Have you met Jeff?

Are you someone who’d like to run more but always feel like you have to stop after a while so have given up? The Jeff Galloway Walk Run method could be game changer for you.

Jeff was training non runners to start running back in the 1970s and through initial training sessions and courses where he took non runners to 5k distances and more he concluded that a mix of running and walking could both improve times and reduce injury.

Now it’s generally accepted that when someone first starts running a mixture of walking for a bit running for a bit is a great starting point. Most people have the mind set however that as you progress the goal should be to run all distances continuously without walking breaks. and that to get a PB you must just run faster and never walk

The Galloway Run Walk method argues that by walking and running in set ratios you can speed up your half marathon time by around 7 minutes on average. The method is quite specific and advises set run to walk ratios (and consists of paid plans to advise you), but even if you wanted to just use the principle of planning some walks into your runs to strategically improve your times I believe you can see the benefits.

The idea is that Run Walk Run as a method is essentially a form of interval training (think Fartlek training but with planning) and building in walks reduces fatigue by allowing better conservation of energy, reducing stress on the body and reducing body temperature during the walks. By planning a walk in at a set point as opposed to running until you have to stop and walk it can allow you to run further and faster once you go back into a running segment because you have spent some time recovering before the point of absolute exhaustion. It can mean you are less sore after a run which allows you to carry on with every day life and can make motivating yourself to start easier and you are able to enjoy runs more (especially if you hate the pushing through the pain idea). It is argued it can dramatically reduce the risk of injury.

So how can you use this idea in your runs to see if it makes a difference? Instead of running until you can no longer run then walking for a bit and then starting back up as soon as you feel able think about planning your walks ahead of time. For instance I will run for 15 minutes then walk for 5 minutes then repeat until i reach my distance. Think about how long you can normally run until you start to struggle. If that is 25 minutes, plan you walk in around 20 minutes so you are not yet needing the walk when you stop. If that’s 10 minutes plan you walk at 5 minutes. The idea is to take that active recovery before you really need it, allowing you to recharge and then run at a faster pace in your next running segment. You are still covering distance whilst you are walking and you are covering the distance quicker in the run sections and therefore may well find you shave time off your normal ‘just run’ run.

Of course sometimes you may want to run a whole distance to see where you are at but you don’t need to feel like you must only ever run to be a runner. A bit of walking could actually ultimately make you a faster runner!

Tired Legs

As I’ve mentioned I’m doing a challenge of 874 miles in 2021- that’s around an average of 120km a month across the year. A combination of my fitness, the weather and the dark nights meant I didn’t hit that in January and was a bit under in February. I’m also aware I could get injured or have to take time off at some point if I am ill later in the year so my plan is to increase my mileage in the months where I’m feeling fitter and the weather is nicer to allow myself an emergency buffer. As such I’m aiming for 200km in March – I’m currently on 64km eleven days in. What this means is running on tired legs some days. I always do a long run with my friend Hollie on a Wednesday night. She is faster than me so it is always a run that pushes me and I normally feel it in the legs the next day so often don’t run on a Thursday, but this month I need to to reach my goal so today I did 5km (3 miles) after last nights 13km (8 mile run).

Running on tired legs is a challenge but it’s also something you can teach yourself to do and if you re training for a marathon or endurance event it’s a good idea to consider doing some training on tired legs. Obviously it’s a balancing act of not over doing it (you want to increase mileage by no more than 10/20% a week), risking injury or making yourself run down by affecting your sleep, recovery etc. and building your endurance. Below are some tips I find useful to run on tired legs.

  • Fuel well, don’t try and massively cut calories at the same time as increasing miles- this will make runs even harder. Carbs 30 minutes before a run always gives me a boost on tired days.
  • Stretch- often. Legs may still feel tired but stiff tired legs are even less fun to run on.
  • On long runs hydrate or take a gel before you feel like you need to. Waiting until you feel like you need it can make it much harder to keep going.
  • Slow your pace on tired leg days. If you aim is endurance and getting the legs used to doing the miles you do not have to hit your best pace on every single run.
  • Listen to your body, if you are tired, go slower. Running on tired legs can help you on race day as when you know you can run even tired it gives you the confidence to push past any fatigue on race day. The speed you run at in training on those tired days is irrelevant.
  • Control your pace and don’t print down hills – a steady pace is much easier to maintain when tired than stop / start sprint / slow is.
  • When your legs start to feel heavy think about lifting your foot a little higher, landing slightly softer with a heel to toe motion, this can help boost circulation and reduce impact making your legs feel better.
  • Think about something else. I like to listen to audio books- mainly murder mysteries as I run, whatever distracts you from the fatigue.
  • Of course if you start running and the legs feel pain instead of fatigue- stop. Learning your body and the difference between when you need to rest and when you ca challenge yourself is key to building up your own endurance when running.

Me: Man Down

This week was tough. I needed to complete my February challenge of 56 miles for the month (I had 9 miles to do) and wanted to hit 100km and also run a half with my friend Hollie.

Wednesday we met to go for a 6 mile run, that day I’d not eaten nearly enough and had a busy day, including going for an ill advised lunch time 3km run. I just about managed the evening 6 miles but also completely wiped my energy levels. I spent the next two days trying to refuel and did absolutely limited amounts of activity to recover, but come Saturday it was clear I wouldn’t be able to run. I woke up and my hip and knee were so sore and stiff I was barely able to walk properly, let alone run 13 miles. Deciding to postpone I ended up sleeping a lot on Saturday and generally felt completely wiped out energy wise.

I think the improved weather today made me feel a bit more energetic. A nice long slow walk with a friend round a park made me feel less lethargic and I decided to give a little run a go to get the last couple of km I needed to reach the 100km in February mark. Four very very slow km later I completed that challenge and went home to have a long stretch. A 45 minute Les Mills Stretch class felt needed and made my hip and back feel much better than they have done the last couple of days.

So my lesson for February is I need to focus on my recovery as much as my activity lessons. I know I need to keep increasing my activity levels, that will help me greatly when we can go back to classes and I’m teaching several classes a week again. I don’t want to suddenly go to teaching after barely moving at all for months on end, as I don’t think that would be enjoyable for me Equally however, whilst I do start to increase what I’m doing I also need to make sure I’m eating enough and resting and stretching adequately to ensure I also stay in a good condition.

March is therefore another 100km challenge, a sensible calorie deficit and more mobility work. Hoping the good weather continues to make this feel easier!

So there’s February’s lesson.

All About Running

Gyms are closed and we can’t do many of the things we’d normally do.

You know what we can do?

Run.

Running is a love it or hate it type of thing.  But right now there has never been a better time to give it a try and you might find that beyond lockdown you actually want to keep running.

Here’s some of the reasons I love running:

1) It’s simple

You can run for ten minutes or several hours, you can pick different distances, paces, lengths of runs so that whatever your week ends up looking like you can fit it in.  It’s also free- you need a pair of trainers and the outdoors at it’s most basic!

2) It’s a workout you can scale

Can’t run a distance all the way yet?  Doesn’t matter you can walk and run it as needed and build up to running the whole thing.  You still get to achieve the distance and get a workout.

3) It gives you time to think

Running is a great source of me time.  You get into a groove and then you can let your mind wander (or not even).  It’s a great way to find a bit of calm.

4) It also gives you time to learn

Don’t want time to think, you can listen to podcasts or audio books and make the time doubly productive, training and learning in tandem.  This is so much easier to do running compared to many other sports as once you’re moving there’s less to think about,

5) Fresh Air

Running outside gets you outside.  Outside and fresh air is just good for you, your health sure but also your mental health.  For me a down day can always be improved with some time outside.  And running outside is so much nicer than walking outside, even in bad weather you’ll warm up quickly and notice the rain less.

6) There’s lots of goals you can set

Run a distance, run a distance in a set time, beat that time, sign up for a race, add in obstacles or mud.  There’s so many variable to the goals you can aim for.  And when you do races you get goody bags.  These are what I run for!

7) It can help you build strong bones as well as muscles

It’s a weight bearing exercise and so will help strengthen not just your muscles but also your joints and bones.  Whilst running gets a bad press for the knees sometimes it can actually improve knee health (as long as you don’t run on an injury!)

8) It will help you improve your cardiovascular fitness

You will get breathless running, even slowly at first and it’s a great way to improve your capacity for cardio, your stamina and generally make you feel better and fitter over time.

9) It can be a great way to aid weight loss

It will burn calories and so if you also track your calories in it can help you reach a calorie deficit

10) It can benefit your mental health

I mentioned above about getting more fresh air and some ‘you’ time.  Running produces feel good hormones – known as the runner high and some studies have suggested it can go further than that and running has been shown to have a positive impact on people suffering from depression.

11) It can improve sleep and concentration

I put these two together as I think they are linked anyway, but studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes o running each week had a positive impact on sleep patterns and concentration levels after only three weeks.

So maybe you decide or have already decided to give running a go.  But I’d encourage you to look at it as a credible source of training beyond the lockdown period.  Maybe now is the time to pick a race for later in the year or next year to give yourself a goal to work towards.  that might give you more focus in training during lockdown and beyond.

So to help with that I’ve just made a running programme that I am really proud of.

In fact it’s not just a ‘here’s when to run’ plan.

It’s got:

  • Four different running plans (5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon) and you can do all of them or the ones that work for you meaning you could have a running plan from 6 weeks to 40 weeks long
  • A 6 week training programme (2 workouts a week) to do alongside the runs
  • Three stretching videos
  • A Nutrition Bible with extra running specific advice
  • Running tips
  • Three phone or facetime (or whatsapp if you hate talking) check ins to make sure you’re getting the most from it.

I actually started producing this before gyms closed but decided to get it ready to launch a bit quicker as I know there’s lots of people looking for help with training right now and running is a good option!

So if it sounds like something that might be good for you right now I’m selling it half price (well better than).  You can get it for £21 (including the check ins) during May – In June it will be £45.

That’s it, no hard sell.  I think this can help some people  if it does great.  If not that’s ok.

If you do want to check it out (or if there’s someone you know who might find this helpful) the link to my website is here (or in the shop section of the menu)

http://heather-sherwood.square.site/

By the way- this plan could work alongside other training or be done as a standalone programme, depending on what you already do and how much time you want to devote to training each week.

Heather

Why I Run

Over recent years I’ve entered a lot of races.  10k, half marathons , even a marathon.  People always ask why.  There is one simple answer.

For the goodie bag.

That’s partly a joke – I like the support from the crowd and the variety in the route which makes running a long distance more palatable than just plodding down the same cycle route or park that I normally run in.

But essentially getting some food and a t shirt at the end is an incentive for me (want to be my friend- I’m very food motivated)!

I have a friend who literally runs for medals- she picks races based on what the medals are like!

I have another friend who does endurance events almost purely just to see how far they can push themselves.

In all our cases the event itself, location, the time we might get, our likely finishing place are almost irrelevant factors in our decision to take part.

Our motivation for doing incredibly challenging things doesn’t always have to be a story worthy of it’s own background music on a Britain’s Got Talent audition.

Do you struggle to set yourself a fitness goal?  Is that because you can’t think of that thing that sets your soul on fire and when people ask you about it you can give a long inspirational speech about how an angel came to you one night and told you that you were destined to do this thing?  Do you have something you’d quite like to try for whatever reason but that reason seems a bit superficial, silly even?

I run for goodie bags.  You can do literally anything you want for any reason you want!

Post Marathon Blues

Today’s blog topic is a request (possibly my first ever topic request!) and is focused on the Post Marathon Blues.

This doesn’t just need to apply to marathons, it could equally apply to people who have trained for any big sporting even (half marathon, 10k, big swim or cycle, triathlon, a show, a tournament- anything where all your focus for several months has been working towards being in your peak physical form and at the top of your game for one specific event).

How we feel after an event is not something we tend to focus on.  We put lots of thought into preparing for things and on the day itself and even on the immediate recovery in the hours or days after a physical event.

But many people report feeling a bit down in the weeks after a marathon or other big event.  Words like lost, aimless, flat, down, void, lacking in motivation come up in conversations.  It’s a lot like that feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and the realities of normal life hit you and now because the holiday has been and gone you don’t have anything to look forward to.

This is due to both physical and psychological reasons.

Physically the day itself will probably have left you feeling extremely tired, a cumulative effect of weeks of training hard and the extra effort of the day itself and you may have picked up blisters, bruised toenails and niggles which don’t help make you feel great about yourself.  Your endorphins will have been high during the event and as you settle back into normality this can have an effect of how you feel as you struggle to replicate the high you felt in that moment again.

Mentally, you no longer have the event to focus on and that can leave you feeling like life has no meaning or focus after months of everything you do revolving around training (can’t go out Saturday have a long run on Sunday morning, can’t eat that as I’m in training and so on).  It can make it harder to you to motivate yourself to eat well or train as you no longer have that reason for doing so.  Many of us thrive on routine and having something meaningful to us to work towards and once you reach your goal where do you go from there?

Thankfully, these feelings tend to only last a few weeks and people normally spring back to their normal self but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better in this situation and feel the positivity you probably expected to feel after your big achievement.

Celebrate

Plan to do something nice to celebrate your achievement – a massage, spa break, celebration meal.  Take time to congratulate yourself for what you achieved so it doesn’t feel insignificant now.

Book something nice

Similar to above, you could consider booking a weekend break or holiday- something to focus on that is nice and not exercise.  This is bound to improve your mood

Reflect

Think about what you achieved, all the positives and even what you would have done differently in hindsight.  Think objectively about whether it’s something you would like to repeat or if once was enough.  That way if you choose to train for the same event in the future you know what pitfalls to avoid and if not you know you can confidently say once was enough.  Sometimes reflecting on your feelings can give you more ownership on how you feel and help you both make decisions and manage your emotional responses better.

Recover Properly

Get a sports massage, continue to eat nourishing food (and enough of it) to help the body recover, stretch, get some good quality sleep and take some time to just sit and chill.  Any sporting event which take a toll on your body requires some proper mindful recovery in the days after to help you feel better physically which in turn will help you feel better mentally.

Do some low impact exercise

Don’t feel like you need to be back training he day after.  A week or two off could be exactly what your body needs.  If you feel the urge to exercise though try and stick to low impact options which place less strain on your CNS.  You may want to try some yoga or similar during this time.

Don’t run for a couple of weeks

Similar to above, a couple of weeks not doing the exercise you have just trained hard for can be beneficial, both in allow you to physically recover but also give you that little bit of excitement when you do go back out for that first run after a couple of weeks.

Find a new challenge

After a couple of weeks when your rested and refreshed this could be the time to think about what comes next.  Another run of the same distance, a step up to the next distance (Ultra anyone), maybe looking at trying something new instead.  Setting your next goal will give you a renewed sense of focus.

Above all, don’t stress about feeling a bit blue after a big event.  It’s human nature and being sensible and kind to yourself is the key to letting it subside.

Equally, if you suffer from depression anyway, don’t let the idea of post event blues put you off training for an event.  Research has shown that having something to aim for and the training and self care associated with that training can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of depression and as long as you are mindful that you might feel a bit down immediately after the event and have your coping strategies in place this should have a generally positive impact on your mental health.

Race Day Eatings

Yesterday I ran my first long distance run for a year.  I used to run quite often so had my race day routine finely tuned to suit me so found it relatively easy to get myself back into the swing of things even after some time.

This is what I did to fuel my body on race day.

Breakfast:

2 Turkey rashers, 2 poached eggs, 1/2 avacado, mushroom, asparagus and grilled tomato; Pint water; Coffee

My race was at 2 pm so I had a late / leisurely breakfast around 11 am.  I’m a fan of a reasonably big breakfast before a race, and if I’d have been running for over an hour would have added some more carbs, such as some toast or a bagel but for a 10km run this filled me up well and remained within my calorie goals for the day.  There can be an urge when you have a race day to eat lots and lots because, well you’re running a long way, but you need to bare in mind that run won’t burn more calories than your training runs or normal training sessions in the gym so you need to be mindful not to over estimate how many calories you need in comparison to normal.

Tip: Eat one of your normal breakfasts – before a race is not the time to try something new – you want to know your stomach can handle running on what you eat.

Tip: Have plenty of water the day before and when you get up to hydrate then don’t drink for an hour before you run so you don’t need a wee half way round!

During the Run:

Water 

I sipped about 250ml water on the way round to stay hydrated.  It wasn’t very warm and I was running for an hour so there was no need for any additional fuel as my body was already well fueled.

Tip: Gels are not necessary unless you are running for over an hour if you are sufficiently well fueled and hydrated leading up to the run.  For longer runs an energy gel after the first hour may help, but try them in training runs first and stick to the brand you practiced with on the day (again you don’t want to risk your stomach objecting!). Jelly babies act similarly to gels in giving ou a boost on longer runs.

Post Run:

TGI Friday’s Sesame Chicken Strips with fries, Frozen Irish Coffee, 500 ml water

After a run you want to eat a soon as possible – ideally within a 30 minute to an hour window.  I planned to eat at home but ended up facing an hour wait for my train so found somewhere in the station to eat.  I ideally look to replenish with a meal that has both protein and carbs.  You always want to eat something that feels like a treat after a race too so my go to post run meals are chicken and chips or a roast dinner.  No roasts around in the station so this was the best thing I could find!  Alcohol should be consumed in moderation – although it’s always nice to have a celebration tipple, but try and have some water as well.

Tip: Look to eat asap after you run, and to get something with carbs and protein in it.  Chips are not the devil.

Recovery:

Pint water with electrolytes

When I got home I made sure I drank lots of water and the first glass I had I added a scoop of electrolytes to replace any salts lost.

Tip: A hydration tablet or similar product can aid recovery.

 

 

Ten ways to get ‘fitter’ in 2019

  1. Work out how many calories you burn a day on average and eat this many (to maintain weight) or 20% less (to reduce weight)
  2. Swap one of your sugary snacks with a healthier replacement (e.g. a piece of fruit) each day. And yes I know fruit has some sugar in it but a banana over a Mars Bar will help you cut calories and provide less of a post sugar slump.
  3. Stop having cheat meals. Cheat meals create a restriction / binge / food as a reward mindset.  Eat whatever you want whenever you want within reason without viewing food as good and bad.
  4. Eat protein. Aim to eat 1g of protein per kg of body weight. Will help you feel satisfied without overeating.
  5. Drink at least 0.033 litres water per kg of your body weight each day (so if you weight 60kg drink two litres a day).  Fat loss, performance – hydration is so important to your health.
  6. Don’t exercise at all at the moment? Aim to complete a 30 minute session every week for a month, two 30 minutes sessions a week the next month and three 30 minutes sessions the following month. Boom = Exercise habit created.
  7. Increase your NEAT. However much you exercise aim to increase your non exercise movement by at least 10% each day (i.e. walk more)
  8. Get more sleep. Enough sleep every night will help with weight loss, stress, energy levels.
  9. Learn something new. Want to learn to do a handstand, swim, play netball? Practicing towards mastering a skill will get you moving without exercise being the main goal itself.
  10. Set yourself a challenge. Run in a race, do a Tough Mudder, compete in a swimathon. Setting a challenge can give you the incentive to get to your training sessions and maintain focus.

What Should I Wear To The Gym?

Simple answer.

Whatever you feel comfortable in.

And that answer is fine if you spend a lot of time training and know what does and doesn’t work for you.  This blog isn’t for you though.

Because that answer isn’t very helpful if you are thinking about starting some form of exercise in the New Year and really don’t know what to wear.  Then it’s just another obstacle to getting started.  I know because years ago when I was overweight and knew that I probably needed to do something not knowing what I should wear (and not feeling comfortable in a ton of lycra) was a good enough excuse to keep putting getting started off.

So here’s some tips to get started:

  • You don’t need to spend lots of new kit. If you want to and can afford it and it will make you feel more confident by all means go splurge in Victoria Secrets.  If you’re starting to dip your toe into the water you don’t need to though – go to Sports Direct or Primark and buy a couple of pairs of bottoms, a couple of tops and a couple of pairs of socks (and if youre female a couple of sports bras).  They don’t need to be any fancy materials to start, as long as you feel comfortable and can move about in them they will work to get you started.  As you get more into training and get to decide what you enjoy doing you can then invest in kit that works for that particular sport in time – right now those expensive compression running tops could be a waste of money if you find out that really you much prefer Zumba.
  • You don’t need super expensive trainers. Same as with clothes. Once you settle on a sport or area of training you may wish to invest in certain shoes (lifting shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, cycle shoes) but to start just buy a pair of trainers that are comfortable.  Think about what you are planning on doing.  If you are going to try classes out a trainer with a spin spot on the sole (a circle type mark on the sole will indicate this) can be useful as it allows you to turn on the spot (which you will do in most dance based classes but is also useful in classes such as Body Combat) – most trainers in the ‘studio’ section on a sports store website will have this.  These shoes will also work well if you plan on venturing into the gym.  If you are going to go running look for a trainer in the running section of the store / website- it doesn’t need to be expensive right now.  For cycling classes you may eventually want to be a cycle shoe you can use cleats with but until you know it’s the exercise for you just pick a trainer with a decent sole (very thin soles will make the class a little painful).
  • You don’t need to wear very fitted clothes. Of course you can if that’s what makes you feel good but don’t feel the pressure to go super skimpy lycra clad if that will make you feel self conscious. People wear all sorts of things to the gym from baggy tops to brightly coloured comic strip style leggings so whatever style will make you feel good is the style to pick and if that means covering up or wearing something loose go for it (just try and make sure it’s not so baggy it impedes safe movement / is something you risk tripping up on!)
  • You don’t need to expose lots of flesh. As above, wear what makes you feel good. Some people like wearing shorts or a crop top to train in, others people prefer to wear leggings and vest tops or long sleeve tops – it has nothing to do with how ‘fit’ people are or what their abs look like – it’s just personal preference as to what makes people feel comfortable whilst training so go as covered or uncovered as you wish.
  • Your basic kit shopping list might look something like this:

 

  • Gym bag (big enough to fit everything in)
  • A sports bra (females) and a comfortable pair of knickers / Boxers
  • Leggings or shorts
  • A comfortable, breathable top (t shirt, vest, crop top) – not something like a jumper because you’ll just be too hot
  • Socks
  • Trainers
  • Hair bobble if you have long hair
  • Water bottle
  • Small towel

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****

I’m not a fan of treadmills but I do enjoy getting outside in the fresh air, so whenever I get running in my training programme I try to do it outdoors.

The first time I got a session that mixed running with body weight exercises that I would normally do in the gym I was torn.  I didn’t really want to do the running on a treadmill but how else did I mix it in with Bulgarian Split Squats? The answer was I got a bit creative and used tree stumps and park benches I found along my run to mix them in (body weight squats obviously).

Since then I’ve adapted lots of my running plus body weight sessions so they can be done outside and they are often my favourite workouts of the week.

When I tell people about these workouts I am often met with slight horror at the idea of doing a squat or a burpee in the middle of a park or along a cycle path.  Some people don’t even like the idea of running in public so the idea of adding in body weight exercises just seems too embarrassing.  What is people see me?

I would say, don’t worry, nobody is looking at you, but actually that probably isn’t true.  It’s a bit different so sometime people do look.  Last Friday I went out on my lunch break to a nearby park which is right next to a main road.  I did some sprints mixed in with body weight squats and half way through a set of squats a couple of blokes in a van felt the need to shout their ‘feedback and encouragement’ in my direction.

To be honest though this didn’t bother me and certainly didn’t stop me finishing the workout.  Of course I felt a bit silly the first time I trained outdoors but now as long as I finish my workout and get to do it in the environment that makes me feel good (and running outside does that) I don’t care whether strangers watch me or even take the piss.

Because there’s one thing I’ve learnt from doing these workouts outside.

If you are doing what works for you it doesn’t matter what other people think, especially people you have never met, and those people that feel the need to judge you not only don’t matter but are probably holding themselves back from doing what they really want to do because they are too insecure to stand out from the crowd.  Essentially it’s ok to be different.

I’m also pretty confident that the odd person that walks or jogs past as I’m doing mountain climbers on a patch of grass in a park would like to have the confidence to do the same and rather than looking at me to judge they are perhaps just curious or even a little impressed.

A few months back I was in the middle of set of jump lunges on a cycle path in between runs and two elderly ladies stopped and asked what I was doing and why.  I explained and they asked a few more questions about what they could do at home that was perhaps a little less jumpy and then went on their way.

I appreciate that training outside isn’t for everyone and if it isn’t for you fair enough, but if there is a type of training you would like to try but are holding back for fear of what others might think then stop.  Give it a go and pretty quickly you will coem to see that even if people do judge you it matters very little.

Training outside has been like my own little version of learning the subtle art of not giving a shit!