Positively Unstoppable Challenge Update

So the six month positively unstoppable challenge has come to an end. You can read more about what the challenge is and why I signed up to it in my first post on this topic.

I set myself two challenges. The first was to run a half marathon. Admittedly I was confident I could achieve this goal because I’ve run many a half marathon and although it had been a four year absence, I knew the exact steps to take to get race fit. I completed this goal in April by running the Star Wars Virtual half-marathon, which you can read about here.

The second challenge I set myself was to be able to do the side splits. There are benefits to flexibility and the side splits just looks cool. This challenge was the harder of the two. I’ve never been able to do a side split. I failed to hit this goal, but I saw small progress none the less. I used the length of my yoga mat to measure progress. My yoga mat is 216cm long and with my left foot at one end, my right foot was 40cm away from the other end in January. By February my foot was 31cm away from the edge of the mat, so a quick improvement initially. By June, I was 27cm away from the edge of the mat, my progress has slowed considerably. The lesson I learned is that my plan was relatively sound, but the timescale I set was wrong, 6 months was enough for me. I’m resetting my expectations to 12 months and carrying on independently of the Unstoppable Challenge. The goal itself has become more important to me than the Unstoppable Challenge. Maybe thats the point of challenge, set a goal, pursue it for 6 months, and its borderline impossible to not see progress. Once you’ve seen that slow and steady progress you’ll likely carry on and see what the next 6 months bring.

27cm away from the edge of the mat, down from 40cm in January

The plan now is to keep my running fitness at a high enough level that it won’t be such a challenge to get race fit again, and to carry on with my side splits training and measure progress again after another 6 months.

Race Review: Star Wars Rival Run

2016 was the last time I ran a half marathon, it was in Disneyland Paris and you can read about it here. I wanted to run one last year but the pandemic hit and nearly everything was cancelled so I decided to wait until the pandemic passed. Here we are in 2021 still in the pandemic and I couldn’t wait anymore. Many races have switched to a virtual model anyway so it was just a matter of picking one to lock in a date, and start training for that goal.

Completing another half-marathon after a 4 year absence is also part of my DDPY Positively Unstoppable Challenge which you can read more about here.

I picked the Star Wars Rival Run. I thought it sounded fun because its Star Wars and its non location specific. I’ve see virtual runs advertised for actual cities, for example, run the virtual London / Copenhagen / Paris marathon, and get a medal posted to you for said run with the cities landmarks on it. If I’m going to get a medal with city landmarks on it, I want to have run in that city. Star Wars seemed like a better alternative.

In 2012 I ran my first ever half-marathon and I did it in a time of 2 hours and 5 seconds. I’ve only once completed a half-marathon in under 2 hours. This time around, based on my training, I thought father time was catching up with me. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. While training I had run 12.5 miles in 2 hours and 23 minutes and I ran 14 miles in 2 hours and 35 minutes. I was sure that come race day I’d finish roughly around 2 hours and 30 minutes, my slowest ever time.

But no. The week of the race I made some changes to see if I could improve my time. And the changes worked. I ran the Star Wars Rival Run on April 18th, in a time of 2 hours, 5 mins and 33 seconds. I’m pretty pleased with that time. I trained for 15 weeks, following the same training pattern I have for all the half-marathons I’ve run. Two 30min runs during the week, and a gradually increasing distance run at the weekend. What changes did I make that could have me cross the finish line 25mins sooner than expected? Heres what I did:

More Rest

I normally exercise 7 times a week across 6 days, with one rest day. On race week, I had two rest days in the two days before the race to allow myself to fully recover.

Change the time

I usually run late at night after the kids are in bed. On race day I set off earlier, at 1.30pm.

Change the location

I normally run in the areas surrounding my house. I ran the actual race in the much more scenic and enjoyable Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Virtual Water Breaks

It occurred to me that on my long training runs, I ran the entire time. In a normal race, I’d walk through the water stations, which gives you a short bit of recuperation time. So I decided to walk for 60 seconds every 3 miles, as if I were at a water station.

All of the above made a huge impact. Its crazy how a few variables, none of them running related as such, could so drastically change my finish time. In sum, it was a fun race to do and it was nice to have a specific date to aim for to help keep focus. I did miss the excitement of a “live” race and I look forward to the day we can do those again. Now all I have to do is wait for my Yoda medal to arrive in the post. “Do or do not, there is no try”

Positively Unstoppable Challenge Update

Short blog post this time. I’m doing a six month Positively Unstoppable Challenge with the goals to run a half marathon, and to do the side splits. Part of the challenge is not just to think it, but ink it. The founder of the challenge, DDP, attributes some of his own success to writing down his goals (ink it). Something about the process of writing it down holds you accountable, and makes you more likely to succeed. I’m using this blog to “ink it.”

The half marathon prep is coming along nicely. Two 30 minute runs during the week and a gradually increasing distance run at the weekend. I’m up to 8miles now.

My other goal, to do the side splits, is also progressing in the right direction. As a starting point I tried to do the splits and made a chalk outline of where the edge of my foot was, which you can see below. That serves as a base to measure against. I’ve had to adjust the way I measure because my feet seem to turn outwards the lower I get so for my update I just drew a chalk outline around my foot and measured from the middle of my foot instead of the outside. I was 40cm away from the edge of the mat, I’m now 31cm away from the edge of the mat.

What goals have you set for yourself. Have you inked it, are you measuring it, are you holding yourself accountable?

A tale of two races

My new Vivobarefoot shoes arrived today. Its mad to think that they are the only brand of shoe I wear. Minimalist shoes have really helped strengthen my feet and ankles. Running has become low impact and pain free. As an example, I give you a tale of two races.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2012

  • I had a standard pair of Nike running shoes, nice big soles on them
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • I ran the half marathon in 2hrs and 5 seconds.
  • My knees were in agony. I hobbled back to the hotel.
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. With my knees too sore to actually walk around, I spent most of the day on a bench people watching, envious of the other runners I saw with ice packs strapped to their knees, “clever” I thought

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2014

  • Between this race and the last I had learned to run with a professional running coach (yes, running is a skill that has to be learned) and on their advice I now wore Vivos, a minimalist shoe
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • Ran the half marathon in 2hrs, 9mins and 24 seconds.
  • I felt fine and walked back to the hotel
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. I spend the day in park, went on all the rides and had great day

If you have 9mins to spare, the below video from Vivobarefoot is a great watch.

Benefits of Running

Running has been a big casualty of becoming a Dad. Running is not something you can do in the vicinity of your children, unlike say, yoga, because its not stationary. And going for a run is nicest during the day, but during the day is when you want to spend time with your kids. After everyone has gone to bed, and its dark outside, I’m less inclined to go for a run. I ran for a bus today and not that it was hard, but it wasn’t as easy as it has been.

I’ve run a few 10k’s in recent times but the last half-marathon I ran was in 2016. How is it already 2020? I’d like to get half-marathon fit again this year so I think I’ll go search for a race that I can take part in.

Theodosius Dobzhansky stated, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. And we have evolved to be endurance athletes. The homo sapien is very much the running ape. Running is the most species specific exercise there is. In 1984 the Stanford Runners Study took 538 runners, and 423 non-runners that were otherwise healthy to use as a control group. All 961 people were over 50. Twenty years later the running group had a 20% lower mortality rate and a 50% lower disability rate than the control group of non-runners.

The benefits of running include:

  • Stronger heart
  • improved circulatory system
  • improved immune system
  • better muscular – skeleton system
  • improved digestion

Lace up and get out there.

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New Vivos ready for 2020

 

 

Can you feel the ground beneath your feet?

Below is a video by Klaus Sports Chiropractic showing the effect shoes have on the newest walkers. Aside from being ridiculously cute, the video shows that shoes take away propreception. The soles of your feet are very sensitive to touch because they have a high concentration of nerve endings, similar to your hands, tongue, and nose. When this poor kid had all the sensory input from their feet blocked off with thick shoes, they had no sense of their body position in relation to the ground. I love how they tried to take the shoes off! – an obvious solution.

At the same time that the above video made its way into one of my feeds, so too did the below picture of some running shoes. I mean honestly, they look almost nothing like a human foot, its like its designed to impede movement. You won’t get much sensory inout from these. Walking around barefoot is not practical, but we need to move away from these massive soles, they don’t help human movement and we end up adapting our natural human movement to suit the shoe, rather than the shoe suiting human movement. Once you’ve gone far enough down the massive sole path you’ll have forgotten your natural running gait (it can be re-learned) and you’ll have to buy shoes like the ones below, to help solve the problems that you created by wearing shoes like the ones below, its a vicious cycle.

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Lets make sure you can feel nothing

 

Race Review : KBC 10k Halloween Night Run

I haven’t taken part in an organised run since I did the Virgin Media Night Run in April 2017. I still run regularly, but running in events has been the big casualty of becoming a Dad, its just hard to find the time to stick to a full training plan in order to be able to safely take part in running events.

I was informed of the KBC Halloween Night Run with lots of advance notice, so I had time to create and stick to a full training plan. It felt good to make running the priority in my training schedule again. I felt that getting race fit again elevated all my training. I felt generally healthier, or as John Tarrent refers to it, “the magnificent feeling of well being”.

As for the race itself, it was well organised. Sign up was done easily online and race numbers were available for collection the day before the race and on race day. There was also a well managed and supervised bag drop.

The Halloween theme made for a fun race. Not everyone opted to dress up but there was a few people in costumes. I went for a running friendly Thor costume. Fair play to the person in the inflatable t-rex costume. It was an interesting course, around a GAA pitch and out onto the beach in Sandymount. I don’t think I’ve ever run in a beach race before. The full moon added to the atmosphere. There was one bottleneck at the switchback where runners had to pass single file, this was annoying as you had to stop running and walk through, and it would be the first thing I’d try to change if the organisers run this event and course again.

The course was 5km long, and those doing the 10k ran a second lap. There was a huge drop out rate after the first lap which made for a lonely second lap, I’m glad I was running with a group.

Overall, my criteria for a successful race, whether running alone or in a group: have fun, run as fast as you can, but as slow as you need to, and finish the race with enough left in the gas tank to be able to run another mile. This was a successful race and definitely worth running.

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Race completed

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Superhero landing

cof
Nice medal

 

What shoes should I be wearing

“Get out of those corsets, they’re killing you”

– Catherine Beecher

Catherine Beecher lived during the 19th century and is mostly know as a proponent of education for women. The quote above is directed towards physical health rather than education. In Catherines time, corsets were tight, and designed to hold and shape the torso of women into a more desirable, aka fashionable, shape. Without question, these 19th century corsets were not good for your health. Using an item of clothing to re-shape your body to something other than its natural shape is a bad idea.

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 14.57.57

Today I’d say, “get out of those shoes, they’re killing you“. Shoes started out as a means to protect your feet, and your feet do need protection. But we’ve flattened our world. Gone are the rough and rugged terrains we used to wander, replaced by flat footpaths and flat floors. Even as the ground beneath our feet has gotten flatter, the soles on our shoes have gotten larger. How much protection do you need from a flat surface?

The modern shoe is not a functional item, its a fashion item, and it re-shapes your foot to something other than its natural shape in the name of aesthetics. Most day to day footwear is harmful. Men have it bad, women have it worse, high heels anyone?

Most running shoes are harmful too. Gift wrapping your feet in fully padded, air pumped trainers will disrupt the natural biomechanics of your run and do harm to more than just your feet, it will ricochet upwards to your knees and hips.

The new normal is to have shoe shaped feet, instead of feet shaped shoes. This needs to change. The number one priority of your shoes should be function, not fashion. If you’re interested, these are what I wear. These guys also make nice children’s shoes, Anna and Paul

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Feet shaped shoes or shoe shaped feet

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Took this from NatGeo’s insta page – an Ashaninka Indian. Human feet shaped by nature

 

A failed Race Review

“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live”

– Jim Rohn

Last year I signed up the Glen to Glen Half Marathon. I had a date clash so I wasn’t able to take part but the organiser , in a very kind gesture, allowed me to defer my entry. When I saw the 2018 race date go live I decided I’d take part. My big training casualty since having a baby was long distance runs. The last half-marathon I did was the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in 2016. To get race fit I started training 17 weeks before race day, which equals 51 runs in total.

My training started well. Unfortunately pressures at work and at home, combined with some freakishly bad weather put a halt to my training for just over 3 weeks. I had a 17 week training plan but I would have preferred 18 weeks. Adding in the missed weeks of training brought my prep time down from a desired 18 weeks, to a mere 14 weeks. And not 14 consecutive weeks, 14 broken weeks. I decided that this wasn’t enough time. You have to gradually condition yourself for long races. I’ve taken part in Half Marathons were people have died. You can’t enter a half marathon in some European countries without a doctors cert to say you are capable. Improperly trained and you could drop dead (worst case) or do long term wear and tear damage to your body (best case). Always, always, always train appropriately for a long race. Unfortunately this is one race I won’t be taking part in. Be aware of what you can do, what you will be able to do in time, and what you can’t do right now. Don’t try and smash through your limitations, gradually push back your limitations with consistent training. There are no quick wins.

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I can’t run in this

 

 

Glimpse into my training

I’m often asked what exercises I do. I take it as a compliment. For someone in their 30’s with a 9 to 5 desk job I’m in reasonably good shape. But the answer is never straight forward, I do lots of things, and when my answer gets more complicated than, “this is leg day, this is chest day”, I think people stop listening. So I decided to capture a typical two weeks of my training in the below 3 mins and 30 second video. I try to keep my workouts varied and interesting. Across the 2 weeks I did 18 separate workouts, and missed 4. When planning the week ahead I always plan a perfect week. A prefect week is very rare, life gets in the way. During the two week period that I captured in the video below my wife went away for a few days, my son got sick, and I had important lunch time meetings. Some workouts had to be dropped, and others had to swap places. Don’t stress over missed workouts, and keep the timetable flexible. The perfect week is there to be aspired to, making it a reality is less important. 18 workouts might seem like a lot, but some are only 20mins long. Not every session has to be an hour long with full intensity. A good workout is more about the quality of the movement than its length or intensity. I’m not telling you how you should workout, I’m just showing you what I do and hopefully you’ll find it useful for creating your own goals.

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