Monitor Fitness And Fatigue By Measuring Resting Heart Rate

As you probably know, I’m an advocate for using a heart rate monitor to measure intensity and track your progress against pace, speed or power.

I am also a fan of monitoring resting heart rate (RHR) each morning, to see how your aerobic fitness is responding to training and how you’re recovering from your last hard session.

Whether you prefer a hi-tech or low-tech approach, it’s super simple to measure RHR, so you have no excuse for not to be doing this.

Once you understand how to interpret the numbers, you can use RHR as a tool to make decisions about when to keep pushing in training or when to ease off because you’re still recovering.

So, how do you measure it?

Determine Your Resting Heart Rate

  • Measure your RHR first thing in the morning right after you wake up
  • If you have woke to the beep, beep, beep of an alarm, give yourself a couple of minutes to relax before taking your measurement
  • Keep a digital watch or something with a stopwatch on your nightstand
  • As soon as you wake up, find your pulse on your neck or wrist. Alternatively, you can use your heart rate monitor or a pulse oximeter (my personal method)
  • Use the watch to time 20 seconds. Count the number of times your heart beats in that 20 seconds
  • Multiply the number times your heart beats in 20 seconds by 3 and you have your heart rate in beats per minute (bpm)
  • Record this number in an app, notebook or spreadsheet

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You Know Your RHR, Now Use The Data

Now that you know how to measure RHR, it’s important that you understand how to use the data to your advantage.

After you have been tracking your heart rate for a week or so, you should begin to see a relatively consistent RHR number.

Generally speaking, the lower the number, the fitter you are. The average adult will have a resting heart rate of 60-100 bpm, while athletes are likely to have a much lower bpm, somewhere in the range of 40-60.

Mild variations to your RHR are normal so if you see a variation of 3 – 5 bpm, it’s usually nothing to worry about.

Where you need to take note and use caution is when your heart rate reaches 7 or more bpm above normal.

In this situation here’s what I used to do when I was racing, and what I recommend to the athletes we work with:

  1. When RHR is between 7 – 9 beats above normal, remove all specifics and do all training in your easy zone until RHR returns to normal. Consider dropping your volume too if you feel overly tired
  2. When RHR is 10 beats or more above your normal level, take a day off until RHR returns to normal

In Closing

Besides offering ways to monitor fitness and fatigue, a lower resting heart rate RHR is linked to some very big health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease.

Considering this simple evaluation takes less than a minute to perform and offers such useful information, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be tracking your RHR.

As time passes, you’ll begin to see how training and life stressors affect your RHR and interpreting the information gets easier.

4 Simple Steps To Become A Better Fat Burner

I want you to be lean, energetic and able to race at a high percentage of your maximum pace for a long time.

To do that, I need you to be able to generate energy from fat.

While sugar is your quickest and easiest source of fuel, fat provides a sustained fuel. A fuel that will help to keep you lean, supply you with a constant and high level of energy and a fuel that will provide you with the majority of the energy you need in your long races – when in a good fat burning state.

Unfortunately, as I have witnessed in our lab, most people have turned off the switches that allow them to generate energy from fat and as a result, are heavily reliant on sugar for energy.

This reliance on sugar shows itself as excess body fat and is felt with constant sugar cravings, fluctuating energy levels and a few other symptoms.

In today’s post, I share a few simple steps you can take to turn your fat burning switches back on and ultimately, a better athlete.

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Flick The Switch

Eat Fewer Carbohydrates

Eating carbohydrate raises insulin levels and insulin turns off fat burning.

Because the body wants to get rid of any sugar in the blood as quickly as possible, your body will ignore other fuel sources (fat) to focus on that sugar.

Insulin tries to shuttle this sugar to the muscles and liver which is a good thing.

Unfortunately, if you’re eating a standard Singaporean, western or Indian diet, it’s likely those cells are already full and insulin will store the carbs as body fat.

Bugger!

Slow Down

I have spoken before about why people are not losing weight when they run.

The body needs oxygen to metabolise fat, so it burns it in higher proportions at low intensity (when you’re not puffing much) and burns sugar at higher intensity when oxygen is not so available (when you’re breathing hard).

I believe many people are failing in this very important part of training because of a no pain, no gain mentality, the popularisation of the term calories (and our ability to measure them) and a lack of understanding on how to gauge intensity properly.

If you truly wish to improve your fat burning and reap the benefits that come with it, you need to check your ego at the door when you go out to train.

Forget about how many calories you’re burning and learn how to use a heart rate monitor to determine how hard to work in each of your training sessions.

Stress Less

Everyone I talk to these days is stressed.

We live in a high paced and frantic world and it’s leaving most of us in a massive state of fatigue and suffering from constant anxiety.

When you’re stressed, the body produces a number of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline and these hormones are known to suppress fat burning.

While most of us do not have the option to quit the job, get rid of the kids and go and lie on a tropical beach somewhere, there are some simple things you can do to simplify and calm, things down.

Simplifying could not only help your recovery and make you a better athlete, it will likely improve your health and mental well being too.

Sleep More

Sleep is important as your primary recovery mode as an athlete. Besides that, it also plays a role in your ability to burn fat.

A lack of sleep contributes to insulin resistance making you less able to tolerate carbohydrate foods. It also causes cortisol levels to rise which as you have learned is not great for fat burning.

While everyone is different, studies show that you need at least 7 hours of high quality sleep each night to function properly.

If you want to be a strong fat burner and are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep, it’s time to prioritise your sleep.

In Closing

That’s it!

A simple (but not easy) recipe for turning on the switches that regulate your ability to generate energy from fat.

While they are very simple in theory, in practice they are a little harder to execute because of the many habitual, social and emotional changes that are often required.

Start small, be consistent and good things will begin to happen.

As you start to see positive changes, ride the momentum and continue to refine and improve.

Soon enough, this will be the new normal and you’ll no longer find it so hard.

Why Training Easier Helps You Race Faster

“To race fast, you have to train hard.”

It’s a message we see in our Strava feed, countless books, social media posts, blog posts and videos of coaches and fellow athletes, yelling at us to push harder to achieve our goals.

It’s captivating.

It’s motivating.

It’s inspiring.

It’s absolutely limiting us.

I confess that I used to believe in it, but the worship of “hard” is one of the most dangerous mistakes that endurance athletes can succumb to – especially if you’re balancing training with work, family and social commitments.

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You Are Not Limited By Your Speed

While it sounds logical that to race fast, you must train hard, it’s not exactly as it seems.

Few athletes I have ever met, are limited by ‘pure speed’. Rather, you’re limited by your ability to maintain a high percentage of your maximum speed for the length of the race you’re training for.

This is less a function of training your speed and more a function of training your aerobic function, ability to generate energy from fat, lactate clearance, strength and power.

Why?

Because when you race long distance events, the majority of your energy is coming from your aerobic system – the system you train at low intensity.

As you train easier (avoiding the grey zone) and spend higher amounts of time in zone 1 and 2 (especially zone 2), you begin to properly train the physiology above that allows you to maintain a high output (pace, speed, power) for a long time.

While low intensity (zone 1 and 2) is relatively easy from an effort point of view (it’s a conversational pace) it is important to understand that it is not necessarily slow.

As your aerobic system develops, you’ll be able to produce more at the same heart rate and your pace, speed or power in these zones will improve, often significantly.

This increase in output at the same or lower heart rate is known as aerobic speed and it’s what you should be aiming to achieve as an endurance athlete.

Does This Mean You Should Never Train Hard?

Hell no!

There is no denying the benefit of harder, faster training.

High-intensity training improves your maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) among other things and isn’t just necessary, it’s beneficial.

The problem lies in the timing and frequency of these sessions, but that’s a subject for another day.

Train Easy, Race Faster

As you have learned, your aerobic system is the primary driver of endurance performance.

It makes sense to slow down during the majority of your sessions and train at the intensities that develop this important system, even if it means your ego takes a hit.

When your aerobic system is strong, you’ll not only be able to go faster at low intensity, you’ll benefit more from the harder, high-intensity sessions that you do closer to race day. As a bonus, you’ll also recover from them more quickly afterwards.

The result will be an overall improvement in performance that limits the likelihood of you falling sick or suffering an injury.

Why Eating Less Carbs And More Fat Can Help Your Health And Performance

I ended my racing career at the end of 2007 as a carbo-loaded athlete.

Over many years, the dietitians I worked with had all advocated a high carb, low fat diet and I happily obliged eating lots of bread, pasta and other sugary things.

When I moved to Singapore at the beginning of 2008 to begin my journey into coaching, I had little interest in nutrition and no intention of making any changes to my diet.

A diet I had eaten for the previous 25 years or so.

Soon after arriving in Singapore, I opened our first lab and started experimenting with the “fat burning” software that came with the machine we use for VO2max testing.

It soon became apparent that I was not in an optimal metabolic state.

While I could burn fat reasonably well (a result of the aerobic training I had done), I was also heavily reliant on sugar, even at rest and low intensity.

A Catalyst For Change

As I continued my transition from professional athlete to “working stiff”, I also started to put on some weight.

As the owner of a new fitness company, this is obviously not ideal, but it was just the catalyst I needed to begin making some changes.

Based on the reading I had been doing, I began to experiment by lowering the carbohydrate in my diet and used our lab to monitor progress.

One of the first changes I made was to swap toast for breakfast to bacon and eggs. Within 2 weeks, I had halved the fat on my stomach and my fat burning improved. Interesting!

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The Role Of Insulin

I didn’t know it at the time but what you eat is so important because of the way it affects hormones. Specifically, insulin.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas. It helps in the regulation of nutrients and energy around the body and is best known for helping move glucose (carbs) into cells so it can be used for energy.

Too much insulin in your system and your fat burning will switch off. Elevated insulin also promotes nutrients (both carbs and fat) to be stored away in fat cells and as a result, weight often increases.

Lower Carb, Healthy Fat (LCHF)

By lowering the amount of processed carbohydrate and upping the amounts of healthy fat (think avocado’s, olive oil, coconut, nuts, fatty fish) in your diet, you will be better able to control your insulin. This will turn on (and keep on) the switches that allow you to generate energy from fat.

You’ll notice I used the term ‘lower’ carb above.

Lower is a relative term and from my experience, everyone has a different threshold for the amount of carbohydrate they can comfortably eat.

Just as I did, you’ll need to experiment with your diet and find a level of carbohydrate that works for you given your genetic makeup and level of physical activity etc.

1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories, 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.

When you lower the carbs, you have to up the good fats so that you are taking in enough energy. Protein should remain at a moderate level.

A Look At My Energy Profile (Before and After)

The graphs below are snapshots of how I used to get my energy and how I get my energy today.

Orange represents fat being used for energy while blue represents sugar.

While I am still not perfect and continue to work on making improvements to my diet, I am in a much healthier metabolic state these days and I am enjoying the benefits.

Before I wrap this up, there are a few interesting observations that I would like to draw your attention to.

  • Both tests were completed in a fasted state
  • Sugar burning in graph one started at around 45 grams/hour and went up from there. In graph 2, sugar burning stayed low in the beginning and only reached 45 grams/hour at around the 10-minute mark
  • Fat burning reached a peak of 34 grams/hour about 2-minutes into the test in graph 1, before gradually declining over the remainder of the test
  • In graph 2, the fat burning peak reached just below 60 grams/hour at about the 9-minute mark and was sustained at close to that level until the 13-minute mark
  • The crossover point (where the body goes from burning primarily fat to primarily sugar) was not really evident in graph 1 because sugar usage was so high. It was reached at the 12-minute mark in graph 2

In Closing

As you can see, that’s a significant change in metabolic function.

Here are some of the effects this change has had on me:

  • I can sustain a consistent body weight with little to no exercise
  • I have more energy
  • I suffer significantly fewer colds and flu
  • My food cravings have changed significantly
  • I don’t get hungry

Start today. Lower the amounts of processed carbs you are eating and see what happens.

Just be aware that sugar is highly addictive and coming off it can have some side effects.

Don’t be surprised if you feel pretty rotten for the first couple of weeks. Don’t be deterred, you’ll bounce out the other side and will feel much better as a result.

4 Things You Can Do Every Day To Improve Your Recovery

A lot of athletes are under the impression that training makes them better. I mean, why wouldn’t they believe that? It sounds so logical.

You obviously need training to improve over time, but recovery is equally important.

While you are training, a number of things are happening that break your body down, effectively making you worse than when you started. You’re damaging your muscles, using up your glycogen and dehydrating to name just a few of these things.

The benefit from a training session actually takes place while you are resting, not while you are training.

To really benefit from your training and to build back stronger,  you need to allow an adequate amount of time to recover so that you positively respond to the stress (training) you have just placed on your body.

Yet, despite busy work, family and social lives, most athletes are trying and cram as much training into their schedule as possible without thought to whether or not they’ll be able to effectively recover and benefit from it.

While determining the right training/recovery balance is a topic for another day, I thought I’d share 4 great strategies you can use to optimise your recovery so that you absorb and benefit from the training you are doing.

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1. Move

If you’re like most endurance athletes, it’s likely you subscribe to the adage – why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down.

While this can be a good idea some of the time, movement outside of training is important in the recovery process.

You should refrain from prolonged periods of stillness (sitting at your desk all day) and should move about slowly throughout the day.

Over time, efforts to move more can result in less muscle fatigue and that familiar morning stiffness that many athletes experience.

2. Fuel

Replacing glycogen stores and rehydrating after training is crucial to increasing your recovery rate.

Studies have shown that the optimal time to take in nutrients is within about 30 minutes of training completion and again within two hours. A combination of protein and carbohydrates is best.

Lead with a heavier dose of good quality carbohydrate in the first round and a heavier dose of protein during the second.

On the hydration front, aim to drink 500 millilitres of water or an electrolyte drink (my preferred method) within 15 to 20 minutes of finishing your session.

3. Self-Myofascial Release

Self-myofascial release is a fantastic recovery technique.

Its immediate benefits include increased blood flow throughout the body, better movement and increased range of motion.

Foam rollers or balls apply deep pressure to trigger points that represent the origin of stiffness and mobility problems that often refer pain elsewhere in the body.

By rolling regularly you’ll be able to consistently release these points and speed recovery from training. Along with a heart rate monitor, I believe a foam roller is one of the best pieces of gear you can own.

4. Sleep

Sleep is the endurance athlete’s fundamental recovery practice however it’s often the most neglected; giving way in favour of training, work, family and social time.

During sleep, the body goes to work repairing itself, calibrating and returning itself to its optimal state, preparing you for your next training session.

Sleep requirements vary based on a number of factors. Training volume and phase, overall life stress levels and genetic factors all play a part in determining the optimal amount of sleep you need at any given time.

Most studies show that to function optimally, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

As an athlete putting a great deal of stress on your body, I’d recommend aiming for the higher end of this range to maximise recovery and training effectiveness.

In Closing

If you find that you’re constantly tired, falling sick, suffering niggly injuries or not improving at the rate you feel your training warrants, it may be time to consider placing a greater emphasis on your recovery.

The 4 methods outlined above provide a simple blueprint that will help you to significantly improve the quality of your recovery and will enable you to get more from the time you invest in training.

Remember: Performance = Training + Recovery!

Why You’re Not Losing Weight When You Run (And What To Do About It)

“I run regularly”.

“I watch what I eat”.

“And I can’t lose any weight”.

These are words directly from our client’s mouths. I’d like to say that I’ve heard this just once, but it is a common complaint I hear from many of the athletes who first join the Coached programme or visit our lab for testing.

Frankly, it’s a shame.

Despite wanting to improve and putting in the effort, their hard work is not being reflected in the results they are getting and their waistline remains unchanged.

Losing excess body fat is not the main focus when you join Coached but it is a by-product of following the training and nutritional advice in our programmes.

In this post, I am going to talk about a common roadblock that I encounter regularly that is affecting people’s ability to lose weight through running.

I will do my best to keep things simple but be warned, this post may be a little technical.

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The Fuel Efficiency Test

The graph below is the result of fuel efficiency testing in our lab.

This test is essentially an x-ray for your metabolism where we’re looking at how you use your energy to determine whether you’re effectively able to generate energy from fat, or whether you’re reliant on sugar for the majority of your energy.

In an optimal scenario, high levels of fat should be burned at low to moderate intensities with sugar joining the party to fuel high-intensity training and racing.

As you can see in the graph, you burn fat in higher proportions at lower intensities and sugar in higher proportions at higher intensities.

If you’re running regularly and still not able to lose weight, it could be because you’re running too hard and are burning sugar rather than fat.

With the popularisation of the term calories and the ease of their measurement via our monitors, we have become obsessed with the idea that the more calories you burn, the better.

This is not necessarily the case.

Run Slower To Burn More Fat

To burn fat effectively, your body needs oxygen.

To ensure you are getting enough oxygen, you need to be running at a low enough intensity where that can comfortably happen.

A place devoid of excessive puffing.

Unfortunately, many runners are living in a grey zone where the intensity is not low enough to teach your body how to efficiently use fat for energy, although you can be burning a lot of (sugar) calories.

By slowing down, your body will get better at generating energy from fat and over time, you’ll be able to run faster ( and burn more calories) while maintaining the percentage of energy coming from fat.

To illustrate this point, take a look at the graph below.

This is the follow-up test to the one above after the athlete had slowed down in training, using a heart rate monitor to regulate his pace.

There are a few interesting observations that I would like to draw your attention to.

        1. Test protocols were the same for both tests
        1. Fat burning stopped at the 13-minute mark in graph 1. In graph 2, fat burning stopped at a significantly higher speed at 18-minutes
        1. Fat burning reached a peak of 34 grams/hour at the 6-minute mark in graph 1 before instantly starting to drop off
        1. In graph 2, the fat burning peak reached 42 grams/hour at the 6-minute mark and was sustained at close to that level until the 13-minute mark (where fat burning had previously stopped)
      1. The crossover point (where the body goes from burning primarily fat to primarily sugar) happened at the 8-minute mark in graph 1 and the 14-minute mark in graph 2

The Outcome

As you can see, that’s a significant improvement in fat burning ability. While the changes look cool graphically, you may be wondering what these changes contributed to in the real world?

A few things!

        1. A 45-minute improvement in the athlete’s marathon timing
        1. A 7kg loss in weight
      1. Faster recovery from training and racing

In Closing

Today I have introduced a very common error that runners are making when it comes to fat burning and weight loss in running.

The good news is that it can be easily remedied.

There are other things that influence a person’s ability to generate energy from fat such as nutrition and stress. We’ll be touching on these in future posts.

For now, if you’ve been running regularly and are not seeing the loss of body fat that you are hoping for, it could be that you’re running too hard.

Try slowing down and see what happens.

To speed the process, do some of your running on an empty stomach. When sugar (the body’s quick fuel) is not as available, your body will get better at using fat.

If you’d like to learn more about your body and determine the state of your current fat burning ability, consider doing some metabolic testing to see how you’re using your energy.

Happy New Year!

I wish you and your loved ones a safe, healthy and happy 2018!

A Coach’s Thoughts On His Terrible Race

In my last post, I shared how having a bad race can make you a better athlete.

The post started…

Not every race can go to plan. Sometimes you just you have a bad day, things go wrong or you feel like sh*t.

I must have had a crystal ball in front of me because each of those things held true for me in the Singapore Half Marathon on 3 Dec.

Am I surprised?

No.

With a growing business and a young family, training has not been a priority and I lined up in no shape to run well.

I thought I would get my execution right, but even that fell short.

In the hope that I (and you) learn from my experience, the rest of this post is an honest reflection of what went well and what didn’t.

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The Good

Hydration
Singapore is hot and humid so I was very conscious of starting the race fully hydrated. I managed to do this and I started the race in a well-hydrated condition.

Arrival
I arrived at the venue at the right time, with little stress. I made my way to the start line and was towards the front with no runners to pass or weave through.

Expectation
Because I knew I was not prepared, I had no expectation for how well I would run. This set me free to enjoy the experience and that’s exactly what I did.

Enjoyment
Despite the fact that I suffered more than in any run I have done in a long time, I really enjoyed myself. With many Coached athletes and friends out racing, I enjoyed being on the course with them and yelling some encouragement when I picked them out of the crowd.

Body Checks
Once again, body checks worked a charm and helped to keep me in a neutral state of mind, even as the race progressed and became harder and harder.

The Bad

Pre-Race Recovery
In the day’s leading into a race, it is a wise idea to relax and focus on recovery so that you start the race feeling fresh.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury this time. Coached invested in a booth at the race expo and I stood for 12+ hours a day for 3 days, talking to runners.

I arrived at the start line very tired.

Conditioning
While I am not currently fit (relatively speaking), I have been living off of what I call residual fitness.

It’s fitness that I earned through years training full time as a professional triathlete.

Up until this point, this aerobic base has allowed me to run pretty well despite a lack of focused preparation. In this race, the lack of training finally caught up with me.

My heart and lungs were ok but the lack of muscular conditioning hit me hard (for the first time) and my pace slowed from about halfway as my legs were not conditioned to handle the pounding I was placing on them.

Gear
I thought I had my gear dialled in and would have no issues.

While I didn’t suffer anything major, I ended up with a chafed left nipple (ouch).

Despite running in my Coached tee hundreds of times, the extra weight of the race bib pulled my tee hard against my chest and caused chafing.

Post-Race Recovery
Despite running 30+ minutes slower than I could run at my best (a decade ago), my recovery took more than 2 days longer and I still had achy legs on the Thursday following the race.

In Closing

Intellectually understanding how to execute a race and actually doing it in practice are two different things. Execution is a skill that requires practice.

The more you prepare, the more aware you are of your body and the higher the chance that you’re able to execute to a high standard.

If I had done a little more training, I would have been well aware that my legs would fatigue at a much faster rate than my heart and lungs.

With this knowledge, I could have started even slower and delayed the rate at which I broke down, increasing my chance of a faster finishing time.

This is a key takeaway for me and I will do my best to prioritise training before my next half marathon so that I can run better and suffer less.

I hope your race went better than mine. Merry XMAS everyone!

How Having A Bad Race Can Make You A Better Athlete

Not every race can go to plan.

Sometimes you just you have a bad day, things go wrong or you feel like sh*t.

What sets the great athletes apart from those athletes of lesser ability, is the way they deal with these experiences.

While some athletes see a bad race and a poor result as a failure, others see it as an opportunity to learn and improve themselves.

It’s these athletes that truly excel over the long-term.

To be clear, having a bad race sucks. When you dedicate such a large amount of your time and energy to achieving a goal and fall short, it’s devastating. But what’s more devastating is failing to learn from the experience.

To learn from the experience, you need to take an objective look at how your race unfolded.

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What Can You Control?

In every race, there are things you can our control and things you can’t – knowing the difference is important when assessing your race.

Within Your Control

  • Equipment choices
  • Pacing strategy
  • Fuelling strategy
  • Form
  • Mindset

Outside Your Control

  • Weather
  • Route
  • Race start time
  • Other participants
  • Support staff and spectators

If your bad race was due to things that fall outside your control, let it go, refocus and put your energy into the next one – there’s always another race!

If it was due to something (or a series of somethings) within your control then you can assess each one and use this as a platform from which to build for the next race.

What You Can Learn From A Bad Race

When you break it down, there is a lot you can learn from a race. Here are a few of the most common things that I used to look at when assessing my races.

My Preparation

  1. Training and taper
  2. Nutrition
  3. Recovery
  4. Mindset

My Strategy

  1. Pacing
  2. Fuelling
  3. Tactics
  4. Equipment choices

My Weaknesses And Strengths

  1. Physically
  2. Mentally

4 Ways Having A Bad Race Will Make You A Better Athlete

When you’re willing to look at a bad race as an opportunity to learn and grow, it’s likely you’ll benefit more from this experience than you will from any successful race.

Here are 4 ways I have seen bad races improve myself and the athletes that we work with at Coached.

Motivation And Desire

When you assess a poor performance and identify what went wrong, it often lights a fire within. You know what went wrong and how you can fix it.

That knowledge, fuels your motivation to get it right the next time you toe the line and so you continue to show up and put in the work. Which leads us to resilience…

Resilience

When you get knocked down and pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue to show up and do the work, you develop a resilience that will help you in training, racing and in life.

You learn you can handle more physical and mental challenges than you previously thought and begin to subscribe to the mantra: ‘get knocked down nine times, stand up TEN!’

Focus

After assessing a bad race and identifying the things that caused your “failure”, you put in place a plan to remedy things.

This plan intensifies your focus and you pay more attention to the small areas of your preparation and strategy.

Where small things used to slip through the cracks, like going easy when the plan says EASY or eating within 30mins of finishing a session, you resolve that this won’t happen again.

Control

When you make poor decisions that lead to a bad result, it reinforces the necessity of control. The best athletes in the world (regardless of sport) perform with the most control – whether in training or on game day.

By control, I do not mean rigidity. In fact, it is quite the opposite. An athlete in control adapts effortlessly to the various situations that arise and calmly adapts and executes within the limits of what they can control.

In Closing

My hope for this post is to make it clear that there are no bad races or failure when you are willing to learn from your experiences.

Instead, what you are doing is building a valuable database of experience that allows you to look into it at a later time and make better decisions every day and in every race.

While it’s not an easy process and it takes time, it’s a rewarding process that will make you a better, more consistent and “successful” athlete.

A Simple Strategy For Managing Pain During Training And Racing

It’s easy to think that training is all that is required to perform well in your next race and while training is obviously vital, mental strength is just as important – maybe more so.

A mistake many athletes make is not realising that great mental strength is of the utmost importance when it comes to developing your athletic abilities and racing to your potential.

We all say that we want our mental strength to be “good;” however, “good” is basically just “not bad”⁠ – and that’s not enough.

Why?

Because racing (and life) is bloody hard and when all else is equal, the athlete who can dig deeper and push themselves further will win.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a runner, a triathlete or any other endurance junkie, the mental strength required to prepare and race such a demanding event, present a huge challenge.

Today, we’re going to talk about a simple strategy that I learned in my final years as a pro that transformed how I was able to deal with pain while training and racing.

While this skill won’t make you instantly ‘tough’, it will contribute to the development of your mental resilience and could help to ease your suffering the next time you’re in pain.

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Enter Renzie

In 2006, I was racing the ITU Triathlon World Cup Series and was slowly working my way up in the world rankings. At that level, the racing is fast and furious and I was finding myself intimidated and fearing the pain of racing.

Fortunately, I was surrounded by a world-class support team and I was introduced to a man by the name of Renzie Hanham. Renzie is a karate master (think Mr Miyakgi from the Karate Kid movies) who works with athletes and business leaders to enhance performance under pressure.

Manage Pain With Body Checks

Besides hitting me around in his dojo to teach me ways of honing my focus, Renzie introduced me to a mental exercise called body checks.

Body checks are used as a way of diverting your attention during times of pain and this exercise worked with great effect for me during my last two seasons of racing.

When you’re in pain, it’s very easy to spiral into negative self-talk that harms your performance. Having tools for coping in this situation is crucial to minimising your suffering and maximising your performance.

It’s not uncommon to suffer from things like blisters, chafing, stitch, cramps, sweat in the eyes or a hit in the nose during the swim (for the triathletes out there), during training or a race.

All of these things are usually localised to a specific area and don’t have to have a significant effect on your performance. Yet, often you let them derail performance because they pull you into a negative frame of mind and focus your attention on what is hurting, rather than on what is required to keep you moving forward as efficiently as possible.

How To Body Check

  • Notice the next time you feel pain and it’s starting to bother you and negatively affect your thoughts.
  • Move your thoughts as far away from the painful area as possible. For example, if you have a blister on your little toe that is driving you crazy, move your thoughts to your head.
  • Once away from the pain, think about another specific body part. To continue with the above example, think about your left ear. How does it feel? Does the top of your ear feel ok? How about your earlobe? Is there sweat running down it? Are your earrings still there?
  • When you have done a detailed review of the new body part, move your attention to another one that’s close by and repeat step 3 for as long as possible.

It’s that simple!

Why Does This Work?

Because, the brain can only think of one thing at a time.

By diverting your attention to the opposite end of your body and focusing in detail on small localised areas of your body, you take your mind off the pain that is hindering you.

When you’re thinking about the parts of your body that are not hurting, you are not able to think about the pain that is happening elsewhere.

This neutral state of mind allows you to continue moving forward without the suffering and often results in a delayed decline in form and performance. As you improve this skill (which takes some practice by the way), you’ll find that you can go longer and longer before your focus is pulled back to your original pain.

Give body checks a whirl and let us know how they work for you.

4 Shoe Lacing Methods You Should Be Using

I think I learned to tie my laces when I was about five years old.

Mum and dad introduced me to Mr Bunny Rabbit and his catchy poem and since that point, I have been a guru in shoe tying.

Over, under, around and through,
Meet Mr Bunny Rabbit, pull and through.

It’s that easy!

While many of us are taught at an early age, how to tie our shoelaces, few of us have been taught how to lace our shoes.

Shoes come out of the box traditionally laced in a criss-cross manner and unless you know better, that is how they stay.

This shouldn’t be the case.

Depending on your foot type, complaint or pain, there are numerous other ways you can lace your shoes to improve their comfort and performance.

In this post, we have worked with our team Podiatrist, Tim Maiden, the owner of The Foot Practice, to create a series of short videos that demonstrate four alternative, but useful, lacing methods that you can use.

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Lacing For Runners With Narrow Heels Or Blisters

Lacing For Runners With Narrow Feet, First Toe Hyperextension Or Black Toenails

Lacing For Runners With Bunions Or High Arches

Lacing For Runners With High Arches

So That’s It

Four alternative shoe lacing methods that you can add to your athletic toolbox.

As you can see, shoe lacing can be an ever-changing, dynamic process.

Depending on the condition of your feet, you can easily swap between lacing methods to improve the comfort of your shoes and the quality of your training and racing.

Learn More About Tim Maiden

www.thefootpractice.com
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www.instagram.com/thefootpractice