Tuesday, January 1, 2019

6 Steps to Successful New Year's Resolutions

The New Year is here. Well, new Year's Eve is. For many it's customary to make New Year Resolutions . Like us they come in all shapes, sizes, expectations and speeds. It may be time for a change. Or, time to freshen up. Perhaps do something new. 

Some are serious, some fun. Some last a day, some a week. Yet, at some time your resolve, or your 'stickability' will be tested.
Follow these 6 Keys to Successful New Year Resolutions and follow to improve your resolve and ‘stickability’ through 2019.
1. Resolve: Accept that you’ll have good and bad moments and days. You’ll fall off the wagon. Get back on. Resolve to start again this afternoon, or tomorrow. You’re human. Humans make errors. It’s okay. When you repeat the same error then you’ve made a mistake. Giving up at the first or second hurdle is a mistake. Nothing good in life comes easily. Don’t look for short-cuts for in the end they will disappoint you. 

2. Make a Plan: Hope is good thing when it’s in your heart, but is tough if you’re blinded by it. Habits and routines are the foundation of most things you’d like to change – hence your resolution(s). A plan provides direction and guidance. Explore strategies to uncover your routines and habits. Try or create ways to reinforce new habits when working to break the cycle of past habits. Take a new outlook and new approach to an old resolution. Craziness is often said to be trying to get different results from the same (unsuccessful) ways.

3. Break it Down: Break your plan into more manageable objectives or goals, and smaller periods of time. Focus upon one or two core elements; many others will then fall into place. Focus for a day, then another; then a week, then another. Aim to progress over time, not all the time. Stack your moments, and days and success
4. Team Up: Do your homework. Talk with many, follow few. Work with your spouse/partner, coach or mentor, and squad members. Express your resolution as something you ‘want’ to do, not ‘need’ nor ‘have’ to do. You’re more likely to find support when those important to you understand it is something you want to do. Knowing it’s valued; rather than a compulsion or burden helps. If you usually find your own way, it may be time to consider a training partner, a coach or a squad.
5. Make it public: Promise yourself. Write it down. Write a blog. Construct a FB page. Tweet or Insta it. Follow up. Yet not every detail every minute every day. The glory is yours. Keep it that way for the most part. And, honestly, no-one really wants to know what you ate for breakfast, how many kilometres you cycled, or what café you’re at right now.  N-o o-n-e !

6. Build in success: Reward your progress along the way. Achieve smaller goals with mini steps along your journey. Focus on what you do to achieve each step rather than the final outcome. Graph it, tabulate it, draw it, paint or photograph it. Make a collage. Put it on the fridge. Have a t-shirt made: Front: “I made a resolution…”. Back:  “It wasn’t easy. I showed resolve. Success.”

All the best for 2019 !

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Periodisation - it's alive and kicking butt!

Periodisation Is alive, well and kicking butt!

Because its been alive for milllenia.

1980, 1984 and 1988 bought strangers into our house.
Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram, Daley Thompson, Edwin Moses, Said Aouita, Carlos Lopes, Nadia Comenici, Mary Lou Rhetton, Joint Benoit, and Linford Christie ran, jumped, twisted and threw their way into my heart via a lounge-room TV. They also sparked a fire. 
Locals Gary Honey*, Darren Dlark, Glynnis Nunn, Debbie Flintoff-King, Patt Scammel, Mike Hillardt & Maree Holland fuelled a dream.

Plato, quoted by a TV commentator, got me reading about Ancient Greek lifestyle, the place and importance of exercise, and the practice of athletes preparing for events like the original Olympics.  I saw snippets of the world through the lenses and of Plato, Socrates. Herodotus. Hippocrates, Galen & Philoglatus.

I didn't know it at the time yet Socrates, Herodotus' The Histories, Jame's Fixx's The Second Book Of Running (1978), Percy Cerrutty's In Sport & Life (1967), and Ken Cooper's Running Without Fear (1985) began to mould me a student of Periodisation in 1985 at 19 years old.

I'm still a student of it ... in 2018 at a young 52.

Is Periodisation dead? Not for me.
Far from it.
And not for others.  I doubt it is for you.

Late high school was a battle-ground for me, especially the prescribed 'texts' in senior English. Reading was hard-work. 
I was slow. I read words and sentences. 
I looked for meaning in visual information. Pictures, graphs and tables became friends. Running and drawing had been allies since 1980. I savoured their solace, speed and security.

That said, I did learn the difference between a noun (naming word) and verb (doing word). I think. 

Experience, trial-and-error, the insights, perspectives and opinions of others, and not to mention insight and perspectives from outside the world of sports-preparation have come to help me understand, refine and apply the process of periodisation.
 Understanding, refining and applying periodisation is still a living, ecological, and fluid learning curve.

Scholinsky's Track and Field: Based on Experience and Scientific Research in Sport in the German Democratic Republic (1983), and Tudor Bompa's first edition (1983) Theory & Methodology of Training: They Key to Athletic Performance had me dream, draw, dissect and disseminate yearly or annual training plans. Only obtained in the early 2000s, Harre's (1982) Principles of Sports Training and Matveyev's (1981) Fundamentals of Sports Training influenced me too.

I still have some. They were prescriptions. On reflection, they're embarrassing. Yet they were a start. And they're indicative of the growth process associated and implicit in periodisation.  
For starters, Periodisation is a noun (name, n) given to a PROCESS (verb, v)

Through 20-teens lenses, understanding (v) periodisation's organic, fluid, chaotic and agile nature as a process is paramount to feeling (v) its pulse, valuing (v) its consciousness, following (v) its principles, and being guided (v) by the lessons of it's trials, tribulations, tributaries and tests. These are vital to understanding it's life and how it lives and breathes.

Periodisation is the process of doing (v), so understanding (v) any of definition is important to application (v).

A training book, on-line blog, e-program, on-line 6-week training program or prescription, an excel spread-sheet and a google-share documents as "annual plans" are NOT periodised programs. They're products, and prescriptions.   

I learnt this the hard way through the 1990s. I had great opportunities with good people and good contexts to learn more about and through it during the 200os.
And, I'm still learning about it. You may have, or are learning too.
Learning implies life, not death.

In essence the process of periodisation - not it's final products or outcomes - has FIVE inter-related components:

(1) DIVIDING (v) a given time period whether multi-year, LTAD, year, season into manageable (v) phases/blocks/cycles of time

(2) MANAGING (v) acute and accumulated/ongoing and cumulative training & competition load/stress

(3) APPLYING (v) common sense and fundamental training principles such as progression, overload, individualisation, specificity, and variety

(4) WORKING (v) with people - their nuances an anomalies - not sports, programs nor prescriptions, and

(5) MOULDING time constraints, restraints and variants.

In reference to (1) Dividing - if you talk, think, write, blog, report, discuss, dream or wonder about any of the following, periodisation IS ALIVE for you too:

  • multi-year, Olympic cycle, World Championship cycle, Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD), youth development; beginner-, novice-, intermediate-, advanced-athletes; generalisation versus specialisation; early- and latter-age sports
  • yearly**; seasonal; Winter and Summer, Autumn and Fall/Spring competitions; Indoor vs Outdoor seasons
  • preparation, competition, transition phases
  • pre-season, in-season, off-season
  • phases, blocks, cycles, macrocycles, mesocycles, microcycles, units
  • general, specific and special phases/cycles, and exercises
  • loading, maintaining, stabilising, unloading, accumulating, intensifying phases/blocks or cycles
  • preparatory, base, build, taper, peak blocks/phases/cycles or weeks
  • 5-day, 6-day, 7-day, 9-day cycle (but not 8)
  • they're all the same process - just different terms for given or defined periods of time (5) with different variables to manage, prioritise and coach

    ** Bompa's (1983) definition around the year or annual plan is often the central tenet for criticising periodising or declaring it dead. That's a limited foundation for critique, and a narrowed bias. His literal definition (see below) - yet neither his premise nor process - mentions peaking for the major competition(s) of the year. More-or-less important competitions are discussed. Of course, it's only one small aspect of his and similar works (Harre 1982; Matveyev 1977, 1981).

    Recent critiques - and good ones too - highlight shortcomings to this annual/yearly (only) focus. Competitions are held more frequently, some athletes/teams or play in various competition on various continents all year, and that all games/competitions carry more weight not just finals' series, international or national championships. Sponsorship and greater TV coverage and audiences sees more money and associated values and behaviours (incl gambling) placed upon winning. 

    It's accurate to say that different strategies are required. It's incorrect to suggest that the principles  and process of periodisation don't. The stress of training and competition is still being managed (see (2) below).

    Similarly with new, popular and very well financed sports preparation processes, technologies and personnel different approaches and 'systems' can be used. And, recent insights into the systematic sports-doping systems of the late 1970s and 1980s (during such works) has been eye-opening.

    All true, yet the principles and process of periodisation remain - alive.

    In reference to (2) MANAGING the competition and training load - if you talk, think, write, blog, report, discuss, dream or wonder about any of the following, periodisation IS ALIVE for you too:
    • loading, unloading, holding a load, maintenance load, peaking load, recovery load training load, recovery load, individual loads, squad loads, competition load, tissue load
    • complexity, density, volume, intensity; volume of intensity
    • submaximal, maximal, supra-maximal
    • aerobic, aerobic-anaerobic, anaerobic-aerobic, anaerobic
    • stress, stressor, eustress, distress
    • external load, internal load; inertial load
    • distance, speed, pace, effort, watts, power, zones, units, lactate levels, perceived exertion, ratings of perceived exertion
    • acute, immediate, delayed, chronic, accumulated
    • complementary, supplemetnary; primary, secondary, tertiary, accessory
    • polarised, accumulated, intensified, ad-hoc, intuitive loads
    • rolling load, acute load, chronic or accumulated load, rolling monthly load, acute: chronic training load ratio
    • attractors, facilitators, fluctuators, components, systems 
    • ecological, sustainable, renewable, adaptable, fluid, symbiotic
    • overtraining, over-reaching, under-training
    • monitoring, recording, testing, evaluating, modifying, diarising, journalling
    • RHR, HRR, HRV submaxHR, MaffHR, HR-zone/s
    • above-, at-, below-threshold
    • etc

    • they're all part of the same process - just different terms or strategies for managing components or categories of, or the total exercise (training and competition) load or stress at a given point in time or over time (5) with different variables to manage/change and coach for individuals (4)
     In reference to (3) APPLYING common sense and fundamental training principles and - if you talk, think, write, blog, report, discuss, dream or wonder about any of them periodisation IS ALIVE for you too:
    • progression; easy to hard, simple to complex, known-to-unknown, isolation to integration; slow to fast; internal to external paced 
    • overload, progressive, overload, over-loading, under-loading, load over time, progress
    • specificity, simulation, specific, specifics; complex, simple
    • variety. varied, variation/s
    • repetition, repeat, practise/practice, training
    • individuality, N=1, individualisation, genetic-ceiling;  non-responders, slow responders, responders
    • reversibility, use-em-or-lose-em
    • like (1)' and (2) the basic or fundamental principles of training are an inherent part of the same process. They're the guidelines or rules by which loads are applied to individuals over-time to cause adaptation and improve performance (levels) over time (5) with different variables to manage/change and coach for individuals (4)

    Periodisation has become the sales-pitch and marketing-tool and, conversely, scratching-pole and punching-
    bag for many over the last 12-15 yers. It's broader process and principles have been bastardised. mass-marketed, prescribed and sold through the "fitness industry" as "training systems of the Russians/Germans/Bulgarians", especially weight-training, weight-lifting and body-building. And, on reflection, more recently to age-group and recreational runners, cyclists, and triathletes (to mention a few).

    This has been paralleled with new technologies, the internet, the 'explosion' of more and more reductionist thinking sport-scientists, increased budgets and staff of (professional) spots teams and their coaching department, and a greater number and easier access to sport-science and sport-analytics type courses.

    None of these are a problem in themselves. Apart from the notion that often it's hard to see the forrest for the tress. Or, in other words, many have come to major in the minors. when you do this, you lose sight of the bigger-picture or the process of periodisation and focus predominantly on the miniscule aspects associated with load or stress in small time frames (like day-to-day, session-to-session, inter-set rests, or debating over choosing 2 of 18 exercises for the hamstrings).

    When you major in the minors you worry about your next breath (next set, next session), and lose perspective on the wonders of life and living (the people/athletes around you, getting better, and getting better at getting better).

    In simple terms, periodisation is a process. It'a verb. It's something you constantly engage with  and do. The engagement is its life.

     **"Periodisation is a process of dividing the annual plan into smaller phases of training in order to allow a program to be set into more manageable segments, and to ensure a correct peaking for the main competition(s)....achieved progressively over a long period of time...the  methodology of developing skills, strategical maneuvres and biomotor abilities  also require this special approach..." (Bompa 1983, pp.132-133)

    * I was fortunate (well, sort of) to spend some time in hospital beside Gary Honey in 1986.  I was having my first o (of four) Morton's neuromas removed. He was having surgery on an oesto-arthritic first MTP (big toe joint). AS a 20yo I felt blessed to meet him and talking training and international competition.

    Sunday, July 29, 2018

    "A better pacing strategy for my daughter...?"

    "After state cross country finals I realised my daughter picks out a runner and paces off them and passes them at the end.
    This works for her at regional level as she knows who will stretch her but in the crush at the start of a state final she loses them and chooses someone else. (Ironically with a similar coloured uniform). I was wondering if you had good tips for teaching her to pace herself ?

    How old is your daughter* ?

    If she's less than 12yo, here are some general principles to consider.

    As a premise, she's about to go through "series and serious" physical, emotional and social changes. Maintaining an interest in sport and running through these, and developing "skills" that lay a foundation for future running or recreational sport, I'd recommend as the key "strategy".

    Firstly, big picture or long term. Develop your daughter as a better young person and athlete first - participating in different sports, running & athletic events for overall physical, skill, mental (incl. attitude, effort, resilience), social and 'sportsmanship' development. Even include swimming & gymnastics here.

    Secondly, develop her as a better overall runner over the next few years - using different seasonal approaches and events (incl relays), surfaces, terrains, locations, and fun-based jumping, hopping and skipping. And, importantly, keep speed games as part of the mix.

    These help develop stride-variability too, which:
     (a) will hold her in better stead for running or future run-based sports (see below), 
     (b) develops an economical/efficient & adaptable stride, 
     (c) will reduce injury risk, and 
     (d) will help maintain interest/motivation. 

    Keep her away from repetitive and serious run-training and any specific run-race strategies. At 'this age' it's more important to develop her overall ability/s and keep her interested in running/sport/athletics. Think about developing a broad-spectrum of sport/run-related habits and habits-of-mind. She'll be able to draw on these later if she decides to (continue to) run. 

    Thirdly, I wouldn't be concerned about her current race strategy/s - especially if she's color attaching herself to "yellow-and-black" (hehe).

    If she stays in the sport long enough and begins to specialise by, say 16yo, then consider different pacing AND racing strategies (they're not the same things). These can be developed through training, events and races.

    I hope your daughter is having a blast and that you're enjoying seeing her enjoy herself :-)

    *ps. so happens that the young girl is 11 years old

    Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    The Simple Way(s) to Run Better...

    1 Key, 3 Tips and 8 Steps to becoming a better, faster runner:

    The Key: run

    Tip 1: run
    Tip 2: run regularly and consistently
    Tip 3: run with good mechanics, technique & form

    Step 1: basics are best
    Step 2: run
    Step 3:  run with good mechanics, technique & form
    Step 4: run regularly & consistently
    Step 5: run fast, at times
    Step 6: get strong
    Step 7: stay injury free
    Step 8: recover

    Forget the tricks, they can be traps. Basics are best, so do them well. Get out the door, and run.

    No level of wishing, hoping and dreaming and goal-setting will ever replace good ol’-fashioned run-training: in the sun, wind, hail and rain; over hills, grass, sand, trail and varied terrain; sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and in between, priority not last; leave the gadgets, forget the numbers, get out there; think, immerse and do - as athletes, as runners.

    Saturday, March 31, 2018

    How To Know If You're Successful As a Runner

    Success as a runner – like runners – comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and speeds. 

    Some measure success by:

    • speed or pace - a faster 5km, a quicker mile, a PB (personal best)
    • more distance - completing a longer race, maintaining a speed over more distance
    • comparisons:
      •  importantly, by comparing your own progress
      • with gender and age-group
      • with training partners, work-mates or family and friends
      • with a race of the same distance, in the same conditions
      • with the same race the week, more or year before
    • numbers - statistics, data, charts, graphs and tables
    •  gadgets
    Some measure their success by feel, perception and sense; and, through and by common-sense.

    Some measure success by finishing medals, places and results others by having the courage to begin.

    Some perceive success as survival; others longevity, sustainability, or performance.

    The runner young in years often sees success through comparison to others.  To those wiser it comes through self reflection and introspection. Numbers can lie. The mirror does not.

    How YOU measure your success will depend upon:
    • how long you've been running for: 
      • newbies and novices it can be as simple as beginning to run, or running for 2-3 weeks, or running their first continuous 1km, mile or 5km (without stopping or walking)
      • those running for 2-5 years it can be in distance, speed, course type, or accumulated sessions or days (ie. a streak), kms/miles 
      • running beyond 5 years, and the rapid improvements have slowed, running success is now measured in maturity - how you think about what you do, what you do about it, how you seek advice, and further progress, and your approach to progress over time not all time
    • what you think being a better runner is -your perceptions, beliefs and biasses
    • how your experiences of, by and through running and the reasons why you continue (to run) change, morph, materialise, crystallise and help you self-actualise
    To some the success appears to come by, through and running with others. 

    Ultimately, your success as a runner comes from you - your expectations, your choices, beliefs and, most importantly, your actions. 

    How much of that success you experience, and others see, is your ultimate running journey.

    To me, you're successful as a runner if you're (still) on the runner's journey, and are learning more about yourself as a runner, as an athlete and as a person. 

    And that each step, like the very first steps you took, gets you a step closer to your own "better place".

    Saturday, August 27, 2016

    Physiological Capacity: Run Fitness - Part 2.

     In Part 1 we looked briefly at how your body's systems need to be able to work together to allow you to to get out to run, get to the start-line of a race and the, if it's your goal, to get to the finish-line as easily and fast as possible.

    The Key…Optimal Fitness…

    Optimal means ‘enough to get the job done’. No more, no less.
    It doesn’t mean maximal, nor flat-out.

    At rest, optimal means maintaining basal or minimal levels to survive.
    During training, optimal relates to elevated or raised levels of performance to complete and achieve the goal(s) of the session, or a series of sessions (in a day, week, cycle, block and/or phase).  
    In a race, optimal equates to maximal maintainable speed, and minimal managed fatigue.

    Your fitness - bottom-line - is how well you are prepared to complete a given task.
    Whether for podium, performance, participation, prestige or pride: completing your first 5 minute jog, a 5km Park Run, a cross-country or trail race, or marathon all require similar capacities, yet each requires different fine-tuning – that is, different (run-relative) fitness.

    Being a “good” runner is relative. For example, breaking the 30, 25 & 20 minute barriers is “good” for many, and is a measure of progress for others. Running 5km in 15 minutes isn’t close to good at higher (age-dependent) levels, and won’t qualify you for state, national or international championships.

    Of course, if your initial fitness is low (and you can’t run 5km to begin with), improving it will likely help you with the physical and mental capacity to attempt or complete longer (run) distances.

    In this sense, optimal fitness is relative – to individuals, to event, and to age.

    Your body lets you build fitness – or prepare you to complete (run) tasks - in two ways:

    (1) responses: sudden, temporary changes in function caused by exercise. These functional changes diminish after exercise. Responses relate to acute, single bouts of exercise – a run, a training session, or a race

    (2) adaptations: more-or-less permanent changes in structure and function following training – repeated or chronic bouts of exercise. They allow your body to respond more easily during and after future sessions. Adaptations bring about structural and functional changes that have effects at rest, and during sub-maximal and maximal efforts. Adaptations make your initial loads or sessions easier, and build your maximal aerobic power and capacity – or ability to go faster and/or longer.

    Ultimately, to improve performance you need to challenge your mind, body and skills – challenge it’s plasticity, or ability to change or adapt.

    You run. You run regularly. You train. Your body’s physiological systems will alter their function (respond) in anticipation of, during and after each session. Over time, through repeated sessions their structure alters (thanks to nifty mechanical, chemical and genetic signaling systems) and, unless loaded inappropriately, function improves. Stop training and, at different rates, the improvements return towards their initial levels – you detrain.

    Regular running optimises your body’s function in relation to (future) running, and maybe a few other tasks. Specific training optimises it for specific events and performance levels.

    Depending upon your starting point, time-frames and goals optimizing your running (and training) can be see as optimising your energy and work.

    These are the focus of part 3.