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!



Instructor Life: Les Mills BodyCombat AIM1

This weekend I spent a long Saturday travelling to London for my BodyCombat AIM1 (Advanced Instructor Module).  BodyCombat is the Les Mills workout that offers mixed martial arts inspired exercise to music and is the most recent, most challenging, of the classes I teach.  I attended my initial module training for this in May 2017 started teaching straight away and passed the instructor certification in June. Although I had already been teaching BodyBalance and BodyPump for over a year at that point the speed and complexity and intensity of BodyCombat made it really challenging to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing then get my body moving and coaching out in the right order at the right time.  With only one 45 minute format class a week and having been slightly less familiar with the format and feel of the workout before starting teaching it feels as though it’s been a slow process to get to a stage of being reasonably comfortable with it.  Perhaps a little soon then to be going on to the advanced training but when the right date, location and a voucher to use all appeared together I booked on.

 The great thing about the AIM1 day is that it’s not a ‘pass/fail’ type of training day.  All instructors attending are asked to present one track from the current release to the rest of the group, we get feedback on coaching and technique, then throughout the day we go through technique practice and discussion of coaching ideas before presenting again at the end of the day.  The intention of the feedback was to be encouraging and suggest a couple of specific things for each of us to focus on in order to give participants the best BodyCombat workout possible.  The trainer was great at putting us at ease right from the start, and even though as instructors we’re used to standing up in front of a group and teaching it is different and weird doing that on a training day format.  In my case, as I had practiced but not yet taught the new choreography with a ‘real’ class I was expecting to be nervous which tends to make me quieter and say less so was relieved to get through the first go and hear the comments.

During the technique workshops I was being pushed and pushing myself physically more than I probably do in a normal class.  Big surprise, even as an instructor it seems I let myself get away with doing ‘enough’ rather than the best I can – that’s something I intend to work on and really challenge myself to train better and hopefully see improvements to fitness and strength in general not just as an instructor.  In relation to BodyCombat this means practicing showing the differences in style between the types of martial arts that we do (for example, boxing and tae kwon do).  The feedback I had was to do this not just physically but vocally as well, to match better the feel of the moves and the music, to hopefully then get the class more fully engaged.   As with any skill based practice this will be a continual work-in-progress building up experience and (hopefully!) confidence over week after week of teaching and learning what I can from that and each new release that comes out.  The key word I picked up over the weekend was ‘unleash’, which I think is the opposite of how I normally show up, so it’ll be interesting to see how that manifests.  That is one of the things that drew me to becoming an instructor in the first place the opportunity to challenge myself and my fitness even more and share that challenge with others.


The plug:  if you want to try out my BodyCombat class I’m at David Lloyd Oxford on a Monday at 17:10 (followed by BodyPump).  Also at Leys Pools Leisure Centre on a Thursday at 18:00.

[Other BodyCombat classes are available and if getting to a gym is difficult this workout is available at Les Mills On Demand where you can experience the masters at work which I aspire to be as good as one day.]