Archive for August, 2009

REVIEW: British Military Fitness


It’s the same story for anyone with a gym membership. You have the tools around you to get fitter but if you workout on your own are you really going to push yourself that little bit further? You know you’d achieve much better results if you had a personal trainer, but after a little research you find that your bank balance will be the only thing getting a workout!

This weekend I attended a class that poses a possible solution to the problem. Each Saturday (or most Saturdays) when I begin my early morning run in Greenwich Park, I’ll pass a bunch of people wearing coloured bibs, usually led by a burly bloke in camouflaged trousers shouting and screaming. These are the British Military Fitness classes.

The British Military Fitness (BMF) classes are the UK’s leading outdoor fitness provider. They are led by a qualified instructor (all of whom have a military background) and each class consists of a one-hour session of exercises that will push you to your absolute limits.


When I turned up at 9am to start the class on Saturday morning I had a chat with one of the instructors about my basic level of fitness. I explained that I’d run the marathon back in April and that I was a regular gym goer. This turned out to be an error as he threw me straight into the intermediate class. The classes are broken up into the groups; beginner (blue bibs), intermediate (red bibs) and advanced (green bibs).

Donning my red bib, we immediately started off with a 10-minute warm up and jogged off into Greenwich park. This was focused on getting the heart rate up and consisted of plenty of running exercises (short sharp bursts of speed with rapid changes in direction) and a lot of movement (designed to get the muscles adequately stretched). Because the group was so large (roughly 40 people) we were split up into two. I later found out that the instructors had decided the groups based on what they had seen from you in the warm-ups and tiered them slightly. Apparently I was lower-tier material, which was probably about right.

Our group was led off further around the park, stopping at different points to perform a batch of exercises before moving on. These exercises are largely based on building your core muscle groups. All the instructors have to work with is the park and your body. There are no weights or special tools so the exercises use your own body-weight against you. There were plenty of press-ups, sit-ups and squat exercises during the course of the hour.

One of the best elements of the class is the camaraderie between those attending. Most people (especially the new starters like myself) were initially quite quiet and timid. This really didn’t last long as you’re thrown into exercises with partners. Everyone there was fantastic. I had 5 or 6 different partners throughout the course of the hour and each one of the them was vigorous and encouraging. Considering they were strangers this was incredibly refreshing, especially in a city where the only words you’ll utter to someone you don’t know are “2 pints of lager please”.

They do try to pair you off with someone of similar size and weight. During one exercise we were required to push against one another in an effort to force your opponent over an imaginary line between you. The chap I was paired off with gave me a little wink, said “I’m a rugby player”, dug his heels in and launched me backwards! I reckon I’ll ‘av him after a few more classes.

Overall these classes are an excellent way of staying in shape. Coupled with a running schedule, the BMF would be an ideal way of training for an upcoming race and, based on how I’m feeling today (three days after the class), I’d imagine you’d shed some serious pounds. For the price of a gym membership you can attend these classes as many times a week as you’d like. I’d honestly recommend these classes to anyone. Everyone is incredibly friendly (a few members took me out for a coffee afterwards) and I was in no way made to feel intimidated. Your first class is free and there’s no obligation to sign up if it’s not for you.

The only negative feedback I can report from the day is the lack of water breaks. It was pretty warm on the weekend and we only stopped twice for a quick gulp of water. Considering the intensity of the workout, I didn’t feel that this was enough. Also, I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed the session if the weather hadn’t been so good. Winter is only around the corner…


Sir Win A Lot

Like what you’ve heard? Well the team at British Military Fitness are kindly giving away one month’s free membership to the BMF classes to 5 lucky SJAL readers! The courses are based all over the UK and, if you’re a winner*, you can select any BMF venue you’d like to attend.

You can enter in one of two ways. Either…

  1. Post a message on Twitter by clicking this link or…
  2. Answer the following question:

Which BMF class was I put in during my introductory session?

A. Beginner

B. Intermediate

C. Advanced


*Winners will be contacted either by email or Twitter and announced on 1st September. Your email address will in no way be distributed to third parties.

REVIEW: JPMorgan Corporate Challenge

JPMorgan Corporate ChallengeIf you’re a gym-goer who lives in a major city across the globe (London, New York, Frankfurt, Sydney, Singapore or many others), you’ll have undoubtedly seen someone wearing a white t-shirt with ‘JPMorgan Corporate Challenge’ written on the front. If you’re really lucky you may have even spotted someone wearing one that fits them.

On the rare occasion that you actually spot a shirt that hugs the biceps and doesn’t flap around in the air conditioning from your local gym then go over, shake that person’s hand and ask them if they’d like a running partner. The likelihood is that this person has finished the JPMorgan CC in under 24 minutes.

Every year business moguls in their thousands turn up to one of their city’s finest parks to run the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, an event now over 30 years old and so popular that it boasts nearly a quarter of a million entrants each year across the globe. Part of its popularity is probably down to the length of the race; a manageable 3.5 miles. This gives even the hardest working city trader time to put down his or her Blackberry a couple of times a week to train.

If you’re lucky enough to get a place then the first question you’ll be asked is whether or not you think you can run 3.5 miles in under 21 minutes. If you think you can then you’ll be given a red sticker and, on arrival, you’ll be ushered to the front of the line to be given a relatively clear run to the finish. If you don’t then be prepared for an elbow-jousting scrap for one square-foot of asphalt at every other step.

The start...

The London event is hosted at the beautiful Battersea Park and is a utter schmooze-fest. If you’re a client of one of the corporate giants attending then you’ll be in for plastic glasses and private portaloos. If not, feel free to be intimidated by the size of another company’s hospitality tent and get in the queue for the sub-£5 million-a-year toilets.

It’s a very crowded race once you’ve managed to get over the start line so don’t be expecting to be beating any PBs. You’ll be lucky to get under a minute over your usual time (the London race actually ground to a halt during one bottle-necked corner). The atmosphere makes up for this though. Each year all companies compete in a t-shirt competition and this makes for an interesting read as you progress (this year’s London event was won by Tudor Capital). There’s also an award for the fastest ‘most senior executive’ and, as you can imagine, an incredible amount of money is raised for causes across the globe ($600,000 to charities and even more for not-for-profit organisations).

At the end you’ll get the fabled JPMCC t-shirt and if you’re quick enough, you’ll get one in your size! Wear it with pride.

ASICS Gel DS 14 Competition Winner:

Congratulations to Anthony Weavis who wins a pair of ASICS Gel DS 14 trainers worth £90.

Don’t forget to look out for competition prizes on SJAL over the coming months.

A message to Usain Bolt’s competitors…

Picture from thor_matt83 via FlickR

Picture from thor_matt83 via flickr

…lose the bling!

This week has left biologists and statisticians speechless as Usain Bolt smashed his 100m record by over a 10th of a second (a video I have watched an extortionate amount since Sunday).

His closest competitor, Tyson Gay, ran a 9.71 (pretty close to Bolt’s previous record-breaking run in Beijing of 9.69). In short distances like the 100m, a tenth of a second is an age. Technological advances in sports clothing have given us lighter shoes and aerodynamic materials, designed to streamline the body. In a sport where every hundredth of second counts, an athlete’s weight is crucial.

So why, in the name of all that is holy, would the elite athletes drag themselves down with the unnecessary jewellery that the 100m finalists were wearing on Sunday?

Here comes the science bit, concentrate…

Lets say that, during his 100m final, Usain Bolt is running at top speed (roughly 12.44 metres per second*) by the time he reaches 60 metres. Bolt reached 60m in 6.31 seconds and he weighs 86kg (it’s amazing what you can find out online). That’s an acceleration of just under 2 metres per second, per second.

Force = mass x acceleration

172 Newtons.

Add a watch (10g), a bracelet (7g) and a gold chain with a ring around it (15g) and the extra force required to accelerate to top speed is an extra 0.064 Newtons!

OK, in reality that isn’t very much, in fact it’s the equivalent to a slight breeze. But in a sport where a race is cancelled if there’s a tail wind blowing at more than 2 m/s then this is a significant difference.


  1. that meant nothing to you…
  2. you don’t believe me…
  3. you think I got my maths wrong…

…then check the table below. Usain and Gay (sans jewellery) came first and second.

Bet you wish you’d paid more attention in physics class now eh?

100 Metres Final

  1. Usain Bolt – 9.58 – NO BLING
  2. Tyson Gay – 9.71 – NO BLING
  3. Asafa Powell – 9.84 – WATCH, BEADED NECKLACE
  4. Daniel Bailey – 9.93 – CHAIN NECKLACE WITH A RING ON IT!
  5. Richard Thompson – 9.93 – CHAIN, WATCH
  6. Dwain Chambers – 10.00 – WATCH
  7. Marc Burns – 10.00 – BRACELET
  8. Darvis Patton – 10.34 – WATCH

Lose the bling...

* Calculated using the time it takes for him to run between the 60m and 80m marks during his 100m final.

4 tips on how to beat your PB:

Post by Dan Worth

Beating your personal best

Okay, so you’re a competent runner. You’re a 10km pro, perhaps have a few half marathons under you’re belt, and maybe even a marathon and, towards the end you’re usually overtaking – and that makes you feel good. But, when the time comes up after the race, there’s a nagging doubt that perhaps you could be doing better. But how? How can you shave off a few minutes here, some precious seconds there, and start to improve those times? Well, thankfully, here are some tips to help you smash that PB:

  1. Race everything

    You see that other runner plodding along 60 meters away? Yeah? She’s going to win £1,000 instead of you unless you catch her in two minutes. Oh and that tree blowing innocently in the wind? It’s going to fall on you unless you’re past it in under 45 seconds. Basically: find motivation, whatever it is, to make yourself run faster than you need to. Overtake other runners, see how long you can stay ahead of a cyclist coming up behind you, imagine a dog is about to attack you, and so on. Anything you can do to exert extra energy will help you reach a new level of fitness. And it’s fun too. This is essentially the Swedish running style known as Fartlek (Speed Play) and is a good way to have fun, and increase your speed, while out running.

  2. Push yourself

    Perhaps this will sound obvious but you’ve got to push yourself. This though, needn’t mean running like Usian Bolt and sweating more than Lee Evans, it just means easing yourself from a position of comfort while running to one of, well, a bit less comfort. Next time you find yourself ticking along nicely, gradually start to accelerate. Nothing major, but a slow, steady increase, so that after about 200 meters you’re doing a good speed. Now maintain that pace for about three minutes, or as long as you feel comfortable with, and then ease back down to a comfortable pace. Speeding up gradually and then easing back down will help to shift the boundary of your most comfortable running speed to one that’s slightly faster than before.

  3. Time yourself

    Investing in a good watch is a great way to go faster. Being able to accurately record how fast and how far you’re running while out and about provides you with a much better way of being able to assess your ability. And using the Fartlek running style (mentioned above) means you can put a specific speed and/or distance limit on each sprint you do – say, 0.4km at 4.30 minutes per km. Garmin, the most well-known brand, have watches that start at around £60 on Amazon and a little shopping around will help you see what seems best.

  4. Plan your race

    This is the time when you might feel like an obsessive runner. Pick a race that’s flat, on a smooth surface, and avoids laps. Have a good breakfast (and a banana) and make sure you’re there in plenty of time to warm up. The race itself is also something you need to plan. The first 3km could dash any hopes you have if you go too slow or get caught in a crowd, so get to a good position in the start and ensure you begin at the pace you’ve planned for. Through 3km to 8km, you want to find that rhythm you’ve built to in training and stick to it: this is where your fancy watch will come in handy, telling you your exact pace, and alerting you if you’re going to slowly, allowing you to pick up the pace before you fall too far behind. Then over the last two kilometers really push it home, using the adrenaline of the race environment, the knowledge you’re close to home, and the fact you’re about to smash your PB, to really shave off as many seconds, or indeed minutes, as you can. Hopefully, this will see you home in your best time yet; and there’s something intensely satisfying about that.

Only trouble is once… now you’ve set it you’ve got to break it again. Back out on the road you go…

Avoid laps...

Dan Worth writes  for a UK business/trade magazine company, across a range of their titles. He has also written articles for Runners World and The Guardian. You can find his blog at Dan ran the London Marathon in 2009, has a half marathon time of 1 hour 42 minutes and his 10k PB is 42:20.


ASICS GEL DS 14Regular readers of SJAL will know that I’m a big fan of ASICS trainers. You might find it ludicrous to spend more than £50 on a pair of running shoes, but if those shoes are going to see you through 4 months of training and a marathon without wearing away or causing an injury, then you’d expect to pay a little more wouldn’t you?

At around £90 a pair of ASICS Gel DS 14’s are near the top end of the ASICS Gel range. To a layman the technical specs of these trainers won’t mean much; they are fitted with a space trustic, gilled mesh, solyte, durasponge and an impact guidance system. Maybe if ASICS hadn’t spent all that money registering patents the trainers might have come cheaper?

The DS 14’s are built for the mild over-pronator and (if you get the size right) fit like an absolute glove. If you have claustrophobic feet then go for half a size bigger than usual or choose another model. They are incredibly light when on and even to hold and I like the design. The version for women shows a little less black and a little more pink. These shoes boast a gender specific space trustic (changing the shape of the space around the arch of the foot) which accommodates the over-pronation more likely to be found with the female running style. Apparently it’s due to the larger hips

As an over-pronator you’d expect to find plenty of (durasponge) cushioning with these trainers, but the DS 14’s also have a harder material on the outside edge of the foot, which normally tends to wear faster with an over-pronating style. This apparently grips better in the wet too.

Overall, the trainers perform very well, look great and are very comfortable. But for £90 I might have expected to see a little more extravagance with the design (possibly a flamboyantly designed heel or some titanium flugelbinders). Never mind…


Sir Win A Lot

Fancy winning a pair of these bad boys*? Thanks to the people at Fitness Footwear, Sir Jog A Lot is offering the chance to win a pair of ASICS Gel DS 14’s, worth £90, to one lucky reader and all you have to do is answer this question:

Which trainers did SJAL buy to train in and eventually run the London Marathon 2009?

A. ASICS Gel Foundation 8

B. ASICS Gel Speedstar 3

C. ASICS Gel 1140


* Please note that we only have the pair shown in a size UK 10 1/2. Apologies to all gals and guys with a shoe size other than 10 1/2. Winners will be contacted by email and announced one week today on Twitter. Delivery to the UK only. Your email address will in no way be distributed to third parties.

5 tips for running a 10K race:

5 tips for a top 10k race -

For those that have just started running, whether you’re looking to lose a few pounds or you’re keen on running more competitively, a 10k race is a great first challenge to really test your endurance skills.

If you’re a fully fledged marathon runner, 10k is a nice distance to keep yourself in peak physical condition during those winter months and is a fantastic platform to start improving your long-distance times. Because of this, the 10k running race is one of the most popular events in the jogging community.

Here are 5 tips that will ensure that you’ll run and finish a 10k race in the time you’re looking to:

  1. Pick your training plan:
    You’ll need to decide on the training plan for you. This will depend on how seriously you’re going take the race and how far in advance you’ve been given to train. Annoyingly, unless you’re a regular runner, it can take a number of weeks to significantly improve your distance running so if your race is in a couple of weeks then getting round will be your main goal. Runner’s World and Cancer Research UK (beginners and advanced) have some good 10k training plans that are based on how long you have until race day.

  2. iStock_000007397647XSmallChoose the right clothes:
    If you’re new to running then you might be inclined to dust off those old trainers that have been lying in the back of your closet and start pounding asphalt. Don’t. Trainers are the most important tool in a runner’s arsenal and are the one area you should never scrimp on. Visit a recommended athletics store to have your gait analysed and pick up the shoes that are best suited to your running style. Your posture will improve and you’ll avoid unnecessary injury. With shorts, shirts and socks stick to light material and try and avoid heavier fabrics like thick cotton. This will hopefully reduce friction between thighs and armpits and will ‘wick’ away sweat should you get hot. Find out what you feel the most comfortable wearing (and how much leg you’re happy with showing off) and get plenty of…

  3. Practice:
    Unlike training for a marathon, 10 kilometres is a distance that you can perform at the end of each week that’ll leave you enough time to recover for the following week. Get a few 10k practice runs under your belt and try to discover what sort of times you feel comfortable with. Some may manage to crack the sub-one-hour mark on their first attempt. Others may struggle, but you can save yourself a few surprises by having a go around your local park. Use the Google Maps distance measurement tool or the GMAP Pedometer to map out the 10k and work out some split times based on landmarks on your route. It’ll come in handy come the big day as you’ll know whether to slow down or speed up as you reach each kilometre mark. If you’ve got the wallet, there are plenty of GPS tools you can purchase, like the Garmin Forerunner.

  4. Prepare:
    It might not be a marathon, but that doesn’t mean that a good bowl of pasta the night before won’t go down a treat on race day. Stock up on carbs, pin your race number to your shirt and plan your route to the start line the night before. The last thing you want is to arrive late at the start line and exhaust yourself getting there, or worse still, miss the race!

  5. Pace yourselfPace yourself:
    It sounds like simple advice, go steady and you’ll make it all the way round, and it is simple. But the amount of times I’ve been passed in the first mile of a 10k race, only to overtake them by mile 4, is absolutely astonishing. Your aim should be to obtain the much-heralded negative split time, where you run the second half of the race faster than the first. If it’s your first race you will almost certainly get caught up in the mad rush at the start and launch into a 4-minute K pace. You know your body, so you should know your extremities. The rumors that the crowd will keep you going are only true so far. If you run too fast at the start you’ll struggle at the end and you’ll leave the race feeling disappointed and upset with yourself.

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