Couch to Athlete – why you can do it.

Some of you will know that recently I’ve started to dabble in the world of “coaching”.

I’m by no means an expert coach – and I wouldn’t even consider taking on any high end athletes. And not just because I’d be scared they’d beat me. But because the carefully managed, fine tuned programmes are something that can take coaches years to perfect.

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But that being said – by applying some basic training principles along with my knowledge in the three sports I’ve enjoyed over the last 9 years, I think I’m beginning to see a few patterns.

Maybe you’re reading this as an ironman, or an elite athlete thinking “I’ve been through this”, so now it doesn’t apply. But your family, friends, colleagues – the people that say “I couldn’t do it”, tell them they can!

First of all – I really believe that anyone can do it. You can be riddled with all the excuses in the world – but you’re not fooling me.

“My knees are shot” – find a cycle or swim event.

“I’m just not built for it” – that can be changed.

“I like food too much” – not as much as I do, trust me.

And what defines an athlete? someone that completes athletic events. I don’t care if you want to run a sub 25 park run, or get round your first ever marathon. I think you can do it. Even if they sound crazy to your right now.

img_5676Already the excuses will be creeping in, why you can’t, why you wouldn’t be able to.

I’m currently working with three women running their first marathon, all of whom separately believed they’d really struggle at a park run. And all of whom I’m fairly convinced, have the potential to run a a sub 4:30 marathon.

Why?

Because they want to.

And because who’s to say they can’t?

It comes from three basic ideas:

Number one – get your body used to training.

You have to want to do it. You have to want to be helped & you have to break down the barriers of “I can’t”. People aren’t born good at sport, it comes through hard work.

3But not the hard work you associate it with. I’m not talking 3 hours of running or 10 hours cycling. I’m talking 4 sessions a week, of an hour each.

Ask a trainer, find a coach, join a club, there’s loads of people that can help.

Get out of the door, and join the gym. Do 20 minutes on the bike. Go home, watch tv, do whatever you want. But you’ve started. You’ve made the first step, it’s much easier from here!

Start with 30-40 minutes of exercise, up to 4 times a week. Do park runs, classes, whatever you fancy. Find a routine, stick to it, make yourself accountable. And after 21 days, a habit sticks. You’re in, we’re go, you’ve got this.

One of the training programmes I’ve written started in October with the goal of London marathon, (6 months), and one started this week, with the goal of manchester marathon (3 months).

Sounds like a tight turnaround – but I’m very confident it can be done.

Block two is the worst of the three.

Teach yourself how to work hard:

combo3By the time you start this, you’ve done the hard work. You don’t sit around as much any more & you enjoy exercising. So you need to start exercising hard.

It sounds so daunting – but there’s a very easy way to start. Go to a gym, or run, and set yourself a time goal. Roughly 30-45 minutes. Maybe a park run. And go as hard as you can.

You don’t have to tell anyone how far you went, & even if you don’t think you worked as hard as you could, it honestly doesn’t matter. The hardest part is done!!

Now it’s a game. It’s a challenge, it’s a race.

img_1888You’ve set your bench mark, so next time, you have to beat it! Either go for longer at the same speed, or go faster/further for the same time. You have a target, go get it!!

And slowly it becomes a game, you race yourself, break records, set new limits. You can push this as far as you want. But you don’t ever have to do more than an hour, just make sure you’re absolutely flat out! Once you’re within touching distance of that personal best, you won’t let yourself stop.

By the end of the block, you’ll have nailed it. You’ll really know how to work hard, – how to test & push yourself. So when you’re up against it, you’ve been there before. You know how to cope.

 

Step 3 is the easiest of them all.

Practice – and go get it.

24_m-100793362-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2000_177477-12947444Whatever your end goal is, you’ll be able to reach it by now. So practice running, practice cycling, swimming, rowing… whatever it is. The event isn’t far away, so make sure you’re confident in yourself, how far you’ve come & where you’re going.

It might be that this is now just a stepping stone, you’ve decided you can do more, go better, further.

If you’re running a marathon, you really don’t need to run that much until this block, when your legs have to start getting more used to miles. You don’t have to do any silly 20-30 mile practice runs. If it makes you feel good, fine, but otherwise, just stay injury free & work on your fitness.

And when you’re nailing your event, enjoy yourself. You’ll have worked hard for it, the tough stuff is done!

Just go out, with a smile on your face and soak it up. You can’t change the outcome, whatever it is. But you can certainly surprise yourself. You’ll have come a long way – be proud of yourself.

 

 

Get used to training.

Learn to work hard.

Go and prove yourself wrong.

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2017: What I Learned.

It’s no secret that 2017 has been a bumpy year for me. Full of ups & downs. Now I’m back into training, hopefully the regular blogging will continue – & I’ll be aiming for a minimum of 2 a month through 2018 – so stay tuned.  Today I’m going to walk you through 2017, as it happened for me, & the lessons I learned.

img_5743img_7860I came into the year with some solid months of miles in my legs. All roads leading to Ironman New Zealand and a Kona place – it was always going to take a good run of form to achieve. January & February went exactly as they should have & when New Zealand came around – I was ready. A smooth journey & straight into the time zone meant the taper could commence & wasn’t heavily impacted. The race day went exactly as I’d planned. A rough swim saw me come out of the water a long way back. A strong, controlled bike took me through the entire field in some very tough conditions, and a well executed run took me over line exactly where I needed to be, in first place.

You can read my Ironman New Zealand race report here.

Back home to the U.K. I was in a great place. Kona spot bagged, my first ironman win, lots of confidence. I knew I could control a race from start to finish, not let nerves or emotions get the better of me. & put exactly what I did in training into practice on the big stage.

A new half marathon pb 6 days after Ironman New Zealand definitely wasn’t the most sensible thing I’ve ever done. But a solid few weeks in March and April saw the start of the U.K. season and back to training. And before I knew it I’d picked up my first injury. 7 months injury free had been refreshing, but I’d picked up a niggle in my knee that I just couldn’t shift. I bumbled from race to race, a 2:53:53 at Manchester Marathon. A 10k debut and win at the Easter Classic 10k race in London, before picking up 2nd place overall at Storm the Castle duathlon in Shropshire. But through it all, I wasn’t training properly & I couldn’t get the the bottom of my knee issues. I was learning how to run, and it felt great! Showing that with a bit of time and a strict diet, my legs can really tick over.

StC_2017_0370Races ticked by one by one, and I was sidelined. Nothing could be done. May, June & July were really tough for me. Watching races that I had been targetting all year fly by, with me on the sideline. But through this time I learned how to deal with injury. When all you want to do is get out & train, race, get back to the work – it’s tough to be sidelined. It was a very tough time mentally, 4 months of no real training really got to me. But I know next time I’m injured, I’ll be in a much better place to deal with it.

15_m-100793362-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2000_094606-12947435Then on to Kona. And probably the biggest learning curve I’ve had in triathlon yet. And definitely the most valuable. I learned how & where to train, how not to string a race together, what not to

The end of July saw the start of training again. A slow build but nobody knew what I’d be capable of – how long it would take to come back. I build up slow – but the sessions were hard. My body had forgotten how to work hard, lost all the fitness I’d spent so long working for. Restricted to the gym, I was desperate to get out and back at it – but I knew I’d only hurt myself again. A very focused rehab and I made the decision. I was going to fly to Canada for World Champs, & I was going to race. 3 weeks of training in the legs, what’s the worst that could happen?

In the build up to the race I managed to rupture a tendon in my knee. As if the season hadn’t been vicious enough – there was another road block. Managing to string a strong race together, I came away with a silver medal. It taught me never to rule out a race, even if the odds are stacked against you.eat and more importantly, when to draw the line. It was one of the best experiences of my life – despite being the worst race. & I can’t WAIT to get after it again.

A good race at Dublin Marathon came with a sociable 3:14 in the bank and a glance towards 2018. Lots of exciting races to come and together with my new coach – Joel Jameson, I’m excited to see what we can produce. Limits only exist in the mind, right?

The stats from the year for you number crunchers:

649 hours of exercise – (7.5% of the year)
303,471 metres Swam  – (Equivalent of Cheshire to London)
10,568 km Cycled – (Equivalent London to Kuala Lumpur)
1,920 km Run. (Equivalent London to Sofia, Bulgaria)
Endless Personal Bests.

3 Continents.
10 races.
3 wins.
2 second places.
1 Ironman Age Group Win.
2 World Championship Finishers Medals.
1 World Championship Silver Medal.