Runners Diet

There are many foods that are staples in a runners diet. Most of them are also the foundation of a well-rounded, healthy nutritional plan: Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk and dairy products.

However, a handful of foods that fit into these categories are what you might classify on closer inspection as imposter health foods. In other words they are foods that we may think are innately healthy or that would make us healthier if we ate them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that all of the foods mentioned below can be and often should be a part of a sports nutrition diet. We just need to change our perception about what components these foods actually contain and how to appropriately use them to fit our dietary needs. If you (or someone you know) are not hitting particular goals that you are after, you might want to look at your runners diet.

Energy Bars

The Good: An energy bar is a quick and convenient source of energy, carbohydrates, protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

The Bad: Energy bars are sometimes seen as a “must-have” in a runners diet. The perception is that all runners eat energy bars or that energy bars have something runners need and can’t get from other foods.

Although energy bars can have a place in the training diet, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Some bars can be very high in calories and fat — sometimes equaling what is normally consumed in a full meal yet is only being used as a snack. This is obviously the point of an ENERGY BAR as calories are that measure of energy. But do you really need all that as a snack.
Review the label because some have a nutrition profile more similar to a chocolate bar than a health food.
Some bars are heavily fortified with vitamins and minerals which may run the risk of consuming too high of doses when added to other foods and supplements in your diet.
Energy bars are also quite financially costly when compared to other food sources with equivalent calories and carbohydrates.
Bottom line is that most energy bars are nutritious, concentrated sources of energy. However, they should be reserved for your heaviest training days when you require a significant amount of extra energy and carbohydrates. They should not be used to replace meals when you could otherwise be eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.



The Good: Granola is a concentrated source of carbohydrates that can add flavor and texture to a variety of foods.

The Bad: Overindulging is easy because granola can pack a lot of calories into a small volume.

Consider the following:

Many granolas are high in fat, sugar and calories and usually those marketed as low-fat compensate with additional sugar.
Recommended serving sizes for granola are quite small (1/4 to 1/2 cup) yet we usually eat portions closer to 1 cup or more.
Unlike other breakfast cereals, granola is often unfortified, so you may be missing out on vitamins and minerals if you suddenly replace your breakfast or snack with only granola.
The bottom line is that you should keep portion sizes of granola small; use it as a topping for fruit or yogurt or you could combine it with other cereals that are lower in fat and calories.



The Good: Sticking with the theme, bagels are a convenient, concentrated source of energy and carbohydrates that can fuel a workout or be used for recovery.

The Bad: Bagels options vary greatly in portion size and nutritional content. What we’ve accepted as “normal” may be packing a lot more calories than we think.

Bagels are very energy dense with a typical size bagel containing ~300 calories and ~60 g of carbohydrate. They are typically not eaten plain — we add a lot more calories with peanut butter, jams, or cream cheese on top. Many bagels are made with refined, white flour that is lacking in fiber and nutrients that would be obtained from whole grains.
You should look to choose smaller portion sizes (half of a normal bagel?), choose bagels made with whole grains, and add a fruit or protein source to make it a complete meal.



The Good: Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein and is very versatile in its uses. The composition of yogurt includes beneficial bacteria that aids digestion.

The Bad: You have to look closely at the nutrition label to know what you are really getting.

Some yogurt, as with other dairy products, have a high level of fat (particularly yogurts made with whole or 2% milk), which can be good and bad. “Fruit” flavored yogurts can be high in sugar since the fruit is often just sugary jam packed into the bottom.
Frozen yogurt is sometimes put in the same category as yogurt even though frozen yogurt doesn’t contain nearly as much calcium or protein and is very high in added sugars.
Yogurt is a great addition to the sports nutrition diet. Buy natural or plain yogurt and maximize its nutritional profile by adding your own flavorings like honey, vanilla, cinnamon, berries, etc.



The Good: Smoothies can be convenient, portable sources of fruits, vegetables, dairy and more, helping you meet your daily needs for these food groups.

The Bad: Smoothies can hide a lot of calories and added sugars in an otherwise healthy sounding beverage. Keep these things in mind:

Beverages or liquid forms of food are less filling that solid foods so the same amount of calories won’t be as satisfying (consider the feeling of fullness after eating an apple vs. drinking a cup of apple juice). Many smoothies purchased outside of the home also have a lot of added sugars that make the nutritional content similar to soft drinks.

Bottom line: I like smoothies as an alternative to a snack with a lot of added sugars. It helps me meet my daily requirements for fruits and dairy and quenches my thirst after a hard workout. It is best to make your own smoothies using whole fruit, low-fat milk or yogurt, and no added sugars.

Below is my standard recipe.

1 cup rolled oats

2 big spoonfuls of natural or greek yoghurt

1 handful of frozen berries

1 banana

300ml of semi skimmed milk.

If I want something more filling, or if this is post training, I might add a scoop or two of USN Whey Premium. The added protein promotes production of ghrelin which helps you to feel more full, and will also work with your muscles to help repair and rebuild post training.


Runners diet

A good smoothie can be a useful part of a runners diet

Zip Up / Fingertip Drag Drill #SwimTechTues

Another popular drill for swimming good strong freestyle is Zip Up, also known as the fingertip drag drill. It’s an easy one to rush and blag your way through, but if you slow it down and take time (as with any drill!) it can be really beneficial and reinforce some really good habits.


Why Do It?

The biggest thing that can aid your swim efficiency (and hopefully your speed!) is having control of your body and actions. Wild fast movements can really inhibit movement and create extra resistance to your path through the water. By achieving better control and smoothness, you can hold better rotation through the hips and shoulders. This in turn allows greater reach, better power and easier breathing! Also by using your elbow to pull your hand up your body, you take a lot of stress off your shoulders, meaning that you can put more work in under the water.


How To Do It?

1. As your hand exits the water by your thigh, drag your thumb up the side of your body, fingertips trailing through the water.

2. As your hand comes under your elbow brush your arm pit.

3. Slide your hand directly forward out in front of you.


How To Do It Really Well (the fine points)

Keep the fingertip drag drill really slow! This gives you time to think about all the parts of the drill, and make sure that you are doing it correctly, and that you can keep it as smooth as possible.  If you don’t rotate your hips and shoulders, you’ll find it really hard to get your hand through underneath your elbow, and then to make sure that you stretch forward. By maintaining a good rotation and stretch, you’ll be able to keep everything in straight lines which will help keep your trajectory straight – which can only be a good thing for open water swimming!

Take your time with this – as with any exercise. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!


Fingertip drag drill

The slower and smoother you can stay, the more relaxed you can be!

Sufferfest Review – “The Machine” #RunFormFriday

I am a huge fan of the Sufferfest brand of training videos, their concise quality over quantity training sessions are something that really connect well with my own coaching philosophy! I even undertook their “Knighthood” challenge in March – something that was a good training day heading in to the season! Their 16 current videos average at around an hour long but are anywhere between 30minutes and the more endurance focused 2 hours. Having started as solely cycling videos, the minions have now got a duathlon/triathlon video “Chrysalis” and finally a run specific video “THE MACHINE”. I was incredibly fortunate to get a look at the video before it goes on general sale next week.

The reason I’ve included this in my #RunFormFriday

– It’s a proper training workout, which some people need a little direction with.

– The videos include technique cues so that you don’t run along aimlessly.

Turbo and run sessions can be incredibly boring; before and since doing my coaching qualifications (to this point!) I’ve done many various different options. Regardless of how technically good the session is, sitting/running on the spot for a session can just be soul destroying! However The Sufferfest crew make training on the spot interesting, you aren’t just watching people on turbos riding with you! The sessions have a storyline, race footage (which really makes you feel a part of the race rather than in your home) and vibrant music, cues and encouragement. The downside of being called the Sufferfest can discourage some, women especially. But with the sessions geared on an RPE scale (another plus in my view) and including female as well as male race footage, the videos couldn’t be more all inclusive.

The Sufferfest – The Machine

The first offering of solely running, the video could be put on your phone or tablet and rested on a treadmill in front of you. Using their tried and trusted RPE “suffer scale”, its quite handy to know roughly your target paces from marathon to 5k; this forms the basis of your workout.

The sufferfest effort

RPE effort chart

As mentioned before, each video has a storyline. The Machine centres on the fact that you are the marathon champion of Sufferlandria, and on a world tour of some of the biggest marathons, pitted against the best of the rest. Unfortunately, you won’t be racing on a level playing field 😉 The magical Machine is designed to make the courses tougher just for you!

The sufferfest instructions

The Sufferfest bring the storyline to life with race footage around the world

As the video goes on, the story carries through it, and you continue to push harder. Because of the clear instructions on the screen, you don’t exactly forget the fatigue/pain you are in, but it certainly does help to distract you. 

The sufferfest instructions

Instructions done Sufferlandrian style

The instructions are clear and concise – and sometimes scarily like someone is watching over your shoulder, knowing that you are struggling! Here the command is clear: half marathon pace at 4% gradient. No-one said this would be easy! Actually the warm up is very light before the set descends into fast intervals, but always with good recovery. All this backs up the fact that the videos are written by proper coaches who understand what helps you to improve.

Running through the first interval and a half, I was wondering how the session was really going to test me – not because I’m a great runner or particularly fit right now at all! Then the hammer drops and the intensity kicks in. The 34minutes of running left me in a sweaty heap behind the treadmill – even after all the recovery elements and technique cues.

I genuinely can’t see many ways that this could be better for run training. By encouraging you to take proper rest intervals, it means your work intensity can be higher; something a lot of endurance athletes can learn. If you can translate this to running on the road pbs will fall! Having done most of the Sufferfest videos, I know that sometimes you can over cook your efforts, work too hard too early and not finish – just like any normal training session. But rather than running on your own, you have your video there to keep you company, and test you again another time.

You an check some more of the video right here.

Some neat facts:

The videos feature Officially Licensed footage from Diamond League Track & Field and prestigious marathons from around the world –
Workouts were designed by elite coach Neal Henderson of Apex Coaching. He also designed several of the most popular cycling workouts.
These videos will be released on 31st July 2014 at
The Machine will cost £6.47. The other two videos are Steamroller (45 minutes and £7.06) and Revolver (30 minutes and £5.88). They will be available as a bundle for £16.48 for a limited time. It’s a great deal and I cannot wait to get my hands on the other two!


(I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow)

Time part 2: Organising yourself (or how not to procrastinate!)

Continuing from last week’s blog, organisation is key to making the most of your time.

Most normal athletes have a full time job – we aren’t lucky enough to be the sponsored professional superheroes that we aim to emulate! Some of us are fortunate enough to get a little support here and there; whether that’s in the form of cash from local business, lower cost kit or services such as coaching or healthcare. Fitting in training – and costs of our sports can be tough. And if you’ve picked triathlon then that’s triply so! Add on top of that potential families, friends, social life (?), it becomes a massive juggling act.

There is a reason a lot of ordinary people look at triathletes of any standard and say: I couldn’t do that because…! Not only is triathlon demanding in three (or 4 or 5 disciplines, depending on who you listen to!), it also encourages the perfectionists. Even if your goal is solely to get round, to survive whatever event you choose to do, we all want to perform to the best of our ability. We want to feel like we’ve performed at an acceptable level for ourselves and that we can be proud when we tell our loved ones or people that matter. Which is silly because when you think about it because the only person whose opinion really matters is your own. And being happy ultimately rests with you and ensuring you put everything you can in on the day.

Time Management For Athletes

Where does the time go?!

Trying to fit training in toward any given race, target or goal is tough. If you have fixed working hours, it makes life easier to plan around work; you know when you can get to the pool (or the lake), you know what time is available to cycle and run and you can plan accordingly. Obviously working shifts or irregular hours makes life difficult but if you know your hours in advance, you can prepare accordingly.

The same goes with food (dreaded nutrition!). If you know cooking full meals is going to be tough some evenings, cook in advance; my favourites are big batch cooked Chili Con Carne or Spaghetti Bolognese! Easy to cook and easy to portion up and freeze. When you get home, pasta/rice/accompaniment doesn’t require much effort and your meal can go in the microwave to defrost while you sort out your kit, grab a shower and do what needs doing! It can make food a little boring, but it means you can eat healthily, eat properly and save yourself time. The additional benefit is that it can end up cheaper as well!

Obviously if you have loved ones you have to arrange things with them, and for things to really work you need their support. Whether it’s looking after children at particular points or just the understanding that you are working towards something positive, training doesn’t really work without that compromise. And if the harmony isn’t there, the training won’t be as enjoyable either. Work and family have to come first – work pays the bills and allows you to do the fun stuff. Family supports you and are there for you when you are tired, grumpy, miserable and (god forbid) injured. But with careful planning and discussion, you can work around these things to reach your target.

Finally what are your targets? Are they achievable, realistic, sensible goals? The amount of training you want to do and the time that is actually available to you might be two different things. Does it mean sacrificing that extra half hour snooze in the morning? The time you have available might dictate what those goals should be. Targets should be SMART:

S – Specific – To you and not to anyone else.

M – Measureable – To finish. To do a particular time. To achieve a particular distance

A – Attainable – Is it realistically within reach? Especially in training time available

R – Relevant – Is it relevant to everything you do, training wise? Do you have to make changes?

T – Time Bound – Set a time limit. That might be a particular event. It sets more of a defined focus.

With these SMART targets you set yourself, you can plan for success. Success comes in many forms, but you have to enjoy the process of working toward what you want. Planning might seem boring but it is the only way you are going to get ambitious results on what you want. My dad used to use the phrase the 6P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance, and it’s true. Use your plans as a route map to where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Review your plans if they aren’t working. Be flexible! And remember that recovery is important. Don’t scrimp on eating at the expense of rushing around.

Personally I have had to change my goals going forward. Before the European Champs I was able to get 15-17 hours a week of training in on big weeks around my work. But now with doing more coaching, training has had to take a back seat, and with it some sporting goals for the back end of the year. The same organisational principle applies however! It’s just that the coaching takes the place of the training outside of normal working hours! Whether I am on poolside, by the lake or trackside, I am far happier being busy and helping people improve than I would be at home, even if I could do with an extra couple of hours a day!

Keeping A High Elbow For Freestyle #SwimTechTues

Developing power and the proper pull for freestyle takes an understanding of where real power comes from. You may have read or heard that you want to keep a high elbow to create a more effective and dynamic power phase through the water (I am very loathe to call it a pull!).


Why Do It:

This drill or focal point helps you learn the difference between something that’s productive, and something that’s just hard to do. Using the right part of the arm to push the water back can make your swimming more productive.


How to Do It:

1 . To learn how productive an early press in freestyle is, put a small kickboard in front of you and, with a straight arm, push it down as hard as you can.
2. Now move the board to the inside of your elbow, with the arm bent at about 90. Now push the board down as hard as you can.
3. Once you’ve learned to isolate that feeling, swim… trying to push the water back with the inside of your elbow.


How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

Make sure you understand the difference between the inside of your elbow, and the back of your elbow. If you lead with the elbow, you’ll slice through the water rather than pushing it back. This is why I don’t like calling the power phase of the stroke a PULL. Calling it a pull suggests that you might drag your elbow (and thus your hand) toward you, rather than squeezing the water down and pushing it away behind you. Have a think about it! This connects nicely to the sculling that we did before, especially the midpoint scull; where its not just your hand pushing the water but your forearm as well. If your elbows don’t stay fixed and high/forward, you won’t feel that pressure on your forearm – and therefore the squeeze from your lats (back muscles).

High elbow

Not keeping a high elbow

High elbow

What you are aiming for after the exercise – and midpoint scull.

Take your time with this – as with any exercise. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!