Staying motivated and looking after your mental health through Covid-19

2020 was sure a year not to remember but there are still some positives you can take out of this time period. I have struggled like many others with these uncertain times but I have decided to share some of my top tips on staying motivated and looking after your mental health. I personally believe we have the last bit of the mountain to climb and things will start to return to the new normal slowly.

Firstly, control what you can control and anything else don’t worry about it, it is out of your hands. The stress and worry about something you cannot control is not worth it as it will affect you, so the best way is to relax. What I have learnt over the year is that if I feel anxious or start to panic take a step back for a few minutes, control your breathing by breathing in 4 seconds and then out 7 seconds and it helps calm down the nervous system.

I found having a worry book is very helpful. I spend 10 minutes every day writing in this book my concerns for the day and also how I could deal with them. Once the book is shut, then I stop worrying about things for the rest of the day; I find it very helpful.

Next tip is to get outside daily, just getting outdoors for 5 minutes will go a long way to helping your wellbeing and mental health even if it’s just for a walk. It can give you relaxing time and take in the countryside for example and just getting out in day light will help a lot with your mood. I always find the sun sets me up for a happy day. There will be days you don’t feel like getting out but honestly they are the days which are the best. If I don’t feel like running I force myself to go out and say if I am not enjoying it after 10 minutes I will come back home, but most of the time I stay out longer and end up enjoying it or having one of my best runs. Keep moving don’t just sit about all day if you are working from home – I walk round the house if I can’t go outside for some reason. It’s important to keep moving it will help your health and wellbeing. I always found when I am exercising I relaxed and it’s helping me clear my head and therefore destresses me.

Motivation can be tough without knowing if your race will go ahead or not. Again this is out of your hands and what you can control is your training. Having a goal is very important in staying motivated. It can be something like I want to run a 28minute 5k to I want to podium at the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in my age group. Which is my big goal, and is my motivation to get there. If you believe you can do it then you are half way there and if you keep working at your goal and work hard at it with smart training then you will achieve your goal. Believe me I couldn’t swim in 2012 and in 2019 I won my Age Group at the European Aquathlon Championships. So the impossible can became the possible. Having small little goals too so you can work towards a big goal is a good way for you to work towards and stay motivated.

Breaking your training up with cross training and having a plan to work with I find is also very important in staying motivated. Of course you can work round the plan if days don’t go according to plan as it’s important to be very flexible. Having a plan and breaking up your day is a good way to go and keep your mind busy, that’s how I find it helps me. A good plan should have the right balance of training and structured recovery weeks as well as full rest days etc.

Don’t over train because you will just burn out or give up. Make sure you have the right balance of mixed training with easy training and hard training, the 80/20 percent rule is a golden rule to follow. 80 percent of training easy and 20 percent hard training, this has worked well for me over the years and allowed me to get in consistent training which as allowed me to improve and achieve my goals as well as keeping injuries to a minimal. Mix up training often, don’t do the same things every day and every week, changing this up not only keeps it fun and interesting it’s the way you get better and improve.

I hope these tips are helpful as these are some of the things I have used over the past year to help my training, daily life and enjoy it as well as looking after my mental health. When it comes to exercising we all know how important it is to your health and mental wellbeing so keep moving even if you don’t feel like it. Of course having rest days are important but not too many to a point you stop training altogether. Stay positive and stay safe the good times will come back.

Check my YouTube Channel HERE

GEL-NIMBUS 23 Review

As an ASICS FrontRunner ASICS have gifted me a pair of the GEL-NIMBUS 23 to test out and review so here is my review.

So what is the ASICS GEL-NIMBUS?

The GEL-NIMBUS 23 shoe is a neutral shoe for both ladies and men and provides plenty of cushioning and comfort. This model is for a wide range of runners with neutral striking run technique and provides a bit of stability, comfort and is a solid sturdy shoe perfect for all abilities and for those long runs. However these aren’t light and if you like lighter shoes this model may not be for you. For me it’s a good shoe but not my preferred shoe of choice. The NIMBUS has been going for some time now and is classed as a reliable running shoe and is one of ASICS popular models for all abilities but remains a very popular shoe amongst beginners.

ASICS state: The GEL-NIMBUS™ 23 running shoe continues to offer excellent comfort and long-run impact absorption. Its improved stability provides a more balanced stride that’s followed by smoother transitions. Constructed with comfort and breathability in mind, the upper features a softer engineered mesh design for long runs. Engineered eyelet shaping helps the upper move more naturally with the foot, while a stretchy midfoot panel appropriately hugs the foot to generate better flexibility. Providing the runner with excellent shock absorption and softness, the GEL-NIMBUS™ 23 delivers more compression in the heel thanks to its softer GEL™ technology cushioning unit and contoured design lines. Also, a gender-specific TRUSSTIC™ device provides an articulated amount of support in the right direction for men and women to help generate a smooth transition. Under the toe, the inclusion of gender-specific pillars help cushion the body and help runners experience a softer feel. Simultaneously, the ORTHOLITE™ X-55 sockliner equips runners with a forgiving, yet responsive stride. The components of the GEL-NIMBUS™ 23 shoe help increase the softness without forgoing the integrity of the shoe’s ride. The 23rd version of the GEL-NIMBUS™ continues to make advancements within the lineage by offering improved support and comfort for distance runners.

Some key features of the GEL-NIMBUS include:

•             ENGINEERED MESH UPPER IMPROVES BREATHABILITY

•             GEL™ TECHNOLOGY CUSHIONING

•             TRUSSTIC™ TECHNOLOGY IMPROVES STABILITY

•             FLYTEFOAM™ PROPEL TECHNOLOGY CUSHIONING INCREASES IMPACT ABSORPTION AND RESPONSIVENESS

•             FLYTEFOAM™ TECHNOLOGY CUSHIONING

•             ASICS LITE RUBBER OUTSOLE IMPROVES DURABILITY

•             ORTHOLITE™ X-55 SOCKLINER IMPROVES STEP-IN COMFORT

•             REFLECTIVE ACCENTS IMPROVE VISIBILITY IN LOW-LIGHT CONDITIONS

•             3D SPACE CONSTRUCTION IMPROVES COMPRESSION AT FOOTSTRIKE

What is new compared to the previous models?

A few minor upgrades have been produced; the Gel cushioning allows the heel to have more expansion which allows for a softer and more absorbing foot strike feeling as well as the laces being adapted slightly to allow a more foot flexibility as well as making it a more comfortable shoe.

So how does it compare?

The shoe weighs 309 grams so it’s not one of ASICS light shoes. The material allows your feet to breath and it appears light weight and very similar to other ASICS models. The laces are normal running laces with the tongue being quite excessive. The tongue is bulky but provides that comfort you’re after. It’s the same for the heel quite thick but provides that little stability you are after inside. The grip appears to be slightly different to the previous model and feels very robust and a solid shoe that again will provide some stability when running. You will definitely be able to get plenty of mileage from this shoe because I believe it is built to last a long time. When putting the shoe on there was plenty of room for my foot and felt like a perfect fit. What I found was it was very comfortable and the heel and tongue made it feel like it was giving me some stability as well as giving me that comfort. What I did notice as mentioned before is that they are slightly heavier than my other trainers but of course I use light shoes more.

I took the Gel-NIMBUS out for a long run of around 60 minutes and had no problems at all, no sore toes from hitting the front of the shoe; I always go up around half a size anyway. I found the shoe very responsive to my easier runs while maintaining that comfortable feeling and feeling like the shoe is giving me more support than my normal models I use. However when I took it for a speed test it certainly maintained that comfortable feeling with my foot and supporting my foot. But I found it was not a very responsive shoe for speed training but that’s ok as that’s not the GEL-NIMBUS purpose. I do see that they do a light version and would love to try those and compare those.

Conclusion: It is a very popular shoe model in the ASICS range that caters for all abilities. This shoe is built to last in regards to running lots of mileage in them; the way the shoe is designed is to be sturdy & robust to give you that stability as well as comfort. I believe the Gel-Nimbus is a perfect shoe if you’re looking at doing plenty of miles in them and long runs, with stability while keeping your feet comfortable. Lets face it, keeping your feet comfortable is important and if that is your main aim then this is the shoe for you. However it is a heavier shoe and for me it’s not a training or race shoe for speed work, but that’s not the purpose of this shoe -you need to look at another shoe model if you want speed.  If you have been happy with previous versions, then I am pretty sure you will like the 23. I think it’s better than the last version and a sturdy running shoe for long runs.

Check out my YouTube Video review HERE

No races? Two key things to work on!

Its been such a strange year and it is still very much uncertainty across the world. COVID-19 has affected us all this year with lockdown and one by one races being cancelled. Travel plans, training, daily life all changed and we had to adapt in these uncertain times.

For me, everything was gearing up for the 2020 European Sprint Triathlon Championships in Malmo which was scheduled for August. Despite lockdown and being restricted to going out once a day for exercise and essentials I was very much on track for this race. With my coaches we decided that with the pools shut it was a good opportunity to work even more on the bike. Although I had been training more on the bike, coach Mark Shepard said this was a great time to work more on the bike to improve. So with no swimming I did more bike sessions and also Craig Coggle, my strength coach, focused on land base workouts to keep those swim muscles going.

Despite all of this, I had a gut feeling the whole year would be a write-off – I didn’t panic because it was out of my control and the main thing was to stay safe. The European Championships had been moved a year and in the same week British Triathlon cancelled all qualifiers and National championships. As soon as I heard this Mark told me to have two weeks off and do what I fancied with no plan and all easy training – I did and really enjoyed it.

This mentally helped me so much with not knowing what was going to happen in future months; it was also time not to over train and just enjoy my hobby more and tick along.

We then ramped the training up once we came out of lockdown and focused on races towards the end of the year. I managed to race 4 times with 2 wins and a 2nd place, I also managed a PB and a course record but this was off the back of consistent training and not over doing it. It was a short season for me and now I am having a break and time out for a few weeks from training. But the key is not to get carried away with more time on your hands.

Of course no training is a waste because it has so many heath benefits so it is important to keep going and not give up. The problem is though with another lockdown in force, people will have more time on their hands. This will have a negative effect on training, with more time on your hands and if you are like me, you will want to train more and more but that’s not the way to go. The great saying is too much of a good thing is a bad thing. As a result you risk burning out, getting long term injuries and giving up with no goals. So I have two key things that you should focus on while in lockdown/winter.

Make a long term goal – this is very important in keeping you motivated. It can be anything from wanting to start running to running a marathon in a certain time. Now the key is not to over train but be patient, work towards it slowly and that way your see the progress. Have structured recovery weeks, rest days (rest means total rest) and test yourself regularly to see where you are so that you can work towards your goal. I have written it many times before that easy running means easy and can improve you a lot so don’t think that you have to run fast all the time. A well balance program has more easy sessions than tough sessions.

The second is work on something over lockdown/winter. Something that you have not focused on before. This can be a weakness of yours and you can improve a lot from working on that weakness. I improved a lot on the bike this year by working on that area. You can work on things like technique in running and swimming – this can make you more efficient and you can improve from this. Maybe you have neglected strength work and again that can make you faster but also keep the injuries away. Something I like working on during the winter is my running technique – I start doing more drills and focus on something like my arm drive. During easy runs I do a check of how I am running and seeing if I have gone back to bad habits. This doesn’t have to be a major thing it can be a little thing, but working on a weakness will give you great gains in the long term.

My conclusion is that no training is a waste but you need to be smart in your training and don’t over do it. Base training and easy training is the way forward and once you have a race that is going ahead you can ramp up the intensity. Having a long term goal will keep you motivated and training – that works for me. Always work on a weakness to improve; something people ignore and just like to stay in their comfort zones. Stay safe over this winter and keep working on your goals and move forward as we will beat this.

Is this the next game changer shoe?

I could not wait to get my hands on these shoes. I have never been so excited to get my hands on a pair of shoes. Before these shoes went on the market they already started breaking records. Jan Frodeno breaking the Ironman record and Eilish McColgan breaking the great south run record just on the prototypes. Originally, they were due to be released for the Paris Marathon, but got postponed due to COVID-19.  Let me introduce you to the METARACER by ASICS.

ASICS gifted me a pair of the METARACERS and here is my review. The running world has gone mad recently, since we saw the marathon record being broken in carbon plate shoes. ASICS have had these quietly in the background, being tested by the professionals and is there answer on taking on its rivals in the carbon shoe war. It’s no question that records are being broken with carbon plate shoes and they are a game changer for sure, there is no doubt. At first I thought it was hyped up but looking in more detail, if you want to run faster then a carbon shoe can be the way forward?

Firstly, ASICS state: The METARACER™ Tokyo shoe is made for runners who want the most out of their fast-paced training and racing. Featuring a limited model offering, this iteration is displayed with a Sunrise Red colorway to symbolize and celebrate the city of Tokyo and the country of Japan. The upper is designed to capture as much airflow as possible, which helps keep feet cool. This cooling provided by the shoe means your body does not have to work as hard to keep you cool. The upper also has drainage ports to release any water that might get into the shoe. GUIDESOLE™ technology features an improved toe-spring shape. These two components are combined to reduce the movement of the ankle joint, helping runners save energy with each stride. Combined with a carbon fiber plate in the midsole, this shoe generates a rolling motion that actually propels the foot forward, producing a totally unique running experience. The METARACER™ Tokyo shoe with GUIDESOLE™ technology is designed to help you take your racing to the next level.

Designed for the neutral runner, with a heel drop of 9mm and weighs just 190 grams, it already makes it sound fast but is it?

ASICS have gone a different direction to its rivals making a carbon plate shoe by making it closer to the ground with a lower heel drop to give that curved sole, while using there FLYTEFOAM MIDSOLE technology.

So first impressions? The sunrise colour stands out for me, the colour is very bright and the black logo stands out. So the funky colour ticks the box for me, but it’s not about the colour. Firstly it felt light holding it; the tongue was very thin and no excess material. The material felt very light and breathable, the laces were very thin too. When looking under the shoe it has lots of rubber, which I guess is to make it last, unlike it’s rivals where you don’t get many miles on them. However they did not look like they had much grip and if it’s wet will it still be quick and not slip?

When putting them on the METARACER felt super light. Unlike the NOVABLAST they felt a lot lower on the ground and felt they are going to be quick, but are they? When testing them on my threshold run, I have to say I was very impressed and I now know the hype of these shoes. I did my threshold run and was trying to slow myself down but it felt hard to do so. I was running at a faster but very comfortable pace. When doing my run I had to run 4 miles at threshold and I thought I would struggle because I went off a bit too fast. It was wet too but I felt like I was bouncing and had loads of energy. In fact my heart rate was at least 7 beats down than normal for this session and I was running faster. I felt very strong and not tired at all, I finished the session buzzing because I didn’t feel tired and was so impressed with these shoes. The METARACER felt super light on when running. Doing a longer run they felt fine and quick, but I prefer not using racing shoes for longer runs.

What did I find from this shoe? I was feeling very fresh after my runs and I certainly believe that it does save energy as ASICS claim. What does that relate to in a racing environment? Well in theory you can run harder for longer and faster and you can therefore get that desired PB. The METARACER has been designed for Marathons but there is no reason at all why you wouldn’t run a 5k in these as they are so quick.

ASICS has its own GUIDESOLE technology in the midsole, which has a curved sole which will help you propel forward in a rolling motion. With the carbon plate inputted too this is designed to use less energy.

Conclusion – I am hugely impressed by this carbon plate shoe. Do I think I can run faster or PB in this shoe? well the answer is yes. Even with the grip underneath which I thought would be slippery in the rain was not and I was buzzing after my session. What impressed me is running at a faster pace, but at a lot lower heart rate. This proves to me that this is a game changer, super fast shoe. Ask my wife – she said I was praising this shoe so much. This will be a race shoe for me. However the question is how long will the shoe last? The extra rubber shows it should do but I don’t know.

Check out my YouTube review on this HERE

Making a training plan around your life

Scheduling training around your daily life commitments can be hard for a number of reasons, such as family commitments, working hours and so on. For me, it is very difficult because not only do I have a full time job and therefore work 5 days a week, I have to do all my training after work and around spending time with my wife, family and friends which is very tough. So I decided to write a blog aiming to help you structure your training plan, combining my knowledge as a running coach and my experience from being coached.

I am very lucky to be coached by great coaches; Mark Sheperd not only coaches me in my running and cycling he also manages the structure of my other training as to when I should do each session and discipline. John Wood and Carolyn Bond work on my swimming and Craig Coggle sorts out my strength training.

After being given my training sessions from my coaches, I sit down and look at a three to six week plan with the addition of an easier  4th/7th week that incorporates more rest. My plan is also my diary, so before I schedule any training I first write down all my commitments for that 7 week period so I can work around those.

With any plan you don’t want to go straight into hard training, so all my training starts off at my baseline and increases weekly for three weeks. The following three weeks I just maintain my training. Then, for the 7th week it’s an easier week with less reps and duration of training etc. In peak season I may change my plan to a three to four week plan, working around my races and getting plenty of recovery. Could this work for you? My advice here is that it’s important you get the right balance for you.

This schedule can be adapted depending on your goals. For instance, I’m training for triathlons and need to train in 3 disciplines: running, cycling and swimming. I also put 2 strength sessions into a week to prevent injuries and make me stronger. For me I need to fit in the following each week:

3-4 Runs

3-4 Swims

4 Bike sessions

2 Strength sessions

If I am struggling to fit in a session as my day hasn’t gone to plan, then I will try and reschedule it. If one day you’re struggling to follow your plan, try going out with the time you have, a short session is still better than nothing – but remember rest and recovery is key. Numerous research papers show that having a week off from training doesn’t do too much to your fitness but after that your fitness declines quickly. So as you can see I spend a lot of time training. I am looking at decreasing my running and swimming over the course of the year to focus more on the bike and improve in this area.

So I take my key sessions from each area and plot them on my plan. My key running sessions include one speed session and one long run. This is very similar to swimming, focussing on an aerobic speed session and one drill session. Once I have worked out my key sessions, I make sure that my hard sessions are followed up by easy sessions. I never have hard sessions together. Once I have prioritised these, I’ll schedule in other sessions. I always make sure that I get one day full rest a week and two for my recovery week. So hard days are hard and easy days are very easy and rest days mean rest and no exercise.

Sounds easy right? Well, then you need to figure out what you actually want to achieve in each session. For example, no point me putting in four easy runs if I want to get faster. Once you have the basics of the plan you can then ask yourself what your end goal is. Just because it’s in the plan it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do it because life happens. If you are planning for a marathon you will want to do longer speed reps than if you were running a 5k. For example at least two of my runs I run at 60% my heart rate max. The reason I run these is that it has been proven that running at a slower pace on your long runs increases your endurance and improves your efficiency which in time will make you faster. When running at this pace you’re also teaching your body to burn fat more than carbohydrates, which is a much better energy source to use. By doing these runs at this pace you also make your body recover quicker, so you can be ready to go again the next day for those hard sessions. For me, I used to find that I would go hard on my long runs and be very sore the next day, now with a slower pace my legs feel fresh the next day. Remember that the plan may always need to change, so be prepared to change things up regularly and just because it’s in the plan it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do it because life does get in the way.

With any plan make sure it’s aimed for your ultimate goal, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with small goals making the parts and once you put it altogether it should reach your ultimate goal. I like to set high targets and sometimes may not be able to achieve them. But having high targets makes you work towards them and train hard to get to them. So for example, some of my mini goals for this year included improve swimming, improve running times, PB in certain races etc. My main targets for 2019 was defending my National Aquathlon Championships, getting on the podium at the European Aquathlon Championships and focusing more on Triathlons. So it’s very important to think ahead for the year and not just short term. When putting together your plan make sure you have small targets, followed by one big goal. So if you are planning a marathon, for example, your training will build up to it including races leading up to it. That leads me on to the next part.

Whatever your goal is you need to build the plan for this. Most importantly, if it’s leading to one race I’d recommend that you find races that come in the lead up to it and use these as training runs. There can be a number of reasons why you chose races in your plan and these can be things like building up the race distance, experiencing the race atmosphere or maintaining your race pace within a competitive field.

Every session has a purpose, especially when your lifestyle leaves you with limited time. Make sure you know what you want to get out of every session. It might be as simple as running a mile and then next week increasing to two miles.

Finally, it is important to schedule a taper before your race so that you are fresh for your race. Tapering plays lots of mind games – phantom pains, questions such as “am I losing fitness?” etc. For a race such as the World Aquathlon Championships, personally, I will start bringing the following down over a course of weeks as it’s a big race for me. So for strength training the amount of sets I do gets reduced over a few weeks and on race week I don’t do a strength session. Running distance comes down but the intensity stays high. For example, if I normally do 6x1k reps I might do 4 with different paces. Long runs come down too, I do the similar thing for the bike and swimming. I don’t taper for every race but for my important races this is what I normally do. Again you have to find what works best for you.

Once you have done your plan you need to access it regularly and monitor if its working for you – whilst you’re testing things out, your plan will change a lot, so don’t feel like you have to stick to exactly what you’ve planned. You also need to assess yourself with tests during your plan – my plan will include a long run at the same heart rate and pace towards the end of my programme, so I can assess the data. I will do other assessments throughout too, this helps to gage if the plan is effective in improving areas where I want to improve.

Most of all if I can’t fit training in I just take my day off; rest is key and don’t worry about missed sessions, but having a plan helps you more than not having one. I have at least one day rest day in my weekly plan, this allows you to recover and get stronger and must not be neglected.

If you are interested in run coaching and planning, please check-out my coaching website HERE

Hope this blog is useful and please check my YOUTUBE channel HERE for more help and tips on training.

ASICS NOVABLAST Review

ASICS kindly sent me a pair of the new ASICS NOVABLAST™ to try and test out so here is my personal review.

So what is the ASICS NOVABLAST™? ASICS state: The NOVABLAST™ shoe is for neutral runners seeking a responsive running experience. This lightweight design includes our new FLYTEFOAM Blast™ midsole foam for an energetic bounce with each stride.

The outsole and midsole of the NOVABLAST™ shoe have been designed to accentuate the energized feeling of the FLYTEFOAM Blast™ technology, creating a “trampoline” effect that propels you forward. The NOVABLAST™ shoe is higher off the ground than most running styles, promoting improved comfort over long distances.

The shoes soft, lightweight Jacquard mesh upper delivers excellent airflow, keeping your feet cool and fresh throughout your run. Additionally, reflective details provide extra visibility in low-light conditions.

Put a bounce in your step with the new NOVABLAST™ performance running shoe and experience a soft and lightweight ride.

•             FLYTEFOAM Blast™ midsole foam

•             AHARPLUS™ Rubber outsole

•             ORTHOLITE lasting

•             Reflectivity

•             Engineered Jacquard Mesh

So how does it compare?

So I put the NOVABLAST through its paces. When unpacking them I liked the colour as they stood out; orange is a very attractive colour for me and ASICS have certainly got the colour styles on their shoes right lately. The shoe was actually surprisingly very light weight even though it looked bulky at the back end of the shoe. This shoe retails around £120 in the UK which makes it affordable compared to rival shoes and I feel you are getting a lot for your money.

The material feels light and allows your feet to breathe. The shoe felt very comfortable on and light as well. I found the laces to be a bit on the thick side and also the tongue felt as if it was a bit longer than it should be. This shoe is designed to help you get faster with no extra effort and provide energy saving.

So when wearing them it felt like I was a lot higher up from the ground and also just walking round with them you could feel a considerable difference with the shoe. With a heel drop of 10mm it will take some time to get used to.

I put it through its paces and ran some long runs. The NOVABLAST felt comfy and I quickly fell in love with this shoe. Not only did I love the colour, I found I was bouncing along and on my long runs I was running each mile quicker. My average pace seemed to be quicker when wearing these and my legs felt fresh too, so I do believe these shoes saved energy too. My longest run was just over 10 miles. I found my feet to be comfy. I then tried some speed sessions with it, 800m reps and 400m reps in a space of a couple of weeks. Now this is what impressed me – I was running my reps consistently quicker and they were my best sessions of late; even with the less speed training during COVID-19. I was so impressed by this latest shoe I believe it’s a game changer and ASICS have set a base for what the future holds in the run shoe market.

Conclusion I am very impressed with these – the design and colour are perfect for me. I would like to see some small changes to the laces and the tongue. I believe this is game changer and I am using these regularly on my runs. I believe they are good for up to Half Marathon distance, I am torn between whether they are quick for shorter distances and whether the energy saving return is enough in those races but it certainly seems there is something there. So I would recommend this for long runs and even speed sessions. I much prefer this to the EVORIDE. CHECK OUT MY REVIEW ON YOUTUBE HERE

Mistakes people make with their training.

At the start of a new year people set new goals and the common goals are things like achieving PB’s, first marathon/triathlon, get active, weight loss and so on. Which is no problem at all, however some of the common mistakes made are as follows.

Many people start off by not doing strength training or never do it. This is a common mistake as many people believe they will gain weight or bulk up from strength training which is not the case; not only does strength training keep injuries to a minimal it makes you stronger, improves your running form, economy and efficiently. Therefore with consistent training, it will make you faster. These are just some of the benefits.

Goals take time and one key problem is people do not allow enough time to achieve or work towards their goals. If I said in 2012 when I couldn’t swim and set a goal for that year to win the European Aquathlon Championships in my age group I would of just got injured and given up; so goals take years and good planning. Runners are the worst as they always tend to do too much too soon and cram all their training in a short time-frame. One of the common things I see with people is that they over train; many people believe they need to train every day because if they don’t they will lose their fitness. That’s not the case – rest is key in your training program and to improve your body needs to recover and rebuild to get stronger. I am not saying weekly rest periods, I am going along the lines of at least a day or two of full rest each week.

A good training program will have a recovery structure in place and this is also a common mistake people make. People training all year round don’t get enough recovery weeks in or even a rest from training to rebuild physically and mentally. In my training I have one day rest a week at least, that means no training at all. When I have a big race coming up I taper the weeks leading to the race. At the end of each season I have 2 weeks off training and slowly come back.

Injuries can be hard on you and they are mentally tough as you just want the injury to get better and carry on with what you love doing. Sometimes a few days rest does the trick and does nothing to your fitness, even a week off helps and again doesn’t really affect your fitness levels. I have had a week off in the past with injuries and gone on to PB in a race – the key is to listen to your body. After a week of no training your fitness starts to drops and if you have two weeks off you lose a lot of your fitness. However the common mistake is people get injured and they jump straight back into their training instead of building it back up.

Many people do not stretch. Stretching keeps muscles flexible. We need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight and will cause injuries. I stretch every morning when I wake up, after exercise and every evening before I go to sleep. This should be an important factor in your training and daily activities.

Deep in thought haha

Over training – most people over train and I did this in the past. People get fixed on times and having to run a certain pace and I see it all the time things like “ bad run aborted today” , “pace went well for the first few miles then struggled and dropped off” etc. Sound familiar? That’s a sign of over training – a bad run can’t keep happening every day. I always go by hard days hard and easy days easy. My hard days are hard and that’s only twice a week with the easy days taking up four days of my training. For example, people run their long easy runs too hard – long runs have a purpose to make you more efficient but you need to run slow. So I run nearly two minutes slower per mile then my 5k pace, legs should feel fresh the following day and in theory should be therefore able to train hard the following day. It does amaze me the amount of people I tell as a coach you are running to fast in your long runs and they don’t believe me and get injured. Doing the slow runs too fast is very common amongst runners as they believe that running faster will make you go faster. That is the case for speed sessions but if you are running fast all the time the body breaks down and even running at a moderate pace is wrong and hinders your progress. The problem is that running slow isn’t natural for people, I run slow a lot and you can read my old blog about running slow and heart rate running HERE

Doing training because it’s on the plan when you’re not feeling great or unwell is not a good sign. You need to listen to your body and be flexible with training and prepare to adjust, don’t feel like you have to do it. I have been out for runs where I haven’t felt great so I have stopped, cut short or even run at a slower pace. An unplanned run won’t make much difference to your fitness. Just be prepared to change things round as many things can get in the way with training in daily life.

Not looking at mistakes or changing training up is a common mistake. Lots of people do the same training they did the following year for and expect a PB. For example because you followed a marathon plan one year and done well with it, it doesn’t necessary mean you will improve this time round. The body gets used to your training and if you don’t change it around and push yourself you will plateau and perhaps even go backwards. Copying what others do and trying to do what they do will likely not work for you – what works for them may not necessary work work for you. So it’s important to change your training up so it suits you and build into it.

I hope this has helped, these are some common mistakes people make in training, I have done them in the past and it’s important to assess and change your training up regularly. Just because it worked before doesn’t mean it will work again.

Please check out my YouTube channel for training tips and product reviews HERE

Are you over training now during lockdown?

With countries around the world going into lockdown and some allowing you to go out for one form of exercise a day, this has also resulted in an increase of people over training because of having more time on their hands – could you be falling into this trap?

It is unlikely there will be any races until the end of the summer. Many people are not adjusting their training such as carrying on running high mileage for October marathons, too many runs etc. People are now thinking they can fit more training in and therefore will fall into this trap and will neglect training as a result.

My advice is don’t be tempted, it might seem like a good idea to do more during lockdown but you are going to risk an injury, and potentially get ill when this is the time when you need your immune system to not be suppressed because of what’s going on at the moment.  So I have come up with some tips that will help not to over train and how to stay strong and fit during this period. So here are some tips I am using in my training.

Firstly, scale back your training – for example, if you were running long periods of time, scale it back. A 60 minute easy run will help you a lot instead of a 2 hour run. Focus on something else so instead of doing a lot of hard session’s cut that down and replace it with easy zone 2 heart rate sessions. This way you can work on your efficiency and form. Zone 2 training has so many benefits and makes you faster. You won’t lose fitness, maybe a little speed but that will come back quickly when you train again for races when this is over. Do not use the excuse I was told I can do one exercise a day so I am going to run or cycle for a long period of time. For example, in my training I can’t swim as the pools as they are all shut now. So I have replaced my swim sessions with just one bike session & a strength session. For my running, I run four times a week with two easy and two hard sessions. I am now doing minimal speed work and running in zone 2 and therefore in total doing less training.

Rest is so important and I can’t stress how important this is and is neglected so much by people. Rest means rest, yes nothing at all. Recovery runs, rides, easy strength work etc is not rest. Rest is crucial in every plan and is when your body recovers, rebuilds and gets stronger. At least one rest day will help so much because it improves you and you make a lot of gains and keeps injuries away.

Eat healthy and try to stay out of the cupboards and fridge. If you’re like me and eat a lot it’s hard not to over eat when stuck in doors. So you need to discipline yourself so you don’t over eat. Stick to your normal eating routine and maybe add some extra fruit to boost your immune system. Eating the right nutrients and food is so important as your body absorbs these more than rubbish foods.

Focus on your weaknesses, so now is the time to work on your weaknesses and things you have neglected in the past. So for running it could be working on drills and form so it improves your running technique. In swimming, working on those swimming muscles doing land bases work that you never usually do. Cycling – if you’re like me and it’s my weakest, working more on that to improve. So there is a lot you can do.

Hope you find this helpful, it’s important we stay positive, stay safe and keep moving as we can beat this together. Don’t fall into the trap of over training, it’s fine to scale back to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Of course it’s important for our health and well being to get out, my training has been adapted and hopefully I will get to races later in the year. Now is the time to scale back and work on your weaknesses; you won’t go backwards you will get stronger.

Check out my YouTube Channel I have videos on there which will help you with you training HERE

Your race was cancelled? Stay Calm, stay positive -tips to keep your training going.

There is something at the moment on the news and around the world that we can’t escape – that of course is the Coronavirus. This virus has caused chaos around the world, with countries struggling to control this and some countries even going into a lockdown. Many events so far have been cancelled, clubs postponing training until further notice and so on. It is tough times and a situation none of us expected or have gone through in our lives. So I have written a blog on how to safely keep fit and motivated and what you can do if you’re in lockdown and can’t leave the house to maintain some sort of fitness.

As an athlete and Interim Head Coach for Canterbury Harriers I share your frustration with all your training and plans up in the air; please note that no training is a waste. Being part of clubs has changed my life and helped my health and wellbeing and mentally, I have made lots of friends too, so it will be hard for a lot of us through this difficult time.

Firstly we must listen to guidelines set by the government so that this can pass quickly. It’s important to stay calm, stay positive and keep moving forward – we can beat this together. If you are struggling for motivation just do something even if it’s just for 10 minutes – such as a short run. If you’re not feeling it after 10 minutes stop, but it’s likely you will stay out much longer whatever you do.

Like many of you my targets, goals and season plans are now all up in the air, training was going well getting ready for my first important race in May and then the virus struck. It’s ok to feel disappointment about races being cancelled and goals not achieved, but we are all in this together.

Safety is so important so I will do what I have to do to stay well and safe. So with races being cancelled, parkrun cancelled, clubs runs cancelled etc  I therefore had to change my training up as it would be too early to peak for the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in August and not knowing if that will go ahead. Don’t think your training has gone to waste because your race was cancelled. No training is a waste, firstly by training you’re looking after your health and wellbeing (both physical and mental) boosting your immune system and keeping fit. So it’s important to keep training if it’s safe outside alone or indoors.

The pools and leisure centres have now closed in the UK. So how can you maintain your swim fitness? Well the problem is unless you have your own pool, it will be a tough one, so you could work more on another area such as running and cycling and focusing more on that. I started swimming in 2012 and have really swam consistently since with only a few weeks off from it each year from my end of season break, so like many of you it looks like long periods of not swimming is on the cards. However a lot of swim training is also done in the gym where you can also do this at home. Swimmers call this land base training; you can do a lot at home, even if you don’t have any equipment. If you already go to the gym you will likely being doing some of these exercises below to make you stronger and keep injuries to the minimal.

So things like Press Ups, Sit Ups, V Sit Ups, Planks, Side Planks, Jumping Lunges, Dead Bug, Tread the Needle,  Alkeanas, Glute Bridge, Shoulder Wall Slides will help you for your core and swimming. If you have a resistance band you can do Dead Bugs with a band and that will help your core and give your arms some resistance. You could add Squats; now don’t overdo it but you can produce a circuit such as Press Ups, Sit Ups and Planks x10 reps of each and then do 3 sets and maybe add Squats, Sit Ups, Dead Bug in the same format. There is plenty of strength videos online that will keep you strong and with some small cardio workout. Just make sure when searching the internet you look at the right form and copy it as you don’t want to get injured and the workout must be what you think will help you. So not going to the gym isn’t bad at all, for runners and cyclists you could even add a few more things in like Squats, Clams and Scissors. You can Google these and find them on YouTube.

The above can be done without weights and if you have got weights you can use weights for some. So you can see there is a lot you can do without equipment. This will help with your strength and some fitness.

What about running? Well this very much depends if you are allowed out your home-  the UK government has put in restrictions that you can exercise once a day outside your home such as a run alone or with a family member from your household.  If you have a treadmill then you can pretty much do all your runs on the treadmill no problem. If you are allowed out the house then you can go running and you do your own session but maintaining a safe distance from the public.

If you only run with your club then you might need some sessions. Good sessions I like are mile reps 3×1 mile rep with 3 minutes recovery between the reps and a warm up and warm down either side, easy runs and long runs will get you through too, but I am sure you know what sessions you can do. If you don’t have a treadmill and not allowed out the house but can get into the garden perhaps you can run up and down your garden? If it’s to small what about doing drills and working on your running form? Good drills I like are high knees, A steps, heel flicks, strides; these will help your form a lot but of course your running fitness won’t be the same.

It’s important your training does not go stale so just because you’re not training with others or racing you can change your training up. If you want to do easy runs, time on feet is a good way to train. You could increase you runs by 6-9 minutes each week for three weeks and then hold for three weeks so for example if you start from 60 minutes then go 1 hour 6 minutes, 1 hour 12 minutes, 1 hour 18 minutes and hold that 1:18 for two weeks. Then have a recovery week cutting back to 60 minute runs or less. Easy runs should be easy and don’t worry about pace – the slower the better makes you more efficient and faster in the long run.

A rough guide on heart rate zones is around 60% of your heart rate max no higher – any higher you’re over training into different zones such as going in to threshold zone. Easy runs in theory should give you fresh legs not sore at all the following day and you can then run hard. If you don’t know your heart rate max, zone 2 is the right zone, it might feel slow but your body adapts and pace will come down my coach Mark Sheperd always stresses the importance of zone2 training. When you do have a recovery week keep the intensity the same but reps low. For example if you normally do 6x1k reps then cut that down to 3 to 4 reps. If you want to stay connected with people which is so important, you could have mini competitions with friends via Strava for example, that can help with motivation.

Lastly cycling – this can be done easily indoors with your bike/exercise bike. Your bike will need a turbo trainer or rollers – you can pick them up cheap now and you can do training just like you would outdoors, there are plenty of programs you can follow and even virtual rides will keep motivation and even hook up with friends and training buddies online for some friendly competition.

That’s how you can still train but you need to keep motivated.  There are a few things you can do.   A simple option is to have a recovery week, use this time to think about what you want to achieve and focus on in the coming months. There is nothing worse than pounding your body all year round and then only resting once you’re broken.

Remember that somebody believes in you. This somebody could be a coach, manager, trainer, fellow athlete or loved one. They will have the belief in your ability that you currently may not have. There is no harm in asking them for reassurances.

Think in positive ways at all times. Positivity can be developed by assessing training each day and competition sessions. Assess your own positivity through forms of achievement through technique, practice and movement. Thinking positively leads to better mind and body balance. Positive thinking enables the neural pathways within the mind to operate with clarity and purpose.

Understand that it can be done. Embark on each task as a champion by having a clear and defined plan. Achieve your task step by step. Do not take on a big task and expect to complete it quickly. Have patience and believe in yourself.

Stay in control of the controllable. Maintaining the controllable builds self-confidence because it provides you with a sense of focus and directive. Remember that you can never control what others are thinking/doing but you can control what you are achieving. There are a range of variables within running that can lead to performers losing sight of the controllable. External factors/influences will only hinder performance and must be beaten.

Recall previous success. A mantra that I use is related to distance travelled. Think about previous successes that you have had. What did that feel like? How were your emotions during this time? Further, how confident did that make you feel? Recall is a positive mechanism to enable one to re-build confidence as it associates with belief.

Set short-term goals. Most athletes suffer from low self-confidence because they allow the issue(s) to prolong and as a consequence fail to deal with problems head on. To overcome these issues, set short-term goals that will enable the flow of confidence (no matter how small) to start. Through constantly achieving your short-term goals you will build your levels of self-confidence like a snowball growing bigger. Short-term goals should be related to processes that can be achieved.

The world Situation is bad however, exercise wise it’s not all bad, you have lots of options with what you can do now that facilities are closed.  I believe it’s important to keep smiling, keep positive in order to move forward as we can beat this but most importantly stay safe. Motivation might be tough but I hope the tips help, setting small goals each week and taking each day as it comes in this climate is a good way to go. I will be posting videos to help with training on my YouTube Channel link HERE please check it out and subscribe.

Difference between swimming in a pool and open water!

There are many obvious differences between swimming in the pool and open water but I am going to discuss some differences between the two to help you with your swimming. You may be a strong pool swimmer but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be strong at open water swimming.

Pool swimming is safer than open water purely because you are in a confined area and normally people and lifeguards are near you.  So the fear of being unsafe is mainly taken away and with many pools now you can touch the bottom at both ends. There are many benefits from training in the pool to stop you from being bored doing laps and to help you improve.

The first thing you can do is accurate reps which you can time/pace and see your improvement each week. Depending on the length of the pool you can have a set plan that will help you in your training. You can take equipment; most pools allow this. If you want to improve its important not to just get in the pool and swim endless lengths at the same speed as improvement won’t come. Doing reps using pull buoys and paddles can help you get stronger, faster and become more buoyant. Swimming equipment is harder to use in the sea .Drills can easily be done in the pool due to no waves or current. In open water it will be more difficult. These are three areas that are important in the pool. When it comes down to the race day such as a Triathlon/Aquathlon in the pool it’s pretty easy as there is no open water fear and it feels safer. The only problem with pool races is that you’re not really racing others as it is mainly a timed event and you go off one by one.

With open water swimming there is a lot to consider but also so many benefits. Safety wise – depending where you do the open water swimming you need to consider if it’s safe. For example I swim in the sea but if the tide is really rough there is no way I am going to swim. Even in the summer I will use my wetsuit swimming in the sea as I feel much safer and buoyant with it on. Now with open water you can’t really do drills because of the unpredictability of waves. Reps times might be different due to cross tides and weather etc. So one week you might be flying along and the next struggling to move. Also, using equipment such as pull buoy and kick board will be a lot harder. People are put off with open water with the fear of something happening to them. Most seafronts have designated areas to swim which have lifeguards and the same with lakes and rivers.

The benefits of open water swimming is that it can improve you a lot, help with breathing purely because of the random waves etc. You get stronger because you are swimming against current rather than a pool where there is not current. Sea swimming is good for the skin and is proven to also help with recovery due to the salt in the water. If you are swimming in the sea it’s always good to mix up the pace and have a plan, instead of just getting in and swimming at one pace. The temperature of the water, depending on the time of the year you swim, may not be higher than 19 degrees towards the end of summer. September is normally the warmest time to swim in the year, whereas pool temperatures are kept high to around 28 degrees all year round. Air temperature can play a factor such as it can be a cold day in September but the temperature of the sea water can be warmer than air temperature which can affect your breathing. The body works harder in open water due to it being colder than the pool. You cannot stand up in the middle of a lake or sea, whereas you can in the pool. The chances are if you swim in UK in open water you are likely not to see anything from a few cms away.

In open water, you will need to keep an eye out of where you are, whereas in a pool you won’t need to because once you get to the end of the pool you turn back. In race day in open water you normally all go off at the same time so my advice would be if it’s your first time racing in open water stay away from the middle and keep to the edge. Open water races scare people because they fear it for many reasons, but my advice would be to practice there before your race to get used to it.

These are some tips and differences which I hope helps.