Happy Anniversary, and the gains of a plodder.

A year ago this week I attended my first training session with Motherwell Athletics Club. A couple of weeks trial to see how I felt, then possibly I would consider a membership. I really wasn’t sure if that was the right thing and a wee gander through my blog tells you some of the reasons. Obviously I enjoyed it. I joined. I even paid my dues for this year as well. It’s got me thinking about various things, and the first is the most important. What do I like about being a part of Motherwell AC? I liked the fact that I was accepted straight away and didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I like the improvements I made as a runner (more on that to come) and the confidence it has given me as an individual.Me writing again and sharing it? I’ve been in my shell for years, it’s nice being out there again. Most of the folk at that club wouldn’t believe the shyness I suffer from. I think I listened to too many Smiths albums when I was young. (Best song? There is a light that never goes out. Easy.) I like that the club has championships in the summer and winter, and along with the monthly handicap this means that there is always something to aim for, no matter if you are the best in the club or at the opposite end of the spectrum. There are friendly personal battles with so many people in the club. I had it with Scott Dickson over the X Country season. Neither of us anywhere winning it, but good competition and banter all the way through to us finishing in equal 4th place. Equal 4th. I was chuffed to bits 🙂 . I see it every time trial. Andy and Tommy, Peter and Susan, Chris and Alec, Ross and his alarm clock. You know it is a simple philosophy. If you feel welcome, challenged and part of a team you’re going to keep doing it. Motherwell Athletics club does all of that.

Back to me, since MAC aren’t paying me to extol their virtues :). What has changed for me as a runner in the last year? In simple terms here are the stats:

Was 00:22:05
Now 00:19:26
Improvement 12.00%
Aim 00:18:59
Improvement Needed 2.32%

Was 00:46:30
Now 00:41:14
Improvement 11.33%
Aim 00:39:59
Improvement Needed 3.03%

Summer time trial
Was 00:28:13
Now 00:25:12
Improvement 10.69%
Aim 00:24:59
Improvement Needed 0.86%

10 Miles
Was 01:24:13
Now 01:07:53
Improvement 19.39%

Half marathon
Was 01:52:03
Now 01:32:45
Improvement 17.22%
Aim 01:29:59
Improvement needed 2.98%

Across the board I am showing a 15% improvement over a year. Not at all bad. In fact bloody good. Confidence, structure and company works for me. So thank you in particular to John Hughes and Joe Hoolaghan, and to everyone else I have even jogged with in the last year. For my long term aims I need to increase by about another 3 %. Is that do-able? Is there much left? I don’t have the legs I used to as a junior. I have a lot of niggles that won’t go away as much as I’d like them to so I can’t go bumping up the mileage and running every day. So what is my path apart from continuing to work hard? I have recently been looking at the Dave Brailford’s philosophy of marginal gains. There is a lot of debate about this and its effectiveness but for those of you unfamiliar here is a summary. No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), Brailsford was asked to change that. Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. I won’t go over the victories since,but the Olympics and the Tour de France can be shown up as a testimony. So here are my thoughts. Over the next year what areas can I improve marginally, to as a whole make me a better runner? I don’t have a lot of extra time, I wouldn’t want to be a full time athlete so what can I do to be better without interrupting my life? I don’t have the answers to this yet but my wee project over the next few months is simply:
Can the aggregation of marginal gains improve a middle aged plodder?

I’m interested in your feedback in what areas I can experiment in. So far I have the basics as I haven’t given it a great deal of thought so far:

Increase my weekly mileage slightly.

Increase my effort on my reps slightly.

Change my diet slightly.

Increase my fluids slightly.

Drink slightly less alcohol.

Improve my sleeping slightly – change pillow? Mattress topper?

Slight posture changing at work.

Do additional cross training, a little cycling perhaps.

Work on my mobility – would yoga for runners help?

You get the gist. I won’t go overboard on any of these. But if I make a lot of minor adjustments and improvements can I get to that 3% improvement?
As always your thoughts would be appreciated Running Peeps.

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