Your thoughts CAN change your race outcome

It is definitely the racing season with marathons and half marathons taking place across the country in February. Since this is the case, we thought it would be a good idea to tackle issues around racing in the next few blogs.

Studies show that each thought we have can actually change the structure and function of our brains. So, literally thinking that you can do something alters your brain. This brings to mind the age-old adage: If you can believe it, you can achieve it.

Personally, this saying is soooo over-used that I often don’t let myself think about it. But the truth in the saying is paramount, and it has been scientifically proven: if you can believe it, you can achieve it.

Being aware of your thoughts is the first step to success in any sport.

If you run a 21km race with an ingrained, even brainwashed, belief in yourself, your training and your potential, then you are already half way to achieving your goal.

Being a marathoner and ultra-marathoner, I completely understand that this is easier said than done. Because I know, come that 28km mark in a marathon, or the 60km mark in Comrades, my thinking and self-belief goes out the window. And this is totally, 100% normal!

The trick is to not stay in this place.

You need to allow yourself 1-2km of wallowing in disbelief and wondering why the hell you started running in the first place. But only give it a max of 2km. Then you need to find it in yourself to pick yourself up again. This is imperative. If you remain wallowing in self-pity and disbelief for the last 12km of your marathon, let me tell you, it will easily take you 1 and a half – 2 hours to get to the finish line.

Now, there are certain things you can do to help you in these moments on race day. And they all depend on you, and what works for you.

For me, I write, in permanent marker, words and phrases on my hand and arm – throughout the race, I look at them and remind myself of these positive thoughts. Sometimes, I am in such a pickle that I actually say them out loud while I am running.

I once ran Comrades with a marble in my pocket, because it reminded me of an incredibly tough beach session Steph and I did a few months before.

But you could wear a bracelet or a necklace with a word that inspires you on it, or an armband or a ring that represents the reason you are running. Because let me tell you, you will forget the reason you are running the race, and you will forget that you have put the mileage and the speedwork in.

So in the weeks leading up to your marathon, find that thing that inspires you, source quotes, song lyrics, and words that mean something to you, and that are guaranteed to pick you up in your lowest moments.

Think yourself out of the slump. Think yourself to victory. We believe in you!!

parkrun – changes lives

Last week we shared how being mindful of sport and the role it plays in improving the lives and the health of our nation. The best example of this is parkrun (always lower case as though to emphasise how simple it is).

parkrun is for everyone – from beginner to Olympian. Depending on the venue parkrun is for those in, and pushing, prams, wheelchairs, the blind, the deaf and other physical conditions.

 Bruce Fordyce, 9 times Comrades Marathon Champion who brought parkrun to SA in 2011 tells all and sundry that, “There is nothing, no substance, nothing more addictive than parkrun. So beware!”

In November 2011, Bruce Fordyce started the first South African parkrun at Delta Park in Johannesburg with 26 runners. On 12 August 2012, I started Nahoon Point, East London with 81 runners and a handful of volunteers. There are currently 126 parkrun venues in RSA and by the year end there will be close to 200. Worldwide there are currently 1236 venues in 16 countries with 4.2 million registered parkrunners internationally. South Africa currently has around three quarters of a million (750 0000).

More than being just a 5km timed run, parkrun offers incentives to keep you coming back:

  • First parkrun is the most perfect family activity and is not selfish.
  • On the completion of 50 parkruns you receive a RED 50 club T (Free)
  • On the completion of 100 parkruns you receive a BLACK 100 club T (Still Free)
  • On the completion of 250 parkruns you receive a Bottle Green 250 club T and on 500 a blue one.

Competition and incentives aside, parkrun has been life-changing for many people. Obesity, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Depression are just some of the issues that parkrun has played a role in overcoming or containing.

One local man, by the name of Henry, had not run a step since completing his schooling. He arrived at the Nahoon parkun, overweight and diabetic, in September 2012 and started walking/jogging. He was quickly hooked on the good feeling he received from being active again. His first attempt saw him finish in 37:54. One month later he was down to 31:20. Another month and he was down a further 2 minutes to 29:20 and in the first 4 months had improved a massive 11:01 to 26:53. He has reached 250 parkruns – a huge milestone! It was, however, not the once a week parkun alone that saw him beat diabetes, but the change of lifestyle prompted a change in eating habits and more regular exercise.

Another success story is our man Noel. Noel was the original definition of a Couch Potato, and driving a 4×4 every now and then was the only “exercise” he was interested in. Running or walking was not on his radar, let alone his bucket list. His wife, Annamarie, somehow convinced him to accompany her to the first Nahoon Point parkrun in August 2012 and promised to walk with him. Noel walked his first 5km in 52:55. Mumbling and grumbling at the finish he was never the less back the following week and the week thereafter. By the end of 2012, Noel’s time had come down by over 9min. By the end of 2013, he was run/walking and his time fell by a further 9 minutes to a highly respectable 34:08. Today, he has a personal best time of 29:38 and a pace of under 6min per km.

A third success story, Tiamarie, lived and now truly lives in an idyllic setting at Sunrise-on-Sea. She had major health problems and was a smoker. She too had done nothing since school days when her son challenged her to start walking. Challenged by her son, she walked the Sunrise-on-Sea parkrun. She was at the inaugural Sunrise parkrun and is the only person in South Africa that has not missed one solitary weekend of parkrun in 5 years and has 268 behind her name. She ran her first half marathon in September 2017, with plans afoot to run a marathon in 2018.

Tiamarie’s progress is remarkably similar to that of Henry and Noel, proving that the buy in to regular parkrunning transforms lives.

parkrun offers hope.

parkrun transforms lives.

parkrun changes lives.

 

Train slower. Race faster.

On Tuesday evening, Bob was a guest speaker at the South African Association of Campus Health Services (SAACHS) 2018 conference.

 

‘Beating the Drum’, the aptly labelled theme of the conference, gave Bob the licence to explore the subject which he is so blatantly passionate about: “Using Sport to add to the Health & Wellness Debate”.

 

In his speech, he explored how the act of exercising can take you from a ‘couch potato’ to the person doing things you thought unimaginable.

 

As his point of reference in his speech, Bob relayed aspects of Mark Sisson’s book, Primal Blueprint. Sisson was once a top marathon runner in the USA, and a serious triathlete, where he came 4th in the World Ironman Championships in his prime.

 

Sisson’s teachings today are based on Primal Living, and are far removed from the ultra-style mega training of his and other endurance sporting careers, and is geared toward longevity of health and fitness and not short-term gains of fame.

 

In his book, Sisson says: “We get so lost in the science of human biology, we just cannot see the forest from the trees. We overlook the simplicity and ease with which we could all be achieving exceptional health and fitness.”

 

Sisson goes on to give 6 pointers to an exceptional life:

1) Eating well on animals and plants and eliminating ALL grains, sugars and trans fats.

2) Moving often at a slow pace – low level aerobic activity.

3) Lifting heavy things – can be weights in the gym, your own bodyweight, core exercises or even working in the garden and lifting things therein.

4) Run fast occasionally – on the beach, up a hill or flight of stairs. Ride a bike hard if you must.

5) Play – with family children or grandchildren, but just play.

6) Get plenty of sleep – if we skimp on sleep he suggests “we get a nation of overworked, over fatigued men, women and students.”

 

What Sisson is really getting at, and what Bob has been telling his athletes for years, is that we over train and we over compete. This in turn impacts negatively upon on our health just as a lack of exercise does.

 

Sportspeople seem to get into the situation where they reach a goal on X training and then think well if we do X + Y we will perform better still.

 

This unfortunately is not how it works. And, as Bob knows from experience, coaches have their work cut out trying to convince athletes that to race faster you sometimes need to train slower.

 

That is how the Kenyans train.

 

That is how you should train.

 

Sport and optimum health require a fine line divided between preparation and recovery.

 

Sportspersons need to be encouraged to be the very best they can be, and disengage from the pressure of needing to be better than another – until such time it might come naturally, of course.

 

Being mindful of sport in general and the role it can play in improving the lives and the health of our nation should be our NATIONAL sporting mission.

 

Tips on proper eating this holiday season!

The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year are filled with huge amounts of food, festivities and socializing. Whether it’s dining out, going to a holiday party, or seeing treats everywhere, the holiday season really puts our willpower to the test.

However, with some planning, and simple tips, you can enjoy the holiday season without feeling guilty!

Here are some tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine over the festive season.

1. Eat structured meals.

Plan your meals for the day – what time you’re going to eat, where you’re going to eat and what you’re going to eat. Where possible, try not to skip any meals. Skipping meals leaves you hungry and often leads to overeating as you’ll be inclined to eat just about anything you can get your hands on, which invariably will be yummy treats!

2. Pack a healthy snack.

We all know that this is the season for running around, shopping, and going all morning or afternoon without much of a break. So before you leave the house, pack a small healthy snack in your bag. I often carry nuts or dried fruit wherever I go – these will sustain you until your next planned meal!

3. Savour your treats.

Holidays are supposed to be fun, right! And they’re a time where you are supposed to relax and find rest. So I am not about to tell that you shouldn’t eat all the delicious holiday treats that will definitely come your way. But, do choose your treats wisely, portion them out properly, and above all…savour them. Don’t swallow it down whole!

4. Stay hydrated.

Drinking enough water will keep you hydrated. Often, we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty. Eat at your planned meal and snack times, and drink water in between.

5. Stick to your exercise routine.

The most important thing here is to stick to your exercise routine!! I know it’s a busy time of the year, but maintaining your exercise regimen, will help you keep your weight in check, and may even prompt you to make healthier food choices.

 

Food should never define you, so don’t berate yourself if you do overeat on the odd occasion – no-one has ever gained 10kg overnight, afterall. Just try and make the right choices, exercise a little self-discipline over this season, and you will start the new year fresh, rejuvenated and ready an energized year of running!!

 ATHLETE and MENTOR

The life of an athlete who is on the up, is one of the most stimulating lives to lead.

When an individual runs a first 10km race and finishes it, it is a big deal. It is also, more often than not, the launch pad to a life IN running, but not necessarily OF running.

One of three courses can be followed when a runner crests the peak in their careers and the long downhill beckons. First, they may soldier on regardless and chase age group times and positions or secondly, they could simply accept the reality of slowing down and run more socially with friends, old and new.

The third option is open only to a certain breed of individual who has what it takes to coach or mentor athletes.

The past 15 months have been phenomenal in this regard and the results pre and post the re-launch of BOaST ought to have been stimulating to all that have followed the progress of runners who have been influenced by the team, either on a personalised programme or through a club structure.

No matter how talented, fast or strong an athlete is, achieving optimal running success is unlikely when going solo.

The training is paramount, but so too is race identification, goal setting and belief.

Runners who buy into the role of a proven and successful coach or mentor will inevitably achieve personal bests.

The reasons for that include trust, motivation, instilling belief and working through all aspects of preparation together and openly.

There are of course no quick fixes and it will often take a relationship three or four years to reach its full potential, particularly if athlete and mentor come from different belief systems in respect of training, nutrition, footwear and racing regimens.

A good sense of humour certainly helps when athletes  go a little wayward, as inevitably they sometimes will. Rather than be unsettled by such instances they offer a great opportunity to further build trust between each other as the athlete sheepishly admits that the mentor was (in most instances) right.

So it is that an athlete and a coach or mentor build a “story” that can be used by both to further their own paths and experiences within the sport. Growth is imperative as is change.

On the change front, nothing is more apt an example than that of nutrition and eating habits as espoused by folk such as Tim Noakes, Mark Sissons, Gary Taubs, David Perlmutter and many others.

On the footwear front the shoe companies detest the “barefoot” minimalistic protagonists, because they will simple sell less shoes, while in the nutritional field, many a multi-national would go out of business as the world became healthier.

Debate, and vigorous debate at that, should be the fuel that drives and seeks success. When we think we know it all, then we are indeed over the crest.

There is, at the end of the proverbial day, nothing more satisfying than being a part of the development of a runner and imparting life experiences so that they might achieve their goals.

Beating the holiday lethargy

🎶 ‘Tis the season to be jolly tra la la la la la la la la🎶

Christmas time is the best time of year for family, for eating and for much merriment, but it’s not necessarily the best time for fitness levels. It is very common to lose that loving feeling towards running and cross-training over this period. And by the end of the holidays you experience a guilt for over indulging in food, tarts and chocolates, and doing the minimal amount of exercising.

We know that it’s darn tough to stay on track with your fitness when you’re surrounded be all the distractions of the holiday season. From parties to shopping to cooking; it can feel a little like running through an obstacle course.

The most common complaints we get this time of year relate to time and energy. Our time is limited and is taken up by family, family and more family, right! More than that, we feel more lethargic. When both of these two factors collide, it can lead to missed workouts and inactivity.

It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this.

While you use the holidays to rest and recover from a busy year, you CAN still enjoy the benefits of feeling fit and getting your exercise in.

Here are some useful tips that help me:

1. Set a realistic goal each week

On a Sunday for example, sit down and set yourself a plan that works based on the flow of your life over that week. Budget your time wisely and exercise when you can. If you only can only spare 30 minutes on a day that’s ok, 30 minutes is better than nothing! Maybe just increase the intensity on the shorter workouts. For example, do some hill sprints or speedwork in your 30 minute runs, and a slower longer run when you have more time.

2. Post your goal to a group of people that care about your fitness.

This may be your local running group, a Facebook group, or even a temporary whatsapp Holiday Fitness Group created just for the holidays. The main thing here is that you are connected with a person or people that either have the same mindset as you or who is willing to help you keep accountable.

The goal is to keep it simple, move regularly, and stay motivated by being connected to a group. It’s all about creating meaningful mini challenges and telling people about them.

Finally, getting in your workouts, you will be boosting your metabolic rate, upping your happy hormones, and even improving your speed and fitness. What more could you ask for in a busy holiday season!

SOLD OUT – the New Phenomenon

COMRADES MARATHON SOLD OUT and then sold out again 21500 entries in just 21 days.

TWO OCEANS 56km SOLD OUT their 11000 entries in two days.

Those are the big two, but then there is Om die Dam a 50km way up north. An established event of 28 years, but not one that is expected to receive a rush of entries right?

Wrong. Entries opened on 6 November and by 8 November only 50% were left and as I write they may well be all gone.

Where did this hysteria pop up from? Well it did not just arrive. Every time a landmark is reached in respect of race anniversaries, the new millennium or 2010 entries have shot up.

The Two Oceans 56km took a bit of a knock when the half marathon was introduced and took a while to recover its previous numbers, but then in 2014 the entries sold out a week before closing for the first time. In 2015 they were sold out a month before and in 2016 by 2 January , just 32 days after they opened, they were all gone.

This year after what happened at Comrades and with the momentum of previous years it was predicted that it would take Two Oceans two weeks. It actually took only two days.

So, what is this new phenomenon and what does it mean to us as runners in respect of our training and racing?

First, we need more than ever before to be totally focussed on what we are doing and be meticulous in our planning.

Runners who perform at a meaningful level need a coach more now than ever before and may in fact need even more support on the logistical side.

Being a member of a running club has always been essential to the big ultras, but choosing a club that has infrastructure, experienced coaching and training methods along with innovation is ever more important.

ENTRY IN – WHAT NOW:

So the pressure is off. Your entry is in and been accepted. Be sure your 2018 fees and licence are all in tact as this will need to be verified by the race organisation and club.

In respect of Two Oceans training should already be underway given that it is a few weeks earlier in 2018. If you do not have a coach – find one.

Comrades however, is only on 10 June and should not be top of mind at all.

It is not often that Two Oceans and Comrades can be raced in the same year, without serious doubt as to recovery, optimum performance and so on.

2018 is however a much kinder year in that there is an 11 week break between the two. Still not completely ideal, but certainly manageable for athletes who are able to focus on their running, training and rest periods.

With Two Oceans early I would suggest skipping a qualifying marathon in 2018 if you have a reasonable one in the bag.

So my athletes would be encouraged to focus on Two Oceans, racing a half marathon, a couple of 10kms and maybe a 32. The 56km could then be raced and a personal best recorded, followed by a few easy weeks before embarking on Comrades specific work outs.

If they are not running Two Oceans and Comrades is the goal, then a well prepared for Buffs Marathon in East London, South Africa would be the call with a pb or “close to” being the objective. That takes place on 18 February, allowing for two weeks recovery and then easing into Comrades training through March, April and May.

It is so important to have a coach who has been there and experienced some of the pitfalls to racing ultra marathons or indeed any other distance. Listening to friends or competitors is fool hardy. They possibly mean well, but have no real vested interest in your success and probably harbour illusions of beating you anyway. And so they should.

Friends are for socialising and racing is for winning no matter how humble the goal.

Strength and flexibility training. Is it all it’s made out to be?

Most runners nowadays recognise the importance of strength training to their running success.

Strength training is a great supplement to your roadwork since it strengthens your muscles and joints. Strengthening these muscles and joints corrects muscle imbalances and weaknesses that are common in modern life, and consequently improves your race times and decreases injury risk. (Seems like a win win situation!)

If you want to perform at your full potential, targeting areas of fitness you may not normally pay attention to, such as flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength will aid in your running success. This applies particularly to people who have started running as adults and whose non-running hours include a lot of sitting.

Incorporating strength training into your running regimen can be a difficult  thing to achieve, especially if you are running 5-6 times a week. But I would highly suggest adding at least one strength training set into your weekly routine. And you may surprise yourself on how much you actually enjoy it!

Some fun strength training suggestions that we’d suggest:

  • Take a crossfit or grid class if you’re unsure about how to strength train on your own.
  • Adopt a flexibility- and strength-building routine by practicing Pilates or yoga. You can even do this at home! There are so many home DVDs you can use.
  • Run a trail course.
  • Try cycling, spinning at the gym, or swimming to improve strength and flexibility.
  • Other more conventional strength exercises include planking, squats and lunges that will strengthen your core, quads and hamstrings.

If you need any further help on these strength exercises, give Steph a call! Her personal training experise will help you with the right exercises for your body and training programme.

How to keep running consistently

If I asked you what running success is, what would you say? Let me share one of the biggest ways you can be a running success….

Run CONSISTENTLY.

So much to running is consistency. We’re all for good breaks after big events, but inconsistent running after a short scheduled break, does absolutely nothing for your running.

Running is so different to other endurance sports in that it relies heavily on both weight bearing form and economical motion. The only efficient way to optimize your form and economical motion is through time and constant practice.

At the same time, intensity can cause injuries where you will have to go back to the drawing board, and start all over again. This is why it is so important that when you start with your quality sessions that you do so slowly and cautiously. (And this is also why you need proper personalised training programmes).

Here are some tried and tested ways to keep you running more consistently and faster!

Run faster

There’s nothing like the social pressure of knowing that a friend or a group is waiting for you to make you head out the door. Read our blog on the benefits of running with other people.

Try something new

While you consider yourself a runner, trying something new often nurtures running consistency. Try running on a trail, or a cross-country event, or even a triathlon. This will mix your running up a but keeping you consistent.

Take a break

Top runners view their training year as a mountain range: it has peaks (intense training periods) and valleys (recovery and rest periods where they can build up to their next training period). For healthy, consistent training, your body needs regular recovery periods – you cannot run the whole year at intense training levels. You need to allow your body to rest, and recover. But in the recovery, don’t become sedentary: do gym classes or take up cross training. Keep moving.

Keep a running log

Your training log is a great source of the kind of motivation that builds consistency. A training log keeps your mind focussed; it reveals from where you have come; it encourages you and; it keeps you consistent!

Enter races

There is something about entering races, marathons in particular, that ‘scare’ people into training the way they should. It also builds a sense of community, and we know how running with people builds and encourages consistency!

Schedule it

Go back to basics and schedule your runs.

Are you a consistent runner? Tell us the ways you keep your running consistent.

Running in a group: Why it’s the best thing for your running

Contrary to what people see at races, or experience for themselves, running IS a team sport.

All runners that have excelled at running (I’m talking even the Eliud Kipchoge’s of the sport) have done so because they trained in a team.

If you train solely on your own, you place yourself at a disadvantage, and you lose all the benefits that training in a group gives you.

Here are 5 reasons you should be training in a group:

  • You become accountable

It is incredibly easy to skip a session if there is no one waiting for you to join them. I mean, why would you put yourself through a gruelling sprint session or run a long run without a team mate to encourage you on?  When there is someone counting on you, you are more likely to show up.

  • You remain consistent

Running in a group allows you to remain consistent in your training and will help you stick to your programme or keep you on target for a race.

  • You never lack for motivation

When you run in a group there will more than likely be someone who is faster than you. This will encourage you and motivate you to be a faster, better runner. Even if you are a non-competitive runner, you will become a better runner by being motivated by other runners around you.

  • You will have the opportunity to learn from others

Running with others is a great way to learn tips and tricks from seasoned runners. Runners love to talk about running while they are running!

  • You benefit from ‘Social Facilitation’

Social Facilitation is a psychology term that describes the tendency for people to perform better when in the presence of others than when alone. Not only would you perform better at your running, but running with a group helps you have a better day!

At BOaST, we promote group training. If you are running on your own, talk to us, and we’ll welcome you into our group training sessions!