personal trainer running racing

Sheila is a distance runner who has her sights set on a huge Grand Slam of four 100-mile races in a year. She talks to Sundried about life as a personal trainer and giving up smoking to pursue her passion for a healthy lifestyle.

Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.

I ran my first Marathon in 2013 and was hooked on distance running from there. The number of marathons and ultra-marathons that I ran crept up each year and I joined the UK 100 Marathon Club in November 2017, being the first person to have completed 100 marathon-distance and over races in running sandals. My journey towards the 100 Marathon Club included multi-day events like the Great Barrow 10 marathons in 10 days challenge, along with ultra-distance races up to 100 miles.

This year I am focusing on longer distances and aiming for the Centurion Grand Slam – a series of four 100-mile foot races. I have already completed the Thames Path 100 and the South Downs Way 100 so I'm halfway to the Grand Slam. My next target race in the series is the North Downs Way 100 in August and the final will be the Centurion Autumn 100 Trail Race in October. 

Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

I retrained as a fitness instructor in 2012 following many years working a desk job in Finance and being a 20-a-day smoker. Looking back, the catalyst for changing my life was making the decision to stop smoking; it was a complete game-changer.

I did not start out with the intention of becoming a running specialist, in fact I found running really hard initially and sustained a serious hip injury while training for my first half marathon. With hindsight, that injury was the start of my journey to becoming a run coach and ultra runner as it made me research running in more detail and consider my technique and how to strengthen my body to cope with this high impact sport.

I completed my PT qualification two years later in addition to qualifying as a Sports Massage Therapist along with various advanced courses in Kettlebells, Suspension and Plyometrics. I am now working toward my Chi Running Certification.

My client base is 95% runners of all abilities. I love being part of their journeys, especially the first-time marathoners!

What are your training goals now?

For me, 2018 is all about completing the Centurion Grand Slam. Running 100 miles is no easy feat and a lot can go wrong, so I'm training both mentally and physically, but like with everything else I will give it my best shot.

Looking further ahead into 2019, I have signed up for a return to the GB Challenge of 10 marathons in 10 days (June/July), I have also qualified to enter the Western States 100 miler which is the oldest and most iconic in the 100-mile world -  that would be a dream come true should I be successful in the ballot.

My focus now is really on distance running. I am not sure if I would go over 110 miles in one go, but never say never – I still pinch myself that I am qualifying to be on the start line of 100 milers!

running racing endurance ultra marathon Sundried

Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

I hold a few records as a UK Luna Sandal runner. I'm the first person in the UK to run 100 marathon distance races in running sandals, the first person in the UK to run 10 marathons in 10 days in running sandals, and the first female in the UK to run 100 miles in running sandals.

What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

As a runner, to relax and enjoy myself. To focus on my own training and not what other people are doing, work on my mindset just as much as my running, and to do more strength training.

As a coach, to only work with the clients I know I can build a relationship with as I need to be honest with them. As a coach, I need to inspire and motivate; I am their best friend and worst enemy and there's a lot of pride in seeing them grow and reach their goals.

Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

I am a vegan. I made the transition from pescatarian to vegetarian to vegan over a number of years so it wasn’t that difficult. I find the vegan diet makes me feel a lot lighter; I eat a lot but little and often. I have no issues with protein levels, but need to ensure I get enough good fats in, I also need to be more self-sufficient during races so I carry extra food.

What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

We set goals together short term and long term. Clients need to see progression, so it’s important to change and adapt their training, and of course it needs to be fun. I encourage my clients to work in small groups; I find the group setting helps enormously with commitment and motivation. I have my own workout buddy and personally I know I work harder when he is about as we push one another.

I think you also have to be very clear what it is you want from your training and why, if your “why” is big enough and important enough to you, you will commit and put the work in.

Talk us through your training regime.

My training pattern this year is a bit different because of the commitment to the distance races. The first 100 mile race was in May, so from January 2018 I was in effect doing my base level training for the entire year over 4 very different races. The time in between these 100 milers is focused on recovery, shorter run distances, speed walking, hiking, and strength work

I tend to either run or speed walk 5 miles every day Monday to Friday, with Parkrun 5k on a Saturday and a longer run on Sunday (nothing over marathon distance.)

My dedicated strength training is about 2 hours per week, which includes HIIT,  bodyweight exercises, kettlebells, battle ropes, plyometric box jumps, and lots of work with a Bosu ball.

I also do Sweat Yoga twice a week, which is a mixture of flexibility and classic hot mix strength poses.

How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

I read a lot in addition to researching on the internet. I also tend to learn a lot from my own experiences as a distance runner and the issues and occasional niggles I get and researching how to strengthen and fix myself.

What are your top 3 trainer tips?

  1. Have a goal and have a really good reason for wanting to achieve that goal, as when it gets tough you will need to fall back on that reason.
  2. Focus on what you need to do as an individual to become better – not what anyone else is doing.
  3. Never believe that you are too old, too slow, “too” anything to succeed. Success is yours for the taking if you can find the courage to commit.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That's a tough question! I love my food, but if I had to choose just one thing it'd be blueberries. If it was just one meal, it would be black bean burgers and sweet potato fries.

Why work with Sundried?

I love the ethics. As a runner, I see so much waste of plastic bottles at events – I was just blown away to think they could be reused for something to run in!

Of course the quality has to be superior too. In the distances I run, having good quality fit and sweat-wicking properties in your kit could mean the difference between a finish and DNF. I am happy to say my Sundried kit has not let me down! 

Favourite fitness quote:

"I'd rather aim for the stars and not hit them, then to not aim at all.
I'd rather go after it and not get it, than not go after it at all.
I'd rather try and fail, than not try at all.
I don't want to live with the idea - wonder what would've happen had I done more with my life.
I am going to go for it.
Come hell or high water...
I am going after my destiny."

Eric Thomas - motivational speaker

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