Time for a new post!
I have been experiencing some really good improvements in my running and just wanted to dedicate this post to reflect on some of the things I believe have supercharged my training. I feel like I have been reborn and am not the same person as a year ago. I have never felt more confident and closer to achieving my long coveted goals. I hope this post will help some people who are looking for some inspiration.
So what is different? I believe the following ingredients have boosted my recipe for success:-
1. I drink much more fluid during the day
A few months ago I ordered a lovely 600 ml bottle which I have not parted with since then. It sits on my work desk all day filled up with pure water and I empty it religiously by 5.30pm, in addition to my regular coffee, tea and squash intake. I reckon I drink about a litre more in a day than before, this includes more water and less caffeinated drinks.
Result: I can tolerate heat much much better than before because I start my run in a hydrated state, and I feel much better during my runs in general.
2. I have learnt to recover better
In the past, recovery meant collapsing and being glued onto the sofa/chair for the rest of the day after a tough workout, then resuming the cycle the next day: beast myself, then become a couch potato.
I have found that there is nothing worse I can do to myself after a hard training session than sit down. I find that walking or just being active around the house (e.g. doing some housework or DIY) massively helps me avoid becoming so stiff within a few hours that I can barely raise my legs. I think this has something to do with keeping the blood flowing to the muscles I worked hard, preventing muscles from shrinking, flushing out some lactic acid (which is responsible for muscle soreness) and therefore encouraging recovery straight away.
I have also come across an article on runners world which totally shocked me – it talks about about why sitting too much can jeopardise or even neutralise training results:
Tackling the hills at this year’s Wycombe Half
3. I know my anatomy
It does pay off to know some basic anatomy (I learnt some when I did my PT course yonks ago). If I know which exact muscle is causing me trouble, I can use very specific stretches to tackle it. If I know where that particular muscle starts, which other muscles it works in conjunction with, I can apply self-massage more purposefully. This has helped me several times to target trouble spots with my foam roller, ORB ball and my own hands, without having to spend a fortune on physios who would have in all likelihood recommended me the same stretches and given me the same massage.
I have learnt to sharpen my understanding of the subtle signals my body is sending out so I know better when to stop, ease back or make tough decisions such as not doing a race if I feel unwell. Prevention is still the best cure, I would rather not run for 5 days than spend 5 months recovering from an injury.
4. I don’t overdo weight training on my lower body
I am a devoted body pump fan and I love doing this class once or twice a week. I used to use massive weights for the legs exercises (squats and lunges and a combination of these), but I felt really heavy legged on some of my runs, even after I deemed myself as recovered from the weight training sessions.
Since I started using somewhat lower weights for the squats and lunges, I feel much less heavy legged. I even do more hill training which has double benefits – a cardiovascular challenge and a good workout for the leg muscles so I am not losing muscle tone, which is a very important aesthetic aspect for me.
I am no expert my I think there comes a point where weight training does not complement but has a counter effect on running ability. So I think striking the right balance and using the right load is paramount to make weight training power my running.
5. I have learnt to be comfortable with not feeling very comfortable during my training runs
In principle, I do not run more than 3 times a week because together with my gym routine, that would just be too much strain on my body (I had to learn this in the hard way in the past…) So I am putting the emphasis on quality rather than quantity when it comes to running – I cut out the too comfortable sessions and replaced them with meaningful runs. (Although I still make sure I have plenty of ‘fun’ runs, too, without any pressure, because for me running is not purely about results.)
In particular, I have made hill and fartlek sessions and lots of threshold runs a cornerstone to my training and have started and injecting speed into my longer runs, too. I concluded that if I want to run faster, I ought to train faster, simple as that! Besides, doing the same type of runs all the time will only give me the same results, i.e. mediocre performances at races and stale goals.
The threshold runs ARE painfully hard sometimes but I feel like I have got new and stronger batteries, and have started running at quicker paces more comfortably, also during long runs, which I never thought I could manage. The science behind this is well explained on
New 5k PB at Black Park Parkrun
6. Confidence and positive beliefs can make things happen
I could write a separate blog entry about this but I will just quote Muhammad Ali who summarised how this works in one sentence:-
‘It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.’
7. It’s worth having a few tricks up my sleeve I can draw on when the going gets tough
Visualising positive outcomes, evoking the feeling of success in past events, using certain type of music, or physical cues such as pumping my elbows faster to get my legs move faster too are just some of my favourites that always work!
So, I did learn a few lessons along the way, in many ways I feel I have become a more mature runner and am getting out different things from running now. Over the years, I have had several different reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction, fostering strength and a sense of achievement.