Keep training simple, keep it fun!

Lately I have found myself spending increasing amounts of time trawling through endless fitness websites. With a half marathon next weekend and the big aim – my first marathon, looming ever more present on the horizon I have been searching for advice on the right way to increase my training programme. I had been hoping more knowledge would work to stem the panic but infact the more I read the more confused I became and the more inadequate my own training efforts felt. It was all aerobic/anaerobic/lactate thresholds, VO2max intervals, protein shakes, measuring your heart rate, counting your steps and having a target pace for every mile you ever run.

It was all so far from everything I enjoy about exercising.


Moments like these…

If you’re super competitive and your aim is to win the race then perhaps that route is for you and you’ll enjoy it. I am in no way saying it’s wrong, it’s just not for me. Personally, I train to make the hobbies I love, mountain biking and long ‘adventure’ runs more enjoyable. I enjoy racing but the appeal for me lies in the personal challenge of completing a new distance or pushing my limits to set a personal best on a shorter course. Despite my best efforts not to be, I am slightly competitive, if nothing else with my own self. This means I need some kind of training plan in order to see improvements and have the necessary fitness to complete these increasingly difficult challenges I enjoy setting for myself.

In the end I decided to make my own plan using what I felt seemed to be the most important key points from everything I have read. I would like to share with you what I think these points are to help some of you do the same.


  • STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING – e.g Gym sessions, kettlebells, body pump, pilates, yoga.
  • HILLWORK – 10-15mins warm up, sprint up a hill – walk back down X 8-10 (depending on fitness level), 10 mins cool down.
  • INTERVALS – short bursts of speed during a run for a certain number of ‘steps’, distance or time with jogging or walking recovery spaces in between.
  • TEMPO RUN – 10 mins warm up, fast (tempo paced) middle section, 10 mins cool down. I define ‘Tempo’ as the hardest pace you can run and maintain for that set amount of time, it should be comfortably hard. Also known as a Lactate Threshold run.
  • LONG RUN – A long steady run building towards the distance of your next race. Some more difficult training plans include faster paced sections within these.
  • CROSS TRAINING – Something other than your main sport to mix things up and use different muscles for a more rounded fitness. For example if you are a runner it would be cycling or swimming perhaps.

Here is an example of 2 weeks of my current training.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 Strength & Conditioning

Core work

Hill Reps

8 x woods field

Strength &


Legs and arms

8-10-mile run Bike Ride Long Run

15 miles

Day Off
Week 2 Strength & Conditioning

Core work


6-mile tempo run

Hilly route

Strength & Condtioning Legs and arms 8-10 mile run Bike Ride Long Run

16 miles

Day Off

The Strength and Conditioning is a new edition for me so it still leaves me pretty sore afterwards. Eventually I hope to be able to run on the day I have that session in order to be able to fit hill reps and a tempo run in every week. This is by no means a perfect plan but I believe it’s working for me at the moment.


Nutrition is a subject I hesitate to give advice on as it’s something I struggle to get my head round properly myself. It is also a subject so widely debated by experts that it can be entirely dependant which website you read as to what you are told is correct. Links will be included at the end of this post for more detailed dietary information and training plans.

The key to nutrition really, is a balanced diet. As a runner, cyclist, swimmer or anyone training hard and pushing their body to its limit on a regular basis this becomes even more important. Without the correct fuel for energy, and to rebuild and repair how can we expect to perform at our best level.

Food glorious food! Nutritious and yummy.

Food glorious food! Nutritious and yummy.

According to dietitian Kathleen Porter an endurance athlete requires –

60-70% CARBOHYDRATES eg – Whole Grain pasta, rice or bread, cereals, fruit, low fat dairy foods, sweet potatoes

20-30% FAT SOURCES eg – Fish, nuts, avocado, oils, flax seeds, leafy green vegetables.

10-15% PROTEIN eg- Lean red meat, chicken, fish (especially salmon) beans, soy, eggs, tofu, nuts and dried beans

A fact worth bearing in mind is that an endurance athlete is said to require 50% more protein than the average person in order to repair and rebuild tired and damaged muscles.

I myself have found that everybody is different and the same as with the training plans sticking to a regimented routine is not always the best way. Rather see the information provided as a set of guidelines. Use common sense, listen to your body and experiment until you find the system that works best for you.



  1. Choose a sport you actually enjoy! My most important tip here! Even if your end goal is just to lose weight. If keeping fit is to stand any chance of being sustainable it has to be enjoyable. There are so many easily accessible options out there be brave and keep experimenting until you find something you enjoy.
  2. Vary where you train. Use your time to exercise as a time to explore different beautiful places. Make the effort to get in your car and drive to somewhere new and the enjoyment you get from it will make the extra time used worthwhile.

    Plot an route on an OS Map and get out there and explore!

    Plot a new route on an OS Map and get out there and explore!

  3. Include Cross Training. Having a break from your usual exercise choice gives the joints and muscles a break from repetitive use and keeps the mind fresh too.
  4. Invest in friends. Is there someone you know who would like to work towards a similar goal so that you can train together giving each other help and encouragement? Alternatively look into clubs in your local area they are always friendly places welcoming to all abilities. Fitness classes are also great for keeping you motivated with music and the shared pain experience often helps too.
  5. Teach your mind to wander. Admittedly not all training sessions are going to be entirely enjoyable. My greatest trick for surviving hill reps is not to think about the fact I’m doing hill reps. I keep the focus on something happy such as the image of myself crossing the finish line, how beautiful the course on the race will be, what I’m having for dinner or that cold beer in the fridge I’m going to open as soon as I get back home…….


The well deserved rest afterwards

As I have spoken about before on this blog I am a great advocate of setting yourself goals in order to keep up the motivation. It gives a sense of structure to the weeks of training and also provides the opportunity to reward yourself and have a rest once you have achieved these goals. On that note don’t be afraid to be flexible. I have structured my plan into set days for the purpose of showing it here, in actual fact I just have a list of the workouts I need to do that week and then I fit them in where I can around work and other commitments I might have. I also TRY to listen to my body, if my legs are really aching or I have a niggling pain I’ll switch it around to do a lower intensity workout that day or if I’m feeling really kind to myself I’ll have another rest day. Most importantly make sure you are getting enough sleep, this is your bodies most important time to heal and absorb what you have done. Watch any interview or training documentary with a pro athlete and its something they all reiterate rest and sleep is almost equally as important as training. Above all else if you are too tired and sore you won’t enjoy the sport you love and at the end of the day that is what it’s all about. Getting out there and enjoying the great outdoors!

Helpful links

Nutrition –


Training plans –

All things running –