Nov 012015

runner-557130_640Getting The Most From Personal Bests

by Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe

There is an old rhyme which goes

Good – Better – Best

Never let it rest

Until your Good is Better

And your Better is Best.


This is really a good motto for anyone seriously intending to improve their performance in either training or an event.

But how do you know what is Good, what is Better and what is Best in relation to your own performance?

  1. First you have to record your performance on a regular basis.
  2. Then you have to actually understand what your specific performance means.
  3. And then you can set about meaningfully improving on your current personal best.

Let’s look at this a little more closely.

First, if you are not already doing so, you should get into the habit of recording your training in a training diary and recording your performance in events and competitions (for example in the form of a race report or an equivalent for your sport).

Secondly you should make an easy to read list of your current and all-time PBs. This may sound very simple, but there can be more to the question “Is this a Personal Best?” than you might think. Our article on Understanding Personal Bests may help.

Thirdly you should use your knowledge of your PBs to improve your training – and your event performance.

Using your Personal Bests to build on your successes in training and events

Personal Bests (PBs) should not simply be a static record of your achievements. They should be used to give you a clear target to beat in your training or competition.

First you must establish a Personal Best (PB) for a session/exercise/distance etc. Only count as a PB a time/distance/etc that you have established without suffering any major undue adverse reaction (e.g. if in the process of setting a PB you caused yourself an injury you would not count this!).

Don’t restrict recoding PBs to just one area of training – for example trying to get a better time for 5km on the flat. Instead, record your PBs for virtually all types of training you do (running, weights, cross-training etc) and break this down into PBs for all meaningful variations e.g. speed work; distance; uphill sessions; downhill sessions; running with or without XL; each individual weights exercise – including recording variables such as max weight, reps and sets; duration and speed on an exercise bike – and so on. This might sound quite a lot of paperwork and number-crunching to do but

A) It is not difficult to do

B) It only takes a couple of minutes at a time

and most importantly

C) It can lead to a great deal of improvement

Having established your PBs, try to improve upon your current PB next time you perform the same session. Don’t just have a vague idea of “doing a bit better”, set a concrete goal to achieve such as 1 second faster, 1 kg heavier or 1 minute longer duration.

Know what your current PB is – and thus what you are trying to beat – before every session. This will keep you clearly focused on producing a better performance every time you train.

Keep doing this regularly and your performance will always be improving.

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Sep 242013

10 Ways to Run Faster & Longer 

Practice, practice, practice:

William_Sichel_Portable_Oxygen_UseRunning technique is essential, your heel should be first to touch the ground not the ball of your foot. Ensure your upper body is tall but not overly tense with your mid-foot landing under the hip. Arms should always move in a forward and back direction, if your arms move forward your knees will to.

Don’t run before you can walk:

You get out of running what you put in, but you must be measured in your approach. Too much too soon can at worst cause injuries, but also increased fatigue leads to a longer recovery period which will make it more difficult to get into a routine of running.

Vary your run:

Don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. Slowly increase the length of a run until you can do more than 100 minutes relatively comfortably. Once you have that down build in another run once a week focusing entirely on speed.

It’s all in the stats:

Use a running app. The endorphin rush you get from knowing you ran a little faster or a little further than last week can be a great motivation, particularly if you train on your own.

There’s more to running than just running:

A powerful set of legs and lungs are required for a good runner. However having the correct posture when you run makes it easier to run faster and longer, this requires strong core stability. Focus one session a week on your core, press-ups, planking, sit-ups and crunches are essential.


If you’re short on time, interval training is the way to go. Try jogging down a street, and when you get to lamp post sprint to the next one. Do this for 5 minutes rest and repeat. If you’re not tired then you’re not sprinting hard enough.

Substance over style:

Make sure you pick the right shoes, not just a fancy looking pair. It’s worth trying on a few pairs of shoes before you decide what to buy, and always go half a size bigger than your normal shoe size, feet swell when they get hot.

Running in the rain:

The average runner’s feet will contact the ground 2,000 times over the course of a mile, dissipating over 100 tonnes of force. Your body will catch up to you eventually so think about those ankles and knees and stick to soft terrain when you can.

Run to the hills:

Well you can’t have it easy and run on flat ground the whole time can you? Make sure you build in regular hill sprints to your routine, they will increase speed on flats and improve muscle strength at a faster rate.

Give yourself a booost:

booost1Hyperoxia (using a higher percentage of oxygen) on average improves exercise performance by 18.7%, the only problem being that even in the countryside our atmosphere contains only 20% oxygen which is not enough for hyperoxia to occur, which is why we have portable 99% oxygen tanksPerformance oxygen should be taken on when the individual hits ‘the wall’ when that little voice creeps up in the back of your mind telling you that you’ve done enough for one day, that’s when you use booost, and it’s a point that only a few of us will get to.


Read William Sichel’s blog on his own site here



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Jan 132012

One of our current UFT clients, US ultra-runner Jarred Busen, has published an article on Quantity Vs. Quality in training based on some of our advice. Read it on his blog here

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Nov 272011

An archive article/interview in which William discusses various aspects on ultra-running

The record-breaking ultramarathon runner William Sichel reveals his inspiring achievements
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Nov 202011

The latest issue of Nordic Ultra features an article on “Weight Training for Runners” by Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe of The article also features photos of  multiple World Record holding ultra-distance runner William Sichel training with weights in his spartan home gym in Orkney. Nordic Ultra is a new on-line magazine for ultra-distance runners and is well worth a look. Click on the issue below to read it here.


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Nov 172011 offers a range of Personal Training Services including designing individual Training Plans & Programmes and providing on-going Training Advice & Support.

We work with everyone from beginners and those trying to get fit through to elite level athletes.

Please feel free to get in touch on

Part 3

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Nov 122011

Extra-Load – XL

We advocate the use of Extra Load (XL) exercises as a key aspect of fitness and athletic training.

William running with an XL vest

To put this in a nutshell, if a person’s body becomes acclimatised to training with extra-load then it becomes far easier to perform an exercise or compete in a sport when the load is removed. Our XL programmes are diverse and generally use an XL-pack but may also involve the use of conventional free weights and/or body-weight resistance exercises. Apart from increasing the development of both the strength and endurance of the muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, XL training also has the advantage of dramatically reducing the time one needs to spend in conventional training by increasing the intensity – not the duration – of the workout. Whether you are already a top athlete or just returning to sports training, whether you are trying to get fit while holding down a job or whether you are doing your best to juggle training needs while you look after your family, being able to spend less time training while getting a more intense workout is a real bonus. An extra plus to this method is that reducing the duration of training also allows for greater recovery time between exercise sessions – giving more time for your body to build in improvements and to grow in strength and stamina.

Does this type of training really work?

Multiple World record holding ultra-distance runner William  Sichel considers the use of XL training to be one of the main reasons for his success in ultra-endurance events…

And here’s what some of our clients say : offers a range of Personal Training Services including designing individual Training Plans & Programmes and providing on-going Training Advice & Support.

We work with everyone from beginners and those trying to get fit through to elite level athletes.

Please feel free to get in touch on



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Oct 172011

Are you too old to run a marathon? Highly unlikely… A One Hundred Year Old Briton has just become the oldest person to complete a marathon… And of course set a new age group World Record in the process!


Centenarian completes Toronto marathon

Officials from the Guinness Book of World Records were on hand to watch British man Fauja Singh become the first 100-year-old to finish a full marathon distance.

Mr Singh, from Ilford, east London, ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, 25 minutes and 16 seconds.

He finished in 3,850th place ahead of five other competitors.

The record-holder took up running 11 years ago after his wife and son died and runs 10 miles every day.

Mr Singh previously held the title of fastest marathon runner in the 90-plus category, covering the distance in five hours, forty minutes and 1 second at the age of 92.

He attributes his success to ginger curry, cups of tea and “being happy”.


Fauja Singh took up marathon running after his 89th birthday and has now completed seven races.

He holds the world record for the men’s over-90 category after completing the 2003 Toronto marathon in five hours and 40 minutes.

The 100-year-old now hopes to take part in the Edinburgh 26.2-mile race as part of a four-man relay team with an average age of 86.

Launching the opening of entries for the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2012, he said: “I am not a learned person in any shape or form. To me, the secret is being happy, doing charity work, staying healthy and being positive.

“If someone says I must stop running I ignore them – invariably they’re younger than me. The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. If there’s something you can’t change then why worry about it?

“Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running.”
Born in India on April 1 1911, Fauja was a farmer in the Punjab when he first developed a love for running, but he only took

the sport seriously when he moved to the UK 50 years later. He started challenging other pensioners to races and has now run five marathons in London, one in Toronto and one in New York.

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Oct 172011

You can read some marathon tips from ULTRAfitnessTraining’s own William Sichel here at the UK-Muscle forum

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Oct 052011

Airborne running using a chin / pull-up bar offers a range of Personal Training Services including designing individual Training Plans & Programmes and providing on-going Training Advice & Support.

We work with everyone from beginners and those trying to get fit through to elite level athletes.

Please feel free to get in touch on



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