During November & December last year I took part in the Thirty Day Challenge, a free online set of training drills aimed at improving your running. Ultimately I failed the challenge which is why I have hesitated to write anything about it. Over the last few weeks though I've come to realise that I still gained a lot from it and will soon be repeating it to see how I get on second time around.
I've followed the James Dunne and his Kinetic Revolution webiste on twitter for a while now and read many of his articles, watched videos and so on; the thirty day challenge has routinely popped up in my in box inviting me to take it on and "Run stonger - Run faster". So with the long drawn out process of trying to rehab my achilles preventing me from putting in any serious mileage and a realisation that I needed to build myself back up to fitness slowly and methodically, taking advantage of this moment in time to actually do some cross training and strength work seemed a no brainer. I'm no athlete, I generally follow a fairly well structured plan when training for a race, but all the other stuff like eating properly, staying off the beer and hitting the gym are less evident in my preparations. Perhaps that is why I'm injured? I'm also under no illusions, running needs to be fun, I'm not in contention for any kind of podium place, even in my age group, so there's no reason to get too excited about it all. That said I do want to be as good as I can be and I definately want to get stronger and prevent further injury.
The course is divided into 6 sections of 6 days. Each section concentrates on a particular aspect, aiming to increase flexibility and strength and concentrating largely on the hips.
The first section felt easy enough and really lured me into a false sense of security with some easy but unflattering balance and stretching routines - when someone walks in on you doing the abductor stretch you'll know what I mean!
Section two was more about strength - some of these involved an element of balance - the single leg dead lift for instance - and revealed to me some serious weaknesses, especially on my left leg.
In the thrid section there was more stretching - I found areas within my hips I never knew about - and some basic plyometrics - hopping on one leg for instance. The latter part worried me as my achilles seemed to feel it more than I'd like but there seemed not to be any lasting effects.
Section four was resistance band work - oh good a nice easing in difficulty. Err.. no. Actually found this really hard and although I was familiar with some of these exercises they really worked me hard. James has created a series of alternatives for anyone unable to get their hands on a resistance band so there are no excuses!
Finally came section five - here the routines were all running drills concentrating on form, and it is here where things fell apart I'm afraid. My achilles to flared up a bit (delayed onset from the plyometrics or just bad luck?) and this combined with the advent (sorry) of Christmas, meant I missed the last few days.
I've read a lot of comments from people who have done the course saying they set a PB during or straight after; this wasn't the case for me, though no surprises there as I am still rehabbing my achilles. Over the last few weeks though I've noticed that I keep accidentally running too fast! My easy pace over 6 miles has increased and on some harder efforts I've found myself going much quicker than I had intended. Now there is too much at play to point purely to this course but I'm certainly very aware of the way I drive my hips back now.
I found out a lot over the month I was doing the challenge: my balance, especially when moving my centre of gravity, is appalling and needs work; my hips flexors are weak and my left leg is especially lazy (I knew this already but this course really underlined it).
James obviously wants us to be inspired by his free coaching to sign up for some paid stuff - asking us to unlock our "free speed". For now I'm going to repeat these exercises until they don't feel like they are killing me and hopefully next time around I'll get to the end of the course.
Here's the link for anyone who is interested: http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/30daychallenge/