The power of planning

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I’m a 44 year old bloke, we don’t read the manual…

I mean I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about running/training/endurance events and I once used to be fit so I must be able to put together a quick plan to get myself fit.

Well that’s what I thought when I began this journey and to be fair, I wasn’t just winging it, I did set myself goals for each week and schedule runs and bikes before each week.  And I’ve watched the kids training for their cycling races so I know how important it is to have a plan so I made one – I made it up each week, and I stuck to it.  And I didn’t really get the results I was looking for.

Looking back now I can see where I went wrong and there were a number of areas where I made rookie mistakes, mistakes that I’m sure aren’t new or original but mistakes nevertheless.

So here’s my assessment of where I went wrong:

  • I overestimated my level of fitness – I still thought that I was fitter than I actually was, even after my first attempts had clearly shown me that I wasn’t
  • I underestimated the amount of time it takes to make progress – I thought that I would improve after each run, that I would go faster and further each time.
  • I set unrealistic goals – I felt that because I was training for a 6k run that I would just go out and run 6k and get progressively faster as my fitness improved.  I also spent a lot of time running up hills (or attempting to) when I couldn’t even run on the flat.
  • I focused on distance rather than time – instead of building stamina over time, I just tried to go further each time I went out, while this did build stamina the results were mixed and I would walk/run longer to achieve bigger distances rather than concentrating on running longer within a given time
  • I was a bit hard on myself when I didn’t achieve my goals.  This one took a while to get my head around, I wasn’t happy with my Round the Bridges time, I’m still not happy with it, but looking back it was the time I deserved and the time I was capable of at the time.

Which all sounds a bit negative, but its really just coming to terms with the enormity of the task I have set.  And I didn’t do it all wrong, in fact I feel that there were some things that I did do right.

Things I did right:

  • I made a plan – Yes it may not have been a perfect plan but at 6am when its dark and you’re still half asleep, knowing what you are supposed to be doing is a great motivator. In order to keep track of my plan I use Training Peaks to plan and then record my actual session against the plan – it changes colour once you’ve entered your actual data to indicate if you achieved your goal or missed.  Trying to keep each session green appeals to my OCD (Red means it wasn’t achieved or not done, yellow means you took >10% longer than planned)
  • I stuck to the plan – Even when I was tired and a little disillusioned I got up and went for a run, when it was raining I went for a run, when I was away for work I went for a run. Sticking to the plan has really been the secret of my success.
  • I started this blog – Yes telling the world about getting fit makes it a lot more difficult to just chuck in the towel and having to come up with an article at least once a week gives me something to think about when I’m running.
  • I changed the plan when it didn’t fit into my life – Wait? didn’t I just say I stuck to the plan, well yes I did, but I also modified the plan when my week didn’t fit in with my normal routine.  BUT – the plan was modified at the start of the week when I was planning the week, not the morning of the run.  I’ve looked at many plans for getting beginner runners up to varying distances from 5k to half marathons and there are some out there that look terrible – not just too ambitious but also look like they would be really difficult to fit into a normal working life.  The ability to change things slightly has kept me at it and as I progress I find that the urge to change the routine actually diminishes with time and I go to greater lengths to fit the exercise into my day.
  • I bought the right clothes – I’d heard of chafing, chafing is what athletes get when they run marathons… It’s also what unfit 44 year olds get when they run in cotton and sweat a lot.  A set of running clothes (t-shirt and shorts) transformed my running comfort and made it a little nicer to go out each morning.  A decent pair of shoes also helped.
  • I recorded every run/bike session – I used apps on my phone to record each session and I then entered it into Training Peaks so that I can look back over my progress.
  • I reassessed my training after my first event – I knew a couple of weeks out from the Round the Bridges that I wasn’t making consistent progress – that’s when someone mentioned the Couch to 5K series on the internet.  I didn’t want to change my training right before the event, but I knew I needed to change my training and did so as soon as the event was over.  Could I have changed the plan before the event? Probably and I possibly would have seen some improvements, but sticking with the original plan was the right decision at the time.

So on balance it looks like I did more right than wrong which is always great, even better because I recorded every session I can plot my improvement.  I pulled the data out of Training Peaks and graphed them in Excel, as you can see having a more structured plan has definitely paid off with my average minutes per kilometer coming steadily down each week as the plan ramps up.  I will finish week 5 on Christmas Eve and the whole program will finish when we are away on holiday.

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The red triangle is the Round the Bridges race and the green dots are the C25K runs.

So what will I do next – its clear that having a plan with a bit more structure leads to better results so I think I might look at a half marathon training program – the main run for the Coast to Coast is 33k so pretty much 3/4 of a Marathon so getting the half distance sorted feels like the next logical step, of course I will be adding some more cycling and kayaking into this mix which means that rest days will become fewer and further between…  2016 is going to be an interesting year.

Shawn

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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Well a merry Christmas to everyone, I hope you enjoyed the festive season and Santa was kind to you.

Santa (aka Jane) was extremely good to me, I’ve been lusting after a bit of exercise tech ever since I started on this get fit kick and Santa was kind enough to ensure that it was waiting for me under the tree this Christmas!

So amongst the presents under our tree was a brand new Garmin Forerunner 920XT and a set of sensors for my bike!  The Forerunner 920XT is a premium multisport watch and even has a quick release kit to allow it to fit on a standard Garmin bike mount.  It collects a heap of data from your run/ride/swim or paddle and will help me ensure that I’m training as efficiently as possible, plus it looks the part which is always important.  Once I’ve worked out all the functions and how to use it I will post a review (to add to the many that are already out there) and my thoughts on it.

I did manage to get in all my runs this week, although there was some juggling of the program so that I wasn’t running on Christmas morning and had a couple of days off over the busiest part of the Christmas break.  The weather has turned extremely hot in the last few days, so running early is really important otherwise I just burn to a crisp.  The upside is that I’ve been in the pool quite a lot and have been putting in some lengths which is working my shoulders and other paddling muscles in preparation for our holiday later in January and the beginning of my kayak training.

  • Tuesday – Run 5.0k
  • Thursday – Run 5.0k
  • Sunday – Run 5.0k

 

A trip to the doctors

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As we enter the festive season, I normally make an appointment with my GP to get a quick physical and ensure that I have the meds necessary to get me through the holiday.  This year was no different, however this year I had a pleasant surprise.

I’ve been getting a checkup each December (and June) since a health scare some time ago so I am relatively in touch with things like my typical blood pressure (at the high end of normal) and this morning after three months of training and getting fit, my BP was 120/80 for the first time in over a decade.  Which is great and kinda annoying, great because it can only be because I have started exercising and annoying because it can only be because I have started exercising.  It’s really annoying to realise that those small changes can have big effects and that you could have instigated them earlier.

Still I am really happy that all the pain (well, not so much) and aches (more of them) over the past 3 months has had a measurable effect on my health and well being.

I hit another milestone (or should that be kaystone) last week, I ran/walked 5k on all my runs in the week!  And I managed to get my average minutes per kilometer under 7mins on two of the runs!  So definite progress and I have started week 5 of the Couch to 5k program which ramps running duration up considerably so I hope to push through the 5.5k barrier soon.

  • Monday – no run as flying back from Australia
  • Wednesday – Run 5.0k
  • Friday – Run 5.0k
  • Sunday – Run 5.0k

 

 

Little Changes

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I’m always amazed at how quickly time passes when you’re busy with life and how easy it is to fall into bad habits when you’re not paying attention.  I mean, that’s how I ended up being 44 and seriously unfit, slowly eating more than I was burning, walking less and less until one day I woke up 20Kg’s heavier than I was in my 20’s and unable to run to the end of the road.  But the last three months have been pretty transformative and I am starting to see the benefits.

Hard to believe that I have been on this “health kick” for three months, that equates to exercising 54 times in 13 weeks! Looking back at my training diary I am amazed at how consistent I have been, for people who know me they will be aware that I don’t do routine well and it has to be said that I have definitely had to work to avoid boredom in my routine.

One way I have been tackling this is to mix up my routes when I run, heading the other way as I leave the driveway can really change my outlook on the run in the morning and makes it a little more interesting.  Of course heading overseas a couple of times has also provided some much needed variety in the scenery as well as the added challenge of running in the heat.  Given that the Coast to Coast is run in the height of summer this is all good practice for the big day.

I have also discovered that little changes can have marked effects on how I feel after a run.  I was struggling with some knee pain which would also come with a sore hip joint, changing where I ran to a road with a little less camber (well a lot less camber really) helped this enormously.  I also changed from my Innov8’s to an old pair of Vibram 5 fingers I had.  These made me run a little slower and altered my gait subtly which meant that the knee pain has now completely disappeared.  I intend to give the Innov8’s another try mainly because I can’t get 5 fingers in New Zealand (or Australia) anymore and I need to find a pair of shoes that I can run in when the event finally does roll around.

When I started this crusade to get fit, I didn’t really consider the profound effects it would have on my day to day life.  Getting up at 5:45 hasn’t got any easier, but it has become routine.  I’m still not a morning person, but I do feel guilty when I hit snooze and contemplate staying in bed a little longer.  I also never really considered what losing weight would mean, I am not at my target weight yet, but even so I am seeing some changes in body makeup, and I’m going to have to buy a new belt in the not too distant future…

It is still 14 months until the Coast to Coast 2017, which seems like forever and not enough time at the same time.  My fitness has improved out of sight, but I still can’t run for 30 minutes without stopping.  On the other hand I regularly walk/run 10k’s which I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before I started this and I am starting to hit 5k on my morning run, even with the walking sections of the Couch to 5K so I am definitely getting quicker and the stamina is building.  There is still a long way to go, but I’m feeling confident that these little changes will keep adding up until I am actually fit and will be able to complete the Coast to Coast.  That’s not too bad for a second hand dad…

 

Travelling again

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It’s been a pretty good year for travel this year.  Usually I don’t travel that much these days, but this year I have been overseas twice for work and last week Jane and I headed back to sunny Queensland to attend her uncles 70th birthday!  So yaaayyy for traveling, but its not so good for maintaining running schedule, still, I had already traveled and come up with my 8 tips for running while you travel so it should be fine right?

It’s amazing just how much difference 6 weeks can make to the weather, and whereas last time I was on the Gold Coast I was running in the mid-high 20’s this time it was hitting the low 30’s quite early in the morning.   I did still get out for my runs though, and Jane joined me for one as well – she would walk with me for my warm-up and I would then run and turn round at the end of my running sections of the Week 4 couch to 5k podcast and then walk back to meet her.  As a result I did a couple of days where I put in some decent K’s.

Planning my runs worked really well for the first few days in Coolangatta where the beach front path provides some of the best running scenery around, but I got it a bit wrong when we moved inland to stay with family.  I planned a route on google maps but the reality wasn’t as good as the map indicated.  The run started OK but I hit a fairly decent hill just as my run was about to start and there was also no footpath for one section.  Not to be discouraged I pushed myself up the hill and round the course I had decided upon, and then proceeded to get lost when I missed a fairly major “feature” on the run. (I mean how was I to know there was a railway line in the way).  Needless to say the run wasn’t my best, although with getting lost and a small detour meant that I covered about 8-9k in total.  To add insult to injury, Brisbane had decided that the previous days of 30+ temperatures were just not on and it rained on me for the entire hour or so that I was out.

We flew out on the Monday, which should have been a run day, but I’ve decided to redo week 4 this week so that I can do it justice and week 5 has some big runs that I thought some more training wouldn’t hurt to do before I gave them a go.

 

Monday – 5.0 K’s

Thursday – 4.75K plus 5k Walk

Saturday – 9k due to getting lost and walked about half.

 

 

The week that was…

Top of the hillLast week was a really good week for running, the weather wasn’t too hot and I managed to keep up with the couch to 5k podcasts.  In fact the runs were appreciably easier by Friday, so there is some definite improvement in fitness levels and endurance/stamina.  Saying that I’m still only covering 4-4.5k in each 30 minute session, but I can see that each week my average pace is slowly getting quicker as the podcasts have me running more and walking less.

I only went for one ride this week, a quick 10k sprint on Saturday morning.  My legs felt OK after Friday’s run, but they were definitely tired and the headwind heading out meant that I made a decision not to do my longer loop and just hit the 10k as fast as I could.  I was pleasantly suprised when I got home to find that I had dropped about 40 seconds of my previous best time and achieved an average of just over 28k an hour.  My aim for the bike is to get my average speed up into the low/mid 30k’s before I start to lengthen my rides, I figure I have plenty of time to work on the distance aspect and I would rather work on building some speed first before I work on the distance.

  • Monday – Run 4.7k
  • Wednesday – Run 4.2k
  • Friday – Run 4.0k
  • Saturday – Bike 10k