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 Nimbus 20 review

On Saturday the 6th of January I helped out at the London Regent Street store for the launch of the Gel Nimbus 20 running shoe and with fellow Asics Frontrunner team member Ralph.
I had a chance to use the new shoe and see what I thought about it, so here is my review. The Gel Nimbus has now been going for 20 years and I can see why and it is a popular trainer around the world and one of Asics best products.

I had the 19s which are a great shoe so I was interested to see what the difference is. I must say I am very impressed at a glance they looked the same as the 19s. However don’t be fooled the 20s firstly feel lighter and they still have that comfy feeling. If anything they feel a lot more comfy because the mesh is different and Asics have also improved lacing. This has therefore made it even more comfy. Just what you need in your runs and I will be using these on my long runs. Some colours are the same but also there are some new funky colours.

My conclusion is that if you want a comfy and trendy running shoe for your runs then this is the shoe for you. The Nimbus has been a comfy shoe since its launch and now it’s got even better.

How to conquer Negative Splits

 

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

 

Did you know that most runners start a race too fast and struggle towards the end with slower end splits? Most runners at the end of the race say something like “I struggled at the end” “I blew up”.

I was one of those runners and in 2016 I decided to change this and change my training up. For example, I would start a 10k and the first mile would be my fastest and the last mile would be nearly a minute slower than my first.  I would be hanging on in the end desperate to try and get a PB. I would get sucked into going out fast with other people that did it. It was ruining my races and my times and it is probably doing it to you too.

So I decided to try and run negative splits. They do sound difficult but when you split it down it isn’t that difficult.  I started by changing my training up during the winter; I forced myself to start off slower on speed reps and made sure that every rep I did got faster. This sounds hard and it is but it becomes easy and in races it comes naturally. My first rep in a speed session is much slower than the last. It is hard when you are forcing yourself to push that last rep as fast as you can. But you will surprise yourself. Not only does this make you run faster towards the end of a race but it also allows your body to manage and cope when your body is full of lactic acid.

So the first trick is to get negative splits in your speed session or to have the reps consistent then the last rep as fast as you can and quicker.

The next step is to practice going out fast on your last few minutes of your long run; this forces your body to deal with the lactic acid while you’re tired. When your body is slowing down as you’re getting tired and to the end of the long run a quick blast will do you the world of good.

Now comes the tricky part: pacing it right in a race, it is easy to go off fast as lots of people shoot off.  I now know I will catch them later in the run, in fact these days people rarely overtake me in the last few miles of a race. I practised my pace in the cross country season where I started off slow, so I would be around the top 50 at the start and by the end of the race pushing into the top 10. I did a 10 mile race and I forced myself to go out slower the first 5 miles and was roughly around 17th place  and the 2nd half of the race I was much quicker and overtaking people and nearly came 3rd and achieved a PB. My last mile was the quickest. I could have paced it a bit better and gone a little faster on the first part but this is the tricky part and it takes practice.

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

It will hurt towards the end of a race but in the long run if you master it you can run a lot quicker and can achieve a PB; but it takes time.

My conclusion is you should give this a go and be patient. Be disciplined and don’t get caught up with people going out too fast at the start. Know your race plan and race pace and stick to the plan, sometimes have a few plans ready just in case you need to change the plan up during the race.

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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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.