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Thursday Training Tip #6

Running on vacation : 10 tips for keeping fit while travelling

The toll lady was, disappointingly, unsurprised to see me. It seems many walkers and runners make the switchback-upon-switchback climb up Mount Igeldo in San Sebastián. And it would seem that runners and walkers are also not exempt from the €2 toll to enter the grounds of one of the best located fairgrounds going around, even if they have run up the back way and are more interested in running down the other side of the mountain than going on the dodgem cars. It’s funny where running takes you sometimes. Certainly when I set out to do the 20km loop from Urgill Hill to Mount Igeldo on a Saturday morning in San Sebastián I was not expecting to find a fairground at the summit!

Sab Sebastian seen from the summit of Mount Igeldo

Sab Sebastian seen from the summit of Mount Igeldo

But, that’s the beauty of running in new places, and running while on vacation. My running kit is always the first stuff into my case whenever I go away. Mainly because it’s small and fills the little crevices in the bottom of my case, but also because it signals to me my intention to keep exercising while away and to hopefully see new things while doing it.

However, while going for long runs while on vacation is all good, vacations aren’t meant to be all about running, or whatever exercise takes your fancy. It’s about experiencing the places you visit, the culture, the food, the landscape and the people, so you can’t always be following your training schedule. That doesn’t mean you need to throw out your training schedule completely. You’ve worked hard up to your vacation (especially if you’ve worked for a ‘beach body’ for a seaside destination), so you don’t want to throw it all away to pursue a week or two of hedonism. Read the rest of this entry

Thursday Training Tip #3

Treshold Training – Run Faster to Run Further


Threshold training (often called tempo running) consists of running at your maximum aerobic output in a ‘steady state’. Because threshold training requires you to run at your maximum aerobic ‘steady state’ it is an excellent way to train for endurance running and races which require this type of running. It is also a great way to add variety to your workout and give you that ‘fast running’ feeling that is so easy to lose if you are constantly pushing out long distances. Here’s a link to my page about using threshold training to improve your distance running.

The term ‘threshold’ refers to the point where your body reaches its maximum aerobic output (energy derived from converting glycogen and oxygen). Beyond this point, any additional energy requirements must be met by your anaerobic metabolism (energy derived from converting glucose and glycogen without oxygen). As with most thresholds, there is a danger if you cross the line. If you work too hard you run the risk of too large a contribution of anaerobic metabolism to your energy supply, which leads to an accumulation of lactate and also rapid fatigue. It’s about control. And the best control is your heart rate monitor. You will need to do a physical test to determine your optimum heart rate, so make sure you’re fit and healthy before you embark on this. My page on threshold running has a couple of tests you can do to determine your threshold rate.

So, keen to give threshold training a go? Great! Your threshold sessions can vary, but typically it’s advised to do between 20-40 minutes of threshold running in a single session. If you’re experienced you might do this in a single ‘steady state threshold run’, but if you’re new to running or threshold running you might want to try repeats. These are best done to time, like say 4×6 minute threshold runs, with 3 minute recovery jog in between repeats. If you’re someone who needs distance targets, try mile repeats, or some distance that equates neatly into your run

Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind for your workouts:

  1. Threshold training is a tough workout and you need to complete a thorough warm-up and cool down. Start your workout with some Dynamic Stretching, followed by slow jogging to gradually raise your heart rate. Follow a cool down routine after your workout, and don’t forget your static stretching
  2. Doing repeats? Recovery breaks between repeats should either be walking or slow recovery jogging. These breaks are also a good time to refuel/rehydrate.
  3. Want to use threshold as part of half or full distance marathon training. Try a TLT workout to combine the effects of threshold training and your long-slow run.
  4. Threshold sessions are hard work, make sure the following day is a rest or recovery day so you can continue with quality workouts and avoid overtraining issues.
  5. Make sure you’re having fun doing it! You have to want to do these sessions otherwise you’ll just start skipping them. Focus on the improvement they bring to your fitness and speed!

Threshold training is a proven way to make you a faster and stronger runner. It will also make you more efficient so in endurance events you can go the distance on less energy. I use threshold training in my running schedule and during my buildup to distance races, and they are often some of my most rewarding runs. Sure, they may be hard work at the time, but that feeling of freedom that comes with running fast is hard to find anywhere else! If you’re looking for some more info, here’s the link to my page on threshold training once more.

Happy running everyone!


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Related Articles:

Article: Threshold Training : Run Faster to Run Further

Blog post: Threshold-Long-Threshold : Training for distance events

Blog post: Threshold Training

Marathon training wk 10 : TLT training

TLT – sounds a lot like a sandwich filling, but it really stands for ‘Threshold-Long-Threshold’, a workout designed as a replacement for your long run that I first read about in a Running Competitor article.

Yesterday was my long run (social commitments meant I moved it from Saturday) and I decided to try out a TLT training session seeing as I had benefited from an extra rest day. In TLT, the basic premise is to do threshold/tempo running at the start and end of your long run, with a session of easy running at ‘long run’ pace in between.  If you’re not familiar with threshold running, you can read my earlier post and check out my training page on the subject.

This type of workout has two main benefits. The first is to burn more muscle glycogen early and activate your anaerobic pathway earlier. This will add more fatigue to the long run section and train your body to improve metabolism of body fat for energy, a crucial requirement for successfully going 42km. The second is to train you physically and, more importantly, mentally for the end stages of a race where you need to keep pushing on despite the onset of physical and mental exhaustion. 

In the RC article, Magdalena Lewy Boulet of the Bay Area Track Club (coach of Clara Peterson, 16th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials) says that “threshold ‘cruise intervals’ need to be run at proper intensity. They are meant to be comfortably hard, or about 83 percent of your VO2 max.” This is all a bit technical for us ‘normal runners’ without access to VO2 max equipment, but you can approximate threshold pace to your 5km race pace, or about 85-90% of your max heart rate.  If you use a heart rate monitor and are reasonably fit and want to determine your max heart rate, I have used this very instructive Runners World maximum heart rate test to determine my maximum heart rate, and then used the heart rate zone calculator to determine my personal training zones.

A typical VO2 max test

A typical VO2 max test

The TLT workout in the RC article was a series of 3x2mile threshold repeats done before an 8 mile ‘long run’, followed by another 2 miles of threshold pace. However, this is a workout for someone who came 16th at the Olympic Marathon trials – i.e. not really for mere mortals like us! Therefore, I edited it to reduce the amount of threshold running, and also the total distance, to something I thought would work for me. My workout went like this (MP means Marathon Pace):

  • 10 min Dynamic Stretching
  • 2km slow jog (MP+45 warm up)
  • 3km threshold run at 5k pace (roughly MP-40)
  • 17km long run with negative splits (first half MP+30, second half MP+15)
  • 2km run to threshold heart rate (equated to MP-10)
  • 2km slow jog (cool down)
  • 1.5km recovery walk

Unsurprisingly, it was hard! Significantly harder than the long run of the week before which was a straightforward 23km long run with negative splits (first half at MP+30, second half at MP+15). However, I could feel the supposed benefits of a TLT workout happening during the run. After the first threshold section I struggled to slow down to MP+30, showing that my body was still massively creating energy after the initial threshold session, and once I was in the groove of the long run, my body sailed along easily and comfortably. I found that in the second half of the long run the fatigue was greater than usual, and my heart rate gradually crept up towards my threshold level while keeping the pace constant. As it turned out, I had to reduce speed for the 2km before the last threshold element to MP+30 to get my heart rate down into aerobic levels. In that last threshold 2km I really had to push to keep going, both physically and mentally, all good training for the closing stages of a race.

Garmin-130819-TLT long runOverall, I consider the session a success, and very ‘instructive’ for reminding me what the closing stages of a marathon are like. However, one ‘negative’ point that I learned with this workout is that I designed it at least 2km too long. The need to slow down for the 2km before the last threshold session told me that I had fatigued too much in the long run component, i.e. I wasn’t fit enough to do the distance with the extra impact of the threshold running. In hindsight, that should have been obvious, but I had countered the extra kilometres with a rest day so thought it would be OK. “Wrong!” – However I still finished the session with all key components completed so overall it was a success.

Would I do this workout again? Yes, I will. It was hard, but rewarding, and I do think the additional physical and mental toughness needed at the end of the workout (when all you would really like to do is walk!) is very good training for race day.  I would however do the first threshold session at MP-15 as suggested in the RC article, instead of flat out 5km pace I did.

Would I add it to my normal routine? No, probably not. I think it is a good workout session for those peaking for a marathon, but for generally weekly running it is probably too much to ask to punish yourself like that week-in, week-out if you aren’t preparing for a race. It would just take the fun out of running! It’s also not a particularly useful workout for lower distances either. I think for a half-marathon it could still be applicable, but for 5km and 10km it is the wrong type of training and it would be better to stick to speed work if you are wanting to improve your performance over those distances.

Has anyone else tried TLT training? What was your experience?

Happy running everyone!


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Run with an Idea #2 : Race Fees – Would you pay £50 for a 10km?


This is the second topic for Run with an Idea, a bi-weekly blogging debate about health and fitness issues. The first topic about the “The Olympics one year on” certainly generated some good discussion and opinions.

This week’s debate topic is about race fees, and “Would you pay £50 for a 10km?”

My answer: “Yes, I would.”

Would I pay £50 for every 10k race? No, I wouldn’t.

£50 is a lot of money for a 10k race, but there are many races out there that cost that much and many thousands of people have run them. Including me.

How much is too much? I think it is a personal decision. It all comes down to what the individual perceives they are getting for their fees and if they think it is worth it.

Outside of the tangible items like medals, shirts, drinks, magazines, energy bars etc –what I call the ‘swag’ (cut me some slack, I’m an Aussie) – there are the intangible items like where the race is run, the scenery, the people taking part, and most importantly, that person’s relationship to the race – the reason they are running.

For me, it is these intangible benefits that inform most of my decision making about a race and the fees. If I feel I’m getting increased ‘benefits’ from a race, I’ll gladly pay more for the opportunity to run in it. If it comes with a good swag, then all the better. But I wouldn’t run a race just for the ‘swag’.

Conversely, if I think the race is too expensive for the ‘benefits’, then I have the choice not to run in it. With the growing popularity in running, and especially in racing 5k and 10k races, it is a bit of a ‘buyers market’. Race organisers need to balance what it costs them to organise, hold and administer a race, with what people are actually willing to pay for their event. Too little fees and they can’t put on a good event, or they go out of business, too much fees and they run the risk of people feeling they aren’t getting good value and subscriptions will drop.

If I see a race I am interested in, but the fees seem high, I speak to people I know who have run the same race, or read reviews of the races online to see what people are saying about their race experience to help inform my decision.

So far I’ve never run a race where I felt that the fees were too much for the whole experience and *crosses fingers* I hope my good luck continues, and I hope yours does too!

If you think £50 is too high for a 10km, or if you have an experience of a race where you thought the cost outweighed the ‘benefits’, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy racing!


Get Going, Get Running

London 2012 : Inspiring a generation? Part 2

London 2012 logo reading 'inspired by London 2012'

I recently posted about the Olympics and if the Games had been able to meet its aim to ‘Inspire a Generation’, as a response to a topic raised in the fortnightly blogging debate series called ‘Run with an Idea‘.

Well, today saw the release of the UK government report ‘Inspired by 2012: The legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games’ which, even taking the facts and figures with a pinch of salt, indicates that the Olympics had a measurable positive impact and is delivering on its promise of ‘legacy’. Perhaps not to the point of inspiring an entire generation, but it is trying hard.

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London 2012 : Inspiring a Generation?

Lord Seb Coe introducing the motto of London 2012

Lord Seb Coe introducing the motto of London 2012

Image credit

I found a brilliant blogging project online the other night. It’s called ‘Run with an Idea‘ and is a fortnightly blogging debate series about topics specifically running and health related.

This fortnight’s topic is The Olympics one year on: Did we ‘Inspire a Generation’? Before I progress, a quick disclaimer – I worked as an architect for 3 years designing and overseeing the construction of parts of the Athletes’ Village for London 2012, plus I’m a London resident who took advantage of the Games when they were on. So, there is going to be some inherent bias. I will however try to be as objective as possible.

Back on topic – did the Olympics inspire a generation? Taken at face value, I think the answer to the question at the moment has to be “no”. I would say it’s too early to tell. This is an idea, a ‘grands projet’ if you will, that is too big an aspiration to actually be deliverable in a measurable manner after only a year. The idea of inspiring an entire generation is laudable, but like a generation itself, is a long term undertaking.

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