Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

Back in July I was inspired by Greg Whyte’s book, Achieve the Impossible, to knuckle down and finally nail the 100km challenge that appeared to have morphed into my very own personal Impossible.

Using the tips outlined in the book I identified the key measures of success and drew up an Excel Dashboard that I could use to monitor my progress towards my view of personal fitness excellence. I’m using the term excellence here to mean an attainable level of achievement that should put me in the best position to be able to achieve my goals.

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

So, as I want to be strong, resilient and aerobically fit, I’ve identified 11 measures that I think will provide a good indication of my ability to run 50km and then get up the next day and run them again.

They broadly fit into the following categories:

  • Strength measures – Deadlift
  • Aerobic capacity – Cooper Test, Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, MAF pace
  • Weight
  • Endurance – distance measures

I’m not sure that I’ve chosen the best 11 measures yet as there is some considerable overlap between all my aerobic capacity indicators but it is my starter for ten and I can easily amend if I find that another measure will more accurately indicate my ultra-readiness.

Once you’ve defined your measures of success you need to draw up a scale, I’m using 0 to 10 for each measure so that they plot well on a radial chart (as shown above). This is quite a tricky task as well. I’ve chosen to show my current position in each measure as a zero, so that I start from the centre of the radial chart, and am assuming that the only way is up – I’ve left no room to slide. Defining the 10 score is much harder. I have no clue where my “Excellence” in VO2 Max lies for instance. I could probably search t’internet for Lance Armstrong’s VO2 Max score which most people would consider to be excellent but would it be my excellence?

Given that I’m going to train clean, the answer is probably not.

It’s a problem that I can’t define excellence in all my chosen measures. It means I will only really be able to track the direction of travel, hopefully improvement, but I won’t be able to say when my target is achieved. That only applies to the aerobic measures though, for everything else I have a history and pb’s to chase. I’m very clear on the weight I need to be to feel confident on race day and the 5km time that would mean I was sprightly and as fit as I’ve ever been.

The other measures are going to have to be a work in progress. Just like me.

You can download my example Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard here, but you will need to amend the targets as I very much doubt that your idea of “personal excellence” will match mine.

Personal Training Session – The Annihilation

Drinking Seal

I’ve been slacking on the barbell front and decided it was time to call in the assistance of weightlifting task master. I found someone local who used the term “beasting” when I enquired about his methods and so I promptly but nervously signed up for a few sessions.

Saturday was day 1 and I can confirm he was not lying about his methods. We moved through standard moves such as deadlifts, chest presses and dumbbell rows. I had my first go at rubber band assisted pull ups and finished with medicine ball slam downs which are now my all time favourite move. Some where in the middle I managed to destroy myself. I think it must have been somewhere near the 60th pushup and the first dodgy kettlebell swing.

By the time I left I couldn’t put my coat on and I struggled to lower myself into the car.

I knew I was pretty wrecked afterwards but I’ve been quite impressed by how shattered my arms are. I have severe DOMS in my triceps, the like of which I’ve never experienced in my upper body. I can’t dress and I struggle to drink because I can’t take my hands to my face. Quite odd.

Drinking SealThe hand to mouth movement has been seriously hindered but it is not going to prove itself to be an effective weightloss strategy as I have mastered a modified action. I discovered yesterday, that if I take my drinks in very long glasses, I can polish off a couple of pints without any problem. I may look like a drinking seal with my two handed action but at least I won’t die of dehydration.

The last time I worked my upper body this hard was during a weekend wii fit bowling session with Rach.

I could barely carry the weight of my own arms, I would yell out in pain every time I sent the ball bouncing towards her TV screen and even managed to pull my left hamstring as I adopted the power crouch position.

I felt the need for a full body cast then and it wouldn’t go amiss now. In the meantime I will have to continue setting Lynn’s alarm 15 mins early so she can help me put my work shirt on.

How to Tape Your Feet for Blister Prevention

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Foot Taping for Long Distance WalksI’ve had some great results from pre-taping my feet prior to long hikes and can now walk around 40 miles, confident that I won’t get blisters. Even on this year’s London2Brighton challenge where the weather conditions were appalling and I ended up wearing two pairs of unfamiliar shoes, I managed 57km feeling physically broken but with my feet still intact – not a single blister.

My Blister Prevention Routine

  • Keep your feet in good nick – in the run up to your long walk you should keep your feet free of callouses and moisturise to prevent cracked skin.
  • Practice taping before your big event – there is a knack to applying tape so start practising early.
  • I apply tape to my own feet so I can flex while I’m applying it to make sure it is not too tight.
  • After taping, dust down with talcum powder to absorb any excess adhesive
  • Wear Bridgedale lining socks on top of the tape.
  • Put the hiking or running sock on next, being careful not to introduce creases.
  • During the event, change the lining socks regularly and check the the tape is still secure.

Zinc Oxide Tape for Blister Prevention

I’ve worked my way through a number of different brands of zinc oxide tape and have now settled on Leukotape P. I’ve found this to have excellent adhesive properties and a good degree of stretch. It somehow manages to avoid leaving adhesive on the non-sticky side of the tape, which is a big bonus and a problem I’ve noted with every other roll of tape I’ve tried.

Tape Adherent

A lot of guides suggest that you purchase an additional spray adhesive to apply to the foot before adding the tape. I’ve tried this technique but I’ve stopped using it because there is a fine balance between too little and too much stickiness. If you get a decent tape you shouldn’t need extra glue and you don’t want to have any extra adhesive on the outside of the tape as it will stick to your socks, increasing the chances of fabric folds under your feet. I apply a liberal sprinkling of talcum powder before I put on my socks as well.

Where to Apply the Anti Blister Tape

Ideally you will have slowly built up your long walks or runs and should now have a clear idea of where you tend to develop hot spots. When I first started training for 100km walks I would get blisters forming after only 10k when wearing hiking boots, and they would always be in the same place. Mine started under the heel and across the ball of my foot and for good measure, the back of my heel would regularly rub raw.

I chose the taping technique illustrated in the video below, as it covered all my weak points. If you develop hot spots in other places you may need to extend the covered regions.

Pre-Taping for Blister Prevention

  •  Start by applying anchor strips along the inner and outer sides of your foot.
  • Join the two anchor strips with a piece that goes across the heel.

Foot Taping for Blister Prevention

  • Start applying strips across the underside of your heel, with a slight overlap on each strip.
  • Be careful not to introduce creases and keep your foot flexed upward (dorsi-flexed) so that you don’t apply the tape too tightly.
  • Continue with more overlapped strips on the ball of your foot.
    Foot Taping for Blister Prevention
  • Finish by re-applying the anchor strips on either side of the foot.

Let me know how you get on……

London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

London2Brighton Challenge

The Start of The London2Brighton Challenge

I’ve done quite few of my long training walks in my hiking boots but none of them were considered successful. I decided quite a long time ago that the London2Brighton 100k Challenge would be completed in my super cushioned Hokas’ with my Inov8s’ held back for the second half when my feet would likely have swelled.

I woke up on Saturday to an apparently relentless deluge and there followed a huge shoe dilemma. I bundled an assortment of shoe options into the boot of the car and developed a strategy that would hopefully give my feet a fighting chance.

London2Brighton Challenge

As Accuweather suggested a potential bright spot around lunchtime, I started in the trail shoes, hoping that Lynn would meet me at the 25k mark for a switch to the Hokas.

The rain came and went, just long enough for me to take off my waterproof jacket and then started again. It was a bizarre weather day and walkers would emerge from woods into bright sunshine and visibly steam as the rain evaporated from their hot bodies.

London2Brighton Mud Challenge
@kabukisnyder

The rain and the 3000 runners & walkers played havoc with the trail. The off-road sections looked like segments of last months Wolf Run, as if the organisers had piped in extra mud to add to the challenge and my planned shoe change became a reluctant boot change.

I started the London2Brighton challenge an hour later than last year. It was my intention to spend an hour or so walking in the dark before reaching the main rest point at 57k. That way I would remove a potential hurdle to continuing – fear of the dark. Despite actively planning this stint in the darkness I made a huge packing faux pas. I put my main torch in the car to retrieve at the midpoint and popped the Petzl head torch in my rucksack. I knew the batteries would be low so put triple A’s on Lynn’s shopping list, again for the midpoint.

When I tripped over the first root in a dark, foreboding, wood and reached for my emergency Petzl, I was less than impressed to discover the most insignificant glow from the lamp. Completely useless and I was at least 4 hours away from batteries.

I had a glow stick but it wasn’t working and I ended up edging my way forward, gripping onto my poles for dear life and seeking out the breadcrumb trail of glow sticks that marked the route.

I wasn’t completely alone, other walkers came and went but I couldn’t hope to keep up with them. It was a pretty lonely place to be.

A generous chap took took pity on me stumbling over a stile in the dark and lit my way until we reached a road section where there were more walkers.

There was only another 10k before the major rest stop at Tully’s Farm but I was pretty despairing of my ability to get there. I was limping and silent sobbing. It was pretty darn pitiful but I felt like I was torturing myself.

With about 7k to go Lynn managed to find me on a quiet road and thrust batteries in to my hand before driving off again.

Finishing at Tully's Farm

My world looked ever so slightly brighter with a functioning Petzl on my head but it didn’t stop the weeping. I seemed to be stopping at every available tree stump in order loosen my boots and attempt to rub some life back into my swollen Achilles. It is hard to fathom quite how slow those last kilometres were. I sent Lynn a text saying that was it, I was bailing at the next stop. I didn’t actually think I could make the last 2k and when I finally crossed the line I fell into Lynn’s arms and started crying again.

I don’t feel as though I let myself down on the event. I gave it my all on that trail, leaving myself physically and emotionally broken. I can now say that I am finished with this challenge, London2Brighton has beaten me and unless I can commit to working on my body and my diet I will not consider this again.

I’m an extremist. If my exercise doesn’t have that extra edge I just can’t be bothered with it. For the next year I’d like to work on creating a body that has strength and resilience and that earns it’s place in such a challenge.

This is a great event and I have huge respect for everyone that started, and even more for those that managed to push themselves beyond Tully’s Farm and on towards Brighton.

The UnderRound Challenge – A Marathon of Selfies

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In my quest to complete at least one 100km challenge this year, my weekends have been given over to long and usually dreary walks. In an attempt to stir things up I thought I’d try a home-brew challenge. Inspired by the last issue of Outdoor Fitness magazine which ran an article on DIY challenges, I resurrected my interest in The UnderRound initiated by Rory Coleman.

The UnderRound is a challenge requiring you to travel approximately 42km above and below ground by visiting the platforms of 42 different London Underground stations. The official route takes an anti-clockwise rotation starting and finishing at London Kings Cross. In case you are in doubt, you must use the stairs wherever they are available resulting in about 3000 feet of ascent on top of your marathon.

The UnderRound Challenge
I started the day in a fairly leisurely fashion, sneaking the first of many selfies at 10:30 am.

I was off, striding purposefully towards Euston ticking off 7 platforms in just over a mile stretch along the Euston Road. I’d guess it took me about an hour to clear that mile but the distance travelled underground could easily have added another two to the tally.

It was a glorious hot Sunday and my above ground stretches were positively mediterranean. It hurt me to walk past all the street cafes offering long, cool, glasses of lager and I think this torment may have added to the increasingly grumpy faces. I only managed one smile through the whole ordeal and that was only because I’d spotted “the best ice cream” shop at the entrance to Queensway. I deserved it after ascending 123 steps of the spiral staircase.

I started the day counting every step but I got completely fagged off with that idea by about station 4 and then just relied on the excessively cautious warning messages at the top of each staircase “WARNING – 83 STEPS. USE ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES”

My Selfish View of the UnderRound

My least favourite stretch was Knightsbridge to Gloucester Road which was long and littered with hordes of shambling sightseers. At this stage I was not interested in adding any extra steps by weaving in and out of bodies so I was probably at my all time arsi-est here.

From Sloane Square to Cannon Street, a stretch of 9 stations, 7 of them were closed for planned engineering works. This of course had the huge benefit of preventing me from descending to platform level but it began to feel like cheating and did result in a fairly deserted final quarter of the event.

If I were to do the event again I think I’d try the clockwise route, so that I hit The City sections earlier in the day. At 8pm on a bank holiday Sunday the place was deserted. I walked miles in desperate need of the loo and every pub was shut. I eventually reached a tiny oasis by Farringdon station where a solitary pub provided blessed relief and the second smile of the day.

Russell SquareI reached the final station, Russell Square at about 9:30pm and you can probably imagine my joy to see the sign at the top of the stairs.

All in all it was a noble challenge, but as with all DIY challenges it is sadly lacking in post-event bling, I’ve had to make do with one slightly battered travelcard, now stuck on the fridge door, to remind me of the ordeal.

The Wolf Run: The Aftermath

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This weekend we took part in our first Obstacle Race – The Wolf Run. A 10k trail run through Woods, over Obstacles, across Lakes and finally through Fields. Our team photo says it all, it’s wet, muddy and results in belly aching hilarity.

There are many obstacles, ranging from tyres, cargo nets, monkey bars, water slides and log walls but the natural hazards of clay river banks, lakes and bogs keep the race real.

The Wolf Run water slideLynn followed me on the water slide. I should have warned her that this was not a good order. I have been plagued all my life with an inability to descend slides. I grind to a halt mid-way down. Depending on the nature of the slide, I’m either wedged by the sides or I’ve created a dam that stops all water flow and all associated downward motion.

As anticipated I created a dam and Lynn ploughed into the back of me. I tried a breast stroke manoeuvre to get the flow going again and miraculously it worked. Within a few arm strokes I was off and building momentum. It turned into an incredibly scary ride. I probably hit 40mph with a bank of fairy liquid suds in my face. I started a tail spin and began to panic about how this was all going to end. I was convinced that I was going to reach the end of the plastic sheet and continue the sleigh ride across the farmers field, stopping only after I’d scattered half the field of runners.

ISayLynn in the meantime was having far more of a struggle. She never recovered from the early hiatus and found herself bothered by a stray slider for the whole of the descent. Photographic evidence suggests she enjoyed it far more than is decent.

The Wolf Run managed to perfect the trail running to obstacle ratio. I don’t think we ran more than a km before hearing the telltale screams ahead of us, that indicated an evil hazard lay just round the corner.

Wolf_Run_WallI spooked myself with this obstacle the moment we arrived in the car park. It was looming just yards from the finishing line and I sauntered over to analyse the threat before we started. It was perhaps an 8ft vertical ascent using ropes and teeny cm wide strips for the hint of a toe hold, followed by monster straw bales requiring leaps down, and then up, across chasms.

I got up the wall reasonably well, there was admittedly some assistance, both Lynn and a marshall had a foot each and were forcing it to remain stable on the toe holds but if I didn’t look down I could pretend that I conquered the wall, warrior style.

After that my warrior instinct escaped me. I stood and teetered on the high straw bale looking across at the next terrace.

Runners came, jumped and went.
Lynn shouted and coaxed but still more runners came, jumped and went.
We could see the finish gantry but I was frozen on a straw bale.

wolf_run_finale

Dan attempted to demonstrate how simple the task was but put a little too much effort into his jump. He overshot the first bale and couldn’t get enough purchase to propel himself upwards to the next ledge. He face planted into a wall of straw, chinning himself on the way down and landed in a heap. He did a great act of shaking himself off and looking nonchalant but I’m fairly sure he’ll still be wearing a neck brace.

In the end I made it across. Lynn and a marshall offered me their arms and as the sun began to set I leapt across to grasp their heroic hands. They pulled me across and I landed on my knees and wept.

It was not quite over though. Our team rallied for one further obstacle before collapsing in the beer tent for a glamorously muddy glass of champers.

A great team spirit and a marvellous event.

Today I ran for Ben.

 

Janathon Day 1 Running on Fumes

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I always kick Janathon off with a post-midnight run. I enjoy the cool night breeze and the fusty haze from thousands of celebratory fireworks and the smug satisfaction as I publish my Day 1 Janathon post before going to bed.

booze

Last night, as I wobbled away from the party at 3am, barely managing to tie the laces on my Hoka running shoes I was not particularly impressed with my plan. The teenagers were intent on beating me home though and as they’d grabbed themselves a head start I had no option but to run.

It wasn’t my best running performance. I forgot about style and substance and zig zagged up the street in a manner not immediately recognisable as running.

When I spotted the teenagers missing the turn off for a substantial shortcut home, I was imbibed with new vigour and endeavoured to run both faster and straighter. I cut them off only yards from the front door, shoved one of them into our neighbours garden and proudly declared myself the winner as I collapsed on the doorstep to let my brain spin freely.

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With the exercise part of Janathon completed, I just needed to blog about my sporting prowess. I posted a couple of preliminary tweets, which required far more concentration than I could muster and one eyed squinting to detect typos. Even when I recognised errors I couldn’t control my finger well enough to correct them. It seemed that this was not a year for blogging before sleeping and I would miss the title of First Janathon Blogger 2014. I think that award goes to NotMuchOfARunner with his Janathon tips post which made it onto twitter at a rather tardy 0:26 hours.

Humph.

As for the other element of my JanathonExperimentation where I’m supposed to be sticking to the Slow Carb diet of 4 Hour Body fame, I’m afraid I have suffered a slight derailment. I’ve started my slow carb experiment with the cheat day at Day 1. Not quite in the spirit of things but my body has required sustained carb loading to dilute the poisons from last night. My egg and pulse diet starts tomorrow.

12 Weeks to a Sleek Body with The Fat Burn Revolution

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Fat Burn RevolutionI’ve known Julia Buckley for a few years now, through the running and blogging ether. Earlier this year I decided to join in the second phase of her Fat Burn Revolution pilot scheme.

The original pilot was designed to test a program that she was planning to bring to a wider audience through the publication of a fitness manual – The Fat Burn Revolution. By coming in at the second stage I was working with a tried and tested routine and by the looks of it, it’s the version that made it into the book.

The weight loss / fat loss market is huge and it’s hard to imagine a space for yet another book on the subject. When Julia’s book dropped through the letter box I have to admit to be a little underwhelmed. I was expecting another me-too book with pretty pictures and a smattering of familiar advice.

I have to say I was wrong. The book is very pretty, really well organised and whoever was in charge of the page layout deserves a thumbs up, but the book is so much more than I expected.

Inside the Fat Burn Revolution

There is real content here. Inspiring, sensible advice from someone who comes across as a truly honest and insightful guide, a guide who encourages you to seize control of your own life by offering you the tools and the permission to be steadfast with your goals.

The tools aren’t just limited to the exercises, you will also find advice for dealing with saboteurs, the way to decline offers that intefere with your goals and how to plan to succeed.

The type of advice that resonates with me:

Always remember that it is totally up to you what you eat. You are an adult and no one can make you eat or drink anything you don’t want to.

and when dealing with potential diet and exercise sabateurs:

don’t invite unhelpful comments from others by intimating that you’d rather be doing anything else……turn it down politely, but not apologetically

As I’ve said, I have known Julia in a distant capacity for some time and having had near daily contact with her for 3 months while doing the fat burn program I can confirm that Julia is genuinely supportive and truly wants you to achieve your health goals.

The exercises and routines are very well described in the book and have full colour photos to accompany the descriptions. Just as with the program I took part in, the Fat Burn Revolution is split into 3 phases which build in intensity (not necessarily duration). There is a combination of high intensity sessions, plyometric routines and weight lifting. The weightlifting section is a refreshing addition to a mainstream fitness program but for anyone who wants to shift lard and/or develop a strong, sleek and fit body it is the secret key.

The Fat Burn Revolution is an ideal program for both beginners and more seasoned sporty types. It will lead you away from a focus on sustained endurance activities to short, sharp bursts and progressive weigh training. The ideas are likely to be new to most people.

I came to the program from years of long distance running which had initially helped me to shift about 6 stone in the early years but had allowed me to stabilise somewhere close to 5 stone above my ideal weight. After 12 weeks on the Fat Burn Revolution I had shifted another stone, much of which was fat, and most importantly I had dramatically improved my appearance and my sense of well being. If you want to see the results of someone who has completed a number of back to back sessions of the Fat Burn program you should check out Becca’s blog at From Snickers to Marathon.

I’m very grateful to Julia and her program for introducing me to the tools that my body responds to. All my programs post The Fat Burn Revolution have included more HIT and strength sessions than endurance ones and this has helped me to maintain my losses and my fitness.

If you are about to embark on this program I strongly advise you take the measurements and most importantly the horrendous before photos, these can be so inspiring to compare with at the end of each phase. Check out Julia’s transformation pages for illustrations of how the pilot groups did.

Running with the Forerunner 620

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Boxing Day is a day for soggy running, or at least it has proved to be for the last 2 years running. It is also becoming a traditional day for trying out new running gadgets.

Garmin Forerunner 620 ReviewThis year I was spoiled with the Forerunner 620, the latest and most advanced GPS running watch from Garmin with a built in personal coach.

I love the style of the new forerunner, its the first GPS unit that I could imagine wearing as a regular watch and this one has already supplanted my Seiko. Its only marginally thicker than my old watch and so long as I can remember to charge it on a weekly basis I think I’ll be quite happy with it as a jazzy timepiece.

I had a short Christmas Day run with the FR620 on the treadmill where I was able to test out the in built accelerometer, which means that this version of the Forerunner can monitor treadmill running without the need for a foot pod. The Boxing Day run was an outdoor 10k around Richmond Park for true field testing.

The FR620 is pretty slick on the run but most of the new or improved features show themselves either before you start or as you complete a run. To start you have improved satellite connection as the forerunner caches the location of satellites from previous runs, which dramatically reduces the time to lock on to your location.

Garmin Forerunner 620 Review

During the run, you have the typical selection of screens – all fully customisable, and you switch between them by means of the touch screen. I’m not too sure about touch screens for running gadgets, they tend to be a bit fussy and not very responsive to sweaty finger jabs but I had no complaints on this run. The screen feels a little bit smaller than the 910XT (and 305) so I found myself peering at the watch trying to fathom out what I was looking at. This will become less of a problem when I know what each field represents.

Another new feature, the Recovery Advisor, forms part of the personal coaching suite. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, my forerunner coach appears to have gone to the fluffy school of personal training, where they tell you to take it easy and listen to your body. After a 20 minute treadmill session the watch determined that I would need 36 hours to get over the ordeal. I prefer the more hardcore, military style of coaching, where I am encouraged to push harder and go for the burn.

About 15 mins into today’s run my watched beeped and left the message “recovery good”. It’s a little cryptic but I interpret it as saying:

ok wise guy, I told you it was going to take you 36 hours to get over yesterday’s little run but you chose to ignore my advice. You appear to have got away with it this time but don’t cross me again

It got its own back at the end of today’s run by upping the recovery period to 72hours. I don’t think it would take much for the watch to give me permission to sit on the sofa for a full week.

Forerunner 620 VO2 MaxAt the end of the run I’m alerted to any changes in stats eg. Fastest mile, longest distance so far etc. The watch also gives me an estimate of my VO2 max and based on that my predicted race times. The race times given are little challenging for me but possibly within the realms of possibility with a good wind. I’m not terribly impressed by the visual representation of my VO2 max on the Garmin Connect dashboard, but I suppose it is fairly factual – I am a pants runner.

A first for Garmin is the ability to sync with your phone via the Garmin Connect app. This is a brilliant feature and meant that I could sync my run while walking back to the car and see my route and multiple charts within seconds of finishing the run. I could get maps on my phone previously by using a GPS app such as runmeter but it drained the battery in the process. Now I have the best of both worlds – accurate data, full colour stats on a large screen and a phone with sufficient battery to call for a lift home.

There’s a whole host of new charts available with the 620. The run heart rate monitor includes some sort of gizmo that detects vertical oscillation and acts as a pedometer so I can now view stats such as oscillation, ground contact and running cadence. I haven’t a clue what to do with this information yet bit it’s certainly interesting or pretty at the very least.

Garmin Forerunner 620 Additional Statistics

The Forerunner 620 is a really impressive running companion and there are stacks of other features that I haven’t even mentioned. If you’d like a seriously detailed review of the Garmin Forerunner 620 you should check out DC Rainmaker’s blog.

I strongly recommend this for geeky runners but if you have multisport tendencies or like the routing functionality of the older models you might be better off with the Forerunner 910XT.

How to make a Cool Impossible Slant Board

The Cool Impossible

The Cool ImpossibleThis blog post shows you how to build your own slant board so you can follow the core strength routine featured in Eric Orton’s new book, The Cool Impossible.

Eric is the coach from Born to Run, so he knows a thing or two about running efficiency and injury proofing the body. He uses the slant board in a series of balance and strength exercises illustrated in the book. I’ve found it quite a difficult piece of equipment to source outside of the USA. He sells his own model through Born 2 Run but it comes packaged with a set of walking poles which makes it quite expensive.

I’ve channeled my inner carpenter and knocked up my own version for less than £4.

My inner carpenter proved to be a bit of a cowboy so don’t look too closely at the photos or you’ll feel disillusioned. I can confirm that although my sawing and sanding may be a bit ropey, the overall design is solid and the finished product can withhold 16 stone of balance practice.

Constructing a Slant Board

I built my slant board from a slab of plywood found on the street, knocked it together with assorted screws from my toolbox and finished it off with a strip of skateboard grip tape sourced from Ebay for £2.50. I have enough tape left for about 6 slant boards!

The original Eric Orton slant board has a 6″ square base but I couldn’t find any details on the angle of the slant. Checking out Amazon for potential substitutes I found that slant boards tend to come in either 15′ or 22′ angles. I built my first slant board with a 22′ angle but found it to be too steep so used my spare ply to create a more manageable 15′ board.

You’ll need to mark up and cut out 5 pieces of wood, 2 sloping sides, a top and 2 supportive struts – front and back.

The measurements I used were:

Top: 15cm x 18cm
Sides: 16cm x 5cm (you need 2 of these)
Back: 5cm x 11.5cm (you might need to adjust the width depending on the thickness of the wood you use – mine is 1.5cm ply)
Front: 2cm x 11.5cm

Here’s the view from the underside so you can see how I assembled the support struts (back and front pieces).

A DIY Cool Impossible Slant Board

I initially tried to assemble the pieces with a combination of glue and nails but it was a stressful experience, on the second attempt I used the drill which proved to be far more successful. If I’d had the right length of screws it would have been entirely successful, unfortunately the last screw in my tool box was too long and I managed to secure the slant board to my table top!

The Cool Impossible is a very interesting book, offering all comers, the chance to reach their running goals regardless of their starting point. He achieved miracles for Christopher McDougall in Born to Run and I’m very happy to give him chance to repeat the process with me.

When I say the book is interesting, I probably mean it is odd. It starts off as a bit of a make-believe travelogue. Eric has the reader “pretend” that they have just landed in Salt Lake City and then travelled down to Jackson to join a face to face coaching week.

You grab your bag, running shoes dangling from the handle, and exit the plane directly onto tarmac. You take a deep breath. The air is exhilarating and the sky astoundingly wide and close. As you follow the concrete path toward the terminal, you turn to look at the mountains, and its like they’re right there in your face. Your eye traces the wild, zigzag lines of the peaks – dominated by the central massif, the truly majestic Grand Teton – and follows the canyons cutting up in deep, dark Vs between the rises. You try to imagine running there, following a trail up to the Teton Crest. It seems like another world. Another you, perhaps.

I can’t say I like the style but as I’m in the planning stages for another US road trip, I’ve probably cut the tourist sales pitches a bit of slack. When you cut through the style to notes on running form, strength routines and running programs the book does really come into its own.

Slant Board Balance Exercises

The balance exercises start with hiking pole assistance. You work the 3 different foot positions, Uphill, Downhill and Forward initially with two poles. When you can hold each balance for 2 minutes comfortably you will move to one pole balance exercises and then the no pole exercises.

Cool Impossible Slant Board Positions
Cool Impossible Slant Board Balance Sequence

Slant Board Movement Exercises

At the same time as the balance poses above, you will also conduct some movement routines, again with two poles for beginners.

Side Lift – conducted with feet in Uphill mode
Frog Lift – with feet in Downhill mode
Knee Lift – with feet in Forward position

Cool Impossible Slant Board Movement Sequence

In addition to the strengthening exercises there is a fully customised 20 week running program designed to help you reach your own Cool Impossible. The customisation involves specific heart rate and speed zones which are determined by your performance in two preliminary tests – the mile run and the 20 min steady state run. I’ve never really invested much time in heart rate zone training but my interest has been piqued and I’ll be working out my zones over the next week so I can embark on the full Cool Impossible program.

I’m excited to embark on this core strengthening program and I’m hopeful that it will be the perfect supplement to my Running School practice. At the very least the balance practice should improve my sock dressing performance which is a little wobbly at best.

 

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