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PART 1: Kick-start Your Running

Even experienced runners hit plateaus from time to time – a period of time where performances seem to stagnate and consequently motivation becomes tougher. The temptation is to work harder, run further and wait for the improvement to come. Changing the training dynamic is certainly one way to kick start your running… but it’s not the only way.

Those newer to running often find that improvement comes quickly early on as the body “figures out this running thing” and then the improvements disappear… and are often replaced with injury and frustration.

If you find yourself in either of these situations – your performances have flat lined (or God forbid, gone backwards) or you are facing increasing injury annoyance then adding strength training to your program may well just be the kick-start you need.

This is what we know:

Adding strength training to your running training can

  • increase maximal strength and reactive strength
  • improve running economy
  • improve maximal oxygen intake
  • improve the mid and latter stages of your race/performance

AND all of this can occur WITHOUT any associated hypertrophy (increase in muscle size ie not added weight to carry around)

So, to kick-start your running you should:

  • Set aside regular training time for strength training
  • Find a qualified and experience strength coach to guide you in integrating strength training into your training programme
  • Check out our blog on using plyometrics to take your running to the next level

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to

Time to Walk the Talk

It’s time for me to Walk the Talk.

I have made the decision that I want to compete again next season. For the past few years I have been content to train as a “sparring partner” for some of my locally based athletes and to have a run at the occasional competion (normally as the result of losing a bet – though I would prefer it was referred to as me being supportive).

I have always loved competing and welcome any opportunity to jump on the track and sprint. But I have missed the feeling of stepping on the track knowing I was in condition to perform at my best.

A lot has changed since I last trained seriously with an eye to competitive performance. I have gained: 2 more kids (I have 4 now); quite a few kilograms and a large number of clients (with whom I love working).

Three of my kids have reached the “active phase” – dancing and tennis taking up much of our “spare” time. Having given birth to our youngest 17 weeks ago my amazing wife is nearly ready to return to full time employment so I again get to be the stay-at-home Dad (a job I wouldn’t swap for the world.)

So it is against this background that I have decided to train and compete again. The obvious question is…Why now? There are the obvious responses – to challenge myself, the adrenalin rush from competing, the comraderie of fellow competitors. All of these are real but for me, my biggest motivation is that my kids are at an age where they can come and watch me compete and will, hopefully, be able to remember it. I want them to be able to see how I have set a goal and worked hard to achieve it.

So, over the next 10 months, I am going to train hard, blog about it and then see what I am able to achieve. I will reveal the struggle, the reality of being a Masters athlete and, hopefully, all the boxes I have ticked off.

This is a very similar journey to that faced by many of the athletes that come to me at Damn Fit SC. They still have a burning desire to compete at there best, they face many hurdles – some aged related and others related to the demands on their times. So just like we do for them, we are going to create a plan for me and implement the layers of accountability.

Stay tuned… there is more to come!!!

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to


(or am I crazy to want to coach myself?)

I love legal dramas… they are my favourite TV binge. I think, most of all, I love the “formulas” good script writers use to create drama and suspense.

One for the most common of those formulas is the use of a lawyer who has been accused of a crime and then, in their wisdom, they elect to defend themselves. 9 times out of 10 this plan creates hassles that could have been avoided had they decided instead to employ a different lawyer as their counsel.

American President Abraham once stated words to the effect that “any lawyer who acts as their own lawyer has a fool for a client”

So what does this have to do with coaching and training… surprisingly quite a lot.

Many Masters Athletes, through one means or another, end up acting as their own coach.


There are many benefits for this arrangement. “Self-coached” athletes often say:

  1. Nobody knows me better than me

And this is true. Who knows you better than yourself? After many years of training you understand what sessions feel good and which ones you struggle with. You understand the difference between “good sore” and ‘bad sore”

  • It’s a much less expensive option

A good coach is a professional and they deserve to be compensated as such. However this can become an expensive option. Sometimes it comes down to resource allocation – it doesn’t cost anything to coach myself

  • My life is so hectic I can’t fit into a normal coaches training schedule

One the major hassles with many structured coaching set ups is you need to be available when the coach is available. With life being so busy – fitting in to someone else’s schedule is not easy

  • After so many years in the sport I know what works for me

Experience provides us with many insights. We learn what can work for us

  • Nobody is more invested in my results than me

If you are keen to perform then this it totally true – you understand what you want

  • I work in this field so it just makes sense

Many Masters athletes are coaches themselves… it just makes sense. We have a love of doing what we do. So why not use our own expertise to coach ourselves??!!

  • I love the independence and flexibility

The complete freedom to programme and train when and how you want is very appealing


“Self-coached” Athletes can:

  • be too “soft” on themselves

When the pain of training starts to kick in – it becomes very easy to “second guess” your original programme. There is also the danger of programming only what we like… not what we need

  • be too “tough” on themselves

There are times when we NEED to stop (injury, fatigue, stagnation) but the fear of being soft drives us on

  • “negotiate” away their spare time

The flexibility of training can be a crutch when we put ourselves last, and train at the least convenient times to us personally.

  • get stuck in a rut

Being your own boss (no matter the industry) can become tedious – the challenges and “conflicts” which can stimulate thinking are harder to find for the self-coached

  • lose objectivity in assessing the program and results

It takes in incredibly clear mind to become emotionally involved in analysing performances and training programmes – the danger becomes we make decisions based on our emotional investment rather than on the specific needs and long term plans

  • lose the ability to separate their sport from their life

Coaches, by nature, are often obsessive about their athletes’ performances. When you are self-coached this can become overwhelming due to the tendency to be constantly thinking about training/programming/recovery/performance. The critical sport-life balance can be lost to the detriment of the athlete and the performance.

  • feel isolated and having to solve problems by themselves

What happens when results don’t go your way, where performances get unexpectedly worse or when injury strikes?

  • lose the “critical eye”

How easy it to stand back and look at everything that is happening (positive and negative) and not look at it through the “emotional eye” of the athlete? There is a very relevant old saying along the lines of “its never as good as it seems or as bad as it could be”.


  • Get a mentor

Find someone you can talk to about your training and who is happy to give an honest opinion about how they think you are going

  • Find a training group

Spread the “cost” of the coach, gain many people to critically evaluate how you are going, gain a huge emotional boost from the support of the group

  • Decide that the positives outweigh the negatives

Look at the lists above and decide that you like the benefits or being self-coached and that also there are negatives you are happy to wear them in pursuit of your goals

  • Get a coach

Coaches add much to what we as athletes do. But there is no one correct coaching structure.

Explore your options. Look at:

 (a) part-time face-to-face contact with a coach

 (b) online coaches who provide the programming expertise and critical review while allowing you the flexibility and freedom self-coached athletes desire

Every athlete is different… and their needs are different. Analyse your current situation, your goals and consider which option works best for you.

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to

Bouncing Your Way to a Faster Run

In our last blog IS TRAINING WITH WEIGHTS GOOD FOR RUNNING? – YOU DECIDE! we looked at the effects of training with weights and the impact if can have on running performance.

This week we want to take a step further and look at a specific type of strength training which is often underutilised by most runners – Plyometrics.

Since the 1970’s plyometrics, in their many different forms, have been the domain of sprinters and other power/explosive athletes. It was often deemed as unnecessary and even dangerous to undertake for distance runners, whether recreational or competitive.

But the research, and practical experience, are now telling us differently.


Plyometrics is an intense form of exercise. It is designed to increase strength in athletes through fast, repeated strengthening/contracting of the muscles. In its simplest form plyometics is jumping.


In short plyometric exercise, when combined appropriately with running training will improve performance levels resulting in improved times.

Plyometric training will:

  • Improve running economy
  • Improve muscle recruitment
  • Reduce time required for training
  • Potentially reduce the mileage you are required to complete


It’s always best to have a base level of strength and fitness before starting plyometric exercise. The ability to bodyweight squat (Air Squat) will be you have a degree of body control required.

It is very important :

  • NOT to go too hard too fast
  • NOT to perform too many reps (ground contacts) in each session/week
  • NOT to performance plyometric exercise on hard surfaces eg concrete
  • To progress gradually based on the way your body is responding at ground contact
  • To integrate your plyometrics into a properly periodised program
  • To listen to your body and its responses


The following exercises are a selection from which you could choose. It is important to consider your phase of training, previous strength training experience and your stability/mobility limitations.

After a thorough warm up choose some of these:

  1. Squat Jumps – place hands on hips. Drop down into a ½ Squat position, hold momentarily then explode upwards, jumping as high as you can. As you land be sure to absorb the impact of the ground, controlling your landing. Reset and repeat. Do 2-3 sets of 4-8 jumps. A variation on this may be do the jumps in each set continuously rather than resetting after each jump.
  2. High Skips – do an exaggerated explosive skip where you focus on height rather than distance. Do 2-3 sets of 12-20 skips
  3. Jumping Lunge – start in a lunge position with one leg in front.  Keeping chest upright, jump explosively into the air and change the position of your legs – landing in a controlled lunge position with the opposite foot forward. Do 2-3 sets of 3-5 jumps per leg.
  4. Single Leg Push Offs – Stand with one foot resting on top of a box and the other foot immediately beside the box. Thigh should be almost parallel to the ground. Drive the foot down hard into the box propelling yourself upwards. Return in a controlled landing to the start position. Reset and repeat. Do 3-4 sets of 3-5 jumps per leg
  5. Pogos  (2 foot ankle hop) – Bounce with minimal bending of the knees. Do 2-3 sets of 5-15 jumps
  6. Bounding – from a standing start (or with a slight walk-in) run with long exaggerated strides aiming for both distance and height. Drive the front leg back down so that the font foot does not land in front of your centre of mass. Do 1-3 sets of 6-12 bounds

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to


Over the years I have had many engaging debates with runners and coaches over training programmes, best approaches to improvement and adjusting training as we age.  In the end we ended always seem to come back to three conundrums that are all intertwined:

  1. Hitting a plateau in your running is tough (and hard to break out of). This is appears to be doubly true as we age and our previous bests seem to disappear deep into the distance
  2. Many runners work by the maxim – “if some is good then more MUST be better”. The logic appears to be that if I can increase my mileage by X percent then surely my “fitness” will improve and my times will drop.
  3. Gym work “myths”:
    • takes up time that could be better spent running
    • makes me big and bulky (not conducive to running)
    • makes me too sore to run well


Beattie. K. et al (2016) did an examination of a 40 week strength training programme used on competitive distance runners. Their major finds where that:

  • there were significant increases on maximal strength and reactive strength
  • running economy improved
  • vVO2 (velocity at maximal oxygen uptake) improved
  • the above improvements occurred without an associated hypertrophy

Damasceno, MV. et al (2015) found that after 8 weeks of strength training twice a week runners improved their speed to in the “middle to end phases” of a 10km run – the result of which was a better overall performance.

Tiapale, RS. et al (2010) studied recreational runners and found that strength training 1-3 times per week for 28 weeks elicited an improvement in VO2 Max for these runners.


If we head back to our original 3 conundrums and look at them in terms of the research we can find that:

  • Strength training can improve running performance
  • Increasing mileage is not necessarily the only way to improve performance
  • Choosing gym sessions and running sessions may in fact maximise performance rather than diminish it.


  1. Make regular use of a gym
  2. Set aside regular training time for strength training
  3. Find a qualified and experience strength coach to guide you in integrating strength training into your training programme
  4. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog on how to utilise plyometrics in your strength programme to further boost your running performance.

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to