Warm-ups – do you do them & why they are important

Lots of people do not do warm ups before their sessions so I wrote a short blog.

A warm up can be defined as a period or act of preparation for a performance or exercise session, involving gentle exercise or practice. This is also known as the pre-match warm up.

With anything in sport if you don’t warm up the muscles you will get injured; you need to get your body loosened up ready to go. Thousands of people every Saturday turn up to parkrun and stand there waiting for it to start and then fun hard with no warm up, this can bring on injuries. I do wonder how many people get injured from this as a result from going from one extreme to another. The younger runners are the worst and think they don’t need to do this. No warm up is just going to end in disaster purely because your body is going from being cold to trying to get it to work at its max.

Warm ups don’t have to be complex and can be easy. Ii warm up for every session and before my races. On speed sessions and race day I do a structured 9 minute warm up.  For example my running warm up is 3 minutes at an easy pace and a certain heart rate zone, I then ramp it up for the next 3 minutes which is my 60-70% heart max and for the final 3 minutes I go 90% heart rate max and this gets me ready to race and works all the energy systems. Since doing this warm up I have gone into sessions and races hitting my target times.

A warm up doesn’t need to be complex it can start off with a brisk walk for something like 3 minutes. This is ideal as it is low intensity and eases you into it and then you can pick the pace up. Adding strides helps the blood flow more and activates your fast-twitch muscle fibres. I would also throw in some dynamic stretches such as squats.

Once you have done a warm up you are ready to go. You have to experiment and see what works best for you. I do hear quite often that runners say it takes them a few miles to get going; but these same people haven’t done a warm up. I think you need to make sure you hit your energy systems so you are ready to perform your best. No point turning up to a race saying it took me two miles to get going and missed out on a PB/medal etc. It’s important you give your body a little taster of what you are going to expect.

Some things I see before races is people stand at the start lines cold and stretching but doing static stretches. This is also a chance for a disaster to pull a muscle. There’s tons of stuff on the internet so see what drills, dynamic stretches and warm up you would like to do and have a go. But remember warm up is key to get you ready and going.

I also took part in a research study on the benefits of a well-structured warm up and if you can improve from this. I did this last year with Hannah from the Kent University sports department and found that it improved me. Now I mentioned earlier about my 9 minute warm up and this is where I got my warm up from. Before I used to just run an easy mile which didn’t do me any benefit at all. So the science behind this study was to get me running my speed sessions and races faster as I was fully warmed up and my body was ready to go race pace.

So this study included me doing this warm up twice a week. I used it on my weekly speed sessions and races throughout a three month period. Each month I had to perform my warm up as planned on a track with Hannah, so 3 minutes easy, 3 minutes long run heart rate and 3 minutes race pace. She then took blood samples every 3 minutes to see how my body was reacting. I then had short breaks where I did other samples and went back out on the track and ran 12 minutes as hard as I could without looking at my watch. So quite hard to pace if you are not used to not using your watch. The first test of the study covered 3,040 metres, which I was a little disappointed with because I thought I would be covering more distance. However, every month after that I had improved by the last test and had run 400m more in total. A huge improvement, so it shows that you can improve with just a structured warm up before your races and training. The point of this was to get you fully warmed up and ready for your session/race therefore in theory able to run faster/harder instead of taking a while to warm up.


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CEP clone recovery tight review

 

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Being an Ambassador for CEP I get to try their products and test them. So I decided to review and test out their Clone tech recovery tights. I am a huge fan of recovery and I do think CEP products are the best on the market. So will this product disappoint me?

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A bit about CEP – unlike other compression companies, CEP markets its products around its medical history and supplying the medical industry around the world.  It is owned by a leading healthcare manufacturer. When researching their products I noted that they were of high quality compared to other brands; the compression in CEP products is medically graded and incredibly safe and effective as a result. These products are all focused on recovery. Recovery is very important as lots of people don’t rest up enough so people turn to recovery socks to aid in recovery and of course help with performance.

So on to the review, I was asked to go to my local CEP retailer which in this case was the Bay Running Shop and get measured up for these tights. I had my ankles, calfs, waist etc all measured. I wondered why this had to be done but this is because they clone your lower half of your body. Every measurement has to be spot on and for you. This means the product takes a few weeks to arrive but is tailored just for you when it gets made. You can also put letters on so I asked for YC my initials in sliver; looks pretty cool to be honest. But you can choose gold if you prefer that colour.

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The tights arrived in a nice fancy box with a certificate that says you have been cloned. So a few days later I was at the World Championships and the evening after the race I put the tights on for a few hours and the following day my legs felt pretty fresh. Now the tights come all the way up to your waist which means unlike the compression socks they compress your whole lower body. I decided to use them after my long run and in this case 14 miles my legs were pretty tired and I had them on for most of the day and my legs seemed to be fresh in the evening. The next day my legs felt fully recovered, I kept feeling like this when using them after my training.

The tights are pretty hard to get on but once on they are fine, its important that they are tight. Once on you can put your work clothes etc over the top and no one will know you are wearing them.

My conclusion is I love the CEP products and use their products all the time, at the moment of typing this up I am wearing my Calf socks. These tights come at price and just like a cost of a pair of decent running shoes so worth the investment. I am huge on recovery and recovery is where all the gains are made. So I would highly recommend this as a must have product for recovery and to use after any session and for injury prevention.  I use these before races too to help the blood circulate.

You can check them out at the following at CEP here

Recovery tights are available at Bay Running Shop complete personalised 18 different measurements here

 

 

 

 

 

Believe the impossible is the possible

No matter how talented or how hard you train the key to your success is believing in yourself so you are able to achieve your goals.

Last Sunday I did my fist triathlon in nearly 6 years. I always believed the bike was the root of my injuries when I first took up running. With big injuries that kept me out of action for long periods of times and nearly giving up on running I turned my back on triathlons; but it was triathlons that got me into running.

So looking back at that it was wise of me as I was hugely put off by injuries. I believed I could stay injury free and after staying injury free for a while and gaining lots of PB’s I moved into Aquathlons where I went from strength to strength and have achieved some great things.

I decided last year to get back on the bike and try and do some triathlon’s this year and see if I would enjoy it. As a mental aspect getting back on the bike was very concerning for me because of the history of my injuries. I believed I could get through this and despite being knocked off my bike this year, I forced myself out on the bike and I was enjoying it. Sadly I was meant to do 2 triathlons this year but because of normal life commitments I can only do one triathlon.

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So I did the Channel  Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, very nervous and had no target, I just wanted to enjoy it. It was a sea race in Folkestone and it was also my first triathlon which was not in the pool. It was a very windy day and the swim got cut by 250m. The race started and I knew swimming would be fine but the waves going out were so strong it felt like I was being slammed against the floor. I was struggling to breathe and didn’t enjoy it, but once we turned around with the waves pushing you I was fine and came out of the sea in the lead. We had to run around 1k into transition, so I was able to pull away.

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I then came out of transition on the bike and was quickly overtaken by two competitors. I knew the bike would be tough and the course was super hilly but the miles flew by and I was out on my own for 9 miles until a group of competitors came riding past me drafting each other in a non drafting race. I wasn’t 100% sure about the rules but I knew I need to drop back so I stayed well back.

I came into transition in 8th place but was very happy with my bike performance. I then got onto the run and my legs felt awful. I started overtaking people and by 2.5K my legs felt fresh and I went from running a 6.10 mile to running 5.40s. I soon caught 3rd and went past him, I still didn’t expect to be this high and I managed to take 2nd place near the end.

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I was over the moon and shocked that I had placed, I wasn’t even expecting a top 20 placing. I always believed I could be strong in a triathlon if I worked at it. This has now made me want to do triathlon’s more next year so watch this space.

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Photos by Lee & Jo Robinson Photography

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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Who Am I?

I am a skinny sluggish man who decides to run a 5k Charity run for Sport Relief in 2010 at the age of 25. With not much training I thought I would give it a go. The only exercise I did was playing 5 a side football once a week. No real background in sport since I left school. The day came and I was nervous, ran as fast as I could for around 400m and then I struggled and about a mile from the finish I started to walk. I was in too much pain and tired, I got close to the finish line and started to run again as I didn’t want to let people down. I was happy to finish it but I hated it and I was glad it was over. The following year I took up swimming, well tried to swim. It was tough; the first time I went swimming I managed 6 lengths in a 33m pool in an hour. I remember I would do a length and wait about ten minutes to do the next length. This was so difficult for me but I kept at it and slowly went further and further.

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Two years later (2012) I decided to do the same again and raise money for charity in the 2012 Sport relief 5k run. This time I trained a few weeks beforehand with no real experience the race came and I was nervous again but this time paced myself and got round. I was happy and I didn’t have to walk. This time I enjoyed it but that ended there.

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In the summer of 2012 I was watching the 2012 London Olympics on TV and this is what started my journey. I was inspired by watching the triathlon race and how good the Brownlee brothers were. So, inspired, I joined my local and current running club Canterbury Harriers in September that year.  As a novice in running I kept getting injured and nearly gave up the first year, I had on-going calf injuries.  However after setback after setback I decided I wanted to carry on running and was determined to get through this bad patch. I turned up to my local swimming pool that had a triathlon class on and I gave it ago.  The first thing the instructor asked was why I was wearing goggles if I didn’t put my head in the water. I listened and learnt the stroke; she had told me to practice and my swimming was getting easier and better.

I decided to train for a triathlon and my leg was healing. However it did not take long for it to go again and this time I had to do a triathlon. I turned up to the race with a bit of a limp and was fine on the swim and bike but a mile into the run my calf felt like someone had stabbed it with a knife. I had to carry on as I was raising money for charity and after I limped back I was unable to run for nearly two months. Unfortunately healing was a problem; I would come back to running and get stuck in a cycle that every time I ran every 6 weeks it would go again.

The summer of 2014 saw me compete in a few triathlons and I was getting better however it wasn’t long until I got injured again and this time I was out for a full 3 months with an Achilles injury. I stayed positive and managed to bounce back after a long lay-off. This time I had a goal of staying injury free for longer and it worked. I ended up getting around 15 PB’s in races in 2015, which is due to the fact of keeping injury free.

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After going a while injury free for a bit, I was in the process of buying a house and planning for my wedding with my future wife. I didn’t have the time to go out and train for all disciplines so therefore didn’t have time to train on the bike. Two days after we were back from our honeymoon, I entered a local aquathlon. I was very jet lagged and was advised by a friend who is a sports scientist not to do it but I still did. I ended up coming back in 5th place and was happy with that. I took many positives out of it and then decided to set my sites on qualifying for the Great Britain aquathlon squad.

By the time September came I had already taken well over 2 minutes off my aquathlon race time and it was time to submit my time for the GB aquathlon team. After being accepted in the GB team I was very nervous and excited at the same time.

I turned up to the National Aquathlon Championships in Leeds and didn’t really have any goals but to just enjoy it. I came out the water in 45th place and as soon as I came out, I started pushing the run as it’s my strong point. The course was very hilly but I kept targeting people one by one. So when I crossed the line, I had no idea I was in 3rd place in my age group. When I found out I was third I was very proud and shocked.

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The European came round quickly and I knew I was in a lot better shape because training had gone well. Although I had a nasty cold a few days before the Europeans I was relaxed and just didn’t want to come last. The time came to start the race and we were told prior no wetsuits allowed as the lake was 26 degrees. The swim was 1000 metres so a bit further than my normal races. We started with a large crowd watching and at the 500m point we had to get out and run back in; I noticed I had a large group in front of me so I pushed hard to get close to them.  Once I came out of transition I then started my run and just went for it. I was picking people off throughout the run and I then saw two guys in my Age Group in front of me at the last 400 metres. I somehow found something extra and sprinted passed them to take 3rd on the line. Another Bronze medal and another achievement I never thought would happen. I was over the moon and something to tell my children in the future; my wife shed some tears and she was very proud of me. She comes to every race with me and has been there from the start since I took up Aquathlons and has been very supportive. Words can’t describe how happy I was and it was an amazing day for me.

As a result of my European and National age group Bronze medals I was able to compete at the World Championships in Cozumel 2016 in tough heat. I struggled and came 28th in my age group. I was very disappointed.

After this I wanted to make sure I could improve and come back stronger for the summer. So the winter of 2016 came and I was determined to improve. I had high hopes as training went very well. However 6 weeks before the European Championships this year I strained my calf and I had around 10 days off from running. I was struggling with motivation as I knew I lost all my improvement. I turned up to the European Aquathlon race in Bratislava in 2017 fit but not fully fit. I had a great run and was 9th overall in the end. It was my swim that let me down. Ten days later it was the national Aquathlon Championships – 3 days prior my achilles flared up and I was struggling to walk. I kept positive and turned up on race day with a sore foot where I came home in 2nd place in my age group. I didn’t expect that.

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August 2017 and the time came for the World Championships in Penticton and I was fully fit and in the best shape I have ever been and selected as the Team Captain. The race started and I struggled in the swim at the start but managed to improve towards the end. I struggled in the first part of the run but then got faster towards the end; I knew I had a bad swim when I came into transition behind a lot of guys I was normally in front of. I kept pushing on the run and came 6th in the World in my age group – something I was over the moon about.

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From my experience the GB races were never in my mind. If you train smart and hard you never know what path you will go down. Never give up and always enjoy your training and races.

A 10 mile road race in and around Canterbury organised by Invicta East Kent AC and sponsored by Ssangyong

What can we learn from our Heart Rate max and V02 max

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I wrote blogs a while ago regarding Heart Rate training and V02 Max since I have had many questions in recent weeks regarding this – I am revisiting these blogs but also adding what I have learnt from the two years since I wrote these blogs.

For most runners they are under the impression that they should run full speed at all times because that will make them go faster and running at a slower pace will slow you down. Well this is not the case; why not try heart rate running. It is very simple and all you need is a running watch and a heart rate monitor and run at a much slower pace and see the benefits.

So what is Heart Rate Running? Well the key is to find out your maximum heart rate while running. This can be done by a VO2 test in a lab or by running for ten minutes as fast as you can with a heart rate monitor and then take the max from there. Most universities do this at a cost but also some do this free as part of student studies. It sounds tough to run as fast as you can for 10 minutes; well it is but the key is to find your heart rate max as you need to determine your personal heart rate zones and not what your watch pre-set zones are. You can also figure this out from the old method which is 220 minus your age. However this is not accurate for some people and this is the case for me. For example when I use that method it says my Heart Rate max is 186 however when I had a V02 Lab test, mine came out as 179. Quite a bit of a difference so be aware of this.

So what’s next once you have your heart rate max?  Heart rate running is very good and if you find your 60% to 70% of your heart rate max you can be improving at a faster rate than just speed training alone. Of course you need to do your speed sessions but you shouldn’t be running as fast as you can every session.

Long runs at 60% to 70% of your heart rate max can make a huge benefit by teaching your body to not burn carbs and burn fat to make you more efficient. This therefore can make you quicker. The past two years I spent most of my training doing these long heart rate runs that have proved to work. At the same time by making you more efficient it will improve your running economy, which I will mention shortly. I was part of a study a few years ago in seeing how people can improve from running at a slower pace and improving your running economy. I was told I was over training; my long runs at the time would be to run 13 miles every Saturday morning at 6.30 pace. My legs used to take a best part of three days to recover. I started my heart rate training and was concerned my pace was over 8 minutes per mile and going up hills I felt like I was walking. I was told to stick at it and just follow my heart rate zones. Well since then I have improved a lot and over longer distances and my pace can be well under 7 minutes in my long runs. I have also managed to take 6 minutes off my 10 miler time.

What is running economy? Running economy (RE) is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running, and is determined by measuring the steady-state consumption of oxygen (VO2) and the respiratory exchange ratio. I will talk about V02 Max later.

A lot of marathon runners use this because instead of pounding away for 13 miles on a long run, they can go longer at an easy pace and won’t feel tired the following day. The key is to train at less intensity on a long run which will teach you to burn fat but also make you recover quicker. Many people struggle with the pace because it is a lot slower than they normally run and if you run up hill you need to run slower in order to keep the heart rate down. Of course it is a must to keep the speed sessions up but by just slowing your speed down a little on a long run it can be a huge benefit. As mentioned briefly earlier I used to do a 13 mile run every Saturday at race pace which of course felt good but took me a few days to recover and my Half Marathon time wasn’t any better. Once I had changed my training and ran at 60% I found that if I wanted to do another long run the next day I could because the body felt fine and improved.

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So my advice would be to try it for 6 weeks and see how it goes, if you don’t react to the training then at least you tried something new. But how should you train for HR? Well a simply guide can be by the distance or time in your run to be increased slightly for a three week period, with each week increasing. Then maintain the third week distance/time for a further 3 weeks and see if you have improved in a race. Let me know your thoughts and progress as I am interested to see if you get any improvement.

Let’s look at V02 max now. 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 and was a national Ultra Champion. I wasn’t sure if it would work and benefit me so I decided to try as there was nothing to lose.

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. This was related to the heart rate training, mentioned earlier.  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 I could struggle a bit in my runs but my running economy had improved hugely and something I needed to work on more.

A common method for assessing an athlete’s running economy is to look at the volume of Oxygen (O2) in a lab they are able to consume at a speed of 16kmh-1 on the treadmill. 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.  Table below provides normative data for well-trained runners.

Running Economy ml•kg-1•km-1
170-180 ml•kg-1•km-1 Excellent
180-190 ml•kg-1•km-1 Very good
190-200 ml•kg-1•km-1 Above average
200-210 ml•kg-1•km-1 Below average
210-220 ml•kg-1•km-1 Needs improvement

 

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.

However I was asked to go back in August 2016 while I was preparing for the World Aquathlon Age Group Championships. Since I originally had the first test in 2015 I improved so much and this helped me qualify for the GB Age Group Aquathlon team where in 2016 I won a European and National Age Group Bronze medal, so I was pretty much looking forward to this test.  This time this test was 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 the treadmill then I had to do this on the track.

So what did I learn this time? That running on a treadmill was 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 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.

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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 so I took this data into the winter of last year. I changed my training and worked on longer runs and long V02 max sessions such as mile reps and 1k reps. I found it worked wonders and I saw my race pace improve and my training over the past year and this produced me an Age Group Silver medal at the National Aquathlon Championships, 6th at the World Championships and 8 podiums in Aquathlons.

My conclusion is that Heart Rate running worked for me and still works; I am able to run longer and further and I do not feel as tired the next day, in fact I can still run a hard session the following day. It has also helped me keep injuries away and not getting as many injuries as the years before. I am still improving from this and I use different zones for different sessions that have been hugely important in my training and races. I definitely recommend giving it a try. V02 max is also important and I use this to work at it on my sessions as you can improve it slightly from V02 Max sessions. I have taken all this data and changed my training up and it is has improved me hugely and it can for you. I have learnt not to run too fast and how to train in zones, which is key and you can see the benefits. I like the science about running and if you want to improve you need to use the science.

A 10 mile road race in and around Canterbury organised by Invicta East Kent AC and sponsored by Ssangyong

Alan Green 10 mile road race

 

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Winter is now well and truly here and motivation is becoming a struggle in the cold dark evenings. My target race after the World Championships was the Alan Green Thanet Road Runners 10 mile race. A race which I have down 3 times previously. The race is pretty much pancake flat with a minor hill roughly 3 miles into the race, but as it is in December and along the seafront the wind always plays a factor in race times and therefore makes it a tough and challenging course. The last 3 years I have always got a personal best and one of my targets is to go sub 1 hour for 10 miles eventually.

Training has gone well but I have no idea where my training and fitness levels are at the moment so I was just going to use this race to see where I am at. I am not in peak shape yet and don’t intend to be until next year. My PB on this course was 01:01:40, which I broke 5 weeks later in a different race which was a tough course. The Thursday before the race I had planned to do a long easy two hour run. But that evening it was cold and I wasn’t motivated to run on my own in the cold and dark. I dragged myself out and I was trying to make all the excuses to stop myself running round the streets of Canterbury. Don’t get me wrong I love running but I prefer running in the countryside and not round busy streets during rush hour which is something I cannot do in the dark.  I nearly stopped after an hour but I managed to stay out for another 40 minutes which isn’t too bad. I was lacking motivation and I knew the race would be difficult on the Sunday.

The day before the race I had to attend Canterbury Harriers Christmas presentation meal and I picked up the fastest 5 mile award for the season. I was very happy with this as it is the first time I have picked up an award at the Christmas Presentation. My wife also picked up the fastest 5 mile award for the ladies; I am very proud of her running as she doesn’t like running but does it to keep fit.

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I managed to convince my wife to do the race on Sunday as there is cake at the end, so she did the race and had cake after – well plenty of it! I turned up to the race and it wasn’t as cold as the previous day so I didn’t need to wrap up warm for the race. When warming up I noticed we had no wind on the way out but the wind was quite strong on the way back. I decided to stick to my plan and start off slower and try to go faster the second half.

The gun went off and the race started. I could count roughly how many people were in front of me. I was in 17th place with just over two miles gone. I felt strong and focused on my breathing and sticking to my race plan. By mile 5, before the turnaround point, I had caught a group and the first lady. I then turned back in to some strong wind and headed back for the last 5 miles where I had already stuck to the plan and did fairly even splits.

I then decided to start to go a bit faster and over-took this group which then put me up to 6th place and running on my own for the rest of the race. I had lots of runners say well done on route; I couldn’t say thanks as the wind was making it hard for me to breath. I put my thumbs up to say thanks and thank you for encouraging me. I then battled the wind and managed to get slightly faster and before I knew it I was nearly at the finish line catching the person in front very quickly. I then came up the hill to the finish and noticed the clock time so sprinted to get a PB. I was over the moon as I didn’t expect a PB and my time was 01:00:59 so a slight PB. This gives me something to work on.

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I went for a warm down after and decided to run back for half mile down the route. I was encouraging people to keep going. I then waited for my wife and cheered her on to the finish. I enjoyed the race and next year I hope to come back and go quicker.

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Review of Asics Gel-Hyper Tri 3

thumbnail_IMG_8432As part of the UK Asics Front Runner team I get to try out and use some really nice products. When I joined the Front Runner team I changed my running shoes to Asics. I have only just started to use the Hyper Tri’s which are a neutral shoe and I have been really impressed.

At first when receiving the shoes I thought the plain black colour was basic, however the yellow/light green on the bottom of the shoe and tongue makes it hugely appealing. I feel that they have been made even better by changing to the spare laces which are yellow/green – makes them look very flash.

But it’s not the design colour that appeals to me, as this can be improved. I like the hole in the middle of the tongue that a normal shoe does not have. For Aquathlons and Triathlons, transition is really important and a few seconds can be the difference of a podium place. My old race shoes were a huge struggle to get on and what I notice with the Hyper Tris is that they are so easy to get on, even with wet feet because of the tongue. So far in races, this has knocked off seconds from my transition time and has given me a speed advantage.

However are they any good to race/run with? They give you a speed advantage in transition and they feel so comfy without socks on, which make them perfect for Aquathlons and Triathlons. Furthermore, the front of the shoe does not have hard material which cuts your toes up. If that wasn’t enough the 6mm heel-drop and at a weight of only 190g make this a speed demon shoe. I am impressed how light these are, I compared them to my old running and race shoes which I thought were light and the Asics were lighter.

I have been using them in my speed training and in my last Aquathlon. I will be wearing these at the World Aquathlon Championships in August. My conclusion is if you want a fast, light weight shoe for your Aquathlons or Triathlons then The Asics Gel-Hyper Tri 3 are the ideal shoe.

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Highs and Lows (Euros and Nationals)

IMG_8303After a hugely successful year last year and something that I didn’t think I would be able to top again…. So as you are aware I am competing again for Great Britain at the European and World Aquathlon Championships at age group level. I am very honoured and proud of my achievements and I am very much excited and looking forward to it again this year (well, what’s left of the season). Anyway, so where am I competing this year and what are my targets?

First stop was the European Championships in Bratislava on the 27th May. I had changed my target of pushing for a podium place to just getting round the course and enjoying the experience. Training went so well over the winter but a month ago I picked up a minor calf strain that did not seem to want to go away – this was my first injury in years where I have had to rest(You can read dealing with the setbacks in my last blog.)

I flew to Vienna on Thursday 24th of May for the European Aquathlon Championships. The race was on Saturday in Bratislava so I drove across from Vienna to Bratislava, it took around 40 minutes, so not far at all.

The week before I had raced in the Ocean Tri Aquathlon where I came 3rd overall, however the last bit of the race my calf played up and had to rest up again as the Europeans was only 9 days away. I didn’t really have any targets for the race due to my injury problems and lack of run time. I was going to enjoy the experience and my target was no longer a podium place but to try for a top 10 placing in my Age Group. I was pleasantly surprised about Bratislava – lots of history and beautiful buildings in the old town.

I popped down to the lake where the event was on the Thursday to check the course out and register.  When I arrived I thought I had turned up to the wrong place as nothing was set up. I decided to get in the lake for a swim just to check it out and then walk the run part of the course. The race was a 1k swim which was 2x 500m laps and a 5k run but 5x 1k loops. The run course sounded pretty boring but had a small incline which would make it interesting. I went back the following day to meet up with friends and fellow athletes and there was a lot more set-up. This time it looked more like an event was going on.

Saturday came round fast and it was race day, It was very hot and humid. I had to arrive in transition by 8.30am but my race was not until 11.30am so it was going to be hot. I watched the other Age Groups go off and I soon realised I was over heating and needed to get out of the sun. I decided to get my body temperature cool and use a wet towel and put it over me to a point I made myself freezing.

We were then called over to the athletes tent and one by one our names were shouted out by the commentator and we had to jog to the start line. I had to wait for everyone to come to the start line and it took a bit of time. The next thing I heard the race starter say steady and then he blew the horn and I was off.

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I was a bit overwhelmed to start off and had a slow get away in the lake. The first 500m of the swim I realised I had not pushed myself and on the second lap I was trying to make up time. I came into transition fresh so I realised I did not push the swim but it was still a personal best for me in just over 16 minutes. While in transition I put my trainers on and snapped my shoe lace lock and therefore had to run with a very loose trainer, oh well.

 

I started the run and started over taking people in my wave/race. I was running well and it was only the last 1k where my calf started to play up. I pushed on and managed an 18:34 5k – I was happy with the way it went and managed 9th place, so achieved my target.

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I had time after the race to reflect on my race and I was happy with the way it went. However fully fit I am sure I could of placed higher, but on race day it was my swim that let me down a bit. I didn’t push myself as much as I should of in the swimming but you learn these things and it comes down to experience and lack of race practice this year. My running time was good considering the lack of running time I have had. I was very pleased with the outcome and it has given me more experience. I even got to spend a few days in Vienna with my wife after the race and I was amazed how nice Vienna was. Anyway it was a privilege to be selected and picked for GB again in my Age Group and I am very happy and proud of the performance I gave and hopefully I will be back next year.

 I then had two weeks left until the Nationals and I was hoping if my injury held off I could do well. However the week before the event my Achilles flared up and was getting rather painful walking around. The following day I ran my long run but it got worse and I started worrying about it.

On the Monday I was in a lot of pain and considered dropping out of the race and other races due to the pain I was in, my mind was not in a right place. I have been dealing with my Achilles problem since September but this time it was getting more painful.  I saw Laura from Team Buckley on Tuesday as Andrew Buckley was away who is my normal physio and she said carry on as normal and you should get through. Its amazing how much confidence you can get from that and the pain eased off. I turned up to the National Championships In Leeds on the 10th of June where again I had to change my targets and just enjoy it. I was in a bit of pain with my Achilles even with resting it a few days, however made the most of using my Wellbrix blocks during my rest period to try and speed up recovery.

It was a gloomy day in Leeds and it was wet and not very warm, the course was the same as last year and the run was super hilly. Got to the start of the race and decided to attack the swim and see how I felt on the run. The lake wasn’t warm – 16.1 degrees but it felt colder; the race started and I started off fast. I kept pushing and when the turnaround point came I started to struggle as I am not used to pushing hard on the swim. I tucked in behind some athletes in the swim and managed to get pushed along. I came out of the lake and heard the commentator say these athletes are coming out just shy of 11 minutes, so I knew this was quick for me. Transition was long and I made the most of being a strong runner taking the long transition and trying to run fast up the slope leading into it.

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I got into transition and realised I was with athletes that are normally quite a bit in front after the swim.  I started the run which is super tough and hilly but I like hills. I started off fast and felt very tired; I was catching big groups of athletes and kept targeting each athlete and then pushing past them. I started to struggle towards the end as I was really tired and I knew this would happen because of my swim. When I finished I was 12th overall some 10 places better than last year. I was also a minute and 11 seconds faster than last year. I then found out I was second in my age group and was over the moon as I did not expect a podium place and to go one better. The first thing I did when I got home from Leeds was jump into a bath full of Doms Ease oil, my body needed it.

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I learnt a lot from this race and the week leading up to it, even if your not fully fit and get setbacks – NEVER GIVE UP. This makes me stronger and I am now targeting my next big race the Heaver Castle Aquathlon Challenge followed by the World Championships. Thank you everyone and my sponsors for their support so far this season and a big thank you to Andrew Buckley and his team for getting me to both start lines.

The broken road to Bratislava (Dealing with Setbacks)

After a great winter base of training and no setbacks apart from the minor Achilles niggles which I have had for a while but have not hampered my training, on the 25th of April I was struck down with the dreaded word “injury”. So I decided to write about the set back to help others stay positive as the European Aquathlon championships is on the 27th of May and I am to get there fully fit.

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So on Sunday the 23rd of April I went out for a long run, was happy as I managed to get 16.4 miles at an easy pace at my heart rate. However the last few miles of the run I noticed my left calf wasn’t right but carried on. After the run I done the normal stretch etc and it felt fine. The next few days I was walking around with a slight squeeze in my calf.  I didn’t think much of it as I get loads of weird aches etc. On the Tuesday evening I proceeded into doing my session which was 1 mile warm up, followed by 5x mile reps and a warm down. In the warm up my leg was fine but as soon as I ran the mile reps the leg was sore but then disappeared. So I got through the session alright until the last mile rep on the last 100m I felt a sharp squeeze in the calf. So I eased off and stopped, tried to jog part of the warm down but I stopped as I didn’t want to make it worse.

I didn’t think too much about it and wanted to stay positive – the following day I knew something wasn’t right. I got hold of my physio and sponsor Andy from Team Buckley. He got me in to see Alex at the clinic straight away that evening. Although I am able to walk fine but in discomfort I heard the dreaded word from Alex that I have a minor calf “Strain” the first thing that went through my mind was its the calf that gave me so much trouble 5 years ago when I first got in to running has come back and its going to be recurring like before. Then I decided to snap out of it as I am more positive now and this can be a positive then a negative.

I was advised to not race in the Total Motion Aquathlon on the Saturday as I had a risk of making it worse and putting the European Champs at risk and the rest of the season. I was gutted as I really wanted to do this race but was not worth the risk. So I was advised no running until Monday so at least 5-7 days rest and hopefully I will be back training again then. I left the practice not feeling down but more determined to be positive. Even when I get reassessed next week if I get bad news I have many options.

A week off from running will not do anything to my current fitness levels. So I have decided to blog about this set back and how I deal with it until I am running again.

Thursday 27th

After having a massage today the calf is very sore, to be honest hurts more than the other day. Today is going to be my rest day as it was going to be hard getting a session in today with the cross country awards for the Canterbury Harriers later that evening. My positives today is it’s a complete rest day, so nothing lost but more gains for recovery and I wont lose any of my running fitness for the first 7 days.  Tomorrow no running but I have changed my training plan around and will crack on with my normal swim session that was planned for Sunday. I will also start some pool running at the weekend.

Friday 28th

 Waking up in the morning and the first thing I was thinking is whether my leg is better. Last night it started getting painful towards the end of the day. I attended my running club Canterbury Harriers cross country awards for the 2016/17 season. I was lucky enough to receive a certificate for completing 5 races and coming 7th overall in the league. A great achievement for me for that season, it was only 3 years ago I was running in the 140s places.

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So feeling positive my leg wasn’t really much better, perhaps maybe slightly but nothing  really of notice. Feeling positive today because looking back on how much I improved over the winter. I am not too worried about another day off from running. Time is a healer and no matter what happens I will be at that start line of the Europeans whether its fully fit or whether I have to walk it. So what is the plan for today? Very simple just one normal swim session that was scheduled for Sunday. Today would have been a rest day but I just swapped it round with yesterday. Tomorrow I will start my first pool running session.

Saturday 29th 

Leg slightly better but today I started pool running. Apart from people asking me what I was doing running up and down in the swimming pool. I enjoyed it, I done one hour of pool running, where I ran as fast as I could for a certain time and then took a recovery and repeated this. I found it weird I was running but not touching the ground as I was in the deep end. The faster I went the harder it got with the resistance.  Feeling still upbeat that I will be running next week and plus got a great work out as it sent my heart rate quite high. Four weeks time I will be at the European’s and it is coming round very fast and getting slightly worried because I want to be at my best.

Sunday 30th 

My leg was starting to feel much better and I am feeling more positive. I felt very fresh from the pool running the previous day. I decided to do my scheduled 40 minute swim session followed by 1 hour of pool running. Normally Sunday’s are when I do my long runs but my pool running session was the same session I done yesterday. Feeling very positive about running next week now.

Monday 1st May 

I had to get up early to help my running club (Canterbury Harriers) with their race the Whitstable 10k. Some 750 runners were expected to compete in it. Leg was feeling much better but still very tight when walking. Once the race started my sponsor and physio Any Buckley was there with his team providing massages after the race. He gave me a quick check over and said give it a few more days. I felt relaxed with his advice and will be trying to run on Thursday easy. That’s a huge positive and if all goes well I can quickly get back up to speed. The race went well for my club and I decided to take this as a rest day and change my training up. So pretty much ready/waiting to go again.

Tuesday 2nd

With no running today, my training will be a pool running session, followed by a gym session. Leg feeling miles better today so a few more days more from running and then I am able to crack on with training. However this doesn’t give me a lot of time to get to full fitness for the Europeans.

I hit the pool for an hour pool running and headed off to Team Buckley to use the Normtec boot machine which I use regularly. I managed to speak to Andy (my physio) and had some really positive news. It is a big “if” but if my running goes well on Thursday I may be able to get back straight into my training level. I hit the gym after and had no problems with my leg. So I am keeping positive.

Wednesday 3rd

Feeling very positive today with no pain in my leg at all. Today I have a swim session which will be a tough one as its sprints. I followed that by having a massage on my leg. Feeling ready and fingers crossed for tomorrow’s run.

Thursday 4th 

Today is the day to check my leg out in an easy run on grass. I went for a 40 minute run to see how it went. Could feel it being tight and a twinge but managed to get through it fine. Tomorrow will be a test to see how it went and how I should proceed. So far looking positive.

Friday 5th

Woke up and the first thing I wanted to do is walk around the house to test it. It feels tight and achy but I am guessing that’s a good sign as its the first time I have run. Going to speak to my physio later to see how to proceed and things do feel like its going to be a positive answer now. After speaking to Andy he said to carry on running tomorrow for an hour easy and if all goes well then I can start putting the speed work in. Fingers crossed as I don’t really want to have any setbacks. I am thinking of going to Canterbury Park run and taking easy tomorrow, that’s if I get up early! I carried on with my normal training plan of going swimming and the gym.

Saturday 6th 

Calf was achy and didn’t feel right but I was thinking it was all in my head. I headed off to my local Park Run to take it easy and then run after that for up to an hour. I took it easy at 60% heart rate and enjoyed cheering people on that I knew and managed to get the whole hour of running done. I then headed to the swimming pool for a swimming session. Leg felt fine until I got home it ached like hell but did not hurt. I had a slight concern but decided to try a speed session the following morning and go from there.

Sunday 7th

Felt very positive about today and was ready to test the leg out a nearly full speed. I had my training partner join me on the track to push me round. I decided to try mile reps and mentally this was important as this is how my calf got injured. I started the reps and finished the session and was completely fine. I was over the moon with how the session went in fact buzzing as  I hadn’t lost too much speed and was only 12 days since my last speed session.

So feeling very positive that I can get back to full fitness, my advice to anyone dealing with setbacks is don’t rush back and ease into it. It is ok to rest and you will be back in no time. Cross training like pool running has definitely helped me.

Monday 8th

Leg felt really good after yesterday’s run and although I felt I could do more reps I didn’t want to push it.  Felling quite good and positive about this swimming and gym on the agenda today.

Tuesday 9th 

You are wondering now why I carried on my log…. well today leg felt great and nothing wrong with it. Over two weeks since I had hurt the calf and I was very happy and upbeat the way training was going. However that following night I went and done hill reps, now looking back that was not a great idea. I thought my leg was alright and it was only a few days ago I was telling people don’t rush back. I didn’t think it would be a problem and I started my reps slower than normal. After the 5 rep I notice a weird feeling while running and had to slow down. However it eased off, I pushed on for a few more reps and also managed to run a few miles slow after. Although it didn’t feel right I got through the session.

Wednesday 10th 

I woke up and quickly realised that my leg was not right, there was no pain but just an ache and tightness. Today was a rest day from running and I was quite worried about this. I didn’t feel positive now and with the Europeans fast approaching I was already deciding whether to pull out of the race but me and my wife were using it as our holiday too.  This was my biggest fear and became real. I was no longer positive or upbeat as this time it was against me. However there is not much I can do until I test it out Thursday. But this time it is more of a weird feeling not a pain. My wife cheered me up a bit so tomorrow will be the day.

Thursday 11th

Still getting this weird feeling in my leg and my gut feeling is today is the day it goes. After stressing about it yesterday I was trying not to think about it. My wife said to me “think positive as you are always giving people inspirational quotes and now it’s time for yours. Believe in yourself, panic makes a situation worse and steals your joy and passion. You are a fighter” and also sent me a quote from Rocky.

She is right I am a fighter and the time has come for me to fight this setback and get through this. If today on my easy run the calf goes, I will be disappointed and there wont be any chance I will be fully fit for the Europeans and all the gains over the winter would be lost. However if that is the case I will get back on to cross training and get there one way or another and running. My target for this race will change and the same will go for the nationals and sometimes these things happen and its the way I am aiming to bounce back that will count. You learn from your mistakes, however we will see later what happens.

So after that positive motivation from my wife I went running in the evening. With my leg not feeling right I was slightly worried. I ran on the track at heart rate and it was a very hot day. I was planning for around 1 hour 30 but stopped after an hour as my leg wasn’t  right. Maybe a mental thing but best to be safe. I then cracked on with my swimming session.

 Friday 12th

Wasn’t feeling great today and convinced it was all a mental issue. I planned to do 400m/200m session, I was aiming for 6 reps of each. I needed to test it out, I went out slower then normal and the leg started playing up on the 4th rep so I eased off and carried on running easy for 30 minutes. It felt fine and I was convinced this is all in my mind and now I was ready to race at the Stelling Minnis 10k  Sunday to see how it reacts.

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Saturday 13th

Today was a rest day and decided not to think about it and be positive.

Sunday 14th

Kept positive and I know that this particular race was probably not the best of ideas as it is a hilly race but I needed to test my leg and fitness. I started off slower and eased into it. I had no problems throughout the race which is a huge positive. I came 6th in 38:20 I was hoping to go a bit quicker but I know the course was slow. I was happy as so many Harriers did well and I helped pick up the team prize.

Wednesday 17th

Today my legs felt fresh and I was very much looking forward to my first Aquathlon race for a while and seeing whether my fitness levels were ready for the Europeans next week.

I got to the race not feeling up for it as it was awful weather conditions with it pouring down, making it quite muddy and a water logged track. With it raining it didn’t bother me too much as I was going to get wet anyway!

So the Ocean Tri Aquathlon started and it was a course I know very well. I started the swim part and started off fast, however I did struggle a bit in the swim as this was my first time in the open water this year and also using my wet-suit. I came in to transition in 6th place with a swim time of 11:55 minutes. Not my best time but due to the conditions I was happy with how it went.

I started the run and didn’t push too hard due to my injury problems. I stuck to two 6 minute miles and the last past a few seconds faster as the gravel on the track was so wet I was sliding everywhere. However during the final mile of the race I felt my calf but I thought I am not far so kept going. I was delighted to finish 3rd overall and happy with my run time. I was hoping for quicker but I didn’t want to over do it. Straight after the race when I stopped I could feel my calf, it was not right so I proceeded to a mile cool down and my calf started hurting when jogging round. I tried not to think about it but by the time I got home I was struggling walking without a limp.

 The following day my leg wasn’t great again so quite concerned and trying to keep positive. I am seeing the physio tonight and will go from there.

Friday 19th

So the physio has told me to take two days rest and see how it goes on a gentle run Sunday and go from there as we don’t have a lot of time to work on it.So I am keeping positive and determined to get to the start line race fit. This is my final blog as I am keeping positive and I hope this helps you when you are dealing with an injury. I have learnt a lot and although my running improvement and gains over the winter have been lost I still have high fitness levels. Its ok to take a rest and sometimes it’s the way it goes and you have to change your goals and targets. My target now is to get through the race and just enjoy the experience, I know before my target was to push for a podium place but with my difficult age group this year I will try and target a top 10 finish if I can.