Each runner has there own set of principles that they train by. This can include how they train, how they eat and how they live, so here I would like to share with you my training ethos.

Training Ethos #1 – Every day is a part of training

Training can take many forms for runners and to become the best runner you can be, you can’t just run – you have to sprint and lift as well. As runners, we have to strike a balance between training and recovery. Whilst many of us tend to think we get stronger from training, it is actually the rest and recovery which allows our muscles to repair and get stronger.

So, hold up when you have that killer session and want to go and smash out another workout and give your body a rest – especially if it is asking for one and you can feel the fatigue in your legs.

Don’t just train in the evenings!

Many of us train in the evenings because we don’t have time in the mornings, but the truth is there is time. It’s just a matter of whether we make time to train in the morning, and I say this because there are numerous benefits to training in the morning:

I stuck to my training ethos during early mornings on holiday in Lanzarote

Even on holiday, I was getting up at 6 am to squeeze in a morning run – it certainly allowed me to eat more at the breakfast buffet!

  • You feel more energised
  • You’re less likely to skip your workout
  • You have more time to do other activities throughout the day
  • You’ll potentially eat fewer calories (useful if you’re trying to lose weight)
  • You can burn up to 20% more fat when working out on an empty stomach – a 2013 British Journal of Nutrition Study found that exercising on an empty stomach in the morning can help burn more fat
  • You can spread out your training throughout the day
  • You can ensure there is a constant stimulus for your muscles to develop
  • And according to the National Institute for Sport and Fitness, your testosterone levels are at their peak in the morning which makes morning workouts a prime time to build muscle

By spreading out your workouts throughout the day, you give your body more time to recover and adapt (which is what we want!) with less chance of overloading our bodies with work.

Training Ethos #2 – Don’t just run with your legs – pump with your arms!

Many runners run because, they well, like to run, right?

Well, that’s only a small part of the big picture. When you run, you don’t just use your legs. You pump your arms, work your back and core – heck, even your erector spinae (a long bundle of muscles that flows down your back) is working hard to hold your form. That is why, even though running is the best way to improve your speed and endurance, training these other muscle groups within your body can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

But it can be hard to find time to include circuits or strength training in the evenings. Especially after an exhausting run. And that’s exactly why I suggest trying to carve out the time to do it in the morning – do a couple of circuits, maybe hit the gym for a quick morning workout – do some form of exercise in the morning to get yourself into that mindset of being active and providing stimulus for your muscles to develop plus there’s the bonus of increased testosterone levels in the morning.

Training Ethos #3 – Eat to prevent muscle catabolism

Running causes the muscles to break down and form microtears. It is then in the recovery stage that these tears repair and help to form stronger muscle fibres allowing us to run further and faster. Running releases catabolic hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol results in little to no accumulation of muscle mass, but burns a lot of calories in the process of enhancing cardiovascular fitness.

All aerobic forms of exercise can be seen as catabolic and because the muscle loading or stimulus is not sufficient in aerobic exercise, anabolic hormones are not released in sufficient amounts to counteract the effects of the catabolic hormones released.

So how do we prevent muscle catabolism?

Don’t worry, if you are getting adequate recovery and nutrition then you can be fairly sure that muscle anabolism (the building of muscle) is more prevalent than muscle catabolism, and you will know if you are seeing improvements in your running.

However, to optimise muscle anabolism you should aim to eat enough protein. Many experts tend to cite around 1-2g protein/kg body weight and I aim to hit at least 2g each day. I have no problems with eating ‘too much’ protein as if your body cannot use the excess amino acids for muscle growth which is why I always try to maintain a surplus. That way, catabolism is less likely to occur.

In addition, you should aim to eat an adequate amount of fats, preferably unsaturated (avocados, fish and gelatinous cuts of meat are my favourites) as this helps improve muscle protein turnover and prevent catabolism. Eating enough fruit and vegetables to get minerals and slow digesting carbohydrates for energy is also useful as if replenishing with protein immediately after exercise to kickstart muscle anabolism and reduce the breakdown of muscle.

Make sure you are eating enough throughout the day to give yourself enough energy for training as this will help prevent muscle catabolism as well. Muscles that are overloaded appropriately can actually grow more during the starvation (recovery) period as energy from fat stores can be released and stored in the muscles and ample protein and carbohydrates can enhance the muscle response and adaptations to exercise.

Training Ethos #4 – Resistance Training

One reason strength training or resistance training is important for runners, is it helps stimulate the release of anabolic hormones due to the muscle overload which helps promote muscle growth. By doing strength training twice a week you can see great improvements in muscle strength due to this change in the release of hormones. It also helps stimulate protein synthesis, which in turn promotes muscle growth.

Resistance training counts as any time of strength work whether that is lifting weights, using a theraband, doing plyometrics or circuits, so go and find a bodyweight circuit that you can fit into a 10 or 20 minute slot in the morning or try out this bodyweight circuit – no equipment required.

Training Ethos #5 – Sleep!

Sleep is important in the muscle building equation. There is no denying that.

Whilst your body does start to repair itself almost immediately after exercise, during sleep a large portion of the recovery occurs. During this time, we experience a large release in HGH (human growth hormone). 60% to 70% of HGH released throughout the day is during sleep, therefore not getting enough high quality sleep can negate our training efforts and reduce the rate of muscle growth.

Me taking a 20 minute powernap whilst climbing Mount Tryfan in Wales

Failure to get enough sleep reduces the circulation of two of your primary anabolic hormones – testosterone and IGF-1.

Higher levels of testosterone correlate directly to increased muscle growth by increasing the rates of protein synthesis and by inhibiting the synthesis of proteins that block the mTOR pathway (the primary cellular pathway of muscle hypertrophy) and that is not something you or I want blocked.

IGF-1 helps increase muscle hypertrophy by working via the mTOR pathway to also increase protein synthesis and is crucial for satellite cell proliferation which means that more muscle fibres can be recruited.

Sleep deprivation increases the release of cortisol. While this is normal as a stress response after training, constant lack of sleep can cause cortisol levels to become chronically elevated. Cortisol actually blocks protein synthesis by inhibiting activation of the mTOR pathway, and even worse, it activates pathways that lead to muscle breakdown.

The key here? Go get some shut eye. Aim for around 8 hours of sleep, more or less if you can thrive on it.

Training Ethos #6 – Recovery

Now while sleep also comes under recovery, here I’m talking about the non-sleep part of recovery. What do I do?

Well, during recovery and rest days ensure that you hydrate adequately, eat enough and don’t just sit around doing nothing. Go for a walk, stretch your legs, maybe even work on your arms a bit whilst you let your legs sit this day out. I’d just advise you do some light activity to keep blood flowing with vital nutrients to your muscles and prevent your body from ‘stiffening up’ so to speak.

In addition a massage always tends to be useful for recovery (as well as good for releasing serotonin – the feel-good hormone), otherwise, you can always foam roll your muscles, self-massage or have a hot bath to stimulate blood flow. In response to ice baths, whilst I can say they are useful for recovery I am certain on how beneficial they are in the long term as there have been studies which have suggested although they are good for recovering for back to back races, they can limit the effects of muscle hypertrophy. However, more research needs to be done into this matter.

Training Ethos #7 – Motivation

Always have a goal in mind. Always have a target. Have something to strive for.

Don’t ever let yourself fall into the pattern where you don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Have achievable, measurable goals and let yourself be inspired and motivated by the other runners and athletes around you.

Reflect on what you’ve done.

Look at what’ve you become.

Dream about what you want to achieve.

And let it fuel the fire within you to improve.

Conclusion

That’s all about me and my training ethos.

I think of each day as part of my training and I try to maintain a healthy attitude towards everything.

But you don’t have to think about everything as part of your training if you’re a recreational athlete. You can take the parts you think you can follow to try and lead a healthy, active lifestyle and pick up from there or go and make your own training ethos.

It’s a hard process, but in the end, I feel that going by my training ethos, I feel really good about myself in knowing that I have the strength to keep on going.

What are your thoughts on training to become the best runner you can be and what principles of training do you run by? Leave your comments down below and let me know what you think!