Uncover your inner athlete!

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be eaten.. Each morning in Africa a lion awakes - it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve.

No matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up you had better be running!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lighting the way

I recently caved in and went out and bought a headlamp for running. Admittedly it was only an el cheapo from Aldi, but seems to do the job just nicely.

What prompted this purchase you may ask – well I must admit that in the past I was only using my feet to guide me over the earth’s surface and as an indicator or rough or smooth or hard or soft terrain. This has served me very well, but a friend pointed out to me that perhaps one of the headlights would help that little bit more than just using the good old feet. I fear I may lose the ability to trust the feet and the instinct of knowing where they are when I put them down.

I can report that if it is not likely to break the bank, then one of these headlamps are indeed a good investment. As mentioned I happened to find mine at Aldi, but you could also pick up some decent ones from the likes of your local mountaineering and climbing shops.

Good luck with the night running.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fostering community spirit through running clubs

For me as a runner, the importance of having the support and camaraderie of fellow runners in the community is essential to helping not only with my running, but also with fostering a level of positive support and spirit within the greater community as a whole.

Nothing better than to be able to head out on a run and to be able to say hello to people who you not only know, but can also count as friends and to even be able to instantly have that common bond where you are able to accompany them for a portion of their run and enjoy a catchup chat. It does not matter that these people may run with different groups or clubs, but the common bond is universal.

I have several groups that I run with – some fast, some slow, some involving complete beginners with a desire to learn and some just for social side of things. In the latter group, the social aspects by far over shadow any competitiveness that is seen in other groups and I find this setting great to meet new friends. Last night one of my social running groups held its annual function to bring people together and it was great fun. Having kicked on till 2am, I decided to sleep in this morning and will run again this afternoon instead. Point is I had a blast – it was great catching up with so many nice people and a great time was had by all.

With the decline of running clubs in Australia, I find all these groups to invaluable and challenge you to set up your own group if you don’t have one close to where you live. It takes just one person to be able to take that step and to change things. Change your area for the positive.

Running together – Stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Friday, January 28, 2011

The outcome of intervals

This morning was a session that I have not done in a while. The good old 6x3x200m at 3KM pace. Resting between intervals for up to 90s and having 3 mins rest (jog or walk) between sets. This was preceded by a warm up of 3KM and followed by a cool down of 3KM.

Although it has been said to me many times previously, this session really has the effect of making you instantly want to run quicker. After completing it, the instinct is automatically to go quicker in the cool down. Usually this is a session that I would do in the last few weeks prior to a marathon, but something just made me want to do it this morning.

Try this session to add some welcome variety and speed to your training. As always though sticking to paces and principles are integrally important to not blowing out the session.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The cost of healthy eating

Today’s post is abit more of a rant than anything else.

I know that with the recent floods in Queensland, fresh fruit and vegetables are in short supply and that prices rise as a result of this. I also know that it is important that we support Australian farmers and buy Aussie, so am not advocating that we start mass importation of fresh produce – the thing that really annoys me is the markup that the supermarkets continue to place on fresh produce.

Anyone who has family or friends on the land knows that a kilo of apples that are now being sold for $7 and upwards in Coles or Woolies, still results in the farmer getting about $2 per kilo. This is ludicrous that such massive profits can be made off these items when at the same time the whole country and indeed the western world are trying to fight an obesity crisis.

In fact I remember Kevin Rudd saying (prior to him being thrust aside) that he was going to work at ensuring that fruit and veg and other fresh goods remained cheaper in the government’s commitment to healthier eating for all.

Higher prices won’t stop me eating fresh goods, but it does beg the question as to how seriously the big players in Australia are taking the overweight and obesity crisis.

I would be interested to hear what other thoughts on this are.

Running together – Stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Cruise interval

My training this morning took in one of my (fast becoming) favourites in the cruise intervals. Cruise intervals are 1000m repeats at around 10-15secs slower than your 10km pace. Thus if your 10km race pace is 4min/km, then your cruise interval pace is 4.10-4.15min/km. Repeat again after a rest or jog of 90 seconds. This workout should be done once a week or once every two weeks.

The purpose of the cruise interval is to help you to build strength and stamina to go it alone in the marathon and there is also evidence that this kind of workout done in the taper portion of the marathon will help to produce a better kick for the runner.

As with all things these are not to be overdone – get up to 6 per workout and also stick to your paces as you will find if you don’t that you will be too tired to complete any of your other training during the week.

Don’t lose the cruise. Stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Monday, January 24, 2011

The one-legged squat

Many of you will be puzzled by the name of this piece, but this exercise has been one of the single biggest advances that I have made in terms of running and staying strong.

Best done off of a bench in the gym, or off of your dining room chair, raise yourself up using one leg, then SLOWLY lower yourself back down on to the bench or chair. The key to these exercises is to attain complete stability. Staying as stable as you can, complete 12-15 of these exercises using your one leg, prior to switching over to the next leg and completing the set once again.

Should anyone laugh at you in the gym, then invite them to join you in completing these exercises. Strange as it may seem, but even some of the burliest of blokes who lift cars etc can't quite do a one-legged squat. The reasons why they are good for us as runners, is that they iron out any balance problems and also help to strengthen the quads while also preventing those annoying ITB injuries.

Best of all this helps with any downhill running to avoid the dreaded DOMs and get you to the finish line in better shape.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The greatest female triathlete ever

Paula Newby-Fraser, a great Zimbabwean and the greatest female Ironman competitor ever. No need to say anymore.

Stride for stride on a life changing ride. -- Sean Muller

Friday, January 21, 2011

Touching the mental and spiritual side

Most of us runners train very hard to achieve the ultimate on the physical side of things, yet we neglect the two other elements (mental and spiritual) that make up running.

We all know the feeling of standing on the start line – heart is pounding and mind is racing about what we might or might not achieve in that particular event. You may be part of the i-pod crew who can’t seem to run one step without the music, much less one mile or 100 miles.

Not too many will be alone in their own thoughts or giving thanks for what they are about to embark on. Indeed it is a western thing that we seek to fill the silence and don’t gravitate easily to the serene feeling of a still mind. In fact many of us don’t even wish to read about these aspects when reading books on running.

I recently loaned a running text that has been incredibly helpful to me to one of my friends as he wished to improve his overall running. When he returned the text, he was full of excitement over the fact that he now had the tools to run the time he wanted in his next marathon. He was quoting tempo times and 1KM repeats etc. This is great, but only proved to me that he did exactly what most other westerners do when reading a sporting text – they go straight for the training programs and ignore the rest. When I quizzed him about the bits on mental visualisation and belief, he had no idea.

There is no sure fire way to ensure that we are successful in our endeavours, but we can and will go a long way to achieving them through attaining a calmness of mind and being able to see the end result. Each night as you close your eyes, see that time on the clock – believe it as though it has already happened. If you go there with the mind, then the legs will follow.

There are wonderful books out there which focus solely on the mental and spiritual side of running if you want to find out more about this, I recommend Amby Burfoot’s ‘The Runners Guide to the meaning of life’ as an excellent starting point to ground yourself.

See it (everyday), believe it – achieve it!

Stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Running an animal to death - could you do it?

The idea of persistence hunting came first to my attention following the reading of Born to Run and then in subsequent readings about the Raramuri people and their ability to seemingly run game to the brink of exhaustion and then get close enough to kill it either with their bare hands or with a spear as in the case of this video.

While this is shot in Africa and involves the San people of the Kalahari, it is no less impressive. For any offended by this, I apologise, but think that it is important to include as in reality we all have the ability to do this if we wish to. As in the video it requires patience and the using of brains, but it is achievable. Western living has softened our link with the earth and we have let go of many of these instincts.

One final thing worth mentioning is the fact that at the end of the video he gives thanks to the animal and the gods. This shows how in touch he is with the earth and the land that he runs over. To him it is the life and the beating heart of the earth that he values and that sustains him. To be honest I have not seen any Western hunters who mainly hunt from a distance with high powered rifles who are willing to run long distances to bag their animal, nor have I seen them be willing to give thanks and honour the animal and its life.
For those thinking the practice in the video is savage - please consider what I have written above and think again about who is the most savage.

Running together - stride for stride (while giving thanks to the earth) on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 'other' benefits of running

We all know the ample self benefits of running and keeping fit. But what of the benefits to others around you – your family and friends?

A mate confided in me that since having lost a fair amount of weight through running and increased gym activity, he has not only found all of the benefits that we have outlined on here previously (greater fitness, better breathing and generally being able to do heaps of things he was not able to in the past), but he has also found all of those other benefits that are often not acknowledged.

His children are seeing the benefit in that he can now run around and play sports with them without being out of breath or giving up easily. His wife has also shown renewed interest in him and some of her friends have commented that they wished that their husbands could also lose the weight and get more active. His other comment that sat with me is that the wife is so much more understanding of him saying that he wants to go out and run for an hour rather than that he is going to go out and go to the pub for an hour.

In short running has changed his life (as it changed mine) and it can change yours.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Monday, January 17, 2011

The importance of rest

In some recent readings, I have been learning about the importance of rest. In the past I had scant regard for this concept and was insanely putting my body through masses of punishment each day so that I was not concentrating on how other things in my life were not going that well. I was in fact living to train harder and not actually working towards a goal.

If you were like me, then you may find the following stats to be extremely interesting:

1. 60% of what we can do in any sport is genetic.

2. 10% is down to nutrition and when we eat

3. 10% is down to training done; and

4. 20% of everything is down to rest and how well and quickly we are able to recover.

These stats really made me stop and think some more and alter my regime. May they be of some assistance to you to.

Keep being positive – keep on believing – keep achieving.

Stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Friday, January 14, 2011

Designing your program

Keeping with the thread of pacing that I have developed on here over the past week, I now want to talk a little bit about designing ones own training program for distance events.

Many who I have spoken to love to have a program designed for them by their trainer/coach or figure that if they pull one off the shelf somewhere in a magazine or book or on the web then this will automatically guarantee them that particular time. The reality is this is not the case and while I firmly believe that something like the 3 hour marathon mark is attainable for most long distance runners who can apply themselves and work hard, the problems come in again when it comes to pacing.

Who do we turn to in these instances?

There are a myriad of coaches out there selling a whole number of training programs, but the three that I like are Jack Daniels, Pete Pfitzinger and Greg Macmillan. Each of these breaks down the paces that are to be run in training. What are the differences then?

I like Daniels as he uses his VDOT system and allows you to move through phases and have the exact paces to run at when training (I used his system in my training this morning). Pfitzinger also breaks down the paces, but makes use of more heart rate values, whereas McMillan uses his formulated calculator to predict your outcome in races and also to plot your training paces.
I have tried all three and prefer Daniels, due to the fact that he gives you precise values to shoot for. McMillan also shows that I am more economical than my speed suggests.

With the wealth of coaches out there, I highly endorse these three, but also think it worthwhile looking at South African coach Bobby McGee (resident in Colorado and working with USA triathlon).

Since we are all an experiment of one, play around with the programs, have fun, be positive and see it, believe it and you will achieve it!

Running together – Stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ultra running fun (and altering shoes)

How good is this - trail running, cutting up shoes. Amazing little video.

Running together - Stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Building communities

I have been reading horrific accounts of late of people finding neighbours dead in their houses when they did not even know these people in the first place. What makes these even more horrific is the fact that these people have often been dead for days or weeks on end. What has happened to our community spirit in the world? Somewhere along the line in our quest for supremacy, we seem to have lost our community spirit and the people that live alongside ourselves.

This is very sad and I am talking with a number of people about ideas of how we can bring people together more readily through sport and in particular running. Keep on watching this space. I also encourage you to have a think about how you might be able to bring together your community on a more regular basis.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Queensland flood relief

I have been carefully monitoring the floods that have been taking place in Queensland over the past couple of months and indeed experienced parts of this during a trip to see friends in the area over the New Year period. My first observations were that I had never previously seen Queensland so green from the air, but it soon became apparent that this has come at a great cost with many who have been on the land for years and years commenting that they have never previously seen as much rain as this in all their years on the planet.

So many have merely given up cleaning up as as soon as they start it just starts raining again. In an ironic situation, where we usually pray for rain here in Australia, we are now praying the rain to cease. Aside from this, we as runners and more importantly as human beings have an obligation to help our fellow man. After all many of us have friends in this region or indeed have fond memories of running through beautiful areas of this state.

You can help by donating to the appeals that are running to raise money to help these communities. Let’s show these communities that we actively care about them.

Running together – (while showing compassion for others). Stride for Stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Monday, January 10, 2011

Focusing on getting the pace just right

Family commitments over, I shall get back to devoting more time to this blog and my readers.

Having been rereading Pfitzinger and Daniels of late, I have once again become aware of the need to keep strictly to ones training paces in order to attain success. So many folks I know tend to get carried away when they are feeling good and blow out their training regime.

While all training paces should be carefully adhered to, I find that in particular the long run and the recovery run are the ones that can cost one the most and are the ones that we are most likely to get wrong. I was out running with a friend yesterday and while he can’t yet manage 5min/km over the marathon distance, he was attempting to hold this pace over our long run. I kept on trying to say to him that this was the wrong way of training and that for his fitness and ability he would have been better going slower and finishing stronger, but he was having none of it and I gave up in the end.

Both Pfitzinger and Daniels advocate the long run being run 10-20% slower than the marathon pace. This means that anyone running 5min/km in the marathon is safe sticking to 5.30 ish in the long run.

The recovery run is another kettle of fish and one where alot of people feel good and go out harder than they should ideally. This run should be slower than the long run pace and at times dead slow to allow the blood to flush through the muscles and to just keep the legs ticking over. There is nothing to be gained from the recovery run except – yes you guessed it ... recovery!

Keep training at the correct paces – keep being positive.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How lucky am I/what more can I do in 2011?

Yesterday I attended Jane McGrath Day at the Sydney Ashes test. Those of you who are cricket fans will know that regardless of who you support, there is nothing like a cricket test between Australia and England in the Ashes series. The fact that day 3 of the test was honouring the life of a great woman and raising money for breast cancer was just the icing on the cake.

How is my day at the cricket relevant to running and staying active you may ask? Well quite simply it made me think and reflect more on what I can do to assist others through my running. I thought back to friends who have been affected by this dreadful disease of breast cancer and in particular a young friend of mine (and fellow runner) who passed on at the age of 27. She was taken way too soon.. I thought also of Comm Games champ Kerryn McCann and her battle and how she bravely fought before sadly passing on.

What can we do?

Simple things like offering as much support as you can to organisations like the McGrath Foundation in Australia (I proudly wore my pink cap at the cricket yesterday – yes real men do wear pink!), raising money through you running or indeed volunteering to help these organisations can and does all help.

After all we are so blessed to have the gift of running and good health and no matter how selfish your objectives with your running are, the fact remains that something can be done to help someone else without use sacrificing too much if we don’t want to.

Running together – Stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year of running

Firstly Happy New Year to all my readers.

I know that I have been very slack over the holiday period, but that has been due to family and friend commitments. I have however been reading loads and doing some master classes on running and techniques etc.

The New Year’s run was not the traditional half marathon or marathon distance that I have been doing around Sydney over the past couple of years, but rather an enjoyable 9km jaunt through the Brisbane suburbs where my friends live. Some really good hills and humidity made for some challenging conditions – so good to see many others out there in the heat. Some of these looked distinctly like I did about 7 years ago (very overweight and unfit) but still onward they puffed.

I am only hopeful that anyone new to the joys of running sticks with it and sees the benefits of a healthier life as I have.

Good luck for 2011 folks – may many good things come to you.

Running together – Stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller