The importance of the ‘long run’ & how to progress

The coaching team from RunningWithUs take a look at the long run and how you can use it to your best advantage for your marathon training.

NYC_LOTR-3118 2 (1)The ‘long run’ can be the most daunting part of your running training plan. The length of a long run is relative to the person running it and the distance that they are training for, but generally speaking a long run is between one and three hours, running at a low intensity. The long run takes an increasing role through February if you’re training for a spring race. A great goal is to get in a consistent weekly long run of 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours at a relaxed and conversational effort by the middle to end of February.

Increasing the miles
Patience is key, even for the more experienced runners. Adding 10-15 minutes each week onto your long run is a sensible progression. Don’t be surprised if niggles and fatigue set in as you start jumping up by 30-40 minutes at a time.

What pace should I run my long runs?
In early February, aim to keep your long runs at a fully conversational, relaxed pace that’s 45-60 seconds a mile slower than your planned marathon pace. This will build your body’s ability to burn stored fats and ensure you are fresh enough to hit your quality sessions mid-week.NYC_LOTR-0949

Pre-marathon race prep
Using a half marathon race as a marathon paced long run can be a great way of building confidence around
your goal marathon pace. As extra preparation, try adding 20-30 minutes easy before and after the half marathon.

How to fuel your long runs
When your long run starts to extend beyond the 1 hour 30 minute mark, we recommend your really start to practice with different options for pre-run breakfasts and also fuelling during the run itself. Your long run is the best opportunity to practise your race day nutrition strategy. Gels are the most efficient and effective way of getting carbohydrates quickly into the system whilst running. To start with, take small sips of gel and look to take one every 30-60 minutes or so during the course of your long run.

IMG_3102What gels should I choose?
There are lots of brands out there offering similar sports nutrition. HIGH5 have always been our ‘go to’ brand for fuelling and recovery. It’s clean energy with no added nasties, like artificial sweeteners.
Take one EnergyGel Plus or IsoGel Plus sachet every 20-30 minutes. Wait until 30 minutes from the start of your race before taking your first sachet. The most convenient way of carrying gels is to use a Gel Belt but make sure you test it out in training. There are always a few runners that lose their gels within the first miles of a race because the gels are the wrong size for their belt.

To ensure you are fuelling and refuelling yourself clever, check out HIGH5 Marathon Nutrition Guide.

Be safe, work hard and enjoy your run!

RunningWithUs

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Be a stronger runner this year

‘New Year, New You’! We’ve heard it loads before but what does it actually mean for you as an individual runner? The new year provides both a chance to start afresh, tackle new challenges and set new goals, review and consolidate the good training you may have implemented in 2016.

W13240603_1088938937846415_1548091568490348331_nhen thinking about 2017, runners can be broadly split into two categories: those who get majorly motivated by the statement and begin to plan this ‘New Self’ versus those who cynically think ‘yeah yeah I’ve tried it all before’.

The main reason many runner’s new years resolutions fail is because the goals are often too extreme and the changes unrealistic. However by choosing the correct targets for YOU and planning exactly how you are going to achieve them. By the end of 2017 you could find yourself smugly looking back over 12 months of new years resolutions having come true.

Here are some suggestions from HIGH5 running coaches Running With Us for different categories of runners who are looking for some new year inspiration or guidance.

The raw recruit

Park Blue 5354 croppedRunning has massively grown in popularity over the last few years and as running coaches we see a big influx of new runners into the sport each January. If you are a complete beginner and your New Years resolution is to take up running from scratch then firstly you need to choose an achievable target. A 5k is a great starting distance. The end goal gives your running focus and the training is manageable and not too daunting. Check out www.parkrun.org which might be a great place to start, plan your campaign to get to 5km to last 6-8 weeks and work with a structured plan if you can.

Work out how many times you can realistically fit running or exercise into your week and use this as a basis when choosing a training schedule. The number of training sessions can always be increased as fitness and motivation progress as the weeks go on, but beginning with an unrealistic number of sessions per week can often lead to demotivation due to this being unachievable. Too many people want to go from zero to hero in the first week!

Consistency is key, so if two or three runs per week fits in with your life balance right now and is an obtainable target then stick to this. Regularity of training over a few weeks beats binge training one week and doing nothing the next. If you can link up with a local running club or group who will help to motivate and inspire you to keep progressing. If you are not sure where to start check out www.runtogether.co.uk – there you will find details of groups in your area.

The seasoned campaigner

Training PlanIf you are a more experienced runner you have a choice. Churn out the same routes, runs and races or are you going to finally break that plateau and achieve some new PBs? If so then some changes certainly need to be made…

Sit down with a calendar; consider your goals, injuries, lifestyle and your current fitness and target a race that will allow you the time to peak at your optimum physical condition. For a marathon or a half this might require 12 months, for a 10km you might try to peak twice in a year but give yourself the time to incorporate some of the advice below. This is your macrocycle.

Within this period you should aim to break your year down into smaller chunks that give you the opportunity to develop different elements of your fitness: your endurance, your strength, your speed, your race pace, your taper. These smaller chunks are your mesocycles which typically last 4-8 weeks. Try some periods and races that will take you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you tend to focus on marathons and ultras look to include a phase in the year focusing on short distances and working on your 5-10km time or maybe even get onto the track in the summer. In the winter the cross country season can provide a great way of challenging your body differently.

Analyse what went right and wrong within last years training. Stick to the positive elements but change the negative. This may mean choosing a new and challenging training schedule, finding a coach who can give you fresh advice and structure or beginning training with other runners by joining a group/club.

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The Spring marathoner
If 2017 is beginning with a spring marathon target for you, then let’s get organised and ensure you are on the road to success.

  • Have you chosen a good trustworthy training schedule that will guide you through the next 12 to 14 weeks and is suited to your ability? We have some great training plans here.
  • Have you scheduled in your pre-marathon races? One or two half marathons along the way will provide short and mid term goals and will give you an indication of how your training is going.
  • Are you wearing the correct trainers that have been fitted properly and suit your running needs?
  • Have you found a good trustworthy physio to help you with sports massage, injury prevention and provide an MOT to check for strengths/weaknesses and advise on what to concentrate on in order to get to that start line in one piece?

Have a look at the points above and aim to have them all ticked in order to begin your marathon journey successfully. It is time to get organised and get motivated. You can’t cram for a marathon and it is a process of putting all of the correct ingredients together in order to achieve your 26.2 miles of success!

Make 2017 the year you take control of your running. For nutrition advice for running check out this section: https://highfive.co.uk/high5-faster-and-further/#running.

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Winter Training Blog – Part 2

Winter Turbo Sessions

When winter draws in and the weather gets less inspiring, spending time outside on the bike seems less appealing and sometimes, not possible owing to floods, ice or snow. Turbo training is a great way to keep your fitness ticking over.

The following sessions offer some variety to keep boredom at bay and make the sessions more appealing. You can achieve a lot in a short time. Try to make a turbo session a regular part of your winter fitness programme. However, always get a check up from your GP before undertaking strenuous turbo training sessions. The reason that turbo sessions are so effective is because they are hard!!

Just like the rides you do outside, you should think about fuelling and hydrating. Before you do a high intensive session you need to be in the right state of mind. For additional focus and extra kick you can take caffeine drink like HIGH5 ZERO X’treme or a caffeine gel like HIGH5 IsoGel Plus Citrus.

With no air resistance (except maybe a fan), you will be sweating a lot on the turbo. If you’re not, then you’re not doing it right! The below sessions are all around 1 hour long. Refuelling with carbohydrates is not essential so a zero calorie electrolyte drink like HIGH5 ZERO will keep you hydrated.

Don’t forget to take a HIGH5 Protein Recovery drink straight after your session. We like to prepare it before we go on the turbo and have it ready in the fridge for immediate refreshment and to kick start your recovery. High quality whey protein isolate contributes to muscle growth and maintenance.

We’ve prepared 4 sessions to get you sweating…

Session 1

This session is designed to raise your lactate threshold and help you perform near it.

Warm-up

5 minutes spinning while increasing gearing/resistance, followed by 5 minutes of 10 seconds sprint and 50 seconds recovery.

Main set: 3-6 x 5min with 3min recovery

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Shift to the big chain ring and work hard for 5 minutes. Aim for a heart rate 15-25 beats below your maximum or, if using power, your FTP. The trick is not to go out too hard at the start so that you can maintain the pace for the full 5 minutes.

At the end of 5 minutes, drop back to the small chain ring, drop the resistance and spin easy for 3 minutes.

Depending on your ability/fitness, repeat this work/recovery cycle for three to six reps.

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

Session 2

This session is designed for building hill strength, as well as mental toughness!

Warm-up

10 minutes easy spinning, including some 10-20 second seated sprints in the second 5 minutes.

Main set: 3 x 6min of ascending difficulty with 2min recovery

Select the big ring but with a moderate sprocket (for example, 22t) the resistance should be at about a third of your turbo’s maximum. Ride moderately hard. After 3 minutes, shift up two gears and try to maintain the same cadence for a further 2 minutes. Finally, shift up another two gears and ride hard for a minute out of the saddle.

Drop to the small chain ring, drop the resistance and recover with easy spinning for two minutes. Shift back to the big ring but this time perform the ‘3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute sequence with two more clicks of resistance.

Recover for two minutes again and then work through the ‘3, 2,1, again cranking it up by two clicks/gears.

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

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Session 3

This session is designed to develop climbing strength and pacing.

Warm-up

10 minutes easy spinning.

Main set – Up & down the gear block in 1min intervals

Zero your trip computer and select a fairly heavy resistance on the turbo along with your bottom gear (for example, 39 x 25). Ride sustainably hard, remembering you’ve got a long drag ahead and it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Every minute shift up one gear all the way through the block. By the time you’re at the 11t or 12t, you should barely be turning the cranks. Keep going until you’ve been up and down the entire block twice.

The workout should take 33, 37 or 41 minutes depending whether you have a 9, 10 or 11 speed groupset. How far did you cover? Try to beat it next time!

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

Session 4

This session is designed to do a bit of everything! Pedalling technique, leg speed, strength, power and sustained effort.

Warm-up

10 minutes easy spinning.

Main Set

10min spin-ups

With resistance and gear fairly low, stay seated and spin up to maximum cadence. Hold the cadence up to 30 seconds and recover at an easy spin for the rest of the minute.

10min mixed climb

Crank up the resistance to high and find a gear that allows you, when working fairly hard, to maintain a cadence of 80-90rpm. Climb seated for 1 minute and then, having clicked up a couple of gears, climb out of the saddle. Alternative between seated and out of saddle riding every minute.

10min big gear sprints

Recover spinning easily for 1 minute at the end of the climb, and then select a high resistance and a big gear. From a standing start, sprint out of the saddle to get on top of the gear and then sit down and maintain the sprint. It should be a 100% 30 second effort. Rest completely for 90 seconds between efforts.

10min time trial

At medium resistance and gearing that allows you to work hard, but sustainably, at 90-100rpm ride a consistent 10 minutes. Try to make your effort constant without any tailing off.

Cool-down

10 minutes easy spinning.

So there you have it, four super awesome turbo sessions to bring pain and suffering back into your training schedule.

Enjoy!

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10 Reasons to join a RIDE IT event in 2017

If you’re looking for a challenge or just need some extra motivation to get out on your bike in 2017 then here’s 10 reasons why you should check out the Evans Cycles RIDE IT series.

1. Explore new areas
RIDE IT events take place right across the country, so offers a great way for riders to explore some new regions with the knowledge you’ll be riding routes designed to take in the best cycling those areas have to offer. There are some real bucket list riding spots on the schedule that every cyclist should experience at least once; Such as the Yorkshire Moors, Brecon Beacons, Peak District, North Wales and South Downs to name a few.
2. Ride with others
Sometimes things are better together and that’s definitely true for cycling, whether it’s the friendly encouragement to get over that hill, the thrill of riding in a group or the wheel that brings you to the finish when your legs are tired, you’ll usually find some new RIDE IT friends along the way.
3. Try another cycling discipline
RIDE IT events feature a choice of road sportives, off road MTB rides and increasingly popular mixed terrain Sportive Cross rides aimed at those with cyclocross or adventure road bikes. If you only ever ride on the road or you’re a die-hard mountain biker that never ventures on to the tarmac you could be missing out on some of the fun so why not set yourself a goal to try something different in 2017?

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4. A day out with the family
At all the RIDE IT events kids under 16 can ride for free when accompanied by an adult so they’re a great way to get the family out on their bikes and enjoying a ride together. At many of the events there are fun route distances of around 15 miles that are ideal for novice and younger riders.
5. Set yourself a challenge
One question the RIDE IT team often get asked is “Am I good enough to take part”? With this in mind the event series is designed to cater for riders of all abilities. The events feature a range of route options which make it easy to find a challenge that’s suited to your ability whether you’re a novice or experienced rider. There’s everything from 15 mile fun rides and local rides from Evans Cycles stores rides right up to 100 mile plus epic challenges such as the King of The Downs.
6. Ride with an Olympic legend
Riders taking part in the HOY 100 sportive could find themselves riding alongside Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy. The ride is based in Cheshire and features a choice of 100km or 100 mile routes that offer a great mix of flat and fast lanes across the Cheshire Plains as well as some challenging climbs on the edge of the Peak District.
7. Be king for a day
For those looking for a real challenge then the King of The Downs is the flagship event of the RIDE IT series. It’s harder, longer and hillier than the rest, offering cyclists a chance to test their legs against some of the toughest hills in the South East. The 115 mile route has over 9,000 feet of ascent and takes in 10 iconic climbs that will be familiar to many cyclists with them having featured in events such as the 2012 Olympic road race route and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
8. Well stocked feed stations
Every cyclist knows a decent bit of cake can make a ride. The cherry loaf and lemon drizzle at the RIDE IT feed stops gets regular compliments from participants. As well as the cake the feed stops are supported by HIGH5 so there’s a selection of their sports nutrition products alongside a range of regular food on offer to fuel you to the end of your ride.
9. Mechanical back up should things go wrong
Hopefully your ride goes smoothly and you never need the services of the support van but it’s great to know that should you have a mechanical or your legs just decide they’ve really had enough then there’s someone to call on to come your aid. Often they’ll be able to fix mechanical issues at the road side so you can continue your ride but if not they’ll bring you and your bike back to the event centre.
10. Enter early for some HIGH5 freebies
The RIDE IT series is supported by HIGH5, not only are the feed stops well stocked with HIGH5 sports nutrition products, all riders who enter an event more than 8 weeks in advance can claim a free HIGH5 Bottle pack at the event.

For more information on any of the RIDE IT events visit – http://www.evanscycles.com/ride-it

To find out how you and a friend can win one of five pairs of free entries to an Evans RIDE IT of your choice, simply click here.

 

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winter running

How to survive the winter running

Keeping yourself motivated when the weather turns cold and dark is the hardest part about being a runner. Running can start to feel like a chore. A mental barrier appears with numerous excuses stopping you from lacing up and getting out the front door. If this is you, then you aren’t the only one! We all have these mental battles, however it’s how you deal with them that matters. Plan your day accordingly: plan what time you are going to run and stick to it! Write it down, meet a friend, tell your partner when you’re heading out. Being this disciplined will keep you training and motivated.

2Staying warm is key! Make sure you don’t have the “it’s too cold to run” excuse lined up. Base layers, thermal tights and a jacket will keep you warm and dry. Make sure you are seen when out running in the dark, so a head torch is a must as well as highly visible kit. Not only does it keep you safe but also saves you from unseen potholes and puddles of water that you’re likely to run through.

Having enough energy to run can be the difference between a ‘good run’ and a ‘bad run’. You don’t want to come home from work, having to then force yourself to get out of the door lacking energy, feeling hungry and tired. Snacking between main meals is crucial to maintaining blood sugar levels throughout the day. A HIGH5 Protein Hit (Peanut & Caramel, Cacao & Orange, Coconut, Lemon & Raspberry) mid-afternoon is a perfect pre-training snack. It provides a good balance of carbs to protein to ensure you have enough energy for your evening run. The flavours are delicious, removes the ‘hangry’ [hungry & angry!] feeling on your commute home and fills you up without feeling full.

Keeping yourself hydrated in the winter is just as important as it is in the summer. Dehydration can increase your risk of getting ill, catching colds and resulting in time off training. HIGH5 ZERO tablets are a great source of electrolytes. One tablet added to 500 or 750ml of water (try warm or boiling water in the winter!) reduces tiredness and fatigue allowing you to train better for longer.

Get a race in the diary! This will give you a purpose to your training during the winter. Have a countdown, choose one of our online training plans and set yourself a goal. Planning, preparation, keeping warm and energised are the main factors to surviving training throughout the winter. Running is hobby, make time for it and remember to enjoy it!

Tips to take awaywarmzero
  • Stay warm and dryn’t ofrlet people know about your running plans, they will help to motivate you
  • Keep your energy levels up
  • Stay hydrated

Don’t forget to enter our latest competition for your chance to win a pair of Saucony Guide 10’s and a HIGH5 nutrition pack. Click Here to enter.

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Improve your swim performance

For most athletes, the swim can often be the least trained and most disliked discpline of a triathlon. With this in mind we recently spoke to #HIGH5fuelled Matt Trautman to get his advice on how to improve the swim section of your next triathlon.

hever_2016-4As a triathlete, squeezing in three different disciplines whilst juggling work and family commitments means you have to be very smart in how you allocate your training time. While the swim may be the shortest discipline and most people’s least enjoyable part of a triathlon, it is critical that you have enough swim fitness so that the rest of your race isn’t ruined before it really begins. Ensuring you aren’t overly fatigued when you leave the water will make a massive difference in being able to ride and run to your full potential.

For age group triathletes, the water temperature needs to be above 24°C before it becomes a wetsuit illegal swim. It means there is a pretty high chance you are going to be donning your neoprene come race day, and im_2in the tropical climates with warm water temperatures the swim is more often than in the sea. The wonderful thing about a wetsuit or swimming in salt water is that you are more buoyant, meaning you don’t have to kick as much so you can preserve your legs for the all important bike and run sections.

So how do we enhance our swimming? Quite simply you need to spend as much time as possible practicing and swimming your race stroke. This may seem obvious, but you still see numerous age group triathletes who are only able to swim 2-3 times a week spending half of their session doing kick sets or working on drills trying to get a ‘feel’ for the water.

A strong leg kick is not a top priority in a wetsuit legal swim. It gives you minimal propulsion and also fatigues those valuable leg muscles before the bike/run has started. Swimming as fast as possible with as little use of the legs should be a priority as a triathlete, especially over the longer distances.  Besides there being a very small chance of getting a good ‘feel’ for water, triathlons are not raced in a pool. Open water swims will be choppy if not from wind and waves then definitely from the hundreds of other competitors around you. Any chance of feeling the water and swimming smooth goes straight out the window.

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Building upper body strength and resilience to complete a long distance swim comfortably, takes time and consistency in the pool. In order to put in the necessary mileage in the pool without getting overly fatigued, there are numerous swim aids you can use. The most important for a triathlete being the pull buoy followed by hand paddles. A pull buoy helps you focus on your stoke without the added stress of trying to stay afloat. It also mimics the body position you’ll have when wearing a wetsuit or even in a salt water swim and minimizes the propulsion you get from your leg kick.castle_series_howard-87

If you are new to swimming or even if you are a very experienced triathlete, doing the majority of your swim workouts with a pull buoy in place is not a problem. If it makes your swimming more enjoyable and means you’re spending more time in the pool, then even better!

There are numerous beneficial swim workouts you can do. If you don’t have a coach, then check out some of the hundreds of sessions that can be found online. The main thing is finding consistency and a swim rhythm that is going to propel you to a comfortable and hopefully fast swim time.

Mixing up aerobic swim sets with anaerobic (sprints) and strength (paddles) work during the week, or even within a session, will be beneficial and stop you from plateauing.

Here is a simple aerobic swim set that will help develop your pace awareness.

Warm Up: im_1-cropped
  • 8 x 25m (3 easy / 1 fast, 3 easy / 1 fast)
  • 6 x 25m (2 easy / 1 fast, 2 easy / 1 fast)
  • 4 x 25m (1 easy / 1 fast)
  • 2 x 25m (both fast)

10 second rest between each 25m, Pull Buoy optional

Main Set:
  • 2 x 400m paddles/pullbuoy. 70% effort
  • 4 x 200m pullbuoy only. 80% effort
  • 8 x 100 pullbuoy or swim only. All out effort but maintainable for all 8 reps

20 seconds rest for each set

Cool Down:
  • 1 x 200 easy

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How to train for a Half Marathon Part 2: Peaking

This is the second part of our half marathon special from HIGH5’s Running Experts, RunningWithUs. It covers the second phase of your training in the build up to the big day with top tips on running economically and staying healthy.

If you missed part one of our half marathon special you can find it here: https://highfive.co.uk/half-marathon-part1/

Peaking, specifically
The crucial phase 4-6 weeks from race dayPark Blue 5354 cropped is when you will start to really push your training forward as you see the fitness gains from those early foundation weeks bed in. Consider some of our top tips for these crucial weeks:

The economy matters
‘Running economy’ in simple terms relates to the energy demand and how much oxygen you need to run at your given race pace. Through careful training you can run your desired race-pace whilst minimising energy or oxygen consumption. Include some race pace efforts into your long run. Testing your energy systems by running your planned race pace towards the end of your long runs can be a great way to improve your running economy.

Try these sessions:
A) 1hr 45 minutes with the final 60 minutes run as 3 x 15 minutes at half marathon pace with 5 minutes recovery
B) 21km with the final 10km as a 10km race at half marathon pace
C) 25km run as a progression of 5km easy / 5km half marathon pace / 5km easy / 5km half marathon pace / 2km hard / 3km easy

Use your week
It can get tempting to focus on your long run as the key measure of your fitness before your half. In fact using your midweek runs cleverly in these crucial weeks will have as much of an impact as the long run. Break your routine of just easy and steady mid-week efforts by getting out and trying something with a bit more quality.

Try this: If you are short on time around work, focus on quality. A lot can be achieved in a 45 minute run! 15/15/15 is our favourite for a highly effective, short mid-week session – that’s 15 minutes easy, 15 minutes steady, 15 minutes at 3-4 word answer effort. Or 45 minutes with the final 25 at half marathon pace. You could even try an interval session, such as 8 x 3 minutes: run the odd numbers at a little faster than half marathon pace, the even numbers at 5km pace and take 75 seconds for recovery.Training Plan

Stay healthy
These crucial last few weeks can be a delicate time. You will be fitter and stronger but also carrying some fatigue and soreness from training. It can be tempting to keep pushing, adding more volume, but you may find that you are regularly picking up niggles, or getting sick.

Top tip: Cross trainers, rowing machines and aqua jogging can supplement your running and even replace sessions if you are injured. Maintain the same time and effort levels as your running plan. Use a heart rate monitor to hit the same efforts your would if you were out running. Also ensure you are recovering well immediately after hard sessions. Consider using HIGH5 Protein Recovery in the crucial 10-20 minute window after these harder sessions which will help stimulate and promote the recovery process.

Race
Don’t get daunted by the volume and the goal. 12-16 weeks of training can seem a lot, so try to break down your half marathon goal with intermediate target races. This will also allow you to get used to running around other people and learn the patterns and routines you will want to replicate on your main race day.

Top tip: Enter a 5km race, perhaps a parkrun, 4-6 weeks into your plan. Then try a 10km race, 3-4 weeks before your target half marathon. You might even consider running a 10km race at your planned half marathon heart rate, with 20-30 minutes easy running before, and 20-30 minutes easy after the race to make a tough, but confidence building long run. Racing in training is also a great time to practice your race day nutrition. Using HIGH5 EneryGels at the start and half way through your 10km, will help you feel confident and strong with your strategy on race day itself. Also check out our half marathon nutrition guide.

MR&WR_Running Pairs_Portugal052Sharper, fresher, faster
Tapering simply means cutting back your training in a planned way to ensure you arrive at the start line fit, strong and fresh. We recommend maintaining the pattern of training you have established through the last 10-16 weeks of your training. So if you currently run 3, 4 or 5 times a week, continue to run 3, 4 or 5 times a week in the final two weeks before race day. Combining a familiar pattern of training with a reduced volume and a drop in the intensity on each run, you will find you can build up your energy levels without getting rusty.

Try this: Aim to reduce the volume of your training by about 30% two weeks out from race day, and to about 50% in race week itself. Also check out our article on tapering.

Sleep your way to success
When you sleep, your body moves through different sleep cycles. The magical, deep sleep phase is when growth hormones are released. This will help you recover from your training, build more muscle and help cellular regeneration. However it takes several hours to get to this phase of your sleep so if you are regularly getting less than 8 hours a night you are limiting your body’s ability to adapt to all the hard miles you have put in.

Try this: Aim for 20-30 minutes more sleep a night during your taper. Banish smart phones, tablets, TVs etc from the bedroom. Limit big meals, alcohol and caffeine late at night and aim to get into a good, regular pattern of early nights in the final days before racing.

DSC4728 croppedGet sharp
Whilst you want to arrive at the start line fresh, it can be easy to cut back too much and feel rusty and sluggish when the gun goes off. Aim to maintain some lighter faster sessions in the final two weeks to keep the legs moving!

Try this: On the Saturday 7-8 days before your race, consider having a go at a parkrun. Aim to run hard and get the legs moving. This will build confidence and help you to remind yourself of your pre-race routine.

Fuel
You body needs good stores of carbohydrate to race well over the half marathon distance. Ensure that your not getting hungry at any point in the final 3-4 days before the race and digging an energy hole for yourself.

Try this: Monitor your fuel intake closely and aim to snack every 2-3 hours on high quality carbohydrates. HIGH5 Energy Bars can be a great option if you feel you are struggling to get solid carbohydrates in. HIGH5 Energy Source is another great option in the final two days before the race to top up those energy stores.

Take away tips:
  • Build up your strength
  • Include a threshold run once a week
  • Be patient with your training and increase gradually
  • Increase your running economy
  • Cut back in the last few weeks, but stay sharp

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Five ways to train more effectively

Fitting your training around a busy schedule isn’t always easy. Not all of us have the time to be out on the bike for hours at a time. That’s why Achieve Cycling have put together five useful tips to help you put more focus into your training and be more effective with your time.

1. Consistency
Having some consistency within your training is pivotal to Achieve Cyclingfitness improvements. It is far better to train four days a week for a shorter duration than to do two longer sessions. Backing up your workouts is where the real training stimulus lies and it’s key to developments in fitness. Try to block days together in two’s or three’s depending on the demand of the workouts. Separate these blocks with a rest day or active recovery off the bike, like walking or swimming.

2. Be Specific
The training you are doing needs to be targeted towards your goals or target events. For example, endurance events require more volume in training and aerobic conditioning. In contrast, if you’re training for a 10 or 25m time trial then you should approach this with more threshold work and also spend some time in your race position. Specific quality sessions for your goals are as important as keeping your training consistent. If you’ve got a hilly sportive coming up, then check out our blog on how to get through a hilly sportive.

3. Intensity
One of the biggest mistakes amateur athletes make, is training too much at a high intensity. When you have time constraints and limited time to train, the temptation is to ride hard every session. You should use intensity sparingly and make your hard sessions really hard. Mix maximal efforts with sub maximal (under threshold) and conditioning rides at the top of your endurance zone which is up to 80% of your functional threshold power or maximal heart rate.

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4. Setting Goals
If you have limited training time, give each session a specific goal or target that you want to achieve. This allows you to maximise every available hour you have to train. Maybe you need to build endurance, work on your threshold, or improve your sprint prowess?  You can even use your next recovery ride to work on your pedalling efficiency. Giving each session a goal, will help you be more effective with your training.

5. Use your data
Do you ride with a bike computer to measure your speed, heart rate or even your power? Use the data to track and measure your training. Keep a diary either via GPS uploads or write them down so you can look back at your training and spot potential areas you need to work on. Or maybe you’ve trained really consistently and you can go into your next event with full confidence. If you use heart rate and/or power then learn to understand how monitoring and using this data can enhance the quality of your training.

If you want to learn more about Achieve Cycling’s coaching services. Visit their website at: http://www.achievecyclecoaching.co.uk/

Don’t forget to enter our latest competition for your chance to win a day with Team Dimension Data at the Tour of Britain

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Should you eat breakfast?

Prevailing public wisdom depicts that breakfast is ‘the most important meal of the day’
Here’s a challenge for you: if you were asked to define breakfast, what would you say? Better yet, why is it important? Consider the context of your answer. It’s not so easy is it?

Regrettably, context is rarely considered when looking at different ways of eating and it is an important component when it comes to eating for health, performance and wellbeing. There is a lot of information which is readily available to the public. Unfortunately, it can be like Chinese whispers, whereby the original message, in this case ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, is distorted out of its original context. How many of you go without breakfast and don’t eat until ‘lunch time’? Would that make your lunch, your breakfast?

Let’s take a look at why breakfast is particularly important, and in what context it could benefit someone.

Breakfast and Metabolism02
Eating food awakens lots of different bodily processes to metabolise food for its energy. This is known as dietary induced thermogenesis (DIT). So, technically eating breakfast does kick start your metabolism. However, don’t count on this kick start to help you lose weight, there are lots of other factors that will influence weight gain and loss like physical activity and the quantity of food you are eating. Whilst studies have shown eating breakfast makes you subconsciously more active throughout the morning (thus burning more calories), those who didn’t eat breakfast didn’t over compensate later in the day, meaning they had missed a meal. Missing meals will not help with healthy weight loss.

A good tip to remember is that muscle is a more metabolically active tissue and therefore burns more calories. Pack on some more muscle mass, combine this with a bit of breakfast and exercise….hey presto, you could lose some weight. To help also dispel a myth. Muscle does not weigh more than fat. A pound of fat and a pound of muscle both weigh the same. On the other hand, their composition is different. Muscle has a leaner appearance due to its high density, whereas fat has a low volume and needs more space to jiggle around. Therefore muscle occupies less space than fat does. The misconception often comes from the fact that your weight wouldn’t fluctuate much after completing resistance or cardiovascular exercise due to your increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass. However, your appearance would be considerably different. We shouldn’t get carried away with our weight, our body composition is most important.
Breakfast and Cognitive Function
Our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose is transported to the brain cells and used as fuel by the brain. There have been positive links made between the provision of carbohydrates and your mood as well as cognitive function. Therefore consuming carbohydrates (the good type!) in the morning could certainly help with your morning slog in the office. When choosing carbohydrates try and go for low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates such as oats or bran. Try this for a breakfast: porridge with seasonal berries, a dollop of greek yogurt, partnered with a spinach omelette.01
Morning Training
When training early in the morning, what type of intensity and how long do you train for? Those are the type of questions you should ask yourself when considering if you need to eat anything prior to training.IMG_3201cropped

If you are training at a high intensity for say 30 minutes to an hour you may struggle to hold down food having it so close to training. Unless you get up early to have breakfast before training or you only have a small snack like HIGH5 EnergyBar or an EnergyGel.
If you don’t have breakfast, recovery after is key! Make sure you consume protein and carbohydrates as soon as you can after training. This will increase rates of protein synthesis (the building of muscle tissue) helping you recover quicker. HIGH5 ProteinRecovery is ideal for this.

When training at a moderate to low intensity you can eat something beforehand. This is especially important when training for more than 90 minutes. Unless your aim is increased fat metabolism via fasted training.

Some tips to take away with you:
1. Breakfast doesn’t need to be sugary cereals, concentrated fruit juices or French pastries. Be more adventurous with your breakfast; don’t force yourself to eat a big bowl of cereal and a coffee in the morning if you don’t want it. Wait until you feel hungry and prepare something more nutritious. This will benefit your training or daily routine a lot more than that bowl of sugary cereal.
2. If you aren’t a breakfast eater but suffer mid morning slumps, have a snack! However, don’t forget to ensure you get enough food in during the rest of the day. Otherwise your training adaptations could suffer.
3. If you’re training in the morning, think about what that session is trying to achieve. Harder intensities and longer duration sessions will require fueling prior to or during training.
4. If doing fasted training, ensure you recover properly. Make sure you get enough protein and carbohydrates post exercise to stimulate the training adaptation.

Breakfast is something most of us can benefit from, however, there are lots of inter-individual variances between everyone’s goals, routines and tastes. This means that it is down to you as an individual to experiment and find out how you feel after consuming different foods and timings in and around your daily routine and training. Switch up that bowl of sugary cereal for an omelette of your choice and a fresh smoothie rather than the sugary concentrated fruit juices you can buy from supermarkets. Nutrition is personal and not everyone likes the same things. Go and find out what works for you and be one step closer to achieving your goals, whatever they may be.

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Understanding my training zones

Have you ever left the front door not sure how fast to run? You may have a training plan, but just how hard is an easy run and how should your threshold or interval training feel? Our coaching partners Running With Us explain the different effort levels and what these should feel like.

Easy/Recovery running
Gi_WomanOnTreadmill_RT2croppedFor those of you who are very new to running, we promise that this sport doesn’t have to be exhausting and each run shouldn’t leave you tired for days. The early runs where you are learning to cover distance and time should be completed at the speed of chat. That’s right, you should be able to still talk to the person next to you whilst running. We call this the ‘talk test’ and it is great to use to gage your effort level.

For those who are more experienced, running at ‘the speed of chat’ is how your easy runs should feel in a training week. You should feel totally in control, relaxed and able to talk whilst running. This is easier to check whilst running with a friend but if on your own, you may find you are running along the street talking to yourself. It’s not a bad thing as long as it helps you gage your effort! If you wanted to give this type of running a score on an effort level 1-10 (1 being the easiest) it should be 6/10.

If experienced and running before breakfast, your easy runs could become crucial in your half, full and even ultra marathon training. Running at 6/10 or around the 60% of max heart rate will ensure much of your energy comes from stored fats. In events where you will be working for longer than 90 minutes at a consistent effort, becoming efficient at metabolising stored fats as a fuel source will become crucial in your quest for a new PB, even when you take gels and have a good breakfast on race day. It is therefore very wise to make some of your easy/recovery runs pre-breakfast moments, stimulating this stored fat system and preparing the body to use both stored fat and carbohydrate on race day.

Effort level: 6 out of 10 or around 60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR)

Top Tip – The key to this zone is making sure you can hold a conversation easily at anytime and feeling totally in control.

Steady Running
The next level: this is steady running and the backbone of training for the more experienced. It isn’t complicated but does require honesty. You can push this area too hard and run junk miles that leave you too tired for the important sessions that we will talk about next. This area is perhaps a 7/10 on your scorecard and is still conversational, although the chat is slightly strained.

Effort level: 7/10 or around 70% MHR

Top Tip – Many runners run or drift along at a steady effort on their easy and recovery days never allowing their bodies to regenerate in an optimum way. Be careful not to compromise your next harder day or key session by running steady all week!
IMG_3129cropped

Threshold & tempo running
If you really want to train like a pro and begin to see your heart get stronger, stoke volume improve and ultimately your running economy progress then this is the magic area. We call this ‘uncomfortable running’ or ‘controlled discomfort.’

The real key though is that you can still talk between each breath but it’s only 3-4 word answers. If you can utter a couple of distressed words, you are working too hard and conversely if you can say most of a sentence you are not working hard enough. This is running uncomfortably but with control… just! It is certainly not sprinting or running to exhaustion.

Initially, you might only be ready to include a few 3-minute blocks of this in a run each week but it can grow and you can build the volume over the months. We call this type of running ‘the bedrock’ and it is vital when becoming a better runner. Sessions could grow from 4 x 5 minutes with a jog recovery to 3 x 10 mins and ultimately 20-30 mins all controlled and cruising at a consistent pace but still just in the aerobic zone.

Our 3-4 word talk test is pretty accurate but for those of you wanting to get this spot on and nail the marginal gains, we suggest a lab test to establish lactate levels against heart rate and even your current VO2 max. Your heart rate monitor will then guide you perfectly with training zones that match your personal running DNA.

Effort level: 8/10 0r around 80-85% MHR

Top Tip – The key to this magic zone is keeping it feeling like 3-4 word answer pace and not progressively harder. You shouldn’t feel like you are in the final stages of a 5k or 10k. Keep that control… just!

Warehouse GrayPink 9074Interval training & VO2 max/high lactate sessions
It’s time to visit the hurt locker! To a point, how a 5k/10k effort or intense interval training feels is up to you. You could be wise and hold back slightly letting the pace and intensity prescribed build the pain for you, or you could be the head banger who loves to hit it harder and hang on. The choice is yours but remember to be consistent in this zone. It is meant to hurt and sessions such as 6-8 x 1km or 6 x 4 mins off 75-90 seconds recovery can really hurt and require focus.

Runners often prefer to train in a group when doing these sessions, hunting as a pack and helping to push each other on. These sessions will certainly boost your VO2 max though and make that engine of yours (the heart) a few cylinders stronger but you can’t visit this zone too often. Maybe once a week in a thought out training plan but only when you are already running threshold each week and feeling good.

Effort level: above 8.5/10 or higher than 85% MHR

Top tip – Join a running group, club or friends to complete these sessions. Completing weekly interval sessions with others adds competition, company and disguises the true pain and mental strength required to nail the moment.

Training PlanSo the next time you leave the front door have a planned route and know what you want from your training. Have a purpose and listen to your body as you run.

Remember these 4 key levels/zones:
• Easy run – fully conversational at the speed of chat and about 6/10 (60-65% max heart rate)
• Steady run – conversational, controlled but slightly strained and about 7/10 (70-75% max heart rate)
• Threshold running – controlled discomfort and 3-4 word answer pace or8-9/10 (80 – 85% max heart rate, but get tested to be sure)
• Interval training & 5k/10k effort or quicker – No time to chat here and 9/10 or more as the session progresses. It’s 1 or 2 word answer time and perhaps more of a grunt (85% -over 90% max heart rate…ouch!)

Do you have any run related questions? Ask Nick Anderson from Running With Us on twitter @nickandersonrun

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