need to have a ready response. (“I want to quit” “You can do this, just keep going to the next mile marker”).
5. Pick a few sentences that resonate with you. Perhaps focus them around come-backs to your most frequent negative thoughts. And note these down to try out on your next run. They should feel comfortable to use – if they make you smile, even better!
6. Above all, you must practice these. On easy runs, on hard training runs – or just over and over in your head. The more quickly you can produce these phrases and turn negative thoughts around, the more success you’ll have.

 

How aware are you of your self talk? Do you use key phrases? Do you talk to yourself in the third person when you run? Share your thoughts, ideas and tips below! 

 

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.

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Martin Hulbert

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MH Health and Fitness Online Community

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Cold weather running

Brrrr. It’s suddenly turned cold. This week has been the first week this autumn that I’ve had to layer up, and extra warmth was very welcome! As we hit temperatures near freezing, here’s some advice on making the most of the colder days…. It’s not all bad, you know, this morning was a lovely crisp cold morning with a beautiful sunrise! Please note – this advice is aimed at UK runners, running in more extreme temperatures requires specialist advice for your local area.

Dress differently.

Layer up – long sleeves and tights are a must when it gets colder, and you may want consider several layers (easy to remove if you get too warm), gloves and a hat. Don’t forget though, dress for 5 mins into your run, not the start, or you’ll be too hot.

The following are particularly useful (if not essential) to own as a winter runner:

  • Long sleeved technical base layer (thumb holes are great too!)
  • Running tights
  • Running gloves
  • Headband or hat
  • Windproof running jacket
  • Running socks (waterproof can be useful)
  • Running head torch or chest torch. An absolute essential for this time of year if you don’t always have pavements to run on and/or you run in the dark. Ask on the forums for advice here if you are in the market for a new one.
  • Reflective clothing. If you are running in the dark make sure at least some of your clothing is reflective. Not high vis – that’s great on dingy days but for night running, reflective is more important.
  • You may still need sun cream or sunblock if its very sunny out, despite the low temperature (unlikely in the UK, but just in case…)

 

Warm up well pre-run
It is definitely worth mobilising inside before your run to get your blood flowing. Try running up and down stairs (please be careful), running on the spot, skipping, leg swings, lunges, body weight squats etc. And if you are meeting friends to run, try not to warm up and then stand around in the cold waiting for them!

 

 

Be prepared for wind / rain / ice / snow etc….
If there’s a nasty chill on the wind, run into the wind on your way out, and with the wind behind you on the way back if that is possible. That way, the wind doesn’t blast you when you’re all sweaty. Or run behind someone bigger than you as a wind-break! If you are prone to dry skin, put some extra moisturiser, body glide or Vaseline on your cheeks and nose to prevent skin irritation.
If it is wet as well as cold out, make sure you have an immediate change of clothes, be prepared to shorten your run if you get cold. Consider waterproof jackets and waterproof socks to protect your feet.
Fortunately we only usually have a few days of ice or snow in the UK, so it may be time to consider using a treadmill – it’s often just not worth the injury risk (or consider investing in some Yaktrax which provide grip if you’re keen).

 

 

Be flexible with your pace and mileage
You may want to do two shorter runs rather than one longer one if you don’t want to be out too long in the cold weather. You may want to extend your warm up or run more miles at an easy pace. You may even want to resort to a treadmill in the warm! If you don’t have access to a treadmill and it’s too dangerous to run, you can substitute with other aerobic exercise – indoor cycling, the cross trainer, an aerobics class or YouTube HIIT workout for example

 

 

Stay hydrated.
It’s really easy to drink too little in the cold, you may feel like you’re not sweating and you don’t crave water like you do in the heat. But you can still dehydrate. Sip little and often.

 

 

Stay warm afterwards.
It is common for body temperature to plummet after you stop running and shivering to start. Reward yourself with a with a hot chocolate (great recovery drink) or a bowl of soup. Driving to your run? Take a thermos. A hot shower or bath will help, or if you are out and about, at very least, make sure you have a fresh change of clothes to hand. One of my clients has a heated throw she jumps under after a long run in the cold.

 

 

Finally, if cold weather running isn’t your thing… book a winter sun holiday and run somewhere warm!

 

Here’s some of the questions my clients have asked in the past:

 

Is it ever too cold to run?
No. Well, not according to James Cracknell who took part in the media dubbed “Coldest Race On Earth”, the Yukon Arctic Ultra (430 miles in temperatures below -50 degrees). But certainly, you shouldn’t face major issues in the UK. Although the coldest ever recorded temperature -27.2 degrees (recorded in 1995) may be a tad too chilly for your everyday runner, generally you’ll be fine as long as you dress appropriately (which means don’t overheat because you’re too bundled up either!), and it’s not icy. Ice and snow bring a much higher risk of injury than running in our usual winter cold.

 

What’s good about running in the cold?
You generally run faster! Less heat stress can often lower your perceived exertion. Your metabolism can be higher and you tend to burn more calories, and as we tend to eat more in the winter, that’s no bad thing! Some research suggests that running in the cold can boost your immune system, and it can also boost your mood, and help combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And it makes you feel like a badass!

 

Why do my lungs feel like they’re burning when I run in the cold?
The burning sensation actually comes from dry air. When you breathe in, your mouth, nasal cavity and windpipe work to warm up the air, so that cold air doesn’t actually reach your lungs. But if the air is particularly dry, it has to be humidified and that means taking moisture from your nose and throat. This makes them feel irritated. You can help reduce this feeling by putting a scarf or mask over your mouth to help moisten the air as its inhaled. Focus on taking longer more relaxed breaths and running easier. Make sure you have a good warm up to minimise the stress on your respiratory system.

 

I have exercise-induced asthma – is running in the cold a problem?
If you have asthma or other related breathing conditions, it isn’t ideal to breath in cold air, and definitely the switch between temperatures when you come indoors from the cold can make you feel worse. Make sure you have your inhaler to hand and consider wearing a neck scarf / buff over your mouth when you run so that the air is slightly warmer and moister when you inhale. Seek a doctors advice if this is a problem for you.

Do you enjoy running in the cold or are you a summer runner? Do you have any top tips for facing the colder weather? Please do share below!

 

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