Thursday, 20 December 2012

Goal Setting

Goal Setting (GS) is a cognitive technique used by many athletes to control stress, nerves and to keep an athlete’s focus on training and competing. Over the last decade GS has become an increasingly popular tool used by track, field and cross country athletes.

GS works by allowing an athlete to set a long term goal, which should be worked towards over 3 to 5 year.   An example of this would be running under 17 minutes in a 5k race, or to place in the top 10 of a specific event.

To help the athlete achieve their long term goal they will set small term goals, such as taking 20 seconds off of their 5k time in 3 months, or to qualify in a specific event at the end of the year. By setting small term goals an athlete’s stress will be reduced as the focus on achievements will be spread over time and not built up on the result of just once occasion.

By GS an athlete will notice and take pride in their achievements, understand their abilities and raise their self-confidence. When GS the saying is that the athlete should set them SMART.  By this we mean they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

As a basic rule goals such as winning a race, where factors other than the athlete’s ability will affect the outcome increase stress and are less reliable measuring tool. Ability specific goals such as reducing a 5k race time by 20 seconds are easier for the athlete to control therefore cause less stress and are easier to measure.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Barefoot Running

Over the last few years a number of athletes have taken to training in Barefoot or Minimalist Training Shoes (BoMTS) weighing around 130g – 150g, however the large benefits claimed of running in BoMTS are still largely unproven.

The advantages claimed from running in BoMTS are that it strengthens athlete’s feet which will eventually stop them over pronating and that the athlete’s efficiency will be massively improved as they are forced to run on their forefeet.  Other claims are that it lowers the cost of buying trainers, as they last longer.

However recently a number of lawsuits have been brought against the main barefoot running shoe makers such as Vibran FiveFingers over deceptive and misleading health claims [1] and Skechers and Reebok who settled over claims that their shoes would work your body in ways no shoes ever had before [2].
The best report I have read on the positive and negative aspects of barefoot running was produced by the New York Times [3]. In the report a number of studies are looked into where it was found that around 10cm cushioning used 2% less energy to run at the same speed for the same distance, compared with running with no cushioning. It also states there was a metabolic cost to running barefoot, and there was a cost to having too much cushioning.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Core Training

Core Training (CT) techniques are used by many athletes to increase endurance ability, stability and to prevent injuries.

CT strengthens an athlete’s stomach, hip, lower back and bottom muscles that sometimes do not develop in line with other muscles used in 5K running. CT can mean anything from running a tough cross country run with lots of turns, to a specific gym session working individual muscle groups.

CT works by strengthening an athlete’s trunk to hold their body firm as their legs move. This becomes increasingly important at the end of the race, as athletes with weak core strength will lose their running form as the race goes on.

CT should be used by athletes between 1-3 times a week depending on how much core strength the athlete does naturally in their running training. Below are 4 main CT exercises where no gym is needed:

Plank: The athlete lies on the ground with their body firm supported by their forearms (shoulder width apart) and their toes. The rest of the athlete’s body is held off the ground in a firm position with their stomach facing the ground. The athlete’s body should then be held straight with their head in line with their spine. This should be held for 10 seconds.

Flat Plank: The athlete lies with their stomach on the floor and their arms outstretched in front of them. The athlete should then lift their chest off the floor while looking at the ground. This position should be held for 2 seconds.

Abdominal Curls: The athlete lies on the ground with their legs bent and their hands linked behind their head. The athlete then lifts their head and shoulders off the ground and curls their trunk towards their knees.

Side Dips: The athlete lies on their side with their elbow and bottom foot supporting their weight. With their feet together the athlete then lifts their hip off the ground and holds it for 10 seconds.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Static Stretches

Static Stretches (SS) are used by athletes after training or racing, or as a standalone training session. The reason for SS is to reduce the loss of flexibility which occurs with completing a large amount of training. It has also shown to increase the body’s natural balance, posture and alignment of joints.

In some studies athletes who use SS after training have shown a reduced rick in injuring themselves as well as benefits to stride length. The reason given for this is increased blood flow and synovial fluid to lubricate joints around the muscle. Other reasons given is that muscle spindle receptors within the muscle react less as they become accustomed to the stretch, increasing the length an athlete can stretch their muscle without feeling pain.

The negative effects of static stretching are that it can cause instability in joints, making athletes more prone to injury, as well as decreasing muscle strength. For this reason SS should never be used before a training session or race, only after or as a standalone session.
Each stretch should be held for between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to gain the most benefit.

Below I have listed 2 basic SS:
Quadriceps Stretch: While standing next to a sturdy object to keep their balance an athlete should stand straight and push their hips forward. The athlete should then lift one foot off the ground behind them, and use their hand to pull the heel of their foot towards the buttocks. The athlete’s knees should be kept together during the stretch.

Hamstring Stretch: The athlete should lie on their back and lift one leg straight up while grasping their hands behind the lifted leg. The athlete should then pull the leg towards them while keeping the leg as straight as they can.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Cool Down

A Cool Down is a very easy run of around 15 minutes that is used after a high intensity running session or race to aid recovery.

To start a cool down an athlete should walk for a couple of minutes before slowing building up their pace to no more than a minute a kilometre slower than their easy run pace. After about 10 minutes running at a very easy run pace the athlete should then slow the cool down to walking pace before coming to a stop.

A cool down works by removing lactate from an athlete’s blood and muscles and by transporting oxygen around the body faster than the athlete would do by standing still.

As well as a reduction in lactate a cool down removes adrenaline (epinephrine) from the blood stream quicker than if the athlete was at rest.  This slows the heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and slows the rate and death of breathing helping an athlete to recover. 

At the end of a cool down an athlete’s body and muscles are still supple, therefore slightly more flexible so it is an ideal time for the athlete to complete static stretches.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Running Drills / Dynamic Stretches

Running Drills / Dynamic Stretches should be added to the warm up of every competent 5K athlete and like other parts of a warm up Dynamic Stretches increase an athlete’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles, and increases the bodies range of motion.

Unlike static stretches, dynamic stretches should be used by an athlete before a training session or race and should be running specific. The dynamic stretches should focus on forward running movements similar to those a used during a 5K. Dynamic stretches should always be the final part of a warm up.

Below I have listed 5 basic dynamic stretches (each of the forward running stretches should be completed over about 60m on flat, solid ground and run on the balls of the athlete’s feet):

High Knees:  The athlete should shorten and quicken their stride and pronounce the knee lift part of the forward running movement. The athlete’s knees should rise as high as the waist.

Bum Kicks: While running forward the athlete should shorten and quicken their stride and pronounce the heel flick part of the motion. The athlete’s feet should rise to almost make contact with the athletes behind.

Backwards Running: Simply, the athlete should run backwards while looking over their shoulder.

Bunny Hops: The athlete should keep both feet together and hop forward on their toes (This drill should be completed over 20 meters).

Leg Swings: While holding onto a wall or post the athlete should swing their leg forward and backwards keeping the whole leg straight. The athlete should swing their leg as high as they comfortably can (the drill should be repeated 5 times on each leg).

Friday, 7 December 2012

Warm Up

Warm ups are important to consider before any race or training session as they prepare the athletes body for the session ahead.

For 5k training and racing the reason for a warm up is to reduce injury and increase performance. It does this by increasing an athlete’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles. However the warm up is also there to prepare the body for the movements and motions that will be experienced during the session or race.

The length of a warm up can vary depending on the type, length, or intensity of the session, weather conditions, and the ability of the athlete.  However as a basic rule it should be between 800m and a mile, with enough intensity to make the athlete feel slightly warm.

When completing a warm up the athlete should wear more clothes, removing them as they heat up. At the end of the warm up an athlete should then run 2 or 3 sets of 75m at race preparing them for the movements in the training session or race ahead.

For Races, Fartlek, Repetition, and Tempo runs Drills should also be added to the warm up (These will be explained in a later post).

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Fartlek Training

Fartlek sessions work by getting athletes to run over a set distance, or a set amount of time. However rather than running at a specific pace the athletes change their pace between slow jogs, easy runs, tempo pace, and full out sprinting. The changing of pace is either after a set amount of time, or between landmarks such as lampposts. To benefit 5k racing fartlek training sessions should be no longer than 4 miles in distance or 35 minutes in time.

The benefits of using fartlek sessions are that the athlete’s body will adapt to cope with lactic build up, as well as increase its ability to deliver and use oxygen. Fartlek’s can reduce the risk of repetitive injuries associated with longer, single pace, continuous running.  Fartlek session will also give an athlete typical running benefits such as weight loss.

These types of sessions should ideally replace a repetition session on  occasions, or be used when an athlete is unable to plan or complete a specific session due to reasons out of their control. A beginner runner may use this type of session while they are deciding how their training plan takes shape.

Fartlek training is of most benefit to: 1) Athletes who don’t have access to a track or set route. 2) Athletes who have not planned a repetition session but want to do a lactic threshold session. 3) Beginner runners who want to complete a repetition session that will best suit them with little planning.  

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Repetitions / Interval Training

Repetition sessions (reps) / Interval training are used by most running clubs and are described as repeated lengths of exercise followed by short rest periods. Depending on the intensity of the reps the athlete can work either mostly the anaerobic or aerobic energy systems.  The main reason for athletes using repetition sessions is to train at a more intense pace for longer than they would be able to using a continuous running method.

For 5k training the amount of reps can be anything from 3 to 30, but should not really be any longer than 1mile in distance. The reps can be run straight through or broken up into sets with a longer rest period between each set.

The benefits of using rep sessions are that the athlete’s body will adapt to cope with lactic build up, as well as increase its ability to deliver and use oxygen. Reps  can also reduce the risk of repetitive injuries associated with longer continuous running, as well as the typical running benefits such as weight loss.

These types of sessions should ideally make up at least two of your training sessions every three weeks and be around 10 - 20% of your total amount of training.

Below are 2 sessions used by a previous Amateur Athletic Association 5000m winner:

20 x 400m with 60s recovery between each (which can be split into 4 sets of 5 400m).

8 x 800m with 90s recovery between each (which can be split into 2 sets of 4 800m).

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Long Runs

The purpose of adding long runs to an athlete’s training is to build up Stamina, Confidence and Discipline. Long runs also increase muscular and skeletal strength and increase the body’s use of fat as an energy source. 

Long runs in turn will allow an athlete to do progressively longer workouts at light exertion.

Long runs should make up around 10-20% of a 5k runners weekly training. This is normally one long run a week. Most 5k runners will schedule in their long run for either a Saturday or Sunday as long runs can be time consuming and leave the athlete feeling tired for a while after the session has finished.

There are many different theories as to how far a long run should be, however none of these theories have shown to be true for all runners. This is probably due to differences in individual athletes. My personal view is that for a 5k racer a long run should be between 10 and 15 miles at a fairly easy, but varied pace.

Below I have worked out average long run running paces linked to an athlete’s 5k race pace. I hope this will be useful.


15min                      3.30 - 4.30 pace                                     

17.30min                 4.05 - 5.05 pace  

20min                      4.40 - 5.40 pace                     

22.30min                 5.15 - 6.15 pace  

25min                      5.40 - 6.40 pace                                     

27.30min                 6.25 - 7.25 pace   

30min                      7.00 - 8.00 pace                                     

32.30min                 7.35 - 8.35 pace  

35min                      8.10 - 9.10 pace                                     

37.30min                 8.45 - 9.45 pace

Recovery / Easy Runs

Recovery / Easy runs are normally used a day or two after a race or tough training session and should make up around 50% of an athlete’s overall training. Each individual run should be over 30 minutes in length, but no more than an hour in total.

(Runners, who run for over an hour and a half at a slower pace, saying “it’s an easy run”, will end up having completed a moderate session by the time they have finished).

The purpose of a recovery run is in the name; it aids an athlete to recover from harder training sessions. Recovery runs do this by allowing increased blood flow to muscles, helping to remove lactate and other waste products, repair damaged muscle fibres, and bring in oxygen to increase aerobic respiration.

Using recovery runs rather than resting will also increase muscular and skeletal strength and aid in weight loss.

Below I have worked out average easy run running paces linked to an athlete’s 5k race pace. I hope this will be useful.

5K RACE TIME  I  EASY PACE MIN/KM                           

15min                            4.00 pace                                    

17.30min                      4.35 pace  

20min                            5.10 pace                                    

22.30min                      5.45 pace  

25min                          6.20 pace                                    

27.30min                      6.55 pace   

30min                            7.30 pace                                    

32.30min                      8.05 pace  

35min                          8.40 pace                                    

37.30min                      9.15 pace

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Tempo / Threshold Running

For the first blog on this page I will bring up the topic of Continuous Tempo/Threshold Running (CTTR).   This term is usually mentioned at running club sessions.  However the person using the term usually has no idea what it actually relates to, other than “running a bit faster than usual”.

A CTTR session is a run of around 20 minutes at around 90% of your maximum effort (slightly slower than race pace). It is the effort level just below which the body has the ability to clear lactate, which is a by-product of carbohydrate metabolism caused when the body can no longer keep up with lactate production.

This type of session should ideally make up at least two of your training sessions every three weeks and be around 10 - 20% of your total amount of training.

By adding CTTR to your training you can increase your Lactate Threshold (the point at which lactate starts to accumulate in the bloodstream) and slowly increase your ability to run for longer at a faster pace. CTTR is also a good time to work on your running form, especially near to the end of the run when you start to feel tired.

Below I have worked out average tempo running paces linked to an athlete’s 5k race pace. I hope this will be useful.

5K RACE TIME       I       TEMPO PACE MIN/KM     
15min                                    3.15 pace

17.30min                              3.45 pace
20min                                    4.15 pace
22.30min                              4.45 pace  
25min                                    5.15 pace 
27.30min                              5.45 pace
30min                                    6.15 pace
32.30min                              6.45 pace

35min                                    7.15 pace
37.30min                              7.45 pace


Tempo/Threshold Running can also be linked in with long interval sessions of short recovery; however this will be explained in a later blog.