Coping with Postponed Events

There will always be factors outside of a runner’s control.

One of them is the weather.

Unfortunately races get cancelled or postponed when the weather is deemed by the organisers as too treacherous.

It happened this weekend with the occurrence of more snow in the United Kingdom. The Roger One Mile time-trial scheduled for this afternoon (which I intended to race) and a local half marathon tomorrow (which two runners I coach had entered) have been postponed.

It is the first time this has affected my running.

Despite the initial disappointment, the calling off of an event should be no reason to prevent mine or anyone else’s progress. This relies on always having an alternative plan.

For example, for my One Mile Challenge, I always intended to attempt my goal at least three times, with adequate rest in between attempts. This meant I didn’t have to rely on only one occasion, with certain conditions and preparations. It also allows me to experiment, using experience to guide me.

The Roger One Mile time-trial would be on a local track ‘racing’ with others, and my other two attempts would be run alone along self-devised routes on flat surfaces such as pavement and road.

Even for longer distances you can easily research another race ahead of time that you would be available to race if required. Likewise, a self-organised race (in the form of a virtual race) can provide the necessary motivation to meet your goal. Although the crowds or traffic-free route may not be present, I believe this is one way to build self-confidence and mitigate the inevitable issues of externally-organised events.

My advice also applies when illnesses, injuries or emergencies stop you from participating in a running race. If you prepare well in advance for any potential problems you’ll have an effective psychological technique to cope with other setbacks that occur in training and in the off-season.

This can easily be incorporated into your racing strategy long before you travel to the start line. 

You’ll then become a more resilient runner that has, paradoxically, greater control over your running.

Lessons from an Elite Tennis Coach

The Coach (2017) by Patrick Mouratoglou


From Sickly Child to Grand Slam Winning Coach

He was an ill child who was bullied. He started playing tennis at the age of sixHe became an unruly teenager, ruining his formal education.

He had therapy to correct his behaviour and worked for his father, who mentored himHe discovered the discipline and motivation necessary to develop his tennis academy in the mid-1990s.

He began coaching famous and successful tennis players such as Marcos Baghdatis and Grigor Dimitrov, and since 2012 has coached one of the greatest female tennis players of all-time, Serena Williams. Williams has won a tremendous amount of tennis titles, including ten grand slams and an Olympic gold medal, since being coached by Mouratoglou.

Top Coaching Advice

With the enthusiasm of wanting to be the best tennis coach in the world, Mouratoglou sought the necessary advice from the top tennis coach of the 1990s, Australia’s Bob Brett. 

He eventually became an independent coach after learning that to become the best tennis player, one must acknowledge their potential, be open-minded and trust the coach’s methods.

In return, Mouratoglou became obsessed with analysing opponents’ games by viewing countless matches and compiling extensive statistics. The use of notebooks was fundamental to his growth.

He is honest in why relationships with former players broke down, such as experiencing too greater emotional involvement, not sharing the same long-term ambitions, and clashing in personalities.

When he found Serena to have the same desire to dominate the sport of tennis, he used the following coaching principles to achieve outstanding success:

  • Listen intently and think carefully before speaking.
  • Research tactics and experiment endlessly.
  • Focus on psychological conditioning (such as self-esteem and self-image), eliminating unnecessary stress in the athlete.

He is today the founder and president of one of the world’s largest tennis training facilities Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, and a well-respected sports commentator and author.

He has found his greatest achievement through pairing with Serena Williams, arguably the most driven and decorated female athlete in the world.

Walk to Assist your Running

For most people walking is a daily necessity. For most runners it is an undervalued, often forgotten, training activity.

Walking is ideal to move and stretch your legs on rest days, or as an alternative to easy training days, when you do not feel like running. There is no reason why a runner cannot also practice elements of running form during a leisurely stroll, especially foot placement, arm movement and strong posture.

This stress-free mode of travel has further benefits; walking offers runners an opportunity to multi-task. Runners can analyse past runs and races, plan future strategies and efforts, or even talk about running with a friend or family member.

Personally, I enjoy listening to audiobooks or podcasts, solving important problems or answering persistent questions about my running, whilst appreciating the natural surroundings, and exploring potential running routes.

Depending on how I feel it can also be a time to forget about running and instead think creatively about my writing.

Although walking does not have the same aerobic benefits as running, it remains an essential component of any person’s fitness. If for no other reason walking will likely be the only movement you undertake where you can forget about speed, time and distance. I advise you to take full advantage.

Advice and Benefits of Running Off-Road

Off-Road Running (2002) by Sarah Rowell


Benefits

Running off-road

  • strengthens bones and joints by forcing the body to adjust to ever-changing conditions;
  • prevents physical staleness, psychological boredom and overtraining by giving runners variety in training workouts;
  • offers freedom to explore and enjoy less inhabited and less polluted environments.

Trail and fell running in particular covers traversing terrain such as mountains, hills and moors. Rowell urges runners to be sensible to minimise risks and to respect the countryside. This means runners should follow a progressive plan and start by alternating running with walking to familiarise with landscape.

Advice

For off-road runners the pelvis and ankles are the most important platforms, because stability is the ability to control the whole range of motion of the joints.

Plyometric exercises such as hopping, small jumps (including sideways) and quick foot movements. The aim is to maintain a higher knee lift and bouncier stride, ideal for running on uneven surfaces.

Running Research

Rowell also relays fascinating and useful scientific evidence.

  • 70-80% of endurance adaptation and performance is genetically determined.
  • The thinnest runners have an abundance of fat stores, energy equivalent to running over 1,000 marathons.
  • The reason runners suffer from stomach problems after eating soon before a run is more blood moves from the digestive system to the muscles compared to at rest.

Off-Road Running

How to Breathe to Improve your Running

We have to breathe to live.

But this subconscious act is more important than you think for running performance.

Your breathing is a limiting factor. Too often the exhaustion that slows runners comes from the gasping for oxygen rather than the build-up of lactate in the legs.

The rhythm of your breathing reflects your level of effort and is an accurate predictor of future running pace. If your breathing is not under your direct control then you are running too hard to sustain and the pace is likely to drop quickly.

Whenever I concentrate on my breathing whilst running I take air in through my nose for two seconds, then blow out harder through my mouth for another two seconds. This means I am better in-tune with my body as focusing on my breathing inadvertently controls my heart rate, and therefore my running economy.


Your mission should be to run faster whilst maintaining a regular breathing pattern. Therefore, in training you need to experiment to understand how it affects your specific pace and enjoyment. Over time your desired rhythm will become instinctual.

The better you understand your breathing, the more you can channel your nerves and excitement into improved performance. Regardless of the running distance it is essential you start in control of your breathing, so you still have enough puff to finish strongly.

Why I Play Brain Training Games

Ever since I read a book on neuroscience I have routinely trained my mind.

Mental abilities such as concentration, working memory and reaction time all need training if they are to aid athletic performance.

The brain should be worked as much as the leg and arm muscles.

There are a number of important choices every runner has to make during training and racing. These include when to run faster or slower, when to fuel or stop (due to injury), and even when to find motivation or become distracted.

To ensure optimal decision-making your mind must be alert and rational, which requires energy and capacity. The more you train your mind the more efficient it will become.

Practical numeric skills are also useful whilst running, including working out splits, predicting finishing times, and estimating the remaining miles of a race.


The games can become addictive so I limit my sessions to between 10 minutes and half an hour daily. I also switch between a selection of apps to keep the challenges varied and enjoyable.

I use free apps so the only investment I am making is my time. My subconscious need to improve and compete with previous scores ensures meaningful benchmarks.

Consciously building mental strength is essential for mental health today and in the future, and provides a means to unwind from running.

Brain Training Apps

How to Squat to Improve Running

Squat

Squats build the leg and buttock muscles that supports your running form.

I enjoy this core exercise the most because I can do them fast while maintaining good form. However, due to my strong quadriceps I must complete many reps to feel the burn.

I complete two variations of the exercise: the standard and the jumping. Both require a straight back, bent slightly forward with knees not bowing outwards. Jumping squats need a good stable landing, ideally on the midfoot, with arms swinging high as you lift up from the ground.

This more challenging exercise is also ideal to work your cardiovascular system.


Personal records

Traditional

1 minute – 59 consecutively

2 minutes – 124 consecutively

100 reps – 1:31

150 reps – 2:22

Plyometric

1 minute – 43 consecutively

2 minutes – 61

Why I wear Running Jackets

I have always been a person who gets cold easily.

Except during the heat of the summer months, I wear a running jacket whilst running. Even during a hard session I rarely find a need to take it off. I always have the option though.

I currently own two running jackets, one black and one fluorescent yellow. They are both thin and lightweight. They fit so they are not too tight or loose.

I did own a third but the zip broke and would continually open as I ran. So I recycled it.

My running jackets have a number of functions. They keep the cold and wind off my arms. My black jacket has side pockets with zips, which can hold food, gloves and my house key. My fluorescent yellow jacket ensures that my evening runs and coaching are safe.

I love my black jacket in particular, a gift from my partner for my twenty-second birthday. Much of the branding has faded due to its frequent use.

If they are unavailable to use (either unclean or still wet from been washed) I have a selection of substitutes. These include jumpers and long sleeved tops.

I often wear a running jacket during road races, even when most other runners are in vests or t-shirts. I have sometimes rolled up the sleeves but have never regretted wearing this extra layer.