Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A change of perspective...


Every now and again you have those moments that completely shift your way of thinking.

Those crystallising moments where it genuinely feels like a missing piece of the puzzle just fit into place, or the final wire in a complex and elaborate circuit has connected.

This lightbulb moments or 'epiphanies' when it all makes absolute sense.

Once you've had this shift of paradigm, you feel like you are out of the shadows. Like you are suddenly not restricted by your previous limitations, and most excitingly like anything is possible. And as we all know, anything is possible.

I have written a lot about running, that's what I do, and along the way I have mentioned studying to be a personal trainer. Well, in January I finished studying. I had passed my theory exams in the December and then booked my practical, portfolio and Viva assessment for January.

Long story short, the assessments went well and I passed, but the best part of the day was yet to come. The assessor seemed like a really switched on guy. Not a meathead muscle bound gym rat, nor a hemp wearing, vegan yoga bunny (not that I have anything against these obvious stereotypes, you know who you are).

c/o xaxor.com
c/o telegraph.com

He just seemed like a professional and switched on guy who was passionate about his profession and wanted to help people be their best. The way I feel about training people.

After we'd finished going through the feedback, he started talking about the exercise programmes that  I had written and he'd assessed. He said they were good and easily met the criteria, but he questioned a few parts as well and went on to discuss the difference between increasing complexity against intensity. Or how you can use velocity and mass or tempo to affect the desired outcome. I was enthralled to say the least and then he told me how he'd helped a friend train for an adventure race. A run, bike and kayak event in North America, and he said that he hadn't made him run much, or cycle much or kayak much at all. He'd developed a programme to make his friend strong and fit and agile, so he could accomplish his goal (he went on to win), not just be able to run, bike and row.

Surprised, I asked him why the hell not he said, "when you have a problem to solve, change your perspective".

In my plan, I'd had Kelly running a lot in preparation for her first half marathon. She also had some gym classes and a resistance programme I'd designed for her. All well and good he said, but if you want her to run 13.1 miles, what does she need?

Strong core, strong legs, efficient cardiovascular system and the belief she can finish, was my answer.

The question, he asked, was how do you get those things?

The truth is that sometimes running may not be enough.

Or, rather, it may not be the most effective way of getting what you want. Long slow runs serve a purpose but if you want to boost you CV system, start looking at interval training and tempo sessions.

Want a strong core, knees and ankles? Start looking at complex core exercises and plyometric work. Toe-ga even! (it's a real thing, I teach it).

If I make Kelly run too much, he told me, one thing will happen. She will get an injury like almost everyone does when they start running distances. Then she'll have less time to go before her race and none of the things I'd identified she needed (core strength, confidence etc)

That one phrase "when you have a problem to solve, change your perspective" has changed my entire way of problem solving and goal setting.

Which brings me on to the point of this blog. This week I have a half marathon to run in Brighton, less than eight weeks later I will run a 50 mile ultramarathon.

Men's 50 Tech Shirt
I've ordered the Ink'n'Burn 50 t-shirt to run in.

In an experiment on myself, and with you wonderful readers alongside me to share the journey, I will attempt to prove that you can get ultra-fit and ultra-strong, without repeatedly cracking out long, long runs. I love running but I was starting to resent 4-5 hour runs every Saturday for months on end when I trained before. This time it's all quality over quantity. In fact I plan for my longest training run to be no more than ten miles! This will be my longest run by some way and it will be my best.

Over the following weeks and months I will go through my training and performance with you. Along the way I will explain what systems I am using, why I'm using them and what affects they have on the body.

I have run ultras before, from 30 to 43 miles. None of them were easy, none of them were pretty. I have thrown up twice and I DNF'd once. Running should be fun, an adventure, not a death march. A rollercoaster, not a bus ride. SO the training I've done before works for some, but it wasn't perfect for me.

So I'm going to try something different, because when you have a problem you need to change your perspective.

c/o modernimmortal.com

I will update this blog weekly, and would welcome any feedback on it, I enjoy writing and hope you enjoy reading. If  there is any more information you want in it please let me know in the feedback or on twitter @danrunning.

Because you stuck through to the end, don't forget you can have 15% off your first order at ink'n'burn by using the code dantoldme at the checkout. You'll also receive a discount off your next order. And trust me there will be a next order. Their stuff rocks and looks awesome.


  1. Exciting! I'm coping with a heel spur and start training this week for my first half IRONMAN. I've thought a lot about how I might accomplish this without a lot of running (due to the injury). I really appreciate this post and will take it seriously into consideration in terms of ways that I can prepare my body in a more mindful fashion. Best wishes to you in your training and your expanding career!

  2. great post Dan. I enjoyed reading it. I completely get the 'change your perspective' approach. Its got me through some right pickles in the past both running and non running! As someone new-ish to ultra running, I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.

  3. Great blog Dan!

    I totally get where you're coming from with the quality over quantity argument. This might sound surprising coming from me, but I'm attempting something similar this year - in the run up to the Highland Fling (53 miles) in April, I'm only planning to run over 20 miles on 4 occasions, 3 of those will be trail runs with friends (longest one being 30 miles) and the other one a marathon PB attempt in Manchester!

    What I'm trying to make sure I don't miss out, is at least some core work, and that we do an interval / hills session at least once every week (usually twice).

    Very interested to see how it goes for you, all the best mate!


  4. I'm interested in following your training. I've been doing ultras for years and have always cross-trained (more unintentionally than I realized) but this year I have consciously added in core and strength training 2 to 3 times a week.
    My best ultra race was when I had fewer miles and focused on quality.

    Good luck!

  5. I will be following this with interest, as I train for my first 50 miler on a base of 25-30 miles/week this spring.