Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Train to stay young

Now the title of this blog post may sound pretty menial as it is pretty widely accepted that training and leading an active and sporty lifestyle is good for overall health, but what I'm referring to is something much cooler and interesting than that.

One of the things I enjoy, as a self confessed science geek, is learning about space. The subjects of astronomy, astrophysics and even particle physics and quantum physics I find fascinating. A lot of people like to tell me these things are boring, and while I agree that the fundamental theory can take a lot of work in order to understand the consequences of these subjects and what they can teach us about the universe is pretty awesome.

Well how about this for an idea - the faster you move, the slower time passes.

This is not just some wikipedia
based fact here, this is Einstein and his monumental theory of relativity. It struck me as I was driving home from swimming this morning when I was recalling a dream I had last week. In it my oldest friend Pete and I had somehow hijacked the International Space Station...I won't continue with the dream but it's safe to say we managed to trash most of it ... but it got me thinking about the Astronauts who pretty much live up there.

They are flying high spinning around at close to 18,000 mph and we are down here on earth moving at a lowly 1,000 mph. According to Einstein then, the boys (and girls) up there should technically be aging slower.


In 1971 two scientist from the US boarded a plane, with them they carried a very very very precise Atomic clock. Now their buddies in Washington DC also had an atomic clock. Their idea was to travel the world entirely, first in one direction and then in the
other. According to Einstein's theory in one instance the travelling clock should lose time in relation to the geostationary clock in Washington and in the other it should gain.

A very long story short, the experiment worked and the "clock paradox" was for all intense and purposes proven to be valid.

So as for those guys up at the International Space Station you ask? Well as it turns out they are in fact experiencing time at a slower rate to us, so are actually aging slower. The margin? A massive 0.014 seconds a year.

In relation to training then, I figure for all of us guys and girls swimming, biking and running every day, for every second we move faster than everyone else we are in fact delaying the inevitable just that little bit more.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Just shut up and run Mike.

In the world of sport we are bombarded with advertising at every juncture. Television adverts, famous sportsmen and women covered in branded sportswear, title sponsors of major events, product endorsed races...

Most often along with their cool logos, sports companies have a catchy little slogan, usually this ends up being just a vague statement or rhetorical question and almost always ends up involving an abuse of grammar or punctuation.

Is it in you?
Just Do It.
Impossible is nothing.
Greatness Is Built Into Our DNA.

...you all know what I'm talking about.

The most commonly recognised slogan, in my opinion, has to be that of Nike - "Just Do It.". This was conjured up for an ad campaign way back in 1988 so it has definitely stood the test of time, though until this week to me was just another random catchphrase.

In fact I had always thought of it as a slogan meant to inspire people to get off their butts and not be so lazy. From some of their adverts I know this is what they often try and get across, though the actual words "Just do it" drifted into my head this week during training without any forethought to Nike at all.

In the past few years as a triathlete I would say one of the toughest issues I've had to overcome is the feeling of foreignness in both the sports of cycling and running. As a lifelong swimmer I can almost always jump into a pool and feel pretty good, and if not good then at least "at home", but this has been a definite stumbling block in both bike and run portions of my training.

To be honest with you all however, the same issue I encounter in running especially I also encounter on a regular basis around this time of year in the pool.

I find myself swimming along and analysing every stroke I take, on each arm...every entry, every underwater phase, every exit, every stroke recovery...is all being analysed, or over analysed, by me on a regular basis.

At this time of year when everyone is "getting back into" the swing of things it does take me a while to get the feel back in the water and until then I often over stress and over think the aspects of my stroke that I should just let happen.

Now apply this to the much more foreign nature of running, a sport I have only been training in now for 3 years and the concept becomes a lot more difficult to grasp and as an athlete can feel a lot more concerning.

If you take the previous example I made of swimming, how at the beginning of each season it is important to get back into the water and regain the feel and comfort you had the season before. Well for me as a runner still learning the ropes, it is as if this process is happening for the first time. There is no "previous season" to judge how I should feel, it is the long process of learning for the first time and there is no base marker of how I should really be doing it. Each year feels different as I improve whereas in the pool I have been at (he said hopefully) a steady state for about the past 6 years.

Anyway, training this week I found myself running along the railway line 45 minutes or so into a 60 minute run in the snow and the thoughts in my head suddenly became overwhelming. I had managed to get through most of the run without stressing over positioning and technique but at that moment the thoughts which had first been about foot position had ballooned and were now covering everything from shoulder tension to breathing.

Then ... as if by magic three words popped into my head. I had heard them a thousand times before but suddenly they made sense. Made sense in that particular moment in the particular way I was choosing to interpret them.

"Just Do It."

Just shut up and run Mike.

So that's what I did. I let myself softly relax into the remaining 15 minutes I had left and began to enjoy the process of putting one foot in front of the other. I know there are a million different ways to run and there are things we all feel we need to work on, but in that moment, trying to navigate my way through 3 inches of snow in trail running shoes in the middle of a 30 hour training week probably the best thing I could do is just relax and get through it.

This applies to all 3 disciplines I train in. I often find myself becoming very fidgety on the bike, continually thinking about my position and where I "should" be. Again probably the best thing to do is just accept the fact I have 2 more hours to ride, it is NOT going to be comfortable...no matter how much I try and shift around, and just get on with it.

"Just Do It Mike."

That's what I'm trying to keep in my head these days.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Graduation, Scotland and Winter

Arrived back in Scotland 10 days ago now, the main purpose of my trip being my long awaited graduation ceremony last Thursday.

I missed the traditional summer ceremony in July due to my being in Chamonix so I had to make an extra trip home so I could pick up my degree in November. Was a beautiful day, snow had just started to fall so the campus looked great, really enjoyed the occasion and being able to celebrate with my family. Not every day that you get to officially become an "educated man" so I made sure to have a drink or two that night!

The snow continued to fall though, ever heavier, over the following week and as of today there must be at least 18 inches sitting in my garden. Has made training interesting but I am plugging away, already at 22 hours this week, mostly on my stationary trainer or on my slow jogs through the snow on the local trails. I'll keep pushing on though, it might be a good thing, lots of long slow sessions in December can't be bad.

Has made for some awesome photography opportunities and I've jumped at the chance, lots of great shots over the past week...a selection of which are below :)


ps. Yes I did get beaten by my mum on Monday at the "plank challenge"...fair and square, 6:11 for me - 8:30 for her, you are a beast mum!

Grad day, in my kilt

The entrance to King's college

Outside King's college chapel in my robes

Once again outside the chapel

Proud mum and myself

Proud sister and myself

Proud dad...and myself

The chapel

King's college in the snow

My surprise grad cake!

3 hour weekend run at clach na' ben

Sunset over Glen dye

Top of clach na' ben

Glen dye

OCD Driveway clearing

Frozen bushes on the railway line

Frozen railway line path

Frozen river Dee

The sole tree with leaves still on it on the Royal Deeside Golf Club

1st lap of the golf club course

2nd lap of the golf club course ... footprints exactly 1m to the right of the footprints from my 1st lap :)