Category Archives: Training

The Power Of Easy Runs

Why is it so hard to get easy runs right?


Attention always goes to the high flyers. The threshold runs, the VO2max intervals, the long runs, the hill repeats, they hog the limelight. What about the easy run?


Is it too basic? Too run-of-the-mill? We do more of these easy runs than any other type.


Since it is the most common type of run we do, shouldn’t we pay it some respect?


The easy run is subtle, but it packs a massive amount of power. That power builds up over time when combined with consistency. It provides the support to launch your hard training. On a smaller scale, the easy run has the power to influence your next hard session. It can help you be ready for it, or it can take away from your performance.


I’ve made the mistakes on easy runs. The number one mistake is pushing too hard and fast. It is all too easy to go too hard. Over the years I’ve experimented with different approaches. I’ve let my ego get in the way plenty of times. Not everything has worked, but some has. Now I’m back to chasing some big and challenging goals. To reach them I have to get a lot right in my training. One of the biggest influences on this are the easy runs.


Time to share what works.

We do more easy runs than any other type of run



Setting The Base With Easy Runs


When a long way out from a race and trying to develop a simple to base fitness, most of the runs will fall in the easy category. At this time the easy runs are relatively harder than later in a training program. Because the key hard sessions are not crazy hard at the time, you can afford to allow the easy run speed to creep up a little.


My main focus is on run form. Making sure I am developing good technique. Focusing on a proper range of movement, some snap at the ankle and proper knee lift. While working on improving running form I find the intensity needs to be raised a bit until the form changes become more natural. Remember the body is inherently lazy and will take what it thinks is the easiest way in the moment. This doesn’t always mean it’s the best way in the long term.


To ensure the runs aren’t too hard, the best guide is that you are able to repeat the exact same run the next day without fatigue carrying over.


Increasing Workload With Easy Runs


After setting a grounding with some base training we start to push the key runs a bit harder. Yet we still want to keep increasing volume and the ability to handle more training. This is the time the easy runs start to become tricky. This is where we really have to pay attention to the effect of these runs. As we start including faster running in the training mix, it is often easy to inadvertantly run the easy runs too fast. It just starts to feel natural to run faster. During the run it doesn’t feel like it’s too much. Yet it encroaches on the your recovery. It adds a load you need to recover from, and it puts a hold on recovering from the harder runs. This tends to be subtle, but it accumulates and reduces your ability to extend your key runs.


This is the time to put your ego away. Drop the pace on your easy runs to what may feel ridiculously slow. To push up the workload, gradually add a little bit of distance to a couple of the easy runs each week.



Closing Down On The Race


As we get closer to race day the key runs tend to become harder and more specific. It becomes important to be fresh enough to hit your marks in the hard runs. As a result the easy should be even easier. Personally I find they vary a lot during this time. Completely dictated by how I am responding in the key hard sessions.


This is no longer the up the volume. Some of the runs will be very short, maybe just 30 minutes at a ridiculously slow jog. If there are a few days between extra hard runs, then in the middle I may move the pace up to something that feels quick for easy. Making sure it doesn’t take away from the next run.



Respect Easy Runs


I’ve kept clear of providing exact pacing guidelines. The speed of an easy run shouldn’t some preset arbitrary number. It be guided by the effect you are aiming for. Focusing some effort on taking notice of how you respond to the easy runs reaps a lot of returns. It is a great opportunity to develop a feel and understanding on how your body responds to training. This is part of the power of easy runs.


Power of easy runs beach running

Ultra Marathon Training: Block 1 Weeks 1-4

It has felt like years since I really trained fast. With ultra marathon training I’d become pretty good at shuffling my way over long distances. I get a lot out of this, but miss the faster running of my earlier years. So I’ve set a goal that should help me find some of that speed again. Some extra detail is in 2018 Running Goals.


Different and bigger goals require a change in approach. The main difference is a regular inclusion of faster running. The fast running won’t work on it’s own. It is only part of a bigger picture. Let’s break it down.


Block 1 is the first of 5 blocks, each of 4 weeks in my lead up to the Wings For Life World Run. An overview can be found in Training Plan Overview 2018: 7 Steps To Setup Your Running.


There are main 2 points in Block 1:

  1. Increase VO2max
  2. Increase distance of long run

Both these points will extend into Block 2. They should set the base for more specific training in the remaining 3 blocks.

keep on running ultra marathon training

1. Increase VO2max


This is the gold standard of aerobic fitness. A higher VO2max means you can do more work or run faster while using oxygen. It filters down to all intensities below it. Heavily determined by which parents you chose, there is still a substantial influence training can make.


There are a multitude of different ways to train to increase your VO2max. These have different effects on other areas of fitness. I will stick to what has been well supported in research and has worked for me in the past. It is a throwback to my university days when I was a lab rat in many exercise studies.


My go to VO2max training session is 4-8 repeats of 3-5 minutes with 3-5 minutes of easy recovery in between each repeat. The intensity of each repeat should be very close to my VO2 max, which will be about 3000m race pace.



2. Increase Distance Of Long Run


To make the Wings For Life World Run an ultra marathon I need to be able to handle running a long way. That calls for some long runs.


I know I can shuffle out some very long distances. However, the pace won’t get me anywhere near my goal. There is a big difference between 7:00/km and under 4:27/km. This means my long run needs to shift up a gear or two.

The struggle will be to find that balance in going faster versus adding distance.


Training Plan


Over the 4 weeks I was working in 8 training cycles. I know this doesn’t fit neatly, but it works for me. My work roster has a lot to do with it. The planned training for each of the 8 days is:Ultra marathon trining week 1 to 4

  1. Easy – likely a run commute to and from work. Anywhere between 4-10km each run at a pace that is comfortable.
  2. Easy – run commute. As per yesterday, but if feeling okay I’ll throw in some short hill repeats in the morning run.
  3. Easy – again likely a run commute between 4-10km. These first three days are about regeneration from the previous week/cycle of training. I want to come out of these three days feeling ready for some hard sessions.
  4. VO2max Intervals – this is my key “get faster” run. Starting with 3 x 1000m repeats with an easy 600m jog in between, I’ll add a repeat each week. The rest of may day is lazy as I will be following up with a night shift at work.
  5. Regeneration – this day is mostly written off as a nothing day. I’ll be sleeping for most of it after a 14 hour night shift. I hope to force myself to get in a few very easy kilometres of running. Sleep is definitely the priority.
  6. Long Run – Starting with 30km I want to add 2km each week. I expect to carry over some fatigue from the VO2max intervals, but I hope I can get this right.
  7. Easy – just a simple 6-14km to keep the legs moving.
  8. Hill Repeats – I will pick hills that take 2-3 minutes to run at a bit below VO2max pace, with a very easy jog back down. It is a mixture of specific strength and support for VO2max development.

The total kilometres in each period are not a goal. That total will take care of itself if I focus on getting each session right


Training Plan Overview 2018: 7 Steps To Setup Your Running

How do you plan your training? Do you get the most out of yourself? Will you achieve your goals?


There are 7 steps I take to developing my training plan. Join me as I take you through my process. At the end I’ll share my overview for the 20 weeks leading up to the Wings For Life World Run.

  1. Gather The Essentials
  2. Know Your Goals
  3. Create An Overview
  4. Pen In Important Dates
  5. Pencil In Key Training
  6. Details, Details, Details
  7. Train, Adjust, Train


How do you plan your run training? I sit down with my calendar, goals, commitments and make the most of what I have


1. Gather The Essentials



2. Know Your Goals


There are two key races I am focussing on in 2018.

Check out those goals in 2018 Running Goals.


Along the way I’ll throw in a few shorter distance events. Most will be based on what is available when my work roster allows me to race. Not to be missed will be the 2018 Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games in March.


3. Create An Overview


My training started part way into December 2017. This gives me 20 weeks until the first main race, The Wings For Life World Run. Then there is 11 weeks to the Hard Core 100.


Break up the 20 weeks. I work in 4 week blocks. It is a manageable time frame, plus it fits with how my work roster is scheduled. The easier training fits in with life, the easier it is to do.


Pick a main focus for each cycle coupled with a secondary focus. Remember you can be great at anything, but you can’t be great at everything. Choose wisely.


4. Pen In Important Dates


Put in everything you know. This should include your fixed commitments and anything that may affect training.

  • Work days
  • Family events
  • Holidays
  • Races


5. Pencil In Key Training


Think of the bench mark training sessions when want to hit. Pencil them into the overview of your training plan.

  • Do they work?
  • Do they fit in with your other commitments?
  • Is there enough time between the sessions?

I find I rewrite this quite a few times. The first draft is always too optimistic.


6. Details, Details, Details


Plan out each session of your first training block. For me it is 4 weeks. Start with the main sessions such as long runs, intervals, tempo runs.


Next fill in the recovery or regeneration sessions. This can include the very easy runs, days off or anything else you do to help recover and absorb from you training.


Fill the remaining runs. These will usually be easy runs.


Finally schedule your supplementary training. Weights, yoga, pilates or anything else you do.


After the first training block, I will then pencil in the main sessions for the following block of training.


Now we have a detailed view of the first block plus a reasonable idea of the following block of training. Compare it to the over view of your training plan and make sure it all fits together. It is at this point I find the reality of the rest of my life means my main sessions don’t quite work. Usually I have less time between then than I first thought. Again it usually involves a rewrite.


7. Train, Adjust, Train


Now for the fun part. Start training.


Have some patience and confidence in your plan. Allow time to see results, but be honest with how you handle it. What looks good on paper doesn’t always work in real life. Take note and adjust. Keeping the plan in line with your overview.


Training Plan Overview 20 Weeks


I break 20 weeks down into 5 blocks of 4 weeks.


20 Week Training Plan Overview: Wings For Life World Run 2018 then 11 weeks to the Hard Core 100 mile ultra marathon


Block 1: Weeks 1-4


  • Increase VO2max
  • Increase distance of long run

Different and bigger goals require a change in approach. The main difference is a regular inclusion of faster running. The fast running won’t work on it’s own. It is only part of a bigger picture. Let’s break it down… read more here

Block 2: Weeks 5-8


  • Increase VO2max
  • Increase distance of long run

I’ve moved from 8 out to 9 day cycles for training. Mainly because I’m on a different roster cycle for work. It also does work in quite well with what I am trying to achieve. It makes for a simple structure of 1 day hard followed by 2 easy days… read more here

Block 3: Weeks 9-12


  • Increase pace at Anaerobic Threshold
  • Increase pace of long run
  • Small amount of anaerobic tolerance development

The last 4 weeks of training was a bigger challenge than I anticipated. Well off target for quite a few sessions. I tried not to dwell on them too much. Took a little extra recovery. Tested myself in the last week. Surprisingly I still ended up pretty close to where I hoped to be. Now ready for training block 3… read more here



Block 4: Weeks 13-16


  • Increase Wings For Life race pace
  • Emergency Services Games



Block 5: Weeks 17-20


2.5 Weeks targeting efficiency at Wings For Life race pace

1.5 Weeks of taper

Race: Wings For Life World Run: Melbourne

All the preparation work has been done. The focus of these last 4 weeks is only on being ready for race day. My goal is to make the WIngs For Life World Run an ultra marathon. That is run further than 42.195km before the car catches me… read more



Final Word


Having a clear plan helps you make the most of what you have. How do you plan your training?



Do You Run Everyday?

Every runner gets asked, do you run everyday?


For some the answer is yes. For most of us it is no.


To some degree I aim to run everyday. Looking back through my training logs I definitely haven’t achieved it. Would I be a better runner if I did?





It can be an amazing achievement to run for a year or longer without missing a single day. For some it is a goal unto itself. For others it is a means to an end.


I’ve been impressed with the efforts of Steve Dinneen. His days off have led to some amazing results.




Of course there is Ron Hill. Longest Running Streak Ends At 52 Years, 39 Days


A Day Off


On the flip side some have achieved sensational results by incorporating a day off running. Paul Radcliffe was known to have a day off running every 8 days.

The day off gives the body a chance to adapt and repair itself from all the hard days of running.


If you take a day off running every week, it is 52 days without running every year. Will you benefit from taking this time off? Will more running be better? I think the answer is very individual. It probably even changes according to where you are in your own fitness.


trail run


What Gets In The Way?


There are the typical excuses. We are all stretched with competing priorities. If you really want something you will make it a priority. It sounds simple, but so many people struggle to make that jump from wanting to doing. It may seem like we have to put running ahead of family and work. I don’t believe that’s the case. Instead we need to look at what goes around our priorities. Do you watch television? How much time do you spend scrolling through social media? Do you plan your food and shopping ahead of time? There are many ways to create more time to do what you want to do.


My main excuse is sleep. Being a shift worker it is easy for me to throw out I need to get my sleep in. The excuse is easily accepted by others. To do my job safely, I cannot be fatigued.  Inadvertently it has become my default excuse.


Turn it around. Sleep isn’t the problem. We all need good sleep. It is what I do around my shifts that gets in the way of sleep that is the problem. Get important things in your life done without delay. It will lead to improvement in your running. It is something I need to work on.


Will I aim to run everyday?


The short answer is no. The longer version is, I will aim to run almost very day. Putting a caveat that if I do take a day off it has to be for a significant reason. Not just because I’m not feeling it today.


Do you run everyday?

Hill Training: Easier Way To Get The Benefits

Hill training is often the nemesis of the runner. We can make great gains from it, but it is often hurts. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact you can get many of the benefits of hill training by backing down the speed a bit and changing your focus.


Benefits Of Hill Training

Hill training provides so many benefits to your running. The obvious ones are:

  • increase in strength
  • increase in power
  • improved performance on hills

They are the no-brainers. Yet there is so much more, and it doesn’t just translate to the hills.

  • increased range of motion
  • improved foot landing in relation to centre of mass
  • improved toe off
  • increased strengthening and activation of posterior chain
  • improved running economy
  • increased mental focus
  • improved injury resistance


Speed Training Versus Hill Training

Training flat doesn’t improve hills.

Training hills improves your flats.


It’s a general guideline. Of course we can find exceptions to it, but it seems to apply well. There are plenty of runners who are exceptionally fast on the flats, but fall apart as soon as the gradient goes up.


Running fast on the flats provides many benefits. Some people have an injury history where flat intervals put them at risk. Substituting hill repeats can often reduce the chance of injury, but give many of the gains for these runners.


Hill Training Running Alive

Risks Of Hill Training

Of course hill training isn’t without it’s risks. Like anything in running, doing too much too soon is likely to cause problems. There are ways around this. Every runner is different. We all have different biomechanics, experience and injury history. There are however, some common risks that affect many runners.


Launching into near maximal efforts without a period of building up is likely to cause problems. Watch for tightness around the ankle and over the front (dorsum) of the foot. They are warning signs. Heed them.


Beware the descents. The impact when running downhill is higher, but that isn’t the only issue. Most of the impact is under eccentric load. This is when the muscle lengthens as it is applying force. More damage occurs with this type of loading. You can get great benefit, especially in fatigue resistance from down hill running. The risks are higher pushing down the slopes.


Find The Feeling

Hill training doesn’t have to be at your absolute limit. You will probably gain more benefits to keep the intensity under control. Running hill repeats right on your maximum is likely to limit your gains in the early stages of development. There is a time and place for maximal effort hill sprints, but there is more benefit in chasing form than intensity.


Practice makes permanent. So you want to be practising great form.


Use the following cues for good form:

  • run tall
  • drive down with your glutes and hamstrings
  • push your ankle and spring off your toes
  • aim for a feeling of snap and spring on toe off


The body likes to take the easy way out in the moment. If you haven’t convinced it that great technique is the best option, it will find ways to cut corners. It will cut your stride short, reduce your drive through your toe off, drop your hips and take out the hamstrings. None of this helps you go faster.


Make technique the most important element. Back off the volume and speed to ensure good form. Do not exceed your abilities to maintain form. You will make bigger gains in the long term with this approach. Your body will tell you when it can handle more.


Your Body Will Tell You

If you begin with just a few repetitions focussing on great technique your body will adapt. A little bit goes a long way. At first it often feels awkward. Keep chasing find a smooth, snap and spring in your up hill running. After a few sessions it will feel easier. You will probably be a little bit faster too. Take notice of this. Next time add a little bit more. Your body is ready.


When you add more pay attention to how you feel in added distance. If you lose the feeling of great form, then stay at that level. Anybody can write you should do 8 x 200m repeats in advance. It is hard to know how the body will behave for those repetitions. You might struggle with form and stop at 7. On the other hand you might be in the flow, with it feeling relatively easy. Maybe it is worth extending out to 10 repetitions.


If you pay attention hill training will highlight your form. Both good and bad. It gets easier to hold your technique over time. If you avoid just chasing the grind, you will find a flow that lets your body progress better. It can feel like you’re not doing enough at the beginning, but trust in your body. When it’s ready it is easier to progress.



How To Do It

There are many different ways to train hills. This approach will reap many benefits. The process will suit many looking to introduce hill training or coming back from an injury or lay off. It will certainly add to your performance if you are not regularly including hill work.


The Setup

Include a session weekly or every 4 to 8 days (depending on how you structure your training). Find a moderate hill. Nothing crazy steep. No bending over, hands on knees should be needed. It doesn’t have to be extra long either. Anything that takes somewhere between 40 seconds to 2 minutes to run up.


Perform your preferred style of warm up and get into your first up hill repeat.


The Repeat

Run up at a pace where you can maintain the technique given above:

  • run tall
  • drive down with your glutes and hamstrings
  • push your ankle and spring off your toes
  • aim for a feeling of snap and spring on toe off

This is a not a sprint. The effort should be solid. You need to be working, but the most important element is getting the technique right. You need to be able to maintain your form through the whole repeat. This will also exercise your ability to focus.


Once at the top. Turn around and very gently walk/jog back down to the bottom. Do it all over again.


And Again

How many times?


That depends on a lot of factors. If just introducing hills definitely err on the side of extreme caution. If at any point you find you have significant  difficulty maintaining form or your speed drops, then it is time to stop. That might only be 2 repeats. The idea is to practice great form. You will make great gains from doing this, but it is likely to feel slow going in the first couple of sessions.


After you have performed a couple of these sessions. You can look at progressing things. Add one or two repeats as along as you can hold your form. Mix up the hills you use. Go longer, shorter, steeper, milder. Variety will be good. Don’t look to force your speed. Over time your speed will come naturally as your body adapts. Better yet, this speed will be a result of efficiency and should naturally incorporate a good level of relaxation. Your speed will naturally go up.


It is not just what you do, but how you do it.

Taper Doubts: Surviving The Week Before Your Race

Most runners struggle during their taper.

It seems strange. Leading into a race you ease off on the training. You are no longer trying to push the boundaries of what your body can handle. More sleep. A little down time. Time to chill. Should feel great. Yet, most runners have trouble handling this.

Instead of relaxation we have too much time to think about the race. We doubt if we are ready. Not enough long runs. Should have done more intervals. What if I’m just not good enough?

Instead of feeling good our body signals problems. We become hyper aware of everything. Every little ache stands out. Is it a race limiting injury? Every muscle feels heavy. We lose our snap. All the speed has been sucked out.

Not just the first timer, but as an experienced runner we wonder if this is normal.

It is normal!

Running Race Taper

How to handle a race taper better

The Body

The body will feel flat. You’ve been training hard for some time. Pushing the body puts it on the edge. It has been in survival mode. Now you are giving it the opportunity to recover and rebuild into a stronger and faster you. This is a significant process. It takes the body a lot of resources.

What to do:
Give the body what it needs. Good food and appropriate rest. Racing and training hard put you in the fight or flight mode (sympathetic). Rebuilding puts you in the rest and digest mode (parasympathetic). Everything feels slowed down when here. Let the body stay in this state. You only need to feel good on race day. Trust the body, it is surprisingly good at getting this right.

The Mind

Train the mind. There will always be doubts leading into a big event. It’s okay. Not only should we accept this, but we can use it to our advantage. Set aside some time (that time you used to be running).

Write a list of your doubts and negative thoughts. Put it on paper. Then split the lists into 2 categories.


  1. Things you can’t control: training completed or not done – can’t change it now. Weather. Terrain. Other competitors. Now you’ve identified this, it is easier to push it aside and focus on part
  2. Things you can control: race kit, race plan, contingency plans, nutrition. This is where you can focus your efforts. Make a plan for a good race, and not so good race. What will you do if things go wrong. If you’ve considered situations ahead of time it will be easier on the day to just do it.

Meditate. This isn’t the time to learn completely new techniques. If you have a practice already then put some more time into it. If you don’t meditate find some time to sit still and breath slowly or follow a simple guided meditation. Personally I use Insight Timer whenever I feel like using a guided mediation rather than my own practice.

After 20 years of racing I still have to remind myself it is normal to feel bad, crazy good or just crazy during the taper. I’ve come to enjoy the process and see it as part of training and racing. Getting those feelings many dread indicate you are on track for race day.


Comment below and share how you handle your taper.


For The Injured Runner: Make The Most Of Injury Time

How do you get back to running after an injury?
Running doesn’t always go to plan. This year reminded me of that.
Early in May I had some awesome plans to smash out 100km at the Wilsons Promontory Ultra with a few friends. Nervous and relaxed all in one had me on the start line. For the first 26km it was all awesomeness. Running comfortably down a moderate hill my left foot landed on a loose rock.

Rip and pop!

Two weeks of living in a moonboot and no running for four weeks. It sucked. I’m not going to lie. I got grumpy.  The injury was a high ankle sprain. There’s some potential ongoing issues with this. Running properly again takes time. I decided to make sure I rehab the hell out of my ankle. It’s crazy how many exercises you can do for your ankle and foot.
moon boot rehab
Moonboot & rehab
Not running gives you a lot of time to think about not running. The exercises, walking, physiotherapy, stretching and strength work are just details. Injuries suck. How do you make the most of your injury time out?

Change Your Focus

If you have the discipline to train hard and push yourself in races, then you have what it take in injury. You need to flip that discipline to doing the stuff that isn’t as fun and hold back. Structured rest is training.
You can still push yourself. It just has to be different ways.
  • Rehab exercises boring? -> use that to develop the ability to maintain focus
  • Have a muscle imbalance? -> work on strengthening the weak muscles
  • Core is weak? -> increase the time devoted to this

The list can go on and on. Use the injury time to improve what you usually think you don’t have time for.

Real Goals

This should be a two-pronged attack.

1. Big Goal

First decide on a big goal in the future to work towards. Something that drives you. A goal to fuel your passion. Choose a goal that will signal you are back in action.
I chose being able to run 50km as part of the Surfcoast Century relay. Not expecting to be fast. Just wanting to put in a solid effort and finish without breaking down. It was definite and timely. A 4 month time frame. I had so many moments when I couldn’t be bothered. A big goal reminds you of the bigger picture. It makes it easier to give your own a butt a kick. You can’t always rely on motivation. Knowing you have a deadline helps force you to do the training you don’t want to do now so you can do the training you want to do later.

2. Little Goals

Second part of the goal setting attack is use a series of little goals.
Often best worked out with your physiotherapist, doctor or coach. Create small goals to work towards over just a few days. Treat them as criteria you have to achieve before you can increase the training load. Having something clear to work towards in the short term makes it easier to do what it takes.
During the first couple of days of injury the goal can be as simple as don’t make it worse. Focus on that and it’s easier to rest, elevate and apply compression or whatever is needed. A few days later the goal might be to introduce movement without pain, or it might be get a follow up review with the doctor. Super simple. Focus on a small goal and make it the priority.
Further down the rehabilitation path you progress the goals. Some of mine over the weeks included:
  • complete 3×10 double calf raises without pain
  • complete 30 single leg calf raises without pain
  • complete 3×10 hops without pain
  • walk briskly for 30 minutes without developing discomfort over the next day
  • run for 5 minutes without developing discomfort over the next day
  • run at a steady effort for 60 minutes without feeling instability in my ankle

There were steps in between these goals. The idea is if I can’t achieve the current goal, my body isn’t ready to progress. You have to earn to right to train at the next level.

Extra Thoughts

Mentally it wasn’t easy. I doubted myself. Every week I wondered if I was doing enough. With no high end training I couldn’t see myself being race ready. I stuck with the plan. When asked how I was doing I made an effort to keep my reply positive. Even if I didn’t believe what I said. The power of repeating something can rub off. Maybe it’s a case of fake it until you make it. Little by little the training increased. Nothing fast, but I was happy with the mileage. The weekly totals turned out like this:


Sometimes the pace crept up a bit too much in runs. Aches and feelings of instability let me know about it the following day. The final 86km was right on my limit. Soreness and failure in support muscles forced a couple of days rest afterwards. Right at taper time. Have I made it? Next Saturday will have the answer.
Injuries can be a good reason to review why we do what we do. You can do a lot in injury time.
How do you deal with injuries?
Make the most of injury time