Learn how to sprint

A lot of people, especially joggers, are not able to sprint. Like young kids, they just cannot push off hard and their “sprint” is just running with a longer stride. I just read an article from another blogger about how to sprint, which quite frankly was bollocks. It was like telling a golfer the 37 things to concentrate on whilst swinging the club.

You learn sprinting by undertaking specific exercises not by thinking about landing softly or having a certain gait. It is a style that is developed and there are specific exercises that will develop the ability as well as the correct muscles.

So how effective is this?  Playing rugby at 49 years old I can run faster than 20 year old kids in the A team.  Why? technique.  They haven’t got a clue how to run fast.

So here goes!

1st Exercise: High knee running. Over a 20 metre distance take very short strides and lift the knees as high as possible. Aim for at least 40 strides. Repeat this 3 times.

2nd Exercise: Strides. Over a 50m distance go from jogging to longer than normal strides, increasing the speed.

3rd Exercise: Running on the balls of your feet. Similar to striding but focus on landing on the balls of the feet and not heel-toe running. You will probably have to run slower to be able to do this to start with.

4th Exercise: from lying to running. Start in the top of a push-up position, arms locked. Gradually start to cycle your feet underneath you, lightly at first (looks a bit like running in a cartoon as the feet move but you don’t) then apply more pressure with the ball of the foot until you move forward. If you fall flat on your face, don’t worry, just push up ever so slightly. The trick is to keep as low as possible, almost lurching forward. If you just stand up and run then you are doing it wrong. This exercise gives you the correct position for the crouched sprint start. Repeat 6 times, running about 10m each time.

5th Exercise: Bunny jumps. From a crouched position, jump/bound like a bunny with both feet together. This develops a lot of leg strength required for good sprinting. Do about 6 sets of 20m.

6th Exercise: Hills runs. Pick a fairly steep hill and run with longer strides on the balls of the feet for 50m. You should be breathing very heavily at the top. Walk slowly down. Repeat 6 times.

7th Exercise: Leg speed. Stand leaning into a wall supported by your arms. Run with high knees without going forward (there is a wall in the way), focussing on speed of raising the knees.

8th Exercise: video sprints. Get a friend to video you sprinting. This is priceless. Compare yourself to a sprinter with great technique on youtube. Let’s not focus on Usain Bolt’s technique as it is highly unlikely that you have his genetics. So find someone who is roughly your height and your body type. Again, it’s unlikely you have the same physique as some of the top sprinters, however more lightweight sprinters who were excellent in terms of form would be the likes of Colin Jackson. Although a hurdler his form was superb and he was a lightweight.

Once you have practised these speed is developed by practising to run.  Warm up well and do a few of the routines above.  Take the first sprint in a set slightly slower.  You might find that technique disappears quickly, this is due to tiredness.

Typical training sessions for speed – if you do one of these twice a week, within 6 months you will run faster than almost anyone on the park (depending what level you started at).

  • 8 x 60m.  This is a flat out sprint.  Take as much recovery as required.
  • 6 x 150m.  90% full speed. Full recovery.
  • 6 x 200m. Over 200m you should aim for 80% full sprint speed.  Recovery is a slow walk back to the starting point.
  • 6 x 150m with rolling start.  Rather than a standing start, build up speed slower than a full sprinting start.

At the end job, warm down and stretch.  If you have run fast enough and pushed yourself hard enough, you might have a feeling of nausea, tingling in the mouth and teeth, pins and needles in the fingers, dizziness, generally feeling absolutely knackered.  If you can walk away feeling completely ok, you were not sprinting.  After the first full session, the next day you should have a lot of muscle soreness.  Go for a gentle run, get the muscles completely warm and stretch.


Become a world expert at anything in 6 months!!!!

This is a pretty big claim and comes from the Tim Ferriss DiSSS approach.  I listened to his podcast which is pretty good.  Some of his other stuff is weird or geeky or just boring.

Note that expert means top 5% in the world, so don’t expect to win the Olympics or the Augusta Masters.  However being in the top 5% will set you apart from normal humans in almost any discipline.

DiSSS is Tim Ferriss’s frameworks for mastering new skills, languages, activities.  Anything that has structure can be tackled.

The DiSSS process:

1. D for Deconstruction. Break down what you want to achieve into the smallest units.  Language = words/verbs/adjectives etc.  IT Director = leadership; technology; applications; operations; services; etc.  Being a chef = recipes.

Here is one of the key parts: find experts in the field and ask them the right questions.  Experts = people who are really good.  Lets face it, its unlikely you will get an interview with Tony Robbins, but I bet there are plenty of coaches in your area willing to talk and discuss, for example.  Here are the questions:

  • who is good at x even though they are not natural (find out who has succeeded without genetic advantages)
  • who are the most controversial or unorthodox people in the field and why
  • most impressive people
  • what makes you different
  • what are the biggest mistakes and myths in your field
  • what are the biggest wastes of time
  • what are your favorite instructional books or resources
  • if you were to train me for 4 weeks, what would you concentrate on

The  intention of these questions is to find the core of what makes a difference.  Example, being able to coach your employees.  Find a few eminent coaches in your field and find out the key 5 techniques or questions that they always use during the first interview.

2. S for Selection. Use Pareto analysis to work out how to get 80% of the value from 20% of the effort.  Following the language example:  what is the minimal set of words needed to be able to communicate?  Here’s a text I found on the internet ….

An average adult native English speaker has an active vocabulary of about 20,000 words. The Reading Teachers Book of Lists claims that the first 25 words are used in 33% of everyday writing, the first 100 words appear in 50% of adult and student writing, and the first 1,000 words are used in 89% of every day writing! Of course, as we progressively move to a higher percentage, the number of words starts to dramatically increase (especially after 95% of comprehension), but it has been said that a vocabulary of just 3000 words provides coverage for around 95% of common texts (such as news items, blogs, etc.).

So with just 1000 words you can cover 89% of everything in English.  We above the 80% target with Pareto analysis.  So probably you can get away with 500.

3. S for Sequencing.  Now put together a sequence of doing things. In some cases this is important.  For example, if learning Karate you need to start with the standard moves.  If learning to cook, perhaps an omelette!  With the language example, you look at the most common words first (the 25), then the 100.

4. S for Stakes. This is really about the “WHY”.  Maybe this is a passion for you.  Maybe it is something you need to do to survive if you lose your job.  Or something to get promoted. Or it something you have always wanted to do.  But you need to understand WHY you are doing this and find the right motivation.  Otherwise it will never happen.




How you feel is all about perspective

How you feel is all about perspective

And the meaning we put to things. This controls the way we feel about everything.

If you can change the meaning to give something then you make change the way you feel about yourself.  Do this consistently, and you can change your life.  I had this explained to me by an executive coach some time ago.  It takes a lot of effort and can take a long time to make these changes stick.  But at the end of the day this really matters. Let me illustrate with a real example.

Someone seeking help or trying to screw me over?

Friday afternoon at 4pm we are all thinking about the weekend. Some people are starting to disappear.  Dave contacts me asking for an emergency piece of work to be done that evening.

There are two simple ways to think about this.  On one hand you can think that Dave left this to the last minute and his panic is not my problem. He should plan his life better and not try to screw up the start of the weekend. What an asshole!  Fair enough?

OR I can think, Dave is really in a hole, under intense pressure from the business to get this change made here and now. He has decided to call me, because he believes I am the best person in the company to help him get this sorted. He really appreciates the help I can give him. Dave’s just in a tough position between a rock and a hard place.

The first scenario makes me feel bad, screwed over, helpless, I am a victim of someone else’s inability to plan. The second scenario makes me feel like a hero.

Depending upon the meaning I assign to the interaction with Dave, I can feel like a victim or a hero.  It’s pretty clear which option I want to take.  But it took someone else to help me work through this example and see a different perspective.

Why do I blog about training and fitness?

I’m 49 years old, next April I will hit the big 5 – 0.  Luckily I have always done some form of exercise.  As a kid I did anything and everything.  I’ve trained and raced on a track alongside some real champions.  I’ve also been out of action for 6 months after a back operation for 6 months at the tender age of 26.  But I count myself as very fortunate.  Despite all of the aches and pains that most sportspeople take as part of everyday life, I can still participate in any and every sport I want to do.

I took up playing rugby at 44 years old.  I did my first ever 5km race at 48 years old.  A Spartan is beckoning.  Maybe this is my mid-life crisis!

What hit home was last year when I joined a gym. For several years I had not been a member of a gym and home-based sessions with a pair of dumbbells was all the workout I was doing.  And I could see the muscle waste before my very eyes and it wasn’t good.  Obviously despite having been a gym-rat off and on for a lot of years, I still needed to have a session with a personal fitness trainer.  This guy was good.  I learnt some stuff from him, that’s for sure.  But he was 25 years old.  His body’s capacity to train and recover is different to mine.  He probably doesn’t get up every night to go to the bathroom!  He cannot possibly have that level of empathy and understand the training needs of someone a generation older.

And let’s face it, I don’t need anyone to motivate me to go out and train my guts out.  I have unlimited motivation and drive for this area of my life. It is a true passion.

So I’m here to show people that a normal guy, not a pro-athlete, can keep going and have really good fun up to and in to the fifties.  I will continue to post my training plan and what I achieve. And if anyone wants help with a routine either to get into it or get to the next level, drop me a line.


Updated: The week so far – Training week of 19th September

Updated:  The week so far – Training week of 19th September

The start of a new week. No big meetings, business travel or executive dinners planned to get in the way of a full week of training. The focus is now on speed/endurance for the 5k race on 23rd October.  1 month to go.  Sounds like a long time but it will fly.

Training plan for the week:

Monday: 5k time trial.  √

Tuesday: Gym full body √

Wednesday: Intervals, 6 x 1km √

Thursday: pace run, 7km

Friday: HIIT, including 6 x 500m

Saturday/Sunday will be active recovery with the kids!

Thursday/Friday:  as I said in a previous blog, I’m not as young as I used to be. I hit the wall.  Rest day Thursday and went out for an easy tempo run Friday.  Which was, by the way, perfect.  Felt 1000 times better after it.  Maybe a little training over the weekend if I can get my son, Pablo, out to do something.  Lets see.  It was a good week.  My body feels like it has done some real effort.  Happy with the times.  Looking forward to next week.

Wednesday:  killed it!  5 x 1km, in 4m15s, 4m, 4m, 4m, 3m55s.  1 minute jog recovery (which I kept to pretty well).  Didn’t go for the 6th km as I could tell I had achieved the goal. Live to fight another day!

Tuesday:  hit the gym. The gym hit me!  Big spasm in my back, not the first time.  Out with the foam roller and all seems ok for now.  Still managed a good workout and 24 hours later the biceps and triceps are feeling really good.

Monday started ok. I set my Garmin watch at 4m20s lap pace for the time trial, thinking I would be able to beat the time. I came in at 21m41s. So ok, but feeling like I should have done better.

Let’s look to the positives:

  1. I was bang on the timing.
  2. I managed to hold back from killing myself on the first and last laps – kept reminding myself it’s a training session not a race. I have a good sprint finish no matter what my state, so confident that I can take 15 seconds out of the final lap anyway.
  3. Finished overall tired but not dead! A lot to build on for the next month.

Looking forward to the next 4 days of intensive training!

Training this week

Training this week

This week has been tough.  At work we had the quarterly 3 day executive meeting which makes keeping to a training plan especially difficult.  On top, it’s a wall to wall food-fest and my will-power during the long days is not high.

Tuesday started well with a 5.5km run.  The first 2km are flat and serve as a good warm up.  Then there is a severe hill that goes upwards for 1.5km followed by an undelating descent.  The ascending kms are done 90 seconds slower than the descnding parts, to give you an idea of the gradient.  A good run, and I went 1 minute faster than the previous time.

Wednesday was a gym workout.  Total body, medium weights, high energy.  300 reps in about 40 mins.

Friday was a HIIT session in 2 parts.

Part1:  400m run, 20 KB swings, 10 pull ups, 20 dips. Repeat 3 times.

Part2: 400m run, 10 bicep curls, 10 skull crushers with dumbells.

That was very hard work and a superb all over body conditioner.

Not a big week for running.  Next week back to full swing, starting Sunday.

Let me know your thoughts.


The Olympics of Life

The Olympics of Life

I read this brief but incredibly meaningful speech from a former CEO of Coca Cola:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.  They are Work, Family, Health, friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for it.

Think of the balls as hoops and your life is like the Olympic games.  Do you want to go for gold, or are you happy to be another person watching life pass you by in front of the TV?

With all of the emphasis on goals, objectives and striving for personal improvement, I saw the 5 ring model bringing more meaning to life.  We all know or know of people who define themselves by their work.  Then there are those who have goals outside of work, like climbing mount Everest for example, however its clear and simple to see that all they have done is taken personal objectives out of the work environment.  They are still personal.

I listened to a podcast the other day where a VP of sales in Unilever had reached the pinnacle of his career and had now done just that – he had created a huge goal to ride around the globe on his trials bike.  That’s great for him, but where does his family feature?  They can watch on Instagram I suppose.

The trick and the meaning to life is to have shared goals, mostly with your family.  That’s why I visualise the 5 rubber balls as the Olympic symbol – because they are all interrelated – not standalone.  And that’s where it gets tough.  Because you then have to find and understand the real meaning of life.  That’s heavy.  And on top, not many people will be there to pat you on the back or give you encouraging feedback.  Not sounding that attractive yet is it?

But luckily the real rewards are incredibly deep and meaningful and long lasting.  Consider this very vague goal of bringing your children up well.  What does it mean?  It means you actually need to think about how you want your kids to turn out … how you expect them to behave, the moral framework you expect them to live in, their religious or spiritual beliefs, their approach to family, friends and work.  In short you need to define the content of the 5 rubber balls you think best for your kids.  Then you need to work out how you will get them their.  And just like managing a team at work, you need to train them, encourage them, provide feedback, reward, admonish and most of all …. lead by example.

And what do you get in return.  In the first place, you convert the unconditional love of a new born baby into the deeper everlasting love that exists between parent and child.  More than that, you find that you create an environment where your kids actually want to be with you, because you actually have loads of things in common!  And then all of a sudden you look at you kids as they are growing up and you see them do things you never expected and achieve things that maybe you thought were beyond them, and they turn round to you and say “well Daddy, do you remember when we were at Grandma and Grandad’s house and you told me to focus on the wall behind them and just sing as if they weren’t there, I just did that”.  Having just performed a solo in front of one thousand people.

Climbing to the top of Mont Blanc is something that once interested me.  But like the photos on your phone, unless you have family and friends to share the experiences with, they are of little use.  Reaching the pinnacle of your career is incredibly lonely if you are there alone.  A family adventure, going camping with a group of friends, achieving a team goal, working with a charity to put a new roof on the local church, all of these will be remembered by all those involved and will create a deeper, richer meaning to life.

As a final word,

Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time.  Give the required time to your family, friends & have proper rest.