Finding the flow…..

As anyone who reads this blog will know, competitive sports has been a big part of my life. After 10 years of cycle racing, I transitioned to running in 2017, but the way we approach training for both sports is similar.

Most people will follow what’s called a periodised training programme. At a macro level, this typically involves training ‘hard’ for 3 weeks, followed by a lighter ‘recovery’ week. It’s a rhythm that you fall into; it becomes the natural flow of your life.

At a micro level, those training weeks are also a mix of ‘on’ and ‘off’ time, which allows the body to recover from hard sessions. Here’s how my typical training week looks:

  • Monday – Rest day. This allows me to recover from the weekend’s efforts
  • Tuesday – Intervals. This will be a hard session that stresses the body. The specific content will depend upon what ‘period’ of training we’re in. My coach will lay down what the session entails and what physiological system we’re training.
  • Wednesday – Easy run, usually around 30-40 minutes followed by 15-30 minutes strength & conditioning gym work
  • Thursday – Intervals (as Tuesday)
  • Friday – Easy 30 minute shakeout. I used to quite often skip this day, but I’ve found that doing a really easy shakeout helps my body recover from the efforts on Tuesday & Thursday
  • Saturday – Easy run plus strength & conditioning work (as Wednesday)
  • Sunday – Long run or race. The Long Run is a staple of the runner’s programme, and will typically be anywhere from 90 minutes up to 3 hours depending on the events you’re training for. The long run is usually done at an easy pace, however there may be sections where you’ll do a specific training effort. For instance, this morning I ran 45 mins at an easy pace (around 8:50/mile), then the next 45 at 30 seconds faster.

By Monday I need my rest day! Also, because my weekday training is typically done before work, which means getting up around 5am, Monday is a chance for a lie in – well, if 6.30am counts as a lie in! It’s also the day where I try to avoid carbs and eat mainly fats & protein, so it’s a chance to eat something different for breakfast other than porridge….

This is the rhythm that my life follows, week after week; month after month; season after season. It stops being a thing you do, and just becomes you.

Do you follow any kind of training plan? At a macro & micro level? What does your training look like? Let me know!

Running for fun (and PBs!)

Yesterday I did my first half marathon of the year, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had doing a race! The reason? I ran it with my daughter Rebecca.

Becs did the Big Half in London earlier this year, and decided to enter Edinburgh. I was working in London last week, so as well as getting some runs in around Balham (I always stay in an Airbnb near where Becs lives), we also had dinner a couple of times and planned our race.

My job was to help Becs get round in a new PB. I’d be in charge of keeping her hydrated and fed on the way round, as well as pacing her to achieve the PB and, of course, providing entertainment. Becs placed her order for raspberry ripple Torq gels, which I collected from Run4It on Saturday. We’d get water out on the course.

Becs was staying in Edinburgh with some friends, so on Sunday our alarm in Inchture went off at an eye-watering 4am. Eating porridge at that hour is not natural! We left home at 5, were parked up around 6.15 and headed to a Starbucks, where Jo had breakfast. Becs walked up from her Airbnb to meet us, had an espresso, then we made our way up to the start.

We’d left home in glorious sunshine (it’s always sunny in Dundee!), but by the time we hit the new Forth Crossing it was shrouded in fog. As we walked up to the start it was a chilly 9c, breezy and drizzling. Really good running weather as it happens!

Our warm up consisted of a few lunges, squats & stretches, with Becs eschewing any form of run or jog, “why would I want to run, when I’ve got a half marathon to do?”. I could see her logic.

We set off from the back of the National Museum and made our way down to Princes St, along past the Scott Monument, where the first of many photographers were based. Cue smiles and laughter – a mood that we’d keep with us the whole way around. Every time we saw a photographer we’d smile, laugh, maybe do some jazz hands. We were having a great time!

In London at the Big Half Becs said that after 10k she’d really struggled and hadn’t enjoyed the race that much. By the time Edinburgh came round, and she’d done another block of training, she was much stronger and you could see that in the way she ran. She was strong and on top of the pace all day.

I made sure to dole out some dad jokes, just to keep our spirits high. My particular favourite was at the ‘electric bridge’ in Mussleburgh, where Becs pondered that currents must go over the bridge. Straight away I agreed that the bridge we were on (next to it) must be for the raisins! Quality stuff! At least it made her laugh….

Before we knew it we’d hit mile 10 and the long drag out of town up to the turning point. Becs pushed on, not letting the pace drop. Indeed, the last 3 miles were progressively our fastest of the day! I knew that we were on track to hit our target time if we pushed the pace on our last mile. I asked Becs if she could go a little faster – her answer was “no, but I’m going to as we’re nearly finished!”

And so we pushed on, into the last few hundred metres, still laughing, having fun. As we turned into the finishing straight I spotted Joanna and we were able to smile & wave before Becs put the hammer down and gunned it to the line.


We finished in 2:15:33, beating Rebecca’s London time by over 8 minutes. We did it smiling and laughing all the way, having fun and racing together. Without doubt it is the best day (so far) of my running career. Running can be a solitary sport. Most of the training is done in isolation, then you race to try and go faster than before. But at the end, it doesn’t really matter if I run 46 or 45 minutes for a 10k. Life will still go on.

However running a race with someone to help them achieve a goal, now that felt worthwhile. And when it’s your daughter, someone you love with every fibre of your being, and you can have so much fun doing it, then that makes it extra special.

I hope we can do it again sometime soon Rebecca!

Believe in Better

On Saturday evening we went to hear my good friend Lauren Currie speak at the University of Dundee. Lauren is one of the people who’ve inspired me on my journey in the world of design over the last decade, so it’s always a delight to see her.

When she introduces herself on stage she’ll typically say, “I’m Lauren Currie and I believe in better”. It’s a simply phrase, but one that sits at the core of everything she is and does.

Lauren has this ability to make you look at the world in a different way, to see the things that aren’t working, and then to do something about it. All with a focus on social change and making our world better.

It’s become a mantra for me too over the past few years. It’s why I do what I do. Why I get involved in the things that I do. It’s a question I ask of myself each and every day – are you really making things better today?

Let me explain.

My world is the world of business. It’s where I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life. For several years I’ve been trying to find my ‘thing’. Where can I make most impact; how can I help people the most?

It was staring me in the face, and it was my son & business partner Andy who helped me to see it. You see, I’m an accountant. Always have been and always will be. An accountant with an ability to communicate often complex things in an easy to understand way. An accountant who’s embraced the world of design and who believes in better.

That’s why we setup our accounting business last year. We could see that the world of accounting wasn’t delivering what customers needed. Accounting needed to change and we were up for the challenge of leading the way.

We’re now 9 months into the journey and I believe that we’re making a difference. But there’s still lots to be done. We’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Do you believe in better? How can you use your skills and experience to make a positive difference? I’d love to hear your thoughts….

Let’s talk about paper

It’s been a week of talking about paper. Specifically, organisations that continue to insist on printing & sending information to customers, whether they like it or not.

In 2018 there’s really no excuse for doing that. The common refrain is, “well, we’ve always done it like that”. However that doesn’t mean you should be.

Last weekend I recorded a video about accountants posting financial statements to their clients for signing, without any explanation of what these statements mean. It’s a practice that many accountants have used for decades, but what we found in our research before we launched Ashton McGill was that clients really dislike this. They often don’t understand what they’re being asked to sign, it feels cold and impersonal, and there’s no attempt to explain or educate.

That video generated a lot of interest and people shared their individual stories with us. We got a bunch of enquiries on the back of it, and so for we’ve won 3 new clients as a result. There’s a message there for the luddites who insist on continuing to send stuff out in the mail……

The second example this week was a local college whose finance department insist on posting paper invoices out to customers. This seems to be a practice that many education institutions still use. They also expected us to phone them to make payment. I mean, really?!? Their process couldn’t have been less customer-friendly if they had tried.

And yet we see this sort of thing time and time again. Systems designed around the needs of the organisation, without any thought for the user or customer. Systems that are never reviewed, they just do it that way because……..well, because that’s how they’ve always done it.

Surely we can do better than that? You have my email address, you know my name, company, and our physical address (because you insist on mailing stuff there!), so why not email me a copy instead? It’s costing you money to post documents to me. Not only the paper cost, the ink, the envelope, the postage, but also the cost of someone’s time to do this.

Then I’ve got to do something with the paper documents. I’ll sign them if I have to (assuming I understand what I’m signing!), scan them, then email them back to you (see the irony there?) before shredding them. What a waste of time.

So, come on. If you’re the recipient of this type of behaviour, then insist they change (unless you like receiving mail!). And if you’re printing, stuffing envelopes, sticking on a stamp, then mailing them – ask yourself why? More importantly, ask your customers what they want.

We don’t need to print. Not only will it save you time, it’s also better for the environment. It’s time to be better.

Pushing onwards….

A lot has happened since I last posted back in February!

First of all, I raced the Garioch 10k on 25th March. It was a new route compared to when I last raced in 2017, and no longer went past our old house in Inverurie. I do wonder if they’ve kept the original Johanna Basford wallpaper we had in the sitting room – it would be worth a fortune now!

I finished in 46:35, so not a PB, but a good effort early in the season. Reflecting on the race, I took it too easy on the early miles, where I was trying to run within myself, knowing that I had some pretty big hills ahead of me. However my last 2 miles were both much faster, so I had it in me to dig deeper – a case of what could have been, and a useful learning experience.

I was pretty good at putting myself in the pain cave back in my cycling days, and it’s fair to say that I’ve yet to develop that skill as a runner. I’ve since spoken to my coach about this, and we’re going to experiment with a few races to see if we can work on my ability to push into the red zone and hit those faster times.

Speaking of coaches, not long after Garioch I decided to get back in touch with Richard Coates, the London-based coach that I worked with back in 2015. Until then I’d been using an online coaching service, but I was missing the personal interaction with a coach – something I’ve been used to and enjoyed in both my competitive golfing & cycling days.

Fortunately Richard had capacity to take me back on, and so in mid-April we started working together again. It feels like we never stopped and it’s great having a coach that I can speak to and bounce stuff off again, as I mentioned earlier.

Race Schedule

Looking ahead, there are a couple of races on the horizon. First up, on Sunday 20th May, is the BHGE 10k in Aberdeen. Having lived and worked in Aberdeenshire for almost a decade, it’s always fun to go back up there and this should be a good race. It’s going to be pretty flat, a nice change from Garioch, so it’s definitely a chance to run a PB.

The following weekend I’ll be running the Edinburgh Half Marathon, a race that In first ran back in 2015. However this time around I’ll be running it with my daughter Rebecca and I can’t tell you how excited I am to run with Becs!

In between these two races I’ll be spending a week in London, where I’m attending an Accounting Conference. I’ve got a nice wee AirBnb booked in Balham, so I’ll be running around Clapham and Tooting Commons and making sure the legs are ready for my big day with Rebecca.

This week’s training

Here’s what’s on the cards this week coming….

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 6 x 5 mins tempo intervals, with 75 seconds recovery
  • Wednesday – 30 mins easy, 30 mins strength & conditioning. Massage in the evening
  • Thursday – 2 x (5 x 60 second hill reps @ tempo effort). This is a bugger of a workout
  • Friday – 40 mins easy
  • Saturday – Rest day (will probably do a core workout)
  • Sunday – 60 mins progression run

Have a great week!


Training Update

I’ve not blogged much lately, at least not on here. Business has been busy and I’ve been working on building a solid base for a full season of racing. There’s not been a great deal to say to be honest!

Today was the last day of my stamina training phase, and it’s been the toughest week since the marathon back in September. That was mainly down to Thursday’s session, which consisted of 5 x 2000m of tempo intervals. I was doing these at a pace of just under 7:20/mile, and on the track at Aberdeen Sports Village.

The hardest thing about a session like this on the track is the sheer repetition. Each interval was 5 laps of the track. The night before I’d been at the University of Dundee to hear a talk by round-the world cyclist Mark Beaumont, who told the story of his epic world record where he cycled round the world in 80 days back in 2017. To do this, Mark would have to cycle an average of 240 miles a day, and he told us how he broke each day down into 4 hour segments.

So on Thursday evening I channelled Mark’s advice, and broke each interval into 5 laps, just focusing on the current lap and not thinking any further ahead. I’d been slightly nervous about this workout, but before I knew it I’d done 2 intervals, then 3. Once you’ve done 3, you know you’ll manage 4 & 5, and so it turned out. I finished off with 3 x 200m strides, then a cool down, making a total of 11.5 miles on the track. This was a beast of a session!

The winter has progressed steadily without any major issues. I did a base period of 8 weeks, followed by 6 weeks of hills and then the stamina phase. Now it’s time to turn my attention to a race specific plan, and for the Spring this year my focus is going to be on 5k & 10k races. I’m hoping to nudge below 21 minutes for the 5k and 43 for the 10km. Time will tell.

My first race is next Sunday, a 5km race in Edinburgh’s Meadows, where I’ll be racing in my new Brooks Hyperion racing flats for the first time. I don’t have any expectations for this race, it’s more about just getting back into the rhythm of racing. Next up after that is the Garioch 10k on 25th March, the place where I set my current 10k PB back in 2015. The race is held in the town of Inverurie where we lived for almost 10 years, so it’s always nice to go back. It’s a new course this year, but I’ll be confident of dipping under my old PB.

That’s about it for now.

How’s your training going? Any races in the next few weeks?

Hitting the reset button

First up, a happy new year to you! I’ve been offline quite a bit since the end of the year – a conscious decision – so this is my first post in a while.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but recently (around mid-December) I realised that I was wasting too much time on pointless things like TV & social media, and when I sat down and really thought about it (actually, this probably happened on one of my morning runs!), it became clear when this slow drift started to happen.

You see, before I began marathon training in June of last year, I had been meditating daily for well over a year. The practice of meditation helped me not only quiet my mind, but also focus my time and energy on things that mattered most.

As anyone that’s trained for a marathon will know, the training becomes all consuming – it takes over your life – and the only way I could fit it all in was to find more time in my day. And so my meditation practice slowly faded away.

With the marathon well out of the way, a new business launched and going great guns, and a realisation that my mind was getting back to being really busy and thinking about the future, in mid December I decided to start meditating again. I’m now on day 28 and feeling much better for it.

There’s a few other things I’ve started doing too. First up, I’m back to journaling every day again – something else that stopped with marathon training. Now my morning routine consists of getting up around 5.30am, meditating (I use the Headspace app), exercising – usually a run – then making breakfast, brewing some delicious Sacred Grounds coffee, and journaling.

This was my routine before the marathon, and I really feel that it’s beneficial for my physical & mental wellbeing. The other addition this year – and for this one credit goes to my good friend, and recent podcast guest, Chris Marr – is that each morning I’ll read from the Daily Stoic and reflect on that day’s reading. This stuff goes back to Roman times, but it’s as relevant today as it was back then, maybe more so!

I’ve introduced a couple more ‘hacks’ designed to make my life better. In no particular order these are:

  • All notifications on my iPhone are switched off, other than a couple of apps we use as a family to communicate. To be fair, I started doing this back in the summer last year and it’s amazing the difference when you’re not being distracted by social media or email notifications. I’ve gotten better at not checking email or twitter, although I could still be better. That’s a work in progress; and
  • I’ve deleted Facebook off my phone & iPad, so I can only check it when I’m on my MacBook. I’ve been using facebook less and less, so deleting the app was the next logical step. This weekend I missed a couple of messages, which was a little annoying, but nothing too important. I’m wondering what else I can delete?

So at the start of 2018 it feels like I’ve hit the reset button. I’m more present, more in the moment, less dependent on that damn phone screen.

Are you making any changes at the start of the year? I’d love to hear what your routine looks like in the morning!