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Learning how to pace yourself – why data can only tell you so much and how you can learn to run by feel

With the advent of GPS watches that tell us anything and everything, is internally knowing your pace on the run, the art of a pacing by feel, completely lost? Have you ever gone out for a run or a race and agonised over whether you’re going too fast or too slow? Too hard or too easy for the distance or goals? And is over reliance on our watches responsible?

 

Runners of a certain age will remember the days before GPS watches where you would have to listen to your internal cues and gauge your run by feel and a Casio stopwatch. Of course, watches have their place, and they can definitely enhance your training as well as being a godsend for online coaches such as myself, but that doesn’t mean they know best.

 

It’s incredibly useful to have a feel for the different paces you run at. Of course, your easy or recovery runs should be done by feel (effort), and are a great time to practice, but this skill really comes into its own in races. You need to have a solid sense of the fastest pace you can sustain through the race distance and adjust as needed through the race. Relying exclusively on your watch can lead to problems, especially if you have a hilly course, lose GPS signal or have to get round other runners.

 

So how do you get a feeling for your pace?

 

Whatever run you are doing, you need to be able to tune in and recognise certain cues:

  1. Perceived effort. When out on your run, be aware of how you are feeling. Use a scale of 1-10 where 1 is lying on the sofa, 2-3 is a gentle walk. Easy runs should be 4-5, and thresholds 6-8. When you get home note the perceived effort of a workout before you look at the data.
  2. Breathing rate. Think and feel how many steps you’re taking when breathing. Can you talk whilst you run? In full sentences, part sentences or barely at all? Can you sing along to your music? Can you hear your breathing? How heavy does it sound?
  3. Foot strike rhythm. As you increase in pace you will usually increase your cadence (steps per minute) as well. Faster paces or harder efforts mean your foot makes a different sound. Note this sound for different paces.
  4. Running form: As you run at any speed or intensity, think about how your body feels. Think about how your feet feel hitting the floor, how your legs feel at different paces, how you use your arms and how you hold your core. What differences do you feel as your speed or intensity changes? Can you remain relaxed or do you tense at a certain speed and your form starts to suffer?

 

One or more of these methods may work for you – you don’t need to use all of them, but have a play and choose what works best. Most important is consistency of practice. Don’t expect to know your pace to the second from day 1.

 

Certain types of runs lend themselves well to identifying these cues and relating them to paces:

 

Easy effort runs. 
These are a great time to practice running to feel. As your easy run should be done on effort and has nothing to do with speed or pace, cover your watch and note how you feel, your breathing, your foot strike.

 

Progressive runs, fartleks and intervals 

These change pace at set intervals so are great way to get used to how different paces feel. As you change pace, you can note how it feels and adjust your effort.

 

Miles at a set pace e.g. marathon pace

This gives you a chunk of mileage at one pace that you want to get used to the feel of. Try a three to four mile segment, where you run a mile or two by your watch, then only look at your watch a couple of times in each subsequent mile. Try and maintain the same effort by using the cues above and see how you did at the end of the mile.

When you are doing them, make sure you are using average lap pace instead of current pace on your watch. Current pace can fluctuate wildly with your natural pace changes, and with GPS fluctuations. This can result in surges of pace if you think you are behind or ahead.

 

Above all, learning how different paces feel takes practice of self awareness at different paces to get a feel for it. Don’t expect it to be perfect the first few times you try, but after a few goes you will find it easier to tune into your feelings.

 

Let us know what methods work for you and how you get on in the comments below.

 

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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

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Why I have a rubber duck on my desk.

A rubber duck is one of your greatest resources. Seriously. Apart from being bathtime entertainment and useful for science experiments (investigation of currents at sea and glacier movements, mostly) they are a firm favourite of software engineers. In this context, rubber ducking is short for “rubber duck debugging” and is a method of debugging code. Basically, engineers can explain the code they are writing to the rubber duck, line-by-line, and as they do so, they can break down the purpose of the code and find the underlying problem. By forcing the issue into words, and explaining it to something that can’t interrupt, often a solution will become clear without having to do any extra work.

 

Why is this relevant to you? Or me? 
Explaining something in detail to an inanimate object (it doesn’t have to be a rubber duck) distances ourself from the problem (coding, homework, understanding complex mathematics, relationships… whatever the problem may be) and allows an opportunity for self-realisation and helping you to find your own answer. Effectively, by explaining the problem to yourself (or your rubber duck), you are able to remove the anxiety and emotion around issues, step back and find perspective. This can help you reflect and resolve the issue.

“Learners who engage in explanation go beyond the obvious to look for broad and simple patterns underlying what they are trying to explain and in so doing…often make useful discoveries.”
Tania Lombrozo, Ph.D, Explaining to Yourself Can Be A Powerful Tool (https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/03/explaining-yourself)

Whilst talking to your duck, your mind also slows down your thinking, breaks down the information and can find new links or patterns. A chance for a fresh perspective.

 

Does it work with a friend / cat / dog? 
This can work, but there are some problems….they move, talk, give opinions (the friend that is), distract and you may end up petting them (cat or dog!). But it will work with another inanimate object, so don’t feel you need to have a duck on your desk, a fluffy pig will do instead (for example).

 

Using your rubber duck. Really, you want a lesson on this? Ok, here goes…
1. Get a rubber duck (obvious!)
2. Explain the problem. In detail. What is the purpose of what you are trying to do? What have you done to date? What have you achieved and what have you not achieved.
3. As you explain, make sure you fully understand where you are going.
4. Find the solution! It may be obvious once you’ve talked to the duck, but if not, try giving it more detail.
4. Do NOT argue with the rubber duck. It can’t defend itself.

 

 

How does it apply to my running? 

There are so many ways to apply this in the context of running, as a runner, or a coach. If you are not meeting your goals….If you are upset by a race result…if you’re not sure on a race strategy…If you are thinking of going off plan….not sure whether to signup for a race.

Any time you want to think about a problem logically, dig out the duck…

 

Want to know more? Read these:

https://www.livescience.com/34000-explaining-helps-understand.html

https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/03/explaining-yourself

https://sites.evergreen.edu/making/concerning-rubber-ducks/

 

 

 

 

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Want to know more about running or personal training?

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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

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What is the Power of Ten?

After a recent discussion on a couple of Facebook groups about London Marathon results not yet appearing on British Athletics’ Power of Ten website (https://www.thepowerof10.info), I thought it was a good time to write an introduction to this database of athletic performances to anyone who hasn’t yet discovered it. Set up by British Athletics prior to the 2012 Olympics, this is a ranking system for athletes that was started in order to set targets and challenge athletes to improve track and field performances in the run up to the games. 

 

The website lists competitors, coaches and clubs registered in the UK. If you take part in organised races and are a member of UKA (usually through a registered athletics or running club) your performances will usually be listed.

You can view data by individual athlete, club, coach and have a good nosey at others performances. You can also, via RunBritain (https://www.runbritainrankings.com a sister site which specialises in road races rather than track and field), see how you are ranked in the UK for different distances of road race.

 

The most commonly used tool is the athlete search – you can search for anyone you like, including yourself. Just enter the name and any other details in the search box on the homepage, and you should find the relevant athlete.

 

Let’s take my profile… search for Hulbert and you get 23 athletes. Only one Martin so let’s have a closer look by clicking on “show profile”. Here you can see details about me, athletes I coach (just the one, apparently! You can add me as coach through your profile if you want), and my best known performances (spot the hungover parkrun pacing anomaly!).

 

 

On the far right you can see my UK rankings from RunBritain. These vary considerably year by year, especially with COVID meaning not many races have been run of late, but my best ranking is 31st in the UK over 20 miles in the 45-49 age category and 37th V45 in the marathon in 2019 (puts me in the top 0.6% of athletes over the marathon in 2019).

If you click through to RunBritain you get a lot more stats, including a handicap score that is aimed at putting a number on your progress over time, taking into account course difficulty, weather etc.). There’s also a national ladder that ranks you against all the road runners in the UK based on gender, and will even give you your position as a runner in the local area! I’m 7th in my local area overall, but 1st over 45 male.

 

There are a lot of other stats and tools to play with, far too many to go through here, but you can visit either website to find out more.

 

Some of the questions my clients have asked me recently about this include:
Why are only some parkruns included? Because not all courses are officially measured, and not all parkruns submit their results to England Athletics.
Can you add races that aren’t there? Yes, but only ones on an officially measured / registered course.
What does MT mean? Multiterrain (or off road)

When will London 2021 results appear? These have been delayed but are now on there.

Powerof10 have their own FAQs here which are quite useful: https://www.thepowerof10.info/aboutpowerof10/faq.aspx

If you want to know any more, post your questions below and if I can’t answer them, I’m sure some of our more nerdy club members might…enjoy data crunching! (And if you like data crunching, another website you may like is https://www.fetcheveryone.com… I may do a coaching tip on this one day too!

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

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Want to know more about running or personal training?

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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

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When can I run again after a marathon?

If you’re asking the question, and are keen to get out, the answer is probably double what you’re thinking! Honestly, you need a good recovery to allow repair (not just muscles but all the way down to cellular levels) and avoid injury, no matter how keen you are.

 

So how long should you rest for?

This is tricky, because it depends on your level of fitness, previous experience, how hard you ran etc. You may have heard the saying “one day of rest for every mile raced”, but for avid runners who have just raced 26.2 miles, that length of time off can be a scary prospect. Really, there isn’t really a one size fits all formula. The best guide has to be listening to your body. And rest doesn’t have to mean no exercise at all – walking, gentle mobilisation, a little low impact body weight S&C and even some gentle running can be fine.

 

You may ache – muscular aches (DOMs) will be caused by microscopic muscle tissue damage from challenging your muscles more than they are used to. Don’t run whilst you still have muscle soreness. Muscles, tendons and ligaments will have been pushed to their limits whether you ran your marathon in 3 or 8 hours, and whether you raced it or cruised in comfortably. You have damaged your body by pushing its limits and it needs time to recover or you risk further damage. In addition, studies have shown that the marathon induces inflammation, damage to muscle fibres and cellular damage that can last for more than 7 days – well beyond the length of time you feel muscle soreness for. Let me repeat that – the damage caused by hard training and racing isn’t always noticeable physically. In addition, your immune system will probably be compromised. So, rest is good, necessary, and protective.

 

But I’ll lose fitness / I want to run / I want to nail a short distance PB….

Resting for 7-10 days will have little impact on your fitness, and will mean you will return a stronger runner. If you’re still not convinced, take a look at the elites…coached by the best coaches in the world, most of them take 2-3 weeks off before running again, with only walks or very short light jogs in that time. Stagger your return to training when you are ready. A timeframe may look like this (bear in mind that this varies considerably from runner to runner):

 

Post marathon:
1-3 days: complete rest (light, short walks, foam rolling etc only)
4-7 days: some light walking, a little conditioning work (without weights)
8-14 days: Come back with a 1-4 x 5 minute runs at a very easy effort within a walk . Check how you are feeling, any niggles or aches? If all good then try an easy effort 1-4 miles at a very easy effort. Take a rest day in between each run and increase slowly. When you feel ready (after 3-4 runs at least), try a few strides in one of your easier runs to see how your legs cope at a slightly harder pace (these should be no longer than 15 seconds).

 

If you follow these rough guidelines, listen to your body and err on the side of caution in the first 14 days, you should then be ready to get back to normal training in the third week after your marathon.

 

So even if you hate putting your training on pause, or you’re desperate to capitalise on your fitness and set some new PBs, or to set the world right after a bad race, take the time to rest and recover fully. Your body (and mind) will thank you for it, and you will return stronger than before, and physically and mentally ready for your next challenge.

 

How long do you take off after a marathon? Are you looking forward to running or racing again? Have you already booked your next race?

 

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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Post Marathon Blues? What Next…

You spend months training for the big day. You’ve ticked off the runs, spent time and money on the prep, tapered and now raced. Fabulous – very well done! But what next?

Whether you achieved your marathon goal or not, ticking off a big target race can leave a hole in your life. Post-marathon blues are real and it can be tough to shift back into the routine of every day life. Everyone feels differently about this. For some, it’s business as usual. For others, running loses its appeal altogether and they struggle to get out the door. Some want to fill the hole it has left by signing up for their next race and launching into training immediately. Whatever your approach, be kind to yourself, share your feelings, don’t make big decisions immediately and take it slowly in the hours and days after the race. If you’re one of the many who feel a bit bereft, here’s some ideas of how to move on successfully.

 

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Your daily routine, diet, sleep patterns and even socialising may have been built around your marathon training, and this will have increased in intensity in the last few weeks. In addition, stress hormones, tiredness and hunger can play a part in the days post marathon. Don’t be hard on yourself, feeling lost or down is normal and will pass. Signs can be a general lethargy, lack of motivation, feeling down, antisocial, or disappointed – even if you hit your goal. Sharing with others who feel the same can help, and this is where social media and online running groups can come in useful.

 

  1. Reflect on your performance. Don’t do this for too long, especially if the race didn’t go your way, but look at what you did right and what you could have done differently, both in training and in the race. Analysing a successful performance may help you replicate it again in future, and if your race didn’t go to plan, writing it down can help you come to terms with your feelings (and not make the same mistakes next time!). Make a note of your thoughts and then put it to one side.

 

  1. Note what you miss about marathon training. Was it the challenge? The sense of achievement? The regimented schedule? Having a big target to motivate you? Identifying what you really want will help you when setting your next goal.

 

  1. Try something new. This will help replace some of the excitement of marathon training – train for shorter distance, start a new exercise class, run with friends who weren’t running at your pace or distance during training, go off-road, cover your watch, take up cross-training or cycling. Or, just enjoy running with no plan.

 

  1. Indulge yourself. Eating after the marathon is a must, but your body will be repairing for several days if not weeks. Relax a little and have that dessert or glass of wine.

 

  1. Parkrun? Spectate or marshal at a local race, help others with their training. There is often nothing better to rekindle your love of running (if you have lost it) than shouting at (cheering on) others runners at a parkrun or race!

 

  1. Embrace another hobby. Finish that book you started months ago, decorate a room in the house, go hiking, bake cakes – whatever you fancy now you have more time.

 

  1. Plan a post-race trip…self-explanatory really. Just try not to plan it around another marathon (yet!)

 

  1. Find another fitness goal: a cycling or swimming race or triathlon, a yoga retreat, focus on strength training goals or like some of my clients did a year ago, sign up with an online coach to keep you motivated, whether or not you have a target race. Please contact me on the details below if you want more information.

 

  1. When you are ready, find your next running goal. Don’t rush into this, your mind and body need time to rest and recover, and constantly moving from race to race will not help alleviate the blues. But when you are ready, decide what you want to achieve and how you’d best get there. Getting faster? Think about training for shorter races. More social running? What about trail running, an ultra, or parkrun? Want to improve your marathon time? Consider the timeframe and building blocks to this carefully.

 

 

Above all, make time for the things you didn’t do whilst marathon training and enjoy them. It’s a great time, once those pesky post-race hormones have passed! When you are ready, embrace your next goal and don’t forget to contact me if you need running support, advice, motivation or even a new training plan for your next target race!

 

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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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.

 

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

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Want to know more about running or personal training?

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Martin Hulbert

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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/

 

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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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

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

 

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

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#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