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Running Hot

The weather forecast says ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’.
Today is race day and over the last couple of weeks the weather has been warm, yet in an effort to be ‘sensible’ and to be able to run at your usual training speeds you’ve simply avoided the heat and missed training.  Is this the right thing to have done?
Often, runners fear the heat and just avoid training at all and then rock up to their target race, lacking any sort of ‘heat training’ and therefore acclimatisation.

So what can we do?

How We Keep Cool
Our bodies are constantly adapting to keep our core temperature at roughly 37°C.  As we run we burn fuel for energy and 80% of that energy is returned eventually as heat.  Add to that a warm sunny day and the risk of hyperthermia increases. So in order to keep things cool the core moves blood to the surface of the skin to dissipate heat to the environment. As we do this our sweat glands produce sweat to cool the skin.  As a result of this added demand, our heart rate increases for the same running pace on a warmer day.
As you get hotter you are increasing the stress on your body and there are three important factors that we need to understand as endurance runners.

How is Performance Is Affected?
Muscular endurance is most definitely affected on hot days as the ability to maintain muscular contractions greatly reduces. This is not helped as hyperthermia shifts energy production from an aerobic to a more anaerobic form which means that the bodies stores of glycogen are used up much more quickly.
‘Circulatory Strain’ is also experienced as the amount of blood volume available to your running muscles is greatly decreased as it is being used to keep you cool.
The one we always talk about of course is dehydration. We know there is a critical point at which too much water and salt loss has a degrading effect on performance, let alone putting you in danger of serious illness or in a worst case – a life threatening situation.
High humidity on top of warm sunshine also causes problems, as this slows the rate of cooling sweat evaporation from the skin.

Heat Acclimatisation through Sensible Training
The best and most effective way to acclimatise to heat is actually to plan to train on hot days. Yet we should be sensible.
Some folk will be predisposed to adapting to running in heat.  Others will not.
The first thing to do is to cut back on both duration and intensity during your period of acclimatisation. As it will take around 14 days of training in the heat to experience acclimatisation; therefore you should plan your training load to get back to normal through this time frame.  Training to heart rate has shown to be a very good way of aiding adaptation, as more heart beats will be required to push blood to the skin so to stay within your known ‘zones’ you will be forced to slow down.  As you adapt you will speed back up again.  Many report that Zone 2* (L2) is a great way to get the adaptation process started.
So cut back, take your time and give your body a chance to adapt.
If you are not yet acclimatised and wish to continue with speed or high intensity training then go for the cooler parts of the day, either early morning or late evening.  Also avoiding the ‘Black-Top’ and heading for the trails is no bad thing. Tarmac absorbs much heat and you can definitely tell when running on it.

Hydration
If you know you are going to train on a hot day then clearly it is sensible to drink more fluids. Little and often through the day is better than leaving it to the last minute to down a half litre of water. Some people will benefit by increasing their salt intake, either through their normal diet or by taking a salt tab such as High Five Zero. This will have more relevance if you are running a longer endurance event than a short 5km run.
So what should you do? Well it is more about trial and error. Many find the unquenchable thirst is solved by taking a drink of water with a salt tab added or a sports electrolyte drink that also contains some carbohydrate. Others who are heading out for a longer run of two hours or more on a hot day sip a High Five Zero through the couple of hours prior to their training session and this works just fine.  Others will prefer to take this on board as they run, instead of or in addition to.
The science appears to be mixed as to whether plain water or a sports drink are better and again I would suggest it is down to personal preference through trial and error. Some have found that a 50-50 mix of water and orange juice with a teaspoon of salt will work just fine.
Generally, it is agreed that sipping your drink whilst running, little and often, works just great. Work around 125ml every twenty minutes or so and see how you get on whilst you are running at Zone 2* heart rate – you can always adjust the amount and timing later. Always remember to start this early, as leaving it until you are thirsty – is leaving it too late. Conditions and your own personal preference will dictate exactly how you adopt this strategy.
It is also important to remember that just because you are seeing a good adaption to training in the heat it does not mean you can get away with drinking less water – this is just not the case. You will still sweat more.

Clothing
Fine yarns definitely dry quicker and the general rule has been that loose fitting open knit clothing keeps you cooler, allowing air to move against your skin, so aiding the cooling process. Likewise open mesh garments more easily allow evaporation of sweat from the skin to take place.
Some runners are finding that close fitting garments that move the sweat away from the skin are more beneficial as evaporation takes place from the garment. Again it’s all personal preference.
Light colours that reflect heat and sunlight are definitely better than blacks and navy blues by a significant margin.

Race Day or Training Warm Up – Is It Still Necessary?
Yes, is the short answer.
That said, I always advise runners to cut back on the duration and the intensity as you do not want to raise core temperatures too much immediately prior to training or a race. Limb and joint mobilisation whilst walking in the shade can definitely take place which followed by a cool shower (not freezing cold) can then help to lower the core temperature once again before heavy exertion and therefore delaying a rise in core temperatures. Again, not something for everyone or always practical even.
Keep the running to a minimum, but some is still a good idea, as you raise the heart rate slightly and you get your cooling system active.

Racing (and Training Hard)
We’ve heard it all before, yet it still holds true. Slow down and keep the fluid intake going, having experimented with what you feel to be the correct approach in training.
Also, give yourself a fighting chance and find races that take place in the early morning or late evening and if you are particularly prone to the heat then find another race.

So there you have it, taking a sensible approach to your training and racing during hot weather periods can reap many benefits as you become more adapted to the processes your body undertakes to keep you cool. Yes, some experimentation is in order and thinking about your clothing is also sensible. Then there is what to do if you become too hot and head into heat exhaustion, let alone which sun cream to use that avoids blocking your pores and so reducing sweating – all of which are another topic in themselves.
The key is simple, summer is coming and if you are planning a race when the conditions could be ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ then some serious thinking time about your training planning and hydration strategy will most likely not be wasted time.

  • Plan for the warm weather and schedule your training accordingly.
  • Train to heart rate, even if the speed is lower than normal, your body is working just as hard to keep you moving and cool.
  • To help you adapt to warmer weather, try running at a cooler part of the day, slowly increasing the time you may spend in the hotter part of the day (although still best to avoid the hottest part).
  • Reduce your normal running time on especially hot days. A normal 90 minute run could be trimmed down to an hour.
  • Split your run in half. Run half your normal time in the early morning and the second half later in the evening, both when it is cooler.
  • Think about the best clothing to wear, that suits you.
  • Develop a hydration strategy that works for you – this could include a plan for longer runs that includes bottle drops on route.
  • Drink early in your run, never wait until you are thirsty.

 

*Note: Zone 2 or L2 running is just out of breath and talking is still comfortable in sentences.

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Sheffield Half Marathon 2018 – a lesson in pacing

When it comes to the best way to mentally approach a race, one of the greatest pieces of coaching advice I have ever been given is this,

‘Start logically, finish emotionally’

Emotion is certainly a powerful weapon to help drive you to achieve great things, but it’s a little bit like anaerobic respiration – great for short, powerful bursts, but a disaster for sustained efforts.

While this is true, applying it in a race is sometimes a lot harder than it seems. Having the confidence to trust in your own pacing, and not be drawn into the race for the lead in the first 400m is not easy to resist – particularly in a championship race, or a hometown race where emotions tend to run high.

Due to the course, Sheffield Half Marathon is a course on which pacing is vital. If you go off to hard, you’re going to suffer on four to five miles of climbs, which will compound both the pain, and the impact on your overall race result. It’s a tough course, and that’s why we love it. Amazing atmosphere, brilliant support, and a super challenge.

I’ve not always been the best at living up to the important piece of coaching advice I highlighted earlier. However, I’m delighted that this year I was able to do so. For probably 60% of the race I wasn’t in the podium positions. I was with my chasing group and together we caught and passed 2nd place. Looking back, possibly we could have caught 1st place.too (the challenge for next year).

Coming down Ecclesall Road with two miles to go I felt strong. Moving into the last mile I knew exactly where I was going to attack. Executed it to perfection and I took 2nd with 15-20 seconds to spare. That was only possible because I started the race in a logical, controlled manner. That enabled me to empty all the emotion into the last 400 metres and sprint flat out.

Delighted with the result, and even more delighted to have the chance to race in my hometown on one of my favourite courses. Having now finished 2nd twice in the Sheffield Half Marathon (once on the old course, once on the new), it’s probably time for me to focus on making that final push for No.1.

 

Bring on Sheffield Half Marathon 2019!

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WORLD OF WEIRD (WOW): Part Eight – The Anomaly

 

Six years!

Six years of the same route to and from work.

I run in.  Then roughly 8 hours later, I run home again.

And it’s uncanny….

The conditions can be ideal on the way in.  Or they’ll be the worst Mother Nature can throw at you.  But either way, having set myself up with the correct clothing and equipment for the environment – come Shalesmoor (exactly halfway), the situation will reverse itself.  Or the extreme weather kicks in.

Let’s say as a conservative estimate that I’ve run for 30 weeks out of every year.  An understatement I’m sure.  Then maybe 3 days out of every week or more.  2 runs per day, since it’s to work and back again.  So a minimum of 1080 times, I’ve run between Attercliffe and Hillsborough – at the very least.

And no word of a lie, if there’s to be a sudden deluge, or 60mph headwind, or freak hail storm…..it’s when I reach Shalesmoor.  It is the spookiest thing.

I can be looking at clear blue skies first thing in the morning, only to realise by tea time, that I ought to have brought a warmer/more water/wind proof top for the now horrifying journey home.

But it won’t actually pounce until I reach Shalesmoor Tram Stop, at which point I can have for sale signs whipping past my earhole, or hail stones bouncing from my nose.  If slightly over dressed, the sun will make a miraculous breakthrough and attempt to toast me as I cover the Langsett Rd trudge.  It’s as if the Gods are toying with me, on what already qualifies as a fairly soul destroyingly mundane run.

Trust me, the run through from Hillsborough to Attercliffe is not on anyone’s ‘Bucket List’.  I assure you.

And don’t get me started on the headwind changing direction during the day, so that it’s against me both ways…..!

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Leave it in ‘Park’

 

This weekend I re-visited my local Parkrun.  Hillsborough Parkrun.

Last time was in 2015, which I find hard to believe.

Anyway, I remember that I set off too quickly and almost blew up, so this time I thought I’d use the run to build up slowly.  It does involve 3 laps of the park, so I had plenty of room to improve as I went.

I’ve been a little out of shape recently, as we’ve a 9month old baby at home and all the associated obstacles.

That said, with the circumstances surrounding that 2015 slog, I thought I’d stand a better chance at enjoying myself if I avoided the same mistakes.

I turned up at a jog.

I settled away from the start line, among the masses, to avoid setting off like a lunatic surfer – riding a wave of runners behind me.

My plan was to enjoy the run, while gradually building my pace as I became more comfortable with the effort.

YOU HEAR THAT GODS……?        PACE.       COMFORTABLE.

Off we went.  I started at a casual 7 min/miles and some change….

First couple of bends, taking things nice and easy.  Stuck behind a few folk going even slower, but hey – I’ll pass when the time comes…

No, I’ll run on the grass and go round them all now.

Actually, I’ll weave through the crowds and find a nice space ahead of these ‘stragglers’.  No, actually……

There I am in the yellow shirt, trying to keep up with the children.

The deal

I reached the first climb, the entire length of the park.  I generally enjoy climbs and know that I can pass people thanks to a reasonable ability to push.

So I pushed.

The Marshall announced part way up that we’d been running for some 4 odd minutes, so I started to agonise over my Maths.

Round the top corner and we were once again on the level, approaching the library.

I hadn’t exactly cleared the field.  In fact, I was hurting a little, trucking along slowly and still in the 7min/mile region.  At least the hill hadn’t slowed me down.

Now to the downhill section back to the start line for completion of Lap1.

Coming out of the downhill… deep in thought/anguish

A glance at the watch now and confirmation of race plan effectiveness…..  well, still 7 min/miles, but feeling okay.

Second climb, still 7min/mile.

And by the third climb….. the same.

Eventually and rather awkwardly, I reach the finish funnel.  Scrambling to retrieve my barcode from inside the elasticated fabric near my knee, but producing a slow march with one hand half way up my shorts!  If you were there, all I can say is sorry.

Thankfully – no photo of me ‘rooting’ about in my shorts.

So, 2015 result – 20min.

2018 was……. 21:53.     WTF!   I really expected to get a better time for having paced myself in the first lap.  I thought that to build gradually was a sure way of coming out at full speed by the finish.  Goes to show.  You can definitely mistake fatigue for performance.  Just cause you’re incapable of producing more, doesn’t mean you’re flying, it just means you’re knackered.  End of.

Anyway – I obtained what I went there for.  Something to build on.

The shakiest of foundations sure, but all the same, a start.

I just need to go back in less than three years to measure my progress.

Oh and it was hot and I’ve been tired all week and……blah, blah, blah…..

 

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Uphill Running Technique – from Colin Papworth

 

Colin Papworth works at the Accelerate Performance Centre (APC) as resident Podiatrist and has for years, taken the lead on all matters of running form/gait analysis/footwear assessment.  He hosts our 4hr Running Form Workshops and was in attendance as ‘drop in’ guru during the recent Big Running Weekend.  Here then, he shares the basics of how to successfully run uphill.

 

 

 

The idea here, to give some insight into what is good running technique, what it looks like and how to get there.   Also why running technique is important in relation to injury prevention and performance improvement:

So often we see people running who are only using a few muscles. Namely the quads and calves for up hill running. So, if you are leaning forward or calves are screaming at you then this is probably the case. Muscles work so much more efficiently when they are stretched before they have to contract, so if we can load then with a bit of stretch when we are in the stance phase of gait they will deliver more power in the push phase. Think of stretching out an elastic band, the bigger the stretch the more power is provided when we release it. Cadence is the number of steps we take and is measured in steps per minute. The higher the number the less time on the ground and shorter the stride. So cadence is a bit like your running gears, steeper the hill the faster the cadence and shorter the stride.

So this is what it is all about. Remember to address these things and that is all there is to it!

Start with your posture. This is so important as it is really hard to change anything else without first addressing your posture. If you lean forward you over stride, over use the muscles in the front of your legs, do not use hamstrings or glutes efficiently and do not have a good balance between the front and back of your body. Standing taller and not bending forward from the hips / waist is the key.

Arm swing will drive your foot and leg motion. The important bit is driving back with your elbows and trying to keep hands high. Keep arms moving from the shoulder and not rotating with your body. Elbow drive behind you will encourage more push from the legs behind you.

One reason you may be finding it hard running up hill is if you over stride. This causes a breaking force and means you have to move past your foot in the contact position. So keeping contact close to you minimise these factors and means you can move into the propulsive phase faster. So less time breaking and more time pushing.

So, to run more efficiently we have to produce more push and not be so reliant on the pull from the hips. So, if posture is good and arms are working well, we have not over reached at the point of contact then we should be in a position where we can push hard against the ground. So, stretch out the muscles at contact and then use the elastic return to help with the push. Muscles like to be stretched before they have to contract – think of the elastic band again. Big stretch more power generated.

Another quick physics lesson. A foot on the end of a long lever (leg) is heavier (takes more energy to move it) the further away from your bum it is. So if you want a fast leg / foot moving through the swing phase then you need as close to you as possible. So a higher heel makes for a faster cadence. It also makes for a contact closer to you and allows more drive through the knee. So not lift your foot but let it naturally swing back following a good push off phase. One last thing, a high knee drive through the swing phase will activate the stance leg hamstrings. Meaning they will be primed ready to push against the ground and recoil through the swing phase.

So that is running up hill. Posture first, arms second, contact close to you, push the ground away, allow muscles to stretch before firing and do not run too hard. Set the pace and cadence as one you sustain. If you are running a race / training run with lots of hills you do not want to fatigue small muscles quickly on the first hill. Use all your muscles and keep breathing. Have a look at diaphragm breathing – it will really help you if you are not doing this already.

Stuart, Laura and I are able to offer either one to one sessions or small group sessions on the hill if you want to go into this further. We use video on these sessions, so you can see what you are doing. All sessions are drills based and so suitable for everyone. These sessions will improve your up hill running confidence and can be tailor made to what you want to get out of the sessions. Please contact us for more information.

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