Posts Tagged 'Training'

Yes, You Need More Than Just You

Last Saturday morning I woke up, facing into my seventh and eighth training sessions in four days and I struggled. As my care assistant knocked the door, let himself in and made his way up the stairs in my house, I wanted to tell him to turn around and let me sleep on.

I want to write this blog to tell you that I can only do what I do because of people and the strategies that they help me to keep in place. Good people. It made me think of all of you who are part of Run in the Dark: training, struggling with training, fundraising, volunteering and setting up pop-ups. I suspect that the good people around you are as important to you as they are to me. Whether it’s a running partner or someone to watch your kids when you’re training or a good physiotherapist. We need more than just us to get where we want to go. It’s the only way. I am sure of it.

So, when last Saturday, my care assistant knocked the door, let himself in and made his way up the stairs in my house and I wanted to tell him to turn around and to let me sleep on, (not because I am lazy or just don’t fancy it, but because it’s hard and I’m tired and eight sessions in four days is a tough schedule with work and life and all it involves), I said nothing. And this was only because I knew that in 90 minutes time Simon O’Donnell, my South Pole teammate turned rehab teammate would be waiting in the gym to help me train and Dr. Neil Fleming, the post-doctoral research fellow that we fund, would be ready to capture the data.

My care assistant, Chris came into my room, I transferred onto my shower chair and rolled into the shower. He got my clothes, I dressed and we headed to the lab. Simon, Neil, Chris and I together completed 30 minutes of standing me at a squat rack completing single knee bends, alternate knee bends, double leg straightens and squats.

Then I completed my usual hour of spinal electrical stimulation while walking in my robot.

The reason I am doing it is clear to me – I want and have a shot at treating, if not curing my and others paralysis. I am the only person in the world so far who’s fortunate enough to trial this combination of electrical stimulation, drug and walking. But even when the future benefit is clear, my present self (the tired self who wants to sleep) trumps the future self (the paralysed man who is getting some way better). Even where there can be no clearer incentive for me to commit to every training session, I need strategies and good people to guard against my present self failing. People I cannot and will not let down.

So, now, at the end of another day with an early morning in the gym tomorrow, I think about that Run In The Dark red river of light that will flow through the streets on Wednesday the 11th of November carrying me along with it ( I think about the 25,000 people right around the world pulling on running shoes and going training and how you’ve helped me to get out of bed, to go to the lab. Over the last few years I’ve met so many people with different reasons for running: some run in the dark as first timers with the aim of finishing, some are there to win, some are there for their loved ones who are injured and so many are there to help us fast-track a cure for paralysis, to be on this most exciting of expeditions. Runners, walkers, volunteers, committees, professionals and sponsors, look after yourselves, get help and support from others to do so, and know that I couldn’t do this without you.

Mark at the Run In The Dark Start in 2013

Battery-powered team-mates

For years I’ve been banging on about the importance of getting the right team around you…and this post is not going to dispute that. However, over the last week I added an electronic team-mate to the group.

A talking heart rate monitor from Oregon Scientific – the AH310 – is the new addition. It’s a heart-rate monitor chest strap with a built-in earphone jack in the chest belt. Through the ear phones I get periodic updates on what my heart rate is and I’m blown away by the impact it is having.

When I could see I used to use a whole suite of electronic equipment to measure my progress on a given day – electronic read outs on rowing machines, speedos on bikes and heart rate monitors when rowing, running, swimming or anything else. I was constantly checking and rechecking my progress against previous performance.

Sometimes I was ahead, sometimes I was behind but the point is that I had something to work off. But when I lost my sight I lost my training independence. From 1998 until today, unless I had a willing team-mate to either set the pace or read my scores out then I was completely on my own. I rarely, if ever, got off a piece of exercise equipment or out of the pool feeling like I had done enough. And for years I have found motivating myself for training a real drag.

The races and adventures have been amazing but getting my training right has been really tough. For example, back in 2006 I did most of my training on my own and eventually managed to over-train myself. I was training for Ironman Switzerland (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and then a marathon) and was scared of not doing enough training. Pushing myself to the point where I became over-trained was, in no small part, due to a lack of feedback. For the most part I relied on perceived effort (difficult if you don’t have an initial mark to base the perceived effort on) and far too much time spent in the pool, on a stationary bike and on treadmills. The result was that my performances dropped dramatically, I was really down in the dumps and my weight shot up.

The over training, I believe came about due to 2 factors: firstly, I had very little feedback on how hard I was training which resulted in me doing far too much and secondly, I wasn’t fuelling my body for the effort I was putting in (but I didn’t really know how much effort I was putting in!)

Today, I’ve learned lots about the importance of nutrition and hydration but until I put my new talking heart rate monitor on for the first time, my work rate in training remained a mystery. Now, talking heart rate monitor in place, I seem to be motivated to train again on my own. This simply hasn’t happened since 1998 when I could see. I’m training more effectively, enjoying it and am even eating better than I have for ages.

Maybe, just maybe, this simple piece of electronic kit is the missing team-mate that I’ve been looking for. I’ll reserve judgement and see if my enthusiasm lasts but right now the heart rate monitor is in the team!


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