Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Getting into Intervals

As the weather gradually starts to improve, more and more people are going to start planning long distance races into their schedules.

In the midst of winter, the thought of spending longer than 5 minutes running outside is enough to make you want to rustle up a hot chocolate and pretend that humans were never designed to run in the first place.

However, the appeal of long distance races seems to grow exponentially with the increase in temperatures, meaning now’s the time to ramp up your training. 

One of the most valuable training methods to utilise in your quest for a new PB is interval training, which refers to training using a mix of short, high intensity effort combined with slower, recovery phases throughout a training session.

The benefits of interval training are myriad, but one of the prime advantages is that you can squeeze more quality training into a shorter period of time (especially valuable seeing as it’s dark by 5pm). Interval Training will also allow you to maintain some semblance of a normal working and family life.

Integrating an interval training session into your weekly training schedule will definitely put you on an accelerated course (pun intended) to improved fitness and race performances. The science behind this interval-based wizardry is that interval training has the ability to increase your anaerobic/lactate thresholds; the premise of this can be neatly summed up with this nifty little infographic

As any running aficionado will be well aware, the term anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’ in plain English.

Working at an anaerobic level is a result of lactic acid accumulating in your system as it cannot be broken down quickly enough, which sends you into oxygen debt. For any gluttons for punishment, you can reach this anaerobic level by doing any form of exercise at a really hard effort, but you are unable to stay at anaerobic level for long periods of time.

This is why interval training makes use of intense bursts of short effort, and the more you train at anaerobic level, the more your own body’s anaerobic/lactate thresholds will improve; this will result in significant gains in your speed and endurance.

The following example of an interval training plan can be easily incorporated into your current race plan (or just as a substitute for a normal run if you aren’t training for anything in particular). As a responsible running contributor, I must advocate that you are adequately hydrated and properly warmed-up before your interval training session.

Another handy piece of advice is to invest in a proper running watch to help you keep track of your interval times and pace; my personal favourite is the Garmin Forerunner 410, which has a built in GPS and has more features than you can shake a stick at. I got mine from Uttings Outdoor, but if the Garmin is a little too pricey for you, there are plenty of others out there to choose from.

When performing interval sprints on either the treadmill or the track, the basic unit of measurement is 400m with 45 seconds rest.  Start by doing 16 reps of 400m at slightly quicker than race pace with 45 seconds rest in between; the following week, do 8 reps of 800m with 90 seconds rest in between.  You will gradually work your way up to 3 reps of 2000m, with 225 seconds (3 mins 45) rest in between; then you start to decrease the distance again.  The following table should provide you with a handy guide.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

My achilles are my Achilles' Heal

'ow, ow, ow, ow'. That is the sound I make as I walk at the moment. You see, it's all a bit tight down there. NO! Further down, near my ankles. Yep that's it, my Achilles. Today I did what everyone will tell you is a silly idea. I increased my distance by 50% and went for it. I'm alive. Just. It hurt, a lot though.

I didn't managed to hit my timings as I wanted to but I did 7.5km which is more than third distance of the Maas Half marathon which is 12 weeks tomorrow. It's like I'm a complete novice again. Getting that distance up is just painful. Part of me thinks 'why don't I just revert back to my old thick heeled shoes' but i don't wanna. I really want to run this way and I do enjoy it it's just I don't like being a beginner again.

In fact the other reason is this......

This will contain everything I need for 6 days and 5 nights including all running, cycling and general gear. My tiny red 'barefoot' running shoes weigh next to nothing and will take up very little space. If I take my 'normal' running shoes, they'll weight more, they'll take up most of a pannier on their own and quite frankly that's a waste!

I ran the Berlin Marathon only 20 weeks ago with 16 weeks training. This should be a piece of piss right? We'll as long as I'm still able to walk anyway!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Old routes, New times

I HAD to get out and run today. My excuses have completely run out and quite frankly, I was beginning to become a fair weather runner. Or maybe just a lazy one! I also need to shift the spare tyre around my waist as the Belgium trip to the Maas Half Marathon is only 3 months away and my longest run in my barefoot running shoes is 4km. About 17km short of the distance I need then so frankly, the additional weight ain't helping much!

Today I made it 16km short by going out and hitting a 5.14km route I haven't done in a while. Quite frankly it got boring after I ran it around 20 times during Juneathon 2010. I didn't have the Garmin charged (yup, forgot it was in the drawer) so just had a stop watch on my phone and just had to hit stop at the end. It was odd not running to a pace and I didn't feel like I was going fast enough really so had to remind myself to try and keep pushing. The result is the second fastest time I've ever done it in which I'm pretty damn happy with to be honest!

I'm still consistently under the 5min/km pace where I want to be it's just I need to start upping the distance in to be in with a chance of a good HM time although not sure how good it will be after 3 days of single speeding through The Netherlands and Belgium!!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dishing the dirt on Obstacle Races

It goes without saying that obstacle races have become one of the hottest tickets around; all you need to do is check your Facebook or Twitter feed to see an array of photographs of your friends caked in mud, and looking as happy as a pig in the proverbial.

Obstacle races, such as Tough Mudder and Total Warrior, provide a fantastic change of pace from your regular 10k or half-marathon (fear not, you’ll still get a free t-shirt), they also test your body in ways you wouldn’t even think were possible. Obstacle races test your stamina, determination, co-ordination, strength and teamwork to within an inch of their life, but in exchange you will get a genuine feeling of achievement that would only be possible in your average road race if you managed to beat the Kenyans to the finish line!

Now I’m not advocating abandoning running completely; I am attempting to open your eyes to how obstacle races can enhance your running performance and achievements.
For a start, obstacle races are addictive! Once you have experienced 10-12 miles of gruelling punishment, you will be hungry for more difficult and challenging races. This newfound motivation will encourage you to take the step up from a 10k to that elusive half-marathon or full-marathon.

Secondly, in an obstacle race there are no PB’s to chase; the aim of any obstacle race is to just get round in one piece. This means that you can tackle each individual obstacle as it comes, and not get too hung up on whether you are still hitting your 4, 5 or 6 - minute mile target.

Thirdly, it will give your mental fortitude a boost; the only way to describe these events is ‘gruelling’, both physically and mentally. To successfully complete an obstacle race you will need mental strength as well as physical strength; having to pick yourself up for the next obstacle is incredibly difficult and is infinitely more taxing than finding the energy to continuously put one foot in front of the other. However, if you have got the grit and determination to keep going, this will be extremely useful for the next time you hit ‘the wall’.

So there you have it, if this has opened your eyes to the benefits of obstacle races, why not sign yourself up for one now. You can find your nearest obstacle race here, and seeing as most of the obstacles are designed up by Special Forces types, why not pay homage to them by competing in one of these functional Camo T-Shirts from Bushwear? You never know, they may even make you feel a bit like Rambo – perfect for when you’re covered in mud and wading through icy waters!