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Nov 032015

The 3Rs of Training

by Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe

Remember the 3-Rs of training :runners-635906_640

Relaxation     Rest     Recovery

A few aphorisms from Shaun :

“A time for recovery between exercise sessions is not just desirable, it is inevitable.”

“You either plan your life (training and work etc) to allow for sufficient recovery, or, eventually, you are forced to stop in order to recover.”

“In the long term you cannot choose not to allow time for recovery – but you can choose when to allow time to recover”


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Nov 022015

runners-373099_640Achieving Your Goals – The A.I.M. Approach

by Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe


Effective goal setting means defining specific aims and targets that are

1) (with time and effort) actually Attainable

2) Clearly Identified

3) In some way Measurable

Think of this as AIM –

Attainable – Identified – Measurable

– and ask yourself if your goal meets these criteria?

For example, being able to run for 50 miles, or to run a half-marathon in 2hrs 30 mins are examples of effective, clearly defined goals.

I) They are attainable if you practice long enough and hard enough.

II) They are clearly identified not simply a vague desire to improve.

III) They can be measured allowing you to know if you are improving, if you are getting closer to achieving your goal, and/or when you have achieved/surpassed Image7the goal.

Examples of poorly defined – and thus less effective – goals would be things like “getting fitter” (How will you determine if you are fitter?) or “running faster” (At what speed and under what conditions? For how long? Over what distance?) – etc. These are poorly defined and thus ineffective goals – they do not allow for an easy way to measure progress or define success in achieving the goal.

Defining goals is the most important first step.

Having defined your goals, training can then be planned by determining what you need to do in training in order to achieve your goals.

Having clear goals then also helps keep you motivated and focused during training.

Effective goal setting usually means the goal should contain a measurable element.

Running a specific distance is something that can be measured.

Deadlift - photo 2Lifting a specific weight is something that can be measured.

Achieving a specific speed or time is something that can be measured.

If a goal itself is measurable this means that progress towards a goal can also be measured.

If you wish to be able to run 26 miles and at present you can manage to run 10 miles, then if in training you develop the ability to run 15 miles you are improving and moving closer to achieving your goal.

Having a poorly defined goal does not allow easily measurable and quantifiable progress; if your goal was to “run further” would being able to run 15 miles mean you have already achieved your goal, or that you still have a long way to go? How far is far?Is you current performance a small improvement or a huge improvement?

Clearly defining your goals allows suitable training to be chosen and it allows you to measure your progress (and thus tell if the training is working).


William Olympic Torch 2012

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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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Nov 252012

From a post by ULTRAfitnessTraining’s Shaun Brassfield-Thopre on William Sichel’s blog at http://www.williamsichel.co.uk/?p=8039

There are always 101 invisible things that contribute to any top-quality sporting performance.

There is a great deal that we have changed with William Sichel’s training for ultra-distance racing as the years have gone by (recently this has included introducing maximum level loaded walking with William carrying roughly his own bodyweight for 15 mins at a time, weighted step training, advanced breathing exercises originating from the martial art of Stav, depth drops to improve his plyometric ability, drag training on a treadmill, supersets of partial range deadlifts and squats, all while running a low weekly mileage – just to name a small few).

As William gets older his training gets tougher – and so does he. At a time of life (William is now 59) when most people are starting to think that getting up off the sofa is a bit like hard training, William isn’t content to try to maintain his current performance levels. He is still always looking to improve – and then to keep improving. Obviously that’s the only way one can set a PB or break a record – you don’t get better by doing less work than you’ve done before!

One thing that has changed considerably for this race is William’s in-race nutrition.

This is the first multi-day race William has attempted while on an extremely low carbohydrate diet.

Low-carb diets are becoming increasingly popular for both overall health and sporting purposes but they still tend to raise a few eyebrows among the general public, most of whom have for many years been bombarded with the message that fats are bad for you and that carbohydrate is essential in a normal diet – and doubly so for an athlete.

It is quite commonly recommended that a runner should consume around 60gms of carbohydrate per hour (generally as simple sugars) when running.

In practical terms, in an effectively non-stop ultra-distance event of this kind that would add up to around 1440gms daily – nearly 1.5kg or about 1 and a half bags of sugar – and that is per 24hrs of running.

As this is an 8 day race, were William to have followed this kind of advice he’d have been trying to consume the equivalent of nearly 12kgs / 26.4 lbs of sugar during the event!

In reality William has never been able to consume any where near this amount of carbohydrate (doing so for an hour or two is no problem, but William cannot sustain that sort of carbohydrate intake indefinitely as it causes him gastro-intestinal problems).

Instead, William has been taking no added carbohydrate whatsoever during the entire race; the only carbs he’s been having have come in the form of a (relatively small) amount of lactose in the milk he has been drinking (lactose is naturally occurring milk-sugar), plus a fairly minimal amount from vegetables with his meals.

William has been taking a moderate – not high – amount of protein, but most of his energy has been coming from fats.

Healthy fats – and lots of them – from both natural foods including eggs, cheese, mayonnaise, olive oil, butter, cream, coconut oil etc, and as a medium chain triglyceride oil supplement (which being in liquid form is easier for him to take in a drink).

William has been “fat adapted” for a long time (partly because as he cannot consume huge amounts of carbohydrate over long periods, he has trained himself to run using his bodyfat as his major fuel source).

However, over the last couple of months he has taken this a stage further by virtually cutting out carbohydrate from his diet altogether and consuming less than 50gms of carbs per day (in simple terms that is equivalent to about 2 slices of wholemeal bread).

One of the big advantages to using dietary fat rather than dietary carbohydrate as a main fuel source during an ultra-endurance event of this kind is that gram for gram, fat has around twice as many calories as carbohydrate. Which in turn means that William can eat the same sized meal or drink the same amount of fluid, but gain twice the number of calories per portion.

Has this worked? While there will be much that we will learn from his 8-day race experience and undoubtedly much that we can improve upon for his next race, the short answer is clearly a big “yes”.

Quite obviously managing to run over 1000 kms in less than 8 days while consuming remarkably little carbohydrate is pretty clear proof that fats can fuel even the most arduous of sporting performances…

Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe – www.ULTRAfitnessTraining.com

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Jul 262012

Instability Cushion Ankle Circles

William Sichel of ULTRAfitnessTraining.com demonstrates an ankle exercise.

This exercise can improve :

  • General & Specific Balance
  • General & Specific Proprioceptivity
  • Ankle Mobility
  • Ankle Flexibility
  • Ankle, Calf & Achilles Tendon Strength

ULTRAfitnessTraining.com 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.

ULTRAfitnessTraining.com is co-run by multiple World Record holding ultra-distance runner William Sichel and expert training advisor Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe

Please feel free to get in touch on


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Jul 212012
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