Running Tips & Tricks for Finding Your Feet with Hanny Allston - Peak Performance Coach, World Champion & Elite Trail Runner
How long have you been running for?
I started back when I was about 12 for swimming training. It was part of a fitness routine. I then picked it up more seriously from the age of 17 when I begun to chase goals in the international orienteering scene. It has been a huge part of my life ever since then, progressing from orienteering to the marathon, then to trail-, ultra- and sky- running. I now run non-competitively, using it as my means to explore myself, landscapes and inspire members of my community… to help us all to find our feet.
What's your biggest running achievement to date?
I think it was actually this year when I ran the length of the French Pyrenees Mountains solo in just over 19 days. It involved running over a marathon a day with extreme vertical - 700km+ and 45,000+m of climbing. It was spontaneous and probably a little bit silly, but it made my toes tingle and I knew I just had to lean in and have a go. I thrived and it turned out to be quite life-changing. It forced me to lean into fear, to release guilt, and to trust myself. But second to this would have to be my rise to World Champion at just 19 years of age and after going through a very turbulent time. I overcame a full ankle reconstruction and fractures in my family to stand on the top of the podium. Again, I see this as an achievement not so much for what I achieved, but how I grew from it.
What are your top 5 tips for improving your running technique?
1. Run like a butler - tall, proud and slightly leaning into the action
2. Short strides - run like a seagull or a sewing machine… small, quick steps
3. Cadence - most of us want to plod. Short then stride and lift the cadence to around 180 steps per minute. To achieve this, sing 'row row row your boat’ to yourself… it is the perfect cadence.
4. Build your base - don’t run into the speed and racing. Take time to find joy in your running and build a strong level of base fitness. This will help avoid injury.
5. Be consistent - don’t fall into the trap of ‘one-hit-wonder’ training. Little amounts every day is a great place to build from.
Do you have any tips to mastering your mind during your run? (Sometimes it can be your worst enemy)
I try to be gentle on myself, and use a 5% rule… That is, there is a sliding scale of leaning into the exertion and discomfort. For instance, in a race I don’t want to lean all the way in and blow up. Similarly, I don’t want to lean all the way out and find myself walking or needing to sit down. I just want to pace myself, be gentle and recuperate for a moment if I need to. Therefore, I might say to myself, ‘just lean out 5% - just relax 5% here so that you regain a little energy and composure.’ of ‘Just lean in 5% so that you strive closer to your potential in this moment.’ Learning to lean in and lean out in 5% increments has been really life changing for me. I use it in my running, but also in work and life in general. I find 5% is just so doable that soon I am leaning in 10%, 15% or even more.
Do you recommend doing any strength training alongside your runs?
Yes, but I recommend just short snippets before your bigger runs - just activation work for the glutes, core and calf muscles before you head out the door. 15 - 20mins is all that it needs to be. However, sometimes there are times when you need to focus in even more on this area, such as after injury or returning from a break, or perhaps when striving for a new goal with different challenges. I think it is about knowing yourself and what you need. But all that said, a great starting point is to pull out your yoga mat before you head out the door and wake up those running muscles!
Do you have a post run recovery routine?
Hmmm I do but I am not sure I should be the shining example. I normally kick off my shoes, leap in the shower, breakfast, tea and then ride my bike to work. But I do try to keep moving throughout the day after a hard run, taking frequent breaks from my work to ease the body. I also try to refuel and look after myself nutritionally. However, ideally I would recommend 10-15 minutes of extra yoga or stretching work straight after the run if you can, replacing electrolytes with a quality recovery drink and even lying with your feet up a wall to drop your cortisol levels if it was a hard run.
What are your top 3 tips for preparing for a marathon/race?
1. Be consistent in your training
2. Eat only light meals, low in fibre, protein and fats the day before - anything you eat the day before will still be in your digestive tract on race day. To avoid gastric distress, think ‘white, fluffy, starchy’… such as my pre-event meal of pumpkin soup and sourdough toast the eve of the event.
3. Use sports nutrition - use it in training and then use the same formulas in the event! It will be life changing.
Hanny has also been kind enough to share with us a few of her useful resources, if you want any more information or some helpful tips and tricks check out the below:
Trail Running Guidebook - (there are so many tips and tricks in it, even for the non-trail runner): https://www.hannyallston.com.au/guidebook.html
Beginner’s guide to trail running: https://www.hannyallston.com.au/beginnertrailrunningplanner.html
Marathon training planner: https://www.hannyallston.com.au/marathon.html
Hanny’s Podcast: https://www.hannyallston.com.au/podcast.html
Hanny's Race Highlights:
2006 Only non-European to win a World Orienteering Championships
2006 – 2015 represented Australia at various World Orienteering events
2006 Australian Mountain Running Champion
2007 Melbourne Marathon Champion
2008 Winner New Zealand Marathon & Half Marathon Championships
2009 Australian Mountain Running Champion
2009 Winner Point to Pinnacle
2010 Winner Triple Tops, record holder
2013 Overland Track 82km, record holder (8 hours 10 mins)
2014 Winner Six Foot Track
2015 Winner Six Foot Track (record time 3hr 34min)
2015 Oceania Skyrunning Champion
2016 Winner Ultra Trail Australia 50km
2017 2nd Ultra Trail Australia