Training: A Tempo 5k

After a my 9 mile run in Hamburg on Wednesday morning and subsequent travelling back to the UK, I was feeling surprisingly full of energy yesterday (Thurs) evening upon returning home from work. So, like a scene from Superman I ran in to the house and in a blur of motion changed in to my running gear and running back out of the door 2 miniutes later  (Running Man? Super Runner?!)

I  had 30 mins to run which, adjusted for stretching and warm down time left the perfect amount of time for a fast 5k.

The route I took is my preferred one for a 5k as it includes a long steep hill between 3-4k, perfect for building leg strength and aerobic improvement. For the first 1k I took it easy and then alternated fast for 400m, slow for 100m for 2km before hitting ‘The Hill’. I was breathing so loud at the top of the hill, gulping down breaths of air that I’m surprised people didn’t come running out of their houses to see what all the noise was about. It hurt my chest, but I don’t feel satisfied with a training session if there isn’t a little amount of pain involved! Total time was 20:45 which is over 2 minutes slower than my 5k PB but considering the large hill is a time I am happy with. This time last year my best for this training route was 21:30 so keeping up my year on year improvement!

Hill into Lytchett

THE hill at end of 5k

Next Training:

Out for a meal with friends tonight so will be a Parkrun tomorrow morning!

Running Gear: The Emperor’s New Compression Socks?

Do running compression socks work?

Do running compression socks work?

When I first started running a few years ago I didn’t even consider what socks to wear, or that this might make an actual difference to my performance. After a while, to avoid blisters, I started using specialist ankle running socks which felt fine but in real terms I probably could have kept on with my regular ‘sports’ socks and nothing would have been any different…

Then I noticed people at races wearing these really high socks… They went up to their knees! At first I thought perhaps this was a fashion thing that I really wasn’t getting but then I heard someone call them ‘compression socks’. Hmmm, I thought… that sounds scientific, maybe people are wearing these things for a reason!

I bought a pair and wore them for a few training runs before trying them out in a half marathon. I noticed no difference apart from blisters in places i’d never got them before. This is my investigation into whether compression socks for running actually work…

Possible benefits of compression socks:

A quick look at the description for some compression socks on sale promotes the benefits as:

  • More energy, greater endurance and enhanced performance thanks to improved blood circulation
  • Activates the flow of blood in the muscles
  • Muscle and joint stabilization for reduced risk of injury
  • Increased coordination by activating the muscles for a sense of stability and security when running

But surely they’re biased?!

During a Run – Maybe, Maybe Not!

Blood can pool in your legs. They’re low down so gravity tries to keep more blood than is necessary there. Your heart then has to work extra hard to get the blood up through your leg veins to be diffused with oxygen again and get rid of the lactic acid build up. It is suggested that wearing compression socks might increase venous blood flow, so flushing out these by -products of muscle exertion and warding off fatigue.

THERE IS NO CONSISTENCY in the results of the various studies done on this field. Ali et al. (2007) found that no performance or changes in physiological parameters occurred during or after a 10k run. In a more recent study,  Spurlich et al (2011) also found that compression “revealed no effects whatsoever”. On the other hand, Kremmier et al. (2009) found improved performance when wearing compression socks while running. The problem is that over all the various studies there were a lot of variables, from the type and length of socks, to the abilities and physiology of the studied athletes.

After a Run (Help the Recovery) – Probably!

There’s a theory that suggests that the vibrations created with every foot strike contributes to post-run muscle soreness. The aforementioned study by Ali et al. (2007)  “did find a reduction in muscle soreness, pointing to the muscle vibration and recovery aspects of socks.” Additionally, a study using full lower body graduated compression tights only after exercise showed improvements in muscle soreness (Byrne & Easton, 2010). so it would seem that compression socks CAN help your muscles recover quicker after a taxing run. As Steve Magness says though, it’s the process of damaging your muscle fibres and rebuilding them better adapted to running that helps improve fitness

Graduated Socks

Graduated compression socks

Graduated compression socks

Apparently the best types of compression socks to get are those that compress more down near the ankle, with compression force decreasing towards the knee. Buy them here (just for your info, I get no commission!)

You can read about this in a far better post by Steve Magness on his ‘Science of Running page (also a great book)

Race Day: Are You a Planner or a ‘What Will Be, Will Be’ Type of Runner?

There are two distinct cultures when it comes to preparing for a race. I hear it time and time again when speaking to different runners at different distance events. Obviously, this is not the case for professional athletes as they employ people specifically to plan and create a strategy for their races! This is amongst us mere mortals, the Sunday morning racers…

Laissez Faire Attitude

Enjoy the beautiful scenery while running!

Enjoy the beautiful scenery while running!

There are the runners who prefer to leave race day to fate. They do the training, put the miles in and certainly work hard to achieve their optimum fitness for race-day, but during the actual race they’ll have some brekkie, strap on their Casio stopwatch and head for the start line. A race is to be enjoyed, these runners say. Take in the scenery, connect with your body and adjust your effort by listening to it. Feel the buzz of the race, never mind technology and pace per mile – just don’t let that guy behind you get ahead, or try chasing down that guy in front!

Checking the pace per mile

The Planners

For this group a race is a carefully planned procedure where the enjoyment is in the knowledge that there is a race strategy and they know exactly how the race will be acted out, minute by minute. Hours will go in to checking previous results, calculating the pace per mile/km for each stage of the race and analysing the topography and course profile. Energy gels will be scheduled for miles 6 and 10 and a carefully balanced electrolyte drink will be placed carefully at the mid point of the course. During the race not a minute goes by without checking the vO2 level on the heart monitor and the current pace – exhausting in itself!

I’m probably more the first – which are you?

What Running Trainers/Shoes Do The Pro’s Like Mo Farah Wear?

4 Trainers For 4 Very Different Types of Run

If you’re one of the world’s greatest athletes like Mo Farah, then you’re going to wear the best trainers. There’s a reason why brands such as Nike fork out millions on sponsorships deals. An endorsement from a world class athlete is the best advertisement there is for your product. The sight of a World Championship or Olympic medalist training or racing in a pair of Nikes or Adidas gives no better evidence that a shoe does as better job than its competitors. Buy this trainer and you too could beat the marathon world record! Hmmm.

1. Track and Road Running
Mo Farah, World Champ and Olympic Double Winner Wears Nike Flyknit Lunar 2′s to train in.

Nike Flkyknit Lunar 2

Nike Flyknit Lunar 2

Mo Farah's Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 trainers

Mo recently tweeted a picture of himself training with the new Nike Flyknit Lunar 2′s.

They feature Nike’s Dynamic Flywire tech for extra comfy fit and the now well established ‘Lunarlon’ foam sole for cushioning. I have a pair of Nikes with Lunar foam and they are delish to run on. This Flyknit Lunar 2′s are out in the US tomorrow and hopefully the UK soon!



UPDATE: In the London Marathon 2014, Mo was wearing some Nike Flyknit Racers

Mo Farah Nike Flyknit Racers London Marathon

Mo Farah running the London Marathon 2014 in Nike Flyknit Racers

2. Trail Running
Ricky Lightfoot, World Trail Championship 2013 Winner Wears Salomon Speedcross 3′s and Salomon S-Lab Fellcross’s

Both of these shoes are purpose built for running fast over difficult terrain. Ricky hails from Cumbria in the UK, well known for it’s hills and climbs and as a pro trail runner he was most recently the winner of the World Championships in Wales in 2013. Sponsored by Salomon, he wears the Salomon Speedcross 3′s and the Fellcross.

Salomon Speedcross 3 and S-Lab Fellcross

Salomon Speedcross 3 and S-Lab Fellcross

Javier Gomez, Gold at the ITU World Triathlon Series 2013 – Zoot Ultra Kiawe 2.0

Zoot Ultra Kiawe 2.0

Zoot Ultra Kiawe 2.0

A lot of people in the UK have heard of the Brownlee brothers after Alistair Brownlee won Gold at the London Olympics Triathlon event in 2012. The winner of last year’s series was Javier Gomez. He has worked directly with a company called Zoot to create the Zoot Ultra Kiawe 2.0 which he wears to race in. They are light and feature ‘Tri-dry’ technology for a quick dry out from wet feet.


4. Marathon Running Shoes
Haile Gabrselassie, Many, Many Titles – Adidas Adizero Adios

Adidas Adizero Adios trainers

Adidas Adizero Adios trainers










Haile Adidas Adios

Haile wearing the original Adidas Adios


Haile Gabrselassie is a legend of middle and long distance running. In 2008 aged 35, he broke HIS OWN world record at the Berlin Marathon

with a world record time of 2:03:59. He’s run 5k in 12:39 and 10k in 26:22 which, quite frankly is superhuman in my opinion!

So what shoes does he wear? Well he’s an Adidas sponsored athlete, seen recently promoting their ‘Boost’ trainers. However, when he broke the marathon world record, it was whilst wearing Adidas Adizero Adios. When Patrick Makau broke the word record in 2011, it was at the same Berlin Marathon and he was wearing…these trainers!

They look like racers but have the cushioning that some heel strikers prefer. Nice and light they won’t ruin your cadence and the ‘torsion bar’ through the middle of the sole makes for a smooth transition from landing to take off.

Learning I was a Neutral Runner – Not an Over Pronator!

One thing i’ve learned over the last few years of running, is that what people wear on their feet is very important. When I used to run infrequently, I’d just chuck on a pair of my dad’s old trainers and make do in those. The trainers you run in can have both physiological and psychological effects. The physical can range from putting more spring in your step with something like an Adidas Boost, or correcting a gait deficiency such as over-pronation or flat-footedness. The benefits are in the mind too. If you’ve just spent £100 on some Nike Flyknit Racers then you may believe you have a slight edge to the guy in front of you in that 5k.

As I’ve begun running consistently 25-30 miles, this has meant that i’ve needed to replace my trainers more often (every 6 months). With my birthday being in August (21st anyone who’d like to send a cheque!), I basically get trainers for every birthday and Christmas!

Gait Analysis

When I started taking my running more seriously I noticed a twinge in my left ankle, so promptly went to the running shop to have my gait analysed in order to get the best shoes for my foot. They noted that I over-pronated on my left ankle and prescribed a pair of Saucony’s (I forget the model). Over the next few training runs and races, I noticed my ankle becoming extremely painful and at one point had to stop and limp up a hill. Ever the experimenter, I went back to my dad’s old Nike Air Pegasus’ and hey presto – my ankle went back to only hurting a little bit.

over pronating runner

An over pronating runner

At around the same time I read that actually, your foot is MEANT to over-pronate slightly! It’s a bio-mechanic designed to provide a natural buffer to the impact of your foot hitting the ground. The slight flexing of the ankle over the inside of the foot acts as a sort of shock absorber to your ankle and leg. Then I also read about Nike’s Lunarlon foam material and it’s cushioning effects and thought i’d give those a shot… this was where I discovered (through trial and error) that I needed neutral trainers…

A neutral runner

A neutral runner

Theres a great page on types of running style on the Asics website

Read my Nike LunarGlide+5 review