Winter is upon us, the days are shorter and the weather is definitely colder! Whether you train in the morning before work or in the afternoon/evening after work, this will impact your motivation to get out there and run. Here are some tips to stay focused and consistent:
1. Check your plan and know what workout you are going to do. Know what the purpose of the run is so you can focus on why it is important to run. Is it an easy shakeout run to recover from a previous session/prepare you for the next quality session? Is it short, sharp repeats to boost your VO2, or longer sustained efforts to build your Lactate Threshold? Knowing what you are doing and why will help you get out the door.
2. Remind yourself what your goal is. Do you have a big race/FKT attempt/running adventure planned that you are training for? You need to be ready for this and the only way to be so is to engage in consistent, focused training.
3. Lay out your running clothes the night before (or in the morning for the evening). I lay my running clothes on the floor next to my side of the bed so when I wake up to run, they are right there. No avoiding them!!
4. Go to bed early! Sleep is important to your recovery so be sure to get at least 8 hours per night. Set up a bedtime reminder on your phone that turns off notifications at an early hour. Get off screens early and read instead.
5. If you drink coffee, have the coffee machine ready to go, or the coffee pre-prepared.
6. Have your shoes ready by the front door, with your headtorch, gloves, headphones, rain jacket and anything else you need.
7. If it is raining, remind yourself that it may be raining come race/event day and that this is good training. Physically it will help you to know what your clothes/shoes are like in the rain and mentally it toughens you up going out in unpleasant conditions. You can look back on this come race day and know you've done it all before!
8. Wear the correct clothes. We've all heard the saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. And when you are running in the winter this is very true! Wear layers so that is easy to remove those layers when you warm up. Have pockets so you can stash gloves, beanies, caps, etc. Check out the video to see how to tie a rain jacket properly around your waist. All these small things make a difference to your comfort levels!
9. Organise to run with a friend! You are less likely to bail on a friend than yourself!
10. If you don't have a friend to run with due to distance or time, have an accountability buddy you can text. Let each other know your weekly running plans and organise to text each other when starting and finishing your runs so that you keep each other accountable.
11. Training in the dark is excellent training for ultras. Many ultras start and finish in the dark so it is important to know how your headtorch works, what your depth perception is like with artifical light, and how it feels to run with a headtorch. Remember, nothing new race day, and that includes running in the dark!
12. Focus on fun!! Running in the dark can be fun! It gives a new perspective to your runs! Enjoy!!
Having a running coach is not a privilege reserved for professional runners, whose livelihoods depend on completing the correct training in the correct manner at the correct timing. Hiring a running coach can seem like an extravagance for “everyday” runners. Yet recreational athletes can actually benefit even more from the attention, knowledge, and guidance of a coach as they do not have the time and resources available to them to focus purely on training as a professional athlete may.
But what can a running coach get you that a free online training plan can’t? To be honest, so many things!
A running coach is part exercise physiologist, psychologist, motivator, calming influence, accountability partner, instructor and educator.
Because training for specific distances is much more than running every day, a coach will build you an individualised training plan. Running can be very scientific, building different biological systems in your body so that you can optimally train. A coach won’t increase mileage too quickly or have you run too hard too soon. A coach will keep you in check to ensure you have enough recovery to turn around and nail the next workout. A coach will ensure your plan progresses in such a way that you should reach you’re A-race in prime condition.
As you are paying a coach, you will feel more inclined to complete your training as you know someone is watching on. You’ll be less inclined to skip that run when you know the coach will be checking in!
Coaches will be honest and help you with your strengths and weaknesses. Too often, runners are very hard on themselves. Your coach should and will see your strengths and capabilities and remind you of them when you are feeling less confident.
A coach should be there to help you choose your goal. If you are having trouble figuring out your next race, a coach will be a sounding board for you to go over your options, helping you to clarify the best race for you.
So if you feel that you aren’t fast enough or accomplished enough to need a coach, that is a clear sign you do need a coach!
Strong leg muscles are crucial for running fast, but many runners underestimate the importance of upper body strength for good running performance.
Your arm swing influences every movement from your hips down. If you swing your arms faster, this automatically increases your step frequency. Slow and long swings produce the opposite effect: this is due to the fact that our arm and leg movements are coordinated by our brain.
The correct arm technique makes your running form efficient. However, you can’t run with optimal form until you build up your upper body. Today, I'm focusing on the biceps. All you need for this exercise is a looped band that you've probably gotten from a phsyio but that can also easily be bought online. I'll add a link in the comments.
In a kneeling position, wrap the band around your leg. Grab the band with the hand on the same side.Keep your upper body tall and shoulders relaxed.
Pull your hand up towards your shoulder against the resistance of the band. Your upper arm should stay stationary as you pull on the band, keeping your elbow underneath your shoulder and close to your body.
Release the hold and return to the starting position. Do 10-15 repetitions on one side, then switch to the other side.
A strong upper body is essential for guaranteeing an efficient transfer of energy from your body to your legs. Without this, the proper arm technique cannot provide optimal support to your legs. An efficient running form helps you run faster and expend less energy.
I may be biased (just slightly!!) but I think running is awesome!! Here are only 16 reasons why…I’m sure there’s more!
Why are strong glutes so important for runners?
Well, first let’s look at the basic biomechanics of running.
The glutes are made up of the Gluteus maximimus, medius and minimus. Their names indicate the size of the muscle. When we run, the gluteus maximus is responsible for hip extension, or raising your leg behind your thigh and knee behind you after pushing off with your foot. Good hip extension creates the energy of that leg swing into forward motion. Thus, Gluteus Maximus has more to do with the propulsion and deceleration jobs, whilst Gluteus Medius and Minimus have a lot more to do with stability.
Now that we know what the muscles are, we can see what a big role those muscles those muscles play when we run. Weak glutes can lead to the following injuries:
Strengthening gluteus maximus is easy enough as these are exercises that can be done in the gym with weights. Of course, Medius and Minimus are strengthened at the same time as they are stabilising maximus.
Watch out for my videos on my website and on Instagram and Facebook showing you how to strengthen all of your glute muscles!
Have you ever seen a runner late (or even early!!) in a race; slouched over and looking exhausted? Do you think that is helping them to run better? I'm sure you don't, and you would be right! Strong runners need a strong back!
But why? Well, let’s break it down.
To avoid the dreaded slouch:.
In order to maintain a good, upright posture, runners need to work on strengthening their backs. Staying upright is more comfortable and efficient than curving over whilst running. And your race-day pics look better.
To stabilise the hips:
We all know that most injuries come from the hips. A strong back keeps the hip stable, which in turn reduces your risk of injury. And nobody wants to be injured!!
The arms (and back) lead the legs;
As your legs fatigue, it pays to swing your arms faster. This will enable the legs to turn over faster. You can only do this if you have a good upright posture that is created by having a strong back.
You can breathe better:
A strong back keeps you upright and enables you to open up your chest to breathe easier.
In order to maintain a good, upright posture,Runners need to work on strengthening their backs. Staying upright is more comfortable and efficient than curving over whilst running. And your race-day pics look better!
It seems these days that a marathon is no longer enough, now everyone wants to run an ultra-marathon. What is an ultra-marathon you ask? Well, basically any run that is longer than a 42.2km marathon. So yes, a 45km race is an ultra-marathon! But who wants to only do 45km? In these days of less is more, with ultras, more really is more!!
The most popular ultra-running distance is 100km, but you can also opt for 100 miles, 200 miles or track/loop races that can go for anywhere from 6-48 hours…sometimes even 6 days. What fun I hear you say! Indeed, it is, but only if you put in the training. Yes, there is always a caveat.
Training for an ultra needn’t be too daunting. If you are already a runner, it will simply involve a few modifications to your training plan. If you are not a runner, best get onto a couch to 5k program first, and then the ultra world will beckon!
Training for an ultra does not require absurd amounts of time running. You will need to run about 5-6 days per week, however. You will need to do some higher intensity speed work (even though it is an ultra, you still need to teach the body to run fast…in case you need to sprint past a competitor!!), some easy days to shake out the legs and build the leg/tendon/mitochondrial strength of the body and one to two long runs per week to build your endurance and mental strength. For a 100k race, the long run really does not have to be more than 50k or thereabouts. Where you run this long run depends on your races; if your race is mountainous run it in the mountains, if it’s on the track, run it on the track! Easy! If you are doing a 100 or 200 miler, you may need to do back-to-back long runs to teach your body to run on tired legs. This means a long run Saturday, followed by another on Sunday. The weekday runs need not be more than an hour to ninety minutes each session.
Long runs are also a great time to test your nutrition. This is as individual as the runner themselves. Some runners can run on gels alone, other use gels and chews, others use these with some real food in the mix. The longer the race, the more likely you will want to eat some real food (vegemite sandwiches, vegie soup, potatoes, etc). A 100-mile race can last for anywhere up to 30-40 hours! A 200 considerably more! Just remember, running diverts blood flow away from the stomach, leading to the possibility of ‘gastric distress’, a very real and painful condition. Hence the importance of testing what works for you!
Another component of training is strength work. Once again, this does not need to be too time-consuming, but 2-3 times per week is a good idea. Each session will be about 30-45 minutes and will focus on upper and lower body strength. Strength work keeps your body robust and helps you become a more balanced athlete.
The final, and most important, part of training is sleep and rest. Yes! Sleep is when the body recovers and re-builds muscle. Rest is when the boy improves. Training breaks down the body, sleep and general rest is when the body gets stronger. Neglect this aspect of training at your peril!
So there you have it, training for an ultra in a nutshell. Running an ultra is an amazing feeling. The sense of accomplishment when you complete this monumental effort is beyond belief. Get out there and get running! You’ll thank me later!
I write programs to help you reach your goals, ultras or not! I would love to help you!
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This blog is where I will share interesting and informative articles related to all aspects of training. If you have any topics you would like covered, email me and I will work on it!