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‘It’s Not Rocket Science’…Lou Roberts Reveals the Secrets of her Success

FROM DOING OK TO WINNING BIG STUFF!

A couple of weeks ago, Cath asked me to write something for the club website to share my experiences of the past year and how I managed to achieve the results I did.

I don’t think it’s rocket science and I certainly don’t think that I am loads better than anyone else but there are a huge number of factors that all come into play when you’re trying to get fit and trying to stay injury free all season. I don’t have any quick fix secrets, I’m sorry and probably everything I will write, I’m sure you all really know it already but if it helps someone out there get a bit faster and achieve better results, then I’ll be happy!

Last year was one of my best seasons ever and I was nearly as shocked as everyone else by how well I did in the end. It was the most focussed and most difficult year’s running I have ever had. I have won the British and English Champs a couple of times before, but when I was a lot younger and, whilst I trained really hard to win them, I didn’t have to worry about all the other aspects of my life that I do now, being a much older and more decrepit runner with a more challenging job!

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Ambleside Ladies winning the 2015 British Fell relays – I am amongst very talented runners here!

I decided in December 2015 that I was going to really give my running the best shot I could and promised myself that I would do everything in my power to help myself to achieve my goals. My goals were to win a medal in the British and English vets (largely inspired by Hazel and Astrid both achieving this in the 2 years previously) and to get into the top 5 in the World Vets (My previous best was 9th)

I have never had any trouble motivating myself to run or race as I love being outside, especially with friends and my dog Mayzi, so setting myself training goals wasn’t a problem for me, I knew I could do it and I knew that I could push myself to work hard. However, combatting tiredness was and is always a big issue for me. I am one of those people who really can’t recover from a late night, I need my sleep! One of the biggest factors that affects my ability to go out is just feeling absolutely knackered as soon as I get in from work. So, I made sure that I couldn’t use that as an excuse and made myself a target of achieving 8 hours sleep every night (I didn’t manage it all of the time). I go to bed at 10pm without fail every night – this has been really challenging and get up at 6.30am during the week. I always have work to do at night (I’m a teacher) but last year, I just stopped working at 10 every night, regardless of whether I had done what I needed to do or not! This is not rocket science but simply giving my body enough sleep has made a massive impact in my ability to continue with my training all year. I managed to get through the year and still kept my job so it was a win-win!

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Out with my favourite fell companion – my dog Mayzi!

I also was more careful with my diet and alcohol consumption. I set myself a few rules (no drinking during the week, etc) and used my Fitbit religiously to help me. I didn’t go on a diet (I could never do that as I like my food and love white wine and Blue Wkd) but I was just more careful! Using my fitbit, I lost quite a lot of weight in the first part of the year but I wouldn’t want anyone to think that they have to lose weight to get fast. I had many years of having a couple of glasses of wine each night or similar to try and do something about!! I also think that you need a bit of muscle on you to do well on the fells, you need strength and stamina and you don’t get that if you’re a size 6!!

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During the World Masters in Susa, Italy, August 2016

Crucially, I trained bloody hard! From January through to March, I did 2 speed sessions a week on the roads and worked really hard in every session. I did 2 long runs on the hills and 1 hard long hill session every week. I never missed a session in the whole of the winter months. The other runs were just plodding along to keep the legs moving. Occasionally I ran twice a day but have found that doesn’t really benefit me and every week I had a day off running (I would either walk or swim or do nothing). I always made sure my speed sessions were with other people as I can’t motivate myself to run fast round the streets of Kendal by myself but add in a bit of friendly competition and I’ll race anyone! On the fells, I have no problem pushing myself. I know my times from the last 20 years up to nearly every local summit so just set myself the target of breaking my times. From March onwards, racing really started properly so I dropped the speed sessions if I was racing at the weekend but kept doing everything else. I also found that I did need to give my body more time to recover from hard sessions or races as I’m a bit older so would stop training hard on a Tuesday if I was racing on a Saturday. Recently, I’ve signed up to Strava and can already see how I am beginning to get hooked and am wanting to break all of the course records on the climbs!!

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Doing what I love best – our team for the Lee Mills relays 2016 where we came 2nd Ladies team

Finally, I didn’t get majorly injured. I was lucky. Astrid comes round to regularly give us a sports massage and that definitely helps and I saw Graham from Body Rehab as soon as there were any signs of injury last year – he was great at keeping me on my feet!

I managed to win the British Champs last year which was completely unexpected and won the British and English vets and came 2nd in the English champs. In August, I did a little race in Italy and became a World Champion!! I also ran for England twice which was something I never thought I would ever do again – it was an absolutely amazing year and, if I can achieve half of that again this year, I will be happy!

And that’s about it – no revelations! I know it’s all about being consistent, week in, week out, all year long and that demands a certain selfishness. Mark and I are lucky, in that his kids are all older now and so we don’t have the demands of juggling 5 children at the weekends so we can be selfish. We go out running when we want and where we want – not everybody has that luxury. I also have not had any life threatening illnesses or major injuries. There are so many great runners, both in our club and within our sport, who have not been so lucky and could have achieved so much but life has thrown them different challenges!

I absolutely love running and racing, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have that and too often we take for granted the things that we enjoy. We live in a beautiful place with amazing runs from our doorstep – Just get out there and enjoy yourself.

Lou Roberts, Ambleside AC – January 2017

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Racing the last English Champs race – Langdale 2016