Author: PerformanceEnduranceTraining

Dream big, perform well

Coach asked me to write about my goals for 2021, but I wanted to tell you a bit about my running story first……

I only started running in my early thirties; my lifestyle was nowhere near the best, I was overweight and a heavy smoker. But running gave me a new lease of life, healthier lifestyle and an active happier dad to my 3 beautiful boys. Running can be tough with many highs and lows (more highs than lows though), but it turned my life around and I still love it to this day.

I have made new friends from all around the globe so I encourage as many people as I can to run without trying to bore them too much with all my running stories 2020.

There were many things I wanted to achieve before I turned 40 (last year), Covid-19 may got in the way of our racing calendar but certainly didn’t stop me getting sub 3hr marathon time and PBs across the board. They may have been virtual but to me their all official & I will strive to improve on them once we get racing again and we will.

One of my biggest challenges was to complete my first Ironman, I was one of the lucky ones to get a place in the Celtman Xtreme Triathlon 2020 and we will talk about the extreme in a wee bit! I have been known to just turn up at events, but it was a blessing in disguise not competing in this event last year as I would have been nowhere near prepared for it. I have only done one half Ironman Braveheart back in 2018, so there is a lot of work to be done for me and especially coach lol

Right my goals, I didn’t think I had many to be honest besides to complete Celtman, but after some thinking I learnt a lot last year and am not getting any younger, so I want to train smarter less quantity more quality. So my first goal is to get focus with help from Sophie and we have put together a 21-week training programme; first goal ticked. I feel a lot more confident with this in place as I know what the next 5+ months hold for me in the way of training.

Ok the extreme bit the Celtman, SWIM 3.4K in cold, deep and jellyfish infested Atlantic waters, BIKE 202K on incredible scenic (and often very windy) Highland roads, RUN 42K through an ancient drover’s pass and over the Beinn Eighe mountain range.

My girlfriend Marianne and I travelled the west coast back in October and she suggested a fab idea to scout the routes out for the Celtman. I’m not going to lie, Ben Eighe was stunning but at the same time what have I sighed up to!!! Sight of the stunning waterfalls changed my mind and along with having secured Dazza (Darren Sutherland) as my support runner, we are all good and most importantly, we won’t get lost no way we can get lost.

Ok goals I remember on one of Sophie’s amazing training weekends, we learnt about setting realistic achievable goals so here it goes – 5 dead simple goals to keep me on track. 1.Stick to the training plan including any rest days! 2.Learn to fuel 3.Listen & communicate more 4.DIET – Eat much better! 5.Tell my EPIC story

I am over the moon with Sophie coaching me on my Celtman journey with having coached my running for the last year and I cannot wait to see how I get on. So let my journey commence – got the best coach, family and friends for support ………bring it on CXTRI 2021.

How to make goals become reality

I’m probably not alone in feeling a bit baffled in setting goals this year. It’s the longest any of us have gone without racing, but it’s also hard to see just when racing will come back, and when it does, which ones will return for 2021. Apart from having my fingers crossed the World Long Distance Mountain Championships, it’s easier to set long term goals for now and be fit and ready for the races that do eventually go ahead when they come. Most of us will be rusty, but the adrenaline and relief of racing again will be a massive boost.

The break in racing has allowed me to reflect and plan ahead for the long term, which is why I sought out Sophie’s services mid-last year. I’ve had a good run in my twenties at top levels in fell and mountain racing, but there’s also been too many “nearly’s” in terms of qualifications and race placings. Knowing I was heading into my 30’s (I’m there now..), what I do in my next 10 years is important in the things I want to achieve – I’m getting old, and feeling it! I took time researching all of the coaches out there, as I knew the next needs to be the one that’s with me for the long haul. Sophie’s experiences with coaching mountain running at the top level and the fact you can tell she get’s very invested in her runners swayed me, and thankfully she had space for me in her roster!

I’ve had a few bizarre issues with my heart going on at the back end of this year, so I’m currently working with Sophie to adapt training to cope whilst it figures itself out (or the hospital results, whichever comes first), but have otherwise been building up the engine for the long term goals I have over the next few years.

To cope with the demands, I’ve looked at the other two pillars of running, diet and S&C… I’ve invested in weights and a fitness app, which I’ve succeeded at half as much as I’d like to, but twice as much as I expected. For the diet, I’ve unfollowed all the unhealthy food pages on social media and deleted all of my takeaway apps. I’m easily susceptible to brainwashing food adverts. It turns out, if you don’t scroll past big greasy pizzas, burgers and cakes it’s easier to not crave them! Who’d have thought!

Click on the link to see the full Inov-8 Ambassadors list of New Years Resolutions – .

Chris Holdsworth, Inov-8 Ambassador

Meet the Athletes ….. Chelsea Cook

Before my 20s, running was something I had only done a handful of times at school, when we were forced to run around a football pitch or a track. Despite having a rather unusual running style, I did find it was something I enjoyed. However, my embarrassment over how I looked as a runner was enough to make me never explore it as a hobby.

In 2015, I found myself a few stone heavier than I would have liked and pretty unfit. Exam stress was getting me down and I’d always turn to junk food to distract myself. Someone had told me that running outside was the best way to lose weight, so despite my fears of what passers-by would think, I took to the pavements… at night…so nobody could see me. I still remember my first run around Aberdeen in the dark, I ran until I could run no more – which lasted all of 9mins!!

A year later I had gradually plucked up the courage to run during daylight (can you even imagine!). I entered my first 10K race, aiming to beat the 1 hour mark and as soon as I crossed the finish line, I was hooked. Over the next few years I entered more and more races. Running was something I had started for aesthetics but now my goals were changing to more performance based ones. I got so much out of entering races, I loved the rollercoaster of emotions, the PBs, travelling to places I had never been before and meeting lots of wonderful people along the way.

Mental health wise, running had completely changed my life. I used to be such a worrier and stress head, especially with exams. And as a perpetual student, constant exams are a guarantee. But I now had a secret weapon to fight the anxiety and clear my head. I kept surprising myself with how I was performing in races. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a few shockers along the way but most of the time, I was breaking through the limits I had set myself. It made me think, if I could perform better in running than I had ever realised, what else could I do that I had set a self-imposed limit on? With that thought in mind, I quit my job and successfully applied for a place on the Aberdeen Postgraduate Dentistry course, which had always been my dream career. There is no doubt about it that without running, I would have never have found the confidence.

Fast forward a few years and I am now half way through my Dental Degree. It’s a busy, stressful course and I don’t think I could have coped without Parkrun’s, weekend races and evening runs to clear my mind. During Covid-19, I had a lot more time to run and to think about what direction I want my running to go in. I felt I had the determination to up my training but lacked the knowledge to know how to do it. I had heard of Sophie through a few different channels. As an Orcadian, I knew that Sophie had successfully coached some of the local athletes. I also, very randomly, met her daughters Emma and Oonagh through a friend and they told me about how their Mum coached them. I remember thinking I wish I had someone who could tell me what to do and I would just do it! I found her instagram page a few months later and this summer I decided to stop messing around with my own made-up running plan and get help from someone who knew what they were talking about!

I am four months into following Sophie’s training plan and I have absolutely zero regrets about reaching out to her. I already can look back to what I was doing a few months ago and cringe at my own lack of knowledge. In July, I almost lost my love of running due to verging on overtraining. Despite running higher weekly mileages now, the type of training is completely different and I feel so much better (as well as stronger) than before. The biggest change for me has been the consistency in my sessions. I used to head out the door without a plan in mind, I’d run whatever session I felt like running on that day. This often meant pushing myself when my body needed a recovery run or chickening out of the dreaded interval sessions when I didn’t feel like doing them (which was nearly all of the time). Now I have a planned session for every day, even if the session is a rest day. I’m sure Sophie wouldn’t actually reprimand me if I didn’t do her planned session on the planned day but I’m being held accountable now, which gives me the kick up the bum I need.

There are no downsides to having a coach. I have to rely a lot more on discipline now, whereas before, I let motivation carry me through, whenever it chose to show up. But that’s only increased my resilience and psychological strength. Sophie and her training plan showed up at the perfect time for me, Dental School life has changed from busy clinics and full days of teaching in the university, to mostly online learning. Without her training plan, my days would lack structure and focus. To be honest, it’s really kept me going this last month and I’ll always be thankful for that. What amazes me is that she has multiple jobs, a busy family life, is a fantastic runner herself, yet she always has time to reply to what may be the silliest of questions. She explains everything so clearly and is always there to support her athletes.

Nobody really knows what the future of racing in 2021 looks like, but to be honest I get a lot of comfort just knowing I am moving in the right direction, regardless of the end goal. It’s all about the process and thanks to Sophie, it’s a process I can now trust.

Meet the Athletes …… Ailsa Lopez

I started out road running just after my 1st child was born in 2004 and continued with mostly road running for over a decade. Over the past couple of years I have moved more to hill running because it was much more rewarding. I was getting bored of road running and wanted an endurance event that would challenge me.

When having 3 children, I tended to just go out when I could and do what I fancied, often deciding as I stepped out the door. My training was unplanned at best and sporadic at worst.  My progress was slow then it came to a stop. I started to not enjoy running as much because I felt it wasn’t going anywhere.

Why do I run? I run for me time. I love the feeling you get after a run, when you feel energised and stress free. I love getting to the top of a mountain and taking in the amazing views, it’s just so good for the soul. To no run would be awful, I would be stressed and so down.

I have never had a coach until coming across Sophie in March 2020.  I found my love for racing about 4 years ago, hill racing more so now and that’s why I contacted Sophie.  I wanted to see if I could get my race times down with her help. It’s only been a short time but already I have 5k and 10k virtual PBs. I also now know what I’m doing each day which makes it so much easier to work my training around the kids and work.

If I ever have any questions Sophie’s quick to respond and very helpful. She’s been amazing at keeping me updated with the races that might go ahead this year and the ones that are cancelled. If anyone’s thinking of getting a coach I would definitely recommend getting one. I can honestly say there’s no downsides to having a coach.

Meet the Athlete……..Michael Cayton

Running has been part of my life on and off since I was 11 years old. I started to train with a structured plan when I was 17 years old and gained international vests at 3 World Youth Mountain Running Championships and represented England on the cross country.

At the age of twenty I was selected for England at the International Snowdon Race, this would be the last race I competed in, as I fell out of love with running, partly due to over training and loss of desire.

In 2015 I decided I needed to get fit and started to lose some weight and joined the Parkrun community and the running bug started to bite. I looked at old training diaries and tried to replicate this, but I was trying to do far too much too soon and kept getting injured and ill. I decided I needed to get back to basics with the aim of consistency rather than big miles, I made improvements and through hard work gained international selection at the 2019 International Snowdon race.

I love to train hard and big sessions are something I enjoy. The main reason I run is to try and push myself as much as I can to achieve my dreams to represent England and Great Britain on the mountains.

Now I am stuck in the unknown of where I am racing wise due to covid-19, however my training has been excellent and I know that I am in great shape and hungry to keep progressing.

I started to work with Sophie in October 2019 as I wanted to work with somebody with a love of hill running that matches mine and can provide me with new guidance that can take me to the next level. Being honest our relationship has brought new belief and freshness that I needed. It was refreshing to be asked what I wanted to do and what I saw as my weaknesses and what I wanted to work on; this gave me the reassurance that the training planned was individual and to help me progress and achieve my goals.

My training has been excellent with a mix of speed and hill work whilst developing other areas I had let slip over the years. Some of the sessions have been brutal, especially the hill sessions and this has made me understand just what it takes to be the best.

For me having a coach is to have someone that not only plans sessions, but is there to give you confidence, to believe in you when it gets tough, whilst creating new training sessions too that keeps the training fresh with the aim of progression.

If anybody asked me would a coach be of benefit it would be an overwhelming YES. Having sessions planned with an end goal in mind is only part of the relationship, working with somebody who shares a passion and wants you to succeed as much as you do, can only benefit you as a runner. 

Mum time

Meet the Athletes – Caroline Marwick

I have always loved running, although I was never very competitive at school and only ran a wee bit through university.  I did the Highland Cross every year (a coast to coast duathlon) and only joined Inverness Harriers as I thought I might be able to improve my HX time. I began to train more and did almost everything – road, trail, XC and hill races – and found I really enjoyed racing. My HX time did improve and in 2016 I was the 1st woman – a lifetime goal achieved!

My daughter Anna was born in 2018 and I found being a Mum suited my running too, as I had my best season so far in 2019. I set PBs for 5 and 10k and was doing a lot more hill racing, culminating in a running career high point of my first Scotland vest for hill running. Now focussing much more on hill running, I have joined Highland Hill Runners, and hope to continue enjoying running and racing in the hills, and if it’s fast enough to make it on to any teams, even better!

I started working with Sophie in May this year, as I felt like I had lost the momentum I had last season, and also now that I am 35, wanted to make the most of the next few years by making sure I am training properly. My training is already more structured, I can see the progression of the sessions from week to week. Beforehand, I would just make up a couple of interval sessions a week, but they had no bearing on the overall plan. It’s been hard to judge how I’m getting on so far with the lack of racing this year, but I feel a lot fitter and stronger, and it’s been getting easier to hit the target pace in the interval sessions that Sophie sets. Even the easy runs are feeling easier again! The highlight so far has been running the women’s FKT for the Cairngorm 4000ers round.

Having never had a coach before, I am so far really enjoying having a plan and also the support Sophie gives. She is always so quick to answer queries and never makes you feel like it’s a stupid question. She is very knowledgeable and has been really helpful at keeping me updated with the race situation this year too. She asks what type of sessions you enjoy and makes sure they are incorporated – I have a lot of days I can just go running in the hills planned in. Another big difference for me has been having strength and conditioning regularly scheduled into the week (before this definitely got forgotten/completely missed out). Overall, it has been great just knowing there’s someone in the background looking out for you and cheering you on in your running.

The only downside so far is that I sometimes feel guilty when I add in extra activities to my week, like cycling, hill walking, open water swimming… that aren’t on my plan. Although I don’t think Sophie minds really!

How to achieve your running goals; how to form good habits

I would be worth a fortune if every person who has made a renewed effort to attend a gym, just handed the money over to me and saved themselves the bother; after all it will only last until……………..  Cynic or a realist?

Take a look at the norm of over-populated gyms, circuit classes and running clubs; the significant rise in membership renewals and the number of races that sell out within minutes/hours.  But for those of us who regularly exercise and don’t succumb to seasonal variances in our activity levels, what can others learn from us? What do we do that makes us more likely to maintain a relatively consistent training regime?

Habits have been proven to take on average 66 days to form.  From a study by Lally the range is from 18-254 days  Just break it down 66 days, just over 2 months, that’s 9 weeks. That’s a whole lot of excuses right there.

So here are my top five strategies to help you reach and maintain your running goals without backing down from the promises you have made yourself.

  1. Create a positive environment – surround yourself with positive people who believe in what you want to achieve and will support you to achieve your goals.  When you are setting out to make a change in how you lead your life regardless of your reasons; increased fitness levels, weight loss, change in lifestyle; you need as much assistance as you can get.  Take those close to you on the journey with you either by getting them involved in the same goals or making sure they understand your reasons and are therefore able to support you.  Seek out positive support at work and give anyone who doubts you a body swerve
  2. Plan what races and training you can do – this is different from entering a shed load of races; virtual or real, that in your heart you know you are not going to go to.  This type of unrealistic behaviour only feeds into any negative thoughts you may have.  Be realistic about what you want to race in with one key goal race and enter others which you use as part of your preparation.  As part of this you also need to be realistic in your training plans.  If you are planning your own training, be realistic about what you can and should achieve on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.  Again do not set yourself up to fail by expecting too much too quickly.  Respect the golden rule of never increasing your overall mileage by more than 10% per week.  So if you currently run 15 miles per week then next week this can increase to 16.5miles, 30miles per week can be increased to 33miles next week
  3. Find a running buddy or coach – we are by nature social animals and as such most of us require social company in some shape or form.  Even those of us who train / choose to train alone 99% of the time, need the input from others for some sessions to get us out the door.  That might be the promise to a training partner to meet them at a certain place and time for a session you know is going to be tough, it might be telling someone you are going to do a certain session just so that you keep that promise (this is my go to which involves a message to my daughters, which acts as almost a pact with them that I will train) or it could be meeting up with others even once a week for a rep session or steady run so that you have this as part of the focus of the week.  Alternatively, if you do not already have one, consider linking up with a coach; the number of times my athletes tell me they do a session I have set them just by virtue of the fact that I have set it for them still ceases to amaze me.  I am almost like their shadow, not necessarily with them in person but still with them and the accountability to someone else seems to be a very effective motivator.  If you do not have that someone else then be accountable to your training diary.  I write down my training plans and tick them off as I complete them, often the virtue of having them down in black and white can be enough to make them happen
  4. Look out kit – this seems a strange thing to do but try it.  If you are just finished a long day at work, the mere fact that your kit is sitting looked out might just be enough to give you that extra gentle nudge to get out the door.  Put your kit on and run or put it away; I challenge you that 9/10 you will put it on and get out the door.
  5. Finally take control – things will happen and plans will have to changed but do not let that be the controlling factor in your running aspirations.  If something gets in the way, get back on the proverbial horse as quickly as you can so that you can continue to form those positive habits.  Work is my Achilles heel which often scuppers my training plans.  This used to be a constant source of stress but I now manage to accept it as I do not let one missed session, control or dictate all of the sessions I have managed to make happen.  I engage all of the other strategies to make sure that I very quickly get back into my routine of training so that one missed session, is just that one missed session and not a disrupted week

So if you think you struggle to maintain running goals, have a think about these strategies and try employing some of them to make your running into a positive long term habit.