Almost 20 Questions…

After a great race in Ireland at the European Cup last weekend (placing 11th) I thought I’d ask sponsored triathlete, Fergus Roberts (right), a few questions about triathlon, racing and life as an athlete.

1. How did you get into triathlon?
I first started triathlon when I was 9 years old following in my brother and sisters footsteps, after competing in triathlon for two years I decided to concentrate fully on running as this was my strongest discipline and brought me lots of success. I then returned to triathlon after struggling with injury with solely focusing on running in 2010 and haven’t looked back since!

2. Mid way through the season, how have things gone so far?
As far as results are concerned the 2013 season hasn’t been great, however I know that I am in good shape and believe that future races this season will improve.

3. What’s your strongest discipline?
All three disciplines are on a similar level, although I would probably say that my run is the best when I am in top shape.

4. Do you have any pre/post race superstitions?
Not really, but I always make sure I eat bang on 3hours before a race and have a certain routine of stretches that must be done!

5. Any advice for aspiring athletes starting out in their first season of multi-sport racing?
From a training point of view, to make competing in triathlon slightly easier I would suggest that you work very hard on your swim, I have learnt that if you can come out of the swim in the front pack you can usually do well in the race. Also a race can’t be won in transition but it can definitely be lost so make sure you are as fast as possible through transition which takes a lot of practise but it is an easier way to gain time than doing lots of training. The most important advice is to make sure that you enjoy the sport, as you spend a lot of time feeling tired or in a bad state and you need the enjoyment to get you through!

6. So far this season you’ve made several trips to Europe, what’s the best/worst thing about travelling?
The best thing about racing abroad is experiencing new courses and meeting different people. I hate all the waiting around that is involved in travelling, I always feel sluggish on arrival for the rest of the day (It is worth it though!)

7. What are your aims for the future?
My aim is to keep on improving over the next few years and hopefully that will take me to racing on the world circuit and competing at the highest level, I would love to represent GB at a major competition!

8. What’s the best advice you’ve had regarding your sport/racing?
“listen too you’re body, only you know how you are feeling” Shaun Purkiss

9. Who are your sporting/non sporting heroes?
I don’t really have any sporting hero’s although Lance Armstrong inspired me in early life. My main hero is my mum, she is always helping me to be the best I can be and has supported me tirelessly throughout my life. She pushed me as a youngster and planted my desire to compete at a high level. I have a very good relationship with my mum and dad and believe that this is a key factor to me getting through difficult patches throughout my life. I have only just started to appreciate how much my parents have sacrificed, with limited resources and knowledge, in order to support me and help me achieve my dreams.

10. You come from a sporting family how did that influence you growing up?
This has helped me massively. Me, my brother and sister all compete in sport at a high level so there must be a reason for us all still being involved. My family provide encouragement and inspiration for me to keep improving for example not many people my age can still go out for a fast ride on the bike with my dad aged 52, I always try to beat him up the hills but he is never far behind and when we get back for lunch I ask him what he’s doing in the afternoon and he says “going for another ride”.
My parents have brought us up in the outdoors, instead of computer games and toys it was walking in the Lake District or cycling in Scotland. An example of our childhood is when Doug was eight and Jessie was ten we cycled for two weeks in the French Alps averaging 50miles a day climbing passes that many fully grown adults wouldn’t even contemplate, this sort of holiday is probably where we all started building our base fitness for the future (nowadays I don’t know any parent that would do this).

11. What kind of diet do you have to follow?
I don’t follow a strict diet, but generally speaking I eat very healthily although I do have a weakness for chocolate like the rest of my family. I eat plenty of fruit to boost my immune system because triathlon is highly demanding and you are always on the edge of illness due to the vast amount of training and intensity that is involved. My mum always makes lovely meals that are very nutritious, one of my favourites is prawn and salmon pearl barley risotto although you can’t beat a nice pizza or barbeque.

12. How does what you eat affect your performance?
I have never really analysed which foods improve or decrease my performance, but I try to avoid any red meat before a race as it is slow to digest and can often give me a stitch or make me feel lethargic.

13. What support did you get at school and do you feel this has helped you?
Throughout school I have always been encouraged and recognized for my sport which I have appreciated. At secondary school (Allertonshire) was where I was most pushed by Mr Byrne my PE teacher. He was always so enthusiastic when taking us to cross country events and his team talks before the races were always worth a listen. Other than that most of the support I have received has been from clubs, teams, friends and family such as Richmond and Zetland harriers, the Hambleton road club, Northallerton ASC and Richmond dales ASC. I race for which is a compression clothing company and have given me endless support such as taking me to races and helping me to find sponsorship which I am very grateful.

14. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
It is hard to think which the best piece of advice is because I have been given so much. But the piece of advice I am told most is to “enjoy what I am doing while I’m young and fit and make the most of every opportunity I am given because I might not get them again!”

15. What advice would you give to a young person considering competing professionally?
Don’t be afraid of your competitors let them be afraid of you.

16. What is the biggest challenge you face as an athlete?
Injury and illness are the biggest challenges. When you are an athlete you are bound to experience an injury, you feel awful and being unable to do what you love is quite depressing and hard to take but I would happily have a few injuries if it helped me to get one perfect race and result!

17. How important is it to have support from Ed Pratt Sports Therapy?
The support I receive from Ed is so important for me competing in triathlon, due to the physical nature of the sport. Ed has a very good knowledge of the sport and is always willing to go the extra mile when there is a certain aspect of my performance that needs improving. If there is something that he isn’t quite sure about, he spends a lot of time researching and comes back to the next session an expert in the topic. The therapy is usually preventative measures to avoid injury but when I do get an injury he gives me great rehab work and helps me regain my confidence. I put my full faith in Ed and always look forward to treatment as I know how good you feel after and how much harder you can push yourself. Ed isn’t just about the sports therapy, he is a good friend and I always walk out of the room feeling more confident about performing. Recently I have just completed my A-levels and he even helped me revise my PE without knowing by going through some biomechanics.


Your Pace or Theirs?

This is just a quick post about running training partners and follows on from my last post on training programmes.  From personal experience having a training partner is great, whether its running, cycling or gym workouts.  Benefits include:

  • Increased motivation to train,
  • Increased commitment to training plans,
  • Most of all, greater enjoyment of the sport you love (or are commited too!)

With the recent increase in runners through the clinic, due to the start of a new season and training for marathons, I have seen injuries that, although might not have been as a direct result from training partners, may have been influenced by them.  As the title of this post suggest the problems arose from running at either too quick or too slow a pace to suit them.  When running with someone else there is pressure to match their pace, which can effect your running style and therefore the stress on the body. Also, anthropometric variations (body shape, height and mass measurements)  mean that you may not have the same running pace as your training partner.

Below are some tips to help reduce the risk of injury when training with someone else:

  1. Work out your own pace (average min/mile),
  2. If they are better at  a particular aspect of running ie uphill / downhill, let them go ahead and catch up again on the flat,
  3. Do some of your training on your own, at your own pace.

Another option, which is very popular is to join a running group or club.  Here you will find many like minded people of all ages and abilities, making it easier to run at your own pace.  These clubs are usually already organised into slow, medium and fast groups.  There are several local running clubs and some of them are listed below, if yours isnt on there and you would like it to be either put the link in the comments box or send it to me and I’d be happy to update the post.

Northallerton – Swaledale Road Runners.

Bedale – Bedale and Aiskew Runners.

Thirsk – Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers.

Richmond – Richmond and Zetland Harriers.

Best wishes, Ed

But my programme says I have to run!

This is a quick post about running training programmes, whether they are for marathon, half marathon or 5/10k the information below should still be applicable. It is aimed more at the novice runner, but there may be a few pointers for the more experienced runner too. This post is definitely not out to knock the training plans or discourage runners from using them, only to make runners more aware of the risks of generalisation and overtraining.

Running training programmes are widely available on the Internet and will be providing structure and direction to 1000’s of runners taking part in events this coming season and the vast majority of them will have no problems. The
Runaddicts.netproblem comes with the “one size fits all” approach. Using a generic programme means its not design for you personally, but for everyone and sometimes that just doesn’t work.


When training days are labelled “rest or recovery run” pressure to improve/increase mileage can quite mean that the rest is forgotten and the athlete runs instead. Rest days are an important part of the training process, allowing the body to adapt to the stresses placed upon it during training. By not allowing sufficient rest periods, you run the risk of overtraining as the body is unable to recover sufficiently between training sessions, thereby increasing physiological stress and risk of overuse injuries.

Rest days should be used to assess how your body feels between runs and check for any areas of soreness or increased stiffness
Humankinetics.combetween limbs. Initially for the novice runner, or athlete returning from injury, do not run on consecutive days aiming for three runs a week depending on how you feel.

A quick note on over analysing – it is very easy, especially after being injured, to over analyse and think that every bit of tightness is a new injury! You are looking for tightness or discomfort over more than one run or something which progressively worsened during a long run.

Finally if the training program suggests an increase in training volume and intensity and you still feel tired form the previous weeks training or you found it really tough, then be cautious of how much you increase your training the following week. Listen to your body, you do not have to run just because its in your programme!

2012 the year of Le Tour, the Olympics and Kinesio Tape

Kinesio tape has seen a massive increase in use over the last few years, but that increase was seemingly exponential during the summer with the Tour de France and Olympics. But is the tape really that good?

This for me is a contentious issue. I use kinesio tape in the clinic quite regularly because, in my opinion, it has several benefits:
– It can be worn over several days (3-5),
– It gives support (whether by placebo effect or mechanical support?) and
– Can provide a short term reduction in severity and irritability in painful injuries (shoulders and knees are a good example of where applications have been effective). Thus allowing the client to relax and the injured area to become less sensitive.

However, what worries me is the seeming blanket application of taping to “hold people together”. If kinesio tape is holding you together, should you be going for that run / taking part in that training session in the first place? This is a problem that, I believe, arises from both self application (without the required knowledge), but also very aggressive and successful marketing by the the providers of kinesio tape, you’re “not cool” if you don’t use it!

Currently the research is very mixed, which may be due to the large number of applications for the tape. A recent study (Briem et al, 2011) compared the effect of kinesio tape, sports tape (non-elastic) and no tape on sudden ankle inversion. The results showed that sports tape gave better results than kinesio tape, which had no effect on muscle activation. Another study (Thelen et al, 2008) found immediate relief from kinesio tape application to the shoulders of young athletes, but no long term improvements in terms of disability and pain. The immediate improvements found in this study should not be discounted and mirror those seen in my clinics.

The above is a summary of just two of the research articles available and the next couple of years should hopefully bring more quality research to help inform therapists and athletes decisions. So is it that good? It definitely has its benefits, you need to not only think why you’re applying it, but also use kinesio tape in conjunction with a suitable rehabilitation programme.

Ed Pratt

Briem, K; Eythörsdöttir, H, Magnúsdöttir, RG; Pálmarsson, R; Rúnarsdöttir, T and Sveinsson, T (2011). Effects of Kinesio Tape Compared With Nonelastic Sports Tape and the Untaped Ankle During a Sudden Inversion Perturbation in Male Athletes. J. of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 41 (5) 328-335.

Thelen, MD; Dauber, JA and Stoneman, PD (2008). The Clinical Efficacy of Kinesio Tape for Shoulder Pain: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Clinical Trial. J. of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 38 (7) 389-395.

Have you heard yourself?

This is just a quick post to get me back into (or even started!) writing blog posts. I thought I’d start with a question.

Have you ever listened to how you run?

I’ve spent some time over the last few months, with the change in seasons, analysing clients gait when running or walking. Something that keeps cropping up is the noise, or lack of, that they make when running. Lots of us run listening to music and probably pay very little attention to how WE sound.

So next time you’re out or at the gym have a listen: are you loud with “slappy feet” or a heavy tread or quiet as a mouse? Is there a difference between your right and left sides? I’m not saying that quiet running is the answer, but it would suggest less impact and listening to yourself run may just make you more aware of what’s going on in your own body.


My Barefoot Running Experience

Barely bare-footing it – 1

After my earlier post on the rise in injuries following the barefoot running craze (26 June 2011), I thought I’d give it a go and see if I could build up to a significant volume without any running associated injuries.

Background: 30 years old, 183 cm, 94 kg. Previous sports include rugby, swimming, hockey and a sprint triathlon with rugby dominating since my late teens. Running experience mainly includes a 10km run and as part of my rugby training. Why is this relevant? Because I still run like I either still have the rugby ball or really want it back. This all results in a rather heavy footfall and ungainly running style.

What I would like to get from trying barefoot running is an “improved”, more relaxed, lighter style of running. I would like to know if this is possible with training or am I stuck with my own “heavy” style. I am not going to use a specific coach or website, but rather my knowledge as a sports therapist and the information freely available on the web to make informed choices about my training. I hope you find this mini series informative and useful, however it is important to note that what works (or not) for me may not provide the same results for you and if you have any questions/doubts you should contact a qualified expert.

What are you tracking?

There is now a plethora of smart phone apps out there for tracking your fitness, but is there one that’s raced ahead of the rest?

Common features include: easy initial set-up, a just run function and GPS tracking. Isn’t this all we need? Well apparently not. As with most sports equipment, these apps are aimed at specific audiences within the sporting population; some are trying to please everyone, whilst others are more specific. The giant brands of Adidas and Nike have a big brand feel, whilst the others are perhaps simpler but no less sleek or effective. The tracker that works very well for me is Endomondo.

A social network of its own Endomondo brings together like minded individuals from the sporting community. I found this particularly motivating when I noticed that a friend I go cycling/running with once a week had been out running just about every other day of the week as well! The website is easy to use, and provides lots of useful information such as fastest mile, Cooper run distance and allows you to comment on, share and export yours and your friends’ runs. Personally I am much more comfortable with sharing this information with the people I run/bike with rather than the whole of the Facebook community. The maps and graphs look slick and are very easy to use, with whole website being easy to navigate.