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All work and no play…….

 

Hello!  It’s been a little while (been running).  I’d like to share some of my agenda for 2013, and let you in on the plan……

As many of you might already have experienced, when you visit Accelerate you’re treated to what we like to believe is the best service of any running shop in the UK.  By that we mean cup of tea or coffee, quick chat about what you’re doing/hoping to do/suffering with – then paying close attention to your current running form, in order to suggest alterations to either footwear or bio-mechanics.  We look at your feet, foot plant upon landing and strength in pushing off the ground.  This is done on our treadmill in store, outside – or both.  Only when we’re happy that you’re happy do we invite you to go try what you’ve bought and report any findings, good or bad upon your next visit.

Helpful then, that upstairs from the store is the Holywell Active Health, offering expert Sports Science, Osteopathy, Podiatry, Physio and Soft Tissue Manipulation (massage) and more….  point being, as we try to encourage runners from all backgrounds to run to the best of their ability, we can refer people to the correct person whatever the particular target might be.  Stronger? Further? Faster? Less painful?  All of the above???

With all this available, it was only a matter of time before I considered how this might benefit me and my running.  So earlier this year I indulged myself in a Lactate Test with Adela Carter (Holywell) and began a training program courtesy of Stuart Hale.

Miss Carter putting me through my paces.

Miss Carter putting me through my paces.

Lactate Test:  Stepping into a world I’d seen on telly, but never had any direct involvement with –  I donned a heart rate monitor, ventured onto the Holywell treadmill and began the test.  I ran at a snail’s pace until warmed up, at which point I was invited to describe my perceived level of exertion on a scale from 1 – 10.  It was a 1.  Slowly but surely we increased the speed of the treadmill (about every 4 mins), each time taking a sample of my BLOOD so the level of Lactic Acid could be recorded (Lactic Acid is a bi-product of Glycogen consumption. Low levels can be removed naturally via the kidneys, or reused as a fuel source in muscles during low intensity endurance type exercise but when enough of it is produced – it acts as a poison and begins to destroy you!).  This meant a prick in my fingers and some squeezing (quiet at the back).  Every blood test came with the same question re: effort from 1 – 10, and I slowly went from anxiety over needles and pain – to craving another stab just so I could rest a moment.  By the time I was at my level 8 or so (incapable of more than one word answers) I was allowed to stop.  What followed was a carefully worked out chart, detailing my exact levels of Lactic Acid tolerance and the heart rates that I’d be able to sustain while maintaining them.

150bpm - my new home.

150bpm – my new home.

Training Program:  Once this vital information was established, and specific details about my personal levels had been confirmed, it was down to Stu to tailor a program of exercise for me.  I’d been questioned about targets and ambitions ahead of time – to make sure that my training would be specific to the task in hand.  “Better Half Marathon result if possible please”, followed by a main course of “completing Ultra Marathons quicker, and WITHOUT SLOWING TO A CRAWL”.  There are ‘zones’ within which a person can continue working and coping with the Lactic Acid produced at the same time.  There is a limit to how much any athlete can cope when working at high intensity, the equivalent of hitting the ‘self destruct button’.  In between – there’s an area that with proper conditioning, can be developed and allow you to work harder for longer before reaching that tipping point.  My goal: increase my ability to work slightly harder, for as long as possible.  In practice that means maintaining a respectable speed during ultra events, without slowing to a walk, but not reaching a heart rate that results in Lactic Acid overload.

The raw data and my effort levels ready for training.

The raw data and my effort levels ready for training.

And so that’s what life revolves around right now, and has done for the last month or so.  Running 6 days a week, sticking to a particular heart rate and logging my opinion every time, commenting on the feeling I get at the levels dictated.  I’ve gone from frustration at having to wear massive amounts of kit and clothing (HRM: Heart Rate Monitor, layers in order to stay warm, hat/gloves, back pack – if only to keep my phone in, since the mundanity of slow steady runs every day begged entertainment) to excitement at the first sign that my body was responding to the conditioning.

Hill - eaten!

Hill – eaten!

I’ve realised that after easy runs time and time again, I’m not only free from injury – but stronger too.  I’m capable of maintaining a particular heart rate without constant adjustment and I’m eating hills without losing pace (though I start slow in order to afford myself the extra BPM on uphills).

 

Recording my results and perceived effort levels.

Recording my results and perceived effort levels.

So far so good then.  The only downside?  Sacrifice.  I’m disciplined enough to respect the process, and remain focussed on the end game, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy turning up home from work and immediately heading out again for yet another run.  My girlfriend is getting used to her own company that’s for sure.  I’m dying to join others for interesting adventures in and around the area, but have to refuse in favour of my prescribed 15mins of this/30mins of that in strict order.  Rest days come and go, recovery runs allow a brief opportunity to make it up as I go (still in full HR gear and easy does it) and little by little the picture is building.

Most frustrating is having to ignore the opportunity to participate in the Dukeries Ultra – one that I’d have loved to attend, but it’d be too much too soon at this point in time.  I’ve almost finished building the foundations, by which I mean slow ‘n’ steady has created strength in connective tissues and smaller muscle groups, heart rate is beginning to make sense and my stamina is increasing without signs of injury or fatigue.  Continuing this way, while introducing speed work to compliment the slow stuff – I should basically learn to set out a little quicker and maintain that in just the same way.  By race day at the High Peak 40 mile Challenge in September, I should feel confident and strong enough to trot around on undulating terrain without fear of slowing down on hills – and that’ll be new!  Additionally, I’d like to finish the Long Tour of Bradwell next time around and improve my Round Rotherham result.  Walking roughly 15 miles out of a 50 mile course last year has convinced me there’s a good hour or so to be pruned, just by keeping up a steady jog.

Stopping to give blood (not that bad actually).

Stopping to give blood (not that bad actually).

If interested in having a Lactate Test, I can now say from experience that there’s nothing exclusive about them, they’re just as relevant to you and I as they are to any household name you might mention.  Worth dropping us a line if you want to get the most from your running.  Just be prepared to dedicate yourself if you want to achieve your goals.

 

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