Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

As the health and well-being of our athletes and clients is at the heart of everything we do, we have decided to suspend all face to face activities with immediate effect and until at least the end of April. This includes all massage therapy sessions and 1:1 and group training & coaching sessions.

This decision has been taken with a heavy heart and is in line with the advice we have received from the relevant professional and sporting governing bodies, Public Health England the the NHS to help us keep people safe and healthy.

During this period we will continue to provide remote training & coaching plans as normal to our athletes.

During these uncertain times please follow all the latest advice provided by Public Health England and the NHS and keep yourselves safe, fit and healthy.

Plan Your Training for Next Season

This is a great time of the year to sit down and review the season just gone and plan what you are going to do next season. It’s a great time to look at your technique, make any necessary changes and allow time for any changes to be embedded before you start racing. And, you should make sure all your little niggles and injuries are sorted before you start the bulk of your base training.

First of all think about what your goals are for the next season. Make sure you set goals that stretch you, but are achievable. Your goals should be one’s that you can control – e.g. don’t set a goal of winning the national championships – you can’t control who enters that race nor how well they race. Make sure you write your goals down – that makes them real!

Look at what went well last season and identify why – keep on doing those things! Examine what didn’t go so well – what can you do differently this year to improve on those things. These changes should start to form your training objectives for the coming season. Remember – you will race how you train, and if you keep training the same you will keep racing the same.

Prioritize the races you will do. Your “A” Priority races are the ones that you are really aiming to achieve your keys goals in. These are the races that all your training is leading towards and are the races that you will aim to peak for. Ideally you should have 2 or possibly 3 “A” Priority races a season, this is due to the time it takes to recover from and then re-build for an “A” race. Your “B” Priority races will be those that are important to you and that you want to do well in and that you may do a small taper for. You may aim for up to six “B” Priority races a year. Your “C” priority races will be used as training races, gaining experience etc. You wouldn’t typically look to peak (or taper) for these races, nor expect stunning performances.

Try to phase your training working back from your first “A” priority race. A typically annual training plan may look something like this – 12 weeks Base phase, 8 weeks Build, 2 weeks Peak, up to 3 weeks Race. Each phase can be split into 4 weekly cycles – 3 weeks hard training with the 4th week being a recovery week. The base phase is where intensity is (comparatively) low and volume increases to be highest during the last cycle. The Build phase increases intensity and becomes more specific to the planned races and the Peak phase is heavily focussed on final preparation for racing. The Race phase is totally focussed on race preparation and maintaining form if doing multiple “A” races. As a general rule, as you work through the training plan you build volume during the base period, then the volume of training decreases but intensity increases. As you progress your training it gets more and more specific to the race/s you are targeting, typically including brick and race pace specific sessions. 

Group sessions are great for motivation and camaraderie so plan your training to include club and/or group sessions. As you enter the more specific training phases make sure you are doing the training you need to do and not somebody else’s – don’t get sucked into a testosterone packed efforts if you are supposed to doing an easy session!

Finally plan your training around what you enjoy – it makes things seem so much easier!

We are happy to help you where we can with technique improvement, injury management and planning your training and racing. Please feel free to contact us to discuss further.

Running Efficiency

Running is something we all do naturally, right, but is our running natural? 

Take a look a very young child running in the park or in a garden. They will typically be landing on their mid-foot and will be taking lots of fast, short strides, their feet will be landing under their centre of mass and it will almost look as though there are toppling forwards. Their running hasn’t been coached into them; this is how they run naturally. Compare this to a typical grown up running through the park. What are the key differences?

  • Heel striking
  • Foot landing in front of centre of mass?
  • Longer stride?
  • Slower leg speed?

The points called out are typically things that change over time primarily as a result of culture and footwear choice and will impact on the efficiency of your running. The young child knows nothing about running theory nor have they been subject to footwear fashion trends etc.

Heel striking is very inefficient as you typically land with your foot in front of your centre of mass and this introduces a braking effect. You need to use energy to overcome this braking and get your centre of mass in front of the foot before the energy you are using starts to push you forwards. The main consideration with regards to heel striking is that you tend to land on the heel with a straight leg, this results in all the shock of landing going through your skeletal system (ankles, knees, hips and into your back) and introduces the risk of injury. If you land more on you mid-foot you tend to land with your feet under your centre of mass – no braking effect – and with a slightly bent knee – introducing natural shock absorption. Think about hopping – do you land on your heel with a straight leg? 

Many people think that a long stride is good for running speed and efficiency and to a degree it is, but you shouldn’t be extending the stride by reaching out in front. As mentioned earlier, if your foot lands in front of your centre of mass it will have a braking effect. You should be trying to land with your foot under your centre of mass, this way all your energy is used to make you move forwards. Think about your foot pawing back slightly as it lands, this will stop any braking effect. Imagine the pedalling action on your bike and your foot hitting the ground just before the bottom of the pedal stoke. You can also help your foot land under your centre of mass by thinking about your posture as you run. Run tall, head up, with your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line. If you lean forward – lean forwards from the ankle not the waist – this moves your centre of mass forwards and is akin to the young child looking like they are toppling forwards.     

We have three gaits: walking; running; sprinting. The main difference between walking and the running/sprinting gaits is the flight phase – this is where the speed comes from – think about race walking vs. running! If we use a longer stride we are typically on the ground longer and therefore slower. There is a natural balance to be struck here as a very short stride will obviously be inefficient also. A longer stride also uses more muscular energy so is inefficient in that respect. Think about how you run up a hill, you take shorter strides and adopt a slightly faster leg speed; this is because it’s more efficient. If you do look to extend your stride do so by pushing/kicking out the back of stride. Watch Mo Farah and look at his kick out the back!

Slightly faster strides are more efficient as you can start to use the stretch reflexes in the muscles to help move you forwards. If we go back to hopping – do one hop and stop when your foot hits the ground then hop again and stop when your foot hits the ground. How does this feel? Now hop naturally, you get a natural rhythm that feels much easier than the first approach. This is because you are using the stretch reflexes in your muscular system to help you. This stretch reflex energy is maintained for approximately 1/3rd of a second, so when running each foot strike should take about that time. If we run for a minute we will end up with about 180 foot strikes per minute – this leg speed is known as the natural running cadence. This may sound fast but try it, when running with this cadence you will find you naturally adopt a slightly shorter stride. 

For triathletes it may useful to note the natural running cadence of 180 foot strikes per minute. If we take just the left foot – that is 90 left foot strikes per minute. If we then assimilate that to revolutions per minute we get 90rpm. When we talk about an efficient triathlon pedalling cadence being 90rpm it is heavily based upon the natural running cadence and attempting to minimise the physiological differences between the bike and run disciplines in a triathlon. This last point is only really relevant to triathlon, not pure cycling, as the cycle part of a triathlon is about going at a speed that enables you to run fast afterwards, pure cycling you don’t have to worry about the run! 

I hope you have found the discussion useful, you will have noticed that all these elements are interrelated so working on one aspect will help with other aspects of your running efficiency.