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.

A study on different exercise bouts result in different physiological and performance responses

So I was approached while doing my speed reps on the track in Canterbury back in the summer by a guy called Antonis Kesisoglou who asked if I could be on his research project for his publication. I have been on a few tests before mentioned in previous blogs that have helped me to improve. So when he asked me if I wanted to help, I couldn’t say no. I was preparing for the European Aquathlon Championships so I had to wait until my season had ended to go on this test while I was still in great shape for it; we didn’t want to disturb training beforehand. Antonis said he wanted to test me as I had a world class engine, I am not sure I agree with that but I know I had good fitness levels and met the criteria of being able to run 1,500m sub 5 minutes. Antonis is from the University of Kent and is a Dr in Sports and Science, he comes from a strength and conditioning background and has coached Olympians.

So more about the study….

Antonis was conducting a study to examine how different exercise bouts result in different physiological and performance responses. Current models provide disproportional estimates of training stress especially when comparisons are made between very short and intensified bouts, to long and moderate effort activities. In this study, he wants to examine whether a running performance exercise bout (1,500 meters time-trial) is a valid model for assessing training stress imposed by different durations and intensities of exercise. It is his aim to improve existing methods for calculating training load, where the duration of the exercise bout is not overemphasized.

Visit 1 included a two-phases ramp incremental (Phase 1- Lactate thresholds determination, Phase 2- Determination of VO2max) test  for assessment of the maximal aerobic power output on a treadmill ergometer. For phase 1, I was asked to perform 4 or 5 submaximal bouts lasting for 5 minutes, with 1 minute of rest in between. Measurements of blood lactate were collected during the 1 minute rest bouts, and Phase 1 was to terminate when my blood lactate concentration levels elevate above 4 mmol.L-1 (i.e my second lactate threshold- MLSS). With 15 minutes of rest in between, I was asked to re-start running at a speed -3 km.h-1 of my final speed in phase one. For example if my final speed at phase 1 was 16 km.h-1,  I would be asked to start stage 2 at 13 km.h-1. Treadmill speed then increases by 1 km/h-1,  till the point that I cannot run further (i.e cannot keep up with the speed increments). Once phase 2 is completed, I was asked to provide my last lactate sample. With 40 minutes of rest in between, I was then asked to perform a 1,500 meters time-trial for familiarization purposes. (e.g the speed was regulated by me, whilst I attempted to cover the given distance as fast as possible).

Visit 2 included a standardized warm-up (see details for warm-up protocol below), followed by a 1,500 meters time-trial. I was instructed to cover the given distance on an all-weather synthetic track surfacing in the shortest time possible. This exercise bout was used as my performance trial (e.g my best running performance). 

At visit 3, I was asked to perform a 12-minutes time-trial running, followed by a 1,500 meters time-trial (with 5 minutes recovery in between).

In visit 4, I was asked to perform a 12 minutes maximum effort, self-paced, intermittent running bout. The work-to-rest ratio lasted for 60 seconds. Work ratio was fixed in terms of distance. In other words, I was asked to run a maximal effort of 150 meters and recover for the remaining part of the minute. After 5 minutes of recovery, I was asked to perform a 1,500 meters time-trial.

In visit 5, I was asked to perform a self-paced moderate, continuous running which lasted for 25 minutes, followed by a 1,500 meters time-trial (with 5 minutes recovery in between). The intensity that I ran was regulated via the 0-10 RPE scale. As such, my 25 minutes run had to reflect to a 7 out of 10 intensity (hard/heavy intensity).

Lastly, visit 6 consisted of a 25 minutes, moderate self-paced running, intermittent running bout. The work-to-rest lasted for 60 seconds, with the work distance fixed,  similarly to visit 3. Again, a 5 minutes of recovery was provided, prior to a 1,500 meters time-trial. Similarly to visit 4, I had to regulate the intensity via the 0-10 RPE scale, so it reflects to a 7 out of 10 intensity (hard/heavy intensity).

For all visits, no verbal encouragement was provided or feedback regarding how I performed each trial (i.e how much time I had run or how much I had left).  I was also asked to wear a chest strap transmitter interfaced via short range telemetry with a wrist unit (Polar V800, Polar Electro, Kempele, Finland), which displayed my heart rate responses in beats per minutes and helped to measure my running speed. Alongside real-time cardiac assessment, I was asked to answer some questionnaires prior, during and after the completion of the exercise. For example, in visits 2-5, I was asked to subjectively rate the workload I had perceived between the 1st and the 2nd bout of exercise (I.e immediately after the cessation of the 1st bout). I was asked to rate how I experienced the first exercise bout and provide a number from 0 to 20 for the six following categories:  Mental Demand, Physical Demand, Temporal Demand, Performance, Effort and Frustration.

Alongside with NASA-TLX, I was asked to answer another scale for assessing training load (I.e how hard was my session). In particular, I was asked to subjectively rate the intensity of my 1st exercise bout via the usage of the RPE 0-10 scale (Borg et al., 1987). My potential motivation was assessed prior to all 1,500m time-trials, via the usage of a 0-9 analogue scale (0 =Not motivated at all, 9 = Very motivated to do well). Lastly, my perception of effort (I.e how hard do I feel the task?) was assessed via the 6–20 Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale (Borg, 1998) during exercise. I was asked to verbally answer how hard I perceived the task every minute for all 1,500m time-trials, while all the rest exercise bouts I was asked every 2 minutes.

In all visits, I was asked to wear a mask for analysing my ventilation, in other words how much oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and total volume of air (VE) I breath in and out every second. This happened in the lab (visit 1) and at the field via the usage of a portable analyser (Visits 2-6). Antonis said that usually people feel the mask a bit tight in the beginning but this piece of equipment is designed for maximal tests in the laboratory and the field, so it would not limit your breathing rate or create feelings of anxiety. At the beginning of each visit, a standardized warm-up was provided for all visits. In particular, I was asked to perform the following self-paced routine, where intensity was regulated via the 6-20 RPE scale (Borg, 1982) in the following order: 800 meters of jog (RPE 9-11), 800 meters of run (RPE 13-15) and 400 meters of intermittent running (100 meters of  RPE 18-20: 100 meters RPE 9-11). My total time commitment for this study was no longer than 7 hours.

Is there anything I needed to do before each visit?

Before each visit I was told I should:

•             Avoid heavy sessions the day prior to the test. Easy/light sessions are okay.

•             Not exercise on the morning of the test or warm-up prior to the test (warm-up will be included in testing sessions).

•             Please make sure you bring appropriate sport clothing with you.

•             Eat and drink the same food in the 24 hours before the test.

•             Eat at least in the 3 hours immediately before the test.

•             Abstain completely from caffeine and alcohol in the 24 hours before all visits.

•             Tell Antonis if you currently have or you recently had an injury or illness of any kind.

Have you taken all this on board? It does seem a bit complex but it’s not too bad once you are doing the study. So what did we find for me…

We found my V02 max was higher than previous tests and therefore I saw an improvement here. My Lactate threshold took longer this time before I dropped the speed. Due to my aerobic training throughout the year I had developed an engine that made me more efficient and therefore able to sustain a faster pace longer. When sitting down and discussing how to improve this area there was a few suggestions to help. One I found interesting was that I could drop one easy long run in favour for a bike session to improve there, or if I want to improve my running speed I would need to hit my intervals at a harder pace than normal and to have shorter recoveries. So in the hindsight I need to improve my anaerobic system and running harder would help improve this. So this is something I will put in to place in my training.

What else did we find?

•             Immediately after warm-up, use some exercises to activate gluteus min and max, as well as oblique’s activation. That will help you with posture and stability when bounding (I.e light form of a Plyometric activity).

With Antonis being a strength coach he found a weakness with my hip so I will be focusing on improving this.

•             Guide you training by feeling (RPE scale). It is currently one of the best way to guide your training.

So to be purely guided by feel and not to be a slave on what my watch says, this is something I have been practising a lot and I know that feel is much better than going by what your watch says.

•             A short, high intensity interval training session an it’s effects on how your body feeling the day after, cannot be accurately estimated via wearables.

•             Use a training log, apart from wearables. Use the NASA-TLX scale for monitoring your sessions (as well as the SRPE). It’s a promising tool for exercise monitoring

•             Keep an eye on your speed sessions, alongside your HR responses

•             Remember that in 2 sessions resulting the same total work, the one which is performed in a intermittent way is always harder than in a constant way.

•             When a session is performed in a maximum effort (I.e 10/10), the effects of exercise duration plays a minimum role. A 10 minutes all-out and a 20-minutes all-out session will result similar decrements in a subsequent performance.

As you can see we found a lot of things to work on and help to improve my running. I found the study tough in certain visits such as the 10 minute TT followed by the 1,500m TT but different and very enjoyable. However what we did find was that I was very good at pacing and going by feel. In conclusion every study I have been on I have learnt something new in order to make me improve. I think any study is beneficial and even if you only implement one suggestion into your training you can improve from it. I am looking forward to seeing how it plans out.

GEL NOOSA 12 REVIEW

ASICS kindly sent me a pair of the new GEL-NOOSA Tri 12 to try and test out so here is my personal review.

So what is the GEL-NOOSA Tri 12? 

ASICS claim that this shoe boasts both lightweight and breathable qualities, making it the perfect shoe for the everyday tri-runner. Designed for triathletes and triathletes Like Gwen Jorgensen who inspired me wore the older models so I was very interested to see if these where any good?

Some of the key features include:

  • GEL-NOOSA Tri 12 maintains its unique design which you see in previous models whilst incorporating humancentric science and advanced technology to provide runners with energised cushioning for the fastest ride.
  • The shoe is designed for a neutral runner and features the ASICS Flytefoam cushioning technology to provide a fast and energetic ride.
  • Fitted with Caterpy laces on the tongue and heel to provide an easy-on for the shoe and a no-tie option, which gives runners a superior fit for their run and a quick transition.
  • Quick to get on which includes stretchy knit and reinforcement in the underlay to provide an extremely comfortable fit.
  • Breathable & Lightweight

ASICS state these features have been upgraded from previous models:

UPPER:

● New russel mesh material allows the upper to maintain durability and provides ventilation and a softer feel.

MIDSOLE:

● FLYTEFOAM™ technology midsole material is lighter and more durable than traditional mid-sole foams. This is ASICS’ lightweight mid-sole material giving you a soft, supportive feel.

OUTSOLE:

● Super AHAR™ heel plug in areas of heavy wear to extend the life of the shoe by using higher-abrasion rubber.

So how does it compare to my much loved Gel-451s?

The Gel-451s have bought me success over the past year and even the old Hyper Tri’s that I love…. So I put the GEL-NOOSA TRI 12 through its paces. When unpacking them I liked the colour they stood out, I love the colours of the 451s they stood out too so this ticked a box here as ASICS seem to get this right on most of their shoes. They felt light but they didn’t feel as light as the 451s. What I noticed straight away is that it came with tri laces, well that’s what I like to call them, but unlike the 451 that had a Boa system these don’t. However these have the hole in the tongue to grab and put on easier. This was one of the things I loved with the Hyper Tris with the tongue hole. Although I have got used to the Boa system on the 451s I prefer this tongue set up, so this is a win for me as I believe its quicker to put on and less fiddly when wanting a quick transition.

So I did some transition tests with putting my shoes on. If I set up the laces up right my feet can slip on easy without having to tighten them. So I did three tests on the GEL-NOOSA and the same with the 451s. The Gel- Noosa was a second quicker twice so every second counts so this ticks the box again.

The mesh material is impressive, not only does it allow your feet to breath it is light weight, a good feature to drying your feet after coming out the swim, so it lets plenty of air in. A feature I found very useful is that the material at the end of the front of the shoe, is like a light swade material. Now if you’re like me and in previous tri shoes my feet get hammed with hard material there and therefore toes getting very sore. So when testing this out without socks as that’s what I would do in a triathlon, my feet and toes didn’t feel it at the front of the shoe, so it was much more comfortable.

I have been put off by the Noosa’s in the past as I was under the impression they were a stability shoe and bulky, however I am very much wrong as ASICS have designed this shoe for the neutral runner with cushioning. They are certainly more cushioned then the 451s.

When I put them on they felt very comfortable, I did a few runs in them, mainly speed training as I wanted to test while on my speed sessions as if I am going to race in them I need to know if they stand the test. I have to admit I thought they would be slow but they felt super light and fast.

Conclusion I am very impressed with these, I was first put off by these in the past as I thought they were a bit bulky and not for neutral runners. The question is do I prefer my discontinued 451s or these. Well the answer is this is the perfect shoe for me and for triathlons. Its comfy, feels like a fast show and quick for transition. So for me this will be my new race shoe in triathlons and your be seeing me with these at races. I am very impressed by this new model.

You can check them out on the ASICS website here

National Aquathlon Championships

My last big race was approaching on September the 8th the National Aquathlon Championships. However leading up to this the weekend before I picked up a foot infection after competing at the triathlon sprint relays on the Sunday prior. My foot was hurting and inflamed straight after the race. I have had a problem near my toe with a lump for a while, unfortunately after being told to go to the MIU from the medical team at the race there was no doctor on duty at the MIU to give me antibiotics. The good news is I had a doctor’s appointment booked in for the Monday anyway a week before. I turned up in pain and hobbling at the doctors, the doctor confirmed it was an infection. I explained my health comes first and if he pulls me out of the Nationals that is fine. Well he said there was no reason for not to continue to train etc and gave me antibiotics and stated only train if it doesn’t hurt and keep an eye on it.

So I did, however on the Thursday I started feeling unwell and drained so I took Friday and Saturday off prior to the race. It worked a treat as Saturday morning I felt really good, all though still had pain in my foot; it was healing and didn’t affect my running or swimming. I didn’t know what my fitness was and Saturday night I had another problem with the fire alarm at the hotel went off just after midnight which woke me up and then I struggled with sleep after that and had roughly a few hours max sleep. So race day came and I was shattered and felt awful.

Feeling sorry for myself Sunday morning and not great at all I had to just give it my all and see what I can do. The race was in beautiful Arundel and I highly recommend visiting. The race started and we went off in waves, I tried to pushed hard in the swim however felt sluggish I didn’t give up but at the turn around point I started to feel awful and struggling to get keep pace or go faster. I came out the river and didn’t feel great, I proceeded to transition and realised I must have had a good swim as I was close to the top guys.

I was struggling to get my wetsuit off due to the air temperature and lake being a bit on the cold side. I came out of transition and onto the run and decided to run hard and see how long I could keep this pace up. I managed to catch the lead pack with around 2k to go and took the lead in my AG. 2nd placed stayed on the back of me and I knew he could get past me and at that point I had nothing left. However when on the final stretch of the race, I asked my body to go faster, gritted my teeth and tried to turn my legs over quicker still feeling awful but kept saying to myself in my head come on nearly there and my body reacted an moved.

I came storming to the finish line and started celebrating. It could well be my best race, I didn’t expect to get on the podium at the start of the week but I gave everything and didn’t give up. So very happy to defend and win the National Championships for a second time. I learnt something here today and that is never give up until it’s over. I kept wanting to stop and ease off but mentally I was in the right place. Lots of negative thoughts came into my head but I managed to keep positive and block the negative thoughts out and this is what made the difference. I had to dig very deep to defend this, of course if I was fully fit I know I could of been faster but I did just enough to retain my title.

This season has been amazing and becoming European and National Aquathlon Champion has made me achieve more than anything I could ever imagine. As mentioned before in blogs I won’t be taking up my GB spots for the Aquathlon team next year as I want to focus on triathlons. However I am yet to decide if I will come back to the nationals or not next year for Aquathlons. Since I started this journey in 2015 I have raced in 37 Aquathlons, podium 29 times and had 7 wins. I have won 2 National titles, Runner up and 3rd, European Champion and Bronze medal, represented GB 8 time and captained the team at Age Group. It’s been an amazing journey and I move on to new challenges now.