10k Session based on the science of Peter Snell

Peter Snell had a rather brief athletic career. A surprise 800m Gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics, world records for 800m, 880yds and 1 mile in 1962. Olympic Golds for 800m and 1500m in 1964.
In 1965 he retired from competition and began his career in sports physiology.

His finishing speed was astonishing. We tend to think of finishing speed being developed solely by speed training. But, according to an interview that Snell gave, his coach, Arthur Lydiard, saw it differently: ‘Look Peter, you want to run a half mile in 1:50? That’s two 55 second quarters. You can run one easily and the only reason you can’t run two together is that you don’t have the endurance. When you get that you will run under 1:50.’ Given that Snell was a middle distance runner, many runners will be surprised to learn that one of his regular training sessions was a 22-miler. His staying power and strength in the final 200m of his races seemed to prove how effective the philosophy was.

However, later on in life, during his research studies, he demonstrated the effectiveness of much shorter, higher intensity training.
Ten runners were studied over a 16 week period. These runners were already well-trained and ranged in 10k ability from 34 to 42 minutes. For the first 6 weeks all the runners trained similarly using steady running. Then the group was divided: one group used twice-weekly sessions run at lactate threshold for 29 minutes, the other group used twice-weekly interval sessions comprising either 200m or 400m reps at speeds between 10k and 3k race pace.

At the end of the 10-week block the runners were tested over 800m and 10k time-trials. Not surprisingly, over 800m the interval group had improved more than the threshold group (by 11.2 and 6.6 seconds). Over 10k, again the interval group improved by almost double compared to the threshold group; by just over 2 minutes against just over 1 minute. These are quite impressive developments in 10 weeks. So, interestingly, the interval group attained twice the gains compared to the threshold runners using half the training time (31 minutes a week compared to 58 minutes).

Here’s a session we ran at the track recently, mixing those 2 rep distances (to keep it interesting).

The runners were instructed to run at around 5k pace or slightly faster but not flat out, alternating 200m and 400m reps, all with 200m jog recoveries. Emphasis was given to ensure that each rep was run in a controlled fashion so that the pace could be maintained not just during each rep, but also for the entire session. Two blocks of 10 minutes were run, with a change of track direction half way through.

Off track this session could be adapted.
After warm-up, run hard for 1 minute, easy 1 minute, hard for 2 mins, easy for 1 minute. Keep the pattern going for 15 to 20 minutes depending on fitness level. Again, ensure that each hard effort is not so hard that the pace fades before the end of the rep or session.

Don’t catch a cold losing sleep

The runners’ nightmare scenario: 15 weeks into a 16-week marathon schedule, tingling nose, sneezing, itching, sore throat, running nose. All tell-tale signs that the dreaded cold is on its way.

coughs and sneezes spreads diseases

Runners training for a marathon or other important event will often make themselves social outcasts during the last few weeks of preparation.

There is plenty of advice out there about how to avoid catching a cold and mostly we know it anyway:

  • frequent hand washing
  • avoid the gym
  • avoid other people, especially children
  • eat well
  • drink plenty
  • sleep well
  • don’t shake hands with anyone

In short, don’t meet anyone and don’t touch anything.

In reality of course it’s not that easy to completely isolate yourself from the cold virus. It’s transmitted by inhalation and touch, so it’s virtually impossible to avoid it. Indeed, in one research study, volunteers with the cold virus were asked to spend a night in a hotel. The rooms were then examined and 35% of everything the guests had touched was contaminated. Furthermore, 18 hours after contamination, more volunteers were exposed to these surfaces and the virus was transmitted to them at a rate of 33%.

So, with high risks of exposure and transfer of the virus, what can we do to reduce our chances of succumbing to the cold?

According to a recent study, a lack of sleep is the biggest predictor of catching a cold. Subjects who slept less than 6 hours a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch the cold than those who slept more than 7 hours a night.

The study’s lead author, DR Aric Prather, PhD, said, ‘Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching cold’.

When you couple this information with the well known fact that long training runs temporarily decrease immune function, then it becomes vital that you do all you can to ensure you get enough sleep during the latter parts of your training cycle.

lack of sleep info

More info from University of California and San Francisco


How to improve 5k time without running more


The rule of specificity states that we must train the discipline that we want to improve. i.e. if you want to be a faster runner, then run, don’t cycle.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. There are a number of ways we can improve our race times without actually running a step.

If we want to run faster then we have to train the body to be able to do that — running to be fit is quite different to being fit to run.

A new study has shown that a simple strength-training regime can have a dramatic effect on our 5k race times. Sixteen subjects were monitored. These were moderately trained runners who could run 5k in about 21 minutes and who trained 18 to 30 miles per week.

Half of the subjects continued with their normal training and half also trained as normal with the addition of 2 strength sessions each week which comprised dead-lifts, squats, calf-raises and lunges. They did 4 sets of 4 reps using 80% single lift maximums.

The results should be of interest to any runners seeking to improve their running speed; probably most of us.

All subjects completed a 5k time trial at the start of the study and then another 5k time trial 6 weeks later in similar conditions. Unsurprisingly, the members of the group who did not participate in the strength training sessions did not improve their times. However, the strength training group improved their times by on average 45 seconds. That is a vast improvement.

After the initial 6-week training period a further six weeks of normal training was undertaken by both groups. The runners who had improved reverted almost to their pre-study ability, demonstrating the importance of an ongoing strength-training regime.

The authors of the study suggested that these improvements would also be experienced by half marathon and marathon runners.  They also remarked that this type of supplemental training could lower injury risks.

If you’d like to find some lost minutes in your race times, check out our 8-Week Runners’ Strength and Conditioning Plan.

Hypnosis for Weight Loss Reviews

In the list of reasons why people run, weight loss comes near the top.

Running is obviously a very effective way to reduce and control weight. Indeed, many runners who started when overweight have long since left behind any concerns they had about their weight.

Of course it’s not as simple as that.
Consciously focusing on weight loss means being focused on being overweight, which in turn negatively affects self esteem.
Thoughts about being overweight are coupled with negative self-image, lack of confidence in actually doing something about it, and many other feelings that block the motivation to change. 

This is why having weight loss as a goal isn’t a very effective way to lose weight.

So, how do you address the behaviours that cause weight gain without thinking too much about being overweight.

You need a bypass, a short-cut to the triggers that can facilitate the life changes that are necessary for effective weight management.

Hypnosis can provide that short cut. It tackles the problem at the very root of its existence: in the unconscious mind.

But not all hypnosis treatments or practitioners are equally effective. If you are lucky enough to find a hypnotherapist who really connects with you and and your own particular needs then great, because that can literally set you off on the road to a new you. An expertly personalised hypnosis session will utilise your own, unique personality, thoughts and experiences for great effect.

But it can prove to be quite expensive though, and not everyone lives conveniently close enough to someone who is good.

What about the alternative, self hypnosis? Yes, if you have the knowledge and experience to create an effective strategy. Not everyone does though. You need to understand the structure of a well-formed hypnosis script. The correct use of induction and deepening techniques and how to apply hypnotic suggestion. High quality recording facility will help immensely too, as will a professional voice artist or even better a qualified hypnotherapist. This all costs time (and money too) if you are to create something very worthwhile.

The self-help answer

There is a middle ground, between the one-to-one hypnosis session and self hypnosis.

Professionally written and voiced hypnosis downloads for weight loss.

I qualified as a hypnotherapist under the expert guidance of Uncommon Knowledge. The same company produce downloadable hypnosis sessions for a huge variety of conditions. Each download is professionally recorded and covered by a customer satisfaction guarantee. We use their recordings for running applications and heartily recommend them.


lose weight with hypnosisFor more info about effective weight loss, visit our sister site: Run Slim


Jo Pavey 10k Training Session

stopwatch running track

Jo Pavey’s extraordinary run in the European Championships 10000m has certainly made more than a few runners think again about what they can achieve.

In a recent issue of Runner’s World Jo detailed an ideal session for sharpening up before a 5k or 10k.

Unusually, it includes both interval and threshold training.

The session

  1. 3 x 800m with 2 min recoveries
  2. 3 mins rest
  3. 3 x 400m with 90 sec recoveries
  4. 5 mins rest
  5. 10 mins at tempo pace
  6. 5 mins rest
  7. 4 x 200m with 60 sec recoveries

The reps should be run at 5k pace or even slightly quicker.

We ran this session on the track yesterday, but altered it slightly — why?

Our runners have quite a wide range of abilities, and running to distance means that the slower runners have a comparatively harder session.
A 15-min 5k runner would be running their first 3 x 800 in just over 7 minutes. A 25 minute 5k runner would be taking 12 minutes; that’s quite a workload at 5k pace and our nearly exhausted runner is not even half-way through their session.

A more personalised application uses time rather than distance.

Here’s what we did.

Revised session

  1. 3 x 4 mins with 1 min recoveries
  2. 2 mins rest
  3. 3 x 2 mins with 1 min recoveries
  4. 2 mins rest
  5. 10 mins at tempo
  6. 3 mins rest
  7. 2 x 200m with 200 rolling recovery between

Why is this important? Well, it makes a session with a large group of mixed ability runners much easier to manage. Also, it is not disheartening for the slower runners because they don’t get the feeling that others are hanging around waiting for them to finish.

Running to time is especially important when running longer intervals, for instance 5 x 1k. This isn’t ideal for slower runners because the rep time can become disproportionately long; they cannot sustain the ideal interval pace for the 1k distance. So it’s more workable to run for time such as 5 x 5 mins. Pushing interval reps much beyond 5 mins means the rep becomes more like a mini-tempo session because the pace is slower; importantly, it’s altered the intended type of training.

In the example above, running 800m reps at 5k pace could be too demanding for some runners and the resulting fatigue could mean that the tempo part cannot be run at the most effective pace. The whole session falls apart and has a quite negative effect on the athlete — not what’s intended at all.

There’s also another practical benefit of running to time: we don’t need the track, so the session can be run out on the road.

What else contributed to Jo Pavey’s Euro Gold?

Jo’s lifestyle has changed somewhat in recent years; two children (one just ten months old) has meant that life revolves around her family rather than her running. She says she is much more relaxed about her running now. Yes she’s busier — much — but her training has become much less regimented. e.g. her morning session might actually be run in the afternoon (after the kids have been sorted out). Maybe this results in more focused session or a more laid back approach, whatever, it seems to work for Jo and becoming more flexible in your training could work for you too. She seems much happier too, and that is one factor that can have a massive effect on athletic performance.

Another factor that Jo values is getting enough sleep; vital for all of us but even more so for anyone with a demanding training regime.

As far as the actual the actual schedule is concerned. Not surprisingly Jo suggests that endurance runners should include the four staples: interval training, long run, threshold run and recovery runs.

Jo Pavey seems to be a perfect example of older doesn’t have to mean slower; older = wiser = faster.


Go Away Rain


I’ve been running for quite a few years now, and been coaching for a few too.

I always endeavour to be the optimistic trainer. By this I mean that when in doubt about running or training (and I don’t mean due to health reasons), just go. Get out there, engage with nature — whatever it throws at you — relish the challenge, the invigoration, and the sense of being alive. We always seem to feel better after a good training session (or any exercise) than we do if we bale-out and do something we thought we might enjoy more instead (like lounging around eating toast and drinking tea).

So what happened today?
We had a track session scheduled, but I cancelled it.

Why? Because this damn weather finally got the better of me.
A moment of weakness perhaps, or maybe we need these reminders occasionally to tell us that when we take the lazy option, we really do feel worse, not better.

I should add that nobody complained.

2 ways to reduce the risk of running injuries

Don’t run in the same shoes all the time

running shoes

We see quite a few runners who have favourite running shoes; they won’t buy or wear anything else. I used to be like that. Once I’d found a particular type of shoe, I’d be very cautious about changing it for fear of increasing the risk of developing a running injury.

Nowadays, I’m a little more relaxed about my running shoes. A while ago I moved very firmly away from the structured anti-pronation shoes that I thought were correcting and protecting me from getting injured. It seemed to make sense: if overuse injuries are caused by over-stressing the tissues in the body, then shifting things around a little might actually reduce the risks. Simply, running in different shoes alters the loads on the stress points in our bodies.

It’s always nice to have these personal observations confirmed by some science and the people who are at the sharp end of research. In his excellent book, Tread Lightly, Peter Larson suggests that rotating or mixing the shoes we run in could reduce our risks of developing running injuries. Now we have a recent scientific study that adds weight to the idea.

Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk?

The study examined 264 recreational runners over a 22-week period. 116 of the subjects ran in the same shoes, whilst the other 148 ran in an average of 3.6 shoes throughout the period. The startling result (although not so startling to some) was that the multiple shoe wearers had a 39% lower risk of developing injury compared to the single shoe wearers. Scott Douglas in his Runners World article about rotating shoes commented. ‘The researchers wrote that this could well be because different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, thereby lessening the strain on any given tissue.’
That statement (even without the science to back it up) seems like common sense. So why isn’t it a more common practice amongst runners to vary their shoes?  Perhaps it illustrates how entrenched some runners are in the belief that they need very specific types of shoe to remain free of running injuries.

The paper was summed up nicely by Peter Larson who said, ‘It’s OK to experiment with footwear, and in fact it may be a good thing.’

Some have suggested that the research could be funded by shoe manufacturers to encourage people to buy more shoes (yes, it can happen). However, I believe it is an independent study. Furthermore, in my experience, although we might have more shoes on the shelves, they last much longer, and being less choosey we tend to pick up many more bargains.

Get a few differing pairs of running shoes on the go at the same time and rotate them frequently. This will allow your body’s tissues to take a break from grinding along in exactly the same way, step after step, mile after mile. 

Here is another way to cut your injury risk.

Strength training for runners to reduce risk of running injuries

Planche exercise

There are plenty of research studies relating to the efficacy of strength training and other exercise regimes on reducing injury risk for runners. The problem is, some conflicts exist and it is hard to determine what actually works and what doesn’t. Now we have a review of a large quantity of research papers that gives us some very firm recommendations.

The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

This review included 25 trials, involving 26,610 participants with 3,464 injuries. The objective of the review was to determine whether physical activity exercises can reduce sports injuries and to analyse the effect of strength training, stretching, proprioception and combinations of these, and provide separate acute and overuse injury estimates.

When we work with our athletes on the track we always include some strength work as part of the session. But this is only really a taster for them; we simply don’t work with them frequently enough for these short periods of exercise to have optimum benefit. Although we stress the importance of the exercises, it is often apparent that many runners are simply not doing them outside of a formal training session. Why? Probably, because as runners we like to run and don’t perhaps see any immediate benefit.

So are there any benefits regarding injury risk for runners who perform exercises aside from running? The results are quite staggering really, ‘consistently favourable estimates were obtained for all injury prevention measures except for stretching. Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved‘. I’ll repeat that last part: ‘overuse injuries could be almost halved’. When we consider that overuse injuries account for most running injuries these figures cannot be ignored by runners wishing to remain injury-free — that’s all of them I suspect.

The irony is that for many runners, the only other exercise they do apart from running is stretching. Yet this was the one form of exercise that was shown to have no benefit to injury risk reduction.

If we could sell a pill that would reduce running injuries by a half I don’t think we could make them quick enough. Yet, the evidence is there: if you want to injury-proof your body, allocate some of your training time to strength training — a great place to start is on our body conditioning for runners page.

What do you think? What are your experiences of shoe rotating and strength training?

Bekele, Gebrselassie, Farah Stride Length Comparison

How do the stride lengths of the elite compare?

The video below captured Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebrselassie, and Mo Farah, at mile 12 at the BUPA Great North Run in 2013. At this point, the 3 runners are running at the same speed as they had done for most of the race; shortly after this point Bekele broke away.

We can see a very real differences in the stride lengths. If the speed is the same and stride lengths are different, then the cadence — or stride rates — must also be different. This obviously questions the often-recommended 180 stride rate; these guys are after all three of the very best distance runners on the planet.

For many runners though (especially the slower ones), the 180 guide is a good one. We find a large proportion of the runners we start to coach are way below this and we are constantly giving drills to encourage them to reduce the tendency to over-reach on their stride (we find that counting strides and focusing on picking the feet up can have a profound effect on over-striding form).

However, the vast majority of runners shouldn’t get too carried away by analysing and particularly trying to copy the form of elite runners. Form is a product of speed and not necessarily the other way round. The runners in the video would be lapping a 400m track in about 68 seconds. Most recreational and club runners would have some difficulty in running just one lap at that speed, and if they did, their form would be looking very different to the way it looks when they run at their more normal 6-8 minute miles over 10k.

There’s a more detailed discussion on stride length in Steve Magness’ article ‘180 isn’t a magic number — Stride Rate and what it means‘ on his excellent Science of Running site.

Tight calves running — time to stretch the calf muscles?

Most runners have experienced tight calves. Running obviously places a heavy load on the calf muscles so we must be careful not to increase the load on these important muscles. But is the reason for our tight calves the same as what we think it is? Maybe not.

So why do we have tight calves? Usually, we’ll look at what we’ve been doing lately; the type of running. Perhaps more uphill running than normal, or maybe we’ve recently switched to a shoe with lower heel, or maybe an increase in faster training could have put an increase load on the calves.

But tightness in the calf muscles might not be that simple

So what do most people do when the feel tight calves, or even worse, a pull in the calf? Stretch the muscle to near breaking point, which is likely the last thing it needs. Often tightness in one muscle is a result of tightness in another. In this case, the calf is overworking because of a limited range of movement in another; most likely the quads. The problem with tight quads is that they don’t usually feel that tight. Unlike the hamstrings or calves, shortened quadricep muscles are not always apparent.table quad stretch

Even that knowledge is not enough though. What’s the typical quad stretch that we see runners do? Yes, the standing quad stretch with knees together. But they might need more than that. Here is an excellent article in Athletics Weekly on how best to stretch the quads.


Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebrselassie, Mo Farah in slow motion

A dream come true for the organisers of the Great North Run 2013: to have Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebrselassie and Mo Farah in the same race.

For a spectator, waiting in anticipation at mile 12 was exciting too. Who would be leading?

The press and the camera cars passed to reveal a truly magical moment: all 3 athletes so close together you could throw a blanket over them. And, to add icing to the cake, I managed to grab them in slow motion as they ran past; poetry in motion!