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Believe you can, and get a plan!

Or how to get a new Personal Best (PB)!

Or another take on ‘if you always do what you have always done, you always get what you always got!’

I believe, if you want anything in life, you first must truly believe that you can attain it and then you need a plan. Frequently the plan is never 100% correct however it does give you direction and a point of reference.

So, this blog is the story of how a little bit of belief and a plan helped achieve a new PB.

Here’s a little history…

Jamie ran his first marathon in Stockholm in June 2013 – the conditions were atrocious, torrential freezing rain, but he finished, in not a bad time for a first marathon – 4 hours and 35 seconds.

In Paris 2 years later, with not much change to his routine, except he was running more, he achieved 3hours 47 minutes and 23 seconds, knocking 13 minutes off his PB – no mean feat!

He entered more marathons and gradually the times were coming down, but it was getting harder to skim those minutes and seconds off.

Marathon journey so far;

Stockholm Jun 2013 4.00.35

Paris Apr 2015 3.47.23

Barcelona Mar 2016 3.30.07

Bournemouth Oct 2016 3.29.17

After entering the Las Palmas marathon in January 2017, and achieving a new PB of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 27 seconds, Jamie believed that he could run a faster time and potentially gain a place for the 2019 London Marathon with a ‘Good for Age’ place. He needed to run his next marathon in under 3 hours 15 minutes. With Amsterdam marathon in his sights which is a great course he was more determined than ever. His time … 3 hours, 15 minutes and 39 seconds. He had a new PB, but had missed his London marathon spot by just 39 seconds, less than 1 second per kilometre run over the course of the marathon. He was gutted!

Now Jamie is a self-taught runner with natural ability – he is sometimes known as ‘Forest Gump’ amongst his friends – he just loves to run. However, that natural ability can only take you so far, and you can’t just run long distances as training for a marathon.

Knowing Jamie as I do, I know he has a sub 3-hour marathon in him. He has a strong mental attitude, he has mental grit, he won’t give up, however it gets harder and harder to shave those seconds off as your times come down, so something had to change.

So, I stepped in, as his Personal Trainer and reviewed his lifestyle, his diet and his training program, and set about putting a plan together with the aim of getting that London Marathon place.

Devising a plan

It was October 2017, and Jamie secured a place in the Seville marathon for February 2018, we had just over 3 months to make this PB happen.

The first part of the new plan, and the first of many changes in regime was nutrition. After keeping a food diary for 2 weeks, and then sitting down and accessing the food types and the alcohol consumed there were obvious changes to make. Not only in terms of providing the right fuel at the right time for training sessions, but for just a healthier diet in general.

The ‘beige’ diet (bread, pie & mash, sausage rolls and beer) became way more colourful.

Meal prep was the way to go, rather than relying on food bought on the go. Breakfasts of toast were swapped for porridge, lunches became high protein wraps of salmon & avocado (prepared at home and taken to work), and dinners became roast chicken with a mountain of veg. Snacks were fruit, nuts or chicken drumsticks and the alcohol units plummeted. Protein snacks were eaten within 20 minutes of each training session and water was the go-to hydration fluid.

… the changes continue

A runner needs a strong core. Especially long-distance runners. As soon as your core becomes tired or weak, your posture changes and your body creates a compensatory pattern. You begin to load your body in the wrong way, recruiting muscles to help you get from A to B, however not necessarily in the most efficient, or healthy way. If you have a strong core, you can remain upright, in an effective running stance – this is what we needed.

Jamie needed to strengthen his core, so weekly Pilates classes became the norm. These not only improve integral core strength but also brought about more mobility, a definite added bonus.

All the training that Jamie had completed to date was sagittal (i.e. forwards and backwards). He needed much more variation in his movement patterns, and he needed to ‘wake up’ some other muscles in his body, so once a week he started coming to my weekend Boot Camps – which are a mix of High Intensity workouts, Core exercises as well as Strength & Conditioning exercises, focusing on balance, stability and working out in all planes of movement, not just forward towards the finish line!

He also started to incorporate fartlek and interval sessions to start to push his aerobic capacity and improve his VO2 max[i]. The interval sessions included 6 x 400m laps, with 400m recovery jog, aiming for the last lap to the fastest lap of the session.

Feeling stronger

These changes made Jamie feel strong, and this made him feel confident. The change in training also brought about added bonuses, no injuries!

Aside from the altered training, Jamie decided to run the Seville marathon differently, he was feeling confident he could get under 3 hours 15 minutes but did not want to come so close again and fail. So, he decided that he would run the first half a lot quicker than he had done previously and then have a bit of a buffer for slowing down at the end.

…and the result?

The changes worked. Jamie felt strong throughout the race, and achieved a half marathon PB in the first half of 1.31.35 and then kept up the good pace to finish in 3 hours 5 minutes and 53 seconds, well and truly beating his previous time of 3.15.39

Jamie is now looking forward to running the London Marathon without going through the ballot lottery, and we are devising a new plan for the sub 3-hour marathon – I always knew he had it in him, now he has the belief that it can be achieved.

It is just a story to illustrate that anything is achievable with a little belief and a plan. That end goal doesn’t have to be fitness related. You might want to win ne clients for your business, hit a new sales target, save for a holiday? Whatever your goal, believe you can, and get a plan!

Marathon times

Stockholm Jun 2013 4.00.35

Paris Apr 2015 3.47.23

Barcelona Mar 2016 3.30.07

Bournemouth Oct 2016 3.29.17

Las Palmas Jan 2017 3.19.27

Amsterdam Oct 2017 3.15.39

Seville Feb 2018 3.05.53

[i] VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense, or maximal exercise. It is measured as millilitres of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/kg/min). It is one factor that may help determine an athlete's capacity to perform sustained exercise.


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