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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 : One bad workout doesn’t mean a bad race!

Saturday was the third of my TLT long runs, and should have been a great run. The weather was perfect, the route also good, allowing me to run an errand (the assistant displayed a great sense of humour as I stood there in running gear, sweating like crazy), as well as taking in a route around Regents Park and the Regents Canal in London, all while allowing the ‘mechanics’ of a TLT run to be completed. Despite all this in my favour, the run sucked. Like ‘worst run I can remember’ sucked. Like one of those runs where the language to describe it is suitable only for blogs like AngryJogger

So what went wrong? I don’t really know. I just know that is was going well until around the 14km mark where I saw my pace dropping off and my fatigue rising quickly. The next 2kms were a real slog, as the fatigue and pain started to set in. At the 16km mark I resorted to that great trick – mind games – telling myself “it’s only 10km left, a doddle! Just keep running” and employing another trick I learnt from Hal Higdon – “if the pace hurts, change it”. Slower was worse, so I went faster, figuring at least I’d get home faster. This seemed to work. The pain and fatigue didn’t get worse and I was at least on pace, until I hit the 20km mark and the wheels really started to wobble….


I stopped in a Tesco (another obliging assistant dealing with a sweaty man in running gear), got myself a drink, had a gel, gritted my teeth and ran on. Getting back up to pace just wasn’t happening so I contented myself with a bit of mental positivity – “you’re still running, and that’s enough”. The 22km mark came and it was time for a 2km threshold to finish the run. You guessed it! This is where the wheels fell of and the engine blew up as well! I got through about 600m, saw it was all falling apart and just forced myself to get to the 1km mark, where I just simply stopped running. My body had called it quits, spat the toys out of the pram and given me the finger. I felt like this…


Walking was even a slog. It took me about 10 minutes of walking before I could face the Sainsbury’s near my house (the third obliging assistant dealing with a sweaty runner, this time a sweaty runner with a pale face and wearing a scowl) to pick up some bananas and a chocolate milk for some recovery.

What a bonk! A completely bonked run. Needless to say at the time I was shattered and pretty disappointed, however after some stretching (and some chocolate milk) I recalled a Running Competitor article about rebounding from a tough marathon workout and I decided to review my run to find the positive lessons and any areas where I could benefit from improvement. Here are the things I’ve learnt:

1)        Shit happens. A bad run will happen from time to time, often without any real reason; just sometimes a lot of inconsequential (and even unknown) factors line up to make a run go badly. Get over it!

2)        A bad run is NOT indicative of a bad race. It’s one run in dozens of runs that culminate in a race. Multiple bad runs are a sign which requires further investigation. One bad run is a statistical blip which should be reviewed, but not over analysed and NOT used as a predictor of failure.

3)        The feeling of pain, exhaustion and needing to find the willpower to continue reminded me what the closing stages of a marathon feel like. Maybe the run wasn’t particularly good for race preparation, but it was bloody useful mental preparation.

4)        Hal Higdon was right. Going faster can make you feel better, even if it is only temporary, and at least you’re getting to the finish line faster!

5)        I need to work on my fueling and hydration while running. I was more dehydrated than I expected after the run. Even though it was cool, the sun was up and I had obviously not been taking in enough fluid. I should have drunk to my thirst and got replacement fluid earlier.

6)        I probably need the cutback week that I have in my schedule this week more than I think. I will NOT be tempted to re-run the same work-out to try and do it better. I’ll just stick to my schedule and trust in the training. It was designed by someone who has completed a lot more races than me and has coached many more people to success.

So, where now from here? Onwards and upwards of course! It’s a new week, a new month, and the forecast looks like more running!

Positive running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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Positive Running : Finding the balance between your physical and mental strength

An inspirational image of a man running along the shore at dawn

Image credit

I recently read a really good post by Running Rachel about her foray into Crossfit, within which Rachel discussed some of the issues that come with trying something new and going out of her comfort zone. In her article Rachel refers to her “love/hate relationship” with Crossfit and how even though she loves the challenge, she hates how Crossfit causes her to have feelings of being “weak, inexperienced and often inferior”. However, don’t think this was an article filled with negativity about her performance. On the contrary, Rachel knows these are ‘novice thoughts’ brought about by her lack of experience and being out of her comfort zone.

This got me thinking about running and how beginners often struggle to enjoy running. Being a beginner runner can often leave you suffering both physical pain and willpower sapping negative thoughts. So how do so many people overcome these issues and learn to love running?

Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I believe one of the key things that a lot of beginner runners struggle with is achieving a good balance between their physical ability and their mental attitude. Beginner runners often struggle to achieve this balance because taking up running pushes you outside your comfort zone, both physically and mentally, usually in ways people haven’t experienced before.

Before we move on – going beyond your comfort zone is a good thing! Pushing yourself like this exposes you to new challenges and new achievements.

However, if you push too far you run the risk of falling short of your expectations and engendering negative thoughts about your running. Like most things in life, the key is finding and maintaining a balance, in this case between your mental and physical strength. By being able to find a balance between your physical ability and your mental attitude, you begin to be able to ‘critique’ your performance, instead of being ‘critical’. A critique of your performance is objective and allows you locate areas where you can improve, and areas where you are already strong. Being critical involves ‘subjective’ criticism of where you weren’t ‘good enough’ or ‘tough enough’. These negative thoughts eat at your confidence and your willpower and cause anxiety about your running. It is these sorts of thoughts that can prevent people from developing a positive relationship with their running. Why would you keep going or keep trying to improve if you are always met with self-criticism and anxiety?

So, how can you try and achieve a balance between your physical and mental strength?

Read the rest of this entry

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