Experience….

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I have learnt a lot of things since I took up this journey in 2012 and have decided to write a blog about things that might help others.

It is not all plain sailing along any journey and there will be many setbacks but also some really good times, which most of the time outweigh the setbacks. It sure is a rocky road and injuries can be a nightmare but from my experience there is no point moping around about an injury as it’s the way that you bounce back and move forward which really counts. When you first get an injury you think it’s the end of the world and you think things like ‘will I ever be able to run again’. Your mind can play many tricks with many phantom pains. In the early days when I was injured I used to sulk however these days if I get injured I firstly look at my training plan and wonder what I did wrong and correct this. I would also cross train, for example if I can run I will go pool running. It doesn’t sound too bad does it?

I find that I used to train all year round without a periodic training plan. Most people train all year round and spend much of it on the side-lines injured. I found that taking a full week off or more now and again works well and I feel like I have a proper recovery and mentally feel better and ready to train again.

Like with many things experience is the key, you learn from your mistakes over time and sometimes it’s best you make these mistakes. I know this sounds a bit odd, but when looking back at all the mistakes I made in the past I learned a lot and improved hugely. My journey began in 2012 and when starting out in any sport it is a long road ahead and when you look back you see how far you have come along. I remember struggling with Canterbury Harriers running an easy run. It does take time and you have to be patient, but at the same time remember to change your training up. If you don’t change your training up over the course of the years you might struggle with your goals. I now look back at my old plans and know that something that worked last year may not work this year, so I need to change it up.

I believe that hard work and determination is a much better trait to have then talent. I am not talented and have found over the years that working hard will pay off in life. Its easy to go into a session taking it easy but you have to remember if it is meant to be a hard session rather than an easy session. I used to run my long runs as fast as I could and suffer for days. Now I run at an easy pace and I now run quicker than I did back then as my body has become more efficient.

People can be harsh and the old saying goes, people want to know you when you are doing well and don’t want to know you when you are not doing well. Social media is a funny old thing and I have come across more and more negativity towards people because of their ability in sport. Let’s face it no one is perfect and you should be proud of what you do and do not allow anyone to bring you down. They have no right to bring you down,  let them be and ignore them.

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Learning is always important as you can’t always get things right and must understand this. I have had some great races when I didn’t expect to do twell and I have had some bad races when I expected to PB for example. I used to look at what others did and wonder why I couldn’t achieve this. Looking back at this, it is the wrong mind set and do not copy someone else as you are a different person. When having a bad training session or bad race, don’t dwell on it but instead take the positives out of it, look at what went went wrong and move on from it.

Setting realistic goals are important so you can work towards achieving them and exceeding them. I like to set mini goals throughout the year to achieve.

This is also key for my World Championships race. So I am off to Denmark on the 10th of July as I am competing at the World Aquathlon championships on 12th, of course I am very excited about this but I am also very nervous.  This will be my third World Championships and although I have a target to be in the top 10 which I know will be hard, whatever the outcome I will be happy with it as I am just proud to be there and to put on the GB kit. Not only am I proud I have also been selected as the Team Captain for my Age Group again so looking forward to giving something back to the team.  So from my previous experience I am looking forward to it and I know I will enjoy the experience.

Training does take its toll and balancing it around work and a family life is hard. I am very much looking forward to getting this race done and 10 days later the National Championships. Once these are out the way I am able to concentrate on less training for a few months as I need the recovery. Don’t get me wrong I do really enjoy the training etc but a lot of people don’t rest and this is where problems occur such as injuries. Preparations have gone well, despite feeling unwell a few weeks ago and easing off training, It is always important to listen to your body. I have managed to come 2nd and 1st in my last two races so I am ready.

Mentally this is so important that I keep a right frame of mind which can be hard. People have asked me what I do before races to relax. I like to spend a day taking it easy before a major race and I normally watch motivational videos and speeches. On race day I will listen to music before the race and keep focus on my race plans.

People like quotes so I am leaving this one here “Be proud of yourself and don’t let anyone put you down”

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Givaudan Ashford 10k running with a different experience

img_5255As some of you may be aware I am currently nursing an Achilles injury.  I had signed up a few months ago to the Givaudan Ashford 10k on Sunday 9th October as it was my running club (Canterbury Harriers) Club Championships and I was sorting this out for the club. Due to my minor problem I was advised by my phsyio not to race Sunday and run round with my wife. At first I was a bit disappointed but I knew that was best for me as I have only been doing easy training. My wife liked the idea of me running with her and pace her to a PB.  We never run together so I thought it would be nice.

It was the 30 year anniversary of this race with record numbers; this is the biggest 10k in Kent and attracts around one thousand runners. I do recommend this race as it is all on closed roads and you get a nice finish inside the Julia Rose Stadium.

The day came for the race and I was very tempted to race because I had a chance to place highly in the club championships. Despite the wet conditions there was a record turnout of 48  Harriers – the biggest number of Harriers in any race since the club`s formation in 1993. That felt good as I really tried to get a lot of Harriers to do it. I decided to wear my GB tracksuit to the race and make use of it. I did feel a little uncomfortable when I first got there as quite a few people were staring and pointing at me. I also found it weird turning up to a race at the Julia Rose Stadium because that is where I train on a weekly basis after work.

So I warmed up on with a couple of Harriers and I knew that it would be a different experience running a race at a much slower pace. It was chucking it down, so I stood at the start line with my wife and when it was time to start I let my wife go in front and I tucked in just behind her as I didn’t want to put her off.  Due to where I was running I heard lots of people talking to themselves. For example one lady stressed she had gone out too fast to herself. I suddenly found myself in the way of other runners so I moved to the right to allow people to pass me. I let my wife run the first mile without any advice and after one mile I started to tell her what to do and what pace to stick to.  It was nice to see lots of runners I knew and this time I was able to cheer them on.

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The rain kept coming down and I was freezing; I thanked some of the marshals on the route. I was still tempted to run fast and it was just a weird feeling to be where I was but it was also fun. At certain parts of the course I was helping my wife by encouraging and telling her what to do; when we came up to inclines I would say to her attack the hill you can recover in the down hill section. When we came down to the last 400m I said to her its up to you what you want to do and she sprinted for 200m then eased off then sprinted again the last 100m, overtaking people at the end. I know she likes a sprint!  Well she left me behind in the sprint and she finished in 47:22, taking a huge chunk off her last PB in May 2016. I was very proud and happy for her, I really enjoyed running a race with a different point of view.

As featured on Triradar.com Yiannis Christodoulou Represents Team GB After Olympic Inspiration

Yiannis Christodoulou Represents Team GB After Olympic Inspiration

This year has been an amazing journey; my first year competing at a national and international level in Aquathlons. It all started back in June at the National Aquathlon Championships where I took home a bronze medal and two weeks later at the European Aquathlon Championships I came home with another bronze medal, this time during my debut competing for Great Britain. This led me to compete in the ITU World Aquathlon Championship in Mexico.

What inspired me to do this? Well it started four years ago, just after the 2012 London Olympic Games. I started swimming to keep fit and was a very slow swimmer with poor technique; I hadn’t run since my school days and just wanted to keep fit. Inspired by the Olympic Games, I joined my local running club, the Canterbury Harriers.

y3I slowly improved but started to get a lot of injuries.  The following summer, inspired by the Brownlee brothers, I entered a local Triathlon. Unfortunately this didn’t end well as I sustained a bad calf strain and had to jog back to the finish. I was out of action for 7 months on and off and nearly gave up running. By the time the following summer however, I had regained fitness and competed my 2nd triathlon. Sadly a few weeks later I had an Achilles injury and was out for another 3 months.

I remained positive and watched a lot of triathlon on the TV. Feeling inspired by this, I decided I wouldn’t quit and I kept trying to be the best I could be. The following year I decided to try Aquathlons and I finished 5th in my first race with 3 GB athletes in the top 5. That spurred me on and three months later I had taken minutes off my time which meant I had qualified to represent Great Britain. My greatest memory is the sprint home, 800m from the finish to pass two athletes and take home the bronze medal from the European race.

y2This spurred me on this season and I have achieved success I didn’t think was possible as I approach my mid-thirties. Looking back over the last four years, I am proud of what I have achieved with hard work and dedication. Of course, I wish I had taken up swimming and running much earlier, but it is never too late!

To read the article click here

V02 Testing – Is it worth it and can you benefit from it?

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In March 2015 I was approached by Phil Anthony from Christ Church University sports lab to be part of his research and test subject.  I jumped at the chance as Phil is an amazing runner and ran London in 02:16 a few years ago and was a national Ultra champion. I wasn’t sure if it would work and benefit me so I decided to try.

What is V02? Research shows that successful performance in endurance running is closely related to the level of aerobic metabolism that a runner is able to sustain throughout a race. This directly impacts on the runner’s ability to maintain their speed throughout the duration of a race. Aerobic metabolism refers to the body’s ability to convert oxygen, delivered to the working muscles, to usable energy. The maximal point at which each athlete is able to achieve this is referred to as their maximal oxygen uptake or their O2max.

The test consisted of a ramp test where you run on a treadmill in stages of four minutes with each stage going up a level in speed until you need to stop. The second test was a 5k time trial on the treadmill after running at 16kmph for 10 minutes.  The third test was that I had to run my long run on another day which was 1 hour and 30 minutes at 70% heart rate.

After this I was sent away for 6 weeks where I had to increase one long run by 6 minutes for 3 weeks and the other long run by 9 minutes for 3 weeks and then maintain it for a further 6 weeks.  I then went back into the lab and preformed the 3 tests like before. I was given my results and this showed my V02 max had gone down so could struggle a bit in my runs but my running economy had improved hugely and something I needed to work on more. So what is Running Economy?

A common method for assessing an athlete’s running economy is to look at the volume of oxygen ( O2) they are able to consume at a speed of 16km h-1. The average O2 in well trained runners at this speed is~52ml•kg-1•min-1. However, as an individual athlete’s running economy can differ according to their speed, and 16km•h-1 can be too fast for many athletes, it can be better to assess RE in terms of distance covered ml•kg-1•km-1. The average RE for well-trained runners, when expressed in this form, would be ~200ml•kg-1•km-1.

So mine had improved but was still poor so I was told to work on easy long runs at 70% heart rate through the winter. This was to purely make me more efficient and burn fat instead of carbs. I found I enjoyed the winter months as the training was easy and in a space of a year I had managed 15 PB in all different types of disciplines.

So I was asked to go back in August this year for another test but this time a test for the difference between running indoors and outdoors. This test consisted of a Ramp test on the treadmill, 5K time trial after running 15kmph for 10 minutes on treadmill then I had to do this on the track.

So what did I learn this time? That running on a treadmill is quicker as I was 20 seconds quicker on the treadmill. Does that help me? Probably not but the data I got from it does. I was told my V02 max was a lot higher than last year because I was purely training for 5k’s, however my running economy was still poor but much better than last year. So looking at the data the short running reps help for 5k’s but the longer distances help for the longer races. As I have decided not to do a marathon next year I will be focusing on speed in the winter but also targeting my running economy.

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Did I find the data useful and did I improve? Well I did, at first I didn’t think this would work but now I have the science behind me I can move my training forward. The first test last year did work hugely and now it’s time to put the August test in practice.