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Train for the train

Fixated on the finish line of your next race? Running doesn’t just give you the opportunity to race, it gives you the opportunity to live.

I’d been on the train 23 minutes before we arrived at New Street Station in Birmingham; the second of three stops. I’d boarded in the tiny village of Yatton in North Somerset, having spent the weekend with Martina to help her get settled before she begins her 4 year journey to specialise in anaesthesia at Bristol Veterinary School; what some might call ‘a proper job’.

As I was able to pick and choose the time to travel, the train was virtually empty (one the advantages of not having ‘a proper job’). Comfortably set up at my table seat the only thing I was aware of was my coffee, my kindle, and the occasional hiss and screech from the carriage’s air brakes as we waited to depart. That is until a lady, who I imagined to be in her mid forties, slumped into the seat opposite me.

We exchanged a brief smile and then I carried on reading about the principles of heart rate training and the lactate theshold. She pulled out her laptop and began rustling around with papers, clearly keen to get organised to maximise the time in her new temporary mobile office. As she continued neatly lining up her documents I couldn’t help but notice the sound of her breath. Something that is not particularly unusual for me as I regularly listen to my clients’ breathing when I am coaching them to run better.

Her breathing sounded hard. Uncontrolled. Every breath sounded as though her lungs were desperately trying to find the optimum inhale/exhale pattern so they could kick back and enjoy the journey too, but this was clearly proving unsuccessful.

Now could I be certain this lady didn’t suffer from chronic sinusitis, an allergy, or asthma? No. Could I confidently say that this seemingly friendly and pleasant lady sat opposite me, who was still trying to gain control of her breath, hadn’t just done 12x400m intervals up and down platform six while she waited for the train? No I couldn’t. Still, I could not help but immediately begin to build a profile in my mind.

When you think about your running goals and aspirations do you think about the finish time, the T-shirt, and how much you will enjoy an oversized Sunday lunch after the event? Or do you think about the immensely positive impact it will have in so many areas of your life, irrespective of the race time? Do you think about the importance of being fit for life, not just the line?

One of the outstanding memories from my recent trip to Rome was the Colosseum. As well as taking in the Emperor Vespasian’s grandiose superstructure, I was hyperaware of the sheer volume of tourists from the far reaches of the globe that had clearly bitten off more than they could chew. If you have been to Rome then you will know that everything is on a monumental scale. You can have the most comfortable pair of Birkenstock sandals in the world but if you don’t have the core fitness, Rome will find you out.

Even three days in the Eternal City would send your fitbit into overdrive if your intention is to consume as much of the magnificent splendour that anyone can in 72hrs. Yet I fear my new carriage companion would barely get to the entrance of the Vatican City on her segway, never mind scale the 551 steps to the top of St Peter’s Basilica.

Running consistently, underpinned with a little bit of science and structure, brings about HUGE gains in fitness. And gains in fitness improve your WHOLE life. Fact! Whether it’s a day in the Peak District, a city break, or a skiing holiday, running (and exercise) will enhance your experience. Limited fitness limits your experience. Running gives you energy and vitality, it sharpens the mind, it makes you feel good, oh yeah and if you enter a race you’ll get a T-shirt!

So the next time you’re out on one of your sessions take a moment to shift the focus from your gps watch and your upcoming 10K. Spare a thought for the thump your cardiovascular system will get, which will enable you to chase around the garden with your kids, bolt up a flight of stairs… or comfortably catch the 10:27 from Yatton.

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