Guest Blogger Lewis Bailey - Health And Fitness

Guest Blogger Lewis Bailey – On Running

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Keep doing the Distance
Just recently I gave advice to my personal training client on how to train for the Liverpool half marathon. The response I got was a look of confusion followed by “don’t be so stupid, as if I could do the whole distance straight away, I have never run a half marathon in my life!” After explaining my approach she still looked at me with a face full of scepticism and then told her friend (who is also a friend of mine), who then called to tell me how ridiculous my plan was and that she had not heard of anything so stupid!
Although I explained my reasons I should not have been surprised by both their reactions as they, like you, will only know of the traditional approach to training for a running event which is normally to start with a small distance and gradually build up until you have almost completed the required length one or two weeks prior to the event.
You will hear of this traditional approach in running magazines, sports / running clubs and pretty much any running coach out there will tell you to gradually build up to the distance just before the event. However, I am going to show you a new and a far superior way to prepare for a long distance event. This is not a subjective view on what I think is right but is a scientific and objective perspective on muscular function and human movement.
Just bear with me for a moment while I explain in as basic term as possible, a little on muscle function so you can grasp my thought process for this unconventional approach. Every muscle and tendon in the human body has a small sensory system called a proprioceptor which basically provides information to the brain on what is happening to the muscle when we move. It is essentially the body’s own awareness in a space and time. To give you an example of how proprioception works, think about when a baby tries to walk for the first time. The baby will need to hold on to a stable surface or use the support of the parent. The baby will be shaking and concentrating on trying to place one foot in front of the other. After a few months of practising the baby no longer needs support or even has to think about walking, they just do it. When the baby first starts to walk and is shaking and falling over the proprioceptors barely recognise this new movement of the muscles hence the falling over but, in time, once the muscles are repeatedly moving in the directions to support walking, the baby can walk automatically without thought or concentration. Now the muscles have done this movement over and over the proprioceptors understand these motions and movement takes place without thinking. If you want to find out more on proprioception look in a good anatomy book or you will find some information on Google.
To bring this into the world of exercise, have a think about when you did an exercise for the very first time. Did you shake or lose balance? You will have, unless you have done that same movement pattern before. What happened when you continually repeated the exercise, did you stop shaking or manage to move without losing balance?
You get better when your muscles have moved in the same way over and over again, if they encounter a new pattern or the same pattern but surpassing a great deal more times than previously encountered, the muscles/proprioceptors enter into new territory. Think about the shaking baby.
So how does this relate to running? Well, if we could assume that a half marathon took an individual 20,000 running strides and the old approach was to only complete up to 17,000 strides (11 miles) the individual’s body will be entering the unknown after 17,000 strides. So for 3000 strides the body and mind will be going through a painful experience. Even if the person had completed 20,000 paces but only once before, they will still encounter an unpleasant period as they have only done it once before.
So remember how the muscles get better the more and more you do something… well, this is exactly the same principle. Now I’m not saying run the whole 13 miles when you have never covered that kind of distance before but why not walk it?? Once you have walked that distance, rest and stretch all week then repeat but this time walk 10 miles and jog for 3 miles. Then repeat the same sequence but the following week increase the jogging to 6 miles and gradually increase the miles of jogging each week until you jog all the way. Once you have done the distance 3 or 4 times the whole experience becomes a lot easier and it does not take long for you to significantly increase the miles you run.
With this approach you can take a complete novice who has barely run before to complete a half marathon, comfortably, within 3 months. For those that are obese, I would not recommend a long distance event however, I would still advocate this approach but for a much shorter distance (3-5k). For those that take long distance running more seriously you can utilise this method to great effect. You can do the distance but now start focusing on time, so start off slow and gradually increase.
For all of the sceptical minds out there I want to leave you with a final thought – Why is it that Kenyon’s and Ethiopians who have the poorest training facilities in the world, the most inhospitable climate, dirty drinking water and the poorest food yet still they have continually produced athletes that have dominated long distance events since modern track & field athletics and cross country events began? Do you think it might have something to do with the fact they do not have transport and are forced to run for miles upon miles to drink water, go to school or find food??
So to conclude…. keep doing the distance!
By Lewis Bailey – Personal Trainer
If you are serious about running then contact Lewis on 07771 533 408 or


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