What do you really need from a training plan?

I’m running the Boudavida Windsor Women’s 10k on the 23rd September, along with my mum (more on that in another post!) and thought it was time we talked about training and how it should be done (in theory) Unfortunately Kate isn’t able to join, which I know she is GUTTED about as she loves running! 😏

Whether it’s your first 10k or your 40th (I’ve just realised I haven’t raced a 10k since January 2015!) or you’re doing any distance – there are some things that really should be core part of any plan. OBVIOUSLY, you don’t have to do these all in a week because I’ve tried that and it’s really hard. If you’re pretty new to running still, you might want to give yourself more time before bringing in some of the faster paced work.

Still spaces available for the run if you fancy a blast round Windsor Great Park! (Disclaimer here in that my place is a provided press place – my mum entered all of her own accord. Continue reading

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Trails are the new pavements – and here’s why!

If you know me in real life, you’ll know I’ve recently moved back out of London to enjoy spending lots of time with my parents (aka saving money) I’ve written about this before (my parents are close to London so it’s super easy for me to default back here if I need to) but something I’ve really noticed is how much more I’m enjoying my running – and part of that is purely due to the lack of traffic, lack of pollution and ability to be in a field within 5 minutes and not have to deal with traffic. In short, TRAILS!

I mean I’m hardly claiming that the Chilterns are some sort of trail Mecca relative to the rest of the world, but they’re the best I’ve got right now. It frustrates me how much of a big deal is made out of trail running being something you really need to ‘prepare’ for – unless it’s mega muddy you don’t need special shoes, you don’t really need to spend hours on ankle mobility exercises and if you’ve got a bad sense of direction, stick to well marked paths and don’t get lost in the woods…

So I’ve basically got 10 reasons why trail running is great- and yes, this was partially an excuse for me to dig out lots of photos that I love!

1. The views. I mean as much as London has nice landmarks, it’s still a city with big grey buildings and boring stuff. I know what I would prefer to cast my eyes over! (N.B. you can see here that I go to France a lot…)

Vedrignans, France

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Tour Madeloc, Port-Vendres, France

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Route de la Corniche, Ciboure, France

2. The quiet. You can escape everything. No traffic, no music, no other people. It’s the perfect place to chill out. Obviously it’s also much safer to run on trails with no distractions, but to be perfectly honest, you shouldn’t need them.

3. Who you share them with. Seriously, if you run in London you know no one ever says hello and it’s eyes down, run on. Out in the sticks (!) everyone is so much more friendly – whether it’s walkers, runners, cyclists or horse riders I guarantee you’ll get at least a nod! (Or a wave if you meet Clapham Chasers in the Pyrenees as per picture below…) Or, you won’t see anyone for miles – which is equally enjoyable…

4. What you share them with. I was out before 6 on Wednesday morning and heard woodpeckers, saw buzzards and red kites and startled a whole herd of deer (including an albino one!) Much better than some skanky fox making a mess of bin bags. Or someone staggering home from Infernos.

5. It’s tough. Trails are naturally harder to run on – there’s more absorption of your power so you won’t be as fast as you would on road – and you’ve got to be careful around where you step, so it’s not easy. Your balance gets better, your eyesight becomes more focused and your brain is more switched on. Can’t argue with that. I mean, it’s not ideal for speed work but it will improve your overall strength no end.

6. Hills are good for you! Seriously. After having a long spell where Battersea Bridge was one of the biggest hills I ran over, I really struggled with inclines but it’s coming back to me pretty quickly. There is something incredibly rewarding about getting to the top and thinking “wow, I got up that all by myself”

7. When you get to proper trails, you get to take a backpack and SNACKS and sometimes you can walk up the hills. Dreamy. It makes you look like you are pretty serious as well.

8. Well you don’t have to worry about cars running you over or stopping at traffic lights…

9. The ground is far better for you than constant pavement pounding. Especially if you’re coming back from injury, you’ll find a softer trail run works wonders when you’ve been hammering it a bit too hard on an unforgiving surface. I often find that some of my niggles are markedly less niggely on softer terrain.

10. Mud! You can slide through it, try and scoot round it, lose a shoe in it (me three weeks ago) – but whatever your take, ploughing through mud and puddles feels remarkedly fun and childlike (same for kicking leaves). Trainers wash, socks wash, you can have a shower – just go for it!

So there you go – trails are fab and if you’ve got the opportunity, go for it and don’t worry! Even when you’re in London, get off the pavements, run on the grass in the Royal Parks, try Hampstead Heath or Wimbledon Common. The North and South Downs are also both pretty handy via a train from Clapham Junction!

Do you do much trail running? What’s your favourite part about it?

Planning your race calendar

I love a plan. OK, I mean like, really love a plan. Particularly for training and races and meals. I’m a control freak and the amount of notebooks I’ve filled writing what I’m doing that week is ridiculous! (Note, this definitely does not mean I always do what is in my plan. I have good intentions that are usually over ambitious and assume I can manage on about 3 hours sleep a night whilst training 17 times a week. I still haven’t quite realised that this isn’t physically possible)

Last week I sat down to try and plan my race calendar for the rest of the year and thought I would give a few tips that might help…

1. Have a vague idea of what you want to do this year. For example, I’ve gone for shorter stuff, duathlons, i’m not fussed about marathon this year, a couple of tris and MAYBE an autumn half (so not really shorter stuff, basically just not a marathon)

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2. Have a vague idea of how willing you are to travel and spend money, i.e. I don’t really want to be spending upwards of £80 on a triathlon and I really begrudge spending anything over £30 on a run-only event unless it’s a marathon or a real ‘must-do’. I might do a destination event if I see something that really piques my interest, but haven’t spotted anywhere in particular.

3. Long list the potential events. This is the fun bit! Get a piece of paper and use all means of finding races (mainly Google) and WRITE THEM ALL DOWN. Use points 1 and 2 to help or hinder your selection.

4. Read a bit about each one and then manage to find even more races that you hadn’t spotted. Add them to the long list in really small writing at the very bottom. Decide that parkrun “doesn’t really count” so you don’t need to properly plan it.

5. Do a second hash of your priorities. Age group qualifiers? PB races? Terrain? Distance from home? Just FUN? What do you want to get out of a race this year? No, what do you actually want, make a decision woman.

6. Then probably remember that you have to have a social life and do things like attend weddings, go to work and see your family so I would use this to cross out anything you definitely definitely can’t do or make your excuses to people now. (Your long list now should be suitably long with maybe couple of items crossed off) Be slightly mysterious to anyone who is trying to make plans with you for later in the year until you’ve worked this out.

7. Then realise you can’t enter 3 events on the same day. Get rid of a few more. But whilst doing this, find a few more events you weren’t aware of and add them back in as replacements. Also then decide this is the year you really want to try and time trial your way through a 3,000m but also want to do a 100m race because you miss school athletics but genuinely don’t know if you are any good at sprinting any more. Then worry that you will look a bit ridiculous and would like some moral support. Phone a friend and bribe them to enter.

Race planning goals

8. Now match your medium-long list to your priorities and realise that they’ve probably changed again. Decide on which events you actually want to do and think about entering them (basically make a “definite, maybe and definitely not” or “A race-B race-C race” type list that won’t kill you from over-training or over-racing)

9. Work out that 7 of your events have already closed for entries so you can’t do those. Feel sad because it is one of your favourite races. Switch in some other events from the maybe list. Tip – find out when each of the entries close and if they are likely to sell out so that you can stagger race costs and not have to justify it all in one go to anyone who may not understand.

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10. Actually enter the events and write them in your diary. Feel smug.

11. And a bonus #11 – then try and write/find a training plan that remotely can suit multiple events without completely killing you!

How do you plan your diary? Am I the only one who gets over-enthusiastic?

Building dat booty: Curvebuilding with Corpao Fitness

his post is for gym bunnies and non-gym bunnies alike and it’s about a very serious subject guys. A very serious subject indeed. So, buckle up because we are about to talk about the booty. The glutes. Dat ass. The wagon. The rump. The derriere. The junk in the trunk, yo. You catch my drift.

One of the nice side effects of being one of those people that plays a bit of sport and does the odd (or indeed more frequent) bit of training, is that your physique starts to shape up. Sure, we’re not all instagrammable fitness models (in fact the last thing I posted on our joint Insta account was a picture of my toe after my toenail fell off… true story: I had to shave my toe before I took the photo lest it was deemed just TOO gross by Katie, or indeed any of our lovely followers. But I digress.), but there is no harm at all in being bloody proud of the body you have worked hard for or when you achieve a particular goal you’ve set for yourself.

One of the things I’m working on at the moment, with the help of my long-suffering and eternally patient boyfriend, is squats – I have another post in the pipeline to talk about this some more – but one of the things I have read a lot about in relation to this recently is that squats alone does not a cracking booty make. Rather, if your goal is to work on the shape and lift of your butt, you need to complement those squats with other targeted exercises.

Continue reading

London to Brighton bike ride

A few weeks ago, I had a day off.  And, like any normal person would, I chose to cycle down to Brighton (cue eye roll) so I thought I would tell you lovely people aaaaaallllll about it plus some top tips!

The route

I pretty much followed the route that the official BHF ride takes – which I found on Bikely by Googling it. It practically goes past my front door so I cut a couple of miles off #winningbeforeievenstarted

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It is nice basically once you are out of zone 6!  And fairly quiet really until you get to Brighton, bar a busy fast stretch round where you cross the M25. If anyone tells you it is flat, it is not. Just FYI, just because you are cycling “down to the coast” does not mean you are cycling downhill, but in general, it is nothing horrendous.

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Couple to point out if you like to know what you are getting yourself in for.

  • How Lane, Chipstead. Here, I got caught up by a man on an electric bike who said “I wish I was as fit as you”. Note, at this point, I was practically cycling backwards so I don’t really think I was giving off a great impression of the benefits of cycling up hills.
  • Church Hill, Nutfield – that’s the little spike at 15 miles!
  • Turners Hill. Less of a spike but just a long, continual drag (aka about 7 miles of drag!)
  • And the final one, Ditchling Beacon. It’s actually not *that* bad if you had fresh legs, and probably would be easier if it didn’t come 45 miles into the ride. It is also very windy at the top, but, you know once you are there, you can see the sea and it is basically all downhill.

Navigation

I did not use any GPS. My iPhone has diabolical battery life (it’s over 2 years old, which we all know is the turning point) so I didn’t want to risk relying on it, and I haven’t got a bike computer, just my trusty 920XT, which is great for telling you how far you’ve gone, but less so if it’s in the right direction.

So, I WROTE IT ON A PIECE OF PAPER. I know, daring! Actually, it’s not really that hard a route – there is lots of “keep going along the road for ages until you hit a t-junction” and I just used Google maps every so often when I thought I had missed a turning. And I didn’t miss any.

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Food and nutrition

I realised I should probably take some snacks with me rather than just rely on breakfast getting me through. And like the true pro I am, I took a cereal bar and 4 gels taken from my “gel supply”. Point here is that lots of things in my “gel supply” are probably (definitely) out of date, lots of them have been race freebies and lots of them I know I don’t like the taste of but I keep them anyway.

  • I like Go ahead cereal bars (but not as much as the yoghurt coated Eat Natural ones)
  • Putting a gel that you thought was just an empty wrapper in your back pocket is risky
  • I had a REALLY gross French apple flavoured gel (can’t remember where I acquired it), it was bleurgh so never again.
  • I can actually only handle two gels in a period of about 3 hours because the taste is just too sickly
  • I should probably put more than one bottle holder on this bike because I definitely ran out of water

Kit

I decided to ride the Liv, mainly because it won’t get much use during the winter (because white winter bikes are not a good idea) plus, it’s lighter and a stiffer frame. This is the furthest I’ve ridden on it and I have to admit I was a bit worried about the long distance on an aero frame when I’m not reeeeeally used to it…but it was super comfy!

Wore some bog standard full length Shimano tights, my NEW SHOES (also Liv, colour scheme matches my bike – may have been on purpose), overshoes, Canterbury base layer, jersey (from Lidl and still going strong), buff, headband and Sealskinz gloves. I took a jacket with me if I needed it, but it was generally not too windy, nor too cold, which was a relief because it would have been a misery. Unfortunately i have no “outfit of the day” photo, mainly because I was so wrapped up you could only really see my eyes, plus, I just couldn’t be bothered.

Safety, niceness of roads & traffic

It is relatively traffic free once you get out of London (and obviously, it picks up again when you get into Brighton). Yes, lots of country lanes, but wasn’t harassed by many 60mph+ drivers which is great. The roads typically were in pretty good condition (I can imagine having a regular charity bike ride on this route helps with this) and it is always a good change to get away from traffic and traffic lights and loads of other cyclists.

On the negative side, if you get into trouble (in my case, this would be something more than a puncture) you would be a long, lonely walk from any train stations. Which isn’t ideal. When I rang my dad on Brighton beach to tell him I had arrived, his first instinct was that he was going to have to come and pick me up!

Have to say,  one of the best things was the cycle lane when I picked up the A270 through Brighton – mainly because at bus stops, they took the cycle lane behind the bus stop (i.e. the bus stop is on its own little island) rather than it spitting you back out into traffic whenever there is a bus in the way. London take note! (although don’t think there is enough space)

Post-ride recovery

I wish I had a great story about having fish and chips on Brighton beach but…I didn’t. I sat down,  rang my dad and boyfriend, cycled to the station, got paranoid about locking up my bike with only one lock, bought my ticket and went to M&S whilst ice-skating my way round in my cycling shoes (not quite yet used to cleats that aren’t recessed like MTB ones)

I bought apple juice, a cheese & onion sandwich, chocolate flapjack (my favourite) and chocolate milk (which I didn’t even drink until I was in bed that evening)

I got back to Clapham J, cycled (slowly) back to mine and had a bath. I was then so tired that I bought a pizza, and drank 2 small (large) glasses of red (maybe in the bath and/or in bed) and watched rubbish tv all evening before falling asleep at about 9pm. #trainlikeanathlete

Now I’ve ticked that off the list, my next thought is to do the offroad route...which looks incredible (75 miles of fun)

Ever cycled down to Brighton?

Where should I aim for next?

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A winter workout rut? Not here!

It’s flipping freezing. It’s also flipping dark. No one wants to go out, beds are comfy and warm, the heating is on and I’m not going to lie, I’m far more tempted by beef bourguignon, potatoes and a glass of red wine (lol, bottle) than I am dragging myself around Tooting Common for a tempo run. But I get out and do it anyway (most of the time)

So here are some tips on how to stay active when it’s less than desirable outside. Some of these are practical and some are safety-related. Some relate to running, some are general exercise.

Stay safe

Even more relevant now following the sad news from Aldershot this week, which really made me think. It could have been any of us. Running outside in the dark = potential dangers, even if you’re on the pavement and think you’re safe. Don’t take risks down unlit alleyways in dodgy estates, don’t wear your headphones, watch out for things laying in wait to trip you up and stick to places where there are more lights and people. I know this isn’t always the case – but your tripping over danger/dodgy person danger ratio will probably flex depending on where you live, so adjust accordingly. Wear high viz, run towards oncoming traffic if you have no pavement option – basically don’t take risks. Unfortunately, some things are out of our control, but make sure that you change the things you can.

Time it right

Pick your poison. Are you a morning or an evening exerciser? I tend to find at this point in the year, it’s much harder to go out again in the evening once it’s dark so I tend to pick the mornings. This means I’ve set my heating to come on earlier and I don’t often leave the house when it’s light, but it is worth it knowing that I can get home and crash after a long day.

To combat this – I do try and run at lunchtime. Or gym at 3pm (it’s super quiet!). Luckily, I work somewhere where this is possible. More sleep, more light, more motivation – and a safer run in the daytime.

Make it social

Pick a team sport. My current thing is Monday night netball – and when I complain  about the cold with other people, it’s more bearable. If you aren’t a team sport person, pick a workout buddy or sign up for a class that you can’t cancel. Also, a 2 mile run to netball is a good warmup AND means you add another run to the week.

 

Prepare prepare prepare

This is the case for any time of day, any time of year – get everything ready so you have no excuses. Lay out all your clothes. Make your lunch. Get all your layers ready. Always have a raincoat in your bag for when it starts raining and you’ve got to cycle home…also take spare socks. I also go to work in my running stuff (again, #perks) so it forces me to feel like I wore it for a purpose.

Prepare for after

Don’t go swimming and then come out and catch pneumonia. Have enough layers for before and after (i.e. don’t stay in sweaty kit too long), grab a hot drink, make your boyfriend run a bath for you in preparation…

Food is key – I HATE going out to buy food if I’ve already been for a run and have come back. Make life easy for yourself – come back, eat dinner, shower, bed. WIN.

Dress for the weather

Layers, gloves, hats, scarves, everything. Being under or overdressed can make a significant different to your enjoyment, and I would always err on the over-dressed side. You can always take layers off, you can’t add them when you’re 10km from home!

Keep it simple

Sometimes it’s harder to train in the cold. It takes longer to warm up, it’s icy, you are mentally checked out and back home in bed already…so don’t push it every time, don’t stress if you miss one workout and don’t take risks just to fit it in. A warm up becomes more and more important when your body temperature is going to be lower – don’t skip it and risk an injury.

Enjoy it!

There is something exceptionally exciting about running outside in the cold, running in the snow, feeling the cold air filling your lungs. The scenery can be great at this time of year – think crisp frosts, autumn leaves and clear sunny wintery skies. (Or rain, dark, cold and miserable, but lets not focus on that). Then you are free to snuggle up in something cosy for the rest of the day and truly feel you deserved it!

Anything we’ve missed?

Who said South London isn't pretty? #run #running #tooting #morning #redsky

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Ditch the matchsticks. Get some sleep.

I love my sleep. I mean I really love my sleep. This isn’t even the first time I’ve blogged about it. The only problem is that I’m not very good at it.

Once, when on an expedition trip to Borneo as a wide-eyed fifteen year old, I was told off by our tour leader for falling asleep on a bus ride through a city – “You’re missing out on all the sights!”. I turned my head and went right on sleeping. We’d been in the jungle for a week, ‘sleeping’ on hideously uncomfortable canvass hammocks and hiking for miles every day. I was exhausted.

Sure, I probably missed a couple of spectacular buildings and some exotic goods being touted on street-side market stalls, but frankly I’m not one of those people who subscribes to the idea that “you can sleep when your dead”. Rather, if I’m operating in a sleep deprived state, I feel dead. I can’t concentrate. I feel unwell. I can’t function. And that just won’t do.

We all know that a lack of sleep is bad for us – at best we end up grouchy and at worst a regular lack of sleep can lead to heightened risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes – so how can we make sure that we’re getting more of this precious luxury?

Our friends at Casper have sent us simple but effective tips and set us the challenge of pledging to make a change to our bedtime habits for a month to see how much of a difference it makes. Casper knows first hand that a lot goes into your sleep and your sleep routine but something as simple as heading to bed 30 mins early or even looking into a new bed, can drastically benefit your nights rest (and wellbeing)!

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For me the problem is no longer the discomfort of rainforest sleeping arrangements, but rather having a lot of thoughts buzzing around in my head, so I am pledging to put my phone down an hour before going to sleep and reading, rather than looking at a screen, before bed.

We’d love to hear any more tips you guys have for getting a good night sleep too – leave us comment below.

Good night!

Open Water Swimming for Beginners – Hints & Tips

As I have previously testified, swimming is not one of my favourite activities, HOWEVER, sensible me decided giving into peer pressure at work to take part in the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July was a good idea.

Which meant one thing…I had to get back in the water. For me, swimming in a pool is a bit like running on a treadmill – boredom factor 100. Plus, the event is in the Thames, which is not a pool…therefore, I should not do all my training in the pool. Go figure.

Initial reservations about open water swimming often include “it’s not that easy to get to”, “it’s more difficult” and “it’s less safe than a pool”…and I can imagine “open water swimming for beginners” is a heavily Googled term! So, this post is here to quash some of those fears and streamline your introduction – it was written with the help of Henley Swim who have years of experience in this sort of thing, unlike my relative newbiness.

  1. Find a good location for your ability

There are a large number of lakes that run managed open water swimming sessions. These are safe places to start your open water career, and learn the basic skills, before becoming more adventurous and heading off into the rivers and sea. This list on 220 seems fairly up to date, but lakes have a tendency to open and close (!) so make sure you check the website before turning up.

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Shepperton (above) is convenient if you are in SW London but it is also often very busy and can be full of people who seem very fast – but one of best things about OW is how friendly and willing to help people are. The majority of reputable lakes will give a full safety briefing before allowing you to swim, as well as making you do a small demonstration that you won’t drown (typically a short swim, plus that you are able to perform the safety signal.

It’s often better to find somewhere that is fully focused on swimming (rather than also offering wakeboarding etc), simply because it means there are less obstacles (e.g. buoys) to worry about when you are on your swim, and you’re more likely to get dedicated attention. If you can’t get to a lake, you could always start with a lido – Tooting Bec (one of my despised locations) is 90m long. So it’s practically the same as being in a lake (feels like it anyway) but you don’t have to go as far.

NB Make sure you take into account whether they have cake. I would highly recommend the Victoria sponge at Trifarm.

  1. Never open water swim alone

This applies to both lake swimming (i.e. go during supervised sessions and flag if you are new/less confident) as well as when you are braving it in the more wild locations. There are a number of elements outside your control. Even the most experienced of swimmers can get into trouble, and being on your own can quickly make a bad situation worse.

These days there a large number of open water clubs springing up who can help new open water swimmers and offer coaching sessions which will help you build both your confidence and technique. Most lakes will link to sessions they hold on their websites or social accounts.

  1. Prepare for your open water swim – before and after

Standard kit would include wetsuit, goggles, high visibility swim hat, flip flops, towel, changing mat, and (waterproof!) watch.

After your swim the important thing is to get dry and warm as quickly as possible. A good post swim routine is key, for example: 1 – wetsuit off (and rinse it), 2 – flip flops on, 3 – get dry, 4 – layers on (hats are very welcome early in the season), 5 – hot drink. All fairly self-explanatory, but it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. If you have driven to your swim; get the heating on full blast on your feet (lovely!!)

As mentioned previously, also look for cake (but make sure you wash your hands…) Coke is good for killing pond bugs (true fact – that I don’t have a reference for) and bin-bags are handy to pop your wetsuit in until you can actually dry it out, just don’t leave it in there to go mouldy…Also, embrace pond hair. Gives it nice waves.

  1. Be ready for the temperature

Often, the biggest barrier is the temperature. It’s colder, pure and simple! Most swimming pools have a temperature of between 27-31 degrees centigrade. The warmest water you could hope to swim in (in the UK) would be about 20 degrees, so there is a big difference. When you first experience cold water your body will have a mild shock response and you will gasp. Gradually your body will adapt and you will become more comfortable – but it’s therefore advisable not to start your open water career in March. Most lakes will post the temperature on their website; 15 degrees is generally a good starting point.

Specially designed swimming wetsuits are readily available and not only keep you warm but also afford swimmers greater buoyancy, allowing you to achieve a better position in the water and have a faster and more comfortable swim.

You don’t need to buy a wetsuit to get started – most places allow you to hire them for a fee. Obviously, if you get into it, that fee per session generally warrants buying your own, but it isn’t a necessity. The best thing about wetsuits is the buoyancy – I’m wondering if I can use this as a technique to float 1100m downstream (although I might not finish within the hour unless the Severn Bore transplants itself to the Thames at that specific time)

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Spot Katie (I am the green hat on the left…trying not to drown)

  1. Remember that a lake is not a pool

There are no sides to push off, no steps to get in (well, in most cases!) and you can’t always feel the bottom. Or see it. Or see anything.

Go in prepared for this – don’t suddenly act surprised that a lake is murky. Some lakes will flag themselves as ‘not having weeds’, which is often something people don’t like, but rest assured, there isn’t much in a lake in the UK that you really need to be afraid of – it’s not Florida! Man up and get in! Supervised lakes will have a lifeguard and/or rescue boat (often a kayak), so you won’t be totally left to your own devices, but this is why it’s key to learn the safety sign. And practice treading water; often, the panic is quickly alleviated with some deep breaths. But this is why you should swim with others and not over-estimate your ability, which moves nicely on to…

  1. Don’t push yourself too early

Always have a plan of what you will be doing, and make sure that it is safe and within your capabilities. Getting tired, cold and cramping are not pleasant if you still have a long swim back to safety.  Most lakes will have both short (200-400m) and long (750+) loops to cater for all, so you don’t have to push further than you are willing – no-one else is counting how far or how long you swim for!

  1. Practise sighting

One of the (if not the) most important skills in open water swimming is sighting (seeing where you are going). Forgetting to regularly check and correct your course can add considerable distance to your swim. This is isn’t just a racing issue, where athletes need to swim the shortest possible distance, but also a safety issue, as it is important to ensure you know where you are and that you are swimming in a safe section of water. A good rule of thumb is to sight your course every 8 strokes. Poor visibility in the lake is also a common initial fear – but rest assured, you aren’t going to come across anything in a lake in the UK that will cause you that much fear.

(NB Sighting is equally important for staying on course and not crashing into buoys as it is for avoiding swans and ducks. Watch out – you have been warned!)

Be aware of who you are sharing the water with if you choose to swim outside supervised lakes (rowers and swimmers do not mix well) Joining a club or contacting the environment agency is a good place to start.

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  1. Relax and enjoy it!

For the first few sessions you will probably be quite tense; for this reason try and keep these sessions short (or even get out and get back in again, a few times). Once you are in, focus on getting a good breathing cycle going. Generally if your breathing is working well, your body will relax.

One of my favourite things about being in the lake is having the sun scatter through the water – or the feeling of being rained on whilst being wet already, such is the weather. For me, it’s like trail running – I can totally tune out and enjoy being outside rather than focusing on hitting times and distances and proving something to myself. Also, you don’t smell of chlorine afterwards…just…nature.

If you’re keen to get involved in an open water event without having to cycle and run afterwards, then Henley Swim offer a multitude of distances, as well as having many resources available like these training plans to help you prepare. (I should probably now start actually preparing as opposed to ‘making up swim sets each time I go’)

And with that, I’m off to don my new goggles and hope they don’t leak!

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10 ways to have the perfect race

Having just come off the back of a PB at the London Marathon, but a slight longing feeling of “I could probably have done that better”, the best thing to do is have booked in another race, right? (For all those coaches out there who are reading this and groaning at me, I promise I won’t complain when I get injured, but this is one of my favourite races so I HAD to do it)

The Pednor 5 is a low key local race on a looped course, originally named “The Pednor Loop”…which just happens to be bang on 5 miles long!  It’s put on by Chiltern Harriers and it’s one as a family we’ve been doing for a good few years now – and it’s always on May Day Bank Holiday, 7pm start.

Seriously, every year I run this race I spend about 90% of the day wishing I hadn’t signed up for it or that it was a 10am, rather than a 7pm, start. And this year was no different – which meant I wasn’t expecting anything great to take place when 7pm finally rolled around…

However, I came out of it with a new 5 mile PB, and a 4th female position – and a smile on my face. AND I WAS HAPPY! At no point had i felt I was really struggling or that I had judged it wrong – the total opposite to mile 20 of the marathon, or indeed mile 1.5 of Tooting parkrun on Saturday…

  • As it’s an evening race, throw all caution to the wind the day before – drink as much cider as you want, practice rugby in the back garden and just generally forget that you have a race the next day

  • Pick a nice distance. 5 miles is fun! It’s less painful than a 5k where I have a tendency to go all out too early on, but it’s not as long as a 10k meaning that you can push to the right degree.ish.
  • Fuel well during the day, including sausage sandwiches and scones the size of your face. And flapjack (remember you are still in marathon recovery phase so can still eat a lot and justify it)

  • Know the course. I’ve run it multiple times and we went out and recce’d it again on the bikes on Sunday because Dave hasn’t done it before. I think the hills actually felt harder on the bike…(actually maybe don’t know the course. My legs felt shattered on the bike the day before and I was already dreading the big hill…)

  • Find a race friend. Mine was this man in yellow. We ran together from about 2.5 miles, had a bit of a chat, gave each other some encouragement and generally helped each other stay on track.

  • Trust yourself on the hills. I am RUBBISH at hills currently because I’m not running them very much, but I found myself catching people which gave me a new found confidence. Also helps here knowing the length of the hill (see point earlier) which meant I pushed harder than I probably would normally plod.
  • Make it look like you are finding it easy. This was interesting – most of the people I passed in the first 2 miles sounded like they were about to keel over and die – which made me focus more on my breathing and not sound like them. And it worked!  Secondary to this – smile at cameras!

  • Be the hunter, not the hunted. Pick people off and breeze past them. Put on your best “I’m finding this easy” face as you go past and make people scared of trying to catch you. I was mainly picking out the women – and when I passed the last I could see at mile 4, I made a pact to myself that I wouldn’t let her back past me (so this, + man in yellow, made me have a pretty fast last mile, despite the uphill)
  • Don’t make it your A-race! I was putting minimal pressure on myself for this run and it showed. Have a race you tell everyone about, then have a secret squirrel race that you are secretly going to ace. As a sub-bullet here, pick a course that you don’t expect to do well on. Pednor has a couple of hills, but also some quad-bashing downs.
  • Actually listen to advice about keeping it steady in the first half before then pushing on. Then you will do things like run negative splits, nice mile times and LOADS OF CRs ON STRAVA!!

  

All race photos by Barry Cornelius – available at http://www.oxonraces.com

The New Year Bandwagon – Ditch the detox and kick-start healthy habits instead

It’s January. I had a hectic December and, much like everyone else, ate and drank waaaaay too much. On top of that, I am four months in to a significant change of lifestyle, i.e. student life, and playing a lot less sport as a result. Things were beginning to look grim. Not to mention wobbly. Something had to give, so here I am shamelessly piggybacking off Katie’s recent post about Dry January and friendly sabotage to talk about the January Bandwagon.

It’s still one of the most popular New Year’s resolution in the UK – “I will lose weight”, so people up and down the country part with wodges of cash to join gyms (a lot of Twitter angst was felt towards this by regular gym bunnies) and slimming clubs. Now, I’m not in dire straits by any stretch, so paying to have someone weigh me once a week and talk about ‘syns’ or ‘points’ wasn’t something I felt I needed to do, and as someone who already hits the gym of my own accord I felt fairly well equipped to take myself in hand, but having stood on the scale on New Year’s Eve morning to be faced with 69kgs it was clear I needed to do something. Now.

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