Friday, 9th December 2022
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Shaking it up on Clapham Common

by Caroline44
Monday 31st July 2017
As a runner, I’m sure you will have heard the advice to squeeze some form of cross training into your weekly routine in order to strengthen your body and avoid injury.  This advice resonates even more loudly, if you somehow manage to volunteer to do an obstacle race.  We runners are not renowned for our upper body strength and the obstacle that I fear most right now (ignoring the fire/tear gas/electric shock torture thing) is the monkey bars.  I don’t think I could even do them as a child.  So since agreeing to try out a Tough Mudder this September,   I have made a real effort to increase the amount of strength work I do.  Thus, I was keen to be put through my paces at a For Goodness Shakes training event at Clapham Common.


On a typical British summer evening (yes it was raining), Personal Trainer, Obstacle Racer & Ironman Stuart Amory talked us through some of the challenges we should expect on a Tough Mudder.  Some of his advice sounded similar to the words of wisdom I received on the eve of my first marathon, “pace yourself, don’t start too fast and be prepared for some tough times”.  Ditto the advice that the biggest battle was the one I would have with my own brain.  And I was relieved to hear that the secret to monkey bars was to 100% believe that you could do it, commit to the cause and to look up at the sky not down at the ground.  And to cross train.  Obviously.
And here’s what I learnt in the next 40 minutes:
  1. Training outdoors is fun – squats, planks and press ups are much more enjoyable in the fresh air than in a gym.
  2. You can download a “tabata” from Spotify and have Robbie Williams encourage you through the session (other artists/downloads are available).  What is a “tabata”? It’s a form of high intensity training based on 20 seconds full effort and 10 seconds rest.  One set adds up to 4 minutes - which could be squeezed in before a run while you’re waiting for your watch to find a GPS signal.  Or do multiple sets for a longer workout.   A quick internet search will provide you with a variety of exercises to inspire and tire you.  
  3. A traditional interval training set (20 seconds effort, 40 seconds recovery) follows on nicely from a tabata set.  As long as your definition of “nicely” includes the words “breathless” and “sweaty”.
  4. Hopping for 20 seconds is harder than it sounds.
  5. To do a burpee properly you should aim to squat low enough that your calves are in contact with your hamstrings – on the way up and on the way down.  This will protect your back and also make them harder (just in case you didn’t think they were tough enough)
  6. For Goodness Shakes Chocolate Recovery Shake tastes really good after 40 minutes of interval training.
Feeling enthused and invigorated, I headed home to the Shires.  The next morning I bounded down to the playground to try out my new self-belief in my ability to do monkey bars.  It turns out that I need to work on the strength of my self-belief as well as the strength of my grip!  Watch this space…



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