The Secret to Successful Running

So many people run these days, it’s awesome. I love being out on a run and seeing others out there.

While out running today, I was pondering the ‘secrets of successful running’.

It’s an interesting thing to think about and because my planned run today was 90 minutes long, I decided I would give it some thought.

To me, I am successful as a runner if I enjoy myself and I achieve the goals I have set myself (such as complete a certain run etc) but for others, they might not consider themselves successful unless they achieve a certain time over a set distance. For example, I saw a post on Strava by another runner saying his run was ‘worst ever’ (or words to that effect) and I thought, WOW, if only I could run like that and be dissapointed! Granted, this guy is a lot younger than me so his targets are completely different, but I wondered how that made him feel to have run a distance and to think it was so bad. Did it inspire him to work harder next time or did it make him unhappy. Either way, it’s a shame he sees his running that way don’t you think?

Today I ran a little over 7.6 miles in my 90 minute run, I ran in power zone X for 60 minutes of that, with a 15 minute warm up and 15 minute cool down, an average of 253 watts, which is about right compared to my plan. Great, by that measure todays run was a success!

I also completed my weekly mileage plan, boom!

I matched the training plan (pretty much) with the power bands I was supposed to run in.

Lastly, I enjoyed it!

That, to me was a success every way I looked at it!

So, thinking about the ‘secret to successful running’ I think, the key is to really prioritise what is important to you, accept that you will not always achieve that and when you fail, treat it as learning, it all becomes a win-win then.

Of course the running elite will have different views, that makes sense, I expect they are not running to enjoy themselves (anymore?), they probably run for different reasons, such as money, pride, honour etc, but for the rest of us, maybe cut yourself some slack and learn to enjoy running again. When I was running today, a young boy of maybe 7 years old came racing towards me with his dad in ‘close support’ and I saw the joy on this lads face and remembered my joy of running when I was a kid. I am finding that joy again, less exuberant, sure, but it’s there and I love it. I’ve never been the most athletic, but I certainly used to enjoy running, I remember a kid in my junior school named Ian Butt (yeah, I know!), he was a fast runner and at that time, I thought of him as a good friend. He told me that the secret of running fast was to have your hands flat and pointy then showed me how he cut through the air, sadly, for me, this didn’t work, I didn’t run any faster, but I still loved running! These days, after having a coach support me on my running dynamics, sometimes I think that maybe Ian wasn’t that far off the mark! 

Ultimately, I think that the real secret comes down to you, define your own success measures, set yourself targets and work towards them, enjoy running, when you’re out there, focus outwards and relax. Maybe that sounds a little lame and you were hoping I would give some magical answer, sorry, flat and pointy doesn’t actually work! Set your goals and enjoy it, take all the help you can get (good advice, good kit, good data, great weather if you can!) and give yourself the time.

The secret is simple. Go do it.
IMG 3770

https://www.strava.com/athletes/232206

Todays run hurt. 55 minutes of pain (and it really shouldn’t have been!)

So today was supposed to be a nice relaxed run with a friend, I use a Stryd (wind) power meter to help me quantify my effort and analyse my performance / inform my next steps by helping me to clearly understand the inputs and outputs of my running. As a bit of a statistical geek (I’m a lean six sigma black belt so I do a lot of data analysis) I like to have a deeper understanding of the data, the Stryd pod really helps with that.

My training plan said to run a power zone 2 run (that’s almost a walk by the way!) for 50 minutes. How it ended up was somewhat different from a power perspective.

We have a 4 mile route we follow on a Saturday morning, leaving Northleach, going uphill in the general direction of Cheltenham. We are used to the hill, but the effect of the wind was something of a challenge while trotting up the hill. 

A zone 2 run for me puts me in the range of 209-242 watts, as you can see below, there were points when I was at 486 watts, while there were only gusts of wind causing that, the rest of the time the wind was mostly a headwind making it almost (well, mostly!) impossible to stay within the correct power zone while also making the total running time longer than it should have been because we were slowing down dramatically!

Since November 2019 I’ve been training for an ultra run (62 miles over 2 days) but this weekend run with my friend is much more of a social thing and to try to ‘give back’ by helping someone else become a ‘runner’

Tomorrow should be interesting as I have a tougher run planned, I will let you know how I get on with that!

How was your run today? How do you analyse your data?

 


Screenshot 2020 02 22 at 13 11 04

5 Running books you need to read (And why).

I read a lot of books, either real physical books, or quite often, listening to audiobooks while running. I decided that as today is a ‘rest day’ in my training plan that I would share my thoughts on the 5 best reads that have either inspired or informed my running.

1. Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

As a barefoot runner, I have to start with ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall, the book that has done more than any other for the whole barefoot running community and truly inspired people all over the world to try their foot at barefoot running!

Born to Run chronicles Christopher McDougall’s experience of running and his amazing time spent running with and learning from the Mexican Tarahumara, native people who are known for running races of over 100 miles, in sandals that they make themselves across rugged grounds like the searingly hot Copper Canyon. In the book, Christopher challenges the whole running shoe industry as it became clear to him that not only are we ‘Born to Run’ without running shoes but that running shoes are actually doing more harm than good!

I have to say, that since reading this book and transitioning to barefoot running, I am certainly a stronger runner, fitter, probably not faster, but I can run further than I used to be able to!

2. Let your mind Run – Deena Kastor

I love this book from the simply amazing Deena Kastor and it was a really tough choice deciding if this was first or second on my list! I went with second because barefoot running describes me now, but second because I love the positivity in this book. Deena has taught me that the power of the mind can overcome the weaknesses of the body through positive positioning of the battle that we all go through each time we run. This book really does give an insight into how the minds of top athletes work, while I will never be in that group of people, it is a powerful thing to be able to learn the thinking of someone who had to overcome her own thoughts that were stopping her from becoming one of the world’s best elite runners!

3. Finding Ultra – Rich Roll

Being an older runner, I’m just fascinated by this book by Rich Roll, who was middle aged before becoming one of the world’s fittest men! Now, while I have to admit, that’s an extremely unlikely outcome for me (lol) it just goes to show how much can be achieved through dedication and belief in yourself. The book also struck a chord with me as Rich Roll is vegan, I’m vegetarian but clearly there is a link here, despite the fact that Rich Roll went from couch potato to running, no, competing in some of the world’s toughest events just 18 months later! His writing style is easy and entertaining while being truly inspirational.


If you are an older runner, check out The OMIL’s blog, some really useful stuff and a fun read!


4. Eat and Run – Scott Jurek

If you run ultras, or are planning to run an ultra, you simply must read this book by Scott Jurek, he is an icon in the ultra community. A vegan runner who has held many of the worlds greatest running endurance championships. The book chronicles Scott’s journey towards his place in history and his record breaking performances through his amazing ironclad willpower. You will soon realise how much Scott places in fuelling the body well, he gives some great nutrition tips and practical advice. An awesome book by a fantastic runner.

5. Fat man to Green man – Ira Rainey

Ira Rainey’s book is a little different and means a lot to me personally because his story really kicks in when his friend is diagnosed with terminal cancer. I have been pushing myself hard for the last 8 years after being given a 30% chance of surviving 5 years due to a cancer diagnosis, you can read more about that in other posts of mine. Essentially, this book delivers humour while following Ira from fat to fit but also gives an insight into what that takes to achieve.

 

Why read these books?

Well, my reasoning lies in what you might notice between all of these, the common threads.

The need to understand the mindset required to deliver growth and change, and the desire to push beyond perceived limitations.

As an overweight, older runner, still physically and men
tally scarred by cancer and it’s side effects, pushing beyond what I thought was ever possible for me is an essential driver for my life now. So if you want inspiration, be it for running, cycling, or any other challenge you care to take on, these books hit the nail on the head for having your head in the right place!

If you decide to have a read of these books, or have already read them, let me know what you think in the comments, also your thoughts or questions on barefoot running, if I can help you with that, by answering questions, just let me know.

I run barefoot.

Well almost.

I am often asked about this, some of my running friends laugh at me, some think I’m crazy, others are curious.

This started summer 2019. In 2018 I had some coaching on my running mechanics with a great coach in Oxford, Tony Pound https://www.journeyhappyfp.com.

After some time I read about barefoot running and decided to explore this more, mostly because of the amount of positivity surrounding it.

What I found was that after about a month of pain(!!) while my body adjusted to running with no cushioning, I started to get short intervals of feeling like I was running without any effort, literally feeling like I was simply bouncing along!

Of course. If you have experience with barefoot running, that is the nirvana, it comes from your springy tendons! Sometimes, and so far, it’s only sometimes for me, I can get it just right and running feels effortless because my tendons are acting as springs (essentially). But, it gives me an insight into some of the seemingly impossible achievements of the worlds elite ultra runners may who also run barefoot, or like me, minimalistic. This inspires me to keep running barefoot.

If you can, give barefoot a go, but give it time and take it easy!

Adam

 

What is the point of lean?

Business is business right? The Goal (Goldratt) is to make money, it’s very true, because if a business does not make money, then it cannot survive. This is where lots of organisations have actually missed the point of lean (and or six sigma in fact). 

Many of these organisations see lean as a way to make more money, which is actually an abuse of the tools and methodologies. Lean, in itself, was actually developed to reduce the time between customer order and being paid by the customer, not to increase profit. The tools can have the effect of increasing profit, definitely, and of course there is nothing wrong with that in itself. The problem comes when lean ends up abusing the business, paring it down beyond the bone and negatively affecting the business itself and the people in it.

The latest incarnation of lean is starting to really focus on people, unfortunately, this has not yet hit ‘mainstream’ lean facilitators or big consultancies. I have observed that lean in so many organisations I have worked in, is seen primarily as a cost saving effort, rather than a cultural effort. My view is that this relates to most modern business being much more short term focussed than those who take the cultural aspect as the key driver. Take a look at Simon Sinek’s book ‘The Infinite Game’ if you want a deeper understanding of the thinking here.

All that said, business is business and The Goal is certainly to make money, but I think there is a need to find a balance and for business not to be solely financially driven, we must also consider our people and show them the respect they deserve. Organisations are about people, they are about much more than making money, every business actually has a purpose (besides The Goal), the money is the fuel to achieve the purpose, not the other way around.

Thriving, not just surviving

Cancer is not always the end.

It’s hard, it’s awful, it hurts, it’s scary, it can make you lose all hope.

When I was diagnosed, I literally felt that I had no future. When I look back, I had no hope, mentally, I had just about given up and in my mind, all doors were closed.

Happily, this was just not the case.

I am 8 years passed diagnosis, I have now gone 3 years without any ‘cancer check ups’. I have spent the last few years, rebuilding my life, I have an amazing wife, an absolutely awesome little girl (with another on the way and due soon!). I have a great job and maybe more importantly than all that, I am now a keen runner despite my constant pain (post surgery pain never resolved).

I run a lot, I deal with the chronic pain caused by surgery, the running actually helps with this, combine all that with my work, which is in business improvement, I keep myself busy. Soyou see, I’m not actually a cancer survivor, I am a cancer thriver! Cancer actually changed the direction of my life, it made me really aware of the tenuous grip we have on life and made me realise I needed to really go for everything I want.

If you are dealing with cancer right now, please please do not give up, none of us know the future, you can take control, maybe to a greater or lesser degree than me, but you can control your life, do not be a victim.

Adam.

Run run run run run!!

I run. I run early in the morning. I run 5 days a week. I think I’m an addict now.

This was my view while running this morning. I clear my mind, I run at peace, I don’t chastise myself for my slow plod, I know I’m doing it the right way. I focus my mind outwardly so as to not focus on the pain. Life is too short to focus on pain, I have found that if I focus on my surroundings and admire the animals that I see, not only do I not notice the pain as much but the miles pass easily. I recently had a beautiful barn owl fly silently just over my head and ahead of me, it was amazing. Had I been focussing on the pain, I probably would not have even noticed.

 

I’ve been training for the 2020 Race to the Stones for some time now, so I’m going to start blogging about my experience of it here, all the ups and downs, the doubts and the joy. I might add some podcasts / videos as well, let’s see how that goes. At the very least, this will be here and serve as a reminder of my work.

I’m a cancer survivor, cholangiocarcinoma, which, at time of diagnosis in 2012, was quite a rare cancer with only a 30% survival rate. So I’m very glad to still be here, plodding around the countryside at the age of 51.

To me, all the above says, keep fighting, look for the joy, enjoy the journey.

 

I love to run, I’m not fast, but I run!

For over ten years I have been running, it’s my way of staying healthy both physically and mentally.

I run to give myself some time to be thankful and appreciate the world, it is truly my moment of freedom. Often times this feels like I imagine meditation to feel, other times it is a social event when I run with people either I know and like or run as part of a group such as ParkRun. 

In the last few years I have lost 3 stone 10 pounds (about 23.5 kilos) mostly through running and being a little more mindful of what I eat, I have tried diets but I never seem to get on with them. I still weigh more than I should (just over 100kg), but its going in the right direction, and more to the point, I have found how to love running.

I had a coach some time ago, a guy called Tony Pound (from Track Bang Wallop in Oxford) who I found via werun.com, I asked him to coach me on my running technique, which he did an excellent job of doing. From there, I went on to running in minimalist shoes (Vibrams) and getting a footpad (Stryd) to help me analyse my outputs in more detail.

Over the years since I started running, I have now run 9 half marathons, The London Marathon, a full Tough Mudder, and this year I am taking on The Race to the Stones over 2 days, which is 2 back to back ultra marathons totalling 100km (62 miles).

 

To help me achieve my objective of completing The Race to the Stones, I read a book called 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald and later bought his Ultra training plan. The methodology essentially means that 80% of my running focus is on low power zones output (zone 2, just above walking pace!), which at first felt incredibly difficult. I have been following this plan for nearly 4 months now and I am fitter and a better runner than I ever have been, as long as you look at my metrics based upon my objective. Based upon the data, I am slower than I used to be, but I am far more comfortable running further, which is the aim of course! I expect that if I wanted to run faster, I could, but I have stuck as close to the plan as I can, there are always days of course where it is just impossible. Those days, I just ignore, chalk it up to ‘life’ and move on, I don’t get hung up over it.

The first and last!

Below are the first and last posts of my blog that I used to diarise my experience of cancer, not knowing to start with, if I was going to survive.

You can see the rest of my posts here

If you have just been diagnosed, it might give you a good insight into what may lay ahead, I had no idea, so if this helps someone, that’s great.

If you have been diagnosed, have a read and reach out to me, happy to talk more and point you in the direction of great resources.

 

Adam

Quite something

Its quite something….

 

A few years ago, I was dying of cancer.

 

I went through all that, came out the other side, have a successful job, a wonderful wife and an absolutely gorgeous little girl. 

 

 

Do you know what? I’m still here, but I am still affected by cancer. Not the physical, actually having the disease (I hope!), but the mental scars are still playing on the mind, there is still physical pain, but the worst part is the mental scars. Weird, just now I considered suicide, for the first time in many years, just for a moment, and not seriously, but it was just, let’s take these pills then I won’t have to worry about cancer! Of course, I didn’t, but it surprised me, caught me off guard, this is not normal for me, sure, I’ve had my moments when I’ve been down but this was not that, this was just a very casual, screw it, let’s go.