2016 was a pretty busy year at Urban Fox HQ. It’s been super exciting meeting new clients and helping them reach all their individual goals. Together we’ve achieved first ever 5k’s, prepared for the birth of a child, mastered obstacle races, smashed fitness tests, completed a marathon and numerous other remarkable achievements.
As a trainer, it can be hard to keep track of our own fitness progress, especially when we become absorbed in helping our clients reach their milestones, so, during the last quarter of 2016, I decided to find a better way to make more time for my own training without compromising my performance in my work life.
First of all, I decided to set up a training tracker, something visual, that I could use to get a better handle of the amount of energy I was expending through client appointments and where that left me in terms of personal time (and strength). I could map in all my work commitments in advance, then earmark gaps in my schedule that I could fill with my own training or recovery.
The chart I produced really helped to put my fitness into perspective. I was better able to balance my training because I could anticipate the demands of my work commitments. Being a Personal Trainer is physically demanding, and it’s important to find the right mixture of rest and activity to stay healthy and injury free.
I also decided to use some of my own coaching tips on myself – Set a goal is an ideal motivator. If it is clear, measurable and achievable, the personal rewards can be immense. My focus was to find more time for running, while taking less time doing it. This meant gearing training sessions around strength and speed, as well as signing up for runs. Here in Germany I use the Runme.de website to find running events. You can search by location or postcode, distance or race type to find your event. It’s a great site, with links to the organiser’s website and entry forms. I’ve enjoyed finding smaller, off-the-beaten track races, avoiding the larger, mass participation sponsored events. I’m happier that my race fees go to small local clubs in need of essential funds, plus, I get to find new places to run too.
I decided to set myself a target of running three races in Autumn. Each one would increase in distance, giving me an additional challenge of building my mileage, speed and endurance through time effective training sessions that I could fit in around work. Interval sessions, Yasso 800’s and pyramid sessions made efficient use of my time at the track, my TRX Suspension Trainer is fantastic for building strength, a sprinkling of swimming and cycling provided a low impact alternative to running.
The first event, in early November, was 7.8km Saegerserie in Hermsdorf, Berlin. There are 3 races in this series, held in the beautiful surroundings of Tegeler Forst, each event increasing in distance. Don’t be put off by the advertising, claiming it to be the “Hardest Trailrun in Berlin”, I’ve definitely run more challenging courses and would award that particular quote to the Mueggelturm’s Trailrun Berlin race. With Autumn in full flow, conditions were soft underfoot and colourful all around. The race follows forest trails, incorporating leaping over tree trunks and hilly scrambles. It was challenging and a lot of fun, in a very relaxed atmosphere. I finished in 40.14.
My second race was 3 weeks later, and took me back once again to Tegeler Forst for one of my favourite competitions – Herbstwaldlauf, which literally translates to Autumn-Forest-Run. At 11km, this course is a great distance, breaking the boundaries of the many traditional 10km routes we runners are used to being offered. The route, once again in Tegeler Forst, follows wider trails through the forest. I absolutely love this race. Conditions are always great. Soft, springy forest floors, a paintbox of autumn colours all around you, the scent of the pine trees, and nature’s shelter should it rain. Organised by LG Nord athletics club, you can be sure of relaxed, friendly atmosphere and a wide selection of biscuits, cake and warm tea in the finish line.
I crossed the finish line in 53:47, thrilled to discover I had managed to pick up my first ever 1st place in my age group, along with a goodie bag too.
My final event took place just one week later, the first weekend in December, after a particularly busy work week and on very tired legs. The Weissenseer Crosslauf would be a 12km (approx) crosslauf – approximately? What did that mean? Further research revealed a meeting point pretty close to home, a sports stadium, and a 1.6km course. Still, feeling uncertain (and reluctant), I cycled the few kilometers to the start line to see what it was all about.
What a depressing sight. Cloudy, cold and grey. The stadium looked like it had been long neglected. That running track was sandy mud, not sprung asphalt. A handful of onlookers were probably only there because they never really believed people would actually come to race here.
I arrived just in time to see a wave of women running off around the track following the sound of a starter gun. Unsure if I had mistimed and arrived too late for my race, I questioned a few people if that was the women’s race. Indeed it was – the women’s 3km had already started. When I asked after the 12km race, a few furrowed brows answered in what seemed slight disbelief. Luckily I hadn’t missed my event, and as I made my preparations for my race a rather large group of men had gathered on the track. There wasn’t a woman in sight. Was this a different race? I was so confused. I checked again. Yes, the 12km, and as luck would have it, I glanced into the crowd and saw one other woman. Just one. Well, I guess that’s better than no women, and as it turned out, she was a lovely lady from Wales, visiting Berlin for the weekend, celebrating her 50th birthday. She dashed over the start line like a Whippet and I spent most of the run hoping she would get tired and I could overtake her for another 1st place finish. Turns out she’s used to running in Snowdonia. Hills are her thing. I didn’t even come close to catching her. As for the route – 8 laps of a 1.5km course. Around the track, through the trees, follow the border of the 2 football fields, pass the hotdog stand, and back around the track to finish the lap. Repeat, 8 times! Nothing about this run seemed appealing. I convinced myself I’d try 4 laps, then pull out. Counting each lap by removing one finger from my gloves each round, by the time I reached the 4th my inner self agreed to go to 6 laps, by which time, 6 laps was feeling OK, and of course, there were only 2 more to go. Determined to pass a guy in front, who looked a lot less fit than me, gave me enough determination to keep going through to 8th lap. As I crossed the finish line, one of the stewards asked me for my entry paper so they could write my time on it. Of course I didn’t have it, I’m of the chip-timing generation, where would I carry an entry paper in my lycra running kit? A few weeks later results finishing times were eventually posted on their website. I had finished in 57:36. Another 1st place in my age category – but it doesn’t count for much when there are only 2 women in the race in separate age categories!
I have to confess, I rather enjoyed this last race of the year in the end. I spent some time chatting with some of the other competitors after the race, who were all very friendly and happy to be there. I was surprised the laps hadn’t been harder, maybe listening to the This American Life Podcast helped to keep my feet going, who knows? There was certainly a huge sense of satisfaction that I had made it to the end.
Planning ahead and signing up in advance for these races really did help to motivate me. I knew what I was aiming for and could structure my training towards my goal. It’s been a fun experiment increasing my pace over distance using a mixture of training techniques, which excites me for what I can achieve in 2017. What will your goal be?
Race 1. Pace: 5:09 mins/km. Total distance: 7.8km
Race 2. Pace: 4:53 mins/km. Total distance: 11km
Race 3. Pace: 4:48 mins/km. Total Distance: 12km
Kicking off the new year on snowy trails