How to Run Hard

How to Run Hard - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I am a total wuss when it comes to running hard. I worry about it hurting or getting hurt. I worry that I can’t hack it. I worry about not being fast enough, and because I worry I tend to skip the whole thing. I’d rather plod along at an easy pace for every run, safely in my comfort zone, content in the knowledge I’m not doing to experience too much discomfort. On the odd occasion when I do push it a little bit of me always holds back a bit, just in case.

This never used to be the case. I used to love pushing myself, but the ups and downs of the last few years took their toll and I started to doubt myself, deciding it was easier to stay in my comfort zone rather than go all out. Fear is a powerful emotion.

Effective training calls for a mix of efforts - easy runs, tempo runs and hard runs - which work together to help improve endurance and pace. If you’re skipping out on one of these elements (because you are a massive wuss) then you’re not going to get the most out of your training cycle. That’s ok, it’s ok to do what’s right for you, but if you’re not doing something because you are a massive wuss, well then you’re holding yourself back.

It’s time to stop with the excuses and do the work.

How to Run Hard - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

But how do you do that? For me it was an incremental treadmill test. Part of the L3 PT course is learning how to carry out fitness tests, and to learn you’ve got to do. I was terrified going into class last night knowing I’d be spending the evening pushing myself through max effort tests, especially in front of my very fit peers! But if you want something you sometimes have to boss up and do hard things, and that is exactly what I did. And you know what, it was exactly what I needed. It showed me how much I’d been cheating myself, and reminded me just how good pushing yourself to the limit feels!

It’s only once you know your limits that you can know how to push them, and a fitness test can be just the right sort of kick up the butt to get you motivated. The incremental treadmill test is a good one because it’s easy to do and it’s suitable for someone who runs fairly often.

How to Run Hard - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

What You’ll Need

It’s best to carry out this test on a treadmill because it allows you to increase the speed in a controlled way. You’ll also need a HR monitor, and maybe a friend to note down your stats (if you feel like you want to) and to give you some encouragement when things get hard.

What You’re Testing

The test is all about finding your ventilatory threshold, or the intensity above which your breathing becomes laboured, although if you’re using it to test how hard you can run (like I did), that aspect doesn’t matter so much. VT 1 is the point at which you achieve a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of around 13 (moderately hard) and VT2 is RPE 15 (hard) on the Borg Scale. MAX VT is the point where you can’t run another step.

How To Do It

Start out slow and work up gradually, increasing the pace ever 90s until you reach VT1. If a PT is carrying out the test they would record your heart rate with every increment, but if your doing the test yourself you can just record your heart rate when you reach RPE 13 (moderately hard). You should be keeping an eye on it throughout the test because it gives you a good indicator of whether your increments are on point.

Once you’ve hit VT1 keep upping the pace gradually every 90s until you reach VT2, or RPE 15 (hard). You don’t want to up your pace too quickly, so you’re only really looking to increase your heart rate by around 5bpm for ever increase, tricky to do but it’s worth taking your time. As before, record your heart rate when you hit VT2.

Now for the push to your max - you’re looking to hit RPE 20 - your maximal exertion. Keep going with the same gradual increase every 90s until you get to the point you can’t do any more. How far you can push will surprise you, and for me this was the point where I realised I could go much harder than I ever thought I could. It was the kick in the butt I needed.

How to Run Hard - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

There are lots of cool things you can do with the data you produce from this test around estimating your VO2 Max, but I’m not going to go into that here. For me this test is more about helping you realise how much you can push, rather than applying a metric to your fitness. I found that the structured environment, the monitoring and the encouragement from my classmates really helped me get over my fear of running hard, and sometimes that’s just what you need. A little kick in the butt.

Are you a wuss when it comes to pushing yourself? Are you going to try this test? Let me know in the comments below.

Want some inspiration on running faster? Check out this post.

images; Fordtography , shot during The Speed Project

Safety always comes first. If you are new to exercise ensure you seek advice from your GP. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, wear appropriate clothing and make sure any equipment you use is in good working order. Technique is paramount, and nothing should hurt. Should you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath etc, STOP and consult your GP.


Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting!

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting? - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals when it comes to sport performance. It plays a fundamental role in optimal muscle contraction, skeletal strength and energy production, as well as helping to sustain the high oxygen consumption that we need to perform. A growing number of studies suggest that magnesium is most effectively absorbed when applied to the skin (something called transdermal absorption) in comparison to taking it in pill or capsule form orally. That sounds really nerdy doesn’t it! Well let’s put it this way, applying a magnesium oil or gel to your legs will help you recover more quickly that popping a magnesium supplement each day. But there is one major drawback…IT STINGS LIKE HELL.

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting? - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

For ages I thought that it was just me who felt like their legs were on fire after applying magnesium, but chatting with other runners (which is pretty much all I do these days) I discovered that a lot of people have had the same experience, and it’s really putting them off doing something that’ll really benefit their bodies. Being someone whose job is essentially to ask ‘why’ a lot I really wanted to understand why topical magnesium stings so much, and whether there was anything I could do to stop the stinging, so I reached out to the team at BetterYou to ask some questions.

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting? - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

According to NPD Executive and Nutritional Expert, Keeley Berry, high dose magnesium can sting because it’s highly concentrated salt and it’s absorbed super quickly. While this has huge benefits when it comes to helping you recover, it can also mean that you’re left with a bit of residue on your skin which can cause some itching, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin (hands up!). Stinging or burning could also be a sign of magnesium deficiency, and when the skin is exposed to topical magnesium it can cause the blood vessels underneath the skin to dilate very quickly. This is because magnesium is a natural vasodilator and can cause the capillaries to increase in blood flow, also causing a tingling warming effect.

So that’s the science explaining why topical magnesium can sting, but what can you do about it? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • it’s always better to apply little and often to a larger surface area, especially if you’re just starting out with a magnesium oil.

  • the best way to avoid itchy residue to to apply gel or oil onto wet skin straight out of the shower. Warm water (not too hot!) helps open up the pores and allows the product to be absorbed more efficiently, especially when massaged into the skin. After a few minutes towel off any residual oil, which should help minimise any itching.

  • Noushii (the bad ass manager at City Athletic) suggests starting with the sensitive oil from BetterYou, it’s just a bit kinder if you have sensitive skin.

  • Try adding magnesium flakes to your bath, I’ve never experienced stinging, and who doesn’t like a good soak?! I like to add a couple of drops of essential oils too, just to make things a bit more lux.


Do you use topical magnesium? Do you find it stings? Any tips I’ve missed to stop the sting?!

* I reached out to BetterYou for comment, I have not received payment and the products features I purchased myself. My shoes were a gift from 361 Europe.

** images: Anna Rachel Photography


 





Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers

In collaboration with realbuzz.

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Like most runners I am obsessed with my trainers. I’m insanely lucky that I to get to try out loads of different shoes and I think that having the right shoes for the job is really important, whether it’s a pair of lighter shoes when you want to move quickly, something with some cushioning when you’re going far or a shoe that will protect your feet on the trails. But what’s even more important is that your shoes fit properly. Not only is a well fitting pair of trainers more comfortable to wear, they can also help prevent injuries spoiling all your fun.

One thing that can really affect how your shoes fit is how you lace them up. I don’t know about you, but I feel a huge difference if my laces are too tight or too loose. In fact before most races I can be found obsessively fiddling with them making sure that everything is just right! Lacing my shoes a particular way has a big impact on how comfortable my shoes are, and I was intrigued to hear from Louise Damen, a former GB athlete and realbuzz running expert, just how lacing techniques and patters can help resolve shoe related problems. Check out her advice below, and let me know if any of the tips work for you!

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog
Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Toe problems

This technique allows you to create more space at the front of your trainer known as the toe box. It will help you to avoid unsightly and painful black toenails as well as other toe issues.

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog




Shoes too tight

A good way to combat this problem is by using parallel lacing to loosen up the pressure. It will allow the top of the foot to have more room while still ensuring there is enough support.

 

 

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

High arches

You can minimise pressure on the top of your foot by feeding laces vertically through selected eyelets. Everyone’s feet are different though, so experiment which ones work best for you.

 

 

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog




Wide forefoot

If you’ve got a wide forefoot there are ways you can open up the shoe. This can be done by using vertical lacing further down to give that part of your foot plenty of room while you run.

 

 

 

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

Narrow feet

For narrow feet the best lacing technique is the criss-cross. This pattern is the best and most effective way to tighten the shoe for this type of foot.

 

 

Expert Tips for Lacing Your Trainers - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Heel slipping

Create a more compact fit to not only keep your heel in place but to reduce friction and minimise wear in the back of the shoe.

* This post is in collaboration with realbuzz. Images: Max Willcocks for 361 Europe.