Beetroot a Legal Performance Enhancer

Beetroot is arguably the best vegetable on the planet especially if you participate in endurance sports. I’ve often referred to it  as ‘natures EPO’.


Heres why I think so:

  • Years prior to its recent surge in popularity, beetroot had been used medicinally for ailments such as constipation, fevers and skin problems.
  • Beetroot is a great source of iron and folate, it also contains betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants.
  • Boiling beetroots in water and then massage the water into your scalp each night, can work as an effective cure for dandruff. (apparently)
  • Along with its performance enhancing properties, Beetroot can help with preventing dementia and lower blood pressure due to its high nitrate content.
  • Beetroot contains the mineral silica an this helps the body to utilise calcium, this can reduce the risk of osteoporosis due to its benefits to skeletal health.

Here is a great link that references all the sport research on beetroot.


Some ways to include beetroot in your diet.

  • Purchase readymade beetroot juice and have a glass each morning.
  • Drink a pre-workout ‘shot’ of beetroot juice.
  • Make your own juice or smoothie and add beetroot.
  • Chop or grate the beetroot and use it in salad, sandwiches or wraps
  • Cook a grated beetroot curry.
  • Chop it and put it on pizza.
  • Fry grated beetroot into a rosti.
  • Great ingredient to add moisture to chocolate cakes and brownies
  • Make a refreshing beetroot dip
  • Put a slice of it in a burger (Kiwi Burger).
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Marathon Training Tips for Non Runners

A marathon is 20 miles of pain and 6.1 miles of reality

Long distance running is hard. It’s hard to technically do well, It’s hard work, it’s hard impact on your joints and muscles, it hard to train for as it takes so much time, it’s hard mentally to stay focused for such a duration at a high intensity. Essentially it’s just a hard sport.

But because it’s hard it’s also fun and rewarding and that is why it attracts so many people each year and motivates them to sign up for a marathon or half marathon, especially as these events are on everyone’s ‘athletic bucket list’.

The major concern of signing up for such grueling events is that most people really don’t have the athletic background to run the race well.  I’ve heard a phrase used  ‘the marathon is the worlds most participated running race, yet it the is the worlds most under trained.’ which indicates most people who turn up at the start line aren’t properly prepared to take on the distance.

To put into context its popularity, more people run the London marathon in one day, than the number of people who compete in an official 10,000m (10Km) race in a whole year. that means it’s more than likely people are turning up to the start of a 26mile course not only as their first marathon but possibly their first running/endurance event ever.

This is not to say people shouldn’t participate in these event’s its more to say they should be aware of their athletic experience and prepare for the race according to their ability and not what training program they found online.

If the goal is to train and complete your first half or full marathon below are some methods you can adopt to ensure your make the correct physical and anatomical adaption without running the risk of burning out or injury.

  1. Start training as early as possible– Your success is dictated by how big of a foundation you can lay before you begin race specific training. If you can have an entire winter slowly building up your ability to run steady distance’s, it will pay dividends when the spring comes and you start some faster more intense runs as you will have a solid endurance base. If you’re really new to running I would recommend a season training for and racing shorter races like 5-10Km so you can get used to a) regular training and b) learn what a running race feels like, before you jump into the longer distance events. This season would also lay a fantastic foundation before you start doing long runs that are multiple hours in length.
  2. Don’t run too often- Although instinct is to run every or most day’s. In order to avoid overtraining and burnout you would be better off focusing on 3 really specific good runs that help you prepare. (Long run, Hills runs, Tempo runs). Then use the other days to continue building your endurance and aerobic fitness but not through running. This could mean swimming, rowing or cycling.It would preferable be non weight-bearing as this way you can recover from the impact of the runs but still continue to progress your aerobic capacity.
  3. Don’t inflate your goals If it’s your first marathon your goal should be to finish (it’s that tough). Once your training gets underway and you begin to see progress in your fitness, it is easy to inflate your goals. i.e. a goal of finishing a marathon soon becomes running it in sub 4 hours. This is not only an error as it can take your focus off what was initially important (to finish) it can possible make you try to run faster than your ability and ruin the whole race.
  4. Your weekly long run is the most important session. If your training on a regular basis then you will no doubt be progressing your aerobic endurance. However once a week you should be doing a ‘slow’ (slower than race pace) steady (no changes in speed) long (building up to 75% of race distance) run. This long run serves two purposes. 1) its is a good barometer to see how long you are comfortable running for long periods of time and how you are progressing as your training develops. 2) It prepares you to be comfortable on your feet moving at a failry high intensity for the duration or close to the duration of the race.
  5. Time on feet in training is more important than distance. You shouldn’t be aiming to run a marathon in training, however if you think the marathon is going to take 4 or 4.5 hours you should definitely prepare yourself to be on your feet for this amount of time. This is because it is too taxing on the body trying to complete a marathon length training run and will take weeks to recover from. However a low intensity training run of the same duration (can include breaks and walks) would not break you down as much but would have a positive training effect and be a great confidence boost. For example you may run 75% of the distance in your target race time as your longest run.
  6. Make your tempo run’s fast and your long runs slow– Most people run their easy  runs too fast and their hard runs too slow and just end up running all the time at a moderate pace which won’t develop or progress them. To get the most out of your sessions focus the race pace training runs (tempo runs) on quality rather than quantity and spend progressivly longer at these higher speeds. Then focus the long steady runs on acheiveing volume goals (quantity) and worry less about the pace (quality).
  7. Train your gut for race day nutrition If your planning on fuelling your race with gels and sports drinks (or some of your race) then you have to be prepared to have up to 3x gels per hour, which could mean upwards of 12 gels over the course. This isn’t an optimum way to get nutrition normally but for race days you should stick to the simplest method that your body can handle. If using gels is the case then you need to train your gut to withstand this amount of sugar and electrolytes, other wise you run the risk of stomach cramps or digestion issues during the race. The weekly long run is the perfect time to trial your nutrition strategy and adjust the amount of sports gels and drinks you take on based on trial and error.

Swim Session of the Week

 


  • Warm up (600m)
    • 3x 200m as:
      • Freestyle
      • No Freestyle
      • Medley Order
      • with 30 secs rest

    Speed Set (1000m)

    • 8x 125m as:
      • 50m Fast Freestyle
      • 50m Fast No Freestyle
      • 25m Kick Choice
      • with 45 sec rest

    Main Set ( 1400m)

    • 5 x 100m Fast as: (30 sec rest)
      • 2 x 100m Freestyle
      • 2 x 100m Choice
      • 1 x 100m Recovery
      • 8 x 25m Max Effort (10 sec rest)
      • Repeat Above Set
  • Warm Down ( 400m)
    • 400m Choice
  • Total 3400m

 

How to Be Your Best

There’s an interesting mantra that has been popularised in the self-improvement and development world recently (James AltucherRyan Holiday, Ken Shamrock) called:

  • Plus
  • Equal
  • Minus

This concept isn’t new and I am sure it has been called other things in previous times or even adopted by people unknowingly. But the main idea of the mantra is everyday you should try to find your ‘plus’, your ‘equals’ and your ‘minus’.

  • Plus: Find some one who is better than you, someone who you aspire to be like. Someone you can learn from.
  • Equals: Find someone who is at similar stage of development to you, but importantly someone who will challenge you.
  • Minus: Find someone who is less experienced and less developed than you. somone that you can teach the lessons you have learnt to help with their development. Not only to help them progress but also to cement your own learning.

How can this help improve your fitness?

  • Plus: Find someone who you train with or you have regular contact with that is significantly fitter and/or has a lot more experience than you do (it could also be someone you follow from a far). Spend time understanding what they have done to get to their position. Ask them questions about their regime, their habits. Spend some time in training with them to see how they approach their workouts. Become a sponge and learn as much as you can from them. You can take on their wisdon and apply what resonates to your own training, focus on habits that challenge your current comfort zone.
  • Equals: Now its time to get competitive, find someone one at training or a friend who has a similar level of fitness to you and get involved in a joint session. Sign up for a race or competition together. This way you now have an equal to benchmark yourself against with the goal to try and stay one step ahead of them at all times. They will be your extrinsic motivator to force you to focus,train harder inorder to develop faster.
  • Minus: This is likely the more challenging part, because unless you are a coach or a leader it is unlikely you do this already. The aim is to find someone who is either less experienced or has a lower fitness level than you. Take them under your wing and as you listen to your ‘plus’ and progress by being challenged by your ‘equal’ you take these learnings and habits and instil them onto your ‘minus’ you then become their mentor and guide their development. It has the double benefit of cementing your learning too.

 

The Simplest Answer is Usually Right

Occam’s Razor is a problem solving principle where the focus is on simplicity. It states that for each explanation of a result there may be a large number of complex alternatives however the explanation that has the fewest assumptions should be the one to believe.

There is also a medical adage that summarises this way of thinking nicely:

“when you hear hoofbeats behind you, think horses, not zebras

Since horses are common around here while zebras are relatively rare (at least where I’m from anyway), logically one could confidently guess that an animal making hoofbeats is probably a horse.

In the sport and fitness world you often see examples of how this thinking approach could be applied.When there is an obstacle in the way or a result is not as good as expected so many far-fetched theories and hypothesis can be found to explain the outcome, when in reality the answer or solution is often the simplest one right in front of you.

Plenty of fitness companies use our habit of  overcomplicated problems to their advantage, you only have to look at a sport supplement advert to realise they are purposely making it confusing for you so when you aren’t clear on what the solution to your problem is you turn to their magic pill (the Zebra) for the answer. when really the obvious solution is right in front of you (the horse).

Some examples of how this can apply

  • Reasons you’re not getting stronger You aren’t taking the right supplement, You don’t eat enough protein, the rest period in between sets is too long, you don’t have enough recovery time, you split your workout over too many exercises, you lift the weights too fast/slow, you don’t use the right exercise or technique, your training too many/few days in a a week, you don’t have the right coach, you’re not a member of the right gym, you don’t use a weight belt, your use the wrong footwear.
    • Applying Occam’s Razor: You aren’t progressively overtime lifting increasingly heavier weights.
  • Reasons you were beaten in a race The competitor was taller/leaner/stronger than you, The course suited the guy who won, you weren’t rested enough, it’s not your type of course, you raced last week, you were not mentally prepared, you’re carrying an injury, your competition knew the course as they’re local, it’s too early in the season to be sharp, you didn’t get enough sleep the night prior, It was too hot/cold/windy.
    • Applying Occam’s Razor: You aren’t training as much (or as effective) as your competition.
  • Reasons you don’t workout– There is not enough time in the day, the gym memberships are too expensive, you don’t have the athletic gene, you don’t like exercise, you’re injured, you’ve tried but it doesn’t give you results, you don’t know how to train, the weather isn’t conducive to working out, your kids take up all your time, you have a physical job, you work too long hours.
    • Applying Occam’s Razor: You’re not truly committed to working out
  • Reasons you are overweight– You have a thyroid problem, bad genetics, hormone imbalance, too many carbohydrate in the diet, too much fat consumed, sugar and  insulin levels, too much fruit and fructose, you eat too big portions, you suffer from social pressure to eat junk, junk food is too affordable, healthy food is hard to cook, you eat too late.
    • Applying Occam’s Razor to: You eat too many Kcals vs what you burn.

I know this could be viewed as a far too reductionist of a method (and isn’t always right) but it can often be a great tool to clear out the ambiguity in solving a problem or understanding a reason for the problem and force you to at least start concentrating on the most obvious solution.

 

The 1% Strategy

“If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together,”

Dave Brailsford

I’ve come across two different strategies that both look at small incremental improvements over along period of time.

  1. Marginal Gains (improve 100 things by 1%)
  2. Compound Gains (improving by 1% daily compounds to 3400% over a year)

I like them both and see value in how they can improve your approach to training, below is a brief summary of each and some idea’s on how to implement these.

Marginal Gains

Popularised by the great Dave Brailsford of Team Sky and British Cycling this concept approaches improving everything by a small margin, i.e try to improve 100 little things each by 1% (to create the sum of ‘100%’) rather than trying to improve one big thing by 100% which in theory should be more challenging. the thought behind this is that the aggregation of these gains have a greater impact than a large gain in a single area.

British cycling did this by looking at how they could improve things just by a small amount to get ahead of their competition. Below are some examples:

  • Warm ups and warm down areas at the start/finish
  • Aerodynamics of bike set up
  • Standardising ways to measure positions (to improve consistent bike set ups)
  • Shape of chain rings (circular vs oval)
  • Colour coding bottles and nutrition (to avoid mistakes)
  • Team bus to reduce transit to hotel (increase recovery time)
  • Aerodynamics of skin suits and helmets (seamless skin suits, 3D printed helmets)
  • Sleep position (type of pillows consistent all year round)
  • Mindset and psychological approach (hired Steve Peters as psychologists)
  • Emphasis on hygiene to avoid illness.

Compound Gains 

Another theory i recent game across from James Altucher is that if you try to improve by 1% everyday, then as this compounds it will result in 3800% improvement over a year (that’s being 38 times better than you were at the start).

Of course this isn’t realistic to improve by 3800% put it puts in to perspective the benefit of constant daily improvement and how little gains on a regular basis can add up to a large sum over time.

Apply the 1% to your Life and Training:

There’s an endless list of improvement opportunities but sometimes they’re obvious and easy ones that could be making a real difference.

Sleep

  • Can you improve the consistency of your sleep by removing electronic devices.
  • Try waking up at the same time daily or going to bed at the same time.
  • Decompressing prior to bedtime to switch off quicker  (try reading some fiction)
  • Black out the room to fall into deeper sleep.
  • Drink turmeric prior to bedtime (or boiled bananas) to help drop off to sleep.

Hydration

  • Carry a water bottle with you at all times and hydrate to the recommended amount, rather than relying on thirst as an indicator.
  • Include electrolyte tabs in your drink to improve water absorption and replace lost minerals through sweat.
  • Workout the exact amount of water you lose in training through sweat and make sure this is added to your daily intake.

Warm ups

  • Schedule 15-20 mins warm up prior to your sessions.
  • Arrive earlier to training to get a warm up done.
  • Warm up the correct muscles and movements specific for your sport.
  • Research the most effective warm ups for your sport.
  • Warm up your mind as well as your body to ensure you get the most out the session.

Super foods

  • Include Beetroot juice in your daily diet to help improve oxygen absorption (which improves performance).
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to your drinks bottle to alkalies the body and aid recovery.
  • Using glucose gels or drinks more frequently on longer races.
  • Reducing caffeine intake and then using it tacitly before a session as a ‘pre workout’ once your more sensitive to it.
  • Utilise ‘Magic hour’ the hour after exercise when your body absorbs nutrients the fastest by going to training with a recovery meal/shake.

Clothing

  • Ensure your clothing is the right fit for the type of training or racing, you could go down a size to improve aerodynamics on the bike or running.
  • Invest in a skin suit rather than a two piece.
  • Use an ‘Aero’ helmet for bike racing.
  • Trial different materials and brands to reduce chaffing and improve comfort.
  • Check the shoes you wear are giving you the best stability and grip for your sport.

Equipment

  • Wear racing flats for road running during a race.
  • Invest in time trial bars for triathlon to improve aerodynamics
  • Upgrade to a Time Trial bike if your serious about improved position and speed
  • Pay for a professional bike fit
  • Invest in a better wet suit that improves hydrodynamics and  mobility.
  • Check the bike gearing and swap for a better option suited for the particular course or race.

Learning

  • You may have hit a plateau in your knowledge or become comfortable in habits. Ask someone different for feedback on your technique or habits.
  • Read some new books from people you haven’t listened to before.
  • Build a habit of trialling new techniques or methods
  • Look at the competition to see if they are approaching training or racing in a different way.