ExciTING ways to kill gym boredom

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Trail Running Factory clients usually have heart attacks and numerous excuses when I ask them to visit gym for body strengthening exercises, as they panically believe that they will become Ms and Mr Universe after even one try.

Runners are not bodybuilders, so why the hell I am punishing them hard and sending to those labour camps. There are already numerous studies, which confirms that acquired strength in those iron prisons heavily contributes to injury prevention and though without proper training plan runners can still run themselves into dust, getting more power will help to be less injury prone, healthier and more constant on the trails. Moreover, strength training helps with running performance, as speed and running economy improve, because neuromuscular adaptations occur. I bet, right now you are taking it more seriously, but if even now you are still reluctant to put some time into this monotonous routine, try to change it and have as much diversity and fun as possible. Kill boredom and become more efficient runner by not running at all:

  1. Vary exercises.

Could you imagine if you practice just only one type of running instead of five existing? What kind of improvements would you expect to happen? So, don’t stick to the same exercises, which you have been doing for ages, rather explore and try something new that activate same muscle groups. You even be positively surprised that exists more than five exercises overall, which makes running kind of “extremely boring”.

  1. Vary repetitions & weights.

4-6 & 10-15 repetitions are equally great enough to make adaptations on neuromuscular function and strength gain. Using different weights will make the task easier by simply helping find out the proper balance between sustainable, perceived effort and repetitions. Do rate of perceived exertion (RPE’s) ring any bells? It should, as the best running measuring is done by RPE’s as well. Once again, strength training is not the rocket science and seems that fundamental principals are really close to all beloved running.

  1. Vary intensity.

Do you still remember all types of running, which involves different engines and distinct muscle fibres? This is exactly what you have to implement in weight rooms as well. Make those fibres fire at various levels of intensity, feel how lungs are burning and your mouth sinking with blood, while next time take it easy and even “smoke cigarette” while pumping the blood through your veins. Seriously, go for fast to moderate speed for concentric exercises and slow down for eccentric ones.

  1. Vary “strength schools”.

Are you currently working with CrossFit coach? What if you try TRX bands, Pilates machines and just simply jump from progressive plyometric training to progressive resistance training. Worth to consider, right?

  1. Vary motion range.

Let your body be universal and develop full range of motion. Currently there is no solid research done, what angle would be the best for runners. So don’t wait for papers to be written just do all them, as 90°, 45° or 20° movements do the trick.

  1. Vary surface.

Flat is boring! Make sure your gym is much alike to trails, as possible, because running is one leg sport, so try to implement exercises standing on one leg or balancing on bosu half ball. For those who are brave enough and have health & death insurance yoga ball could be an option.

  1. Vary handgrip and / or foot position.

While exercising, change your usual hand and / or feet position to wider and / or narrow one and try reverse or vertical grip, instead of horizontal one, which mimics grip of tracking poles. Those slight adjustments will definitely force you to feel some tension in areas, which you didn’t know could possible exist.

  1. Vary rest.

Shorten, prolong or even skip rest brakes between exercises, sets or repetitions that you are accustomed to.

  1. Vary tools.

Barbells & dumbbells are common practice, but what about introduction of medicine balls, resistance bands or just simply body weight routine on pull bar or gymnastic rings. If want to be more wild and natural go for woodsman workout with stones, logs and axes. There are many weight tools available around you, just have to be creative one and follow Rocky mind-set to be successful one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q57qB6Kwroo

  1. Vary muscles involved.

It is true that runners need strong core & legs and this is why you have been following this “diet” for ages, but what about upper body and type of muscles involved? Have you ever heard about superficial, intermediate and deep muscles? if not, it is about right time to go and google it. Become Ms & Mr Universe and age healthy while still running. Pump some iron in!

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Huascaran: merged & wasted

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Mind is restless, it always seeks to acquire new knowledge or experiences and even though every intellect journey brings happiness, each discovery has its own price tag. Travelling has been part of my life trip for already few years and step-by-step built my personality and shaped understanding of surrounding world. However, in this game one way flow doesn’t exists and I am always leaving part of me somewhere and / or with someone and usually it is not the places itself, but rather people, whom encountering new adventures with. My fellow travelers are the ones, who make environment feel so special and wonderful.

It is unbelievable how pristine and untouched Huascaran National Park is at the end of November. All peaks above 5000m are covered with white powder and genuinely represent mountain chain name – Cordillera Blanca. Climbing season just ended and most of avalanches on their way, so everybody is out and I am in to this emptiness, which is just perfect for staying and exploring magnificent peaks or just simple living at the bottom of the highest roof in Peru. Driving up to this bottom, called Llanganuco Mountain Lodge, from the down laid village on bumpy, dirty “highway” is an experience, which I won’t forget. Taxi driver charges 50 soles for 45min drive with 1000m ascent and gives local language lesson, though I am just nodding, as it is something I hear for the very first time in my life. Having this friendly “chat” we are passing villages, which are no different from other poor countries and seems that every building is on constant construction, which will never end. However, one thing distinguishes them from others – high snowy peaks all around the area. Even though it is my recovery week post Marathon Des Sables PERU, hopefully I will be lucky enough to get a bit of sunshine doing some vertical traveling on those peaks or enjoying splash-runs through the super gorgeous lagoons surrounded by old Inca trails, which are wild, original and not touristic at all.

Being in such a remote areas is already rad adventure itself and though, as Inca civilization thousands years ago local people taking those magic trails and mountains for granted, I feel blessed just being allowed to touch “second” Himalayas with my feet. Travelling thorough the life is always fun, but it could be that one-day I will be totally wasted. It won’t be me anymore, it will be mixture of wisdom and cultures, which I have been collecting for years and exchanging life experience with newly met people and places, who consumed and absorbed my energy no less than I theirs.

 

The top ways to waste your time at aid stations

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Trail Running Factory coach Andrius and I put some serious read “The top ways to waste your time at aid stations”, so don’t waste your time to scan it, as it worth it!

THE MOST PLEASANT WAYS TO GET THROUGH AID STATIONS

1. Go gourmet! First start with the pretzels, then move on to the jam sandwiches, followed by grapes, gummy snakes, then wash down with coke. Repeat at all aid stations.

2. Pull out your cocktail shaker and Worcestershire sauce to fix yourself a Bloody Mary for your hydration pack. You’ve got to take hydration seriously.

3. Hide the critical gear your support crew is supposed to be ready with in the bottom of your bag so they can’t find it.

4. Assume that your crew have studied the course map in minute detail and has a superhuman recollection of every part of the course.

5. Pose to all photographers and cameramen and give short half an hour interview, be the star, this is why you started trail running, isn’t it?

6. Go totally mad on your support crew and/or volunteers if they mix things up and don’t have your favourite snack – dried Antarctica monkey kidneys, because you are the BOSS and they are working for you, right?

7. Aid stations are warm and sheltered, so it is the best place to wait while the rain or snowfall will stop and running conditions will improve.

8. Explain in great detail to anyone who will listen how you took a wrong turn from the course.

9. Change shoes and socks at every aid station. Because you like to keep your feet dry.

10. Pray for trail running gods and ask for the autograph of every Jim Wamsley you meet.

11. Whip out your iPhone and call your friends to inform them of your progress, and post your on-trail selfies to Facebook and Instagram.

12. Perfect skills with the gear you have never trialled before. Didn’t learn how to operate your headlamp or use your poles? The aid station is an ideal testing ground!

13. Number 13th, really? You should ask for the new number at each aid station, as it is the unlucky one and you are damn slow and tired because of it.

THE FASTEST WAYS TO GET THROUGH AID STATIONS

1. Have a nutrition plan and know precisely what foods you are going to be eating during the race. Know three natural foods and three processed ones (e.g. gels) that work for you and stick to your choice during the race. It is not the best time experiment with your stomach. In the months leading up to the race, train your gut to tolerate higher carbohydrate intake. Stomach comfort while ingesting higher amount of foods during long running events can be trained, and frequency of gastrointestinal issues reduced.

2. Rehearse your race plan before race day with your support crew.

3. If your support crew are crewing you for the first time, educate them:

– Familiarise them with your aid station routine

– Show them which pocket you prefer gels to be put in

– Teach how turn on and switch on headlamp for easier transition

– Teach them how to make an ice scarf and how and when put it on your neck (useful in hot-weather races)

4. Don’t stop at the aid station if you don’t need to. However, have a good reason for not stopping. If you are compromising your hydration, you will likely pay the price later in the race.

5. The aid station is not the finish line, so don’t relax too much. Stay sharp and focus on what you need to do. Have a mini action plan for each aid station and rehearse it in your mind before arriving. For example: “I will hand my two soft flasks to fill with water, while these are being filled, I will drink another cup of fresh water, empty pockets from trash and will put two gels into my front pocket. After taking filled soft flasks I will grab a piece of banana and eat it leaving the aid station.”

6. Open your handheld bottles before you enter the aid station so that they can be filled even quicker. If rules allow and volunteers can help, don’t fill your flasks by yourself. Use that time to do other things.

7. In some races, you may be permitted to exchange bags. If so, consider having a twin bag prepared to that you can make a quick exchange and keep going.
8. Have your most important compulsory gear (waterproof jacket/pants and head-torch) at the top of your bag, because it is the most likely gear that could be checked for a compulsory gear check. Or put it in a transparent bag as it is easy to pull out and show all the mandatory gear.

9. During the race and between aid stations carry only as much as you need:

– Don’t fill all the bottles and don’t take all the gels you possess in first aid station

– Use flasks rather than a hydration bladder if there are frequent aid stations

– Estimate your water and calorie intake and remember that your digestive tract can only tolerate and absorb approximately 1 – 1. 5 l/h and 60 to 90g of carb/h (depending on composition of carbohydrate meal or supplement), so don’t take unnecessary weight with you

– Trash (used gels etc) weighs several grams, so don’t forget to get rid of it at each aid station

– The lighter you are the faster you can run and the higher your VO2max 🙂

10. Be grateful to your support crew, as they are doing an important job. Your smile and positivity will boost their confidence, which probably means that fewer mistakes will be made and your run through the aid stations will be quick and smooth.

11. Having a nutrition plan and supporting race plan is important, but things can go amiss, so it is wise to develop a contingency plan:

– what if your support crew isn’t at the aid station? Should you wait in hope that they arrive soon, or continue and meet them at the next one? What if the nutrition that you expected to have isn’t available? It doesn’t matter what your decision is, but you must know it in advance.

12. Thank the volunteers before you leave the aid station!

Marathon Des Sables (MDS) Peru: being in the moment

 

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Each day 300 runners wake up in Peruvian desert, who terribly want to reach the finish line and each day I wake up trying to freeze the time.

Though, I am already exhausted, but in pure nirvana in sort of flow, where running is as natural as breathing oxygen into own lungs. However, having no choice, I am very reluctantly packing CamelBakfor the last #MDS stage, very short 19km kilometres, which will end my latest discovered bedouin life. Damn it! I want to stay here for a little while and prolong intense feeling of deep affection of my new existence – being explorer, being Columbus, being able to elevate discomfort and suffering to yet another horizons.

Sadly this time desert can’t be endless and my heart is crying with no power to scream, as I am approaching the finish line and being just human failing to live split of a second longer by sacrificing own pride.

Stepping on millions years of history was awesome, flying on the sandy dunes was rad, but more importantly were the people who surrounded me, my each day shrinking cell, always ready medical crew, old friends from Arista Eventos & Marathon Des Sables PERUteam patiently navigating me through the heat-breathing desert.

Even though, just sweet blood, from the lovely sun kisses, left on my lips and desert storm in my mind, which slowly calms down, I am still so overwhelmed with crazy wilderness culture, stoned with traveling and running experience, dizzy from deep emotions, which I am trying to absorb and relive each day – Peru certainly forever will stay in my heart!

Inhale, exhale, stop the time and be in the moment!

Marathon Des Sables (MDS) Peru: snake

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I am literally running out of my own skin and parts of my body are falling apart. Lips and toes stopped being one piece few days ago and their nudity already is new norm and weird piece of art, which will remind me about this journey long after it will be done. This is the moment, when being the snake, sounds like amazing option – able to shed the skin and run hurtless.

However, nothing is painless at #MDS and everyone pays his own price. Blisters, headaches, vomiting and peeing blood are the symptoms, which almost everyone suffers. Dehydration, high core temperature and heat stroke are things what MDS’ers risk here each day and not being snakes they can’t transfer heat into energy. But medical crew can and each day they heal hundreds of runners and prepare them for more pain next day. Those who survive the stage come back and do it over and over again – ultras just simple like suffering.

However people in the camp step by step are changing, talks becoming louder, smiles getting bigger and laugh just confirms that just one day stage left to become the real desert snake!

Marathon Des Sables (MDS) Peru: hunger games

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Swimming with the seals and flying with the birds was the prize I got after the long stage at Marathon Des Sables PERU, but do I really knew how it will end at the begging of it, definitely not.

If the simple marathon stage is hard, long one is even harder, but as once somebody told me – when the situation is tough, you must me tougher. This was my mantra the whole 68km through the swampy sand, with the front wind blowing straight from Pacific Ocean and with the solid elevation gain peaking at impressive 300m dune climb on the last kilometres. Though I wasn’t hungry for victory and kept reminding myself that it is more adventure than race itself, adrenaline and testosterone did it’s job and from minute one starveling beast inside me was unleashed.

It was just a perfect day in the desert and though many believe that placing is the most important thing in the races, it is not true at all. Time, which I spend alone or with friends on the trails matter more. Gained new life experiences drive me to do such a rad things. So, having all it in mind, super tired, depleted, but happy I managed to crawl to the campsite. The day was over, fatigue and satisfaction blurred away, but something still remained there – hunger.

#MDS is one of the toughest desert footstep races all around the world and definitely more extreme than overestimated Dakar Rally. It has several reasons being the one, but the cruellest part of it – self-sufficiency or I would say food sufficiency, as you must wisely choose calories and not to have super overloaded CamelBak IOT run light. Nutrition and proper fuelling are crucial parts of running, as no one can run on empty tank. Everyday runners become lighter and their glycogen storages are not the same as it used to be prior the race. Energy demand increase, food and glycogen storages decrease and the only way to deal with it, is either being hungry or full, but with heavy refrigerator breaking your spine on the course. Ideal weight of the running vest should be no more than 10% body mass, which became true for me just after 4th stage. However, together with diminishing food stash I was shrinking as well, so sadly I have never found this perfect balance.

In the past few days I figured out that raw cuisine is not my thing, as I couldn’t pump myself with million nuts with no desire of something else. Food was the thing, which I could really think about at the lonely moments in my tent. It was not that I didn’t have enough Kratos Sport – Biosophia srl supplies anymore, but I have just missed variety so much, that would certainly have committed the crime for just one mango or avocado fruit. Suddenly the sin of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden for just one apple didn’t looked so meaningless anymore and the only thought, which I was obsessed while daydreaming in my runs was veggies and fruits, so terrible sexy dream with the real taste, feel and smell, but still empty stomach.

Marathon des Sables (MDS) Peru: survival creativity

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It could be surprise for many, how creative one must become to manage all the challenges during Marathon Des Sables PERU in order to have a bit more comfortable life. Let’s take the simple plastic water bottle, which is the only thing organizers are providing to us. It can serve as a bowl, as a pot to heat the meal, as a mixer to prepare electrolyte drinks or as simple dust bin to store all the garbage, because penalties for flying trash in the strong desert wind is cruel, but fair ones. More creative runners even managed to use it as toilet substitution as well, since nights in the desert are cold and dark, so navigate back to own tent could be yet another challenge.

#MDS brings a lot of unknowns and figuring out the answers could be crucial part of this adventure. Each day runners are gambling in the desert and usually their health or life is at stake, so trying to get those answers right is vital. It is kind of art, how to find solutions for camp daily life problems or get used to them simply by ignoring. However, do we really know what the future holds for us next day or next hour? Not really, but exactly in that is the beauty of stage racing and exactly what got me addicted to it – mysterious camp life! This is why experience how to survive in the nature matters.

Let’s take the simple tent example. That’s right, each runner has the tent, which must be set up in the evening and put back in the bag early next morning. Sure, it is not the rocket science, but anyway skill, which must be developed in advance, as it definitely makes your life easier and preserves energy, needed for running. So, after one stage, I had run to the finish line first from my cell and thought what a nice idea would be to put all the tents and surprise my herd with the positive vibes after their hard day on the sand. However, our campsite suddenly was ambushed by such a strong gale, that it was impossible to set even my own roof. On their arrival I was still standing with “parachute” in my hands, not being able to move, as needed to secure flying house from disappearance. Just all together, after hard cross fit workout with the stones, we managed to set all the cell tents and conquer unpredictable.

Is it easy to have life like that? Not at all, but adventure and creativity is always here, so every wasted minute in the desert is worth that!

Photo Fredrik Ölmqvist #MDSPeru2017