Why and How to Plan for a Running Injury

If I consider what I would do if I got a running injury my instinct would be to “push through the pain”. Perhaps reduce my volume or intensity, or both. But stopping my running altogether would be my last option. I’m a runner, after all. Therefore, I must keep running.

In the past I believed I was fortunate to not be affected by injury. I always ran. Only now I know I simply “pushed through the pain”. Luckily, I was able to keep adjusting my training and my races were largely unaffected. Then in the summer of 2017 I had my first serious injury. A hip bursitis on one side left me unable to walk without significant pain. I healed relatively quickly and was able to still run my seventh marathon that autumn. Within 6 months another injury beset my ambitions – MTSS. Although I achieved my goal of running my first ever sub-5-minute-mile, the remainder of the year was adversely affected.

The main cause for both injuries was over-training. My ambitions (and motivations) were higher than the training load my body could cope with. I didn’t quite get the balance of stress and recovery right, and I paid the price with physical discomfort and psychological disappointment.

Although I dealt with the hip bursitis well enough, I tried my best to run through my shin pain. This was a mistake. The major problem was simple – I had no plan for such an eventuality.

Kate Avery, the 27-year-old British cross-country specialist, told Athletics Weekly that patience is “the most frustrating thing” for any athlete. But her reward for developing this skill was finishing as the fastest Brit in the senior women’s race at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships. A strong winter season means that she has finished in the top 10 in six races already, including at the Simplyhealth Great Stirling XCountry. This is after experiencing multiple injuries that took her away from the sport for 17 months. It appears that a plan to cope with injury is essential for long-term success.

Indeed, as Hannah Winter explains in Athletics Weekly¹, fear of fitness loss is not a healthy reason to run whilst injured. Instead athletes should focus on returning to pain-free movement and setting realistic medium-term goals. The road to recovery may seem long, but it’s worth taking time to reflect on your journey to date and future potential. There are many ways to cope with not being able to run. I have spent time writing about my running, cycling indoors and committing to core exercises and stretching to stay active, as well as coaching other runners to achieve success. Whatever method(s) you use, try to stay positive. I now know that if injury does strike again I have a plan to cope as best I can with the setback.

So next time you consider whether to “push through the pain” of injury remember that long-term success requires smart decisions in the short-term. For example, a pre-planned break from running may prevent you needing to take an unplanned break.

1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Mental Rehab. Published on 11 April 2019.

Suspected Stress Fractures Reduces my Training

3-9 September 2018

Unfortunately, after my successful long run last week I inadvertently triggered a shin injury I suffered months ago.

Although I tested my legs at another fast interval workout at my running club, I knew that rest was the most sensible option. Online research has suggested I could have stress fractures on the inside of both my lower tibia bones.

Although last week’s plan to run only three times per week is simply not advisable if my shins are to heal in time for my eighth marathon, I couldn’t be inactive.

Cross Training

I accumulated over 16.6 miles (almost 3 hours) of cycling in four days. However, I plan to accelerate my cross-training over the next month so have ordered equipment to help me maintain fitness…

18 Miles to Celebrate my Birthday

27 August – 2 September 2018

I enjoyed eight days of rest after my seventh half marathon. The only exercises I committed to were walking and easy-paced cycling.

Then, knowing I only had seven and a half weeks before my eighth marathon (my fifth in Chelmsford) I returned to training.

However, I was conscious that to improve my personal best I needed to ensure my training was different than previous seasons. The only other criteria was I didn’t want to commit to excessive weekly mileage.

I discovered the Runner’s World plan, focusing on three runs per week. Studies have proven that this method works, if the strict paces are adhered to. Based on my fitness level, my targets are the following:

Type of Run Pace Range
Long Run (15+ miles) 7:00-7:15 per mile
Long Tempo Run (8-10 miles) 6:30-6:35 per mile
Mid Tempo Run (5-7 miles) 6:15-6:20 per mile
Short Tempo Run (3-4 miles) 6:00 per mile

Tempo Run – Tuesday

1:00 per mile slower than training plan

Intervals – Thursday

0:20-0:40 per mile slower than training plan

Long Run – Sunday

0:05 per mile slower than training plan

Rest Days – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday

Includes walking and light cycling 

Although I failed to hit any of the target paces for my workouts I expected this to happen. Still, there were many positives to take from my week, namely that my running form stayed strong throughout my workouts and my long run was surprisingly ‘comfortable’.

I also complimented my training with cycling of over 12.75 miles, including intervals as a hard cross-training workout (with a fast one mile run directly afterwards).

I accumulated over 30.5 miles (over 3 hours and 40 minutes) in four days. I feel confident I can build on this, and am motivated to achieve a new marathon personal best next month.

Reducing my Running Load

6 – 12 August 2018

Week 9 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon.

Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:10 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

With one eye on my upcoming race I reduced my pace and mileage this week. I enjoyed three rest days (including a visit to the location of my race), lead another four coaching sessions (helping one runner achieve a new 5km personal best) and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 11 miles.

I accumulated almost 17.8 miles (over 2 hours) in four days. Although not a lot compared to previous weeks I wanted to ensure I am fully fit for my race next Sunday.

Running Longer

30 July – 5 August 2018

Week 8 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday

Slower than 6:55 per mile pace

Fast Intervals – Friday

5:25-5:30 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday and Saturday

After a relatively slow start to the week, I made sure I focused on running longer and furtherI enjoyed two rest days, lead four coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 4 miles and walking (accumulating over 16,000 steps each day).

Another positive aspect of my training week was that I was able to run comfortably faster than my half marathon pace Friday evening.

I accumulated almost 30 miles (over 3.5 hours) in five days, recovering quickly. This has made me feel stronger and better prepared for my upcoming race.

Returning to my Running Club

23-29 July 2018

Week 7 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Slower than 7:25 per mile pace

Interval Club RunThursday

4:50-5:45 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday

After three weeks of increasing mileage, I made a conscious effort to reduce my running load this week. I enjoyed three rest days, lead two group coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 10.5 miles across three days, just as I did last week.

My weekly goal was to return to my running club and complete a tough interval workout, which I did on Thursday. My calf muscles were sore afterwards but consuming my homemade protein smoothies helped me recover.

I accumulated 19 miles with still no signs of my recent injury, which has set me up for a ‘heavier’ week of training to come.

Week of Building Endurance

16-22 July 2018

Week 6 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:15 per mile pace

Tempo RunSaturday

Faster than 7:15 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Sunday

I stepped up the quantity of my running this week. Almost all my workouts were easy-paced, long runs. This took more time and energy, and therefore I didn’t feel it appropriate to run any miles at my intended half marathon race pace. 

My weekly goal was to run continuously for at least an hour, which I did on Friday. I also cycled over 10.5 miles across three days. Although simply recreational, the exercise supplements my training.

I also enjoyed coaching my first two-day running assessment on one of my runners.

I accumulated over 29 miles with no signs of my recent injury, which built my confidence that my body is adapting well for ‘longer distances’.

Quality Running, Injury-Free

9-15 July 2018

Week 5 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Wednesday and Thursday

Slower than 6:45 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Saturday

Fartlek run (whilst coaching)

Intervals faster than 6:05 per mile pace

Rest Days – Friday and Sunday

I’m pleased I’m still injury-free after my shin pain. I was therefore able to run several tougher workouts, replicating my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile. The high local temperatures and tiring workload this week were factors affecting my performances but I enjoyed the challenge.

My strategy for the remaining five weeks of training for the Clacton Half Marathon is to focus on tempo intervals at race pace and progressively building my endurance with longer runs.

I accumulated over 21 miles, and ensured I primed myself for a heavier mileage week next week.

Running Injury-Free Again

2-8 July 2018

Week 4 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:00 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Sunday

Faster than 7:00 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Saturday

After cross-training for much of June, I feel recovered from my shin pain. Although my running paces were slower than my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile, conditions have been particularly hot recently.

I have also experimented by running in my Vivobarefoot shoes and Vibram FiveFingers. With six weeks until the Clacton Half Marathon I feel confident that I can improve my speed endurance.

I accumulated 19 miles, and rather than ‘time on my feet’ I am happy that I am injury-free.

Enjoying Cross-Training

4-10 June 2018

Week 3 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon, modified due to injury.

Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Monday – Sunday

Although the injury in my shins has remained it has not prevented me from enjoying a wide range of exercises.

I have focused on workouts to strengthen my lower body, including using machines such as leg extension, curl and press, as well as dumbbell lunges, barbell squats and barbell deadlifts.

Every day I have also spent hours on the cross-trainer, static bike and rower to continue sweating.

I also purchased more running shoes from Vivobarefoot, to give me more support when I return to running.

Accepting a Recurring Injury

28 May – 3 June 2018

Week 2 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday

>16.5 miles at 7:35-7:40 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Wednesday, Thursday

Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I accumulated over 22 miles in just over 2.5 hours of running. However, a recurring injury in my shins meant I had to re-examine my training plan.

To prevent me from stressing the affected areas further I decided to join a local gym. I now have an opportunity to build strength with weights and machines, whilst I maintain my cardiovascular fitness with lower impact equipment, such as stationary bikes and cross-trainers.

Starting a New Strategy

21-27 May 2018

Week 1 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

>15.5 miles at 7:25-7:50 per mile pace

I also purchased a new Garmin sports watch.

‘Long Run’ – Tuesday

7.5 miles at 7:33 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Thursday, Saturday

Rest Day – Sunday

Visited Clacton, the location of the upcoming race.

I accumulated over 29 miles in just over 3 hours of running, and foam rolled daily.

Why I Now Foam Roll

A Fruitful Meeting

A fortnight ago I met a physiotherapist in a gym.

He explained how he helps a lot of runners return from injury using resistance bands and various foam rollers.

He told me every one of his rehabilitation programmes has self-massage as a component.

I asked him whether it would be prudent for me – not currently injured – to try.

He was surprised I didn’t already own this equipment.

So I bought five different types of cheap foam rollers: four spikey balls and a compressed cylinder.

Spiky Self-Massage Balls

Pain is Normal

I began by rolling my lower and upper legs, and found areas of my left calf and quads painful. This is of course normal, and identifies weaknesses in my body.

At this early stage of self-massaging, exploring my body is essential to understanding it better. My legs have no ill-effects and I now know where in my legs I need to strengthen (as well as stretch). This is valuable information that would have otherwise cost me in professional fees to discover.

Some is Better Than None

Although I received a self-massage stick in July 2017 just before I ran my third 10k race, I failed to implement it in my training routine. I currently make it a priority to foam roll during my morning stretching routine.

Psychologically it makes me feel better, and even if there are minimal benefits in the short-term I feel I need to explore alternative training tools in my pursuit of an important racing goal. This could aid my recovery from workouts, improving my chances of staying injury-free.

Staying Patient (Week 4)

23-29 April 2018

Despite my best intentions I didn’t find the energy to build on last week’s increased mileage.

Much of the week consisted of staying realistic about my chances in my upcoming race and keeping my body healthy.

Lesson #7: Don’t push the pace unless you can

Ideally, the week would have consisted of more miles at my intended race pace*. Except for the first two miles of Wednesday’s (25th April) run my pace was not close.

The effort required to get up to speed would not have been worth it, as I didn’t feel confident I could sustain it. Rather than risk injury, especially in wet conditions, and further discouragement I focused on slower-paced miles**. The 27.45 miles I covered in five days was beneficial to keep my legs and my mind active without much stress.

Approaching my taper week, the most important aspects of my training are now remaining injury-free and eager for the challenge ahead. As I developed some tightness in my left calf muscle I now must ease off to ensure full recovery before race day.

Lesson #8: It’s not always about times or distances

On Sunday (29th April), a week after the 2018 London Marathon, I purposefully ran 3.7 miles.

I thought of Matt Campbell, the man who collapsed and died 22.5 miles into the capital’s most iconic race. The sadness of his death reminded me that although running performances  are important for motivation it’s the sport itself that should bring the most joy.

Sometimes times, distances, races and medals are not important. Instead, all the support, globally and from non-runners, has the greatest impact. Unfortunately, mass participation events in relatively hot conditions will very likely result in casualties, but the best of people often shines through.

I took two rest days, on Tuesday and Thursday, and will now look to stretch and rest before my first 10 mile race in a week’s time.

10 mile Training: Week 4

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-8:30 per mile.

Building Mileage (Week 3)

16-22 April 2018

I knew I had to focus on increasing my weekly mileage. Reducing the number of rest days would also develop my leg muscles quicker, although I had to be careful due to a recent minor injury.

I believe I found a productive balance.

Lesson #5: You are stronger than you think you are

On Friday (20 April) I wanted to test myself over a distance that was close to 10 miles. I had doubts that I would find it comfortable.

I chose 8 miles and, although I started strong, I did not expect to be particularly consistent. But I was.

The miles seemed to fly by and I was pleased to finish, knowing that 10 miles would not be difficult to cover in a few weeks’ time. Although I have not demonstrated my race pace for an extended period I ran five days in a row, building my mileage sensibly by running some at an easier pace. My legs did ache at times but not enough for me to worry about injury.

This proved that my endurance is progressing and I am still on track for my future running goals. Psychologically the ‘long’ runs were a boost.

Lesson #6: Running on grass can sap your energy at high speeds

I ran my only interval workout on Monday (16 April). I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace* with 3:30 walking recoveries. Only the last mile rep fell below my race pace but the I feel I met my target.

However, the interval workout was challenging. Each rep was two laps around my local park, and after the first minute of each rep my effort level increased significantly. Despite the consistent pacing I was clinging on at the end of the reps.

My One Mile Challenge taught me that although grass is a kinder surface than road for bones and ligaments, a runner has to work harder to generate the same power from the ground. This means that for speed workouts the pace can be lower than expected.

I knew I was hitting my target pace because I allowed for this. So rather than be disappointed I was satisfied with a tough workout.

Excluding the interval workout I accumulated over 27.3 miles during the week, of which 12 miles were ran at less than a minute slower than race pace**. The remaining miles were run at a comfortable endurance pace***.

My only rest day was Tuesday.

10 Mile Training: Week 3

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-7:00 per mile.
*** This is equivalent to slower than 7:00 per mile pace.

Reducing Training Stress (Week 2)

9-15 April 2018

Transitioning from my One Mile Challenge to endurance-based training has resulted in a minor injury. I was therefore forced to take more rest days than I had planned.

Still, this made me more determined and focused to gain the most from my limited training.

Lesson #3: Never ignore your gut instincts

The purpose of my first workout of the week on Monday (9 April) was to accumulate more miles at race pace*. Like last week the tempo threshold run was tougher than I had wanted it to be. Still, I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace with ¼ mile recovery jogs** in between.

I knew that I needed to rest but because I coached in the evening, and the following two days, I knew I had to be sensible. As I often run to the start of my coaching sessions I found the extra effort resulted in increased pain in my lower legs.

Although I was fully aware that rest was essential I decided to ignore it. This set my training back a couple of days. Therefore I learnt that a more sensible approach would have been to modify my own workouts to factor in extra, but less structured activity.

Lesson #4: Running on grass can aid recovery

On Sunday (15 April) I ran simply to stretch my legs and test my MTSS injury, which was made worse by the club run I committed to on Thursday (12 April). The club workout was 30x 30 seconds of fast pace running*** with 30 seconds of jogging recoveries in between. The high impact of running on the pavement did not support my training. Instead I realised that these faster workouts are not what I need in the build-up to my 10 mile race.

So instead, on the last day of the week, I purposefully ran on grass, striking the ground with my mid-foot rather than forefoot. These modifications ensured that my leg muscles received a workout but without excessive stress.

Psychologically, the run gave me confidence because I felt positive about my injury. Also, because there was less focus on maintaining a particular pace I could enjoy the countryside around me.

During the week I ran 4.25 miles on Friday and 4.6 miles on Sunday at recovery pace** to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. My mile repeats on Monday and interval workout on Thursday amounted to 6.95 miles at race pace or quicker.

10 Mile Training: Week 2

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace this week (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 8:50 per mile.
*** Interval training for me this week is any pace faster than 5:30 per mile.

Two Reflections on Transitioning to Endurance Training (Week 1)

3-8 April 2018

After last week’s success of breaking multiple personal records from ¼ mile to 2 miles my focus switched to endurance. My next race, 5 weeks away, is a local 10 mile race.

So from Wednesday I began accumulating miles in preparation for my attempt at running under an hour, equivalent to less than 6:00 per mile pace.

Lesson #1: Sometimes you need to change your workout during it

I intended my first workout of my 10-mile training (on Wednesday 4 April) to be a 10k time-trial. However, after a mile at race pace* I realised my legs had not fully recovered from my mile time-trials so after another mile at race pace I altered my workout.
Instead, I completed a 1-mile jogging recovery**.
Then I ran another two miles at race pace.

Although I did not accomplish what I originally set out, I modified it to reflect my current fitness level. I therefore accumulated 4 miles in the pace range I desired as opposed to 2 miles (as my pace would have progressively slowed if I had not had a recovery).

The workout proved to me that runners need to prioritise the overall purpose of a workout (in my case to accumulate as many miles at race pace) rather than any preconceived plan. As a result training will be maximised.

Lesson #2: A running nickname can reflect important developments

On Thursday (5 April) I ran a quality session*** with my running club. As there is a greater amount of daylight I chose to run in my black running jacket.
I led the session from the start, running 2,3,4,5,4,3 and 2 minutes quicker than race pace with half the time of the intervals as jogging recoveries.
One coach called me the ‘Black Assassin’, later the ‘Silent Assassin’.

More important than obtaining another positive nickname is the observation that my forefoot strike in my Vibram FiveFingers barefoot shoes is quiet. This suggests the lightness on my feet has transferred to efficient speed. This style of running feels so natural to me that my calf muscles are fatigue resilient.

The nickname reminds me of the hard work I have made with calf raises and committing to barefoot shoes.

I also ran 4.4 miles on Friday and 6.4 miles on Sunday 30-90 seconds slower per mile**** than race pace to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday and Saturday.

10 Mile Training: Week 1

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race pace goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 9:00 per mile.
*** Interval training for me is any pace faster than 6:00 per mile.
**** This is equivalent to 6:30-8:00 per mile.

Vegan Lime Smoothie

This new recipe is a unique mixture of strong flavours. This provides a refreshing, creamy and delicious drink at any time of day.

The ground almonds were blended with the water for 60 seconds first. Then the other ingredients were added, and 60-90 seconds further in the high speed blender created the nutritious blend. I left the drink in the refrigerator for an hour to chill before enjoying.

100g ground almonds (calcium and magnesium)

200g banana (vitamin B6 and potassium)

100g spinach (vitamin A and potassium)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder

50ml maple syrup (calcium and magnesium)

100g limes (vitamin C and iron)

500 ml of cold water

Green Lime Protein Smoothie

Vegan Cranberry and Kiwi Smoothie

This new recipe is a delightful blend of frozen and dried fruit, and milled seeds. This provides a unique texture, nutritious and filling after a run.

It only takes 60 seconds to make in my high speed blender.

100g dried cranberries (antioxidants and manganese)

65g kiwis (Vitamin C and Vitamin B6)

50g frozen strawberries (Vitamin C and antioxidants)

55g of my favourite pea protein powder

20g organic milled flaxseed (fibre and Omega 3)

750 ml of cold water

Cranberry and Kiwi Protein Smoothie

Vegan Cacao Date Smoothie

This recipe is one of my favourites as the dates thicken the smoothie, whilst the mix of fruit create a sweet and delicious taste. It is a packed full of nutrition that I enjoy before and after runs.

The frozen fruit makes the smoothie cool and refreshing. It only takes 90 seconds to produce in my high speed blender.

150g pitted dates (potassium and magnesium)

65g frozen strawberries (Vitamin C and antioxidants)

60g frozen blackberries (Vitamin K and manganese)

50g frozen blueberries (Vitamin C and E)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder

20g raw cacao powder (iron and calcium)

50 ml of cold water

Date Cacao Smoothie

Easy Vegan Fruit Thick Shake

It is important to have a simple recipe that can be made quickly and supply a much needed protein boost post-run.

I always have some fruit around so I can easily blend a tasty and nutritious thick smoothie in my high speed blender. It takes as little as 90 seconds to produce.

1 large apple sliced (vitamin C and magnesium)

1 banana (vitamin B6 and potassium)

2 satsumas (vitamin A and calcium)

30g of my favourite pea protein powder

150 ml of cold water

Kale and Lemon Smoothie

This sweet drink is packed with vitamins and dietary fibre, a nutritious addition to any runner’s diet. The recipe builds on the carrot and apple juice I made.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 60 seconds:

1 large lemon (vitamin C and bioflavonols)

1 large apple (antioxidants and vitamin C)

1 large carrot (vitamin A and calcium)

65g of kale (vitamin B6 and potassium)

15g of wheat bran (fibre and protein)

250 ml of cold water

Kale and Lemon Smoothie

Why I Commit to Calf Raises

It is vital that as a runner you identify any weaknesses. Whether they are physical or mental you have the most to gain from overcoming, or at least reducing, their negative impact. A quick honest self-assessment is the first step in a process that should result in tangible rewards.

In my off-season I endeavour to discover any specific areas of my running that I could improve. Then I attempt to rectify them.

As a runner who wears barefoot shoes I spend increasingly more miles running with a forefoot strike. I find this especially efficient and comfortable when undertaking speed workouts, strides and racing short distances, such as the mile up to 5km.

Recently, I realised that my calf muscles are a limiting factor in my performances. The start of my running club career has revealed a susceptibility to pain in my lower leg. Although disappointed in my fragility after only a couple of tough speed sessions, I accepted that I should not dwell on it. Instead I will embrace the challenge and believe that I can achieve a new level of fitness.

After some research I found the calf raise exercise to be the most effective means of combating my vulnerability.

My commitment is to strengthen my calves by maintaining a daily routine of sets of 20 single leg steady repetitions whilst standing, at least twice a day. I intend to record my progress and aim to move to harder variations such as whilst on stairs and including hopping.

Calf raises also provide improvements in ankle strength and balance. Visualisations can also be completed during this straightforward exercise.

My Favourite Post-Run Stretch

Every runner understands the importance of injury-prevention. Stretching post-run is an important element of avoiding pain and ultimately a lay-off.

I always start my post-run stretching routine by targeting my groin. I use a standing position to first hang forward and hold for 10-20 seconds.

Next I lean into one leg for the same length of time, then lean into the other (both feet pointing straight forward).


The linear function of running means that the inner thighs do not experience the full range of movement. Thus, these stretches alleviate the buildup of tension. This act will help mitigate situations like the one I experienced before the Hardwick 10k.

Along with testing my flexibility, this adductor stretch feels particularly satisfying, as any aching dissipates during the seconds I hold the stretch.

Another variation is the seated groin stretch, which I have undertaken during my morning stretching routine prior to any running.

Carrot and Apple Juice to Breathe Easier

This light and flavourful juice is best in the morning as a refreshing start to the day. I adapted the recipe from Jason Vale, the Juice Master, who promotes this juice as a means of relaxing muscles that help you breathe more comfortably.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 60 seconds, which produces over a litre of healthy, sweet juice:

4 small apples (vitamin C and magnesium)

3 medium-sized carrots (vitamin A and K)

1/2 lemon without rind (vitamin C and bioflavonols)

400 ml of cold water

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.

Vegan Fruit and Avocado Smoothie

This thick and tangy smoothie is best consumed after an hour of refrigeration. The fruit provides nutrition and sweetness, which compliments the protein-rich powder.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 60 seconds:

40g of my favourite pea protein powder

1 medium-sized avocado [125g] (vitamin K and folic acid)

1 orange [100g] and 1 lime [50g] (vitamin C)

1 banana [90g] (vitamin B6 and potassium)

200 ml of unsweetened soya milk (calcium and vitamin B12)

200 ml of cold water


How Lunges Improve Your Running

Lunges are a great method of strengthening your legs and improving your balance. Lunges condition large muscles used for running including the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

The smooth motion also allows you to visualise.

Position yourself with one foot forward, planted firmly on the ground with the knee bent. The back leg should be a step behind your body, your heel off the ground. Your back should be straight, with you chest out. Inhale as you lower your knee close to the ground, and exhale as you raise to your starting position. You should be able to see the tip of your front foot, even as you lower.

Forward Lunge

I undertake lunges of high reps to build my endurance, but have also completed workouts of low reps whilst holding weights as well as jumping lunges (alternating legs).

Personal Records 

Forward Lunges

Total reps in 1 minute (30 seconds on each leg) – 34

Total reps in 2 minutes (1 minute on each leg) – 66

25 lunges on each leg – 0:41

50 lunges on each leg – 1:21

Vegan Super Blueberry Smoothie

This cold light concoction has a strong blueberry taste. It is nutritious with plenty of water and quality protein inside.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 90 seconds:

250g of frozen blueberries (antioxidants)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder

30g of milled flaxseed (Omega 3, iron and magnesium)

100 ml of unsweetened soya milk (calcium and vitamin B12)

500 ml of cold water


Vegan Cranberry and Oat Protein Smoothie

This thick and creamy shake has a sweet oaty taste with a smooth texture. It is nutritious and replenishes your protein and carbohydrate stores.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 90 seconds:

100g of dried cranberries (antioxidants)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder

25g of chia seeds (Omega 3 and fibre)

25g of rolled oats (vitamin B1 and carboyhrate)

100 ml of unsweetened soya milk (calcium and vitamin B12)

550 ml of cold water

Tip: Due to the heat of the blender, add ice cubes to make the drink cool. For best results prepare the smoothie and place in the refrigerator before your run.


The Plank as a Mental Strengthening Exercise

The plank is an effective exercise to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. It is a great test of your current strength as it requires a stillness of the body and a calmness of the mind.

Position yourself in the upright press-up position and engage your abs. Breathe steadily and deeply as you concentrate on maintaining your form. It is important to visualise your strength and not sag the hips as this strains your lower back muscles.

I enjoy the plank as there are many variations and it relies on your concentration.

Side Plank

Personal Records


Longest in position – 5:22


Longest in position one side then the other – 1:00

Why Run Strides

Definition of Strides

Strides are short bursts of running, with a purpose.

You gradually increase your pace to reach top speed, then gradually reduce until you return to a stationary position.

This is completed over an estimated 80-100m stretch of flat ground, which means your top speed at the 40-50m mark is maintained for only a few seconds.

Rest until you feel ready to complete another stride.

Repeat the process at least four times.

Benefits of Strides

It is essential to run strides prior to a hard running workout.

  • Elevate your heart rate, so your body is able to adjust better to your upcoming effort.
  • Mentally prepare you by replicating the speed you will be running.
  • An opportunity to practice your ideal running form.

It is also an appropriate running drill to undertake after a comfortable run.

  • A good addition to your cool-down routine.
  • Perfect as a means of stretching out the legs post-run.
  • An enjoyable exercise to mix into your training.

My Strides

I always run strides as part of my structured warm-up before a speed interval session or threshold run. I usually run strides after two easy runs per week, which gives me confidence for the next day’s workout, which is often a harder run.

My strides are slightly shorter in distance and last 10 seconds each. I then take a 20-second break. I complete a total of 8 strides, which last 4 minutes altogether.

Vegan Banana and Blackberry Protein Smoothie

This thick and creamy smoothie has a subtle hint of banana and is ideal for replenishing your protein and carbohydrate stores after a run.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 90 seconds:

200g of bananas (vitamin B6 and potassium)

100g of blackberries (vitamin K and bioflavonoids)

100g of ground almonds (vitamin E)

30g of my favourite pea protein powder

2 teaspoons of green superblend powder (fibre and protein)

400 ml cold water plus 50g of ice cubes

Banana and Blackberry Smoothie

Why I Consume Pea Protein Powder

I began supplementing my diet with vegan protein powder in late July 2016.

The purpose was to ensure my diet best supports my running training.


  • It ensures I eat additional and necessary protein to maintain my healthy vegan diet.
  • It means I recover quickly and consistently as a runner who exercises regularly and intensely.
  • It is a relatively cheap source of high quality protein (18-21p per 30g serving)*.
  • It encourages me to make delicious smoothies rich in protein, such as the Cherry Cacao Shake.
  • It makes me feel that I am taking my running seriously, providing me with extra confidence.


  • The lack of flavour means that mixing the powder with just water and/or soya milk does not elicit the best taste.
  • It took me months to gain the habit of making and drinking a pea protein smoothie after my workouts and on rest days.

I chose to consume the pea variety as it has 80% protein in every serving, and is significantly cheaper than alternative forms such as hemp and brown rice.

I would recommend any serious runner to consider taking this or similar supplements to enhance, not replace, existing protein intake.


* The price is based on buying the powder in 5kg bulk bags as I do from a local supplier, Bulk Powders.

4 Reasons to Record Running Data


There is a balance between physically running and analysing the performance. It is essential to record running data to reach your athletic potential.

Below are four interconnected reasons to collect statistics about your runs.

1. Starts your running journey

Your first set of data is your starting point. It is a baseline that you can always refer to as the moment you made a conscious decision. It means you have taken your running seriously; that your running is worth reflecting on. It is.

2. Measures your progress

As you accumulate data you can view your performances using various parameters, such as pace, distance and heart rate. You can compare your current ability with your short and long-term aims, as well as understand whether you are running consistently.

3. Provides valuable feedback

Although there may be setbacks in your training, data offers some insights as to the reasons behind any injuries or below-par performances. This works at a macro level (examining changes in weekly mileage) and at a micro level (scrutinising similar workouts or courses).

4. Motivates in a personalised way

The data is yours, not anyone else’s. It should be a source of pride and inspiration not only to run more but to improve. It should offer you the momentum and confidence to explore your running further. Reflect on your past efforts and dream for greater outcomes.

Regardless of your ability, data creates in the mind a series of reference points. It makes visible what you have accomplished in a comparable and tangible way.

Believe me, you will not regret it.

Sit-up Training

Sit-ups strengthen the abdominal muscles. These muscles are the core stability the rest of the body relies upon.

I find sit-ups one of the easiest core exercises. This means that I often need to complete more to maintain and improve. I use an Abmat, an abdominal training mat, to support my back as I attempt to reach new personal records through the 200 Sit-up challenge.

There are so many variations of sit-ups but they all require good technique in order to avoid lower back pain.

The abs must be engaged and feet firmly planted. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower. The head should remain still with the arms across the chest or hands beside or behind the head.

Sit-up Phase 2

Personal records [using Abmat; in order of easiest to hardest]

Traditional Sit-ups

Consecutive – 63

1 minute – 32

2 minutes – 63

50 sit-ups – 1:18

100 sit-ups – 2:52

Decline / Slant Sit-ups

1 minute – 42

5kg Weighted Sit-ups

50 sit-ups – 2:01

Press-up Training

Press-up 1

Press-ups strengthen the muscles in the arms and chest. These support and improve running posture, forward momentum and greater stability.

I find press-ups one of the most difficult core exercises. But this makes them even more important for me. I find improving the speed and endurance of my press-ups enjoyable and rewarding.

I have achieved my personal records through daily and progressive training. I am currently following the Hundred Press-up Challenge.

There are so many variations of press ups and yet the technique remains the same; straight back, fingers spread apart and head still with eyes looking between the hands.

Press-up 2

Personal records: [in order of easiest to the hardest]

Traditional / Wide-grip press-ups

Consecutive – 42

1 minute – 42

2 minutes – 73

25 press-ups – 0:32

50 press-ups – 1:11

100 press-ups – 5:58

Decline press-ups

1 minute – 33

45 press-ups – 1:52

Plyometric / Clap press-ups

Consecutive – 21

Cherry Cacao Vegan Protein Shake

This chocolate fruity smoothie is great for recovering and rehydrating after a run.

I blend the following ingredients in a high speed blender for 90 seconds:

50g of ground almonds (vitamin E)

30g of my favourite protein powder – pea

100g of frozen cherries (vitamin C)

10g of ground golden flaxseed (Omega 3)

20g of organic cacao powder (fibre)

700 ml cold water – plus optional ice cubes


‘Comfortable Running’: Part 1

I use the phrase ‘comfortable running’ to refer to running that is at an easy and manageable pace, or low intensity.

There are two indicators that I use to ensure I am keeping to this form of running. The first is that I can multi-task. This means that I can run while I scan the scenery, or while I talk with someone beside me. The second is that I feel I could run at this pace for a very long time and distance.

I find there are many benefits of ‘comfortable running’.

  • It builds a good fitness base as it strengthens the cardiovascular system.
  • It is ideal for warm ups and cool downs. In particular it mentally and physically prepares me for more intense running to follow.
  • It is ideal for recovery between harder running intervals.
  • It helps me to meet a weekly mileage target.
  • It provides low stress on my body and mind.
  • It allows me to focus on running technique and how I am feeling.

There are a number of other reasons that I run at this comfortable level of effort.

  • If I do not want to run harder or longer workouts.
  • If I am returning to running after an injury or a period of absence.
  • If I am recovering from a recent race or hard workout.

Recently, I have committed to running 50-60% of my weekly mileage at this ‘comfortable’ pace. This ensures I stay injury-free and feel fresh to run harder during my remaining workouts.