26 March 2023

Lower Back Pain

Guest post by Max Roger

Lower back pain can hit seemingly at random times, and take you out of training. In extreme situations you’ll struggle to sit at work, or never mind bend over to tie your running shoes up early in the morning!

This article will look at 2 things:

1. What causes it?
2. How to fix it.

    Here we go:

    1. What causes lower back pain?

      Looking at the general reason for runners, it’s training, sitting, and stress.
      Different running styles put differnt pressure through your back. Forefoot running decreases the load going through your lower back, but most people tend to be heel-strikers instead. Heel-striking puts more load through your lower back, which leads to it getting stiffer, and then triggering pain.

      Sitting doesn’t help either. When you sit your hips tighten up over time. This pulls your pelvis out of position, tightening your lower back, which can trigger pain. I’m not saying don’t sit. What I’m saying is get up and move now and then when you have to sit for prolonged periods, and stretch your hips after you’ve sat for a long time.

      Stress is the other big cause: when we are stressed we see this in our bodies with our neck, sometimes causing headaches, and in our lower backs. That’s where we ‘carry’ our stress.

      2. How to fix your lower back pain.

        With running, gradually becoming a forefoot runner will have multiple benefits – decreased lower back tightness being just one of them. This should be a gradual process to avoid injury – get in touch if you want to go through it.

        Sitting? As mentioned, take movement breaks. As a minimum get up once per hour for 5 minutes. That could be as simple as boiling the kettle and making a coffee, and doing some movements like hip circles, squats or a hamstring stretch as you wait for it to boil. That’s a minimum though. Ideally you’d look for bigger changes, like finding ways to be on your feet more. Maybe you can stand up or walk when you take some of your calls?

        The third thing to address is stress. Obviously, cutting down on the stress in your life is the real solution here. Although not necessarily easy. Let’s focus here on the symptom and how to manage that, as long-term fixes to your stress levels don’t help your immediate lower back pain. Try two things: get some genuine time to unwind each day, and do some breathwork.

        Unwinding could look like anything that you enjoy. But it doesn’t happen by accident – schedule it into your calendar each day and protect that time. Even 10 minutes a day will work wonders, and I’m certain that you can spare that.

        And breathwork? You could do this as part of those 10 minutes if you wanted, or even at lunch, or before you go to bed – whenever you can fit it in: sit or lie there and start breathing deeply into your belly. Count slowly out to 3, have a pause, count in to 3 as you fill your belly with air again, another pause… This box breathing will quickly relax you – just set a timer and get 2 minutes of it in. Focus on the breath. You’ll not only physically unwind, but mentally too.

        If you want more help with your lower back pain then get in contact with Max.

        26 February 2023

        Fuelling Your Long Runs

        Fervour Long Run

        Guest Post by Max Roger

        A common issue with your long runs is your fuelling. This is not just with regard to the food that you ingest, but your hydration too. When I say longer runs, what I’m referring to is anything more than a half-marathon.

        It starts a couple of days before it. You might limit your calorie intake during the week, and that’s ok. But in the two days in the lead-up to your longer run you need to start increasing your calorie intake. Specifically, increase your carbohydrates (carbs). This isn’t a huge increase, it’s just adding in a little
        more. For example, instead of a small bowl of porridge have a large one, or instead of a lunch without bread make it into a sandwich. Small changes will add up.

        What it’s adding up to is increasing your muscle glycogen levels. This means that your muscles are fuller of the fuel that they will require when you run. When this fuel runs out your body has to switch to burning fat and through some processes this leads to it working more anaerobically than aerobically – meaning that fatigue kicks in. What does this mean? You want to start with your
        muscle glycogen levels full and make sure that you keep topping them up so that they don’t empty.

        Think of it like your car’s fuel tank: on a long journey you want it to start as full as possible, and you want to top it up when you can – if it’s empty you’ve got a problem!

        If you’ve done this well for the two days before your longer run then on the morning of it you just need a small amount of carbs to top up your levels, then you’re good to go (about an hour or so later). During it you want to have a mix of gels, electrolytes, water, and whatever else your stomach can handle to fuel you adequately. A lot of this will come down to trial and error, so it’s important to
        note down what you did and how it made you feel so that you can learn from it for subsequent runs.

        Note: if you are having gels during your run then make sure to sip on them. If you open one and have the whole thing quickly then it will hit your stomach and cause you some digestive issues.

        And what about your hydration? Have a mix of electrolytes and water. I like having a bottle of each and then sipping on them as I feel the need. And if possible I’d take a little more fluid than you think that you’ll need. It’s better to have some left over rather than running out!

        Start sipping early in your run, rather than waiting until you’re quite thirsty. As a guide, early on (first 10km), I make sure that I get a good gulp of water each km. After that the frequency increases.

        Want to dig into this in more depth? Email me at max@max-performance.co.uk

        30 January 2023

        Finding Training in Winter

        Running in Winter is tough, but it’s where you can get the most satisfaction after a run rather than during it. In the Summer there can be great views, you soak up some rays, and you can have a really enjoyable run, getting lost in the moment as your feet find that lively rhythm and you churn the miles up.

        But in the Winter it’s different.

        In the Winter it’s usually cold, wet and dark. Your knees hurt after because of the cold, your splits are slower, and there’s no view apart from whatever appears in the light of your headtorch – namely your feet.

        But after the runs it feels great: you’re back from your early morning run, you’re warm and dry again and you realise that you’ve just completed a run in tough conditions, when most people were still in bed. You’re one up on most of your colleagues. The feeling of satisfaction at having got through that run is great, as you have your first coffee of the day and a well-earned breakfast.

        That’s the feeling that you need to remember. If you forget it, and just remember what it’s like during the runs, then you’ll start to skip them. Once you skip one it’s easier to skip the next – it’s the snowball effect.

        But some days it really will be worth skipping – icy roads aren’t worth running on, or really heavy rain. If possible, switch that to a treadmill/bike session, or just do some yoga or strength work instead that morning. The key is getting something in, so that at least you’re still training. The weather will dictate some sessions, but don’t let it become an excuse.

        Common excuse: “I’ll get wet.” But when have you ever not gotten dry again?

        If the weather has dictated training, then take your opportunities when they arrive. You might have missed out on some training, then there’s two sunny days in a row. Your plan only has you down for one run, but why wait? Take advantage of that opportunity and run on the second day too. Is it optimal? No. Is it better than missing out on that opportunity? Yes. Ignore your splits on that second day and get that run in!

        The aim throughout Winter is to get in what you can. Get your aerobic base developed, with lots of steady miles. That can be on the road, the bike, the rowing machine… it doesn’t matter. It’s about working your heart rate at that level where you can just keep going and going.

        So, take your opportunities where they appear, and put the work in.

        Max Roger

        06 January 2023

        Deeper Goals

        woman looking on the first sunrise light beams from sun in the alps Austria

        Guest post by Max Roger

        If you’re reading this, then you likely have a goal - something driving you to get things done. But you need to get deeper than that.

        You must get below the surface, and yes it probably involves your childhood.

        Why do you have that goal? What is the real driver beneath that? The real goal?

        Proving people wrong and avoiding health issues are two big drivers.

        For example, are you trying to lose 5kg of body fat? Why? Is it to look better naked? Get deeper. Is it because you were called a ‘fatty’ as a kid, and you want to shake that off? Get deeper. So, you want to prove people wrong about you?

        Ok, now you understand your real driver - you’re there to prove people wrong. Understanding this is important as you now have a stronger understanding of what you’re after, so you’ll be 20x more likely to do the things required to achieve it.

        Let’s look at a common example with runners: you want a faster 10km time, something that takes you below 40mins. Why? Because that’s a recognised fast time for the average runner. But why is that important to you? Because you want to be seen as a decent runner. But why? Because you love running and it’s a part of your identity, so you want to be good at it. But why is that number important? Because you want other people to see you as good. But what is it about that that matters to you? Because you’re proving people wrong who said that you were not good at sports as a kid.

        Two of the big drivers that people often have are proving people wrong and doing something to avoid a health issue they’ve seen with a close family member. Have those in mind when you go through this process yourself (which you should do right now!) to give you a starting point.

        Struggling to dig deeper into your goals? Get in touch with me and we will go over the process for this.

        Hope everyone had a great holiday,

        28 November 2022

        Diet Mistakes

        Guest post by Max Roger

        Thinking ahead to the festive season the big focus for people is often their diet. However, there are common mistakes that hamper progress there year after year. Read this; learn from it; avoid those mistakes.

        Let’s start with looking at what a diet is. It’s often associated with things like juice cleanses, or not eating carbs – it’s a restrictive thing. What it actually is, is the daily intake through solids and liquids of nutrition.

        It’s not necessarily about restricting things (I’ll get to that later).

        So, the big mistakes?

        1. Focusing too much on carbohydrates (carbs). There is a place for restricting your calories if your goal is fat loss. But just looking at your carbs is a mistake. Per gram of carb there are 4 calories. Restricting them means you’ll likely ignore what you’re doing with fats, or even add more to your meals to make them taste better now that there are less/no carbs in them. But per gram of fat there are 9 calories. You can see the problem, right? If you’re trying to restrict your calorie intake then the easiest first step is to cut back on some fats, rather than the carbs. Avoid adding extra oils to your meals and cutting some of the visible bits of fat off your meat are 2 quick steps to take here.

        2. Being all about restriction. What will keep you fuller for longer, and so not want to snack on rubbish, is protein. So, instead of cutting back on everything try focusing on adding more protein into your diet. A good target: start your day right with a big portion of protein in your first meal. If that’s breakfast, then a bowl of cereal won’t cut it. Try eggs, or a bacon sandwich. Both those options are more satiating (ie. keep you feeling full). This means that you don’t reach for the biscuits as soon as you get to the office because you’re ‘feeling peckish’. Instead, you last through until lunchtime.

        3. Not accounting for your overindulgences. There’ll be Christmas parties. Enjoy them. But you know they are coming so account for that in advance. For example, Friday night office Christmas Party? Then on Wednesday and Thursday why don’t you eat a little less each meal. That way the overindulgence at the party roughly balances out your calories for the week, so you avoid/minimise any fat gain.

        A bonus point here: within every decision there’s always a slightly better option. Picture this: you’re at that Christmas party – do you have 3 mince pies, or 2? Do you have pints of beer, or bottles? Those are small changes, but they all add up to make a difference.

        Enjoy your holidays when they come.


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