TRAINING: Run, crawl, roll, party, climb not necessarily in that order…

December is eventful for most of us and mine has been no exception. Midway through the month I caught a sore throat after a spell of 22 consecutive working days. That enforced a brief rest although thankfully I never had to take to the bed and could keep the wheels of action turning.

‘The gang’ at the ChampionsEverywhere Xmas Party last Thursday in the Blue Light

Primal aftermath

After the first ‘Primal Athlete’ workshop we hosted with Barry we turned out attention straight back to another workshop –  the last ‘Running form’ event of the year. We had implemented some key changes to the format: teaching skill and technique is a difficult domain to dabble with when you are trying to modify a skill that needs to be ‘automatic’ such as running.

What is it with that finger?

None of the current methodologies for doing so are perfect – and many end up creating robotic and confused runners – ‘over-coached’ as Lee Saxby referred to it during his 3-day course. The holy grail will be to create a learning process for runners which is almost entirely based on subconscious ‘reprogramming’ rather than ‘conscious effort’ and the perfection of this methodology lies in the future for someone to grasp. We’ve focused a lot of our efforts on making the coaching process increasingly subconscious and the road clearer so there is less room for mistake. Next year we’ve been invited to Galway and Dungarvan in the first parts of the year and we are looking forward to sharing what we know with ‘the locals’ and follow up on the great trip we had to Kerry in 2013.

One of the attendees of the ‘Primal Athlete’ workshop contacted us to ask for ‘more’ training on natural movement and MovNat-inspired training. This ‘old’ approach to fitness is coming back and we’re delighted to see it is now very close to entering the mainstream. A long time ago it had no brand name – take the example of cross-country runners practicing fence vaulting in the 1950ies – but now a lot of these great ‘real-world’ skills have been supplanted by much less practical fitness methods such as seated resistance work and all sorts of static poses.

Hanging out with the ‘Primal Workout’ attendees a few weekends past in the Vale of Glendasan

So with short warning we arranged for a 4-hour event called the ‘Primal Workout’ which introduced a small select group to explore natural movements. We had some very talented participants – one among them was one of the first followers of MovNat in Ireland – having followed the brand since  2008. Some pictures of the day are shared here.

We’ll be bringing this workshop back as it was great to be able to show people some progressions of material we generally present on the full weekend events and it gives us time to provide people with a solid technical foundation so they can evolve the movements safely on their own. You need to develop the right habits for these movements early on – or you will just develop another bad skillset that can lead to another set of injuries apart from the ones you may be trying to get rid of from your main sport. To quote Gray Cook: ‘Do not add strength to dysfunction’ which just means make the movements nice and fluid before you start hammering them with volume and intensity. Half the time it is not necessary as Terry McLaughlin said: ‘Fitness is just something that happens to me while I practice.’

My favourite pursuit – running downhill

This is my own approach to ‘cross-training’ at the moment. I just practice stuff that interests me or that I think will be useful. At the moment, my main focus is ‘rolling’. I spend so much time practicing rolling on the hardwood floor of our kitchen that I developed a big black bruise under my shoulder blade. But it was all worth it as I got a few steps closer to where I want to be. At the moment I am particularly inspired by the Systema-approach of American coach Kevin Secours who teaches a type of roll that is very applicable to trail runners who need to be able to fall on very rugged terrain. Secours’ rolls stay well away from the spine, neck and head putting all the weight transfer through the shoulders. I’m not the only one practicing either – Jason proudly presented me his ‘most improved gymnast’ award from his local gymnastics club – not bad for a man who finds time to compete in the Irish Championship and race cross-country next to everything else!


Jason receiving his reward

Xmas party slander and Blue Light Sprints

The MSR Xmas run with (St?) Kevin (O’Riordan) getting full value for his Santa uniform in the middle

I attended the Mud, Sweat and Runners Xmas run and what turned into a marathon party only five days before our own ChampionsEverywhere Xmas party – clearly photo-shopped images of me frolicking on a pool table with a well-known male runner from Glendalough AC later circulated. I intend to open court proceedings after Xmas.


Whoever photoshopped my head onto this – my lawyers coming for you…

Last Thursday, we revisited the Blue Light to Fairy Castle run from the previous year. The conditions where superb for technical running – with belting rain having turned the rocky path into a narrow river-bed in places. Despite my relative lack of mountain running this year I began to find my feet and felt light and confident skipping down through the rocks. If it’s a preview of what is to come in 2015, then things are looking positive. It was great to see the well-known faces of Gavan Doherty, David Power, David Docherty, Jeff Fitzsimons, Barry Murray, and Kevin O’Riordan. Jason Kehoe won the tightly contested and now traditional sprint to the pub but I had sneakily made my way off on the last rocky descent – rule #1 of sprint finishing for long distance runners: ‘’Don’t stick around for it’!

Many years of mountain running experience gathered under the Blue Light!

The week had seen us explore the new ‘The Wall’ climbing centre which is just behind Jason and my workplace in Sandyford. We got the basic introduction on the opening day and I then tried my first hand at ‘ropeless’ climbing. I liked it well enough to return for a full hour or climbing on the The MovNat crawling skills and the ringwork I have done based on Ido Portal’s routines have given my a good foundation of hip and spinal mobility to attack the walls with. In the New Year I can see myself going in for a quick 20-25 minute ‘climb’ after my Noon recovery runs. It’s a good way to connect the ring-work to something practical and to get rid of the traditional weaknesses in the hands, wrist and lower arms.

Getting stuck into ‘The Wall’

Xmas Cracker Relay

Our new club ‘Glendalough AC’ is barely 2 months old yet we already had our first Xmas Cracker. I’ve had fond memories of these types of events from my old club – Crusaders and thought Gerry Brady’s old 1.7 km loop, used for the WMRA Youth Cup, would be perfect. The course takes runners from the Upper Lake car park up next to the Poulanass Waterfall (a short steep climb) before a flat section across the two bridges on the Wicklow Way. Rather than continuing to Glenmalure the course veers straight back down the Pink Path to the Upper Lake on very fast zig-zags.

The desperate, and futile, chase of Niall during the Glendalough AC Xmas Cracker

I’ve posted a full report on this event on the Glendalough AC website. I was happy enough with my time as I nearly blew a gasket coming up the short steep climb. Niall Corrigan had set off with a good lead after his first leg man, Andrea, had come through first. I managed to close in a bit on the climb but the effort was too much and my heart felt like it was going to explored. I recovered 13 seconds but it was not nearly enough to wrest home the trophy. I was glad to see the old ticker can still be pushed to the max, though. Going by the reception I think our club has the makings of a nice Xmas tradition here.

I then proceeded to show a complete lack of natural talent for Flora McKnight’s ‘Egg and Spoon’ event.

A rare shot of the egg being ‘on the spoon’


That’s pretty much a snapshot of my December – now a period of family time in Denmark until the 27th. January will be busy with workshops almost every weekend and only one day off between the 2nd and the 24th, so I will try to get some downtime during this period so the batteries are fully charged.

Before you feel sorry for me I should add that after that period I am jetting off to Gran Canaria where Andrew Walker of Professional Hot Weather Camps has set myself and Aoife up for a 9-day sojourn in the warm Canary weather. I hope to use that week as a springboard for the 2015 season. I have not trained or raced competitively since May 2012, almost 31 months, an almost unfathomable amount of time, so the hour is arising again to don the singlet and the racing boots again. That starts with consistent high quality training.