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!

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!

Podcasts I’ve been listening to lately

For many years now I’ve been a fan of podcasts. I remember listening to Freakonomics back in 2010 after I’d broken my collarbone, I liked the fact that I could listen to interesting content on demand.

Since then podcasting has exploded and you can find shows on pretty much any topic you’re interested in. I like podcasts as a way to learn, to be entertained, and sometimes just to switch off.

Over the past year as I’ve got back into running, I’ve had more time to listen to podcasts. On easy runs, long runs and recovery runs you’ll always find me with headphones on, listening to my favourites shows. The only time I don’t run with buds in is when I’m doing interval training – I need to concentrate on what I’m doing, and I can’t do that if I’m listening to a show.

I like to listen to podcasts when I’m in the car. My commute to the office is around 20 minutes each way and I’ve pretty much always got a podcast on. It’s a good use of the time.

So which shows have I been listening to lately?

The James Altucher Show

Creative Chit Chat

How I Built This

The Beans

The Tim Ferriss Show

These are the shows I’ve listened to most frequently over the past month. Honourable mentions should also go to TED Radio Hour, Marathon Talk and Freakonomics. They’ve slipped back since the end of marathon training – there’s only so much listening time!

Do you listen to Podcasts? What are your favourite shows?

Time for a refresh

As you may have noticed, I’ve been playing around with different themes the past few weeks. I’ve also been consolidating a couple of websites I own into this one.

Previously I’d had a ‘business-focused’ site at http://www.alasdairmcgill.com, and a separate ‘personal’ blog, where I mainly wrote about running & cycling. However, like many people, my work & personal lives blend into one another and so it made sense to do this.

If you’re visiting here expecting to only read about business stuff, then prepare yourself for stories from my marathon training. Likewise, if you’ve come hear to read about my running exploits, then now and again you’re going to find posts about design, business, accounting and customer experience.

I’ll do my best to keep them all entertaining. There’s so much bad content out there, that I don’t need to be adding to the noise. I’ll endeavour to tell stories, to tell you about the wonderful people and organisations that I encounter on my travels.

I’m also going to start documenting the journey as we launch a new business in August.

I’ll keep it human, I promise.

 

Daily(ish) CX Review – La Fabrica, Girona, Spain

Thursday 27th April 2017
Service – Coffee & food
What they did well – In a word, everything! La Fabrica is a coffee shop (but it’s SO much more than that!) in Girona, Spain. It’s the brainchild of former professional cyclist Christian Meier and his wife Amber, an enclave for the many English-speaking professional cyclists that live in Girona (65 according to one google search!), and a destination for cyclo-tourists and visitors to the City. As a former bike racer (purely amateur!), coffee has always been a big part of cycling for me, so when we found La Fabrica on our long weekend visit last week, I was in heaven.
The coffee was amazing. The cakes, to die for. They also stock a fine selection of cycling merchandise. I could happily live there. And the service each time we visited was fantastic! Amber even shared the recipe with me for the truly outstanding breakfast bowl that I had on Sunday morning. I can’t praise them highly enough.
What wasn’t so good – My only criticism, now that I’m back in Dundee, is that there isn’t one over here. Can we tempt you Christian & Amber? This is Scotland’s sunniest City, and according to GQ Magazine, we’re the ‘coolest little city in the UK’. You know you want to…..
Any other relevant details – What struck us as soon as we found La Fabrica was how much thought had been put into its design. The cafe is up a cobbled street, in a stunningly beautiful old building in Girona’s historic old town. The internal fit out is just perfect. The black ceiling compliments the old stone walls, and the cycling memorabilia is tastefully displayed. Some cycling cafes overdo it, but not at La Fabrica.
The attention to detail is evident everywhere you look. We’ll definitely be going back to Girona, and one of our first stops will be La Fabrica. Until then, we have our memories of this divine oasis.
Score – 10/10 

Daily CX Review – Run4It, Dundee

Wednesday 18th April 2017
Business – Run4It, Dundee
Service – Buying clothing
What they did well – It’s been so cold in the mornings lately. I needed to buy a new long-sleeved running jersey as I’ve got a few thermal tops, but only a couple that will do when the temperature is in the low single digits.
For several years now I’ve been a customer of Run4It, stretching back to 2006 when I met Duncan Riddoch, who’s one of the owners – I was an organiser of the very first Garioch 10k, and they were one of the sponsors.
The service at Run4It is always good. The staff are keen runners themselves, and take an interest in the customer. They’re not pushy or in your face like some retail staff can be. They let you know that they’re available if you need any help. We always end up chatting about our training and races. It’s more than just going into a shop – you feel welcomed and with your ‘tribe’.
I got my jersey – a charcoal Ron Hill number, and picked up a couple of gels.
What wasn’t so good – Not their fault, but the parking down at Dock Street and the Waterfront just now is a royal pain in the ass. That’s something that we’ve got to look forward to for the next couple of years. It must affect their trade?
Any other relevant details – Run4It have always been good at connecting with the local running community. Sure, I could go online and probably buy the same product a little cheaper, but I feel good about supporting the local store. I know that I’ll need to change my shoes in a couple of hundred miles, and I’ll be going back to Run4It to get measured up and have my running gait checked on their fancy machine. You don’t get that experience online!
Score – 9/10

Daily CX Review – Starbucks, Dundee

Tuesday 18th April 2017

Business – Starbucks, Overgate Centre, Dundee

Service – Coffee & muffin (it was skinny, don’t judge me!)

What they did well – The staff are always friendly here. I visit quite often when I’m in town, so a few of them know me and will smile and say hi. Little, personal, touches like that make a difference.

What wasn’t so good – I don’t like the size of the coffees that Starbucks sell, they’re just too big and milky for my taste. However, I noticed that they’ve recently added the ‘short’ size to the menu. I had a ‘short’ latte at the end of last week, and it was just the right size for a latte. Progress.

Any other relevant details – one of the reasons that I use Starbucks is that they make it easy for me. I have a Starbucks card, with my account set to always have £20 of credit on my card. The card is linked to the Starbucks App, which lets me pay directly from the app. I believe that it’s also possible to order from the App, although I’ve not tried that yet. Want to build loyal customers? Make it easy for them!

Score – 8/10