My Philosophy

"Don't tell me the sky's the limit when we have footsteps on the moon!"

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Why Kettlebells Rock

Hello Readers!

This is an exciting exercise week for me (if such a thing is allowed!) because I have received my order for some new kettlebells. These are the exercise tool that, alongside ChiRunning, got me out of a major down point in my life. The situation was that I was quite overweight at around 16 stone (over 100Kg) and none of it was muscle.

My parents had membership to a posh gym, where they met Roger and Claire, who were personal trainers there. Due to a disagreement with the management there they left there and started their own studio gym, for just them to train (and punish!) willing candidates. I was one of these candidates.

Claire got straight to work on me, and discovered that the reason I got so many injuries while running was that my core stability muscles were very weak, and I was asking small muscle groups to do difficult tasks, which leads to injury. One example of this is shin splints; if you get shin splints then you are probably using the small muscle on the front of your shin to do part of the pushing forward when you run. This is an incredibly small muscle for that kind of task and so gets fatigued quickly and can no longer perform its primary function when you run, which is to aid in keeping your foot stable on the floor under the impact of your stride.

In order to fix this for me I was trained on how to use kettlebells, which helped me to become strong and flexible enough to be able to successfully change my running technique. Since then I actually have never actually had an injury from running, so it seems to have worked!

So how does it work?

This is the all important swing, if you play the video you can see how the swing uses all muscle groups in the legs. It increases strength, endurance and flexibility all in one. Also, you can see that the movement is aimed at driving your body forward, all important for running. I have already noticed an improvement in my power and speed, having just ran a new distance personal best of 15 miles, and managed to keep it under 10 minutes per mile. The training is really starting to pay off!

This is the website for their studio, located in Bracknell, England. Drop them a line if you're interested in learning the techniques.

Viel Spaß homies!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Marathon Mini Series: Updated Training Plan

So the change to my training plan has come about because of 2 things; the speedier progress up to the half marathon than I predicted, and the arrival of my new kettlebells!

My next post will explain why kettlebell training is excellent for runners, but bear with me until then. The working week starts on Monday, but the running week starts on Sunday, so I'll start there:

On Sundays is when I will do my long runs. The goal is for every time to increase my maximum running distance by 1 mile, but it is also OK to consider it a recovery run every now and then if my body is fatigued, and save that longer one for the next week. Hopefully this tactic will help me stave off injuries, especially in the critical last 6 weeks of the training.

Will always be a rest day.

Kettlebell VO2 Max training. Is really good for improving how efficiently oxygen can be delivered to the working muscles, making you a more efficient runner.

This will be for medium runs, usually about half of the distance of the previous long run, but about 30 sec/mile faster. This is to hopefully make me able to run the race at a faster pace.

Kettlebell strength training, will build core, lower and upper body strength. It's helpful to give me an extra training day but without adding running miles and reducing the change of impact injuries.

Fridays are for a short recovery run to expel some of that built up lactic acid to put me in top condition for the long run on Sunday

A well earned rest day, but if I have plans for Sunday then I can swap the long run to Saturday

16 weeks of following most of this program and then 2 weeks tone down and recovery should put me in tip-top condition for race day. I can't wait now, I'm even looking forward to the long run on Sunday, planning for 15 miles :)

Viel Spaß homies!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Marathon Mini Series: 50% down, 80% to go

Before I start, no I haven't forgotten how to do maths!

So yesterday I ran 14 miles, which was my furthest ever run, and my fastest ever half marathon. The half marathon time was 2:13:57, which was faster than my only other half marathon by over 10 minutes! I think this time will get faster as I get more miles in my legs.

That is 50% of the distance that I need to run in one go, but I believe I have only put in about 20% of the effort so far in order to reach my goal. The rest of the 80% is made up of the next 18 weeks in which I will be running about 400 miles, that's a long way to go! Even just writing that figure is daunting, considering only 26 are actually required for the run.

That said however, I only need to add 12 miles to my long run and have 18 weeks to do so, that puts a kind of better slant on it right?

I'm still enjoying the runs, no injuries, so it seems I am making regular and uneventful progress. Not exactly good for writing a blog about it :)

Viel Spaß homies!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Marathon Mini Series: 6-week sitrep

So far I have mostly been posting about my plans and very little on the progress that I have actually made, so here is an update.

6 weeks is a long time when it comes to training plans and quite a lot has happened, but thankfully it was largely uneventful progress. There was one week where I was set back with a sprained ankle, which meant I had to skip one long run. Believe it or not the ankle sprain was not when I was out on a run, or playing football or anything like that, it was running for the bus! So another run-in with a bus got me injured. What am I like eh?

In total I have ran 95.5 miles in these 6 weeks, with the longest one of these being yesterday, a 12 miler completed in 1:57:56. I am very pleased because I managed to keep up a good pace the entire run and also have enough energy for a fast finish. Take a look at the split times (time to complete each mile):

The last 3 miles were my fastest ones, this demonstrates a big change in my running gestalt, where previously I would run to fast too early and not be able to make it through the difficult endurance periods. Now even for long distances I can moderate my energy expenditure better and pay attention to what my heart rate is telling me for a much better long distance running style.

In this time my motivation and determination have not wavered, and every week after my long run I get more and more confident that I can complete the marathon next March.

My message to my readers is that our bodies limitations are only set by your mind, which you yourself have complete control over. If you have a target or a goal for something believe in yourself and anything is possible.

Viel Spaß homies!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Stupid Sexy Flanders

Do any of you remember the episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Flanders go skiing together? Flanders turns up in skin-tight ski gear and tells Homer that "It feels like I'm wearing nothing at all" and Homer later imagines him saying that in a thought bubble shaking his arse. This sketch often comes to mind when I'm out running in Munich (and no I'm not coming out!)

I was taken by surprise by the number of runners wearing skin-tight ruining clothes. Especially compared to places I have ran in England and to a lesser extent America. Perhaps the Germans (or continental Europeans) like more showing off their glutes! As I'm feeling more and more absorbed into the culture and I'm training for a marathon this winter I thought I'd get in on that spandex action! So on my run today I was rocking the spandex 3/4 length trousers, and let me tell you, it does feel like you're wearing nothing at all!

 Viel Spaß homies!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Marathon Mini Series: Chi Running

I think it is safe to say that this challenge would have been impossible if I had not discovered Chi Running.

Running used to be a kind of therapy for me, until I got injured, bringing back all of the stress that I left with every single stride on the pavements and trails. These injuries eventually got so common that I gave up. They were not always the same injuries either; knee pain, back pain, shin splints, ankle pain. The list goes on.

How then, can I now even consider running a marathon? The answer came from a book I saw in a smoothie shop in San Francisco called "Chi Running". I saw it on the same day I went for a run and got shin splints after just 2 miles and was a little down in the dumps. I would have got anything that could help, as it turned out I found the perfect thing to fix my problem!

So Chi Running is both a running technique and a running philosophy, both aimed at reducing your rate of injury from running and also gradually increasing the distance.

There are 10 components to the "Chi Running" principle:
  • Flexibility: Does not extend just to the muscles, but also the tendons, ligaments and joints. You move a lot more efficiently if your body is flexible, and it makes it easier for you to modify your technique if you get injuries
  • Posture: When running you need a good posture. If you're slouching too far forward you will use more energy holding yourself up. It also can restrict blood to your brain and other organs
  • Good Leg Motion: Overstriding in your running pace is one of the main causes of knee, hamstring and ankle injuries. When you land your feet just under your body it greatly decreases the force of the impact on your ankle
  • Cadence: Most people have too slow a cadence, a faster cadence helps to reduce the amount of time your foot spends on the ground. When your foot is on the ground when running it is enduring a 2-4G worth of pressure. The idea is to reduce this time by increasing your cadence. The ideal is 85 to 90 steps per minute
  • Body Sensing: This is a kind of self-analysis of your body after a run, and note everything down. If you notice some pain in your ankle or knee after a run then you can take steps to improve for your next run, and increase your recovery days if necessary
  • Mental Focus: This kind of goes without saying, but it is more than the focus you need to get through a long run, it takes a lot of mental focus to make an effective change. You need to re-educate your muscles and control them, this is the mental focus you need to change. Eventually your muscles will initiate your change naturally, and the battle is won
  • Coordination between halves: You should use roughly use 50% of your energy in your top half, most of this in your core so you keep a strong posture and a good twist in your top half. Good technique is when your top half and bottom half are working together instead of against each other
  • Good Breathing: Runners should use Belly Breathing instead of chest breathing, as chest breathing does not engage the most of the bottom (larger) half of the lungs, for that you need to expand your diaphragm. When you are fatigued, you will probably notice that your breathing is very fast and you don't actually take much air in, over time that will really reduce your capacity for running. Concentrate on expanding your diaphragm, especially when you're fatigued
  • Knee and Elbow Bends: It sounds counter-productive, but the more you bend your knee and elbow the less energy you will use. When they are bent they swing much easier, thus losing less energy in your stride.
  • Staying Relaxed: When you are relaxed you are less likely to strain a muscle, try to keep your muscles relaxed when running. This can be easily achieved with a smile, or a good song :)
So if you have any kind of problems with injuries when running check out this site, it helped me a lot.

Viel Spaß homies!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Oktoberfest Part 3 - Alone and Confused

The third part of Oktoberfest was by far the craziest. My best mate Mike came to visit for Oktoberfest, having just broken up with his girlfriend he was well up for a lads party week, and trust me, it didn't disappoint! He came quite late in the evening, which was quite lucky because the guys from part 2 had left the day before and my apartment was a mess! I took the opportunity to clean up and also replace the bandage on my broken hand.

He got in at around 9, so we only had time to get some takeaway and some booze and an early (ish) night to get ready for Oktoberfest in the morning!

Mike did not really know what to expect for Oktoberfest, he thought it would be more like a fair, with fabric tents instead of lots of structures that look actually permanent but still get taken down after the festival. He was surprised to see the the tents were like buildings and that there was a full blown amusement park. The first thing you see is the huge Ferris Wheel in the middle of the field. Because of how big it was we decided to make that out meeting point in case we got separated. That is important for later.

The first morning we were in the Hofbräu-Festzelt, with the 6-6.5% Hofbräu Oktoberfest beer. Similar to my previous Oktoberfest posts, we drank them quite quick, clearly I didn't learn from the time I broke my finger...

Sometime during our third maß we met some fun characters, including "The Future!". Here are the videos of some of them downing their maß:

It's not included in the video, but "The Future" puked up all that beer only a few seconds after, and the WHOLE Festzelt was laughing. Incredible scenes.

We also met some quite sexy ladies, although stupidly only got one picture.

Mike doesn't even remember this part - explains what happened later

A little while later it all went blank, neither of us have any idea how it happened, but we got separated. When I realised I went to the meeting point, the Ferris Wheel, can't miss it, right?

There I waited for around an hour, constantly calling Mike's number. One of the messages I wrote went like:
"Mike you **** answer your ****ing phone! Now I look like a dick because I can't hang up"
No idea.

This is a text that Mike sent me that night:

Notice the timestamp on the text.19:14, by this point Mike was lost for about 2 hours! Means we were pissed out of our minds by 5 in the afternoon! We don't know what happened, but there are several theories, but I'm pretty sure he got kicked out of the tent and went to and left the meeting point earlier than when I got there. Either that or he passed out and got there after I waited there for an hour...

He found my place eventually, the buzzer woke me up because I was being an amazing friend and having a nap... He explained that someone drove him home after he got in a little kerfuffle with a jealous German. Then we went for Chinese food, Mike kept on telling the waitress that he spoke German. The only words he said to her in German were "Guten Tag", and said in a funny way, like he was Dutch... I couldn't stop laughing.

With the first of our adventures finished I decided we would have a tourist day, and wander around Munich's landmarks. This is Mike getting to first base with a large stone lion...

The next day was another Oktoberfest day, and after 4 maß of beer we were joined by my friends Adi and Kai. After not too long Mike was drunk again:

After a couple more I caught up with him in drunkenness, and thought it would be a good idea that we go to another bar to sample a different Oktoberfest beer. Try and paint a mental map, this bar is exactly half way home and less than 10 minutes from home. I thought, what could go wrong?

I was left alone and confused again.

Somehow we got separated again, and this time he lost his phone, so we had no hope. At that point there is a gap in both our memories, but he eventually made it back. Once again I proved how good a friend I am and was woken up when he rang the buzzer...

Comments and Questions welcome, not that I can answer many! Read Mike's blog at Mind of Lavidius

Viel Spaß homies!