Category Archives: General

Injury free running

Every runner dreams of running injury free for as long as possible, but we resign ourselves to the fact that that sooner or later we will be injured.  My time came last year when I sustained an unknown knee injury that ruled me out for 3 months!

The one good thing to come out of having an injury is that you take a long hard look at yourself and ask yourself the question: Why?

I analysed this question in my September 2015 blog and came to the conclusion my running form was really quite poor.  Having read a few books including Chi Running by Danny Dreyer, I embarked on a mission to change pretty much everything I did when it came to running.

Here I am in February having ran/cycle/row 519km so far in 2016, with 190km of that being running. These runs have ranged from a short 3km to a long 50km, outside and treadmill runs, weighted runs and Cross Country runs.  I am amazed that I have had no problems at all so far.  The only issue I had was on my long run when I started to develop cramp in my calf at about the halfway point.  However using body assessment, I managed to identify something was wrong and that the first little signs of cramp were starting to appear.  When this happens you have to think to yourself, what am I now doing differently that is starting to cause this?  No easy task to ask yourself this question in the middle of a run.  In my case I came to the conclusion that I was running too much on my toes causing me to put extra strain on my calf.  I therefore shortened my pace slightly, concentrated on my cadence and tried to ensure I maintained my mid-foot strike, almost to the point of running on a flat foot.  I amazed myself when this worked and the signs of cramp went away.  I eventually reached the end of that run and didn’t even so much as have a blister.

I believe the most important thing I learned from the Chi Running book was to have the ability to self assess every so often during a run.  It can be hard to bring your mind back on track and remember to check your body for signs.  Start with your feet and work your way up.  If you identify a pain or sore, is it normal, how bad is it, will it develop, are you doing something slightly different to cause it, can you resolve it now before it gets any worse.  To be able to do this whilst running you have to understand your body and how running affects it.  Some of the key principles I have learnt are:

1. Form.  Use your core muscles to keep your body straight.  Don’t bend forward from the waist, because that can put a strain on your lower back.  Keep a straight posture and lean forward using your core muscles and let gravity do the hard work for you.  If you lean forward, you will automatically put your foot forward to stop yourself from falling over.  If you want to run faster, lean forward further.

2. Cadence.  I like to run on treadmills from time to time as it allows me to measure my cadence easily.  Ideally you should be looking at about 180 steps per minute, however I struggle to reach this and end up around the 170 mark.  A quick cadence will ensure you keep a short stride because you want to make sure your foot is directly below you head when it strikes the ground.  This is important for protecting your knees and shins.

3. Foot Strike.  I believe a mid-foot strike is generally the best type of running placement.  From time to time I do resort back to heel strike, but this tends to be when I am running down hill.  In the old days of heel strike I always had issues with my knees and shins, when I tried fore-foot strike I had issues with my calves, yet mid-foot seems the ideal balance.  I am now pain free in my knees, shins and calves.  I also believe that a mid-foot strike allows the body to naturally use the foots arch to absorb the load bearing down.

4. Relax.  Easier said than done, but I find it is important to relax your legs.  Allow gravity to pull you forward and your feet to move short and quick and to plant in front of you.  Keep your shoulders relaxed, so that you don’t get a build up tension in your shoulders and neck.  I find looking around whilst running helps to relax my shoulders.  I also try to keep my hands up by my chest, open and relaxed.

5. Swing.  Seems a strange one but I try to swing my legs back not forward and I also try to swing my elbows backwards as well.  The reason for this is that swinging backwards, helps my core propel my body forwards.  I am sure some science person will be able to compare this to Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion or to the Pendulum Motion.  Even if it doesn’t I find whatever the reason, it works for me.

Knowing all of these principles means that you can self assess and have a good idea of how to rectify an issue before it turns into a problem.  A year ago I would never have given these principles a second thought and would have blindly bounded on.  But as the weeks and months go by without any signs of an injury, the more I believe these principles actually work.

New Year Resolutions 2016

As 2015 was coming to a close and I had a look back on my Resolutions, it was time to look at what I should set myself for 2016. What was evident from 2015 was how important the family is and they will always come first.  My running is also important to me and I am lucky that I can fit most of my training and running into work time.

So for 2016 and I have set myself the following:

1.  Family Holiday and Three Long Weekends.  This was the best part of my 2015 resolutions and I want it to be the most important resolution in 2016.

2.  Communicate more with the Family.  Not sure how I am going to quantify this one, but it is something that needs to improve.  I appreciate I am not the most communicative of people, but I will endeavour to address this over the next year.  It needs to be reciprocated if it is going to work.

3.  The Physical Challenges.  This year I have been extremely optimistic, but I am a firm believer that we need to constantly push ourselves just to see what we are capable of.  Therefore my physical challenges are broken down into the following:

a.  Run a total of 1000km.

b.  Cover a total of 2016km (Run, Cycle, Row, Walk).

c.  Complete my Virtual Ultra Triathlon:

(1).  Run.   Ardnamurchen Lighthouse to Lowestoft. This is the most Westerly point to the most Easterly point in the UK.

(2).  Cycle.  John O’Groats to Lands End.  This is the most Northernly to the most South-Westernly point in the UK.

(3).  Row.  The Length of the Thames.

d.  Complete an Ultramarathon.

4.  Read Eight books.  This didn’t go too well in 2015 so I have therefore revised it down, but only slightly.

5.  Write a Blog on average once a fortnight.  In 2015 I was far too ambitious so I have revised this down by half in the hope that I will make a good attempt at this.

So there you have it, five resolutions, some of which may seem straightforward but after the last year nothing is ever simple.  I know the physical challenges will be tough but then some resolutions need to be  a challenge:

We shall go always a little further: it may be beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow…

 

2015 Review

It’s remarkable how quickly the years go by and 2015 is no exception.  Only seems like yesterday that we moved into our new house and I was starting my new job.  But what about those New Year Resolutions that I set, how well or poorly have I done?

1.  Get away with the family on at least one holiday and three short breaks.  This was number one because it was the most important to me and we managed to achieve this target.

a.  North Wales.  We managed to get away for a Long weekend in January in Deganwy, Conwy, North Wales.

b.  St Leonards.  A long weekend in May on the South Coast.

c.  Aldeburgh, Suffolk.  A lovely midweek break in December before the Christmas week was due to begin

d.  Vouliagmeni, Greece.  The family holiday in July was to a baking hot Athens.

2.  Complete ten races at any distance.  I didn’t too badly at this as I managed to get six races completed.  I did interpret this resolution a little differently as I realised getting away to run races was not easy.  I did discover virtual races from my online running twitter community.  You sign up to a race, run the distance when you can, submit your evidence and then receive your medal in the post.  As well as being able to run in your own time, the other added bonus is that between 10-20% of the entry fee goes to charity.

My running highlights included the real race of ‘Hell Down South’ a 10 miles cross country race, the POW Virtual Half Marathon in September and the Poppy Challenge in November.  I was also happy at breaking my 5k PB, although I can’t seem to be able to break the sub 20 minutes.  The down side of the year was having a serious knee incident that required x-rays, MRIs and numerous appointments with my orthopaedic consultant.  After nearly 12 weeks I was finally given the all clear to start training again, with no real answers of what was wrong with my knee in the first place!

If I look at my overall stats for 2015 they look like:

a.  Running:  510km

b.  Cycling:  1311km

If I had thought about it in January I might have set a target of completing 2015km in 2015, in the end I was only actually 194km short!

3.  Read ten books.  I failed quite miserably on this target.  I managed to read five books in total, mostly on holiday.  This is quite embarrassing really.  Just shows we do not devote enough time reading anymore.

a.  Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

b.  Under The Eagle – Simon Scarrow

c.  The Eagle’s Conquest – Simon Scarrow

d.  When The Eagle Hunts – Simon Scarrow

e.  The Eagle and The Wolves – Simon Scarrow

4.  Study and pass my Education Course.  Thankfully I did complete this and I now have a Post Graduate Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership.  This did come with the unexpected bonus of giving me the post nominals PGDip.  If I can find the time and the finances I may complete my remaining 2 years of study and get my MBA. As with everything it is finding the time and prioritising what is most important.

5.  Publish a post on my Blog on average once a week.  This was somewhat ambitious and I knew that at the time I wrote it, which is why I listed it as the last of my resolutions.  Unfortunately finding the time to write and publish a worthwhile blog is not easy, maybe little  should be the subject of a few more blogs!  Whether writing blogs makes it onto my 2016 list I am not sure, if it does then I will have to be a bit more realistic and make it a more achievable target.

So looking back not too bad, I managed to live up to two resolutions, made a good attempt at another two and failed on the fifth!  Need to ensure for 2016 that I am a little more realistic on what I put down, but then they wouldn’t be resolutions if they were simple to do!

New Year Resolutions?

new-year-resolutions-2015I have been thinking what, if any, my New Year Resolutions should be.  In the past I have never really set myself any, however I do believe they are a good way of setting out your good intentions for the forthcoming year.  According to the NHS website though only one in ten of us will achieve our goal.

It seems to me that there are a couple of reasons for this failure:

1.  Unattainable goals.  Some people set themselves targets that  they are never really going to achieve.  I have witnessed people saying they are going to quit smoking and actually only last a couple of hours before they start again.  It would have been wiser to say they were going to give up within the year and then have a workable plan in partnership with the NHS or their local GP.  This then brings me on to my next point.

2.  Lack of support.  People will always improve their chances of success if they have a support network to boost their morale and give them encouragement.  This could be through family, friends, community groups or even social media groups such as FB or Twitter.

So thinking all about this what are my New Year Resolutions going to be? I am certainly not a Mark Zuckerberg so I don’t think I can read a cultural book every other week for a year, simply too many things going on at home to have that amount of free time.

5ccacd00-1ae8-4a14-b670-6abcb8e9b2ec

So would any of the most popular resolutions (left) be any good for me? Most of them seem reasonable but I think your New Year Resolutions need to be bespoke to the individual and they also need to be quantifiable so that you can at least have some measure of success.  So here are mine:

Goals for 2015

  1. Get away with the family on at least one holiday and three short breaks.
  2. Complete ten races at any distance.
  3. Read ten books.
  4. Study and pass my Education Course.
  5. Publish a Post on my blog on average once a week.

Well there you go, those are my five aims for this year. Lets see how I progress.