01 May 2022

Niggles

Guest post by Max Roger

 

 No matter how hard you try you can’t outrun niggles. A niggle? A small injury/pain that seems to hang around and disrupt your training. For runners this is often pain around their feet or Achilles, or a hamstring that keeps tightening up. It might even be a stiff lower back.

Runners are notorious for trying to push past this – but that doesn’t work. It will almost certainly worsen your issues until they are so bad that they force you to stop for a prolonged period. That’s every runner’s worst nightmare: not being able to train.

So, what should you do?

The overriding principle is to realise that pain is a signal. You shouldn’t just have some painkillers and ice up and then run on. In fact, there is a danger to anti-inflammatories when you’re doing endurance training as they thin your blood, making it even harder for your heart to pump enough oxygen and nutrients around your body.

That’s every runner’s worst nightmare: not being able to run.

Instead, listen to that signal. The pain is warning you that you’re doing something wrong. It could be that you’re overworking something, which is often the case if you develop extensor tendinopathy (where it hurts to move the top of your foot). If it’s a niggle on 1 side of your body (i.e. 1 leg) then your running technique is probably uneven, leading to that issue. In that case the pain is telling you that 1 leg is working harder than the other and that you should address this before it becomes a bigger issue.

Unless the pain is signalling that you are working too hard, it’s likely a technical issue, or maybe a strength issue. How do you know which it is? I wrote a previous article on the volume of your run training. If you stick to those guidelines then it’s unlikely that you’re doing too much. Strength is easy to identify but you need to spend some time on it: there are some basic tests to do to see if your body is strong and robust enough to handle the volume of your running. These are things such as a MAX rep single leg calf raise – can you do 20 on each leg? I will look at those tests in a future article.

For a detailed look at the strength work get in touch at www.max-performance.co.uk as strength work for runners is what I specialise in.

If it’s not those things then the focus should be on your technique. If you’ve never had someone film you run then that’s a start. All you need is to see a 10 second clip from behind, seeing your full body. Ideally this is outside, but you could do it on a treadmill too. A side-on clip would also be useful. You will have seen enough top-level runners to instinctively know what ‘good’ technique looks like, so take a look at yourself and you can hopefully identify some easy technical work-ons. Again though, if you want more help here then get in touch and I’d be happy to look at your technique.

Remember: pain is a signal, not something to push past.

Max

 

Guest post by Max Roger

When you plan your running for the upcoming season, it’s important to make sure that you do this using minutes, not miles. People tend to set out for a set distance (the miles method). This is ok, and can get some improvement. But it also carries risk of overtraining with it.

Yes, you do want to get a certain amount of miles in (kms really, as we are metric). But the way that you go about it to let your body adapt should be through using minutes, not miles.

“We want to stress your heart rate for a certain amount of time”

This is because you can run 16km one day (10miles if you’re Old School), and it takes 1hour 20mins, and another day it takes you 2 hours. This could be because you’re fatigued, ran a hillier route, it was hotter or more humid… there are loads of potential reasons.

The idea for your long, steady state runs is to stress your heart in certain zones so that it adapts. To do this you want to progress it in small increments, as you do with your strength training. A good guide is to only increase by a maximum of 10% from the previous week. Gradually increasing the amount of time that you have your heart working hard means that it adapts to be able to supply more oxygen to your muscles. This will allow you to run for longer.

That’s why we use minutes: because you can control the increases. For example, 100 minutes for your big run one week, then 110 minutes the next week.

You might end up running the same distance as before, but in a longer time in one of your training weeks, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the length of time that your heart is working hard.

And what zone do you want your heart to be working in? For your easy runs it should feel easy. You should be able to hold a comfortable conversation the whole time. Do I suggest doing that though? No. It’s better to breathe through your nose the whole time. Nasal breathing has a whole host of benefits. If you’re able to nasal breathe as you run then that’s also a sign that your heart rate is in the right zone. This will roughly equate to 50-75% of your maximum heart rate, but that shouldn’t be the focus. There’re different variables that affect heart rate too so it’s better to focus on keeping the run feeling easy and nasal breathing the whole time.

27 February 2022

Running Volume

Run Volume

Guest post by Max Roger

Understanding volume is key for your training, whether it’s in the gym or on the roads and trails. When we are talking about training, volume refers to the amount of work that you are doing. In the gym this is easy: it’s the sets and reps. A proper training programme will have this planned, with the volume being adjusted week by week so that your body can be challenged appropriately and adapt to the training stimulus that you’re putting it through.

Now let’s move to running. When you’re running the underlying principles behind training and your running volume are often ignored. Your body needs time to adapt to the stresses that it’s put under. When you run, as relaxing as a run can be, it’s putting your body through stress. There are various physiological things going on but I’m going to focus on the pressure that your bones, muscles and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) are put through.

“Follow these 2 rules to give your body the space it needs to recover and avoid injury”

Whether you go fast or go slow, each pace that you run puts a lot of pressure (let’s term it ‘loading’) through your foot. There’s a lot of small stuff in your foot too; 26 bones (that’s a quarter of the bones in your body), 33 joints and more than 80 ligaments and tendons. You can’t just finish a run and think that you’ll be ok to run again the next day. Over time your body will break down unless you allow it to recover properly, and all that stuff in your foot needs time to recover.

How long does it need? That’s where looking at your running volume comes in. If you follow these 2 rules then you’ll be giving your body the space that it needs to recover properly and avoid injury through training too much.

Rule 1: the 10% rule. Only add a MAXIMUM of 10% to your weekly training volume. eg. You run 50km in Week 1; 10% is 5km so in Week 2 you’d run a maximum of 55km. This ensures that you only add on a little bit each week, which allows your body to adapt to the running without being overloaded by too much before it’s ready for it.

Rule 2: the deload rule. When you’ve had 3 training weeks, progressing the volume slightly each week, take the 4th week as a deload week. You can still run fast (in fact this is a great week to get some faster runs in that usual, as you will be running less overall and so feel fresher for these fast runs). But you want to take 10% off your previous training week and make that the absolute maximum that you run that week. Ideally make it closer to 20% that you take off. This will make sure that your body is completely rested and recovered ahead of the next 3 progressive weeks of training. Where do you start again after that deload week? With your old week 3 volume.

As an example, 8 weeks of training volume could look like this (if you were maximising the increases and getting a 20% deload):

Week

Running volume (total kms)

1

50

2

55

3

60.5

4 (deload)

47.5

5

60.5

6

66.6

7

73.3

8 (deload)

58.6


The problem comes when people just consistently chase a higher number each week. You need to plan things out and let yourself recover. Also, if you’re doing faster runs this will take a higher toll on your body so the training volume shouldn’t be as high, so the number of kms run won’t always go up on every week that’s not a deload week. You also need to learn how to listen to your body: if it feels particularly fatigued, more sluggish than usual, then maybe put a deload week in earlier than planned, or just don’t increase the running volume that week.

For more detail around how a running training plan would look for you contact Max at www.max-performance.co.uk

29 January 2022

Why Strength Train?

Guest post by Max Roger

Strength training is the forgotten child of run training. However, it could be the thing that moves your performance forward the most this year.

There are 2 main reasons to strength train:

1. Increase the capacity of your body to handle training and racing.
2. Improve your performance with greater power and efficiency (less energy leaks) per stride.

Both of these also have the side-effect of decreasing your risk of injury.

Firstly, let’s clarify what I mean by strength training. The common perception is that it’s lifting really heavy weights – the sort of stuff that you see sweaty blokes doing in the gym, grunting and leaving everything a mess. But strength training is simply training where you challenge your posture and position with external load.

This could start with no external load, with bodyweight movements. You can progress this by slowing down the movement, or pausing in different places. When that becomes too easy you can introduce some weights. If you’re already at this stage then it can involve heavier and heavier weights until it’s judged that you’re at a point of diminishing returns. If you’re currently not doing anything then start with 1 session a week. Over time this can build to 3 – or even more at certain times of the year if you require it.

“Strength training is where you challenge your posture and position with external load.”

The important thing is that you are challenging your body in different Primal Movements, which will strengthen you and so help to improve your performance and decrease your risk of injury. The Primal Movements are:

1. Squat
2. Hinge
3. Lunge
4. Brace
5. Rotate
6. Push
7. Pull

Squat and lunge variations are fairly simple, bending at the ankle, knee and hip with your legs beside each other for a squat, and having one leg in front of the other and doing that for a lunge. A hinge is where you bend at your hips but keep your back flat, such as a single leg RDL. Bracing can be as basic as a plank or involve walking as you hold things in different positions. Rotation is usually missed but is hugely important and can be anything from a Russian twist to a lateral medicine ball throw. Pushing and pulling should cover doing this overhead, as well as forwards and backwards.

All are important to develop. Initially you might wonder why developing your upper body strength is important, but it allows you to use your arms more, which provides the stimulus for a more powerful leg drive. More importantly, it allows you to maintain your proper running form for longer, rather than hunching over (which is not only going to negatively affect your running performance but is also bad for your body in the longer term). This is especially important in longer races where you are carrying a backpack for your water, or even longer where you have other supplies in there.

If you’re not sure where to start then contact me at max-performance.co.uk and we can have a call to go over it.

28 December 2021

Goals

Guest post by Max Roger

This is the time of the year when most people set some New Year’s Resolutions. Another word for these is ‘goals’. However, by the end of January 2022 nearly every single one that is set, and set with great intentions, will have been failed and forgotten. So, what can you do to make sure that you aren’t one of those people? How can you achieve your goal?

This article will look at just that, covering: the 3 different types of goals, the importance of a date, and breaking it down into baby steps.

Firstly, it’s important to understand the 3 different types of goals so that you can then bear this in mind when making yours to ensure that you pick the best type (yes there is a best type). The 3 types are: process, performance, and outcome.

An outcome goal is what most people go for – and that’s a big reason that most people fail with their goal. It’s where all you think about is that end goal. Examples of outcome goals are; ‘losing 5kg of fat’, or ‘getting a faster 5km time’. There’s no detail here at all, and certainly nothing controllable.

A performance goal is better. It’s where you have a metric that you’re measuring that will contribute towards your outcome. For example, ‘I’ll run slightly faster than my last race in this next one for 4 out of the 5km’. Whilst that’s likely to get you a better 5km time, it’s still focused on the outcome and not detailed enough to make a difference to you. There’s also very little that is controllable there.

Having a date puts some pressure on you, as you know that if you do let things slip, you’re making it harder and harder to achieve your goal with that impending deadline looming.

The 3rd type of goal is the process goal. (This is the best one that I mentioned)! A process goal is one where you focus on the things that you can control (the ‘controllables’) that, if completed, will get you to achieve your goal. An example is ‘doing 3 training runs per week at the prescribed pace’, or ‘completing all programmed sets in the gym each week’. If you consistently do these things, that is what will make the difference and get you a faster 5km time.

Now that we know what type of goal you want, it’s important to add an end date to it. A date helps to keep you accountable to your goal. Without it it’s far easier to let things slip, saying things such as; ‘I’ll do it tomorrow instead’, or ‘another mince pie won’t matter’. However, having a date puts some pressure on you, as you know that if you do let things slip, you’re making it harder and harder to achieve your goal with that impending deadline looming.

The date shouldn’t be so close that it’s impossible to achieve, or so far that it seems distant and unimportant. It’s about finding that sweet spot where it’s challenging but possible if you perform your controllables.

That ties us into the third section: baby steps. These are the small goals along the way to your bigger one, that if you do focus on the process and the things that you can control, you will achieve. It’s important to have these as often a big goal can seem daunting. If it’s too daunting, then when things are really getting tough (and you will go through phases of this when you pursue any goal) it’s much easier and more likely that you will quit. However, if the focus is on the next baby step – the next small process goal – then that is a far less daunting task, so when the going gets tough making progress still seems achievable and so you keep putting in the required hard work.

Now that you understand the sort of goal that will give you the best chance of success (keeping it process focused, with an end date, and broken down into baby steps) it’s the perfect time to make your own. Write them down and put it up somewhere that you’ll see every day. Good luck!

If you want help in designing them, or what the process can look like for your big goal, then contact me at max@max-performance.co.uk

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