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.
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.
Already 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.
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.
But 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:
By 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.
You’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.
Whatever 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.