The power of planning


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.


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.




Merry Christmas!


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


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


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


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


The month that was..


Well the month of Movember is drawing to a close and my move for Movember efforts closed off this morning with the first run of week three of the NHS Couch to 5K series.  I managed to get some excercise in 28 of the 30 days of November, and while I could go for a bike ride this afternoon, I wont as my legs are feeling more than a little tired after everything I have put them through in the last 30 days.

Last week was quite a good week, I found by Friday that I was able to keep running at the end of each run session in the podcast and my sore knee felt quite a bit better after changing my route and shoes.  The road I was previously running on had a steep camber and I think this was causing me to aggravate my knee, so a change of course and shoes seems to have made a difference to it and the knee feels better, if not completely healed just yet.

One thing I did find over the last month was that trying to do some excercise everyday of the week meant that I did feel like I was over training a little by the end of the month – basically my legs have ached for the last 10 days or so and really just need a break, especially as I walked up to the top of Maungakawa and back on Saturday which meant that on Sunday I actually just had a rest day and chilled out. (Some ghouls and super mutants may have suffered as a result)

I did go back over my whole month just to get a feel of how many K’s I did in official training runs/walks this month, and was surprised to discover that I ran 79.6k and biked 49.1k, which means that I managed to do just over the equivalent of HALF the cost to coast distance in an entire month, its going to be an interesting year next year.


  • Monday – Run 4.6k
  • Tuesday – Bike 10k
  • Wednesday – Run 4.3k
  • Friday – Run 4.6k
  • Saturday – Walk 9.2k

Bike Fit



The Friday before the Round the Bridges I bought myself a new bike.  I wasn’t planning on buying a new bike just yet, my old Lemond is still fine for the type of riding that I’m doing at the moment, and after telling Chicken that she couldn’t have a carbon bike straight away it would be disingenuous of me to go out and buy myself a flash carbon bike straight away.  Unfortunately trade-me made a liar out of me and a sweet Cervelo S5 came onto the second hand market for a great price.  Chicken has just bought herself exactly the same bike, so I realised just how awesome this bike was. Jane and I discussed it and decided that it really was too good a deal to pass up.  Needless to say I now have a new to me Cervelo S5 sitting on the garage wall, in true second hand dad style its second hand, but as good as new.

The first time I took it out for a ride it was amazing, compared to my 10 year old Lemond it felt light and responsive, accelerating with ease and generally just feeling like it was electric 🙂  Still there was one small issue, and that was the fit, the bike just wasn’t set up correctly for me to be able to put all that (admittedly meagre) power down correctly.  The seat was way too high and the reach was too long as well.

I could have cut the seat post down and moved the seat forward to try and get a better fit, but I’m not a bike fitting amateur let alone professional so I made an appointment with David Bowden of Velogicfit here in Cambridge.  David has been fitting bikes for a number of years and is passionate about getting the correct fit for people to enjoy riding their bikes and get the best efficiency possible.  He is so passionate about it that he has started Velogicfit which provides bike fitting software to Cycle shops around the world.  There are three levels of bike fit, from the standard fit (coming soon) which takes your measurements using a camera and then gives the bike shop the adjustments that need to be made to your chosen frame.  The advanced fit takes more exact measurements and dials in the changes to your bike setup and finally the full shebang 3D fit, which uses 3D camera technology to measure leg angles and your posture on the bike to recommend specific changes to your bike to ensure that your position on the bike affords the best bio-mechanical transfer of power to the wheel.

The whole process took about 90 minutes and the bike now feels significantly different in terms of fit and I’m sure that I will see some improvement in times.  I’ll be sure to let you all know how I get on over the coming months.  You can read more about Velogicfit here or read some of Davids blog here – note due to the workload of starting a new business the blog hasn’t been updated in some time, however its a damn good read for any bike performance geeks.

Unfortunately there is still the little issue of riding carbon when I have spent the last two years telling Chicken about how she didn’t need one just yet, I guess I’ll just have to save it for the long rides and put some more miles in on the trusty Lemond…


Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Velogicfit other than the fact that I like David and what he does, I paid for my bike fit and have not been asked to write this post.  (lets face it my readership isn’t big enough to warrant any kickbacks)



The week that was…


Last week started out pretty tough, I hadn’t really made any plans for training after the round the bridges, and as that run was on the Sunday my normal Monday morning run wasn’t really an option.  After my experience on the Round the Bridges run I decided that I needed to change the focus of my training from relatively casual, but distance based to a more focussed plan that was geared to get me up to the point where I could run for 30 minutes/5 k.

Luckily there are plenty of couch to 5k plans out there on the internet either written down or as podcasts and being a bit of a geek I went down the podcast route.  I looked at a couple but settled on the NHS couch to 5k series, for no other reason that a get fit guide produced by the UK National Health Service is unlikely to set unrealistic goals or cause me to injure myself.

The first week was really good – the run/walk is a 5 minute warm up walk then 60 seconds running interspersed with 90 seconds of walking.  After the previous work I have done I found that the first few running sections were quite easy, however after the 5th and 6th I was getting quite tired and I really appreciated the ‘coach’ letting me know what was coming up and making me stick to the regime. My only criticisim of the podcast was that it didn’t tell me when I had gone halfway through the podcast and I ended up going for a bit longer than the 30 minutes on the first day.  Apparently it will take 9 weeks to get me to a point where I’m able to run for 30 minutes or 5k, and at the moment I’m doing 4.5k in the 30 minute programme so hopefully I will be able to do a bit more than the 5k in 30 minutes by the end.

Tuesday – Run 4.46k  36:30

Friday – Run 4.5k 32:00

Saturday – Run 4.8k 35:00






MG-SLS1012-Movember-Campaign-Support-Icon-Mo-WhiteJust a reminder that I’m participating in the Move for Movember fundraising event, my donation page can be found here

The Movember Foundation does great work promoting mens health, because lets face it, us guys are pretty rubbish at looking after our health as a rule.  So please give a little to my page and help promote this great cause.