2018 Training Plans

Over the past couple of years a lot of my focus and physical energy has been on gaining new fitness instructing qualifications (e.g. BodyPump, BodyCombat) but with all that starting to tick along nicely I decided it was time to set a different challenge and revisit what got me really into fitness in the first place – running.  Having run several 10ks and a few half marathons it felt time to move up to full marathon distance.  26.2 miles.  Twenty six point two MILES. Yikes.

I entered Brighton Marathon with a WWF charity place and set myself up with a training plan.  [I use my.asics.com for this and would recommend to site to anyone looking for guidance on how to structure their running training.]   When the longer training runs started to appear on the calendar I struggled with them a lot more than I’d imagined in various ways.  For example, fitting it in the weekend around a social life, and then needing energy to have recovered enough for work, not knowing quite how to layer up effectively against the freezing cold.   The couple of snowy weekends we had limited how far I was able to run when I was supposed to be increasing mileage and throughout the couple of months leading up to marathon day (15 April) I swore I would not be putting myself through any of this ever again and couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

Once the tapering phase, reduced mileage and reduced weights in BodyPump, kicked in I started to be able to look forward to a trip to Brighton and was determined to enjoy the whole experience as much as possible.  In hindsight I must have been more anxious about being able to actually complete the thing than I realised.  When it actually came around I had an absolutely brilliant day.  Getting up, fed, and on my way to the start line was relatively stress free, given I was in an unfamiliar place, and from there it was easy: dump the bag, queue up, and just… run.  The running almost continuously for five hours was about as hard as I’d expected, certainly not too much worse, and at times even felt really good.  Crossing the line was emotional.  I realised that I hadn’t been convinced I would be able to finish.  But I did.  I did it.

After the event I slept so well – a combination of the physical activity and the release of the stress of having been worrying about it – that the next day and for the rest of the week I somehow felt so much better, more motivated calmer, and more ‘myself’ than I have done for a very long time.  Perhaps, ever.  So of course I immediately started researching other marathons.  Less than a month after swearing “never again”.

In the last month since the event I have briefly entertained the idea of attempting an autumn marathon this year but decided to hold off until I can take more time to build up to it more gradually.  Post-marathon running volumes are comparatively low, doing 3-5 miles per session rather than the 7 milers and 13-16s that I had worked up to beforehand.  The next big focus for me now is to run the Oxford Half Marathon in October which will my fifth go at this event.  High on the sense of achievement from Brighton I’m looking for a personal best – to beat my 2014 time of 1:48:40.  This will mean I need to be to be around 45 seconds faster per mile (for the 13.1 miles).  So, the focus for training over the summer will need to include practicing speed work as well as building back up to longer distance runs.

To help keep me focused and on track with this, and in the hope that my readers might find it inspiring or at least interesting, I will be sharing my training progress and thoughts on the process here on this blog.  Watch this space!



Easter Weekend – Recovery Time!

The first bank holiday weekend of the year approaches and for me that will mean some much needed rest and recovery time as the gyms I work at switch to a reduced timetable and cut a couple of my classes.  One of the things I think people only tend to learn about exercise once it becomes a regular thing is that having a week off the usual routine occasionally to really allow the body to rest and re-energise is absolutely essential! 

 Why is that?  Physical activity puts a certain amount of stress  [FUN stress :)] on the body and the higher the intensity of the workout (think BodyCombat, BodyPump, ten mile run) the more demand is placed on muscles, tissues, hormones.  After the workout is over it takes time, perhaps as much as 48 hours, for the body to rebuild muscles, restore fluids, and reset energy levels.  If, like me, you enjoy working out frequently and regularly you may be going into a new session not quite fully recovered from the previous session.  Although regular, consistent training is necessary to maintain and improve fitness, over time it can result in accumulated fatigue.  You might notice a general sense of tiredness, finding it harder to get going in the morning, feeling like eating more, and if it gets too much noticing changes in mood.  Giving yourself some extra time off occasionally is a good chance to reboot the system and a useful opportunity to reflect on how you’re progressing with your training or perhaps to try something different.


 One of the best ways to keep yourself feeling strong and energised is keep a sufficient and consistent sleep schedule of around 8-9 hours per night.  Not always easy, I know, but plan for this as much as possible.  Then give yourself ‘rest’ days during the week where activity is kept at a low to moderate intensity.  If you regularly do high or maximum intensity workouts then it’s also a good idea to plan in a ‘recovery week’ every few weeks where you can do the same session perhaps but for a shorter time or with lighter weights to reduce the stress to the body and so increase the benefit of your rest days.  People who follow progressive training plans, building strength or for an event like a marathon will notice ‘low volume’ weeks built into the plan.  

Recovery can be active or passive.  Active recovery might be going for a walk, gentle swim,  or a BodyBalance session, perhaps even baking, where the body is still moving but at an intensity level that you could keep going for a while and leaves you feeling fresh and uplifted.  Passive recovery could be anything non-exercise and not overly stimulating.  Sleep being the most passive.  The idea is to relieve stress, physical and mental, so do something you really enjoy and helps you switch off.  For me this might be reading a book, having a sauna, or meditation.  It can be difficult to claim some time for this, particularly when family members or friends want to socialise, but I find even 15 minutes to half an hour can have a wonderfully restorative effect especially if you’re able to really switch off and get absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing.  The really important thing, I think, is to learn to listen to your body, notice your energy levels and moods, be able to adapt your routine or add in some extra downtime when you need it and to ENJOY your workouts and feel good outside the gym as much as possible.