How They Are Keeping Fit – Jane Clarke

I guess there are a lot of people out there who are using this time to take their foot off the pedal a bit and just tick over and do some nice, easy runs. Well that's ok if that fits in with your long term plans and you are prepared to start training again from a lower level when this is all over. Be assured though, you won't come back to where you were if you don't keep up the training. Especially as we get older, our fitness soon drops off. It's very easy when you are on your own to just take a 'day off' forget the effort sessions or ease up on your tempo run. For a lot of runners though, their sport and level of fitness is important to them and they don't want to lose what they have worked hard to build up.

When the 'lockdown' came into effect, I had the feeling that some people would cope really well running on their own and I was concerned that others would struggle. There is the social side of running that is also very important to some and fills a large part of their life. As a running and fitness coach I felt a sense of responsibility to help people through this difficult time.

My Tuesday Nighters group is made up of runners from several different clubs, there are different levels of ability, but the common goal is that they all strive to run well and look for improvement. I am often surprised that people who I consider, accomplished and experienced runners ask for a training plan or advice on how to improve and over the years I have come to the conclusion that although people often know what to do, they find it more motivational if they have some sort of plan to follow. There is something satisfying about ticking off the sessions each day and achieving the set targets.

So with that in mind I set out a weekly training structure for people to follow on our fb page, suggesting an effort session, a tempo run, a long easy run and then shorter easy runs in between. I also saw this time, for a lot people with extra time on their hands, as an ideal opportunity to add core strength and conditioning into their training and to try out some cross training such as cycling. I found out how to use 'Zoom' and set up two 30 minute core strength sessions on-line each week for people to join in. This has been great and it's a really nice way to just say hello to each other.

However, not everyone has time and not all use fb, so I have also emailed and texted information to people if requested and I make the odd phone call or text to just check on people now and again.

Now, serious runners do love to make everything a bit competitive, so I allocated a points system to each session, eg, efforts = 3, long easy run = 2, core strength session = 1 etc and once a week we post our scores on the fb page and add a note of anything particularly interesting. Not everyone has time and we have to be mindful that a lot of people are still working and priorities are different, but the opportunity is there if needed.

Running solo can actually be really helpful to your training. Sometimes I just use it at the end of a busy day to de-stress and mull things over and at other times I use visualisation and imagine I am running the last couple of miles of a race or chasing a competitor and I push myself hard. It can really help you to develop your strength of mind.

So, once I had got some stuff going for everyone else, my thoughts turned to my own running. Well, following return from injury last year, I was really looking forward to getting race fit through January to March and had entered more races than I've ever done including seven in the Sportlink GP. Unlike most 'normal people' as you well know, us runners look forward to hitting the next age category and next Sunday 19th April, I will be 60. I'm not going to say, 'oh well, it doesn't matter' because actually it does and I'm gutted! That first year in your age category is always a nice, little advantage and I'm not going to lie I would have been chasing a few trophies and records.

Now, I'm not really into all the latest technology when it comes to running but I have discovered Garmin Connect and Strava as other ways of keeping in touch with our great running community as well as competing with myself. Today I ran the 3k Social Distancing Strava Segment for the second time and was highly delighted to get a pb. I actually felt a little nervous warming up!

I practise what I preach and follow the training structure and to add some further motivation I will be entering the Sportlink and Runners Connect Virtual 5Ks and the Braydeston Mile ..... after the19th April though of course.

Thank you to Jane Clarke for taking the time to share here story.