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  • Richard Cash

170. Habits - Breaking Out of a Rut

After taking a few months out of any meaningful and structured training, I find myself in a rut. I started week 1 of the New year, raring to go. Trained hard that week, and then boom... ill. January is a shitty month. It's dark, it's cold, it's long and it's wet (especially in the UK). It's typically a month of lethargy, misery and woe in the world. The Christmas come-down, and fallout from the over indulgence of the holiday season. It's motivation sapping. In some respect, it was good to get illness out of the way. In another, it was frustrating having to build momentum yet again. This last week sees me building the preparation phase of my training and targeting a £100K challenge in just over 6 months time in the Peak District. And yet it feels like I'm in a rut. Just like Conan, year after year on the 'Wheel of Pain', there's this need to break free.

It's not fucking fun at all to see your fitness stats off the back of my 300k challenge, just be eradicated simply because I needed the time off. My body needed that rest to heal. But it leaves me falling way short of where I was. But this leaves me feeling in a rut. Unenthusiastic, looking at a mountain to climb yet again to get back and exceed where I was. There are two ways of approaching this: Train randomly until I feel like I'm ready to push, or look at a progressive step-by-step move forward. With everything I've learned over the last few years, I choose the structured process.

So how to break out of the rut? Step 1 - Choose a goal. One that excites me, scares me, and I am accountable for. I have this in the Peak District 100Km Ultra at the start of July. Step 2 - Make it mean something. Why is this important to me? I'm 50 this year. Last year I had to retire at 60k in a 100k challenge due to Heat Stroke. I have unfinished business. I also have a drone camera (which is fricking awesome BTW!) so want to get some cool footage for posterity. I also want this to be a step stone to a big ultra adventure that, sadly, time won't allow this year. But the work this year can set me up for an amazing experience next! I previously mentioned about an Iceland mountain and volcano adventure. The window is too short with work, home and family commitments to get that in this summer. But I'm looking to 2025 for that next-level of journey. In the meantime, there is a huge amount I can do.

Now these are perfectly reasonable goals. I'm off the back of a savage challenge last year that I can still feel in parts of my body when I run. It took more out of me than I realised at the time... though it was worth it, of course.

The big question is how to get my spring and mojo back to make this all possible?

It Starts with Habits

I'm identifying the habits that I need to build, that create the shift and the momentum for consistent progress. I've built these before, but also recognise that I've slacked off the last few months in a big way. I'm also looking at throwing in a few new habits that should also help. I touched on Habits in my last post along with key areas to focus upon. Next is joining it up better, and that looks a little like this:

  • Eat Habit

    • A constant challenge for me, but small salad starter & glass of water before with main meal,

    • High protein, high fibre, probiotics (Kefir), clean carbs,

    • 1 cheat day per week,

    • increasing protein intake (seeds, nuts, etc)

    • Protein after training above Zone 2 or weights

  • Strength Habit

    • every other day work on my achilles/calf/soleus strengthening for 10 minutes

    • Twice a week weight training - hip/hamstring/glute and core/upper body for 20 minutes

    • Once a week dynamic session - kettlebell swing intervals or good-mornings/power-cleans (incorporated into one weight training session)

  • Run Speed / Run Strength Habit

    • Alternate weekly Hill Sprint or Flat Sprint repeats

    • Add Fartleks / Fast Finish / strides to Zone 2 (aerobic) runs once a week

    • Tempo run once a week

    • Long run (easy 10% increments) once a week. I've been way too guilty of going too long too quickly. The long run can be at either zone 1 or Zone 2 pace. It's simply time on trail and time on feet.

  • Recovery Habit

    • Sleep - 8 hours (even on early-run days)

    • Stretch/Massage - simple basic stretching, mobilisation and massage daily (not getting any younger!)

    • Walk / Zone 1 - Daily walking 20-30 mins. No excuses. Recovery work

Lots of little daily, weekly habits to focus upon. Small steps across different aspects should add up to big changes over the long term. It looks like a lot, but simple things such as doing some achilles strengthening work while making coffee/breakfast each morning; Getting home and jumping on my kettlebell or dumbells for 20 minutes; going for a 20-30 minute stroll at lunch; or stretching and massaging key areas (lower legs, ankles, back, calves, hamstrings, etc) while watching a little TV at the end of a day are easy to implement. The structured run and strength sessions are a given and need proper planning so that I'm not overtraining or overreaching in my effort. I'm working on the format for this as we speak with these new habits in mind. The challenge is sticking to them. 28 Days

It takes 28 days to build a new habit and for it to stick. It is my end of Feb mission to have as much of the above working as my 'new normal' as possible by then. It means accountability and discipline, as well as cognitive effort to keep it front and centre in mind while the habit forms. After 28 days it should feel part of my everyday, in the same way showering does. Yes, there will be the odd slip. Life happens. But success is built on good habits that run over time. I have time. None of these are drastic, and my aim here is to make it sustainable. Not just up to the 100K later this year, but across the years to come. Climbing out of a rut, is simply about momentum in the right direction. Changing the inputs to change the outcomes. Getting the habits in place that move you on the positive trajectory is the secret to building success... in anything. That requires energy applied at the right level, on the right actions, consistently. Just like an ultramarathon, it takes effort, time and consistency to get from where you start to where you end up. Some go fast, some go slow, but all go one step at a time. Thanks for reading...

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