Maybe it is just me, but I don’t think I’m out of line in saying a lot of us don’t like change. We’re never quite sure why, but as an individual that loves routine and organisation, I would say it is exactly those reasons why I don’t like change. Change, whether welcome or unwelcome, is something that unsettles routine. It takes us away from what we know and takes a while to get used to.
However, when I look into exactly what I have just said, it is not the actual change that I don’t like, but instead the temporary effects it brings with it. The unexpected, the lack of order, and the unknown. It is important to emphasise the word temporary, because these effects don’t last forever. Before we know it, we settle back into a routine with our new changes and they don’t seem so scary. In fact we’re happy we made the changes. It is just taking the leap and making the changes that can be daunting initially.
Why can change be good?
Don’t know unless you try.
Sometimes when we look to make life changes, we get scared. This is because we worry that the change won’t be right for us and things will go wrong. However, it is just as easy to change back, or make another change, as it is to make the first one. Thus, if we try something new and it doesn’t work for us, or we don’t enjoy it, we can always go back to what we were used to, or try something else that is new. We are never stuck in the situations we are in, as long as we have the courage to make those changes. Rather than thinking, what if it doesn’t work out, we should think, what if it goes better than expected? Unless we try new things, we will never know what is out there and what may actually benefit it us and our lives.
Good for the mind.
As creatures of habit, it may not initially seem that change is good for the mind, but I can assure you it really is. Sometimes our minds not only get lazy, but they can also go a bit crazy when we don’t make changes. We may not even realise it, but if we get stuck in a routine, our minds and bodies can go into automatic mode and not quite give 100% without realising. For example, with training, we may get so used to doing a certain run around a certain loop that our bodies and minds get so used to it. Whereas, if we spice it up a little, we may notice more gains from a slight variation in the undulation of a run and we may have to work our minds a little bit more. Change also helps keep our minds fresh, preventing them from getting bored and reducing our enjoyment of something.
It sounds cliche, but life is for living. If we constantly do the exact same thing in the same way, every day, there is so much in life we are missing out on. I’m not saying change your life path every week, but if your runner like me, going to different places to run, taking trips on the weekend to explore training in different areas, or getting your friends to come out with you, can make a run become so much more than just a run. You can experience different parts of the world, whilst doing something you enjoy.
I say all this so easily, but trust me, I don’t deal with change very well. It scares me, as much as I’m sure it scares some of you. I don’t like the uncertainty that initially surrounds change, but I’m learning to embrace it and enjoy the unknown opportunities that arise from making changes.
I believe happiness comes from contentment. By contentment, I don’t mean having no ambition or drive and being satisfied with not going anywhere. Drive and ambition are so important to me and are things that motivate me on a daily basis. What I mean by contentment, is being happy in life without relying on achievements, positive reinforcement, feedback from others or events/occasions to provide you with happiness.
Achievements, success, progression, and the external things in life are great, but we don’t NEED them in order to be happy. They simply add to our lives instead of make them. Happiness can simply be found within. Once we are able to find contentment, we take the pressure of ourselves and enjoying riding the rollercoaster of life.
We all go through times when we don’t quite feel ourselves and it is easy in these moments to look elsewhere for that boost or reassurance. It may be that we rely on an upcoming good performance to boost us, or we buy something to make us feel better, or we organise an exciting day out to boost our mood. This shows that we are looking externally for that boost because we aren’t content within ourselves. We feel we need to find happiness in the external things. I find myself looking for reassurance from those around me when I lack contentment. I want them to boost me and tell me I am enough, but this is not a sustainable source of happiness or a genuine one. I want to have the confidence and belief in myself that I am enough without needing to be told it, because this is where happiness and contentment really come from.
When I feel like this, I try to make things as simple as possible. Rather than looking externally for things to make me happy, I look within and go through my emotions. I allow myself to feel all the emotions, I accept them and work through them. I try to remove all the embellishments from my life such as fancy days out and realise that I can develop happiness without relying on these exciting things or the validation of someone else. When I am able to reflect on my own thoughts without the interjection of others, I can understand them a lot more clearly and I find it to feel content within myself.
Understand what is important to you.
As soon as we are able to understand what is truly important to us, we can focus our energy on these things and be content with what we have. Ask yourself, is the opinion of someone who does not know you really important to you? My guess is no, so why do we let those opinions dictate how we feel and allow us to believe where we are now in our lives is not good enough?
When it comes to running, enjoying the simple act of moving is something that is incredibly important to me. I get so much enjoyment from simply doing it. Therefore, there is no point worrying about the future or about results, or what other people think of my journey, when I cannot predict what will happen in the future. What I can do, in order to be the best runner I can be, is enjoy where I am now and make the most of the process without comparing it to others.
One key thing that makes me feel most content in my life, is getting outside. The fresh air and sound of nature always clears my head and helps ground me. It reminds me how simple, but precious, life can be. I live in the countryside and get so much internal pleasure from the peacefulness of nature. I love to imagine how wildlife animals live such simplistic lives, yet they are so content with what they have. They do not over complicate things, they do not compare their lives to others, they simply live in the now and enjoy just being. I think this is something we as people should do more of.
Recognise everyone has their struggles.
Sometimes life feels a little harder than it does at other times. It is not abnormal to feel this way, everybody does at some points. You are not alone and we all have daily battles. For this reason, don’t beat yourself up about how you feel because you are not alone. Speak to others and you will find they feel very similarly. You do not need to force these emotions away, but instead embrace that they are right for you right now. As soon as you can recognise that where you are now is exactly where you are supposed to be, regardless of how this looks compared to other people, you will be content with the progress you are making. You are doing amazingly, and if you’re going through a difficulty period, know that this is completely ok. Become ok not always being ok, and be content with feeling the emotions you are naturally feeling.
Accept who you are.
I hope this blog has allowed you to realise that just being you, whoever that is in this current moment, is enough. As soon as you are able to recognise and come to terms with this, you will be able to find happiness in a place of contentment. You do not need to achieve certain things, please particular people, compare yourself to others, earn lots of money or do exciting things. The only opinion and belief of your life that matters is your own. If you are able to block all these external things out and be happy with the person you are, you can find happiness with contentment. All the other things that then happen in your life will only add to it, but you will not rely on this to provide you with happiness.
To me, this is the most powerful aspect of life.
I’m sure a lot of people can relate when I say, I’m a worrier. My brain just seems to enjoy worrying about everything, even when there is nothing to worry about. In fact, when there is less to actually worry about, my mind tends to go off on tangents of worrying about everything possible. This is something I am really working to rectify after the dentist told me I need to chill out because it is causing me to grind my teeth a lot! Thus, I am trying to stop being a worrier, and focus on being a warrior instead.
If you are also someone who tends to worry, why not come along with me on my mission to CHILL OUT!
These are a couple of things I am doing in order to chill out.
Get off my phone!!!
I am a natural fidget. For example, I struggle to fully focus on watching something as my brain constantly jumps from one thing to another. If my brain isn’t in full concentration mode, I have to be doing something else at the same time, be it working or looking at my phone. However, I want to step away from falling into the default of picking up my phone as I find this sends sensations of being on edge through my brain.
I therefore had a think about other things I could do when I get tempted to reach for my phone. One thing that came into my mind was colouring. I have therefore purchased a colouring book. When I feel the need to do something with my hands, I pick that up instead. I find it surprisingly therapeutic and my brain does completely switch off. Instead of watching tv, I also always have a book on the go. I am a big reader, but sometimes get out of the habit of doing it, so I always have a book on the go. This also helps reduce the amount of quick moving stimulation that I expose my brain to.
If I am out and about walking somewhere, I try to focus on taking in my surroundings instead of scrolling through my phone. This helps me to be in the moment and can have a very grounding and peaceful effect. Otherwise, by using my brain, I am always shifting my focus to where I could be or what someone else is doing instead of being in the here and now.
Slow down and breathe.
On a daily basis, I tend to rush from one thing to another, even when I do not have a jam-packed day. As a result, my brain is always operating at 100 miles an hour, even if there is nothing specific going through it. If I am able to force myself to stop for 10 minutes, more often than not, I feel as though I should be doing something else. This is where I am working to remove the constant sense of urgency I feel. When I ask myself, what am I rushing for? The answer is, just to get everything done. Ultimately though, everything is never done. There is always something hanging over us. This is just life. Therefore it causes you to feel as though life is out of control as you are asking an impossible task of yourself. It is a mission destined to fail. I therefore remind myself that things will happen when they happen and I do not constantly need to be rushing. Nobody minds if you are on time rather than 15 minutes early, if this means you slow down when driving to your location. Your safety and wellbeing comes above any need for urgency.
In these situations, when my brain is on 2x speed, I pause, take some deep breaths, ask myself if there is any actual need to be rushing, and go again, at a slower pace.
If someone has asked me to do something and fitting it in is going to be a stress because I don’t really have the time, I am learning that it is ok to say no. It doesn’t make me a bad person and it doesn’t mean I don’t care about them, it just means I need to prioritise other things. In the long run, saying no also allows me to be a better friend/partner/daughter in the long run. We don’t have to cram our day full from morning until night, it is ok to take it slightly slower and fill the day with enough things that we can feel satisfyingly busy, but do those things to the best of our ability without feeling overloaded. Those close to you will completely understand your need to do this.
Accept my thoughts.
When I feel my thoughts getting overwhelming and becoming quite intrusive, it can be very easy to fight them in order to get them to go away. However, I try not to fight them, but instead listen to them. They are there for a reason and are usually trying to warn me of something.
Every thought is a valid one and pushing it away does not tend to make it go away quicker, but instead prolong the amount of time it bothers you. When I notice an uncomfortable thought emerging, I listen to it and follow where it is going. What is it trying to tell me? Where do these thoughts lead to? It can help to write the thoughts down as you unpack them if you do not have someone to take them through with. Do the thoughts come with an image/story in your head? If so, go into as much detail about what you can see. You don’t need to necessarily understand exactly what they are saying, but if you can give time to them, you often diminish the intensity of them. You can essentially accept them and thank them for warning you that you are not quite feeling yourself, in turn helping you move on more.
None of these points are ground breaking things you won’t have heard of, but when stacked together and employed on a daily basis, they can really make the world of difference. If you have found this blog helpful, drop a comment and let me know what related to you most.
Running, like any sport, and any part of life in general, is full of ups and downs. Sometimes it feels as though you are floating effortlessly, it is like second nature, and you are on a constant upward trajectory. At other times you are putting in all the hard work and there just seems to be no results. That being said, both the ups and the downs have incredibly positive effects and act as opportunities to grow. It simply depends on how you look at the situation.
Last weekend, I raced for Great Britain in Pacé at the European 10,000m Cup. Building up to the race training had been going incredibly well, I was feeling confident, and my body was in a great place. All of these things still stand, but the race didn’t go to plan. Unfortunately, I was tripped and fell around 4.5k and it threw my entire race. I ended up DNF’ing. Of course this had never been my plan, and I was incredibly frustrated as I knew I was (and still am) in great shape. However, when I looked at it, there were still so many positives to take away.
I want to use this blog to show you how something that might initially seem like a negative, actually holds so many powerful positives to it.
I didn’t get to show my current fitness. I will get to show my fitness at another race.
No matter how a race, or session for that matter, goes, nothing has ever gone to waste. There will always be another opportunity to showcase what you’re capable of. All the hard work you have banked now, be that in sport or another venture, will continue to help you now and into the future, even if it doesn’t feel like it currently. Whether your next race goes as you hope, or perhaps it doesn’t for another year, every day of work you put in is a step forward in a positive direction.
I failed because I didn’t finish the race. I did what was best for me and it wasn’t failure, but instead a learning opportunity.
We all know ourselves better than anyone else, therefore the opinion of others is irrelevant. Even though it isn’t a pleasant feeling when you pull out of a race, I knew, in that moment, that was the right thing for me to do. As athletes we are very strong-minded and determined people, but we also beat ourselves up at times. The decision I made was the right thing for me at that time, and is in no way a sign of failure. It is in fact a sign of success, as I was able to act in the best way for me now and into the future. To me, being able to listen to my mind and act rationally is not something that comes easily.
I wasted a great opportunity. I learnt so many valuable lessons.
Yes, the weekend was a great opportunity, but it was also one of many that I will get to experience. It was also far from a wasted one as I learnt so many valuable lessons. These were lessons that I wouldn’t have learnt had the race gone exactly to plan. Every race or opportunity, no matter how it goes, gives us the experience we need to be able to progress in the sport. Being at the race itself gave me experience that I would never had got if I wasn’t there.
I also had the best weekend with some amazing people and athletes. It is such an amazing thing to be able to get a Great Britain vest, but to spend the weekend with like-minded, positive and hard working individuals made it even better.
I let my team down. Those around me are here for the long run, one race doesn’t change that.
Running can at times seem a very individual sport, but it is quite the opposite. There are so many people that play an integral role in my development, progression and daily life as an athlete. They know that sport is a constant journey of ups and downs, and they are here for all of that. I know that they believe in me as much, if not more, than I do, and they do not let one race define me. I am not defined or held to one single result, and am instead excited for what the future holds, but I will not get too low by the lows or high by the highs.
These are just a few examples of how a negative can instead be seen as a positive to learn from. I hope that when life deals you are card you see as a negative, you can flip it and realise that there is something positive to gain from it. Ultimately, every experience in life, whether you define it as positive or negative, is a learning opportunity.
Next weekend I will be competing for Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the European 10,000m Cup in Pacé, France.
The moment I received the phone call to say I had been selected for the European 10,000m cup, I felt slightly blank. Of course I was extremely happy, but it took a little while for the news to actually sink in. I think this was because following my injury it stood for more than just a selection. It marked quite a significant moment in the return.
Once the selection had sunk in, it really got me reminiscing over the past 10 months. Since the moment I got injured, I have always been looking into the future. I was constantly waiting for the time when I would be allowed to come off crutches, then take off the boot, then start strength training, then running, then my first session, and finally, my first race back. As a result, I was always thinking about what was next and waiting for normality to resume. I think the moment I found out about selection, it felt as though I could stop looking forward and be in the now, but also take some time to reflect. I was finally able to look back at what I had endured, rather than be afraid to.
When you go through something, I feel as though you don’t really digest fully what you’re doing. You almost assume and expect certain things of yourself. Therefore, I always expected myself to get through the injury without any problems. It was never a case of if, but instead how long it would take. Now, when I look back on how difficult my injury did feel at times, instead of feel as though I overreacted, I actually feel proud of myself.
No challenges in life, whatever the magnitude of them, are easy. Therefore, when we look back and see what we were able to overcome, we can build confidence in ourselves. Once the emotions of selection sunk it, I really did feel a sense of pride. Obviously I was helped a lot by those around me, such as my family and my coach, but ultimately, I was the only one who would would be able to get myself through the injury, and I did. I found the right balance of determination and patience, and it allowed me to get back to a place of good fitness with a strong body.
It hasn’t been easy, and sport never will be easy, but instead of waiting for what is next, I feel my injury has taught me that I need to enjoy what is now and embrace the journey. You never know where you might be heading, I certainly didn’t think this time 6 months ago I would get another GB call up, therefore, there is no point worrying about where we will be. The future will take care of itself when we get there, so we should do our upmost to enjoy the present, because it is what we do in the present moment that will impact how our future unfolds.
I am very excited for the journey ahead, but for now, I am focusing on each day as it comes. I want to enjoy the present, because that is the biggest part of my current journey.
It can take a lot of trial and error in order to understand what foods work best for you ahead of a race or workout. Some people have less sensitive stomachs than others, whereas others need to keep their diet very basic ahead of a race. The most important thing is to understand what does and doesn’t work well for you. This can only be figured out by testing different meals and snacks.
Before reading this blog, it is important to understand that these foods are ones that work well for me and sit comfortably in my stomach whilst providing me with plenty of energy. They may not work for you, but they may give you some ideas as to what to try. It is also very personal at what time people like to last eat ahead of racing, but I will give you an idea of what I found to work for me.
In my eyes, a morning race is the easiest one to prepare for when it comes to food. This is because you only have one meal in your stomach ahead of it, meaning there is less sitting in your stomach that might cause disruption.
With a morning race, I don’t change anything. I do the majority of my sessions/runs in the morning, therefore I know my daily breakfast sits well without causing any discomfort. For me, this consists of toast with almond butter. I usually have granary, but ahead of a race I tend to go for white bread so it is digested a bit better. If I am feeling quite hungry, I will also have a banana, or I may save this until 2 hours before the race if the race is later in the morning or at lunchtime.
Timing example for a 10am race.
7am- Breakfast of toast and almond butter
8am- Banana if I feel I need something additional
Afternoon races can be the hardest to fuel for. They are not early enough that you can just have one meal, but they are not so late that you want two big meals sitting in your stomach. I therefore tend to have breakfast at a normal sort of time, which is relatively early, around 6.45/7. I’ll then have an early lunch and if needed a snack after that. For lunch I would opt for something such as avocado on toast with eggs or some chicken. Bread is my friend, and I know it sits well in my stomach, so this is a regular option for me. I tend to keep it pretty basic, so wouldn’t have any salad or greenery. You could also have a pasta dish, or anything that your stomach is familiar with but is not too fibrous.
Timing for a 4pm race.
With an evening race, they tend to be on the later side of the evening. As I would not eat dinner beforehand, I want to ensure I have eating plenty regularly throughout the day. I aim to have a slightly bigger lunch, but not as big as my usual dinner as I prefer to eat little and often in the afternoon leading into the race.
For me, it is important to focus on listening to my body and how it is feeling hunger wise. The pre-race food plan may change if I am hungrier than usual. It is important to listen to how I am feeling, as some days I may require more food in order to reach the start line feeling well-fuelled, and other days I may require slightly less. I always ensure that throughout the afternoon I have options incase I feel myself getting more hungry, but also options to scale it back if my stomach is not feeling very settled. It is all about learning to be in tune to what your body and stomach are telling you.
Timing example for 7.30pm race.
3.30/4- Bagel and nut butter
5.30- Banana or a cereal bar
This is just an insight into what I tend to eat ahead of a race. This is not always exactly what I do, but it gives a clear indication.
Since coming back from my injury, the fitness has come back nice and steadily each week. From all the cross training I was doing, I managed to maintain my aerobic base pretty well. After a few weeks of sessions, my body and lungs felt strong again and raring to go. However, the speed has been a little trickier to find. I have never been someone with natural fast twitch muscle fibres and this was something I was working on a lot prior to my injury. We started to notice some improvements, but there was still a lot more work required.
However, post-injury, I have found this has been harder to get back and is taking longer than anything else. That isn’t a problem, somethings do take longer than others, but here’s what I’m doing to try and find my speed.
What am I doing?
Speeding up sessions.
For me, winter training is right up my street. I love any session that is 10k pace and below. I really enjoy long tempos, because it is where my strength lies. It is for this reason exactly, that I want to really focus on improving my speed. I want to work on my weaknesses as I don’t want speed to be something I don’t have. In order to improve and get faster over the longer distances, I need to work on my higher end pace in the shorter distances. Therefore, this is the goal of the year.
Focusing on recovery.
Whilst recovery is key at all times of the year, as sessions get faster and more intense, it is even more vital. This is because, in order to hit paces harder, my legs need to be fresher and not weighed down with fatigue. I have been prioritising resting in between sessions, taking my easy runs as easy as is required for my body to feel good, stretching/rolling anywhere that feels tight, and getting plenty of sleep. I always try to get up to 9 hours of sleep, but in all honesty, I just don’t need quite that much, so I usually get 8.5 hours sleep each night. Not only does this allow me body to recover, but it also makes me mentally sharper for the faster sessions as my eyes aren’t tired.
Prior to my main sessions, I always do a more extensive drills routine after my warm up jog. In these, I am really working on the delivery of each of each exercise. I want to try and get my foot off the ground as quickly as possible to improve my efficiency and reduce my contact time with the ground. Trying to get my legs used to this quicker movement, can help them get more familiar with moving faster.
Strength & Conditioning.
This has been a big focus of mine following my injury. Not only does being strong help me reduce my injury risk, but it also allows me to be faster and more efficient. If I can make my muscles stronger, they will be a bit more powerful which will allow me to run faster. As distance runners we do not want to build bulky muscle, but there are still some great benefits to doing supervised weight lifting. I say supervised, as this is something that can vary from person to person, therefore it is great the get the advise of an S&C coach before looking to implement such into your own training.
These are just a few of the things I am employing to try and improve my speed and I hope they might help you too!
We all have those days. It’s only natural. You wake up and everything just feels a bit of a challenge. You feel tired, your head feels a little cloudy, and your mood is a bit flat, but you’ve got a whole day ahead of you with some important things you need to get done. For me that might involve a key session, but it could be an important day at work, or a big day supporting someone around you. Whatever it is, we want to do our best to get out of that feeling. Here is an insight into what I do to deal with the difficult days.
I try to give myself some slack. Not everyday is going to be amazing, and that is ok. If every day was exceptional, our standards would slowly change and soon our exceptional would become our bad. Essentially, difficult days are unavoidable, but we also need them in order to appreciate the days when everything clicks. They also teach us so many lessons. Rather than waking up and dreading a difficult day, accept it and realise that the day holds lots of opportunities for us to grow as individuals. It is these moments where we grow and become stronger because we learn how to make the most out of testing times. My coach always reminds me of the rule of thirds; it is ok to feel great a third of the time, ok a third of the time, and crappy a third of the time. If you are feeling each of these roughly 1/3 of the time, you are doing great and consistently moving forward without realising.
Control the controllable.
In all walks of life, there is no point wasting time worrying about what we can’t change, because we can’t change it, and there is no value in wasting time worrying about what we can change, because we CAN change it! Therefore, we should not worry about what could lie ahead in the day, and instead focus on controlling what we can within the day to ensure we can be our best selves. This can be as simple as starting the day with your favourite breakfast whilst listening to some upbeat tunes, or staying away from social media to avoid any comparison doubts that could creep in. Whatever it may be to you, focus on doing what you can that makes you feel a little bit better, and wipe out anything that brings your mood down.
Positive self talk.
Confidence starts with the way we talk to ourselves. Therefore, if we wake up on a difficult day and immediately tell ourselves that we are going to have an awful day, we have already set off with the wrong mindset. This will affect our attitude and actions towards the day without us even realising. Therefore, if we take the time to reframe the way we talk to ourselves, it can give us a little mental boost. Tell yourself that you are ready for whatever the day brings your way and you ARE strong enough to handle it. It is also important to enter every day, no matter what note it starts on, with an open mindset, as it can always change for the better at any point. No one truly knows what lies ahead of them.
Look after myself a little more.
Whether this is in regards to my spare time, in training, or when working, I make sure to allow myself a bit of extra time. On the days when my head feels a little heavy, I might need to warm up for a bit longer ahead of a session to get my body and mind moving more fluidly. I may need to allocate extra time to get work tasks done because my mind isn’t processing things quite as quickly as it does on other days. I usually add some extra relaxation time into my day to allow myself to recover, such as by having a bath, reading my book, watching a series, or having a nap! It is also important to fuel yourself as well as you would on any other day. Getting in plenty of nutrients and fruit and vegetables will help keep your energy levels as high as possible. Whatever you need on that day, let yourself have it.
There is no magic quick fix for turning a difficult day into an exceptional day, if there was, I’d be a trillionaire. The secret is acceptance and self care. It is ok to look after yourself when you wake up and your head is heavy. I hope this blog helps you get through the difficult days with a bit more understanding.
Whether you’re an athlete or not, sleep is one of the most important things that is often the first to be sacrificed when your days get busy. However, maximising our sleep might just be the easiest thing we can do to get the most out of ourselves and be able to reach our full potential. For me personally, I struggle off less than 8 hours sleep, so aim to get that at a minimum so I can give my all to the day. I know this can be easier said than done, but here is what I do to try and get the best night sleep possible.
If your life/job allows, being consistent with the time you go to bed can be of immense benefit. I personally stick to the same bedtime almost everyday. I go up to bed around 9 and am asleep by 9.30. As someone who is an early riser, I find this incredibly important as even if I go to bed later, I still wake up at the same time, so I just get less sleep. Therefore an early bedtime is essential. Fit your sleep schedule to timings that best fit your lifestyle, then you’re more likely to sustain them and consistently sleep well. A study by Jessica Lunsford-Avery, PhD, has also shown that a consistent sleep schedule not only supports a good night’s sleep, but also comes with health benefits such as a lower risk of heart disease.
As a runner, this part can be quite easy to tick off, but if you work in an office, it can be a challenge. Whether it’s 20 minutes in your lunch break or as part of your commute to/from work, try to include a little bit of time in the fresh outdoors. It could just be as part of a stroll to get your lunch, or by parking your car a short walk away from work, but by getting out in the fresh air, you will find your brain feels a lot calmer and as a result helps you sleep better. This also ensures you are getting a small amount of exercise everyday, which will only benefit you come bedtime.
I’m no coffee drinker, but I do drink green tea which also has quite a lot of caffeine in it. I therefore have my last hot drink with caffeine in it at lunch time. After that, I opt for caffeine free alternatives such as peppermint tea. This helps my mind and body wind down, ensuring it is calm before bed. On the occsion that I have had a caffeinated drink after dinner, I find my brain operating at 100 miles an hour, unable to switch off. Thus, avoiding this makes for a mcuh better nights sleep.
I am very guilty of watching a series or being on my phone right up to the moment I want to go to bed. Consequently, I find my brain constantly buzzing and not being able to switch off. If I switch my phone for a book about 30-40 minutes before I go to sleep, I find myself falling asleep a lot quicker! Doing this helps the brain wind down gradually.
Make the room dark.
As summer nears and the evenings get lighter, it can be increasingly difficult to get to sleep, especially when it is almost complete daylight at 9pm. For some, this can then result in bedtimes getting later and later, reducing the number of hours sleep you can get. It is therefore important to make your room as dark as possible. If you have quite clear curtains, an eye mask may be worth exploring. This will help keep you sleeping well all year round, keeping you fresher and more alert.
Whilst none of these points are magic fixes, when used alongside one another, they will play a significant role in ensuring you start sleeping better and for longer.
It would be very easy to walk straight out of the door and get running. I’m sure many of you do, and I did too for a very long time. I never thought much of it. However, how do we expect our body's to move freely without restriction, or causing damage, if we don’t warm it up? A quick pre-run warm up can leave us feeling so much better on our run and also help avoid injuries caused by running on cold muscles.
The routine I do prior to an easy run does differ to that before a session. However, both have the same effect of preparing my body. My pre-session warm up routine is just a bit more in-depth and extended as I am preparing my body to move a lot faster, therefore there is no time for it to warm up once I get going, meaning it needs to be fully ready to go.
Easy run warm up
The first part of any day for me, whether I’ve got an easy run or a session, is to do some activation exercises. These tend to be smaller movements that just wake the body up and get it ready. I usually use a band, so if you have one of these (of any resistance), it’s a great place to start. You can start with it around your ankles, and move the legs against the resistance, do some crab walks or clam movements. These start the body and muscles working, giving it a warning that it is going to start working.
I then move onto doing some drills. I start slow with these and gradually speed them up/make them more intense. This again allows the body to warm up as you move through the exercises. I start with a smaller exercise such a toe walks, then do some high knees, legs swings, etc.
Get easy running.
Now I have woken up my body and moved gradually through the motions, I can start running. These don’t have to take long, even just 5 minutes of preparing your body is enough to make a big difference.
As you start running, listen and notice your body. If some areas feel tighter/stiffer then others, you know to focus on these ahead of your next run. Your body will tell you where you need to warm it up next time, if you have not focused enough on such an area.
Session warm up
As with an easy run, I always approach a session firstly with some activation exercises. Instead of then progressing on to drills, I go for a warm up jog.
Warm up jog.
A warm up jog is an extremely easy jog. There is no pace set to this, but it is a pace that does not strain your body at all, or feel challenging. It is merely designed to wake the body up. Start of as slow as your body needs that day, and remain easy throughout, but move towards the slower end of your easy pace. This jog should not take anything out of you but instead add to your performance. It should wake you up without tiring you.
As with my easy run, I then move onto drills. Prior to a session I do quite a few more drills than before an easy run, but similarly, I work through the motions gradually. I start with toe walks and scoops, I then progress to high knees and kick backs, then introduce some skips and faster movements. Not only does this warm the body up, but it gets it responding and reacting quicker. The faster movements get the legs ready to react to faster paces.
The final part of the warm up is strides. This is a distance of around 60-100m, where you gradually build the pace to prepare the legs for the paces you are about to do your session at. You can start at around 50% and work up to 80% in this short distance. Your body should be fully warm by now, but the stride is the final preparatory step in bridging the gap between a cold body and one that is ready to work hard.
Not only does warming up make your body feel better when you start running, it also helps avoid injuries than can be caused by running on cold muscles. If you tend to neglect the pre-run warm up or find yourself getting lots of muscle twinges, try getting your body moving fluidly and warm before your next run.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!