4 reasons to run at night

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Some people swear by it, others wouldn’t dream of it… so here are some scientifically proven benefits of running at night:

1. You can push yourself harder. A University of North Texas study found that muscular function and strength were greater, later in the day. Your body has higher oxygen levels and is better prepared for exercise.

2. You can run faster times. A study of marathon runners,conducted by London University, found that they consistently ran a 10km course faster at night.

3. You sleep better. Exercising before bed improves the quality of your sleep and results in increased energy levels,according to a study at the University of South Carolina. 

4. You can help fast-track a cure for paralysis. OK, this one is a little more subjective, but over the last few years running at night for #runinthedark has been proven to raise hundreds to thousands of Euros for this cause. And, I think, that’s a good a reason to run at night.

If you’re up for a #runinthedark, there’s one taking place somewhere near you in mid-November. You can find it on www.runinthedark.org

10 things I learned from FB live with Mark & John

On Saturday, Mark and John took to Facebook live with a flipchart and boundless enthusiasm, to share every tip they could think of that would help you prepare for #runinthedark.

Between them, they’ve completed over 50 endurance events on every continent in the world! And, drawing on that experience, they came up with this impressive list of training tips:

  1. Don’t try to do everything at once. Build up your training
  2. Take the easy days easy, and push yourself on the hard days
  3. Warm up, especially on cold days. Walking is a good warm up/cool down
  4. Follow a plan. Try our 8-week training plan here
  5. If you miss a session, go back to the training plan and adjust your upcoming sessions
  6. Reclaim the hour. Run to/from work or run during your lunch hour. John calls this run-mute and run-ch!
  7. Recover & rest. Sleep is really important – if you’re staying up late watching tv, ask yourself, would you get up an hour early to watch it?
  8. Avoid injury - Don’t train with pain
  9. Find a training partner. You’re less likely to miss a training session if you’ve arranged to meet someone
  10. On run day, eat a good sized-lunch but nothing too heavy. Have a snack in the afternoon. John drinks chocolate milk post-run

These are only the summary points, though. If you want to hear the full, in-depth discussion, you can watch it now on Facebook.

And if you really like it... tag a friend who could use a few pointers!

Thanks

Paula

  

When a run seems intimidating... some words of wisdom

The mind really does play tricks, especially if you haven’t been training. Here’s what my internal dialogue sounds like when my fitness has slipped.

“I’m not ready… This is going to hurt… Is there any way to just not do this?!”

But in the midst of the negative chatter I hear my old rowing coach Tim Levy’s advice about how to approach the first test of the season. 

“Just get a score on the board.” 

His point was simply to lay down a marker – once you have a score recorded you can’t hide from it. You either train well or don’t train well. You either improve on that score, or you don’t. 

Once I get a score (even a pitiful one) on the board, that helps me set targets for an initial phase of training.

If you find your mind filling up with chatter and excuses, just get out for a run and put a score on the board. Any score. You have to start somewhere. Record your time, then start chipping away at it.

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If you’d like some more training tips, join me and international endurance athlete John O’Regan live on Facebook this Saturday 30th September at 10.30am GMT. Post your questions in the comments on anything from fitness, training and nutrition, to getting started, setting targets and sticking to them. 

And, you know, there’s 7 weeks until the Run in the Dark. Why not target a 5K or 10k time that you want to run this November and work towards that. 

Mark 

Mark Pollock

 

Race Day Preparation: 9 tips to get you over the line!

Our aim: Run in the Dark 2015

 

The training is done and the best thing you can do between now and race day to ensure you get the most from your recent training is to rest and try get an early night the night before.

You should have everything you need at this stage and it’s no harm writing out a checklist to second guess yourself as the most obvious items can be the easiest to forget.  

Bear in mind that you might be travelling to the venue directly from work so your packing will need to be done by the latest on the night before and the weather can go from one extreme to the other. 

Pinning the race number to your T-shirt well in advance is always a good idea and lessens the chance of forgetting it.


Don’t overdo the pre Race Hydration as the last thing you want before the start is feeling the need to use the toilet and that’s a normal Race Day reaction. 

The same can be said for eating in advance of the start. Stick with your regular lunch type meal and between finishing work and the race start you might get away without the need to eat but if you feel hungry choose something small and light and try have it consumed at least 2hrs before the start.

 

Make sure to arrive at the venue in good time to avoid any unnecessary panic and to allow time for a short warm up.  You may think the warm up is unnecessary for the race distance but this is when you discover if all is ok and you’re ready for action. 

During the warm up you might notice that your shoe laces are too tight for example. 

Knowing where you’re going is always advisable and if travelling with or supported by friends and family then it might be worth planning a meet up point for after the event just in case you get separated. 

Keep the meet up point close by and obvious as the area will be busy and it’s easy to get lost in a crowd.

If you plan on using a GPS watch to help with your pacing and record your run make sure the battery life is sufficient for your expected finish time plus a bit more and I’d advise switching it on well in advance of the start to get a fix on the satellites as this can take longer than usual when surrounded by tall buildings. 

The positive energy that’s radiated from such a large group of like minded people can be hard to match so aim to arrive at the start line well rested and make the most of the moment.

 

  • Collect your race pack as soon as possible.
  • Pin your race number to running top and try it on.
  • Write out a checklist if you plan to travel from work.
  • Pack a plastic bag to keep items dry as a just in case.
  • Vaseline for those delicate areas.
  • Try nothing new on race day
  • Pre plan an after run meet up point for friends and family.
  • Warm up before the start.
  • Enjoy the night!

 

 John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.
 

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777 

 

 

EVENT WEEK: 5 KEYS FOR SUCCESS

Our aim: Run in the Dark 2015

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It’s now time to start thinking about Race Day and although you won’t make much of an improvement to your fitness between now and then you can still ensure you are ready for Race Week by preparing in advance. 

If you were thinking of replacing your running shoes or any items of clothing then now is the time to do it as you don’t want to be introducing anything new in the days before the Race just in case there’s any discomfort. 

If you have your favourite items of clothing that you plan on wearing then make sure they’re available and use something else for those last few sessions. 

Don’t try catch up on lost training sessions as you may leave yourself fatigued rather than rested leading and ideally you won’t to be at the start line feeling rested and free from aches and pains.

Think about what the weather might be like and always be prepared for the worst by making sure you have a rain jacket and maybe a hat & gloves packed. 

Don’t rely on the goody bag to refuel after your run by making sure you pack something to aid your recovery. 

You could also pack a snack to keep you going before the race starts and if you plan on going to the race from work don’t forget to pack a change of clothes if required.

Familiarise yourself with the surrounding area by taking a look at the race route map as this makes it easier to plan your route to and from the event. 

 

  • Don’t try anything new on Race Day.
  • Don’t try catch up on lost training sessions.
  • Use the week before the race to ensure you are race ready.
  • Familiarise yourself with the surrounding area.
  • Be aware of road closures and places to park.

 

It's advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

 

 

 John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.
 

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777 


Staying Motivated

Our aim: Run in the Dark 2015

 

There are times when the training can start to feel monotonous and getting out the door can become more of an effort than it was when you first started. 

There’s nothing unusual about feeling bored from doing the same thing over and over again and sometimes all you need to do is add variety to your routine. 

This can be nothing more complicated than changing your running route or even running the same route but in the opposite direction.   Try inviting someone new along as this can be like starting all over again and you’ll be less likely to let someone else down than you might be to let yourself down. 

 

There are lots of ways to stay motivated and it doesn’t need to be anything complicated. 

  • Remind yourself of the reason you started in the first place.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Don’t always look for a workout and learn to enjoy the activity first.
  • To keep going you need a target and that target needs to be beyond where you are now.
  • Set realistic achievable training goals
  • Regular testing will let you see how far you’ve come and this will make you realise that you can go further.
  • Introduce variety to avoid monotony.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people rather than going it alone.
  • Invite friends.
  • Join a club.
  • Sign up for a race or event.
  • Involve a charity and let someone else benefit from your journey to a fitter / healthier you.
  • Take breaks every so often.
  • Be grateful that you get to run.
  • Remember that you’re almost there.

 

You’ll regret the runs you didn’t do more than the ones you did do!

It's advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

 

 John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.
 

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777 


 

Monitoring Progress

Our aim: Run in the Dark 2015

 

Every so often you need to stop and think about how far you’ve come as the progress won’t always be obvious or your training might not be productive.  

A simple test can be repeating a session from early on in your schedule that you found tough and comparing that with how it feels now.  If it still feels the same then you need to make a comparison with the time taken to complete as you can’t always base progress solely on how you feel after completing a session. 

This is because as you get fitter and stronger you will start to run faster even though the effort feels the same so the comparison will need to be measured by time rather than effort and if it feels the same but takes less time then you’ve improved.

If you use a Heart Rate Monitor then a simple test would be selecting a very easy heart rate zone with a difference of 5 beats between the lower and upper end of the zone, to select a zone you could take the average heart rate from one of your regular easy runs and use the average as the midpoint of the zone and go 2 beats either side to create the testing zone. 

To get a benchmark for making future comparisons you run a set distance staying within these parameters even if it means walking on the inclines to keep the heart rate constant.  Note the time taken to complete and do the exact same test run over same route every 2-4 weeks.  To get the most from this session you need to run the exact same route when repeating and try doing it after a rest or easy day.

If you notice an improvement then it’s a sign that your training is productive and you are responding to the stimulus created from your exercise routine.   If you don’t seem to be improving but remaining the same then you can try increasing the pace during one of your runs or start running a more undulating route as this will work your heart and lungs a little bit more.

Don’t get disheartened by the occasional result that might indicate you are going backwards rather than forwards as sometimes a drop in performance can be an advance warning of an illness brewing or possibly you are just trying to do too much. 

Have a think about might be causing it and in some cases making a few lifestyle changes can be all that’s needed.  Improving your quality of sleep by going to bed earlier and ensuring you are getting enough rest and recovery along with good nutrition should be enough to get you moving forward again. 

 

·         Establish a Baseline by knowing current fitness level.

·         Use the Baseline as starting point to monitor progress / improvement

·         Regular testing will ensure you are heading in the right direction.

  

It's advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

 
John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.
 

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777 


Improving Performance: The Fartlek Session

Our aim: Run in the Dark 2015

 

Once the routine has been established and you’ve spent sufficient time working on your base level fitness you can start thinking about how to improve your performance by getting the most from your available time. 

It’s still advisable to keep most of your training at an easy aerobic pace because although the addition of faster paced running will improve your fitness quicker it will also increase your risk of injury unless of course you keep it controlled.


Adding just one faster paced session per week will pay dividends regardless of your level of fitness but again I’ll stress that it needs to be controlled and nothing more than you are able for.

 

For a beginner wanting to improve you can consider anything that has you breathing harder than usual to be speed work.  This pace only needs to be faster than your regular training pace to be of benefit. 

Before you consider adding faster paced sessions to your weekly routine you might try running routes that include some hills as this will increase leg strength and also work the heart and lungs because of the increased effort required. 

Stronger legs will be better prepared to handle faster running and again this helps with staying injury free.

 

One of my favourite sessions to help improve fitness through speed work without overdoing it is called the Fartlek session which comes from the Swedish word for Speed Play. 

This is basically an unstructured session made up of mostly easy running with some shorter / faster elements added in and you do as much or as little as you feel able for. 

A sample session would be something like 10 minutes of easy running followed by a short sprint for as long as you feel comfortable with and then you slow down for as long as it takes to recover before going again. 

You could try picking landmarks or objects on your route such as lampposts and use the gap between the first two for a sprint and recover to the next and so on.  As always do make sure to warm up sufficiently and allow time to cool down.

This session will feel like hard work but the payback will come on your normal running days as they will start to feel easier and more enjoyable.

 

For continuous improvement you need to:
 

  • Be consistent with your training.
  • Build up slowly and be patient with progress.
  • Include rest days.
  • Follow hard days with easy or rest days.
  • Warm up and cool down.
  • Vary your running route and don’t avoid hills.
  • Run on different surfaces.
  • Only do what you can recover from.
  • Pay attention to staying injury free as you can’t train if injured and you won’t improve if you don’t train.

 

It's advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

 

John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.
 

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777 


Staying Injury Free & Safe

Here’s your Free 5 week 5K Training Plan for the Run in the Dark 2015.

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Running places a lot more stress on the lower limbs than they may be used to and that in turn can lead to running related injuries but in most cases these injuries can be avoided.  In the beginning your fitness level will improve quite quickly as it doesn’t take long for your cardiovascular system (heart & lungs) to start showing a positive response to exercise but structurally the improvements may take a little bit longer as it takes your muscles, bones and connective tissue more time to show the same positive response.  A manageable volume of training followed by rest and proper nutrition is how you improve so it’s important to be patient and don’t try get too far ahead of yourself.  This is why the majority of training plans start with such an easy effort.

 

There is gain without pain and with these running related injuries prevention is better than cure and it’s a lot less frustrating.  Running injuries don’t just happen but instead they build up over a period of time and when you start to feel that niggling pain the chances are it has gotten hold. There’s a big difference between discomfort and actual pain and the difference should be obvious as more than likely it’ll be localised and possibly one sided and if you’re a beginner then you shouldn’t even be working to the point of discomfort.  If you’re unlucky enough to get caught out but sensible enough about your recovery and repair then you should be back to your routine quite quickly as most running injuries are short term unless of course you choose to ignore the pain and continue on.

If in doubt then I suggest you don’t test your breaking point by trying to see how far you can go as this will eventually catch you out and the smart way is to slowly but steadily increase your training distance / volume or intensity.

 

Tips to help with injury prevention

  • Warm up and Cool down.
  • Build up your distance / intensity slowly.
  • Wear the appropriate footwear.
  • Include Rest Days.
  • Vary your running surfaces to prevent overuse of same muscle groups.
  • Include some light stretching after exercising.
  • Listen to your body and don’t ignore pain.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings as it’s very easy to twist an ankle in a pothole or broken pavement.
  • Pay attention to injury.

A regular sports massage can be your best defence against running related injuries and I tend to think of it like having my car serviced.  I don’t wait until the car breaks down before booking it in for a service and this lessens the chance of not having the use of my car due to an unexpected breakdown.

Worth mentioning again that the evenings are starting to get darker and regardless of who has the right of way it’s your responsibility to stay seen.  Dress to live the part not just look the part and avoid badly lit areas.

It's advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.
 

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777 

 

Why gathering momentum slowly is crucial to staying the course

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Our aim: Run in the Dark 2015

A lot of beginner runners give up in the early stages of a new training plan and it's partly because they try too hard and that takes away the enjoyment. Momentum must be built slowly and gradually and if it feels too hard then the chances are it is too hard and the solution is to take a small step back and slow it down. Be patient about increasing your speed and distance covered and make sure to always train at the level your fitness is at now rather than where you think it is or want it to be. Consistency is also very important and once the routine is established you should do your best to maintain it by sticking with your plan.  If you can easily get away from the house for 20-40 minutes then you should make the most of that time and this is where training for time rather than distance becomes an advantage.  A Kilometre is always a Kilometre and 10 minutes is always 10 minutes but as you get fitter and stronger then the time required to cover a Kilometre will get less so ideally you should be using those minutes saved to run further and this in turn gets you fitter.   

  • When you’ve got into a routine you should do your best to stick with it as windows of opportunity can so easily disappear if you allow them to close.
     
  • Put the effort into maintaining the routine and you might find that you have found something you can enjoy for the rest of your life.
     
  • You need to consciously get into the habit of running / training by knowing what you’re doing and when you’re doing it by having it pre planned as in following a training schedule or you might find that subconsciously you fall into the habit of not running / training.  For example, every Wednesday from 7pm-8pm I meet my club mates for a fast paced run and because we’ve been doing this so regularly we don’t need to check in with each other beforehand.  We train even if the sun is shining.
     
  • Don’t develop an overreliance on technology. Music can be good company but if you get too used to it then you might find it hard to run without and what do you do if it’s not available or not allowed in a race?
     
  • Be prepared for bad weather and dark evenings by having the appropriate clothing available. This cancels out an excuse.
     
  • Most important to gathering momentum is staying injury free so don’t ignore any obvious warning signs as an unexpected injury will stop you in your tracks.
     
  • Even a short slow run will be of benefit when starting out so don’t think it’s not worth your while going out for even a few minutes. 

It's advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

John O’Regan is the official running coach for this year’s Run in the Dark taking place on Wednesday November 11th 2015 at 8pm in 50 locations worldwide.

John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777