Charity Challenge – 100 miles in 10 days!

Recently I have been doing my bit for charity by setting my own personal challenge in Spiceball Park, Banbury. I believe everyone needs a little motivation at times and this challenge was the perfect motivation for me, to test me and raise money for a fantastic cause. So let me tell you a little about what I had to do….

Firstly, the challenge was set up in memory of my dad who passed away on 10th September 2007, so it was fitting to start on that date 5 years on. I decided to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support to add to the money already raised for my marathon challenge earlier in the year in April. I wanted to make the challenge something a little more difficult than the average person could do so here is what I came up with:

  • I had to run 100 miles in 10 days with just 10 runs.
  • I had to run once a day at 9.30am for exactly 10 miles.
  • Each 10 mile run had to be completed within 1 hour and 20 minutes.

The challenge started on Monday 10th September and finished on Wednesday 19th September and I’m glad to say I completed all 100 miles with every 10 mile run inside the time limit. It wasn’t easy at times and my body suffered over the 10 days, but it was all worth it to raise valuable money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

So far, including offline donations, I have raised £295 but I would love to raise much more if possible. So if you want to help and do your bit for charity, please take a minute to visit my Just Giving page, which will be open for a couple of months, to donate what you can, thank you.

I was lucky enough to have plenty of support throughout the challenge and lots of photos taken. Here are a few of the photos given to me to use after the challenge. Enjoy scrolling through…..

Fail to Prepare; Prepare to Fail!

After using the phrase ‘Fail to prepare; prepare to fail!’ this week, I thought it would be a great place to start when writing my blog. As I’m in the process of training for the London Marathon in 2012 I find myself back in the same mindset as I was as a footballer, not leaving anything to chance and making sure every training run is prepared for properly. It made me think about how others prepare themselves for their sports or just for training in general. I’ve come up with a few questions and tips that might help you train and perform to your best…..

  • Are you eating the right foods before training or the main performance? 

TIP – What you put into your body prior to training/performing will provide you with the energy you need to perform at your best. If you don’t eat right, don’t expect to perform to your best! High carbohydrate foods before hand should leave you with the energy to perform at a good level without feeling tired/drained. I tend to eat foods like, chicken, pasta, rice, bananas, toast and cereal. The size and type of food depends on the time of day I eat it and how long I have before the performance. Ideally, a big meal should be eaten 3 hours prior to the performance or smaller, lighter foods such as toast for anything closer to the performance. Remember to leave enough time for your food to go down and start the digestion process or it will sit on your stomach and make it uncomfortable to run or move when performing.

  • Are you drinking enough of the right fluids before and during training or the main performance?

TIP – Very similar to the tip above, the fluids that you put into your body prior to and during training/performing, will prevent you from becoming dehyrated and will replace lost salts from sweating. Drinking plenty of water before training/performing will help the body be at its best. If you feel dehydrated the damage is already done! It only takes 2-3% of water loss in the body before endurance starts to suffer and your performance also suffers. A little bit more(5%) and it effects the mind making it hard to concentrate and the body continues to suffer with pace slowing down. Keeping hydrated is vital! Isotonic drinks are a good tool during training/performing as they replace lost salts and also have a high concentration of carbs to keep the energy levels up. If possible, try to take plenty of fluids with you during your training/performance and keep drinking small amounts at regular intervals. It’s easier for sports like cycling for obvious reasons that you can connect a drink to your bike, but I’ve been known to hide drink bottles in a quiet place on a route I plan on taking a long distance run, so that I have a drink at certain stages of that run. Don’t neglect drinking fluids and make sure they are the right fluids, not fizzy drinks, tea, coffee etc as they are diuretics and will only dehydrate you more!

  • Do you have the right equipment and clothing?

TIP – This is a very important tip! Having the wrong equipment or clothing could be costly, not just because of comfort but because you can risk injury. Until you know a sport, it’s very difficult to know what you might need, so make sure you speak to the right people and get advice on the essentials from people who perform in that sport or know their stuff. An example: Until running long distances, you might not have ever thought about blisters, chafing, correct trainers for your gait etc, but all of them can make the difference between performing at your best and a very uncomfortable event. Clothing such as 1000 mile blister free socks, lined shorts, vaseline or other lubricants to prevent chafing and correct trainers(sometimes fitted with orthotics if necessary!) are a must. Sometimes it’s trial and error but there are specific sports shops that can advise you if you need help. How about riding up a steep hill on your bike and the gears keep slipping? Again something that can cause an injury if you’re on a road amongst traffic and can really make your ride much more difficult. Maybe it’s about the right foot wear in a football match. Do you have moulded boots for hard grounds and studded boots for soft weather grounds? It’s not just the equipment/clothing it’s also the colour! I have recently been on a training run in the clothing you can see in the picture to the right which looks fine until you know I went out later in the day and misjudged the time. I ended up running in the dark in black clothing without any reflectors on. I rarely make mistakes like this and there were no problems on the run, BUT there could have been and next time I might not be so fortunate. I have learnt from my mistake and it’s a good mistake to highlight as an example of the title of this blog.

So in conclusion, don’t leave things to chance! There are many more tips I could give you about performing to your best but the blog would go on all day, so I’ll save it for another day. The higher the level you perform at, the smaller the margins are. Not drinking enough, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothing and using the wrong equipment and generally not preparing for your performance could be the difference between being a winner or a loser! What would you rather be?

Running the VLM Marathon in Memory in 2012

Many people out there will know it is the time of year where they are starting to prepare for the Virgin London Marathon in 2012, after receiving an acceptance letter from the ballot, or feeling the disappointment of receiving a rejection letter instead. I was one of the latter and when you have your heart set on something as much as I did, I can tell you just how bad it feels to have the chance taken away.

I was determined that 2012 was going to be my year for running the marathon and I decided the ballot wasn’t going to be my last hope, so I made the decision to go for a gold bond place with a charity instead. I had planned on raising money for Cancer Research if I was accepted through the ballot, so this was the first charity I contacted. Unfortunately all their gold bond places had been taken so I contacted other relevant charities that meant something to me. I’m happy to announce that I was accepted by Macmillan Cancer Support and I can’t put into words how happy this has made me. If you read my story you will understand why. The story behind running the London Marathon for a cancer charity can be seen at my Just Giving page. I urge you all to read my story and then decide if donating is something you would like to do. If it isn’t, all I ask is that you share the link and make people aware of what I’m doing and for doing that I will be very appreciative.

So, now the hard work begins! The long training runs and the fundraising over the next six months all leading up to one day. I have no doubt it will be one very long emotional day for me but with all the support I have behind me, I know that when my legs start to fatigue, thoughts of everyone that has donated over the six months will give me wings and lift me to my goal. I will remember every penny donated to such an amazing cause and together we will make a difference to so many lives around the world.

As part of my fundraising and aim to raise awareness, I have started a facebook page to keep everyone that joins, up to date with my latest training, news, fundraising events and ‘thank you’s’ to everyone that donates to the cause. If you are on facebook, please feel free to join my page and support me. It’s amazing how far a few words of support can go on someone’s wall!!!

For the next six months, deep in the back of my mind one date will always be there…..22nd April 2012. When that day arrives I will run with all the passion and emotion I have in me and I WILL NOT let anyone down. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading this blog and my story, and also thank everyone for all the support you have given me so far and right through to race day. Without you, this would never be possible.

Thank you all.

 

Consistent or Consistently Inactive?

The Findings:

After recently returning to full training from a calf injury, that meant not running for 25 days, I have witnessed first hand(again!) what a break in fitness training can do! The great thing about technology is being able to compare data and doing exactly that has shown me in black and white the differences between regular, consistent exercise, to irregular, inconsistent exercise. After seeing what it can do to someone like myself that is in the fitness industry for a living and loves to keep fit, I thought it might be a great idea to share my comparisons with others that exercise a lot less, to show the effects it can have on the body and change a few people’s mind sets towards regular exercise.

The facts:

I run 10 miles at a time 2-3 times a week with 1-2 resistance training sessions in between, consisting of full body weights and core exercises. The last time I ran(when fresh) before getting injured, was Sunday 10th July. Since then I have not been able to do any impact exercise so I’ve been limited to CV on a bike and weight training. Because of this I knew my fitness would suffer but I wasn’t sure how much until I returned from injury. My first run back from injury(without pain) was on Thursday 11th August, 32 days apart. The differences in pace, time, and most importantly heart rate are quite amazing!

Here is the comparison(make sure to click on ‘more detail’ for a thorough comparison):

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/comparison?activityId=105655672&activityId2=98138179

If you look at the difference in max and average heart rate between the two, the latter run was higher by 12 beats per minute, making the heart rate zone much higher and the body having to work much harder even on a flatter course. If this is what can happen to the efficiency of the heart of a personal trainer in 32 days, whilst continuing other forms of training in that time, imagine what it can do to the average person that neglects their body and the exercise they do to keep it in shape over months or years of irregular, inconsistent exercise. If the heart takes that short a time to become that less efficient, take a moment to think about the strain it will have on other organs of the body and the body’s performance as a whole. Even the smallest jobs could seem epic if the heart has to work so hard to make it happen, so here are a few tips to make sure you keep your body working as efficiently as possible.

The Tips:

  1. When starting to exercise, try to get into a routine that the body recognises. Build it up so that you workout at least 2-3 times a week for an hour at a time.
  2. Everyone needs a rest to let the body recover and as I’ve mentioned before, the rest is just as important as the actual workout, but don’t leave it too long between workouts. As you can see from the stats above, if the gaps are too big between exercise, the body’s fitness will suffer and you will feel like you’ve taken a step backwards every time you start exercising again.
  3. Lastly, keep things fresh by mixing up what exercise you do, this way you will be less inclined to put it off as you are bored of your routine. By doing this you will keep your exercise routine fun, consistent and your body working efficiently for as long as you put the hard work into it.

I hope these three tips help you keep your body fit and healthy. If you have come across the same break in exercise and experienced the same fitness struggles, please leave your stories and let me know if this blog has helped you!

What motivates the motivators? London Marathon 2012?

In my blogs I normally give tips, statistics and ‘do’s and don’ts’ about exercise, but this time I have decided to let you in to my own recent exercise programmes and what has driven me to do the routines I have over the last few weeks.

After a couple of clients achieved the amazing goal of running the London Marathon and running it in a very respectable time, I decided to enter it myself for 2012. It has been a dream of mine for many years but has always taken a back seat because of my football career. Since retiring from football through knee injuries and being told I should avoid certain things(like running on concrete), the dream of running a marathon faded too. Although, being stubborn and wanting to prove my mental strength has made me believe anything is possible, even the impossible! So, when the ballot opened on April 26th I woke up and the first thing I did was grab my phone, entered ‘London Marathon entry 2012’ into Google and typed my details in to enter the ballot. From this moment on, all I have had in my mind is ‘what time do I want to finish the marathon in and what pace can I sustain?’ There has never been one thought of ‘can I get through the marathon?’ My fitness thoughts have been taken over by running 26.2 miles!

The next step for me was to think of a target that I would be happy with and come up with a strategy for running it in that time. So, I have two targets:

  1. I have always said anything under 4 hours is fantastic but I want better than that, so the first target is 3 hours 45 minutes. I would be very happy running 26.2 miles in under this time which is roughly an average of 8.55 min/mile. This is a good pace to sustain for such a long distance, but the competitive nature inside of me always wants to push for more, which leads me on to my next target………
  2. The second target is 3 hours 30 minutes. Now this is what I call pushing the limits! To get this target I would have to sustain an 8 min/mile for the duration of the race, which if you run a lot, you will know is a tough pace to run at for such a long time, especially if you are 90kg like me! It could also be harder if the heat is as gruelling as it was for this years marathon.

As a personal trainer I always look at things with a positive mental attitude (PMA, the old cliché!) and when I put my mind to it, there is no turning back. I currently run 10 miles 2-3 times a week between 6.45 – 7 min/miles, so slowing my pace to roughly 8 min/mile is possible! Isn’t it?

The next step was to add a few miles to my regular route and slow my pace to see if my theory could become practice. Since then I have had two longer runs in amongst my usual 10 mile runs. The first being 15 miles in 1 hour 54 minutes and the second being 17 miles in 2 hours 7 minutes(through the empty streets whilst our future King was getting married!). What I found is, it is quite tough to slow the pace that I am used to running at, hence the quick times for both longer runs. It has given me a strategy that I think will help me achieve my goal, but neither of these runs were easy, in fact the last few miles were draining!

In conclusion, I have realised that I can maintain the pace needed to complete my goal and the new strategy will help me towards that. Obviously(unless you are a professional runner), running for that many miles, everyone will slow naturally as they fatigue, but what I want to do is to get to 16 miles in roughly 2 hours. This will leave me 10.2 miles to run in 1 hour 30 minutes (roughly 9 min/mile), which will hopefully leave me enough time to cover the miles at a slower pace once fatigue starts to set in. The only thing left to do is actually run the marathon!

That’s if my entry is successful, ha ha, it could all be for nothing! Or would it?

Some might say why train until you know if you have been accepted or not(which is early October)? I say, why not? If it inspires you to push harder, get fitter, stronger and healthier along the way, is it a bad thing or a good? Many people struggle with motivation and dreams like this are a great way of motivating anyone, so the answer is…..becoming fitter, stronger and healthier can only ever be good no matter what your goal is. Even if you don’t quite achieve it, your body will always benefit from the training you have done.

My tip for you this blog is; don’t wait to start becoming healthier, we can’t change the past, we don’t know what will happen in the future but we can do everything we possibly can in the present, to help us achieve and be successful when the chance is given to us!

I hope you enjoyed reading how my mind works and just think, whilst your reading this, I might be pushing the limits a little harder on my next run to achieve a life long dream………..the London Marathon!