Improve your fitness, health and your life by doing this every week…
If cooking a meal gives you instant gratification and building a business is a long term fix, what fits in the medium category?
Exercise is the answer.
You get to eat the meal immediately after you’ve cooked it, it’s a great instant fix. But with exercise you don’t get to experience the benefits until a little way into the future. That’s why most people fail to adhere to their daily dose, they want the results now and when it doesn’t come it can be demoralising and they quit.
We know that exercise is key to a healthy life, let’s not get into that in this article. I would argue that exercise plays a bigger role in conditioning us for success in all aspects of life, if you are able to draw the parallels. In the next few minutes I want to take you through why this is the case and present an argument for exercising for more than just health reasons (as if that wasn’t enough in isolation).
The life coach Tony Robbins talks about success conditioning. If we want to achieve high levels of success we must train ourselves for it. His tactics focus on affirmations, chanting, and self talk to fuel your belief in yourself and internal drive.
We know that the words we say affect the thoughts we have and therefore the behaviours we exhibit. It works the other way around too. The behaviours we exhibit affect the thoughts we have and the words we say. So the cycle completes itself. But how do you tap into this?
Whilst I don’t disagree with Tony I think exercise and in particular distance running is a better way forwards for five reasons:
- It is painful throughout. You know that beforehand, during and at the end. It conditions you to tolerate suffering and keep coming back.
- It starts off hard and gets harder! This is beautiful for so many reasons. It trains you to expect things to get tougher not easier.
- 10 minutes or more or consistent movement is long enough for you to actually think about it when you’re doing it. When you get to the half way point you want it to be over and you’re mind tells you to quit because it’s too hard. You want to slow down, stop and get off the treadmill. Staying on is the best mental conditioning for sticking to anything I’ve ever had.
- You get a full life experience in 10 minutes. Everything is easy at the start, then you realise to get to where you want to be it’s going to be very tough. At any point you have a choice to stop. No one is forcing you to continue and most people quit. To finish strong you need to fully commit and make it happen. You are in control throughout. See the parallels to other challenges you’re experiencing in life at the moment? All of this in 10-15 minutes. You can train yourself for success every single day if you want to.
- You have to use positive self talk to get through it. It’s in the context of the exercise you’re doing, but it demonstrates the power of this method. I would challenge anyone who says that they can get through a tough running session without talking to themselves along the way. If that’s the case it’s just not tough enough! So you can draw on this when things get tough outside of the gym.
What type of exercise?
Ultimately you can do whatever you want to do to stay fit. Whether it’s running, cycling, hiking, weight training, martial arts or anything and everything in between. As long as you do something.
As a strength and conditioning coach most people expect me to be an advocate of lifting weights. I most certainly am and 17 years into my weight training career it still ticks a lot of boxes for me.
But in the last few years my interests have shifted to running.
For over 10 years I’ve used the cooper 2.4km run test to gauge aerobic fitness in the athletes I train. Under my watch hundreds of professional athletes from many different sports as diverse as netball and mixed martial arts have been pushed through this test as well as many general population clients too.
I started using it because when I took over the cricket programme at the centre of excellence in Durham 11 years ago they used this test so I continued to do so to get some good data on the players. I’ve never dropped it since then, because it works.
In the last few years I’ve started running this myself on a regular basis along with other distances and discovered a wider benefit from this particular distance.
The 2.4km is your entry point into the world of success conditioning. A 10-12 minute effort which literally represents all aspects of life from business to relationships to showing up every day and being consistent.
Firstly let me tell you that this is a true love hate relationship. Initially I was afraid of it because I knew it was painful. Then I started running it and hated it throughout. Then when I could see my times improving I started to enjoy the challenge whilst still hating the thought of it.
When I got to a good standard it became more about keeping the plate spinning and shaving a second off here and there.
My PB is now 8:59 seconds which you’ll notice from the table above is in the elite category. It took me around 2 years to get to that point from fully committing to running regularly.
How to get better:
A mentor of mine Kelvin Giles says that testing is training and training is testing. Although the 2.4km run is a test, the way to get better is to keep doing it. Get it in your weekly training at least once per week and you can even go twice if you want to hit it hard. You’ll knock multiple minutes off purely by doing it over and over again.
Expect to start at around 13-15 minutes on your first attempt if you’re coming in unfit. But you’ll soon drop a minute off that with practise and focus. You might just find yourself addicted and loving it. It will open up opportunities for you to take on other challenges like the Three Peaks marathon which I did in 2017…
Breaking the 10 minute barrier:
I kid you not this was my version of the 4 minute mile and my breaking of this happened in a strange way. I’d gotten close to the ten minutes on many occasions hitting 10:06, 10:10, 10:14 regularly. But for the life of me I couldn’t get under ten minutes. Then my friend and professional S&C coach Ian Fisher starting running it. Coming in aerobically very fit within a couple of sessions Fish literally hit a 9:50. And guess what, within another week I had run it in 9:48. Then Fish and I set a challenge to break the 9 minute barrier. Literally week by week we knocked time off the run. 10 seconds here and there and soon we were sub 9:30 runners. From memory Ian then hit a 9:10 which really set the bar high and I followed with a 9:07. A couple more efforts and I was going for the sub 9.
The night before I loaded up on carbohydrates and went to bed early. On the Saturday morning I was prowling around the treadmill area of the gym ready to go. With a clear strategy in mind I nailed it in 8:59 and well and truly ticked that box. In the last year or so I’ve been doing the run but in around 9:45 which is in touching distance.
I’ve seen plenty of people get to a fitness level where they could break the 10 minute barrier if they want but psychologically they can’t handle the suffering. But that pain represents more than simply running quickly.
What is the challenge that you need to overcome in your life? Train for success by doing this run every week!
So if you’re looking to have a go at this here’s some standards to work towards both for men and women. These are derived from a decade of putting people through this, my own adventures and a combination of elite athletes and anyone and everyone.
The 2.4km Run Standards
Poor: > 15 minutes
Average: < 13 minutes
Good: < 11:30
Excellent: < 10 minutes
Elite: < 9 minutes
Poor: > 15 minutes
Average: < 13 minutes
Good: < 11:30
Excellent: < 10:30
Elite: < 9:30
Time to get training
You’ve hard my reasons, now it’s time for you to take the challenge. Let me know what time you get by leaving a comment or tagging me on social media with the hashtag #enjoythepain. I’d love to see a photo of you just as you get off the treadmill too! Something like this one…
Keep pushing hard folks,
My best as always,