Blog

By Ben Morris 30 Nov, 2017

There are some typical questions that arise when people ask about triathlon or tri as its commonly known.

These generally include:

What is a triathlon and What are the distances?
Triathlon is a mixture of swimming, cycling and running in that order over various distances.
These are categorised as:

  •        Super Sprint: 250 up to 400m swim, 10km, bike 2.5km, run
  •        Sprint:  400m - 750m swim, 20km bike and a 5km run
  •        Standard (Olympic) 1500m swim, 40km bike and a 10km run
  •        Middle distance 1900m swim, 90km bike and a 21km run
  •        Long course (ironman) 3800m swim, 180 km bike 42km run.

The shorter distance swims can be both open water (lake, sea or river) and in a swimming pool.

Do I need a lot of expensive equipment?
Not when you're starting out, no. Â Find a shorter pool based triathlon such as Try a tri in Fairwater and give it a go. As it's pool based there is no wetsuit requirement and a wide variety of bikes can be used - Road, mountain or hybrid. The only stipulations are that the bike is road worthy and has working brakes, the bar ends are covered and a helmet must be worn. Once you've decided that triathlon is for you then you can think about buying a bike rather than borrowing one.
Helmets don't have to be super expensive either as they have to have the European kite mark to be sold by law. The more expensive ones will be lighter, have more air holes, look better but will not necessarily offer better protection.

How do I train for one?
There are a number of things you will need to consider. Firstly how much time can you commit to training? Work and family commitments can be conceived as a barrier. Ways around these can include, training early mornings when the family are in bed and having a recovery day at the weekend so you can spend time with them.

What distance should I choose?
A lot of people choose to start off with a shorter distance and some do stick to them. It is a lot easier to fit training for anything up to a middle-distance event round everyday life than it is for a long course event. The problem is once you take up triathlon the temptation to do an iron distance event is often too hard to resist!

I can't swim, ride a bike or run very well
Give yourself plenty of time to train for the event. 10 weeks up to 24 weeks (depending on fitness levels and experience) are considered normal training periods. Join a club or get a coach who will test your current fitness levels, help you choose an event then devise a training plan that will develop you over time prevent overtraining and avoid injury.

Work on both your strengths and weaknesses. Its human nature to enjoy what we are good at and avoid what we aren't. There's a certain amount of crossover between the three disciplines, but concentrating on the one discipline rather than a mix of the three would be a mistake.

I have read about brick training what does that mean?
Brick training is when you go from one discipline straight into another. Most commonly bike straight into a run. This helps not only with the change of muscle action from cycling to running but transition drills too.

Triathlon can seem a sport for the wealthy or the athletically gifted. When in reality it can be a very inclusive sport with events that last from under an hour to well past 16 hours.

Age isn't a hindrance either as older athletes will benefit from less impact through cycling and swimming while still running. 85-year-old Lew Hollander is looking forward to finishing his 24th Ironman Kona World Championships and he is pioneering the 85-89 year old age group.
Road running isn't your thing? That's ok, the trail triathlon is on the rise with cross country running and mountain bike sections. Young or old, whatever your gender there is an event out there for you. Just give it a go it's addictive trust me!

Mark George Drew is a fully qualified Triathlon Coach and Personal Trainer at aspire fitness in Cardiff and Nantgarw. He specialises in helping beginners through there first triathlons or any distance and improving those who have done a few and would like to step up in distance or time. 


By Ben Morris 27 Nov, 2017

1. Be Consistent.

Assuming you have been following a training program for a while now, aim to be as consistent with it as possible. Obviously at this time of year there are more social gatherings, so plan your training wisely. Yes you can still go to the party, but it may mean you have to move a training session so that you still get it done. You might have to hit the gym the next day after going out the night before, but the reality is that if you want to stay in shape then a certain amount of discipline is required.

2. Control your food and drink intake.

Ok so adulating isn't actually in the Oxford dictionary, however the Urban dictionary describes it as carrying out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals. Sadly controlling how much you eat and drink is part of your adult responsibility. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to gorge yourself on Christmas pudding, buckets of chocolate and fizzy pop. So keep in control of the excess, track your calories regularly and make an effort to cut back on the treats. If your goal is to maintain or lose weight then by tracking your calorie intake and expenditure you will still be able to have the foods/drinks you enjoy without it tipping you over the edge. 

3. Time management - train with purpose.

Due to social commitments over the Christmas period the time you spend exercising may be effected. Therefore plan your training sessions ahead so that they are purposeful and effective. A good example of this would be to incorporate high intensity interval training rather than low intensity steady state work outs. In your weight training sessions you could include higher volume methods such as supersets, tri sets, giant sets, drop set variations that are effective but time efficient. Obviously the methods implemented will be dependent on your goals. If you need some advice on how to get the most out of your training sessions with limited time then feel free to ask for a training program or book in for a personal training session.

4. Christmas Eve (Sunday), Christmas Day (Monday), Boxing Day (Tuesday).

Christmas this year falls at the start of a typical training week. On Christmas day it has been reported that the average Brit will consume 6000 to 7000 calories, and let's be honest nobody wants to be average. My advice to you is to stay as active as possible over this three day period. On Christmas morning I typically go for a short trail run, it's become part of a tradition that I have carried out for years. Aim to fit some activities/training in over this three day period to minimise the impact of all the extra calories. For example; go for a walk with the family on the Taff trail, Pen y Fan or Brecon Four Waterfalls walk, or take the kids for a run around at the park for a couple of hours. You're spoilt for choice in South Wales.

5. Have Fun.

At the end of the day Christmas is about spending quality time with family and close friends. These occasions are important in relation to exercise and diet adherence. It's all about balance, unless you are an elite/professional athlete then there is no reason why you can't sit down and enjoy your typical Christmas dinner. If on Xmas day you're sat at the table eating chicken, broccoli and rice out of a Tupperware box, followed by a protein bar for pudding then you might need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. So enjoy the day like Charlie in the chocolate factory, but don't be greedy like Augustus Gloop. We all know what happened to him.

Our Christmas Pudding Course is a fun and time efficient way to keep you motivated and exercising through the festive period. It is available as a group course, or as a 1:1 PT course or if you really want to stay on track and stay motivated you can combine the PT and group sessions.. Details are at the following links.

Group Christmas Pudding Course

http://www.aspirefitness.co.uk/what-we-do/christmas-pudding-course.html

1:1 Personal Training Christmas Pudding Course Details

http://www.aspirepersonaltraining.wales/christmas-pudding-personal-training-p

Merry Christmas to all of our members, if you need any help or advice over the coming weeks then please feel free to get in touch and book an appointment.

By Ben Morris 24 Nov, 2017

Every day I work with people in pain at my physiotherapy, injury rehabilitation and personal training practise in Cardiff. Pain is a normal part of being human.

Pain is a bit like a threat alarm system, it doesn't need to know the nature of the threat it just needs the perception of threat to be triggered.

Pain Is a useful tool. If we have pain, then that's usually for good reason, for instance it may be that the threat perceived is very real and dangerous like the threat of a burn from a fire helping to avoid further damage. Occasionally though pain is not useful.

When pain is perhaps least useful is when it is no longer actually protecting the body. Often this occurs because of inaccurate health beliefs, excessive fear, emotional stress and upset (Mosely et al 2013). It should be noted that these pains are no less real or in any way less painful.

These symptoms are most commonly seen in chronic health conditions, where they are often wrongly and unsuccessfully treated directly at the point where the individual feels their pain. This often fails as the pain that patients are experiencing will unlikely be originating from the bodily site, rather in the brain itself (Melzack and Wall 1965).

Here's a solution we like.

On any alarm system there is a reset button, if your smoke alarm is going off because you are crisping the bacon then the alarm is not needed (hmm bacon). If, however the alarm is going off because you forgot to switch the iron off then it's probably a good thing to help you avoid further damage (aarrrggg house burning). Pain in the body is a little like that and where appropriate we help people with their reset button.

We closely follow the principles of Cognitive Functional Therapy (O'Keefe, O'Sullivan et al 2014). Our method starts with a full assessment that includes goal setting, where the goals are agreed upon and then form the target of treatment. Thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours regarding the pain and the context are addressed with education and provision of evidence. Once these are dealt with, we then start the journey of using activity or exercise to help cause a cognitive dissonance between what the patient thinks and what happens.

An example could be that if bending has been problematic then teaching an exercise that includes bending, but that does not cause the same problems. This process can sometimes be done quite quickly, but often it requires a retraining of thinking and moving that may take a lot longer. In some cases, it may be that this would be something that would always need work, and may be considered an appropriate coping strategy.

This serves as a great introduction to some of the concepts that underlie our physiotherapy, injury rehabilitation and personal training practise in Cardiff , and is a great jumping off point for the next 4 blogs where we will look at some of these points in more detail.

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Pete specialises in pain management through exercise, so if you are in pain and need some help then book in for a physiotherapy assessment or exercise consultation with Pete or one of the team. You can contact us at  the 'contact us' page on the website, by calling 02920 235 523 or by e-mail: info@aspirefitness.co.uk.

 

By Ben Morris 11 Jul, 2017
Weightlifting obsessed, moi?
 
My past fitness
This started a few years ago now.
When I finally enrolled onto my diploma in personal training, it was doing so with the amassed experience of a10 year military career where fitness was like brushing your teeth (daily, a function of living and a method by which you got better at your job).
It’s fair to say that the methods that I had employed during this time to gain that level of fitness (exceptionally high incidentally) were at best a little Spartan. Endurance was built over long hours of marching and running. Strength was built by carrying heavy loads and hauling myself over assault courses, over walls in and out of buildings and endless circuit training sessions. Ultimately these methods, (as I learned later) applied the basic principle of specificity; you get fit for what you do. For me it wasn’t always this way, I didn’t always have fitness.
"It's okay for you because you are fit"
Now there is a common held misconception that I have encountered thousands of times over the years. That is that “it’s OK for you because you are fit”. This is something that we all would have heard at some point (possibly even found ourselves saying it). This is something that I find really interesting, particularly if you were to speak to my school PE teachers. Famously I was, at best a non-attender in school PE. So much so that some years later (whilst working as a leisure centre duty manager) one of my old PE teachers came in with a class of children. So shocked was he at the turn my life had taken (military service, then working in the fitness industry) that he had to double take when I approached him. He even forgot his normal calm demeanour and exclaimed that never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined such an (in his words) un-athletic child could ever have developed into what he saw before him.
The Power Clean
So when I came to my personal training education I already had a rich experience to draw from, adapting what I knew to encompass all the other fitness principles, the techniques and the methods of training. Whilst here I was first introduced to weightlifting, well I say weightlifting but what I really mean is the sports conditioning version, the power clean.
Over the years I used this exercise to great effect in conjunction with others to increase power to do other activities in both clients and myself. Then some years later (10 years roughly) a lot of things had changed, I was no longer running and was almost exclusively weight training. In my own training, exercises that I had previously used to condition myself for other activities (running, cycling, surfing and generally adventuring) had become the reason for doing it in their own right. The pursuit of increase of strength itself had become more important to me. From here onwards it was only natural for me to seek the distillation of quality involved in learning the Olympic lifts proper.
A reason for training
You see, within these two lifts (the clean and jerk and the snatch) there is a myriad of technical points that can take years to perfect. These lifts require agility, strength, power, flexibility and coordination; I have found learning them altogether more addictive than the other forms of lifting that I do. The greatest thing that I find with them is that they have given me back my reason for training, my goals and my excitement at doing the basics well. In addition the beauty of the Olympic lifts for me is that they require the participant to have grounding in all aspects of physical movement (strength/power/agility/coordination/ flexibility) and because I enjoy training this gives me plenty of things to do to be working towards my goal of getting better at weightlifting.
So how did I go about it?
Like any skill there has to be a phase of learning. Movements like running, jumping, swimming and lifting are all based on specific movement patterns. These patterns are generated in the brain then communicated to the skeletal muscles.
This happens by an individual having an intention to move, that intention is then translated to the movement part of the brain and processed which in turn is sent via the spinal nerves to the skeletal muscles that create and control that movement. As this is happening the proprioceptive (these let the brain know where the parts of the body are relative in space) receptors in the body are measuring what is actually happening, sending that information back to the brain (this time the cerebellum) which compares the intended movement with the actual movement constantly modulating future movements.
It is via the above mechanism that we learn these patterns of movement. When this feedback and feed forward loop completes the correct movement repeatedly the strength of the ‘signal’ getting to the correct muscles in the correct timing becomes more streamlined and efficient this outwardly presents as improved quality of movement.
Learning a pattern of movement
Some sources suggest it takes 3000 correct movements to form an engram (a learned pattern of movement) that is why I set about first dropping all my weights back to a level that I was able to concentrate on the quality of my movement then refining how I did the movements. I read about how the experts did them, I watched you tube videos of weight lifters in action then I got my colleagues to video me and provide coaching tips. During this process of refinement I broke down the movements and learned them bit by bit, eventually putting them back together to complete the new improved movement patterns.
During this time I limited myself to using a maximum weight that I could do for at least 3 to 5 repetitions to allow correct repetitions to occur with enough volume for me to learn form.
Ongoing Success
To give some Idea of scale I started this process in January and by the end of April I was able to lift consistently well. When I started in January I was achieving about 40% successful lifts at 40kg for power snatches and 60kg for power cleans. Last week I narrowly missed a 70kg snatch and a 90kg clean and jerk with a great deal more consistency of lifts, somewhere in the region 90% successful lifts. For the same period of time I have maintained a bodyweight of 80kg.
Now that I am lifting more consistently I am in a good position to start reducing the repetition ranges and increasing my loads rather than just concentrating on quality, so next time you are in the area pop in to the Cardiff gym, I may well be practicing.
 
Pete
By Ben Morris 11 Jul, 2017
On the weekend of 11th January 2014 I undertook the Spine Challenger, which is a 108mile, non-stop, winter mountain marathon between Edale and Hawes. Rather hilariously I was taking on the shorter distance, which had been termed the ‘sprint’ or ‘fun run’ by some. The (Full) Spine Race starts at the same point as the Challenger, but finishes 268 Miles later, thus encompassing the entire Pennine Way. Despite taking on the shorter distance there is still a warning on the website as follows;
‘This challenging and extremely technical section of the Pennine Way is not just the baby brother to the Spine Race – it is a physically and psychologically demanding route that demands concentration and respect.’
Great sounds like fun.
The organisers claim the spine is Britain’s most ‘Brutal Race’, which would hopefully make the shorter distance Britain’s second most Brutal Race, or most Brutal 100miler.
So what makes it difficult
-The Pennine Way is widely regarded as the most demanding National trail in England.
-Furthermore, the amount of compulsory kit which I had to carry was considerably more than any other ultra run I have encompassed and more like a mountaineering expedition. Somewhere in the region of 10kg.
-Bog, mud and bog (at one point I was up to my hips and seriously thought I would have to call for help)
-slippery and icey slabs, that every half dozen or so disappear/sink into the bog below when you put your foot on them.
-It’s in January, full winter.
So why do I attempt such a thing. Simple answer is I like running, I like to challenging my physical fitness and I like the mountains. So I may as well do them for along time. Splendid. Also as I have never been to the Peak District, or Yorkshire Dales I thought it would be a good place to explore (although with hindsight you don’t get to see much of it as for the majority of the time it is dark!).

Due to a late entry into the event I did not have any time to train using a weighted rucksack, as I would have liked. This would prove less than ideal as I would have liked to have trained with a rucksack of 8-10kg for at least 6 weeks (ideally more) prior to the event. Although, this caused me to significantly slow my natural running pace, it did not slow me down as much as I would have expected. I can put this down the regular weight training sessions I perform coupled with the high(ish) miles I run. One of the main advantages to keeping yourself fit throughout the year is you are able to enter a relatively demanding event last minute and come through it. It is also an advantage of always training maximum strength throughout your training programme, regardless of weather you are improving or maintaining it. If I was to aim to compete at such an event or record a good time rather than just complete it, I would definitely undertake some specific prolonged backpack running and fast paced hiking.
So my main goals for the event were
a- To Not Get Injured so I could get stuck into some good training in January and February.
b- To Not Get Hyperthermia and need evacuating by mountain rescue or the efficient support/rescue team.
c- To finish in a good enough state to be able to get the train home, which was actually what I was dreading most about the whole adventure.
So after completing my Friday morning training sessions, having a business meeting with Pete and Joe (in which I fuelled up correctly), Nickie dropped me to Cardiff train station and off to Edale I toddled. The train journey was full of Swansea City Fans reliving their many conquests they’d had (or claimed they’d had) and progressively louder chanting. Initially, i felt a bit unnerved, in that I’d got on the train at Cardiff and had an English (ESSEX) accent. So I kept my head down and enjoyed the entertainment. After a quick change at Manchester (where I was particularly aggrieved that I had to spend 30 pence to use the toilets) I arrived in Edale for the briefing. The briefings were very efficient and we had talks on hypothermia and hypoglycaemia. Very similar to the briefs we provide before any of our (aspire fitness/aspire adventure/ runwalkcrawl) events, but just multiply the severity and harshness of the conditions . A guy spoke about hypothermia and basically stood up and said something along the lines of ‘there’s loads of information here but just don’t get it. Its s__t!’. Which I thought put it nicely in perspective and honed my thoughts, of taking action before it’s too late to.
After getting a lift to Castleton Bunkhouse I arrived there at about 9.45, checked in, ate some food then set about sorting my kit out. Hoping for a good nights sleep I hit the sack at 11:15 and basically lay awake all-night listening to an almighty Siberian express fog horn. I thought it may be warning us of incoming fog, storms, or snow, but the next morning the Siberian express turned out to be some big foreign geezer with a bad, bad, bad, bad…bad snoring problem! (For those that were there think Mr Dando, Snowdon Bunkhouse 2006 x 10)
So great start, I got out of bed at 5am had breakfast and headed out to the pick up point. Kindly the organisers had laid on a minibus to the event start and I waited along with 30 or so other competitors to get transported there.
The race started at 0820 and we all started running. At 0825 a (to use one of Georges analogies) ‘a shit storm of hate’ came over the peak district. This certainly focused the mind, it was like somebody saying to the whole field ‘oi, you pay attention or you could end up in a bad way’. So with that advice I quickly decided that shorts were not appropriate for today, and dived behind a wall to shelter from the fierce winds, and donned my waterproofs and gloves. Back on the trail I got into a comfortable pace and headed up Kinder Scout. My plan had been to sustain, a pace that allowed me to eat, and if I couldn’t eat I would slow down. To this I added high five 2:1 sports drink to my bladder and this seemed to keep me full of energy for the duration of the event. I aimed to eat about 400 kcal per hour, and assumed with my continually sipping on sports drink this would give me another 100kcal or so. I only used two energy gels on the whole event, both in the last couple of hours, and this was mainly due to them being the most accessible food at the time.
So we are on the top of Kinder Scout and spend most of the morning trudging, slipping and running through snow along the Pennine Way. The first section through the Peak District also crosses peaks such as Bleaklow and Black Hill in the Peak District
One of the great things about ultra-running is the people you meet. You speed up, slow down and naturally tend to find there is a number of you moving at similar speeds. As I went through the day I ran with a number of athletes all who were extremely experienced at this sort of stuff. It was only when I got home and read some of their blogs that I realised just how quite experienced and successful at this sort of thing that they were. I guess that’s one of the advantages of entering an event like the spine is that most of the competitors are experienced in mountains, ultra running or both and having that number of competent people around you is a god send in terms of safety. Despite the harsh conditions and distance covered, compared to going on a training run on your own across the beacons, or even the Garth there is much more help around. On top of that the spine organisation team monitor the course and have a GPS tracking device on you throughout so they know exactly where you are, even if you stop! At intermittent road checkpoints they have experienced and fit individuals ready to react to an emergency, should one arise. And an incredibly experienced support team. Which is all nice to know, if you need it.
I arrived at checkpoint one, (45miles) at about 8.30pm taking me about 12 hours, which I was particularly happy with. I’d felt the pace was comfortable all day and I could go faster, should the course or weather permit. After struggling to get my shoes off due to the lace system on my salomon speedcross becoming jammed with thick mud, which required the help of a splendid marshal to undo, 15minutes after arriving at the checkpoint I entered, received my drop bag, and set about sorting myself out!
I felt physically great, but tired. This was mainly due to my busy 60 hour working week, and lack of sleep the evening before. So i decided to sleep for a couple of hours and then leave the checkpoint at 2.30am. A lot of the competitors decided to push on tempted by the nice clear night, threat of a bad weather front coming in on Sunday, and wanting to break the distance into two shorter days. With hindsight I’m pleased I stopped and got a couple of hours kip. I sorted my kit so I was ready to go, had some food, slept for 2 ½ hours, woke up and then faffed around and resorted my kit. If I decide to sleep again at a checkpoint I will change, hang kit to dry, eat, sleep, eat again, sort kit, then go. I spent to much time sorting my kit twice. This was mainly due to having to pack my sleeping bag from the bottom of my kit bag. The other option on a multiday event would be to have a checkpoint only sleeping bag and role matt combo, which would significantly reduce faffing!
I downed a Friji Milkshake and ate a flapjack from the Pontcanna Bakery, and set off at 2.30am. As I moved through the night the temperature significantly dropped. At one point I was wearing my winter cycling body suit, buffalo jacket, rab primaloft jacket, neck gaiter, mountain hat and gloves. The night was long and lonely. I only saw one other runner between 2.30am and sunrise, and he was about to get into his mobile home which his support crew were supplying. I did not know if this was a good thing or not. Initially my thoughts of stabbing him with my poles and taking his clothes and trying to get into his camper van without his support team realising it was somebody else, was proceeded with thoughts that if you have a support team with friends and family it would be a lot easier to stop and get a lift home!
As sun arose I ended up on a beautiful fell, watching a gorgeous sunrise, running and speaking to my gorgeous wife Nickie. She had been up Pen-y-fan in the Brecon Beacons the night before and had also enjoyed a clear night with fantastic views of the stars. She told me that Joseph my boy said I was racing. From that moment on I knew I would finish the race. After talking to Nickie my mood rose, I ate a couple of slices of pizza I had taken with me for breakfast, and I made good time, running comfortably, at a much faster pace than through the night. Just after lunch I caught up with some lads who I had run with the day before. They had kept moving straight through the night and then bivyed out for a few hours sleep. One of them remarked that he was still cold from sleeping out. I was pleased I hadn’t!
They were experienced runners, having completed the Dragons Back, Trans Alpine Race, and various other ultra mountain races. I stayed with them to Malham Tarn checkpoint , where we became a group of 6. The Malham Tarn checkpoint is deemed CP1.5 as it is basically a safety/support tent before you head up onto Fountains Fell and Pen-Y-Ghen. It is manned by some pretty experienced guys ready to react in an emergency, which is very reassuring. By this time it was wet and windy and the tent was a welcome shelter.
Fountains Fell was pitch black with low visibility. The group of 6 moved pretty quickly up and over it, keeping an eye on each other. A couple of the lads, had recced it and were very efficient navigators. As we came down the other side the path was icy, but we eventually hit the road, and a short section with an intermittent headcount checkpoint before we headed up onto Pen-Y-Ghent. I was surprised at how easy it was to climb up Pen-y-Ghent the only obstacle being the slippery rocks on the last few meters, I was particularly happy these had not become iced up as this would have been significantly more challenging. As we reached the top the group split in two as a couple stopped to eat and plan their strategy, and some of us kept moving to keep warm.
As we headed down the other side we made sure not to follow the Pennine way towards Horton in Ribblesdale, a detour that would have added an extra 4 or so k to the route! For the last few miles the rain was coming down, the trail was drenched with loads of water coming off the hills. There were lots of people on this last part of the trail and so again the group started to split as people were moving at different paces. I overtook a few people at this point and with a quick map check basically got my head down and headed for the trail/road junction which would mark my way into Hawes. This was long, but I was able to jog some sections quickly where the path allowed, smashing my poles into the ground to aid propulsion. I was particularly pleased with how good I felt. As I hit the road some of the organisers were driving passed and pointed me in the right direction to the finish. They were heading out in the minibus, I guess to pick people up. Hawes was silent, as it was 2am with just a couple of camper vans/support vehicles dotted around. As I walked into the hall I was greeted with some food and then saw some familiar faces from the course. The room was a combination of kit bags, wet kit, bodies in sleeping bags, and a few people milling around drinking tea and bandaging feet.
After a quick change I went to bed, but thinking the next challenge was to get back to Cardiff.
As I was waiting for the bus to drop us at the train station, lads were picking themselves up and heading out for the next leg on the Spine Race for another 3-5 days, and 160 miles on the trail. Some would make the full distance; some would just make it a bloody long way! So the nagging question was could I have carried on a bit further;- Legs-Yes, Muscles-yes, Joints- Yes, Energy-Yes, Tiredness-Yes, feet-???
So my next training focus is to turn my feet into Terminator Feet!
It would appear that for completing these ultra-challenges simply applying the principles we have been using for clients in the various mountain challenges we lead over the last 10 years.
Strength work and fitness, Eat, eat and eat, Correct Kit and when to use it.
The pace was comfortable and so I was able to keep eating.

Links
www.thespinerace.com
By Ben Morris 11 Jul, 2017
At our gyms in Cardiff we are constantly being asked about the best ways to lose weight and change body composition. Some people do it relatively easily making small adjustments to lifestyle and keeping a balanced diet whilst others struggle with weight control for years. One thing is certain, the human body functions in accord with the fundamental laws of thermodynamics, originating from the fields of mathematics, thermodynamics, physics and chemistry. The energy balance equation has been developed from those rules. The laws dictate that if total calories intake from food exceed daily energy expenditure then excess calories accumulate as fat in adipose tissue.
The Energy Balance Equation
The following diagram published in McArdle, Katch and Katch textbook Sport and Exercise Nutrition demonstrates the energy balance equation and how this relationship works.
By Ben Morris 11 Jul, 2017

 
Leisure
This week I am mainly hungry, I think it’s likely as a result of the week I have had.  As trainers here at aspire, we are accustomed to the long hours that the leisure industry requires us to work: when people have their leisure time, we have to be at work to provide those leisure activities. In fact, it’s often commented that those long hours of work and training keeps us out of trouble. Doing those long hours this week has enabled me to fit a lot of stuff in and, have been especially good with all manner of positive experiences shared.
The Health and Fitness Spectrum
As anybody that knows me will testify, I tend to witter on endlessly about health and fitness and more specifically a spectrum of health and fitness. This is the notion that within the human condition, all individuals lie within a spectrum of ability/performance. At one end of the spectrum you may have a young healthy Olympic athlete seemingly endless in their pursuit of what can be achieved. At the other end, a chronically ill or injured individual who may feel hopeless, disempowered or disabled by the circumstances of their life.
Here at Cardiff aspire fitness, we are in the business of moving people along this spectrum, attempting to empower people through building strength, fitness and the associated benefits to health that training provides.
It is because of this spectrum that this week has been particularly rewarding.
Crossroads
This week Steve learned to do a power clean (sports conditioning exercise normally used to improve power in movement). Only 5 weeks earlier we treated Steve for a particularly painful lower back problem, this came about because of several underlying factors that needed correction. This injury had left him questioning the likelihood of being able to continue exercising.
The Power Clean Helps Everyday Life
Learning the skills required to achieve this power clean are a natural extension of improving the mechanics of how people move, encompassing flexibility, coordination, strength, balance and proprioception. The skills required to carry out this movement have (what we refer to as) carry-over to other movements that Steve has to do all the time, thereby enabling him to get back to a full life.
From Rehab to Athlete
Geraldine also crossed a threshold from almost purely rehabilitation exercises to the more athletic end of the spectrum, reintroducing her to the same exercises that she would have been practicing four or more years ago. For Geraldine and I, this heralds exciting times.
Pontypridd Client Moving Forward from High Blood Pressure
New client Mark has overcome barriers in his lifestyle to re-enter into a program of exercise. This is particularly important for him as he is currently dealing with high blood pressure. This week we have been discussing the factors that contribute to him having a consistent and effective relationship with exercise while introducing him to the types of exercise that better suit his current circumstances.
Welsh Three Peaks Completed!
Finally and by no means least, Ben and I led and guided a group from a local charity over the Welsh three peaks. Participants were a mixture of members of the gym and members of a local church. The challenge found itself being roundly whipped with the group performing well and showing strong team working skills and levels of fitness to complete the challenge in just a little over thirteen hours. Certainly speaking for the gym members, they have achieved for some of them feats of endurance that were previously unobtainable to them. This success not only has changed their physical ability to complete/compete in challenges, but also ushered in a realisation that achieving previously impossible tasks does wonders for your confidence to have a go again at the next challenge. To me, that sounds a lot like the Olympian that is trying to achieve whatever they can.
Pete
Personal Trainer, Physiotherapist and Co-Director of Aspire Fitness Gym in Cardiff
By Ben Morris 10 Jul, 2017
1900m swim or 76 lengths of a pool; Yep I can do that, 56 mile cycle, again tick and 13.1mile run, no worries. Altogether? Why not? That was my thought process, or at least lack of thought process when I discovered the Cotswold 113 middle distance triathlon, total distance - 70.3 miles. Only in triathlon would 70 miles be termed a middle distance. I paid my dues and started the training. I’m not going to labour on about the training as that’s not the interesting part, instead I will jump forward to the actual event.
I arrived at the registration the night before; as is normal for triathlon events, found the tent next to a picturesque lake in the middle of the Cotswolds that held race registration. Then spoke to a harassed official and received my goodie bag with my race numbers, some none descript crap and leaflets for companies I’d never use. As I turned to leave, I thought I’d confirm the location of the campsite.
”Mate, that the campsite down there?” waving my arm in the general direction of the site.  
“Yeah” was my reply.
Off I trundled into scouting hell. Alarm bells should have rung then as I set up my tent in the middle of a jamboree. Top tip, look for other bikes that indicates other triathletes! In my defence I was tired, nervous and not really too concerned as I headed off to find food.
Midnightish: Bang Bang “Hello, Tent!”’
Me sleepily “what?”
“Are you a member of …… scouts or not?”
“NO! I’m doing the tri”
“You have to move!!!”
“What? Its midnight and I’m up in 4 hours and covering 70 miles. Couldn’t you have done this in the 4 hours of daylight we had? The bike kind of gave it away I might not be a scout”
This conversation went on for about 10 minutes, before I gave up and left. So, very disgruntled, I found myself with my tent under my arm and bag across my shoulder pushing a bike across a field in the middle of the night. The scoutmaster did, in his defence, offer to help but if you know me well enough then you can hazard a guess as to what my reply was! Not one of my most eloquent of outbursts.
Luck was in as I found the admin team from the race and was shown a place to pitch my tent, 3 meters from the finishing tunnel. It was 1 am before I settled down to sleep but to my surprise, was already awake when the alarm went off just after 4am. I tucked into a bowl of minibix, gathered my belongings and headed off to the transition to the sound of sleepy triathletes waking up.
The transition area of a triathlon is a very complicated affair. To put this in simple terms; there are 3 entry/exit points during an event. Athletes will enter the transition from the swim at point A, leave with the bike at point B and exit for the run at point C. Only Athletes doing the event can enter and only after the race number on your bib is checked against the number on your bike. As you take your bike into transition to rack it ready for the race basic safety is checked. i.e. you have brakes and helmet that fits.
The transition area itself comprises of a fenced off area with what looks like long clothes racks in lines. These racks have race numbers on them so it’s a simple matter of looking for your number and hanging the bikes saddle off them.
This is where the rituals begin. I start with checking energy gels in my bike bag, opening the first ready for after the swim. Next, socks placed into my cycle shoes and a towel laid out just in front of the bike. I’m constantly looking at the sky thinking ‘Is it going to rain?’ My helmet is turned upside down with the straps open for ease of wear. Running shoes are then placed in front of the cycle shoes. These shoes have elastic laces for ease and speed. Finally, I pin my race number onto my race belt and lay this across my handle bars.
I’m the king of faffing so I spend the next 30 minutes worrying. Do I wear gloves? Is it going to rain? (again and again) Do I wear a waterproof jacket? And about a million other minor points.
Other athletes around me are doing the same, there’s a nervous tension/excitement in the air. It’s a flat course so it brings out the ‘PB’s’(personal best) with their bikes that cost more than my car and the aero helmets (which look like jar jar binks ears) and a multitude of gadgets. People can be seen visualising the race, walking their way through each stage and the route they will take to each exit. Me? I look for a coffee and pray the queue for the toilet isn’t too long.
After lubing up my shoulders and calfs in baby oil to aid the removal of wetsuit. It’s not advisable to use baby oil as it rots the neoprene. Well, as I got mine off ebay and it has a dirty great hole where no one would want a hole I personally don’t care. It’s time to don the wetsuit, over the top of a tri suit. Now, a tri suit is the most unflattering of garments ever invented. If you think skin-tight lycra on men, either one in need of a good meal or could do with missing a few, you would have an idea.
I wade into the lake which has now taken on the air of zombie lake. A light mist rolling across the surface of the lake with a distinctly menacing air, (or that could be nerves). The air horn blew and we were off. Have you ever seen film footage of a carcass being lowered into a piranha infested river? You have? Well that’s what an open water swim with 500 people all doing the front crawl at the same time looks like.
I try to settle into an easy stroke, 1,2,3 breathe, 1,2,3 breathe. I glide my lead arm out to the front trying to avoid the thrashing feet. A sudden thought hits me ‘I’m going to get my fingers broken by a foot’. I settle on trying not to think about it. I turn to breathe, water floods down my throat. I cough and splutter and carry on. I feel a hand close around my ankle, a sharp tug and I’m pulled back and once more under the water. I kick out and feel a satisfying thud as my heel connects with a chest. Revenge. I pull a little harder, someone swims over me again pushing me under. I use the anger to fight the panic. I’m disorientated but settling into a rhythm as I round the first marker. The group has spread out and as we swim in our twos and threes, I see the stage and with a final effort my feet touch the ground. Thank God.
Up out of the water I go, trying to run. With numb feet, while pulling down my wetsuit zip, praying my arms don’t get stuck as I pull them free or I’d end up looking like an escape artist wearing a neoprene straight jacket. With the suit around my waist I find my bike so I kick off my wetsuit, click on my race number, put my shoes on and then finally my helmet. Triathlon rules state the bike must not be unracked before helmet is secured on the head.
Yet another rule of triathlon you must not get on your bike before you are told to. Normally it’s a line on the ground with an official. That’s what cost Jonathon Brownlee the silver as he got a 30 second penalty for doing just that during the Olympics. So off I ran, jumped on the bike on command and off I went. Thinking its 6.30am and I’m wet and cold. (Not for long). The bike course is fairly uneventful and the day starts to warm up before it gets to be bloody hot.  (Hottest day of the year I later found out). Take a lesson from me here about hydration. I took on about a pint of fluid in the next 2.5 hours and suffered on the run. It only takes a 2-3% drop in hydration to seriously effect performance. At this time I felt good and strong with a good ground speed.
Interestingly the only people I passed that had any problems with their bikes were those on the mega expensive dream machines, wonky wheels, poor gear changing, and punctures. God bless us poor people.
As I came to jump off the bike, my legs suddenly felt like a 10 minute old fawn, BUT in a lot of pain. Hamstrings and lower back felt like they could spasm at every step. I knew I was in trouble as the 300m to the transition area felt like 300 miles. I racked my bike, had an argument with an official that resulted in a 2 min penalty, had another Energy Gel which I take at set intervals throughout the race, and set off.
Did I mention it was hot? My brain was cooking. The running part of the course is 13.1 miles which thankfully was shaded for the majority. The course was a 3 lap affair around the lake with a short dip into the woodland. I ran expecting to get into my stride and the subsequent easing of my back and leg pain however, this increased, a lot.  I ran for an eon, whole families were born lived and died. The first marker came into sight…. Lap 1, 1 mile! So on I ran about 200m beyond the first was another sign lap 3, 11 miles.
How do you keep going? Various people use various tactics. For myself I always use the mantra ‘I’ve done harder’ but more importantly I never dwell on the total. I break it up. So I don’t think 1900m, 56 miles, 13.1 ,miles. But a swim, 2 Laps of the bike, 3 laps of the run. These are further broken down into manageable lumps. So all I was thinking was I have 1 lap to do, that was easy, I can manage another and then it’s finished.
On the second lap there was a portion of the route that meant we passed other competitors going the other way and as I came to this stage, I was bumped into. I absorbed the blow and kept on running. I wish. I was hurled, yep hurled, back like a petulant child throwing a rag doll and into a nettle filled ditch
I hit the ground and rolled to the bottom of the ditch. At this point I was just thankful it was dry, but did I mention how hot it was today? Up I leapt and off I sprinted with no one none the wiser….in my dreams! I’d chosen the only spot on the course that was packed with spectators and to add insult to injury, both my hamstrings chose this exact moment to go into cramp pulling my heels up to my backside. Wonder how I got out? On my belly, pulling myself up with the aid of nettles.
Off I went again very embarrassed and trying to pretend it didn’t hurt with the by now smirking spectators watching elephant man trundle off; but at least my back wasn’t playing on my mind.  Third and final lap over I headed for the finishing line to the sounds of more spectators shouting words of encouragement like ‘Don’t stop now’ 20 meters from the end. This always makes me grin.
Final time, I think, was 5 hours 7 minutes. Why do it? Well this is simple, because I can. Having a young veteran in a wheelchair clap and say ‘Well done mate. Keep going’ is very humbling as was watching the Team True Spirit guys doing the same event, but with no legs. If they can then I, quite frankly, have no excuse.  
George
By Ben Morris 30 Nov, 2017

There are some typical questions that arise when people ask about triathlon or tri as its commonly known.

These generally include:

What is a triathlon and What are the distances?
Triathlon is a mixture of swimming, cycling and running in that order over various distances.
These are categorised as:

  •        Super Sprint: 250 up to 400m swim, 10km, bike 2.5km, run
  •        Sprint:  400m - 750m swim, 20km bike and a 5km run
  •        Standard (Olympic) 1500m swim, 40km bike and a 10km run
  •        Middle distance 1900m swim, 90km bike and a 21km run
  •        Long course (ironman) 3800m swim, 180 km bike 42km run.

The shorter distance swims can be both open water (lake, sea or river) and in a swimming pool.

Do I need a lot of expensive equipment?
Not when you're starting out, no. Â Find a shorter pool based triathlon such as Try a tri in Fairwater and give it a go. As it's pool based there is no wetsuit requirement and a wide variety of bikes can be used - Road, mountain or hybrid. The only stipulations are that the bike is road worthy and has working brakes, the bar ends are covered and a helmet must be worn. Once you've decided that triathlon is for you then you can think about buying a bike rather than borrowing one.
Helmets don't have to be super expensive either as they have to have the European kite mark to be sold by law. The more expensive ones will be lighter, have more air holes, look better but will not necessarily offer better protection.

How do I train for one?
There are a number of things you will need to consider. Firstly how much time can you commit to training? Work and family commitments can be conceived as a barrier. Ways around these can include, training early mornings when the family are in bed and having a recovery day at the weekend so you can spend time with them.

What distance should I choose?
A lot of people choose to start off with a shorter distance and some do stick to them. It is a lot easier to fit training for anything up to a middle-distance event round everyday life than it is for a long course event. The problem is once you take up triathlon the temptation to do an iron distance event is often too hard to resist!

I can't swim, ride a bike or run very well
Give yourself plenty of time to train for the event. 10 weeks up to 24 weeks (depending on fitness levels and experience) are considered normal training periods. Join a club or get a coach who will test your current fitness levels, help you choose an event then devise a training plan that will develop you over time prevent overtraining and avoid injury.

Work on both your strengths and weaknesses. Its human nature to enjoy what we are good at and avoid what we aren't. There's a certain amount of crossover between the three disciplines, but concentrating on the one discipline rather than a mix of the three would be a mistake.

I have read about brick training what does that mean?
Brick training is when you go from one discipline straight into another. Most commonly bike straight into a run. This helps not only with the change of muscle action from cycling to running but transition drills too.

Triathlon can seem a sport for the wealthy or the athletically gifted. When in reality it can be a very inclusive sport with events that last from under an hour to well past 16 hours.

Age isn't a hindrance either as older athletes will benefit from less impact through cycling and swimming while still running. 85-year-old Lew Hollander is looking forward to finishing his 24th Ironman Kona World Championships and he is pioneering the 85-89 year old age group.
Road running isn't your thing? That's ok, the trail triathlon is on the rise with cross country running and mountain bike sections. Young or old, whatever your gender there is an event out there for you. Just give it a go it's addictive trust me!

Mark George Drew is a fully qualified Triathlon Coach and Personal Trainer at aspire fitness in Cardiff and Nantgarw. He specialises in helping beginners through there first triathlons or any distance and improving those who have done a few and would like to step up in distance or time. 


By Ben Morris 27 Nov, 2017

1. Be Consistent.

Assuming you have been following a training program for a while now, aim to be as consistent with it as possible. Obviously at this time of year there are more social gatherings, so plan your training wisely. Yes you can still go to the party, but it may mean you have to move a training session so that you still get it done. You might have to hit the gym the next day after going out the night before, but the reality is that if you want to stay in shape then a certain amount of discipline is required.

2. Control your food and drink intake.

Ok so adulating isn't actually in the Oxford dictionary, however the Urban dictionary describes it as carrying out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals. Sadly controlling how much you eat and drink is part of your adult responsibility. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to gorge yourself on Christmas pudding, buckets of chocolate and fizzy pop. So keep in control of the excess, track your calories regularly and make an effort to cut back on the treats. If your goal is to maintain or lose weight then by tracking your calorie intake and expenditure you will still be able to have the foods/drinks you enjoy without it tipping you over the edge. 

3. Time management - train with purpose.

Due to social commitments over the Christmas period the time you spend exercising may be effected. Therefore plan your training sessions ahead so that they are purposeful and effective. A good example of this would be to incorporate high intensity interval training rather than low intensity steady state work outs. In your weight training sessions you could include higher volume methods such as supersets, tri sets, giant sets, drop set variations that are effective but time efficient. Obviously the methods implemented will be dependent on your goals. If you need some advice on how to get the most out of your training sessions with limited time then feel free to ask for a training program or book in for a personal training session.

4. Christmas Eve (Sunday), Christmas Day (Monday), Boxing Day (Tuesday).

Christmas this year falls at the start of a typical training week. On Christmas day it has been reported that the average Brit will consume 6000 to 7000 calories, and let's be honest nobody wants to be average. My advice to you is to stay as active as possible over this three day period. On Christmas morning I typically go for a short trail run, it's become part of a tradition that I have carried out for years. Aim to fit some activities/training in over this three day period to minimise the impact of all the extra calories. For example; go for a walk with the family on the Taff trail, Pen y Fan or Brecon Four Waterfalls walk, or take the kids for a run around at the park for a couple of hours. You're spoilt for choice in South Wales.

5. Have Fun.

At the end of the day Christmas is about spending quality time with family and close friends. These occasions are important in relation to exercise and diet adherence. It's all about balance, unless you are an elite/professional athlete then there is no reason why you can't sit down and enjoy your typical Christmas dinner. If on Xmas day you're sat at the table eating chicken, broccoli and rice out of a Tupperware box, followed by a protein bar for pudding then you might need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. So enjoy the day like Charlie in the chocolate factory, but don't be greedy like Augustus Gloop. We all know what happened to him.

Our Christmas Pudding Course is a fun and time efficient way to keep you motivated and exercising through the festive period. It is available as a group course, or as a 1:1 PT course or if you really want to stay on track and stay motivated you can combine the PT and group sessions.. Details are at the following links.

Group Christmas Pudding Course

http://www.aspirefitness.co.uk/what-we-do/christmas-pudding-course.html

1:1 Personal Training Christmas Pudding Course Details

http://www.aspirepersonaltraining.wales/christmas-pudding-personal-training-p

Merry Christmas to all of our members, if you need any help or advice over the coming weeks then please feel free to get in touch and book an appointment.

By Ben Morris 24 Nov, 2017

Every day I work with people in pain at my physiotherapy, injury rehabilitation and personal training practise in Cardiff. Pain is a normal part of being human.

Pain is a bit like a threat alarm system, it doesn't need to know the nature of the threat it just needs the perception of threat to be triggered.

Pain Is a useful tool. If we have pain, then that's usually for good reason, for instance it may be that the threat perceived is very real and dangerous like the threat of a burn from a fire helping to avoid further damage. Occasionally though pain is not useful.

When pain is perhaps least useful is when it is no longer actually protecting the body. Often this occurs because of inaccurate health beliefs, excessive fear, emotional stress and upset (Mosely et al 2013). It should be noted that these pains are no less real or in any way less painful.

These symptoms are most commonly seen in chronic health conditions, where they are often wrongly and unsuccessfully treated directly at the point where the individual feels their pain. This often fails as the pain that patients are experiencing will unlikely be originating from the bodily site, rather in the brain itself (Melzack and Wall 1965).

Here's a solution we like.

On any alarm system there is a reset button, if your smoke alarm is going off because you are crisping the bacon then the alarm is not needed (hmm bacon). If, however the alarm is going off because you forgot to switch the iron off then it's probably a good thing to help you avoid further damage (aarrrggg house burning). Pain in the body is a little like that and where appropriate we help people with their reset button.

We closely follow the principles of Cognitive Functional Therapy (O'Keefe, O'Sullivan et al 2014). Our method starts with a full assessment that includes goal setting, where the goals are agreed upon and then form the target of treatment. Thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours regarding the pain and the context are addressed with education and provision of evidence. Once these are dealt with, we then start the journey of using activity or exercise to help cause a cognitive dissonance between what the patient thinks and what happens.

An example could be that if bending has been problematic then teaching an exercise that includes bending, but that does not cause the same problems. This process can sometimes be done quite quickly, but often it requires a retraining of thinking and moving that may take a lot longer. In some cases, it may be that this would be something that would always need work, and may be considered an appropriate coping strategy.

This serves as a great introduction to some of the concepts that underlie our physiotherapy, injury rehabilitation and personal training practise in Cardiff , and is a great jumping off point for the next 4 blogs where we will look at some of these points in more detail.

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Pete specialises in pain management through exercise, so if you are in pain and need some help then book in for a physiotherapy assessment or exercise consultation with Pete or one of the team. You can contact us at  the 'contact us' page on the website, by calling 02920 235 523 or by e-mail: info@aspirefitness.co.uk.

 

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