Run the Wild Times

Exploring places... not running races.

2016 Summer Issue - No.10

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Welcome to Run the Wild's Summer newsletter! 
The sun has arrived! Which means the snow on the high passes in the Alps has begun to thaw and we will soon be starting this year's trips around the Mt Blanc area. Long days and warm evenings, mixed in with some stunning trail runs make truly memorable running adventures.  In this issue we look at the risks of overtraining, give advice on trail etiquette and present the penultimate installment of our series on map reading. We hope you enjoy our latest articles and look forward to seeing you out on the trails sometime soon!

The Team @ Run the Wild

A Step Too Far - Overreaching and Overtraining Syndrome in Runners

Jenny Sharpe

We’ve all been there: summer’s here and all you can think about is escaping the confines of the office to run on the trails. It can be tempting to do this every day, but a word of caution. More attention is rightly being placed on runners having a greater personal awareness of their training schedules and response to each session to avoid overreaching or, worse still, falling into the trap of overtraining.

Overreaching can be put into two categories; functional and non-functional. Functional overreaching (FO) is the act of intentionally training beyond your comfort zone briefly, for example through increased mileage or pace, followed by a return to lighter training. This encourages your body to adapt to increased stresses, resulting in improved overall performance. When you train beyond your comfort zone without the adequate rest to reap the benefits, you enter non-functional overreaching (NFO). NFO can cause you to feel fatigued, have altered sleep, a poor appetite, experience stress and anxiety or altered mood. You can often also notice greater difficulty with training sessions you have breezed through in the past or slower times for routine tempo runs with no specific cause. You may also experience reduced motivation and focus. Typically, these symptoms resolve by taking a break from sport (for 2 weeks or more) and prioritising sleep and recovery. When in NFO, you forgo the associated benefits of FO and, if ignored, overtraining syndrome (OTS) can develop. OTS is characterised by NFO symptoms alongside persistently poor and even worsening performance in training sessions or races in spite of weeks or months of rest and stopping all training.

Overreaching and overtraining are most commonly seen in elite athletes, but it is not unusual to see amateur runners who have become carried away with their training to also suffer the consequences. The exact physiological causes of NFO and OTS are not fully understood, but certain triggers can be:

- Sudden increase in any of the following aspects of training - intensity, length, load,   frequency
- Monotony of training causing repeated load on tissues
- Lack of rest days to allow recovery
- Increased day-to-day stressors e.g. lack of sleep, work/life stress
- Poor nutrition

If you recognise some of the listed symptoms in yourself, it's always worth trying a few weeks of rest from training, focusing on maximising sleep, eating well and keeping activity to an easy and gentle level. If the symptoms remain unchanged despite this conscious effort to recuperate for more than 2 weeks, it is worth visiting your GP for a professional opinion. There is no diagnostic test for NFO or OTS but you may be asked about your training history and have blood tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

To recognise the symptoms of NFO or OTS you need to be honest with yourself and halt their development as early as possible. This can be achieved in a number of ways, and they are just as important to consider whether you’re an experienced runner or a complete newbie!

Here are the main areas to focus on to prevent overtraining:
  1    Consult a professional coach - this can be done face to face or online if needed. They can provide a well-balanced programme with weekly training/rest as well as encouraging functional overreaching with appropriately timed increases followed by recovery and consolidation.
  2    Keep a training diary - Record details such as distance, pace, time and perceived effort. You can also include details on sleep quality, stress and even muscle soreness felt from previous sessions. Making a note of these aspects can help you identify a trend of diminishing performance and the need to take a recovery week.
  3    Mix up your training - Consider including some non-impact exercise as part of your training routine to rest from the impact of running. Remember that the same rules apply with gradual introduction of time, intensity etc.
  4    Increase training slowly and use the rule of 5% - Increase training hours/km per week by 5% only. Monitor your response in your diary and be prepared to not make further increases (or even reduce the load again) if you notice signs of increasing strain or fatigue.
  5    Be flexible with your training plan - Adapt your training to suit how you feel. You’ll get more benefit from changing your ‘easy’ day for your ‘hill-sprints’ day if you’re feeling tired and run down. Just remember to then ensure you don’t end up doing two hard training days back to back! 
  6    ‘Easy’ days mean EASY - Take easy sessions at a conversational pace and use these days to focus on form, fluidity and breathing steadily. Cater your route to suit so that you can just enjoy running. These days are vital for letting the body recovery from harder sessions before.
  7    Rest - Kenyan runners in Iten sleep for long periods between training runs and they are some of the most consistently successful runners in the world! This is unrealistic for us amateurs fitting running around work hours, but it is just as important to include at least one day in your week which is as restful as possible.

Remember, be patient, be consistent and just enjoy the training process. If managed correctly, you’ll get much better results on your runs with lower weekly mileage and far fewer injuries. Enjoy the trails!

Kremer J.B and Schwartz J.B, ‘Overtraining syndrome: A practical Guide’, Athletic Training, 2012; 14(2)
Myrick K.M, ‘Overtraining and overreaching syndrome in athletes’, Journal for Nursing Practitioners, 2015;11(10)
Meeusen R, Duclos M et al, ‘Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: Joint consensus statement of European College of Sports Science and American College of Sports Medicine’, 2013; 45(1)!

Written by Jenny Sharpe, a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist working at the Hospital St John’s and St Elizabeth’s in London whilst studying for a Masters in Sport and Exercise Medicine. She loves running and helping to keep fellow runners on track!

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Rules of the trail - what is trail etiquette?

In the last few years there really has been an explosion in the number of people undertaking some activity outdoors. This is great news for the health of the nation and it's important that we get out there and have our own adventure! But as trail running, and other outdoor pursuits become ever more popular, the need to adhere to some basic etiquette has become increasingly important for everyone's enjoyment of the countryside. Here we suggest a few things to think through while out and about and hopefully mean that we can all enjoy the countryside together for many generations to come.

1 Leave nothing but footprints
It has been said before, and will be said many times again, but respect for your environment is vital to ensure longevity to the outdoor world. In Europe, we are very fortunate to have some wonderful national parks. These are often the breathing space for most of our precious wildlife and we must be considerate both as visitors and as patrons of this world. Never leave any litter, or expect anyone else to clean up after you! Take a litter bag with you, you will come across a bin sooner or later, and if you managed to carry the cargo in, you can surely carry it back out again. Even better if you spot some litter on route you can bag it and carry it out. 

2 When i said leave nothing but footprints...I only mean on the TRAIL itself!
Don't be tempted to take a shortcut or head off trail to inspect an interesting tree/plant/animal at closer quarters. Not only could you damage the flora and fauna now, but it also simply means there will be less for us to see in the future if we trample over existing plants and disturb wildlife. In the UK, the National Trust has even taken drastic measures this year in Ashridge Forest, charging visitors to see the bluebells in spring time, so that rangers can be provided over the busiest weekends to make sure visitors stay on the footpaths and don't damage the delicate plants.Realistically we have a wealth of footpaths and many which fall into misuse so it's better to check out an old trail that make your own!

3 What to do about the call of nature?
It has happened to us all, whether in a race, when nerves and over hydration nearly always result in needing a portaloo 5 minutes after the starting gun, or simply when out on an exploratory run over many miles. Even Paula Radcliffe can testify to that! The best answer is to wait till you come across the next toilet facilities, but clearly that might not always be possible! However, with a little planning in advance you can mark off possible stops, such as pubs, make sure you ask first, and perhaps offer a contribution to the counter collection box or even stop for a quick drink - although this could cause a never ending cycle of cause and effect! Failing this, make sure you head at least 50m away from any water source, (ideally along a relatively disused trail) and also away from the footpath (this is the loophole for point 2 above), then dig a small hole with a twig, rock, or your shoe, to bury your waste, so nobody else has to make a nasty discovery. Toilet paper should either be taken away with you, or buried in the hole and covered over. 

4 Who has priority?
Don't get involved in trail rage! Pretend it's the 60s again and just chill. It can be easy to be self righteous when out on the trails. We get it, it's your own patch and then suddenly a group of slow fair weather walkers suddenly clog up the trail, surely they don't have as much right to be on the trail as I do?! Wrong! There is always somewhat of a strange rivalry between walkers, runners, cyclists, horse riders, dog owners, and buggy pushers. Common sense should always prevail but often doesn't. Basically the quicker you are travelling, the more you should be aware of other users, and be prepared to be accommodating. Not everyone will be aware of you approaching them from behind, so whether its a strategic cough, a comedy bike horn or even a comment to your fellow runner, give people a chance to see you, and don't creep up and startle them. This raises another point, it's best to leave ipod at home or at least have one ear clear! It always amazes me how easily many conflicts between dogs and runners could be easily avoided if everyone gave each other a heads up, some time and some space. Give dog walkers a chance to get their dogs on leads. Horses should always be given priority as they can easily spook, and I think most of us would prefer not to cause a fall for the rider or to have a hoof to the head. So be patient, be considerate, be friendly even if the other trail user is not, and if your run takes an extra 2 minutes because of obstructions, you have been lucky to have 2 extra minutes outside. Run like it's the 60s again. Peace.

5 When in Rome
When you are running trails outside of your local area, particularly in foreign countries, spare a considerate thought for the local culture, religion and traditions of the area. Also respect others' privacy with regards to their land, including taking any photos. In France, during winter, land boundaries above 1000 metres become obsolete. This doesn't mean that strolling through someone's garden, leaving them snow angels as they sit having their breakfast, is going to get you a good reception! Countries which have shrines on the paths, may not be appreciative of you taking selfies alongside the Virgin Mary effigy. You'll learn more about the people and the places you visit and make it a richer experience for all.

6 Safety First
Get the gear right! This is really important for running in more technical terrain but it's important to be prepared on all footpaths. If you go through your planning process on the smaller runs then you won't be baffled by a more complex one. Don't be the person who allows an ego or poor planning to leave them out in the cold, literally! Have you got the supplies to get you out and back? Do you have the fitness? Do you know your route? When you pack your trail bag, take the things you know you will need, and then also think about what other items you are likely to need and if you didn't have, would create more dire consequences. Ok, so maybe it's not raining now, but if you are heading out for a 8 hour training run, it's worth checking the forecast and packing a light rain mac just in case, to keep you dry and warmer. Maybe you plan to get back before dark, however it still might be best to carry a head torch just in case you are out for longer or worse twist your ankle. Don't have a plan that might need to use the Mountain Rescue! But if you do find yourself in that situation, knowing that you can look after yourself and knowing where you are will really help. Pack light but pack smart! 

Written by Karin Voller, Ultrarunner, Canicross runner and Head of Logistics

Geographically Challenged? Part V

How to get your bearings

Welcome to Part V and the penultimate article in this series. We have covered a lot of ground since the series started a year ago so it may be worth checking back through the old issues to make sure you have it all sussed. Over this series, we have looked at what you can see in front of you, as well as how that relates to a map and just as importantly, vice-versa. We also covered contours, the history of north and how to find north using a compass. In the last issue we showed you how to find your way around just using the natural features of the landscape in front of you, as well as some neat tricks using shadows, the stars and the moon. Now, it's time to get the compass out again. This time building on the knowledge we have, I want to show you how to first work out precisely where you are on the map, and second, how to find a location precisely using your compass by walking (running if you get good) on a bearing.

The first thing is to work out where you are precisely on a map. We did this in an approximate way before, in an earlier part of the series, by looking around your location and finding identifiable features so that you can triangulate your position, by relating the map to the ground and the ground to the map. This more accurate method using the compass, starts in very much the same way. Look around your location and find 2 features that you can easily and precisely locate on the map. Now imagine there is there is a line from you to each of those features, if that were the case then those 2 lines would also exist on the map, and where you are standing would be the intersection of those 2 lines. Let's find it. Get your compass and then point it at the first feature you have identified, let's call it point A. Then whilst looking at the compass and carefully keeping the direction arrow of the compass base plate, pointed at point A, rotate the needle housing round until the red of the compass needle fits squarely inside the red arrow of the needle housing. Then read off the bearing or number of degrees shown in the highlighted area of the needle housing. Now this is the bearing of you looking at the feature, and if you followed that bearing now (by following the base plate arrow / direction of travel arrow) and maintaining the red end of the needle inside the red arrow you would eventually arrive at point A. But what we really need is the bearing from the perspective of point A looking back at your current location. Which is a complete 180 degree turn. So if the amount of degrees you first read is less than 180, add 180 and if it's more take 180 away. This will be your first back bearing. Make a note of it. Now here comes the final tricky bit of maths. Remember we had to account for map north vs magnetic north? (If not check again through the back issues), well since we need that back bearing to take this factor into account, since we are going to draw it on the map, we need to adjust this bearing. In order to do so, you will need to check what the current adjustment is for the year and the location by searching online. But for this example the difference is about 2 degrees, and at the moment you would take 2 degrees away from your back bearing (you may have heard of this helpful rhyme: MAG to GRID, get rid, GRID to MAG, add - where MAG = magnetic needle of the compass and GRID = gridlines of the map). 2 degrees is a lot of difference if the feature you are looking at is a long way (0.5km out for 16kms) off so don't be tempted to miss it out. So now lay your compass onto the map, dial in the adjusted back bearing and put the long edge of the compass on point A. Then move the compass around until the needle housing lines are parallel with the north-south lines on the map. Draw a line, you are somewhere along this line! Now repeat all these steps with point B. At the intersection of the 2 drawn lines, this is your location! I understand this is quite a lot to take in but with practice it becomes quick and effective. So having covered back bearings we also inadvertently included walking along a bearing to a location we want to reach that we can see (this was the bearing before taking or adding 180 degrees).

What if, and this is the most usual requirement for a compass and a map, you want to find a location that you cannot see, but know where you are currently. This time lay the compass on the map and place the long edge of the compass from your known position to that of where you want to be, point C. Rotate the needle housing round until the north-south lines of the needle housing are parallel with those of the map. Read off the bearing. You need to now make an adjustment for the fact you are going to translate a map based bearing into a magnetic one. So using the previous method and adjustment in the back bearings we would need to add 2 degrees to the reading (GRID to MAG, add), do this now by moving the needle housing to read off the lower bearing. Lift the compass off the map whilst being careful to keep the bearing set the same. Now hold the compass in both hands just in front of your stomach, the direction of travel arrow should be pointing directly away from you. Now rotate yourself maintaining the same stance until the red end of the compass needle sits squarely inside the red arrows of the needle housing. This is the direction you need to walk whilst keeping the red needle inside the red arrows of the needle housing, to get to point C. Clearly you need to also measure the distance from your location to point C on the map, that way you can work out how far you will need to go. Also a couple words of warning, take care not to drift off course, if you do, you will happily be on a bearing which takes you parallel to point C, but never actually find point C! The best way to avoid this is to head to closer features which are along the same bearing and will keep you from drifting, the smaller the legs (point to point move) the more accurate you will be. Good luck!

My final point, is for you to consider how you would get to one of these locations, be it a race checkpoint or mountain peak. It's not just about direction. You need to work out a route, one that takes you over reasonable terrain. This may mean you need to think about interim destinations and not following a bearing blindly which could take you off cliffs or through swamps! The other thing to consider, is whether it might be better to head first for a more easily locatable feature before then heading directly to your final feature. Or using something known as a "handrail" like a stream or fence that takes you to the feature but is less direct, the payoff being you are less likely to go wrong.

The next newsletter and the last in this series, we will look at other navigational aids like GPS devices, when they can be useful and when they can be misleading. It's worth practicing the above bearing taking methods as if you get everything that we have presented over this series nailed, you should never get lost! 

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