Measuring fitness

Improve your fitness and track your progress

  

FITWINS is committed to promoting and improving health, through regular activity. We are for all levels of ability and people can do 25 miles to 200 plus miles in one month. The gains that you might get from engaging regular activity, such as running, include and are not limited to: improved aerobic capacity, achieving a healthy weight, improved muscular endurance and strength, improvements in exercise efficiency, improved mood, self-esteem, and many more benefits (we could go on).


A question that often puzzles people is ‘How can I measure fitness gains?’ For many people the first thing they might think of is stepping on the bathroom scales and measuring their weight, assuming that weight loss means improved fitness. Millions of people think this and strive to achieve fitness improvements by diet, with limited physical activity. However, does this improve general fitness effectively? Some people would argue that there are very limited, if any, fitness gains from simply losing weight. We need to exercise and the general guidance for enhancing physical health is that we should do regular activity for at least one hour every day.



If you’ll excuse the scientific terminology, many exercise physiologists measure aerobic fitness by VO2 max, which is the ability of your heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles, and the effective use of oxygen by muscle tissues. It’s the maximum amount of oxygen you can use in a minute (ml/(kg·min). I’m going to explain it in simple terms: if you have an improved VO2 max, then you have made significant improvements in your aerobic fitness. Given that these gains will have been achieved by regular exercise, using working muscles, you will have more muscular endurance and will see massive improvements in your fitness. Your heart and muscles will work more efficiently, you’ll feel better and will run and move faster and often with less effort.


So how do we measure improvements in aerobic fitness? One way of doing this is by going to a laboratory but we’re not in any rush to do that, as there are some easier ways. Some watches have VO2 max calculators built in that use heart rate to measure the effort required to run at a certain pace and will use other variables. 


Another, very simple way, is by covering a route that you use as part of your routine and seeing if it feels easier at the same pace as a few months ago, looking back at how much you have improved. Some people might do time trials or Parkrun, and it might just be an idea, instead of going for a PB or fastest time, to try and run a time that you ran a couple of months ago and compare your effort level, and maybe heart rate if you have a monitor.

Finally, if you do have a heart rate monitor, I suggest covering a standard route and comparing your heart rate at a similar pace. A lower heart rate at a similar pace/intensity will show that your aerobic fitness has much improved. Some months ago I tore my hamstring and could not do any running for 6 weeks and cycling also hurt. I did some swimming but due to my terrible swimming technique I wasn’t getting the same fitness gains that I got from a run. My fitness declined rapidly, I gained weight, my mood suffered and I was eager to get back running. Eventually I started running and noted how high my heart rate was at relative paces compared to before. I needed to slow my runs down and gain fitness gradually rather than try to run harder at the same pace. In time, my aerobic fitness improved over 4 weeks and this is shown in the images (note the lower heart rate compared to before). Using heart rate and your perception of effort can help you to monitor improvements in fitness. 


If you are now wondering how you might improve your aerobic capacity, the first thing is to be more active: run and walk more. We aim to promote increased activity with FITWINS. Perhaps you recently completed a monthly challenge (25/50/75/100/125/150/175 miles in a month) and now you’re thinking of doing the next +25 miles increment the following month. Just make sure you plan your month and don’t risk injury by overdoing your activity at the end of the month, playing catch up. You can also increase the pace of A FEW runs to add some intensity, such as 5 x 2mins faster efforts during your runs, or using some fartlek or interval training to improve fitness.  


Time for a run

carl@fitwins

© Carl Ryde and FITWINS Ltd.

Heart rate

Measuring heart rate can be used to measure improvements in fitness

setting goals

With the New Year up on us, it’s a time when resolutions are made and goals are set. You might be thinking of many targets and many of them might be related, such as complete a race, run x amount of miles, run a personal best, run a route or distance in a certain time etc. It’s often useful to write your goals down and using the SMART approach to setting your goals for 2020 can be helpful. I often have multiple goals and writing each one down using the following approach really helps. 


1. Specific – Write your goal down and be specific about what you will achieve eg ‘I will run a time of 30 mins for 5k’, ‘I will run 50 miles in one month’. Use real numbers with specific targets.


2. Measurable – Make sure your goal is trackable and can be measured. Running is easy to measure; you can use running distance/time to set your goal.


3. Attainable – Make sure the goal is challenging but possible. Do not try to set a massive goal that is well beyond your limits but do make it challenging enough to lead to gradual progression.


4. Relevant – Make sure the goal really matters to you and explain why you want to do this. 

Eg. ‘I want to challenge my own limits’, win a medal or earn something specific.


5. Timescale – Make sure your goal has a timeframe, one month, three months or even use weekly goals if you need to. I use a weekly goal, ‘I will run x miles this week’. Don’t keep pushing towards a goal you might achieve ‘some day’.


Finally, with New Year approaching we want to wish you a happy and healthy New Year and look forward to seeing you smash your goals in 2020. Start the year healthy and don’t make the mistake of doing too much and getting injured, as you start your New Year. With renewed commitments to starting a new fitness or training regimen and an injection of enthusiasm it is also a time when people can often ‘ramp up’ their miles and ignore the fact that training is a gradual process. We recommend increasing weekly mileage by no more than 5 to 10 miles per week if you are increasing your volume. We’ve seen many people increase their training much too quickly with the end result being muscle strains and tendon injuries. With spring half marathons and marathons ahead many people also start to increase their training volume and number of sessions in the belief that they need to be running much more, with the end result that they do too much early on and often get injured. We recommend doing no more than 2 or 3 hard workouts a week, the rest should be easy runs at a relaxed pace or rest days. If you have run hard one day, make sure the next day or two are easy recovery or rest days. Run by all means but go very, very easy and try most of all to enjoy it. And that really is the key thing about running…ENJOY IT…enjoy being fit and healthy and the joy that running can bring.


Stay healthy, stay fit and have a great 2020. Smash your goals and let us know how you do. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR. We have included a goal setting chart for you to use in the link below.


carl@fitwins


About the coach: 

Carl is an international marathon runner and qualified running coach. He holds a BSc(Hons) in sports and exercise science, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and is an Advanced Level 3 REPS qualified exercise instructor. Carl is also a BACR Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation therapist and has been leading fitness and running sessions for over 20 years.

Fuelling your training

Nutrition for training and recovery

If you're training regularly you'll be aware of the importance of fuelling correctly to ensure you can train well. I've made many mistakes, most notably missing lunch due to work commitments, not eating for 12 hours, forgetting that I'd not eaten (yes, it was a very intense day) and then going into a long run before feeling faint and dizzy at around 20mins in, sitting down and finally managing to crawl home! Well, 'an empty sack won't stand up', we need to ensure we have enough energy to train. Thankfully, that was a one-off occasion and something I learned from. I make sure I eat enough carbohydrate before I run and am conscious of the need to have healthy snacks available, including energy bars, bananas and fruits that have a good source of natural carbs. I always eat something 30 - 60 minutes before training, whether I'm hitting the trails or doing a speed workout. In addition, I also take a Revvies caffeine strip ten minutes before and every 40mins to increase my energy levels and focus, particularly if I am planning on running a challenging session. 


After training, that is when adaptation occurs and this is when you can make the most training gains, by facilitating the recovery process to make you fitter and stronger. I always make sure I have planned my post-training nutrition by having a recovery protein shake ready.  Protein provides the body's building blocks: amino acids that support muscle growth and recovery + thousands of other vital functions. I use a TRIBE nutrition shake as they are 100% natural and contain 20g of protein. It has been shown that to improve training gains you should ingest protein during the optimum 30mins window immediately after exercise. I make sure I have a protein bar and a banana during the 30mins post-training period. 


If you’re training regularly, it is essential to stay hydrated pre, during and post workout. It is also just as important to keep hydrated when you aren't training, as fluids help to regulate your body temperature and flush out damaged cells. During training sessions, it's good to drink 4 - 5 sips of water/electrolyte drink every 20 minutes. 


I managed to run a 2.23 marathon, which was my optimum, by ensuring I used quality products to reach my potential. OK, it wasn't near Kipchoge's 1:59 but I got the best out of myself, and obviously fuelling well played a big part.


I really love TRIBE nutrition products as they are 100% natural and give me the energy and protein I need. I also use Revvies before and during long runs to give me a boost.  My favourite energy bar is the TRIBE peanut butter and banana energy bar; great tasting, easily digestible and give a slow release energy that can power me through my runs. You can check out products that I use here: TRIBE nutrition  ; Revvies Energy


I'm now off for my long run, fuelled well and with a nice recovery shake at the end!


Keep on moving.


carl@fitwins


About the coach: 

Carl is an international marathon runner and qualified running coach. He holds a BSc(Hons) in sports and exercise science, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and is an Advanced Level 3 REPS qualified exercise instructor. Carl is also a BACR Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation therapist and has been leading fitness and running sessions for over 20 years.






TRIBE packs offer a mixture of 100% natural energy, protein and hydration products.

TRIBE packs offer a mixture of 100% natural energy, protein and hydration products. 

PACING YOUR RUNS

In order to run to the best of your ability make sure you don't set off too hard and manage your pace by running evenly. This is the most economical way to run and allows you to run faster for longer, with improved efficiency and running economy. Watch our video to learn about pacing.

training plans

We have designed a monthly training plan for all September challenge entrants, should they need one. It's fine to do the challenge to suit you, running at your own time, pace and convenience, so you don't necessarily need to follow a schedule. Some people like a plan to follow and find a training plan useful. The full monthly plan includes beginner, intermediate and advanced schedules. You can view the plan below.

Staying motivated

You've entered our latest challenge...now let's get motivated!

 

I've been running for a long time. It hasn't always been easy. Sometimes the exercise mojo just hasn't been there. There have been times when a list of things have drained my motivation to just go for a run and get some exercise: work, kids, general fatigue, weather, various commitments and duties that always come first. There are a few things I've done that have helped me to stay motivated and engaged in meeting different challenges that you might find useful. We all have different issues to contented with in terms of managing time, which is often the biggest issue. I managed to run internationally for England and get to a reasonable level of fitness (2.23 marathon) by really working on staying motivated during my training. The following might help you to complete our August challenge.


1. I've said that other things might come first in terms of priority. However, in terms of the time of day...running comes first. Basically, I run early in the morning. The run is done early, it helps me to 'feel good' and it's a good start to the day, followed by a decent breakfast (porridge, bananas and fruit juice - before I run I have a coffee and two slices of toast). Becoming a morning runner was hard at first and I do suggest you 'test the water' by just doing this once or twice a week and it eventually becomes part of your routine. It's also helpful to lay your running gear out the night before so you're all prepared in the morning. If mornings just aren't for you, try and schedule a specific time of day for you so that exercise becomes part of your daily routine.


2. Run with other people if you can. Make a date with others to go for a run. Involve other people and you are more likely to do a scheduled run. Talking and being in the company of other people is great for the mind and some of my favourite runs and are with running partners. Tell other people about our challenge. They might want to join you www.fitwins.co.uk/challenges 


3. Be realistic. Don't beat yourself up if you have to miss a run due to unforseen events, injury or just lack motivation and just want a rest. Don't expect to run sub 10mins miles if you are a beginner. If you are an elite runner (and we all need help) don't become obsessed with times and splits on every run. Decide each month/week what is achievable in terms of training and other commitments. 


4. Vary your run routes. You can easily become stale running the same loop day after day. Boost your motivation by going on different terrain and finding places that you like to run. Some days I run along the riverbank, others on tarmac, some days on hilly fells and occasionally the treadmill. It keeps me fresh.


5. Ask us if you need help. Yes, we want you to succeed. Please message us or post on our social media pages if you need some help. We want to give you that special medal at the end of the challenge. You've got this!


We want to help everyone in getting fitter and keep you motivated so please keep checking updates on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. 



Keep on moving.

Carl Ryde

About the coach: 

Carl is an international marathon runner and qualified running coach. He holds a BSc(Hons) in sports and exercise science, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and is an Advanced Level 3 REPS qualified exercise instructor. Carl is also a BACR Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation therapist and has been leading fitness and running sessions for over 20 years.

image70

100km in a month?

Your first challenge...let's do this!

If you've entered out first challenge, we wish you every success in covering 100k whether running, walking or combining both types of activity. We know you can do it and this guide will help break it down for you. Remeber to record your activities on your fitness tracker (Strava/Garmin/Fitbit) and once you've completed the monthly challenge you can get that awesome medal. To help you in getting fitter and achieving your goals, here is some useful advice from our expert coach on interval training, using running and walking.


I'd like to share with you some advice about how we burn calories (kcal). Whether we run or walk, during the activity we will burn a similar amount of calories. We will burn slightly more from running however due to (a really scientific term) EPOC, excessive, post exercise consumption, which means our bodies use more energy after running. In addition, our fat-burning hormonal response is also greater after running. With this in mind you might want to consider using interval training to add intensity to your  walk/run. Not only will this add variety to your training but it will also lead to increased fitness gains. If you are already capable of running 3-6 miles without walking, why not try adding intervals in the form of 1 minute of fast running/1min easy jogging for three miles. This is a session that marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge likes to do (but for up to 10 miles!). If you combine this with a 1 mile warm up and 1 mile cool down that is a good quality session, with 5 miles in total, that will promote fitness gains. A cool down is a very slow recovery jog/walk. A warm up should start very slowly and build up to a comfortable pace (a pace at which you can speak easily whilst moving).


If you are new to interval training and want to combine walking/running this programme should work for you. This plan is for beginners.


Week 1: Sign up to the challenge. Walk/run 15 miles during the week (15 miles for  week/15 miles monthly total)

Week 2: Do this on two days this week:

Walk 3mins, jog for 1 minute until you have completed 3 miles. If 1 minute is too much reduce running time to 30secs. Include a 1 mile warm up       

and cool down. Do another run/walk of 6 miles this week. (16 miles for week/31 miles monthly total)

Week 3: Do this on two days this week:

Walk 2mins, jog for 1 minute until you have completed 3 miles. Do another run/walk of 6 miles this week. (16 miles for week/47 miles monthly total)

Week 4: Walk 1 minute, jog for 1 minute until you have completed 3 miles. 

Do another run/walk of 6 miles this week. (16 miles for week/63 miles monthly total)

That's 62.1 miles (100k! done) ! WOW!!!! Send us your image file to verification@fitwins.co.uk and get that medal and t-shirt (optional).

                


In order to complete the challenge this plan will work. However, bear in mind that you don't want to end up trying to squeeze in lots of runs towards the end of the month to complete the challenge if you aren't used to regular exercise. That's why we recommend taking a month to complete each challenge unless you run or walk frequently. Elite runners are able to train every day but if you aren't used to running most days you will need to plan in recovery/rest days to avoid massive increases in training load and potential injury or burnout. 


We want to help everyone in getting fitter and keep you motivated so please keep checking updates on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. 


Keep on moving.


Carl Ryde


About the coach: 

Carl is an international marathon runner and qualified running coach. He holds a BSc(Hons) in sports and exercise science, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and is an Advanced Level 3 REPS qualified exercise instructor. Carl is also a BACR Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation therapist and has been leading fitness and running sessions for over 20 years.



                




The coach: Carl Ryde, England International Marathon Runner

The coach: Carl Ryde, England International Marathon Runner