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Have you been running for over a year and reached the point where your race times have plateaued? Are you frustrated with not being able to break through a personal best and not sure what to do about it?

Well, open any running magazine and you will find an article advising you to add resistance training to your weekly schedule to improve your running.  Typically, there may be photos of half a dozen exercises and bullet point instructions on how to perform them.  Whilst this advice is usually perfectly valid (resistance training will definitely improve your running), it may not be straightforward to complete in practice.

If you are new to resistance exercise, it takes quite a lot of mental effort to organise.  First of all, where to complete it?  Working out at home can be far from ideal, with lots of distractions and often not enough room.  Gyms are not everyone's cup of tea, and an expensive option if you don't plan to use them more than once a week.  Secondly, as you may not be familiar with the exercises themselves, you may find yourself struggling to refer to written instructions whilst performing the exercises.  Looking in a mirror can help to see if your form is correct, but even then you may not be confident that you are performing them correctly.  This can be of particular concern for an exercise such as a lunge, which has a relatively high risk of injury if performed with bad technique. 

Even if you persevere with these obstacles, traditional resistance sessions with multiple sets take around an hour to complete, which can be an issue to many with increasingly busy lives.  Moreover, many women are social creatures and may not be attracted to the idea of working out on their own, finding it harder to stay motivated to complete the session.

However, many people don't realise that resistance training does not necessarily mean just training with weights.  In fact, runners can get the huge benefits of weight training without using any equipment at all.

The group fitness class Metafit is the hassle free alternative to traditional resistance training for running.  It uses exclusively bodyweight exercises and takes only 30 mins, with the added bonuses of expert instruction to ensure your technique is correct and a whole room full of like-minded women to support and motivate you.  The emphasis is on lower body and core exercises that will improve your muscular endurance (and tone your legs, bum and tum in the process). This helps you maintain good running form for longer, enabling you to run further and more efficiently, whilst also reducing the risk of injury.  The Metafit format includes a 5 minutes warm-up to get the blood flowing and loosen the joints, followed by the main workout section which is typically around 22 mins. This is followed by a series of stretching exercises to improve your flexibility.  As a form of high intensity interval training, Metafit offers the same benefits of anaerobic training that you get from tempo and fartlek runs. Your lung capacity will increase as will your "lactic tolerance", a measure of how much exercise you can complete before your legs feel very heavy and you struggle to continue.

So if you struggle to motivate yourself to do fartlek or tempo runs every week, Metafit classes are a great alternative. After a couple of months, you'll feel fitter than ever and it could well be the key to unlocking that PB!

JB Personal Training run Metafit classes on Tuesday evenings at 6:15pm and Friday mornings at 7am in Lydiard Millicent near Swindon. For full details and online booking, visit our group class listings page.

P.S. If you aren't able to make a group class, but still love the idea of using bodyweight exercises to improve your running, then as an alternative I would highly recommend You Are Your Own Gym: The bible of bodyweight exercises which explains all the key bodyweight exercises with variations for different fitness levels.

 
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See the 2015 Run JB team featured at 06:44 in the above video!

 
Just over a year ago - when I measured my running distance by counting lampposts – if anyone had told me I would be running three 9km cross country circuits as part of a relay team in a non-stop 24 hour marathon, I would have dismissed it as madness: at that time, I was struggling to run for more than a couple of kilometres without feeling that I was going die!  And so, covering more than a half marathon in distance terms, as well running not only in daylight but in the pitch black, would have seemed completely farfetched and ridiculous.

But on July 25th, as part of an inspirational Run JB team, we achieved that goal: not only taking part in the Cotswold 24 Hour Relay Race, but winning our group entry, achieving the first placed female team in any category, and overall 39th place out of 119 teams, beating many mixed gender as well as all male teams.

Credit for this achievement must go to Shona, who was confident, not only  that we should do it, but also that we could do it,  and  who, with gentle persuasion put together a team of eight Run JB members, of different ages and abilities, who thought they would give it a go.

The Cotswold 24 Hour Relay Race involves individuals or teams, running as many 9km circuits as they can in 24 hours. The setting is the lovely Bathurst Estate near Cirencester and the route takes you through beautiful Cotswold countryside, woods and roads. There is free camping with showers and ice baths, on site sports massage, and a central area with a 24 hour “healthy” food outlet, table and chairs, and a small stage for entertainment. However the hub is the start/finish line, where relay team members exchange their baton. We were each given a “timing chip” to lace to our trainers which recorded our progress and could be monitored on a live feed.

Our first runner was Amy who set off in lovely sunshine at midday. We cheered Amy out and were tremendously excited to cheer her back in a fantastic time, to pass the baton to Manda. And so we followed Shona’s running plan – Amy, Manda, Barbara, Emma, Emma, June, Jess, Shona - cheering everyone out and back, and keeping tabs on the times and kilometres covered. Jules kept us motivated and nourished (“Hydrate! Hydrate!”). Various friends, spouses and partners dropped by to offer their support. Musicians entertained us on the stage. Barbara did her warm up to a musical accompaniment in front of the crowd, and drew appreciative applause for her great moves! Emma got some great photos and uploaded them to Facebook as the event unfolded.

The course turned out to be more challenging than we thought- lots of long grass in the fields, quite a few hills, gravelly wooded areas and a long slow climb just before the finish. But it was quite beautiful, and our fellow runners were friendly and supportive. We got to recognise some of the other teams, in particular the arch rivals in our category - “The Crazy Chicks”!  Shona followed their progress, and initially they seemed faster, but soon we were alongside in terms of time/distance.

Even as it got dark team JB was cheering its relay runners out and back. Running at night was magical- head torches danced around in the darkness, overhead was a gorgeous canopy of stars, and the quiet and stillness was only broken by the breathing of another runner as you passed him or he passed you. Runners chatted with you and shared their reasons for being there and how or their team was coping.

With the coming of dawn, and despite tiredness, and lack of sleep, on we went. Sunday morning brought the rain, a downpour; we got drenched but kept running. By now we were getting excited about the possible result. And and sure enough, by Sunday midday, the race was over, we had covered 207km, and we had won.  We received our medals, and at 1pm, were presented with our winners’ trophies.

And while the result was a joy, by far the best part of this whole experience was being part of a wonderful, inspiring, supportive team – Run JB - the only team cheering their runners out and back, even at night, even in torrential rain. This is what made it possible.

It was an exhilarating experience- I shall never forget it. The feel good was so intense that I did not notice aches or pains, tiredness, lack of sleep, or even missing toenails!

And if you are reading this thinking, “I couldn’t do that” or “that’s not for me”, please reconsider- if I can do it, you can do it.

Plus, we need to challenge those Crazy Chicks again next year..... Go Team JB!

 
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Eight months ago I struggled to run a kilometre round the block, to run 10 of them was certainly out of the question…..or so I thought! I had previously completed the Couch to 5k with Run JB and decided to join the running club so I had people to run with. I had totally underestimated the effect it would have on my running and my self-belief. I started to build up my distance slowly on the continuous runs and even started to enjoy interval / fartlek training once I could see it was making me faster! I needed something to work towards so with a lot persuasion from Shona I entered the Calne 10k Clock Change Challenge.

Eeek the day of my first 10k race had arrived, Sunday 25th October. I woke early to ensure I had time to eat and digest my fuel for the race (porridge), but also because I was filled with nervous excitement and couldn’t sleep! It was a beautiful autumn day and the sun was shining. Bianca and I arrived in at Calne leisure centre an hour before the event where we met up with the rest of the gang; Shona, Manda, Emma W, Barbara, Emma H, and Amanda who guided us through the pre-race events of registering, fixing your number to your vest, warming up and the extremely important bathroom stop!

There was a real feeling of team spirit and excitement as the several hundred runners gathered at the start line. I placed myself at the back as my goal for this race was not time driven but to complete it. The horn sounded and we were off. Shona had insisted that it was a nice out and back route and as I got near the half-way point heading back to the finish line were Shona closely followed by Manda and Emma W; this was a great opportunity to cheer on others. What Shona had omitted when describing the course was the upcoming hill (or rather slight incline)!! However I was determined to run the whole 10k so the hill training technique kicked in and before I knew it I was coming down the other side having run past some runners who had stopped to walk!

I did not find this race easy and have never been so grateful to receive the jelly babies at 7K. The support from the marshals and organisers was great, but as I turned the corner into the field and approached the finish line I could hear the cheers from the crowd drowned out by the screams from Shona “go Sarah, fantastic running, you can do it”. At that point I knew I could complete it and the time suddenly became important, I could actually get under 1 hour 10 mins if I dug deep and sprinted……..

….…..after the race I collected my medal with pride and joined the rest of the Run JB gang. Our post-race debrief took place in Costa where we could re-fuel and await the official times………I did it 1 hour 9 mins and 56 seconds, what a great feeling. I had achieved what I thought was impossible, not only I had survived I had actually enjoyed it. I now have a 10K PB to beat and have entered the Reading Half in April next year!

Thanks to the amazing support of Shona, Jules and our Run JB community I had turned “I can’t” into “I can” and “I will” and you can too!

 

 

 
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Tagged in: 10k calne race review running
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Having never taken part in this event (or any other 10 mile race) I didn’t know what to expect...  the course was described online as ‘undulating’, which according to a running forum is code for mountainous / hilly, which was a bit terrifying after having already decided to register!  I needn’t have been scared though - the course was pretty steady (with the exception of a challenging incline  between miles 6 and 7) through lovely rural surroundings.  The course was an ‘out and back’ style route, which I liked, as the second half felt familiar and I also saw the faster runners heading back.  Markers were placed at each mile, which I found helpful when trying to keep a consistent pace and there was also a water station on the way out (and therefore back!).

I personally found the last 2 miles the most challenging because I hadn’t run for that long (time or distance) previously, however I will look forward to participating again next year as the event was well organised, with a friendly atmosphere from beginning to end.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking to increase their distance, or build it into their future half marathon training.  For me, I jumped from 10k straight to 10 miles and ached a lot the following day, so I would suggest thinking about this event enough in advance to build up to it gradually.

All in all, a great experience and a really enjoyable first Run JB event for me to be a part of!

 

 
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With exactly seven weeks to go until the Reading Half Marathon, those of you who have been following the Run JB training plan are looking forward to a recovery week. The concept may not be familiar to anyone new to endurance training, so here is our guide to the art of recovery.

Why is Recovery Important?

Recovery has both a physical and a psychological dimension. Physically, the reason we train is to stimulate a response in the body to adapt to the demands of the training regime. Our skeletal system needs to become stronger to cope with the frequency of impact on the joints. Training runs stimulate the creation of osteoblasts in the bones to form new bone tissue and increase bone density. This means that next time, we are able to run a little bit further. But this repair and strengthening process cannot happen whilst we run. It must occur afterwards whilst we are resting. A similar effect is in play with our muscles. Broken-down muscle tissue needs time to rebuild. Our body has a way of telling us that this needs to happen. Ever felt like you wanted to go straight to bed after a long run? Make sure you get an early night. The mind needs time to recharge as much as the body does. Psychologically, we need recovery days to prevent boredom and to prepare ourselves mentally for harder sessions. Motivating yourself for a hard tempo run or particularly long continuous run can be a lot easier if you know you have the next day off.

Active Recovery

Recovery is therefore crucial in order to achieve optimum performance. Without adequate recovery, the quality of your training runs will inevitably suffer. In practice, for most of us who work Monday to Friday, the weekend is the ideal time to do a long run. In this case, the following day (Sunday or Monday) is the ideal day to completely rest. If you really struggle with the thought of taking the day off completely, then you can use “active recovery”. Choose an activity with a focus on mobility, such as a short and easy swimming, Pilates or Yoga session. This will give the body a chance to recover whilst easing any sense of restlessness. During the working week, cross training is a great way to achieve an appropriate balance between training volume and intensity. The principle of specificity very simply dictates that your training needs to be specific to the demands of your goal. In other words, to get better at running you need to run regularly. However, by limiting the number of runs to three per week, you can use other forms of aerobic training to develop your cardiovascular fitness. One of the hugely beneficial aspects of triathlon training is that running, swimming and cycling make different demands on the muscular and skeletal systems. Alternating training sessions between the three disciplines therefore enables adequate recovery whilst maximising overall sustainable cardiovascular training volume.

What is a Recovery Week?

A recovery week is NOT a case of simply sitting on the couch for seven days! It simply involves reducing the overall volume of training for a week. This is relative to the volume to which the body has already become accustomed, so will vary significantly depending on the goal event. During the last recovery week of my ironman training, I swam 3 miles, biked 85 miles and run a total of 24 miles! This may not sound like an easy week, but it this still achieved the desired recovery objective at the time, because the body was already capable of meeting these demands without further adaptation. In general terms, a reduction in the overall volume of training of around a third is recommended to achieve the desired effect. The taper at the end of a training plan is an extension of the recovery week principle. It typically lasts two to three weeks, depending on the nature of the goal event. In the case of a half marathon, a two week taper is recommended and this has been integrated into the Run JB Reading Half Marathon training plan (look out for a further blog article on the taper in the upcoming weeks). Less is Sometimes More The main point I want you to take away from this article is that if you try to ignore the need for recovery, it will eventually be forced upon you through either illness or injury. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to recovery, as a particular individual’s capacity for training varies tremendously depending on their exercise background, experience level, work and home demands and lifestyle. However, remember that less is sometimes more. It is not always about training harder, but about training smarter.

 
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