Running in Cold Weather: 11 Infrequently Asked Questions

Cold weather running

1. Does running in cold weather help you burn body fat?

Seemingly, yes. Cold weather exercising can produce high rates of glycogen depletion, and also high rates of fat metabolism. Glycogen is the form that carbohydrates are stored in the muscles (and other parts of the body) and is a readily available source of energy when you’re working out. There’s a limited amount of glycogen your muscles can store, and once glycogen stores are depleted, your body needs to use more fat for energy.

Exercising in the cold increases glycogen depletion in two ways. Firstly, shivering causes muscles to use glycogen at 5-6 times the normal rate, and cold weather causes elevated blood levels of epinephrine, a hormone which stimulates glycogen breakdown. Epinephrine can also help with fat metabolism.

So, a long run in winter can be a great way to improve body composition and rid yourself of some of those fat stores (as long as you don’t go home and drink gallons of hot chocolate to warm yourself up!)

2. What are goose bumps good for? (and is there a case for hairy legs in winter?)

In modern day humans, goosebumps are pretty much useless. They are an involuntary reaction of the sympathetic nervous system to fear or cold. Muscle contractions raise the hair follicles in our skin, causing that plucked chook look.

Biologists believe that they are a reflex that we developed years and years ago. Our ancestors, who were much hairier than us, may have developed this reaction as part of the fight or flight response, making them appear bigger and scarier when their hair stood up on end. Our more hirsute ancestors would also have been able to trap more heat near their skin with their fluffier body hair. So, I’d say that’s case enough for hairy legs in winter, wouldn’t you?

3. Can you get dehydrated running in cold weather?

Definitely! Cold weather inhibits the thirst sensation because blood moves away from the extremities into the body’s core. Because the core fluid level doesn’t decrease, the kidneys aren’t signalled to conserve fluid. The thirst response can decrease by about 40 per cent in cold weather. When you run in cold weather you still sweat and lose body fluids, so you need to be mindful of drinking more than you might feel you need to.

4. What’s the best temperature for running?

A study from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine conducted a longitudinal study of results and weather data from six major marathons. They found that colder weather generally meant faster times, with the ideal long-distance running temperature being 5 degrees C. Times slowed progressively as the weather warmed above 5-10 degrees C. Slower runners slowed more than elite runners.

The effect of temperature on your performance is definitely something to keep in mind when you’re planning your next race strategy. I think I’d prefer to settle for a slower time than seek out a marathon to run in 5 degree temps!

5. Why does your nose run in the cold?

The nose warms and humidifies the air you inhale so that it is not too cold for the lungs. If the air is cold and dry, fluid production of the nose increases. If it makes too much fluid, your nose runs. Also, water in warm air condenses in cold air. The air you breathe out of your nose is warm, and when it hits the old air, it could condense at the tip of your nose, forming a very flattering water droplet at the end of your nose.

6. Will you catch a cold if you run in cold weather?

We all know that a cold is a virus, and it makes little sense to say you catch a cold by being cold. You catch a cold by being exposed to a cold virus. Your body also needs to be unable to resist the cold virus to contract a cold. But here’s the thing. Researchers have shown that exposure to cold air enhances the activity of “suppressor macrophages”. These are white blood cells which depress the functioning of the immune system.

So letting yourself get chilled to the bone during a workout can increase your risk of getting sick. The lesson to take from this one is you should wrap up and stay relatively warm. Wear layers you can take off during your session, and always keep something warm and dry on hand for when you finish training. This may mean getting out of damp underlayers as well as outer layers if you have a fair distance to drive before you can warm up in a hot shower.

7. Will exercising mean you get fewer colds in general?

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2008, reported that regular aerobic exercise might reduce the risk of catching a cold by up to 50%. People who exercised at least 5 times per week had up to 46% fewer sick days than those who exercised only one day a week or less. When the exercising group did get sick, their symptoms were milder.

And what of the macrophage suppressing cold weather? On the bright side, the Japanese research found that people who are used to training in cold conditions are less likely to experience the same immune system suppression after running in cold weather than people who only do it now and then. So, don’t shut yourself up during winter. Push through those first cold days of winter, and be consistent with your training as the days get shorter and the nights get colder, and you’ll come out the other side of winter with a stronger immune system.

8. Will running in cold weather give you a heart attack?

Probably not, but there are some studies that have shown an increase in exercise related heart attacks in periods of cold weather. Whilst the jury is out on why cold air should increase your risk of a heart attack, it may be because cold temperatures will raise your heart rate and your arterial blood pressure, which increases the stress on your heart. Also, blood clots more easily in cold weather, which could increase the risk of blocked arteries. Frequent exposure to cold, however, modifies these physiological changes, so again, its most likely the every now and then approach to training that is oh-so-tempting to adopt in winter, is likely to hold the most risk.

And if you’re wondering why your heart rate lifts in cold weather, it’s basically as a result of your body’s efforts to keep you warm. You lose body heat to cold air so your heart rate rises to maintain your core temperature and to keep blood flowing to the brain. Blood vessels in your extremities are restricted, your body burns glucose faster than it does in warmer weather, and you shiver. All of these things require an increased heart rate, so if you’re a heart rate monitor, you’ll likely notice your heart rate is elevated during your next cold weather run. (That is, you’re a person who monitors their heart rate during exercise – I don’t really think one of those Garmin thingys can read…yet)

9. Can running in cold weather make you feel like the temperature is colder than it actually is?

Definitely, but there are ways around this. It’s not just the cold air that makes you cold, but a combination of the cold air and sweat. You don’t stop sweating when you’re exercising in cold weather. You lose heat at a faster rate when your clothing is saturated with moisture. Water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air does, so sweat soaked clothing will give you that chilled to the bone feeling.

Most running gear on the market these days is sweat wicking. Making sure you have a layer of sweat wicking clothing next to your skin when you step out the door for a winter run. Layering up over the top of that will help to stop you from losing too much body heat due to sweat.

10. Can exercising in cold weather give you chilblains?

We were down in Canberra for our boys to play in a soccer tournament. After a less than encouraging start to their first game in the cold, the coaches decided they all needed to toughen up a bit and play without gloves. One boy turned up the next morning with his gloves firmly in place, explaining he had a medical condition called “chilled veins” and his mum said he had to wear his gloves.

Chilblains are patches of red itchy skin. They are thought to be caused by a combination of cold weather and poor circulation, though no-one is 100% sure. If you have poor circulation, you will be more susceptible to chilblains, however if you are a regular exerciser, you’re not so likely to have poor circulation.

Wearing gloves whilst you’re running will keep your hands warm in the cooler weather. You’ll probably find that your hands warm up fairly quickly wearing gloves. If you’re going to need to take your gloves off, do so before your hands become sweaty, otherwise you may well find you give yourself a dose of “chilled veins” when you expose your damp hands to the cold air.

11. What about the wind chill factor?

If there’s a cold wind blowing, you’ll feel the cold even more. A 30km/ hour wind can feel like zero degrees very quickly. Running at 10km an hour into a 20km/hour wind is the equivalent of a 30km/hour wind when you’re standing still, so it doesn’t exactly take a howling gale to make you feel 10 degrees colder.

It’s good idea to run the first part of your run into the wind, so that in the second half of your run, when you’re tired and sweaty, the wind is at your back and the wind chill factor won’t come into play so much. If you run at 10km/hour with the wind behind you at 20km/hr, it’s really like a wind of 10km/hour from the point of view of wind chill. So instead of making it seem 10 degrees colder, the wind will only make it feel about 3-4 degrees colder than the temperature on the thermometer. Cheery thought!

The Bottom Line

Exercising in cold weather can improve your immune system function. It can also put you at a slightly higher risk of catching a cold or having a heart attack, but only it would seem if you aren’t a regular cold weather runner.

Take care to keep hydrated when exercising in winter, layer up, with a sweat wicking layer of clothing closest to your skin, and run in sheltered areas if possible. Where you’re exposed to the wind, try to run with the wind at your back in the latter stages of your run.

Winter is a great time to teach your body to burn fat for fuel on those long runs, as you’ll be using up glycogen more quickly than you would in warmer weather. So cold weather training can leave you well prepared for a great spring racing season.

9 Ways to be a Good Sports Parent

Kids Cross Country - hamming it up

Good Sports Parents Don’t Stuff Up the Car Trip Home

In the US, about 20 million kids register for competitive sports each year. By the time they are 13, just 30% of those kids are still playing sport. And the really sad thing about the other 70%, is that they will never play sport again. That is, not ever.

Whilst I don’t have figures for Australia, anecdotal evidence certainly points to a large number of kids (especially girls) dropping out of sport and physical activity in their early teens. That’s here, in Australia, where we have one of the best all round climates for outdoor sport in the world.

So how do we keep our kids involved in sport into adulthood?

Kids Stop Playing Sport When it Stops Being Fun

According to research, the number one reason kids drop out of sport is because it’s not fun. Very reasonable. Most adults don’t choose to do things which they don’t find fun. So why would kids be any different? The research, conducted by George Washington University, showed the top 6 things which made sport more fun for kids were

  1. Playing your best
  2. When coach treats player with respect
  3. Getting playing time
  4. Playing together well as a team
  5. Getting along with your teammates
  6. Exercising and being active

Further down the list were things such as

  • Winning (#48)
  • Playing in tournaments (#63)
  • Getting medals or trophies (#67)
  • Getting pictures taken (#81)

Take another look at those lists. Playing your best was the number one factor which kids felt made sport fun. Winning (which many of we adults think rocks) ranked only 48th on the list of factors that make sport fun for kids. And that’s what it should be about. Kids sport should be fun for kids, not a competition between parents.

So if we want to keep kids playing sport well into adulthood, we need to make sport fun. Much of making sport fun comes back to the parents. Parents are pretty involved in kids sport these days in Australia. I wonder if sometimes parents don’t have just a little too much invested in their kids’ games.

Best Coaching Exercise Ever

A couple of years ago, I coached an under 10’s soccer team. Whilst I was reading up about coaching, I came across an exercise which I thought was absolutely awesome. It went something like this.

  • Get all the parents together.
  • Give half of them orange bibs, half of them green bibs.
  • Put them on the soccer field.
  • Have all the kids stand around the outside of the field, with instructions to help their parents play, by yelling out where they should be on the field, what they should be doing with the ball, etc. Tell the kids to keep giving them helpful instruction, and to make sure you yell out loud so their parents can hear them.
  • Blow the whistle to start the game
  • See how well the parents play when they are constantly being told what to do and not given a chance to think for themselves.

9 Ways to Be a Good Sports Parent

# 1. Give your child some space

When was the last time you stood over your child in a maths exam and cheered every time they carried the one, or grimaced when they made a mistake? When was the last time you gave them step by step instructions on how to do their homework, without giving them a chance to figure it out for themselves? I’m betting the answer here will be never, or at least not very often. With their school work, we trust them enough to give them the chance to figure things out on their own. Then we give them help if they ask for it.

I’m not sure why this is, but with sport, some parents simply can’t resist the temptation to tell their kids what to do, where to be, who to mark, when to pass the ball, when to take a shot. We’ve all  heard “that parent” on the sideline. What many of us don’t realise is that we do it ourselves, even if it is at a much calmer level than “that parent”. Mostly, our “help” is well meaning,  but every time we tell our kids to “have a shot” “pass the ball” “mark a player” we are depriving them of the opportunity to develop their strategic thinking.

The reality is, if your child could make a play down the sideline, or read the play and be in position to intercept the ball from the attacking team, or if they could have scored the goal, won the race, passed the ball…they would have! There’s little point telling your kids to “run faster” or “try harder”, or “use the space”. It’s a bit like telling them to be taller.

If you really want to help your child develop their skills, keep in mind that the heat of the moment is not the best time to assimilate new information. Leave the coaching to the coach, and show your kids you enjoy watching them play, not watching them be outstanding. Cheer them on, shout out “Go Thunder” (if their team name happens to be “Thunder” that is), but don’t act like your kids are playing sport for your entertainment. If you find you’re screaming like a crazed Sea Eagles fan at Brookie Oval on a Friday night, you might need to take step back so that your child (and everybody else’s for that matter) can enjoy the game.

#2. Trust the Coach

In order for you to trust your child’s coach, you need to find out a bit about them. You can ask them directly about their coaching philosophy. Ask them if they plan to give all kids equal time on the field, what’s their aim for the season, what sort of things will the kids be doing at training?

Many of the coaches you’ll come across, particularly when your kids are young, will simply be the parent who has been good enough to put their hand up, so don’t bombard them with questions the minute you meet them. They may not have thought about it too much themselves when they first start out. But it is important to find out about the coach so that you can trust that they will develop your children’s love of sport, not crush it. So make it your business to engage the coach in conversation so that you can learn about them, and they can learn about you and your child. Make sure you approach the conversation in a non-judgmental manner.

Observe the coach at training and at games. If their values don’t match with yours, talk to them. I’ve heard of cases where parents don’t feel they can call the coach out on inappropriate behaviour because they don’ want to rock the boat and have their kids singled out, but it is NEVER ok for coaches to swear at kids or be generally abusive towards them to “toughen them up”. People like that have no place coaching our kids.

#3. Give the coach some space

 Most coaches will appreciate you giving them space to train your kids. Once you’ve established that you’ve entrusted your child’s athletic development to someone who is worthy of that trust, keep away from the pre-game and half time huddles. Hand your child over to the coach for the duration of the game, and stay out of it, unless there is a real reason for you to be involved. Don’t criticise the coach in front of your kids. The same goes for the referee and other match officials as well! If you have an issue with the coach, take it up in private.

Try not to be the only person who has a significant influence in your kid’s life, because there will be a time when they will need to learn something that you won’t be able to teach them. Gift your children a good relationship with a great coach, which you have little part in.

#4. Know That it’s Okay for Your Kid to be a Ball Hog

It frequently happens in the younger age groups which are not graded, that there are one or two outstanding players on the field or court. Parents of these outstanding players are often tempted to tell their kids to pass the ball, not wanting it to appear that their child is being a ball hog. Whilst developing good passing skills is important, so is developing the ability to dribble and control the ball in an individual play. Kids need to be able to develop the confidence to make a play themselves. Leave it to the coach to decide if someone is being a ball hog. And remember, it may not be that the child is deliberately trying to hog the ball. Awareness of where other players are on the field comes to kids at different developmental stages, so it just may be the child doesn’t know where to pass the ball, or how to get a pass away.

#5. Make Learning More Important Than Winning

Feeling outside pressure to win doesn’t do a lot for our children’s enjoyment of sport. If they can view each game as an opportunity to learn more about the sport, and more about how they play it, it takes the pressure off a bit. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t want to win. There’s nothing the matter with a child being competitive, but your enthusiasm for your child’s victory should not be greater than theirs!

As a sports parent, it’s your job to remind your child that if they love the sport, and devote themselves to the love of that sport, the wins and losses will take care of themselves. In other words, life is a journey, not a destination. If you really love the sport, it won’t matter so much if you win or lose.

#6. Remember It’s Not About You

Remember your child’s sporting success or failure is their success or failure. If you find yourself saying “we scored three goals today” or “we played poorly today”, might be time to take a look at just who it is that’s playing the game. Unless you hold an official position on the team such as coach or manager, you’re not part of the team. You don’t win, lose, play well, score a goal, need to improve your positional play. You are not part of your child’s sporting team, so try to use language that reflects that

#7. Don’t Make Your Kids’ Sport a Contest Between Parents

If you have kids who play sport, at whatever level, you’re going to be spending a bit of time watching it, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’re not comparing your child to others. Proving to yourself and anyone else who will listen, that your child is a better athlete than the next kid, doesn’t prove you’re a better parent, or your child is a better person, or that they are going to have a better life! There is no evidence that shows elite athletes are any happier in life than average athletes.

Twenty years down the track, it’s unlikely to matter who won the under 10 netball grand final. What will matter however, is what the under 10 netballers learned from playing sport, and how that is put into practice in the rest of their lives.

One of my kids ran at national level in the cross country last year. All a bit of a surprise, and it was certainly an eye opener with respect to parental aspirations.

What I hope he took away from the experience, was a mutual respect for the kids who he competed with and against. I hope he remembers the massive game of AFL the Queenslanders, Victorians and New South Welshmen had after the race, far more than the race itself (and I think I’d be saying that even if he’d have won the race!) It was so awesome watching a bunch of 11 year olds who barely knew each other, running and kicking and jumping together for the sheer joy of it, when shortly before they’d been trying to run the pants off each other.

To me, that’s what competing at any level in sport is about. The people you meet and the experiences that you have along the way.

True story. A few years ago just before my 50th birthday, I was leafing through my box of lifetime memorabilia, and found a program for the State PSSA Athletics carnival of 1975. I had completely forgotten that I’d even been to that carnival. But there was my name, in black and white, in the Under 12 Shot Put. I like to think that’s an example of how insignificant that carnival was in the general scheme of things, rather than of my failing memory!

#8. Help Your Kids Accept Defeat

Kids need to learn that victory and defeat are both sides of the same coin. The coin is of the same value, whichever way it lands when it’s tossed. Losing sporting contests can be heart breaking for kids (and for adults). If you’re not prepared to have your heart broken, don’t play competitive sport.

Parents can help kids get over their heart break relatively quickly. Often nothing needs to be said. A simple pat on the back or a smile goes a long. You don’t need to say too much. In fact you might not need to say anything at all. Your kids will know how you’re feeling just by looking at you, so you’d better make sure you’re not feeling frustrated, annoyed or angry with them, as they’ll pick up on that.

I’ve played sport most of my life, so I’ve had my fair share of sporting disappointments. I remember a couple of those disappointments particularly, not because of the result itself, but because of the support of those around me. A simple hug of understanding from my Mum when I missed out on making a state team, and a night out on the town with my boat crew when we missed out on winning an Australian Title, are two of my most treasured sporting memories (not saying I wouldn’t have preferred to have won that Austalian Title mind you!)

#9. Don’t Stuff up the Car Trip Home

 The car trip home is not the time for analysing the game. Win or lose, your kids don’t want to hear you talk about what they did right or wrong, or what they could have done better. Sometimes when things have gone wrong, you don’t want someone to tell you how to fix it, you just want someone to listen to you if you feel like talking. If you’re a Dad of a sporting kid, that might be a bit harder for you to understand, but believe me, on the car trip home, your kid does not want you to approach their sporting performance as a problem you can fix (apparently being Mr Fix-it is more a man thing).

Advice of this nature often feels better for the parent who is giving it, than for the kid who is receiving it. The car trip home, after a win or a loss, is often when your child just wants to sit back and let the game sink in. You don’t have to make conversation to make them feel better after a loss. They’ll know if they played well or badly. And they’ll know you know.

What do you say on the car trip home?

Head of player and coach development at Australian Baseball, Peter Gahan suggests the only thing that needs to be said on the car trip home is……

” Geez I loved watching you play out there”

How quickly do you lose fitness?

How much fitness do you lose when you stop training

You Can Lose Fitness When It’s Raining

I remember telling a friend a very long time ago, that you still get fat on the weekend, as she shovelled piles of peanut butter on her toast, telling me it was the weekend so it didn’t count.

It’s a bit the same with training and rain. You can still get unfit when it’s raining you know, just as you would get unfit if you stopped running due to injury, illness, or misadventure! And it’s still just as hard to get that fitness back.

Here’s a quick run down on what happens to your running fitness when you stop training, and how quickly you can get it back.


00:35- Fitness levels and fitness loss

1:05-Training break impact on 30 min 5km time

1:50-Training break impact on 25 min 5km time

2:34 – Training reak impact on 20 min 5km time

3:20-How long does it take to get your fitness back?


Running in the Cold

It’s Woman Vs Winter

So, you’re alarm’s just startled you awake and you’re wondering why. It seems awfully cold when you stick your hand out onto the wrong side of your beautiful doona cocoon. Come to think of it, there’s no light sneaking in through that slit in the curtains. Not much seems to be happening at all out there. And it’s cold. You ask yourself again precisely why it was you thought it would be a good idea to get up early and run.

You could just stay in bed another 30 minutes, another hour…but then, the day might overtake you again like it did yesterday, and you won’t get a run in at all. You could forget about that promise you made to yourself in April about maintaining your fitness over winter. Or, you could rug up and get out there, and feel absolutely awesome for the rest of the day, and very likely the next day as well!

It is hard sometimes to get out running on a wintery day, but mostly, once you’re out there, you don’t regret it. I don’t think I’ve ever said to myself “I wish I hadn’t done that run”. Have you ever regretted going for a run? (Not counting the time you trod in dog poo, or fell over in front of the local rugby team).

Maintaining Enthusiasm

To help keep you enthusiastic about running in the cold weather, you can try a few tactics such as

  • Run with other people – it makes it more fun, and if you’re running with others, you’re more likely to turn up
  • Run somewhere beautiful when you can run during the day
  • Have a goal in mind such as a race in August or September
  • Have a goal such as running a certain number of times /kms/minutes per week or month.
  • And it’s always a good idea to remind yourself how good you feel after a run.

Making Winter Running More Comfortable

Here are few practical tips to make your winter running more comfortable

Gloves. Great if you’re running in the early morning particularly. Polyester, sweat-wicking fabrics are good for well, not getting sweaty hands inside your gloves, but they won’t be very wind or water resistant. Gloves with insulated uppers and weather proof membranes are good for poor weather conditions, but you might find they get a bit hot. Some lightweight polyester gloves are probably going to be enough for you during our Sydney winters. You’ll probably find after 20 minutes or so you want to take them off, so make sure you have a pair you can stuff in a pocket or in the waistband of your tights

Tights. Wear them. Full length, tucked into your socks. I’m amazed at the number of people who turn up to running training in ¾ running tights and complain about the cold! Enough said I think.

Beanies. Sartorially inelegant, but they have two uses. Obviously, they are pretty handy for keeping your head warm, and they’re also great if you suffer from ear aches when you run in cold weather.

Headbands. If you don’t want to go the full beanie look, grab a headband to cover your ears if you’re an ear ache sufferer. Just a little bit of warmth around your ears can really make a difference

Lip Balm will not only help keep your lips succulent, you can apply it round your nostrils and around your eyes to help prevent the aging effects of wind burn.

Hats are really good for keeping the rain out of your eyes. Few people really love running in the rain, so you’ll usually have the streets and parks to yourself on a rainy day. Running in light rain can be really beautiful. On cold drizzly days I pretend I’m in the Blue Mountains where it’s supposed to be cold and drizzly. Somehow it makes a difference.

Wear reflective clothing. You’re more likely to be running in the dark in winter, so make sure your clothing has some reflective strips on it so that you can be seen. You could also run with a light, which of course will not only help people see you, but it could be useful to see where you’re going!

Warm up a bit before you leave the house. Do a few calisthenics, star jumps, running on the spot, push-ups, running up and down your stairs several times. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can warm up, and it makes it a lot easier to get out the door. And on that note, running during winter will help you warm up for the rest of the day. I’m freeze most days in winter until I get out and move.

Run into the wind on the day out. If you can work it so that you have the wind blowing into your face on the way out, you’ll find that the sweat you’ve worked up won’t chill you as much on the way back, with the wind blowing from behind you.

Wear less than you think is necessary. About a layer less than you need to be comfortable at the start of your run is the best bet. You’ll warm up quickly, and if you have too many layers on, you’ll either have to run with something tied around your middle, or run feeling too hot. Either way, you’re likely to get sweaty. Eventually, that could leave you in a cold sweat for most of your run.

Wear a wind resistant shell.  You’ll always find running in windy conditions more pleasant if you have a light, wind resistant jacket. Often you don’t need much more than a t-shirt underneath (and some pants would be good I guess).

Use the hairdryer on your feet. If you can’t stand the thought of getting out there because your feet will freeze, warm your shoes and your feet up before hand with your hair dryer. If you’re driving to the start of your run, have your car heater on your feet.

Change quickly post run. Get out of your wet or damp, sweaty clothes quickly. Take a change of clothes with you if you’re not finishing your run at home, and get out of your damp sports bra, as well as changing your top.

Don’t let the winter cold numb you. Be open to the possibilities of winter running. Let the cold sharpen your senses. Experience your world a little differently. Embrace the cold weather. It’s winter after all, and it doesn’t last too long in Sydney. Before you know it, you’ll be complaining about the heat!

If you need a little company for your winter running, join our winter running groups. Your free trial is available now!

Woman misses half marathon turn and wins marathon

wrong turn in half marathon

wrong turn in half marathon

The first female home in the Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstburg, Ont. last Sunday, was actually entered in the Half Marathon, but missed the turn for the half  and ended up running the full 42 kms. And winning!

Meredith Fitzmaurice was using the race as a training run for her first marathon in Detroit later this year. Around about the 1 hour 30 mark, she started wondering where the finish line was. With a sneaking suspicion she’d missed the half marathon turn, she asked one of the bike officials on the course, who confirmed her mistake.

She then thought she’d just run 20 miles and call it a day, but when she reached a turnaround point and could see people coming towards her, she could count only nine men ahead of her, and no women. Unbelievably, she was the leading woman.

“So as I’m running I’m wondering if my race is going to count, I’m thinking about my friend who is at the finish line probably wondering where I am since I have the keys to the car.”

After confirming with an official that her entry and time would be counted in the marathon, and would be considered for a qualifying time in the Boston Marathon,  she decided to give it a crack.

Have you ever taken a “wrong turn” in life and ended up in a great place?

See the full story in the Montreal Gazette


Image courtesy of stoonn/

End of Year Resolutions

We can help you

We are in the final 4 months of 2013. Have your New Years’ fitness resolutions gone to plan? If not, should you give up your goal of improving your health and fitness this year, grow bitter and curse the powers that be for making it so hard for you to get fit and be healthy?

Or should you take responsibility for your situation and make changes?


Read and act.

Seek motivation; don’t wait for it to fall into your lap.

From time to time I have people say to me something along the lines of, “it’s easy for you, you’re so motivated” or “it’s easy for you, you’re so fit” or “I wish I could be as motivated as you are”.

Well, here’s the thing. Firstly, it’s not always easy for me, and I’m not always highly motivated. My energy levels wax and wane. When my energy is low, I keep going because I know that if I just keep chipping away, sooner or later the tables will turn, my energy levels will pick up, and I’ll  be ready to go. I don’t leap out of bed and think YIPPEE I’m going for a run every morning, but I do keep trying to do something pretty much every day. And that doesn’t always pan out.

Secondly, it hasn’t always been easy for people who are fit. Most people have had periods in their lives when their fitness levels have dropped and they have had to summon the motivation to get back into it, and I’m certainly one of them. That’s when a goal and a well thought out plan can make all the difference. You need a plan that will push you enough to get you fitter, but not push you so much that you overdo it and injure yourself. If you’re not sure about planning your training, seek help. You’ll be surprised how easy it all becomes if you have a plan set out before you in black and white.


Anyone can be motivated.

Motivation is not something reserved for people who are fitter than you, or “better” than you. Motivation is not something that descends from on high. Motivation is something that you need to learn how to use. I’m not highly “motivated” to cook dinner, clean my house, have a shower every day, clean my teeth every day, do the washing, do any number of mundane and boring things that I do each and every day, but I still do them. Sometimes, that’s just the way with exercise. It’s just got to be something that you do. Without thinking about it. Automatically. Then when the endorphins kick in, you’ll be unstoppable!


So how do you “just do it” when you really don’t feel like doing it?

  • Take action today.  Not some time next week, not tomorrow, TAKE ACTION TODAY. Even if it is just a little tiny step towards where you want to be, TAKE ACTION TODAY. Set out a training plan for the next month, enlist a friend to exercise with, resolve to get up 10 minutes earlier every day this week and do some simple body weight exercises at home like sit ups, push ups, squats and dips, all of which can be done in your own bedroom.
  • Set yourself a goal. Specify it, by writing it down. Make it Realistic. Make sure you can Measure whether or not you hit that goal, make it Achievable, make it Rewarding, and make it Time limited. Yes, that’s right, make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal. It might not be what you first set out to achieve at the beginning of the year, but that’s OK. There’s no rule against reassessing your goals.
  • Once you’ve set out one or two main fitness goals for the rest of the year, take some time to plan how you’ll reach this goal. And remember, keep it realistic. If you’ve never run before, perhaps planning for a 5km fun run before the end of the year will take your fancy. Far enough to be a challenge, but short enough to be very achievable. Just pick out a run, and “go for it”.  “Go for it” setting out a training plan so that you know precisely what training you’ll be doing and when you’ll be doing it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, enlist help.
  • Set out your reasons for doing it; write down why you want to achieve your goal. I’ve got a few reasons to exercise, but the main one is I like how it makes me feel. I like feeling strong, I like knowing I can run for a couple of hours without conking out! I guess it gives me a sense of power. There are lots of other reasons, but I reckon that’s my main one. Yours may be different. Whatever the reasons, write them down, and stick them up where you can see them. Right next to your alarm clock would be a great place!
  • Bust your own excuses. Don’t let excuses keep you on the couch. Stuff like “I can’t because”, “I don’t know how” “I don’t know how” “I could if….” are all excuses. Catch yourself when you make excuses that are preventing you from being as fit and healthy as you’d like to be. When you do catch yourself, ask yourself these questions: What is the truth? What do I want? What action can I take? (If you’re anything like me, the truth is you don’t want to finish the year fatter then when you started).


Let’s be very clear about this.


Your feet aren’t going to get up and start running all by themselves, are they?

You need to make a decision to act.

If you need help, remember that’s what we are here for.

You just need to ask for it.


We can help you

How Does Your Personal Best Shape Up? Age-graded tables

Running is a great sport for you as you age. You can do it at your own pace. There is not as much risk of injury as there is in other sports such as rugby, soccer, netball, basketball and hockey (think knees, hips and ankles), and you can compare your performance as you age to that of your glory years, by using age-graded percentages.

Effects of ageing

For the average person, sometime in their late 30’s to early 40’s, a number of physical changes start to take place.   Aerobic capacity decreases, muscle mass reduces, muscle elasticity reduces, lung elasticity declines, bone density reduces, the metabolism slows, body fat increases and the immune system becomes weaker. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

These changes will have an adverse impact on performance, but that doesn’t mean they need to have an adverse impact on the enjoyment of running. Many people actually take up running in their 40’s, and continue to enjoy it into their 60’s, 70’s and (beyond).

It is generally thought that running speeds over any distance decline by about 1% per year from a peak at some time in a person’s 30’s, and we appear to lose aerobic capacity at about 9-10% per decade. Hence, the use of age categories makes sense, as it helps to encourage men and women from all ages to keep running.

Our declining physical prowess is not a particularly cheery thought, I know, but there are heaps of exceptions to this general theory of deterioration. Ed Whitlock, a Canadian athlete ran a marathon in 2:54:48 at the age of 73. Admittedly he is the only person over the age of 70 to run a marathon in under 3hrs, but it does prove it can be done. Whitlock ran in his teens and early 20’s and then took it up again in his 40s.

NSW 10k Road Championships 2013

For further proof that good times can still be run well into late middle age (whatever that is these days) we need look no further than the recent Sydney10. This fun run is open to anyone, and also doubles as the NSW road 10k championships. Some of the winners’ times amongst the over 40’s are pretty startling. Full results can be seen here

40-44: Jo Rankin, 40:11
45-49: Liz Miller, 38:54
50-54: Robyn Basman, 39:20
55-59: Jo Cowan, 45:05
60-64: Mary Sheehan, 44:13
64-69: Shirley Dalton, 57:37
70+: Dorothy Tanner, 56:14

40-44: Nick Bennett, 33:15
45-49: Andrew Wilson,  34:04
50-54: Geoffrey Bruce, 34:32
55-59: David Riches, 36:55
60-64: Dennis Wylie 37:23
65-69: Donald Mathewson 39:16
70+: John Spinney, 48:57

What are age-graded percentages?

Age graded percentage tables allow us to compare times across age categories, by taking a set of age factors and age standards and multiplying these by a time or distance. The first official Age-Graded Tables were compiled by the World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) in 1989. WAVA has since become WMA – World Masters Athletes.

Standard times were established for males and females for each distance and for all ages from 8 to 100. The standards were pretty much based on world record performances for each age in each event. Performance was plotted against age to give a set of curves that one would expect for a smooth performance regression with age, with adjustments for a small number of results that were inconsistent. Tables have been revised when performances have indicated that a change was necessary. The current tables were last upgraded in 2010.

In a nutshell, your age graded percentage is a measure of how well you are doing compared to the world’s best of your age and gender.

Working out your age graded percentage

You can calculate an age graded percentage for a result by using the age graded tables, and the formula below, or you can use this calculator to work it out for you.


Event standard for your age / your result*100

Eg: You’re a 45 year old female and you just ran 10k in 39 mins

The event standard is 1953 secs (32 :33)

Convert 39 mins to seconds : 39*60=2340

32.55/39*100 = 83.46%


Use your age graded percentage for goal setting

If you’re able to keep the same age graded percentage each year, then relative to all other athletes of the same age, you are maintaining your performance level (regardless of your actual time getting slower). If you keep a record of your age-graded performances over the years, you’ll be able to see whether you are improving your performance, maintaining it, or whether you’re going out the back door at a rapid rate!

You can also use the age graded percentage as a motivator. It might not be realistic to be aiming for PB’s every time you perform as you get older, but you can aim for an improvement in your age graded percentage. If you’re sitting at 78%, you can aim to lift this to 80%, and you can use the tables to help you figure out the time you need to aim for to reach the higher percentage. Then you can plan a good training program to reach your realistic target time.

I’ve just worked out that if my time in the upcoming Gold Coast half is 1 min 22 secs slower than the time I did a few years ago, I won’t really have slowed down at all. How good is that? Of course, ever the optimist, I’m aiming to go faster.

Comparing yourself with others in different categories

If you know someone else’s time, you can see how you’ve fared against them, which can be comforting when you simply can’t achieve the same times as that annoying young 30 year old whippersnapper who trains along beside you (you know who you are!).