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Run like an athlete – the new London running club showing us how

Track life, LDN, running, review, healthista

Healthista’s Olivia and El gave ‘performance running’ a sprinting go. From the not-sporty-at-all and occasional runner perspectives, see how Track Life London put us both to the test in this week’s Class of the Week

Track Life LDN is a running club with a difference. Their focus is on performance running and training like an athlete – even if you aren’t one.

So, do you need to be good at running to go to one of their sessions? Well, no. A mix of ‘energy and a positive attitude’ are the two key ingredients needed to take part, says the website. Add a whole lot of willpower and you’re good to go.

Founded by Omar Mansour and Rory Knight (both athletes themselves) in June 2018, the duo have got a group of dedicated runners going to their sessions every Monday in Battersea, and each week they get a whole bunch of newbies coming too.

‘We want to bridge a gap between the running community between really experienced runners and beginners and make an environment that’s welcoming and relaxed’, says Mansour.

Track Life focus on technique more than the average runner. Most people want to run faster and further, but Track Life LDN want you to run ‘better’, they say.

Your neighbour who goes out for a run everyday round your local park? She’s probably doing it all wrong, according to Knight. ‘Track Life LDN teach how posture and technique can be used to make your running experience way more productive’.

Their goal is to go global, say the ambitious duo, and we have a feeling they’ll do just that.

The week before Healthista gave it a go, a 10 year old child and 60 year old man also hopped on the wave attending running night. Here’s what happened when we tried a Monday night session.

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The one who doesn’t do sports… ever: El

Pain factor: 5/5

Fun factor: 5/5

Intimidation Factor: 4 at the start, but 2.5/5 when we actually began

Sweat Factor: (if I could say a thousand I would), 5/5

Best for: advanced runners

Yup, that’s me. Why the hell did I say yes to going to one of the Track Life sessions? I bet you’re wondering that. And if you’re not, don’t worry – because I was for at least two hours before I ended up on the tracks.

Now let me tell you, the ten minute walk from Mile End station to the leisure centre was enough of a workout for me. Before we even got there I was panting and hoping my colleague Olivia couldn’t notice the smell protruding from my armpits.

So we get there. The weather wasn’t rainy and not too cold so at least that was on my side, even though my unfit body was definitely not.

I look at the other members of the group in their fancy leggings and running shoes and then look down at my once black, now greying jogging bottoms and ripped New Balances. Let me be honest, this is the same outfit I wear when lounging around at home. But that day was going to be different. I was at least going to be on my feet rather than on the sofa.

A couple of minutes after we all gathered at 6.30pm on Monday night Omar, Rory and Emma – the founding trainers of Track Life London come walking from the other end of the track.

Olivia, recognising them straight away, pointed them out to me. They looked like some badass ninjas or bodyguards with their confidence and all-black getup. You know in films the cool guys are introduced in slow motion with an exciting song in the back? In my mind that was happening when I saw them.

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When they got to our side of the track we were greeted with comfortable and confident smiles. Quick introductions later Olivia, myself and the 15 or so other people walk onto the grass and get to the section of the track we were going to do our warm-ups on.

After dumping our belongings on the bench we begin.

We started with a quick jog on a small section of the tracks and back again. Next, we did the exact same thing but each time it had a new twist. Track Life London are all about technique and performance, attempting to teach people how athletes train ‘but you don’t have to be an athlete to train like one’. I laughed at myself when I heard this.

The warm-ups aren’t even done yet and I’m already as red as the lipstick I chose to wore that day

I can’t remember for the life of me what any of the techniques were called but one minute we were kicking each of our legs forward and jogging forward, and the next we were cutting shapes (a dance-move people perform at raves) and doing that at the same time as we jogged from one cone to the next. Okay, that’s not really what happened but that’s what it looked like when I tried doing it.

I look over at Olivia to compare who’s more sweaty. The warm-ups aren’t even done yet and I’m already as red as the lipstick I chose to wore that day. I should have wiped it off.

Divided into two groups (I made sure Olivia stayed with me the entire time. I was NOT going to do anything alone) our group began with Emma. Ahead of us stood two rows of… hurdles. Hurdles? When I saw them I almost decided to run home instead. The different heights of hurdles all symmetrically aligned were threatening me, but before I could make my escape we begin.

‘Don’t be afraid’, Emma commands to the group. Did I look that scared? Probably.

The goal here was not to jump over the hurdles but to swing one leg over, go under, and swing the other one over until you’re done. Pretty simple, though awkward. I was far too self-conscious about the way I looked to fully concentrate on what I was doing.

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After the hurdles exercise, my group moves on to where Omar was standing, several training ladders patiently waiting by his feet. We tested our footwork, agility and speed on them… or we were supposed to. By the end I felt like I was learning how to tap-dance. Okay, I’m kidding. I just want to make myself feel better for being terrible at all of them. At least I tried, right? I want to personally thank everyone there for not laughing at me and for Rory, Emma and Omar for being so motivating and kind all throughout.

It must have been an hour or so later when we finally get to the main course. Those warm-ups were supposed to be the starters but if I wasn’t exhausted before, I definitely was now. We all come back together and wait to be instructed. I eye up the bench area where we’ve dumped our belongings, wondering how quickly I can grab my water bottle before the next segment of the session begins.

So there were three teams. Omar was leading the fast group, Rory the intermediate, and Emma the slow.

Actually, in typical Track Life LDN style, they don’t call the slow group slow, they call them sexy. She was leading the sexy group.

After deciding which group you’d like to be in, and being coached on track etiquette (if someone’s running and you’re in their way they’ll shout TRACK and you’ve gotta move out the way), we get into our respective groups and get ready.

 The sound I was making whilst gasping for air definitely didn’t sound human

Now, me not being sporty whatsoever and also not being the best at maths – I got a C in my GCSE maths exam – I had no idea how long 800m actually is. That’s twice around the whole track. The whole thing.

We were warned several times to not use up all of our energy as soon as we started running, and even though I listened to that piece of advice by the time we had run the first quarter I had fallen behind the rest of the team and was panting like crazy.  The sound I was making whilst gasping for air definitely didn’t sound human.

Now another Track Life rule is that if everyone has already completed the run, they’ve gotta wait and clap and cheer for the person who reaches the end last. ‘We want the last person to feel as great as the first person’, Rory proudly said. It wasn’t cringy at all but truly inspiring.

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At this point, I’m slowing down like crazy. I look up and see that the rest of the sexy team are still running beyond the point that we started at – and this is when I realised how bad at maths I really am. You’d think I would have come to that conclusion ages ago, but there I was, with a snotty nose and watery eyes from the cold hair, almost scream when I realised what 800 meters really meant. That’s twice around the entire track. Not today, thanks.

One lady, who had fallen behind on purpose ran with me and cheered me on. ‘Just keep breathing, your legs will do the running’ was great advice until twenty seconds later my legs gave up too.

No one wants to be last but there I was, being last, and actually being okay with it

I thanked her and let her run ahead as I walked the rest of the way. Well, the last bit I jogged but hey.

And that was it. When I got to the imaginary finishing line I was greeted with claps and cheers and weirdly enough I did not feel embarrassed at all. No one wants to be last but there I was, being last, and  being okay with it. Only Track Life could give me that confidence.

Everyone else was just getting started but I was truly at my limit at that point. I excused myself and spent the rest of the session sitting on the bench and cheering for everyone else as they ran.

In hindsight, I truly got to understand how unfit I am, but I’m glad I got to realise that in a place where no one shamed me for it.

Thanks Track Life for having a community of people who are friendly and passionate. I might not be running again anytime soon but if I do decide to some day, Track Life sessions would be the first stop I run to.

3 things I learnt: 

#1 I’m way more unfit than I thought I was. Go figure.

#2 I’m not as insecure about losing and coming last than I thought I would be.

#3 sports can be fun especially when you’re around the right kind of people.

Would I go back?

If by some miracle I wake up one day and decide the lazy life isn’t for me anymore… yes I would definitely go again. I’m more open-minded to go to again in the future just because it was so fun. Until then though, my thighs (which STILL ache) and I will continue resting most of the time.

The one who occasionally goes for a 5k run… occasionally: Olivia

Pain factor: 5/5

Fun factor: 5/5

Intimidation factor: 3/5

Sweat Factor: 5/5 (I was literally drenched)

Best for: Intermediate/advanced

If you’re looking for a workout that is oh-so-fun but also oh-so-hard, then Track Life LDN is what you need to sing up for ASAP.

Last Monday evening my Healthista colleague El and myself travelled to Mile End for our first ever Track Life LDN experience. It was Guy Fawkes night so we weren’t expecting the class to be too busy, which was fine by me, ‘the less people who will see my sweaty face the better’ I thought.

We had an amazing view of Canary Wharf from the track, when the fireworks started up all around us, it was spectacular. A fireworks display to help motivate us through our warm up – you don’t get that every day. It was picture perfect, shame the same couldn’t be said about my running performance. More on that later.

A warm up jog, dynamic stretching, running up and down and in and out of the training ladder. The idea of the warm up was to help us with our speed and agility.

Our ‘train like an athlete’ style warm up lasted for about an hour. A warm up jog, dynamic stretching, running up and down and in and out of the training ladder. The idea of the warm up was to help us with our speed and agility. We also used the hurdles, but don’t panic, we didn’t have to actually jump over the hurdles, just climb slowly under and over. It was a mental warm-up as well as physical one.

Then it was time to run, aka time to panic. Omar, Rory and Emma explained that there would be three groups, the ‘fast’ group, the ‘intermediate’ group and the – wait for it – ‘sexy’ group, because they never use the word slow.  Emma took the ‘sexy’ group, so we followed Emma, who told us not to be scared and not to worry if we felt slower than the rest of the group, go at your own speed.

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We also learnt some track etiquette such as, stick to the inside lane to run less metres, but if you hear someone behind you shout ‘TRACK’ you need to dodge into a lane further out to the right to avoid being run over by the person who was faster than you, which in my case was nearly everyone.

We started off with 800m, that was around the track twice. I was running thinking, ‘oh, this seems okay I can do this, I’m not that slow’, after the 800m we had two minutes to recover before Emma announced that we would be running 300m, four times.

My brain went from thinking logically to having no idea how many metres I’d already run

Now I can’t remember how many intervals I did after this. My brain went from thinking logically to having no idea how many meters I’d already run or still had left to run. All I know is that I had to skip about two intervals in total just to get my breath back.

I have run 5k a few times since I completed my 5k race for Macmillan Cancer Support back in June, and most times I’ve managed to increase that to 6k. I can’t run too often though, as I suffer from shin splints if I tend to over-do it, I usually wait at least a week and a half before I attempt another run, just in case.

I found that it wasn’t a struggle of distance that night, it was the speed. Clearly running 5k in half an hour, as I usually do isn’t actually that quick. I was always second to last or last in every lap, and I definitely didn’t feel ‘sexy’, maybe they should add a ‘snail’ group…

Although this was seriously HARD WORK, I cannot begin to tell you how amazing I felt after. Breathless, sweaty, relieved but also proud. I had given it my best shot and no matter how fast I ran, I had turned up and done it. Endorphins flowing, claps all round and congratulations from everyone added to the euphoric sense of achievement I felt afterwards – which is what Track Life LDN is all about.

When walking home, we spoke to two other class members who looked fit and able to take on any run that was thrown at them. They agreed that although they had been to other fitness classes they found this one particularly challenging.

Boy did this make me feel better, I mean unless your name is Mo Farah, I guess running is always going to be challenge right?

3 things I learnt:

#1 800m and even 300m is seriously longer than I thought it was. I guess for most people it isn’t actually far but for my little legs it sure was!

#2 My shin splints are still a problem. It took two days for me to realise that they didn’t just hurt a bit – they really hurt. I really need to figure out how I can help my shin splints, maybe i’ll write a story about it – stay tuned.

#3 Although I struggled, I still did it. Every time I complete something I think I wont be able to,  I still shock myself. Turns out I do have some will power after all, time to stop doubting myself I think.

Would I go back?

I definitely would, but maybe not every week or my shins will hate me.

Interested? Track Life LDN sessions are on every monday at 6:30pm. Follow them on their website and instagram (below) to find out the location.

Follow Track Life LDN on Instagram: @track_life_ldn

Vist their website to sign up for your class now:

Track Life Ldn will soon be revealing details of their innovative new ‘Running Club’ with Pullman London St Pancras launching in January 2019

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