Be comfortable with being uncomfortable by Marc Trussell

When I worked in marketing, this was one of the most memorable pieces of advice given to me by my boss at the time; it was said in the context of presenting and pitching to large groups of people; making eye contact, smiling, and owning the floor.

This advice also carries over to obstacle course racing or any element of endurance sport for that matter. I’m a big believer in making the training harder or more challenging than the event itself, and something I drill to my clients when coaching. 

When I was training for the Double Ironman in 2009, I would add in “special” training sessions to my schedule and I believe that these played a great part in getting through the 280 odd miles. The most memorable session being a 15 mile run directly before taking part in a 5k charity Swimathon.  The same went for my 100 mile ultramarathon in 2012, I ran 26.2 miles, the marathon distance on a dark January evening once my wife got back from work, I had been looking after my daughter all day, and had all day to think about doing it, telling myself reasons why I shouldn’t. I don’t enjoy training in the evening as I’m much happier training first thing in the morning, getting out before the rest of the family is up.  For this race, I also ran 100 miles in six days, which meant running to work, at lunchtime, and to home from work on some of the days. 

These sorts of challenges are not only physically but mentally challenging. The aim being with them that when you hit a low point in a race, you can, agree with yourself that it’s bad, yes, but not as bad as the training you undertook to get there in the first place. These sort of sessions are best planned in advance and added sporadically amongst your usual plan. The best training sessions, in my opinion, are those which you quite simply don’t want to do.

So next time you’re planning an easy run or training session, factor in something different, a dip in a pond or a random heavy carry perhaps…

And, on the day of your next Spartan Race, own the course, make eye contact and smile at the marshals and supporters. Be thankful for the position you’re in and be comfortable with being uncomfortable, your mojo will thank you for it! 

Marc Trussell is an Obstacle Race and Endurance Coach and the only Spartan SGX Level 2 Coach and Perfect Delta holder in the UK, his website is www.gomarc.net 

Recovery is king

man lying on rubber mat near barbell inside the gym

In this day and age, we want everything at the click of a button, we have seemingly shorter attention spans and we’re constantly on the move. Whether its our work, or our play, we seem to hit life at 100 mph with little time to sit back and relax, or to take the time to evaluate.

This is also true with most of our mindsets towards training and racing during the OCR season. The more we train, the more we will improve. The more we race, the better we will get. If we’re not laying on the floor heavy breathing with our legs full of lactate and a pool of sweat beneath us, then we’ve not worked out hard enough. Yet how wrong could we be?

Recently, I’d been going through this phase, maybe for the last 3 or so months. The harder my training, the better. And although I’ve made a conscious decision to race less this season, to yield better training blocks, I’ve still been throwing down back to back days of racing, and the occasional back to back weekend, all intertwined with training blocks of hell for 3 or so solid weeks with little time to breath.

Unfortunately if we do not allow our bodies adequate rest between sessions and we are always depleting the same energy systems, this can lead to a plateau in performance but it can also lead to some pretty serious stuff such as adrenal fatigue. Thats something you do not want, as it can take months to recover from!

We tend to race, weekend in and weekend out, pushing our bodies to the near end of its current fitness capabilities, with our expectations for it to perform well again in  a week or two with some serious training in between.

I raced the European championships in Morzine, a huge race with over 1800+ of gain in over 20Kms after a big relentless training block of exhaustive sessions, to then be back on the line at Spartan Midlands for a back to back weekend. During that weekend, I came 8th in a field I believe I should of at least landed in the top 5. The next day my legs did not want to move, energy systems depleted and rolled in way back of the elite field. My mind and body were exhausted and needed some long awaited TLC.

I took the smart decision to take a minimum of one week fully off of ALL training. Although I still made sure I was fairly active on my step count. I made sure I ate some good healthy food, the occasional drop of red wine, had plenty of sleep and took my mind well away from thinking about training or competing. Sounds easy? But being someone who loves to be active, it actually takes quite a bit of will power to admit you need to rest and not train, especially mid season when others may be out training and laying down the miles.

The results of this week off speak for themselves, on days 6 – 7 my mind and body was ready to train again. My first training session back consisted of a 3 mile benchmark test, resulting in a 5km of 18.22 – Proof that my body needed to rest and re-build.

So, don’t be afraid to have a week off, don’t be afraid to take the pressure off and reset. You don’t have to feel fucked at the end of every session, sometimes taking it slow is actually a lot more beneficial than you would believe, the art is to have a steady progressive overload over a period of weeks, with adequate rest between sessions to ensure you are getting fitter and not burning yourself out.

After all, some high level athletes may not actually be training that much harder than you, they are most likely just recovering better, sleeping a few hours during the day between sessions, eating well, as well as getting regular sports massage, physio treatments and maybe some crazy SC-FI Cryotherapy for those small percentile gains!

Rest up and reap the rewards!

My 10 Day Caffeine Detox

First of all, let’s not victimise Coffee. It has fantastic health benefits from being one of the world’s most widely used anti-oxidants as well as helping reduce the risk of a whole host of diseases. I absolutely love the stuff, and those that know me will hear me regurarly call it the ‘Nectar of the Gods’.

So you may be reading this wondering, why would I detox from something that I enjoy so much? And the answer boils down to my lack of moderation and respect for a cup of the black stuff.

I found myself on a daily basis having a lot more than one or two cups of coffee, maybe up to 5 or 6 and on top of this my energy levels would be all over the place. Sometimes I’d feel wired to the moon, then 3 hours later I’d crash and burn and be struggling with those last few hours of the working day. So I decided to reset my tolerance and go cold turkey from the good stuff for ten days – Apart from the odd cup of Decaf purely to satisfy my tastebuds!

Days 1 – 3 – The Struggle

If embarking on a detox from caffeine, this is the hardest stage. Getting over the initial caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and trust me, even if you think you’re not in someway habitually addicted to the black stuff, you’ll realise how much you rely on that liquid once you’re cold turkey.

From the initial low energy, to the dizzy head spells, to that feeling of fogginess in the forefront of your mind. These first three days are not fun at all, but, you just have to trust the process, keep your head strong and know that once those three days are out of the way, the rest will be easy.

For me, I found the mornings and mid afternoons the hardest times of the day. My concentration levels were at an all time low and I felt like my body was missing its Turbo! On top of this, any small daily tasks seemed to take twice as long, as if I was working on dial-up…

Days 3 – 5 – The Hump

Now for me this is where I started to feel more normal, those foggy headaches were no longer, energy levels were starting to balance but I still had that mid-afternoon slog of low energy that would hit me. I’d weened off of that need for caffeine, like a jump start in the morning and as a result my energy levels started to stabilise and were becoming more… consistent and neutral.

By the time I’d got to day 5 my mind and body did not crave or feel the need for coffee or caffeine. I’d even stopped drinking Decaf as it was not really serving any purpose to me apart from replacing that habitual routine of having a coffee first thing.

Days 5 – 10 – The Home Stretch

From day 5 onwards my energy levels were stable across most of the day. Again, with caffeine I generally find that I have a big energy spike at the start, then it fizzles out over a couple of hours. For me during this detox time, I found my energy levels were never running at that high intensity, however I found them to have a more natural flow throughout the day. Around this time I also started to be aware of the impact eating has on my energy levels, a meal would energise me and I would feel it perk me up rather than it being numbed out by that hit of caffeine you’ve had with my morning or afternoon meal.

After day ten I didn’t really ‘miss’ coffee so to speak but I treated myself to a nice Coconut milk flat white and I’m not going to BS you, that thing hit me like a train, it was like being on rocket fuel for the next 5 – 6 hours!

The conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee and I love the health benefits of it, however sometimes exclusion makes the heart grow fonder and also lets the body have a little rest! Our body’s tolerance for caffeine builds the more we consume, so I find it beneficial to reset those markers back down to normal and whilst I’m there I can check in with my bodies natural energy levels.

I found the whole detox worthwhile and I feel that its a process I will repeat every 3 or so months. However next time I will try to cut down my consumption over a few days to see if it helps alleviate some of the inital side effects.

I now try to limit my coffee intake to around two cups per day of the strong stuff (which doesn’t always go to plan…) and also try to avoid caffeine after 2 – 4pm. Caffeine can have a big effect on your sleep cycle, which in turn means your recovery from training will be less optimal.

Anyway… all this talk about coffee has got me thirsty!