Looking good whilst working hard

So Thursday morning I tweeted something with regards to ‘active makeup’ (Primark’s finest!) now being an actual thing and my thoughts on that – and I’ve been bombarded with responses on both sides of the fence (by bombarded, I mean like, 10 replies) Unfortunately, Twitter has a habit of being a bad place to get into a discussion because 140 characters is literally NOT ENOUGH! So I’m here because I want to open up the conversation and share some of my broader thoughts on the subject.

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A weight off my mind

I recently (hmmm a month ago) posted something on Instagram that took a longer decision to make about posting than it should have. No, it wasn’t whether my smoothie looked too much like grey sludge (thanks chocolate almond milk) or whether someone had spotted me trying to take a surreptitious gym selfie. No, it was this.

I AM POSTING MY ACTUAL WEIGHT ON THE INTERNET. It's incredible what a taboo weight still is (despite the whole #strongnotskinny movement) & how much of a HUGE step this felt. Normally I would probably only ever tell my mum. Weight (and BMI for that flipping matter) ain't nothing but a number and the fat % is what I am really keeping an eye on 🎯 (and it's in a good place RN) I've basically floated around around this weight (ish….) for the last 5 years or so and only really accepted it in the last 12 months as I've learnt it's where I naturally settle – I'm never going to weigh 9 stone something #sorrynotsorry Blog post to follow at some point soon on this – lots of love Katie xoxo🏃🏼‍♀️🏋🏼‍♀️🤸🏼‍♀️⚖️#epiphany #training #weight #taboo #istilleatloadsofpizza #scales #trainhard #healthyliving

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There you go people of the world, colleagues, friends, family, strangers…HERE IS HOW MUCH I WEIGH.

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2016, where did you go?!?

So, the end of December is typically time to look back at the year, what has happened, what ridiculous resolutions or goals I will set myself for 2017 etc etc. Rather than going at it month by month…I’m going to dip around a bit between sports just to confuse you all!

TLDR – fewer miles, more PBs, less frantic exercising because I felt I had to, more rest days, few niggles, still don’t like swimming, must go cycling more.

Swimming

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Swimming was basically a necessary evil this year. I did the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July and that is basically the only reason I did any swim training at all. However, I did it in just over 30 minutes, dropping 4 off my time at Hever 9 months previously. They gave me a beer 10 seconds after I exited the water and that was brilliant.  I did quite a lot of open water practice with my boyfriend (we also ate a lot of cake) and can safely say, my confidence has improved massively, as has my breathing and ability to not have to stop and tread water. I’m probably going to enter at least one swim and one triathlon this year, so it makes sense to keep it on my agenda. But I don’t think it will ever be “the one”

There is a lot of talk about doing the Henley Marathon next summer in the office, but quite frankly, I think 14km is probably a bit too far when I don’t even really like swimming that much. I swam in a lake in the Pyrenees where I survived some super weedy patches (I basically didn’t bother with the swimming area and just hopped in, leaving some bemused looking fishermen…but it got a good photo). A year previously, I would never have even considered doing this – and the weeds would have probably drowned me in panic (and don’t even mention what creatures probably lived in there)

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Cycling

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No real big rides this year at all actually. To be brutally honest with myself, 90% of my bike miles were commuting, which isn’t great. But this was partially planned when I realised that to do my marathon training justice, I needed to drop back on the extra miles I was putting in my legs elsewhere. I tailed off my commuting at the end of 2015, and there was a noticeable change – I PB’d at pretty much every distance –  as well as jumping up around 100 places in my usual Surrey XC league standings. So as much as I hate to admit it, cycling all the time and a “running + cross-training = OK” formula doesn’t always work.

A few noticeable exceptions – my trip to Brighton in November and an un-Garminned 2k stretch as part of the RBC V Series but to be quite honest, A VERY BORING YEAR ON THE BIKE. Must do better. Must do more MTB.

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Running

I look back to 2012 and 2013 and wonder WTF I was doing with 180 mile months. This year I managed to run a much more consistent pattern over the first 4 months of the year, and as you can see, there have been no zero miles months so far this year.

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This year was a year for PBs and most of them came just from a byproduct of more miles.  I started with the Winter Run in April – which, unfortunately as a non UKA licensed course, doesn’t quite count…but it was a 10k PB anyway (41:32), especially in horrendous rain and being the day after a cross-country mudbath at Parliament Hill.

Another PB came about at the Watford Half the following weekend which was totally unexpected. If you’ve run Watford, you will know it ain’t flat. I think my half PB is currently pretty soft, and to be perfectly honest, the last time I trained for a half itself that wasn’t during a marathon block was Maidenhead in 2012…which is flat. In an ideal world, I reckon I should be running around a 1:31/1:32. So maybe one for this year.

I would love to say that VLM was dreamy, but it wasn’t. It was a cold hard slog for the last 6 miles, and the reason for that is well…I never really did much over 20. So I don’t know what I expected. But, I broke the magical 3.30, got another GFA & BQ and all in all, happy days.

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Had a week off and then decided to just “see how it went” at a local 5 miler the following Bank Holiday weekend, and it went swimmingly.  I placed 2nd at my first duathlon of the season…and 1st at my second. I won a 2 mile ran in Battersea Park (and I won a mango!) and my team placed 3rd ladies in the 3 x 1 mile relay. We won the cross country league. I spent 4 days running and napping by the pool in the Pyrenees (altitude training and cheese for the win)

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I ran along the beach on the Basque coast. We came 2nd in the Great Team Relay (I got to finish in the Olympic Stadium) I ran up the Madeloc…again. I got another trophy for a 2nd place in a 10k trail race. I ran over the Millau Bridge in May with my parents & uncles. It was spectacular (and breezy as anything!)

I did a few more parkruns – and was 1st woman 4 times out of 4 at Colchester #humblebrag. Tooting Common became an easy “1 mile run to the start line” option. I amassed many, many contributions to the “ugly running photos” album.

I took a bit of a break from running in November because of a niggly Achilles – I’m still not 100% “in the zone” but I’m getting there. More rest days, more chill out time, more sleep and a few more reality checks from the important people in my life have contributed to a bit more balance and mental stability…and I’ve learnt a lot about myself, my attitude and what my body and mind respond best to. I understand why people say peak years come during your 30s – a solid base and appreciation of training, focus and what makes you tick only come with time, so don’t rush it.

…and all the other stuff

I got back down to City Strongman classes at The Foundry (which, if you haven’t been to, you need to) I played in 2 7s tournaments this summer, getting tries AND scoring a conversion (highlight of the year). I practised line-outs in the back garden.

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I went skiing twice. I’ve been back playing netball – and we won our league. I’ve been doing a hell of a lot more lifting and I don’t know the last time I went to a class at the gym or used a treadmill, spin bike or cross-trainer. I realised I like hanging upside down on rings and ropes. I feel pretty happy in my body right now (well, not after 7 days of solid Christmas eating and wine) but this year has finally seen me settle down in myself and relax a bit more. I know what my happy weight is and where it is easy to maintain it without setting restrictions. My clothes still fit me. I’m still breaking belt loops on jeans because they aren’t designed for quads and glutes that match my waist size. I’ve bought 3 pairs of trainers and I don’t want to count how many pairs of leggings and new tops I acquired without throwing anything out :/

I don’t know what 2017 is going to bring and I haven’t really set my goals yet. I’ve got a rough idea, but I would prefer to see how January goes before making any big claims. But you’ll hear about them…

And with that, over and out 2016! Have a good one!!

 

I’m stuck in a rut…

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!

Paying for parkrun?

Unless you live under a rock, or have absolutely zero interest in running, health or fitness (in which case, I’m impressed you are reading this!), you’ll know the big ticket news item this week has been the decision of Stoke Gifford Parish Council to levy a charge for the use of the park for parkrun.

People use parkrun for different reasons. I for one have never needed parkrun as a motivator to get me out of the door and go for a run, but it has helped countless other people do just that, without having any barriers around gym fees or paying to use facilities. And surely that’s what we need to continue to do?

There was a decision recently that the NHS would be funding overweight and diabetic patients to receive PT sessions and nutritional advice free of charge – surely the need for this can only go up and up if we start to put BACK the barriers to exercise such as cost, location and the intimidation of entering an unknown world that parkrun have worked so hard to bring down.

Thing is, you take any paid for 5k race – the standard is bound to be much higher as people who are more committed to running are more willing to pay. So, if you do take that jump into a more traditional 5k race and you are that bit slower or less experienced, where does that leave you? Feeling chided for being at the back or demotivated for being slow? The beauty of parkrun is that it’s open to everyone – the annoying people like me who are there mainly so that can keep banging on the door of 20 minutes, right the way through to someone who is walking it with their friends because it gives them an organised time and place that they can’t back out of. If you are lacking confidence or need that regular weekly slot to get you motivated to get out the door, how likely are you to search out a 5k race, pay a fee and turn up – especially if you aren’t even sure if running is for you! Entering a ‘race’ sounds intimidating – whereas a run is much more open.

But when you can get to something free and local, come rain or shine, where you have an incredibly friendly reception (I mean come on, when was the last time you were clapped and heartily welcomed for it being your first time going to the gym, or visiting a pool that wasn’t your local), plenty of knowledgable people on hand for any questions AND an incredibly straightforward way of being able to see your improvement – why would you want anything else?

Counter argument state that sports clubs and personal trainers have to pay for use of the park, so why shouldn’t parkrun for runners? Where does the line stop where I have to start paying every time I dare to run around Clapham Common, let alone when we have it on our regular running club routes? I recently posted about the true cost of running, and one of the best things is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, without having to pay entrance fees. Yes, organisations like BMF are levied with hefty charges for park usage, but have you seen the prices of their classes? Same with football clubs – yes there are some membership fees, but there are goalposts to maintain and white lines to paint. I pay to be a member of a running club, but so many people would never consider themselves able to join a running club. parkrun means they don’t have to.

Parkrun was set up as a not for profit organisation designed to help reverse the current trend of inactivity that is sweeping our country. It’s spiralling and growing in so many countries around the world – my uncle was delighted when the first Parisian parkrun was launched earlier this year, having attended several events whenever he is in the UK. There are countless people taking to social media to talk about how parkrun was the trigger to change their inactivity and improve their health. Yes, parkrun has some paid employees and yes, they do attract sponsors, but that is all funneled back into running the events we know and love.

The decision is that parkrun should have to contribute to funding (rather than the initial £1 per runner), however, if other councils started to take this on board, there would be no other choice than to start charging runners to participate, because how else would they be able to raise sufficient money to fund over 850 events? The beauty of parkrun is its diversity and accessibility. Without it, there would be hundreds of people whose usual activity on a Saturday morning is lying in bed…and so far, there are over two million registered runners who have started to buck the trend.

Apparently it’s unfair for non-running residents to have to pay to cover upkeep of the paths. If you continued in that matter with regards to any sort of tax or public funding, it’s ridiculous. Do we then stop any ‘non-runner’ from using the path because it was funded by runners? Do parks then stop becoming public? I haven’t been to the doctors this year but I’m still paying for it because it’s there when I need it (lighting the touchpaper here!)

Obviously yes, some areas will take more wear and tear (e.g. anything run on grass in the mud can get a bit battered), but there was probably a more strategic way to go about asking for support. If the other councils can cope, why is this one so different? At Tring, there was support from the local council to get things set up, and the Woodland Trust contributed to kilometre markers- and both organisations continue to do so. The council decided it was a worthy cause for a grant – so why don’t others think the same?

You take away parkrun and you take away support for the local community – local cafes get an influx of people at 10am on a Saturday morning, and plenty of councils gain a little bit extra from parking charges.  It’s great to see support from some high profile athletes and government support – but it’s a story I will be keeping a close eye on.

So, tomorrow’s Little Stoke parkrun has been cancelled, however I have a feeling it won’t stop people rallying for support. So I urge you to get down to your local run tomorrow and just appreciate what it is there for – even if you’ve never run before. It takes 5 minutes to register and print out a barcode. Take some time to appreciate what the volunteers do week in week out. Take some time about the benefit it brings to the community and all those whose journey to health started with parkrun.

Knowing your limits – how ill is too ill to race?

So, a couple of days ago I had my first DNS. Well, apart from a deferred VLM entry a few years ago because of a stress reaction/fracture, but by the by – I don’t miss races.

I’d booked in to run the Berkhamsted Half a few months ago as it’s my home half and therefore one of my favourites. Not an easy one by half (haha, good joke Katie) but a beautiful route with a couple of challenging hills. And nice scenery.

But, I just didn’t feel up to it. It wasn’t an actual injury, it was just a cold. A stupid flipping cold. I’m fairly hardy and tend to run through anything, and this is the first time it’s actually made me decide not to participate. And that was a big step. So I had a think about knowing when not to race – not necessarily just run, but race – and particularly when it’s due to illness rather than injury as I think it’s often harder to judge.

**Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional; please consult your doctor if you’re concerned about an illness impacting your ability to run and train**

This has annoyingly been a two week cold – I was pretty stuffy a couple of weeks back when I did a 19 miler, but also put this down partly to several G&Ts the night before. I then spent the next few days sneezing and spluttering, but able to train and had cleared it by the Thursday.

However, I then went away skiing for a week and it sneakily crept back in. A couple of missed nights out, a couple of mornings waking up like I was swallowing razor blades and a ton of paracetemol meant I realised my delightful cold had not quite left. Add to that a 3.30am resort – airport transfer and absolutely zero sleep in Grenoble airport, I was already debating by Saturday evening whether I should run or not. I managed a solid 9 and a half hours of sleep and when I woke up…the first thing I did was cough.

After being forced to actually think about it properly by my mother and boyfriend (dad’s response was along the lines of  ‘man up I’m sure you’ll be fine’), I decided the best thing to do would be to sack it off. And I’m glad I did.

So what are some of the things you need to consider if you’re not feeling 100%?

  • Will you actually gain anything from doing the race?

It wasn’t my goal race.It never was. It was merely a nice marker, a tune up and a route I enjoy. It wasn’t going to be a PB, I didn’t have to prove anything.I mean something around a 1.36/1.37 would have been lovely, but just that really (I mean also, looking at the results I could have been round about top 15 on current form, but not dwelling on that).

  • What knock on effects will it have?

Prevention is better than cure. I guarantee 13.1 miles probably would have delayed my recovery by a couple of days and then I would have missed more training and got more grumpy. Even if I’d switched down to the 5 miles (that felt doable more than 13.1), I know I would have tried to race it and it probably wouldn’t have ended pretty. For at least a week (again, checked the results and would have been challenging for 3rd. No way I wouldn’t have been pushing myself hard for that if I’d been out there)

  • Where’s the illness?

The general rule of thumb is ‘above the neck, you can probably get away with it’. I had a lot above the neck, but also a pretty hacking cough which wasn’t getting any better. It was also pretty flipping cold out, which I tried to claim would clear me out, but was promptly told would have the opposite effect. If it’s a fever, fatigue, aching muscles – definitely don’t run! You know your body well enough by now to distinguish between the symptoms and what you can cope with – but make sure you listen to it.

  • Is it really going to impact your fitness?

No is the answer. A couple of days off is far, far better in the long run for your overall fitness. One missed run doesn’t suddenly take you back to square one (take note y’all)

  • Race or run?

I mean yes, you might be able to run, but doesn’t mean you can race. And it doesn’t mean you can run the set distance. Like I said, I could have probably boshed out a few easy miles. So this all depends on how you feel, how competitive you are, and back to point 1, what does the race mean to you? Take it down a notch and go out for a few easy miles if you have to, but I wouldn’t really race anything above a 5k…

  • What did entry cost/take?

I didn’t pay much for entry so it wasn’t a big deal, but I can understand if you’ve put in a lot of cash and/or qualifying hard work for a goal race, the decision isn’t as easy. HOWEVER, there is 99% always going to be another opportunity. Can you defer?

There are some serious risks associated with training through illness – take heed and listen to your body; if you don’t feel like it’s a good idea, it probably isn’t. It’s also not a good idea if people specifically tell you NOT to run after spending 12 hours listening to you being a bit snotty and coughy (potentially not a word). They might also say things such as “I can’t tell you what to do but you probably shouldn’t run”. The main reason for this is so that you don’t blame them if you then get upset about not running, or, so that you don’t blame them if you do run and then get pneumonia or something.

On the plus side, I was a much better spectator this year. 3 years ago I cried watching this half when I couldn’t participate. This year I ate a sausage sandwich and cheered on everyone. Mightily impressed by the small children storming the 5 miler.

PS HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. She had a great run. I had a great scone. My dad did a fairly decent job as well after a rugby match in a quagmire the previous day.

 

An unabashed listicle: 5 Motivational Quotes from Women in Sport

A short post today, written more for my own benefit than anyone else…

I’m flagging. I’m having a bit of a wobble. Nothing major, just a bit of a wall, and as I’m sure all you runners can attest, a wall can be overcome with determination and the willingness to feel the burn. And boy is it burning. No, I’ve not run my first marathon, I’m knackered because of life in general. Masters Degrees are hard work – who knew??

So, in an effort to motivate myself, I’ve turned to our beloved world of Women in Sport for some motivation, inspiration and perspiration. Time to keep my chin up and power though. I hope they might bring a bit of light to anyone else who might be in need of it too 🙂

1. “Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.” – Martina Navratilova

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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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Dry January and friendly sabotage

OK OK I’m putting my hands up. I’m on the wagon. I do not plan falling off it as I have not done so in previous years. It really isn’t that hard. No, I’m not doing it for charity because frankly, I don’t think giving up alcohol is the right thing to do to raise money. No, I’m not doing it because I want to lose weight. No, I’m not doing it because everyone else is doing it. And no to whatever other reason you think I’m doing it for.

I’m doing it because I know it makes me feel better, sleep better and train better (and, very handily, save money) However, as per previous years, comments are already cropping up left right and centre about why I’m doing it, if I’m drinking on certain occasions, why in preaching about it to everyone (I’m not, but if you ask, I will tell you) and I feel like I am CONSTANTLY having to defend my corner and my decision.

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