I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people on various social media groups are asking questions about their training zones and how they can be fit in each zone. It occurred to me that there is a lot of information out there about training zones but it still leaves people feeling confused, perhaps because there are lots of different systems which use different calculations, metrics and language.
So what are my training zones? Here is a summary of the training zones for running:-
So how much sleep do endurance athletes need? A general rule of thumb is between 7 and 9 hours per night for adults, but studies suggest athletes may in fact need closer to 9 or 10 hours per night for optimum performance.
So how do you get faster at trail running? Well, the best way at getting good trail running is to do more trail running. However, there comes a point where you don’t have any more free time to run and your body can stop responding to the same stimulus; it then becomes a bit more complex than just doing more of the same thing.
So how much do you need to drink when running an ultra-marathon? If you are running for longer than 90 minutes you should aim to drink 300 to 800ml of fluid per hour depending on your size and your sweat rate. Ideally this will include some electrolytes to aid fluid absorption.
Illness aside, if you feel tired but are generally healthy the best thing to do is to go out and have a go BUT if your heart rate is not responding or is going erratically high, or you are significantly off pace despite your best efforts, call it a day, run easy or rest, the session will be there another day. If this isn’t something that you feel you can achieve, the good news is there are other ways to track your levels of tiredness which will help you decide whether or not today is the day to train:
As a rule of thumb, the average person running at an easy (conversational) pace on a flattish surface burns about 60 calories per km run (that’s 100 calories per mile). For most of the part this works well, but it gets a little more complicated when we consider things like pace, terrain and outliers to the norm (ie excessively heavy or light individuals).
So how did stress have such a drastic effect on my training? When we are using up a lot of energy on stress this can limit the energy we have left for good quality training; in addition to this when emotionally stressed it can take us longer to recover. Unfortunately it is difficult to monitor this closely as emotional stress is very subjective; what causes debilitating stress for one person is a perfect motivator for another.
Perhaps the most effective thing you can do to improve your ability to run or cycle faster for longer distances, longer than 2 hours up to several days, is to improve your speed or power at your aerobic threshold. I thought it would be a good idea to explain why this is and how you can use the knowledge to get faster, so I wrote this article. So, why is aerobic threshold important? Your aerobic threshold dictates how fast you can go for durations of more than around 2 hours
So how can we maintain fitness or improve our fitness if we can’t go outside much if at all? Whilst indoor training doesn’t replace training outside, you can still maintain a good level of fitness using one or a mixture of the following exercises:-
There are a lot of applications available to track and analyse running, cycling and other endurance training sessions. I have used quite a few over the years and I thought it would be useful to combine my experience with that of my athletes and an in-depth survey of currently available diary application and analysis tools. So, what are the best cycling and running training and analysis applications? In no particular order, my top 3 applications are Strava, TrainingPeaks and Final Surge but I think combinations of applications work best. Read on to find out why.
So can walking help you be a better trail runner? As a way of cross training and getting in some guaranteed easy miles absolutely. But it’s a bit more complicated than just walking all the time and then becoming a good runner; you do still need to do some running to get fit, it’s more about varying the effort and intensity of your training, if you walk you are guaranteed to be working less hard than if you were running so it enables you to maintain some exercise without over straining. This can work particularly well for trail runners in several different ways
What you eat and drink during your long bike rides, races and events makes a huge difference to how fast you can go and how long you can ride for without having to stop or slow down. I have done some research and combined with my personal experience as a cyclist and a professional coach, here are some ideas that might help you.
So, what should you eat and drink during your long bike rides, races and events?
You may have heard that fitness develops during recoveries and not during your workouts. Here is a bit more detail on the subject and the reasons why recovery is so important.
So, why is rest and recovery needed for you to get fitter and faster? Training is a process of stressing your body to create a response and then waiting for it to respond and build up stronger before stressing it a bit more so that it responds again. Each of these stress/response cycles is a step towards increased fitness with the response occurring during periods of recovery and adaptation.
I’ve been thinking about how people get fitter and stay fitter, in fact how we get better at anything, whether that is developing skills, being happier or achieving amazing sporting goals. It is all about creating and maintaining good habits. I thought it would be useful to share some of what I have learned from over 50 years in sport and my experiences as a professional running and cycling coach. So, why do you get fitter by developing good habits?
Last week, I wrote an article about how to set the intensity of your interval training sessions and made a video about why you need interval training to help you get faster, so I thought it would be a good idea to explain why you should be doing interval training in more detail, to help explain in more detail how it will help you to get faster at your running, cycling or swimming. So, why do you need interval training to get faster?
One of the ways I have found most helpful in ensuring that I complete my training is having a solid routine that I can use again and again. Spending time establishing this routine has been part of what has helped me train regularly even when my motivation has been low.
Whilst I was pondering about things one evening, as I often do, I started thinking about why I got into running and cycling. I realised that although I like to train hard and do the best I can, there are many reasons that make entering and taking part in races or formal events worthwhile.
So how flexible can you be with a training plan? Well, the more you train the harder that gets; if you train three times per week it’s relatively easy to swap a rest day round, if you train ten times a week it gets a bit more complicated.
I’ve just sat down and planned my races from January through to August 2020. While I was doing so I began to really appreciate some of the benefits of this plan and how it helps achieve my running goals.
So why do I need to plan so far ahead? The main reason for planning in this way is that it really motivates me to train and get excited about the year ahead. In addition to this, however, there are other benefits for such advanced planning which help me to achieve my goals and feel good about my running.
So do you really need to run twice a day to be a good trail runner? Well, speaking from experience you can get really fit by running twice a day and it does have lots of benefits. However, you can also very quickly overdo it and become over-trained and/or injured. There are also other ways you can get fit without running twice a day. I thought I’d share a few of my own experiences, along with some reflections on the research I have done to help you decide whether running twice a day is right for you.
I first started running on the roads near my home to keep fit; these were quiet country roads with very little traffic and lots of greenery to see. When I went to university I ran the Great North Run for charity, where I found myself running through the city and suburbs. On moving to Skipton I (eventually) joined the local running club where I was introduced to some off road running, including my first off road half marathon. At this time I was still also doing some road races and working on good 5km and 10km times, but somehow, in training, my legs would always take me onto the trails where I could immerse myself more in nature. It was only when I began working with a coach and he asked me why I was training on trails yet my goals were all road based that I had the epiphany that really, the thing I liked doing was trail running. So what’s the difference between road running and trail running? And what does it take to convert from the road to the trails?
I am lucky enough to have always been able to climb pretty effectively, perhaps because I love being at the top of mountains. However, I know (and have been told on more than one occasion) that liking climbing is ‘a bit weird.’ The majority of people I run with (but not all) struggle with hills both psychologically and physically finding it difficult to keep a pace or keep running. Now there is no doubt that we cannot run up all parts of a mountain, but thinking about it there are certain things that I do in running and training which help me keep going and get to the top. I thought I’d share a few of these things with you to help you conquer those hills.
There is increasing evidence to show that physical activity can have a positive effect on mental health. I recently read an article which stated how doctors in some countries are prescribing exercise for patients with low mood and depression. Throughout my career I have worked with a variety of people who have used physical activity to improve their mental well-being. So, how does this relate to endurance sport in particular? And when does ‘physical activity’ become ‘sport’? I’ve been reflecting a lot recently about how my own running career has helped me maintain better mental health.
Sports psychology is becoming increasingly popular in the world of sport. This is for good reason, as athletes search for ways to improve and gain the edge on the competition, they realise that a very significant proportion of sporting success is down to having the right mindset. Psychological skills are not just for the elite, as learning to think positively and effectively will help performance at all levels. Reinforcing and enhancing these skills and a success mindset with hypnosis serves to strengthen the power and focus of your mind.
So, how can you use self-hypnosis and mental skills to enhance your performance as a cyclist, runner or triathlete?
Negative thoughts, known as negative self talk is probably the most common way to mess up your confidence and sabotage your performance. One really effective technique to move to more positive thinking is using what is known as the stop-clap technique. I thought it would be useful to explain how it works and how you can use it.
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do as an endurance athlete is to accept that making easier sessions really easy is the best way. I have found this from personal experience and from working with many athletes over the years, so I thought it would be useful to write some thoughts and explanations of why and perhaps how to do slower/easier sessions.
So, why train slower to race faster? Training at a slower pace will be less taxing on your system but will still develop your aerobic fitness, it will allow to train more with less fatigue and have the energy to focus on the faster sessions that combine for optimal race performances. Too much faster training can make you slower.
Many people feel anxious about their training sessions and races, particularly the harder or more important ones. I thought it would be useful to explore this a little more and explain how you can use process goals to reduce or remove this anxiety and stress.
So, how can you use process goals to avoid anxiety about your hard sessions? Process goals are steps that you can control that result in a successful session. Focusing on process goals will shift your focus from the outcome, which isn’t completely in your control, to processes that are within your control, which is far less stressful.