Easy running and HR training

So, latest running news is that I now have a coach (more about that in another post), my race today was cancelled BUT I am running THE READING HALF (which is quite soon, as the 18th March has snuck up) However, my ultimate A race is the European Duathlon Champs in October. Yes, October is quite a long way away. And yes, the word “European” is scary. Hence the coach.

Therefore, the Reading Half is in my diary, but not necessarily a goal, go for glory, set a new PB race. My current PB is an OK-ish 97 minutes, set in Watford a few years ago. If you know Watford at all, you will know that Watford is NOT FLAT. So much more to be done in comparison to the rest of my distances…

So why I hear you say, are you not going to go all out for a PB at a lovely, fairly flat (and fast) Reading?

Perfectly good question. It just isn’t my goal this year, and I didn’t really fancy a whole load of miles early in the year (this is also why I am not using my deferred marathon place this year)

My current schedule looks something like this (although clearly skiing gets in the way here!) – so we’ve got easy doubles, shorter speedwork and quite a lot of turbo. But not a huge amount of leg mileage 😬 (or any long tempo!) You’ll be happy to know that the next two weeks pre-half marathon include at least 3 double days (run and cycle), so I can’t really say I am tapering…

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I don’t know the race plan yet, but will probably just do it as a long run. Or maybe a “just go out and see how you get on” strategy (I doubt this, I think we all know this would mean I go out far too fast and blow up)

I would not advocate following my training plan/approach if you are going for a PB at the half. Nor if it’s your first half. I’ve got a fair few years of running experience and decent fitness under my belt, meaning that I know that, 99% of the time, I can get round a half even if I haven’t done a huge amount of miles. Anyway, enough of the preamble. I am currently doing a lot more easy running that I used to, and the majority of this is not dictated by pace. Instead, I have now become very good friends with my heart rate monitor (yay)

So, here are some things I have learnt about easy runs and using a heart rate monitor to actually make them easy.

1. OMG IT IS SO NICE NOT TO HAVE “THE HARD SESH” dread. I can wake up, safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to run very hard or fast and just pootle along and it is lovely. And I don’t have to watch the Garmin (as much – see point 4)

2. It means you can run easy depending on how you feel that day. I have quickly learnt that your heart race can increase due to lots of things. The cold. Being hungover (oops). Being tired. Being busy at work. But if you’re trying to always hit the same pace, these can make a session pretty horrible. By using HR, it’s a slightly better representation of your fitness on that specific day.

3. You have another marker to compare progress. You know how sometimes runs just “feel easier” but you aren’t really sure if they were? Well, having your heart rate recorded means you’ve got a different metric to look at than just pace. If you’re running the exact same pace for a loop as you were 3 months ago, but your average HR is 10 BPM slower well, good stuff, you’ve probably made an improvement!

4. Uh oh, the HR screen becomes equally as compelling as the pace screen. I would love to say “using HR means you rely less on your Garmin” but that would be a lie. I watch it like a hawk and delight in making it go lower.

5. Sometimes you will swear at the heart rate screen because NO MATTER HOW SLOW YOU RUN IT WON’T GO DOWN. Especially if your interval session is based on HR. I swear my legs don’t actually move that slowly.

6. Hills will be avoided for fear of increasing the average heart race. I live at the top of a hill. In winter, I have to run down it to get to the majority of street lights. This means I have to run back up it (it’s basically nearly a mile uphill) at the end. It’s really hard to keep your HR low running up a hill.

7. You will try to get your heart rate as low as possible. It becomes a super fun challenge (debatable use of the word ‘fun’ here)

8. Deep breathing doesn’t necessarily make your heart rate any slower. Sorry. You can keep trying though!

9. I guarantee that “easy” is actually much slower than you think easy is. My own easy pace is not 8 minute miles. It’s anywhere between 8.30 and 9.30. It took time to learn that. Look at any of the elite runners and their “easy” sessions – and you’ll see what I mean! Easy means well, just that. You should feel like you could continue on forever.

10. Which leads into my main point – easy running is incredibly good for you as part of your training plan. Too much higher intensity work and impact means you don’t fully recover or get the benefit of the rest of your training – roughly 70% of your week should be easy. There are plenty of articles about the benefits and how to define easy. Google and running resources are your friend.

So there you go – I fully advocate trying out some HR training and keeping an eye on your definition of easy. And HR training isn’t just for easy running either, I’ve started using it for my speed work as well, which means I’m less worried about inclines impacting my overall pace. Monitors are generally quite inexpensive and often come part and parcel of your GPS watch. I spent a good 8 years never really using my heart rate monitor (!) and it’s now a key part of my training set up.

Unfortunately, entries are now closed for Reading so no more opportunities to get involved, but I promise you a full debrief post race. (and maybe some mid-race insta stories if I’m running it easy…)

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Running Noob: Reading Half Marathon Training Update

Oh. My. God. Running is really freaking hard.

I’ve never enjoyed running for its own sake. I may have mentioned it once or twice before. Anyway, now I find myself in a situation where I am running half marathon (thanks Fergo), the Reading Half Marathon to be precise. In just over a month’s time.

Aaaaaaargh!

SIDE NOTE: There is still time to register! Registration closes tonight at midnight – if you fancy joining us on the day, go to http://www.readinghalfmarathon.com/ to sign up!

So, I’ve been hitting the pavement and the treadmill and I’m not going to lie to you gang, I am finding it difficult. I’d never truly appreciated just how different the fitness is compared to the stop-start of field sports.

Here are two different days tracked on my Fitbit:

Those red bits? They’re running-induced, peak cardio. The sweat. Oh god, the sweat.

I’ve been making an effort to go running three times a week, over and above other things like my commute on my bike or rugby training. For a couple of weeks I honestly thought running might kill me. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. My legs ached between runs, my feet hurt and I couldn’t keep up with washing all the sweaty kit! But today I had a bit of a eureka moment.

Whilst cycling home I reached the dreaded killer hill in the final stretch of my journey – it’s a long slow pull up 240 feet over a mile – and whilst my legs still felt it, I was not huffing and puffing the way I used to. I actually felt pretty good by the time I reached the top. My cardio fitness has definitely improved and IT FEELS GOOD!

Now I just need to work on the achy feet and legs… more time needed in the company of my foam roller, I think!

 

 

Reading Half Marathon – the training day

So. We’re running The Reading Half.  In about 8 weeks. And a day.  As you might have seen from Kate’s last post, I coerced (read “didn’t give her much choice) her into running it – despite having never run a formal 10k race before, let alone ramping up the distance to more than double that (soz babe)

So what I first have to say is “AWESOME” – there was no long thinking, no “I don’t think I could” – she literally straight up said “OK, fine, I’ll do it – I need to give myself a decent challenge and focus for the first part of the year”

Two weeks ago, we made the trip out to Green Park Conference Centre for the Reading Half training day, along with a host of other runners and bloggers.

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A few gems here – Katherine,Anna & Tamsyn. I’ve known Katherine for a while because we run for the same club, but it was great to meet people I’ve only ever tweeted/instagrammed! Oh, and Tess was there – but behind the camera a lot of the time!

First up was a HIIT workout with The Townsend Twins which was all over Facebook Live (if you watched it, you’ll have seen me panicking about my bum being the first thing people see, and Kate discussing this quite loudly) There was lunging, there were planks, there were jump squats. Certainly got my heart rate up! This was part of Lucozade’s “Made to Move” campaign…so obviously there was Lucozade

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Next up was a session with Ali Galbraith , who heads up the pacing teams for the Reading Half and the Nottingham half and marathon. He took us through a few vital things to help you pace your race and finish feeling fresh (or alive) rather than dead (which I then proceded to fully ignore for my XC race last weekend)

Couple of top tips that we took away:

  • Always know your route – where are the hills, the flats, the water stations (and HELLO the unofficial beer station on the Reading half!) – Reading is pretty flat, particularly when you’re used to living at the top of a hill…which makes me happy
  • Don’t waste energy sprinting around people at the start – what this also means is people, go in the right pen. If you ain’t running that fast, get back to where you belong. Be realistic, not optimistic!
  • Break the race down into bitesize chunks to focus on a different tactic and make it more manageable – I’m likely to be running it as a long tempo so 1-3, 3-11 and 11-13.1 actually works quite well
  • DON’T FORGET TO SMILE!

I also learnt that Reading provides pacers in 5 minute intervals – which a lot of races don’t – this gives you a bit more flexbility in aiming for your goal. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never followed a pacer before, mainly because I trust myself to do it. However, clearly, cross country has shown me I shouldn’t be left to my own devices, so I may hunt one down on the day dependent on how I decide to run it. Find the guy or gal with a flag and stick with them – they know what they’re doing!

Judith Manson, the race director was also on hand to tell us a little bit more about the race and a couple of things that made me sit up – firstly, that they are doing water pouches (which is great for the environment and your ankles) and also, that they always ask for smaller bottles to help prevent waste, but they end up getting what they are given as such. It’s great to hear that races are trying to reduce the amount of plastic thrown around – if we can just get runners to stop throwing gel packets wherever they fancy then we’ll be on a roll…

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(Spot me in pink and Kate sorting her hair #priorities)

We then were off to put our pacing into practice after a little warm up (it was still pretty nippy outside)  We ran roughly 5k, taking in the start of the race (somewhere in Green Park) and the end (the Madjeski – except we couldn’t actually go in because Reading were playing at home, but we ran round it which I guess is the next best thing?!)

We did a little bit of hurdling to run round the car park, down some steps, then Anna & I were getting a bit ahead of ourselves despite not knowing the route, took a wrong turn and added on a handful of extra metres, but we got there in the end. Kate was pretty happy that she got round without a struggle, so think it was a decent boost ahead of her training plan.

 

It was then back to the ranch for the final bit of the day. Jim Adkins from Berkshire Physio was on hand to take us through some key pointers. We stretched, we activated, we slid, we bounced – all in the name of good muscle activation and recovery. We also discovered that you don’t need any fancy equipment – a good pair of paper plates is all you need!

(THIS IS REALLY HARD IN REAL LIFE)

My favourite stretch was the slump stretch – which does as its name suggests! You sit on a bench/bed/high chair, slump a bit, and basically swing your leg. This helps to release all down the backs of your legs, as well as ensuring the muscles in your back and shoulders get a chance to relax – perfect for all of us who spend hours sitting at a desk. It’s so easy to just get out of work, chuck your running stuff on and head out to save time, but a quick 5 minutes beforehand can work wonders for your muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Kate even bagged herself a free look at her dodgy hip at the end – and has come away with a good selection of exercises to keep her in good shape come race day, particularly as she’ll be ramping up the miles.

And then that was us done! I took Kate back to the station and headed home, full of ideas and a new motivation that I was going to do all my core and glute activation exercises that my physio has been telling me to do for 6 years. (Note – I have done them…twice. Which is better than normal)

Keep an eye out for some updates on how our training is going (and hopefully at some point I will set a race target or at least a plan of how I’m going to run it!) There are still entries open  (it’s on March 18th) – I’m a Reading newbie but have watched my dad there, and it is fast and flat, so ideal for pushing yourself for that PB. If you enter in January, there’s also a competition to win a little bit more than just your race entry.

Plus, they’ve just released their new medal design!

Age is nothing but a number

I’m running the Boudavida 10k TOMORROW. My mum is also running it. She’s at the higher end of mid 50s (she’ll hate me for saying that) Is that a big deal that she’s running?  Is it a big deal that she’s out at boot camp three times a week? Or mountain biking, horse riding or skiing? Some people think it is…purely because of her age.

My parents being active is very much the norm in my family. I think how you grow up and your family have a significant influence on your attitudes towards health, fitness and exercise in later life (as well as on your life in general, obviously!) and I’m lucky that mine have always been pretty positive. To be perfectly honest, I feel like my parents have got MORE active as they’ve got older – which often isn’t the case.

To that point, they chose to spend their 3 week summer holiday this year on 1) a week in the south of France where we basically went running and cycling every day 2) a week of guided MTB in Italy (and I’m not talking just pootling along trails, I’ve been on bikes with these two and it’s quite frankly terrifying) and 3) a week in Chamonix where they chose not to do the vertical kilometre (because they did it last year) and instead just did more cycling and running. They didn’t suddenly get to 50 and resign themselves to churches and historical monuments.


So what am I trying to say?

I believe age is an excuse that is far too easily dropped in when people aren’t really that old and the root of the problem is something different. Obviously “old” is subjective and I’m not expecting every 85 year old to be cycling every day, but I think far too many people are using cut offs as young as their late 20s to prevent them doing a sport or particular type of activity, where they should be trying their best to extend it as long as possible until they truly can’t do it.

Yes, there are many factors that come with ageing that may impact your ability to exercise (life changes, body changes, career changes) but for a lot of them, there are ways around them. Being “older” does not stop you being able to do whatever sport you want (unless obviously, because of underlying health issues) and it doesn’t mean you suddenly have to stop skiing, weightlifting or doing “young people stuff” – there isn’t a sudden ban on it once you hit the next birthday!

I have limited tolerance for example, for anyone who tells me they are too old for rugby. I think my main problem here is that my dad is still playing rugby and he is 57. Therefore I think saying at 29 you are too old is quite frankly, a shit excuse. Find the real source of the problem. Did anyone watch The Pacemakers on BBC? It was fantastic – a group of men well into their 90s who were still getting out, keeping their bodies and minds active and not letting their age get in the way. If I’m lucky enough to keep running into my 90s, why wouldn’t I try and become a world champion in my age group? What a great idea if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it! And have you seen some of the 5k times of the V70s in Battersea Park?!

Think you are getting the picture now. Gone are the days where the only options were “nifty fifties” and aerobics and gone are the days of growing old gracefully and confining yourself to “old-people activities” – but I think more people need to embrace it. There are sports now that our grandparents could only have dreamt of playing or participating in and the choice is huge. Hitting a milestone doesn’t mean you can’t keep doing what you were doing before.

Keeping active for as long as possible is a real treat and if you’re lucky enough to be able to (and there are so many people who unfortunately can’t) then you should, and do away with all of those who make you think you’re too old to do something. Want to get to 70 and wish you had continued on with a sport more than you did? Not me.


Maybe I’m just in my own world. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by parents and family members (and not just my own) who are still running, cycling, skiing, playing rugby, circuit training, tyre flipping, horse riding and doing god knows what else – although my grandma is now down to aqua aerobics rather than badminton. I’ve taken my mum to 10ks with my Chasers crew, I’ve taken her to The Foundry, I play touch with my dad on the regular. Has this distorted my view on the subject? Most probably. But it’s given me the inspiration to do the same.

At the 10k, they’re running a “Generation Game” competition – where you aim to get the lowest combined time between the two of you. So we shall see how that goes (!) but I reckon we could have a decent go at it – my mum is far far better at sticking to a training plan than I am, and to be honest, she probably does more than I do. She has been giving herself smiley faces at the end of each week and has literally done each session to the detail. I love seeing parent and child combinations – ever watched the junior runners at parkrun? Especially the ones outsprinting their parents to the finish. We are basically just a version of that + 20 years.

I however, wrote multiple plans, didn’t do multiple things and I’m just hoping to go on a wing and a prayer and try to remember not to go out hell for leather. (Because, after I had booked this into my diary, I then found out we have Southern road relays on Sunday. So this will very much be a test of me being able to stay sensible, maybe pick it up a bit but not sacrifice the big one. A big night of foam rolling ahead on Saturday! )

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

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?

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!!

 

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?

 

#YourGoTri – The time Kate was finally convinced to try Triathlon

It’s been a super summer of sport and between the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Brownlee’s demonstration of sporting brotherly love at the Triathlon World Series in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, “triathlon” hasn’t been far from anyone’s lips.

brownlee_bros

The Brownlee Brothers (courtesy of mirror.co.uk)

If you’ve been reading or following us for a while, you’ll know that it is Katie F, not me, who is the triathlete of the pair of us. I hate running with a burning passion, and despite being a reasonable cyclist and a not-terrible swimmer, the running alone has always been enough to put me off even considering doing a triathlon. So when British Triathlon contacted us to say that they were running a campaign called #YourGoTri to encourage new people into the sport by pointing out how easy it is to factor all three disciplines into your weekly fitness routine, Katie gave me a look that said “now you really don’t have an excuse”.

I guess now I really don’t. Continue reading

Altitude training in the Pyrenees

So I wrote last week about being stuck in a rut and how I was hoping that a little trip away with my running crew might do the trick.

We decided over a post parkrun brunch a few months ago that we should follow in the footsteps of Mo, Paula et al and give altitude training a go where the best of them train – Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees.

We flew to Toulouse, rented cars and headed up to an airbnb in Saillagouse, a few miles away from Font Romeu. By the time we arrived it was gone 2am, so we quickly shotgunned beds and headed to sleep.

The house we rented had the most AMAZING shutters on every window. Meaning that, despite the long drive, I woke at 9.30 thinking that it was still the middle of the night! We wandered down to the boulangerie to explore the village, returning with armfuls of almond pain au chocolats and begun the bread binge…(a repetitive feature of the trip) and headed down to the pool…and stayed there.


In the afternoon, we finally dragged ourselves off  the piles of outdoor cushions and drove up past Mont Louis, stopping at a parking spot just off the main road (by the déchèterie if you want the precise location) and headed out onto the trails. People aimed for a variety of distances – we had spotted an 8k loop but we never really found it, instead ending up with an out and back through forest, across fields and along track, totally about 6 miles, hitting the dizzying heights of 1800m altitude.


Bang on 6 miles with an average pace of 9.04. Wrapped it up with a few planks and stretchning, before heading back to chicken and roasted vegetables. And obviously bread.

On the subject of altitude – I don’t think it made a huge amount of difference in terms of feeling impossible. Things felt marginally harder – mainly I noticed my breathing feeling a bit more laboured, but that was only when we had got to pretty much 1800m and we were still going on a steady uphill. Fingers crossed I’ve now got 1000000 extra red blood cells without the use of EPO and I will smash a 1 minute parkrun PB at the weekend….I WISH!

By the end of the day, we were ready to crash, and again, I slept brilliantly with the help of the shutters!  We ran to Spain on Saturday morning – well, sort of Spain. Llívia is a Spanish exclave, made so by a technicality in a decree years and years ago with regards to what was handed over to the French.But did a few faster miles out and then a tiny bit of a push for 5 and 6 (made a lot harder by the fact the route there was all downhill and the route back was all uphill…)

capture

In the afternoon we headed up to Lac de Matemale for a mixture of activities. It’s about a 5 mile loop (10k if you ‘add a bit extra’) all the way round, but I wasn’t in the mood for a run, so walked for a bit and then decided to brave a swim across the edge.Apparently there is a supervised swimming area somewhere but I chose to take a gamble. NOTE – I’m not advising just throwing yourself in a lake. The girls were walking round the lake pretty close by and I stuck to a distance out from the shore that was safe. Advice-giving over.

I mean I basically only swam about 250m but that did the job – cleared my head, got me over my fear of weeds (aka avoided getting tangled up) and got me back in the water properly for the first time in six weeks.

On Sunday, we drove (about 5 minutes) up to Vedrignans, with the aim of doing a LOT of climbing . Unfortunately, after about 2 miles, I knew my niggly calf wasn’t going to cut i so I headed down again, varying my route to meander through a field of hay bales and through the sleepy town of Err before looping back up to the car, leaving the rest of the guys to do their thang and go up up and up! Which they did. With various experiences such as gorse bushes, cows and galloping horses. But all came back alive.


On Monday, I headed off with the rest of the group, but to be honest, I fancied a run by myself. I wasn’t sure how my calf would hold out and I was quite happy to have a bit of a potter and explore a few unknown routes with only my own thoughts for company.

And what lovely places I found! Took a guess at a route, which went up and up (as I expected), but got to a point where I thought I should probably turn round…however when I got back the others were still out, so I totally would have had the time to add on a few extra 000ms to my climb over about 2k! The trails were dead quiet which was just what I wanted. I think my quads have just about recovered from the somewhat technical descent…I don’t really think I noticed any impact of altitude on this run, despite the climb – but that’s probably because the climb was hard enough as it is so I was expecting to go slowly and have to take walking breaks!

In the afternoon we finally took a trip up to Font Romeu itself to see the hallowed training grounds of the elite. But no track session for me this time. The town was surprisingly quiet, the French children being back at school and the majority of the holidaymakers having gone home.


Unfortunately we then had to hotfoot it back to Toulouse airport where our flight was delayed….Ever been in an airport that is practically shutting down around you? And the food is awful? Yep that was us.

All in all, it was a great few days. It made me realise how much I love getting out onto the trails – and how much I needed a few days to reset my brain, recharge my batteries and get my mojo back. (I mean I haven’t been for a run since, but it’s only been a couple of days right?) We’re already planning 2017!

Ever been training at altitude or on a running holiday?

*Photo credits mainly Katie K, Ellie & Alice W

Footnote – key things I learnt from my holiday:

  • Not to feel guilty about not doing anything on holiday
  • I drink more than other runners (or at least, I want to)
  • Runners eat an insane amount of bread
  • Own brand chocolate spread is actually really good. Especially on a spoon.
  • Driving a French car is fine once you’ve stopped trying to change gear with the door handle
  • I really like bread. But mainly French bread.
  • Mountains are fun to run up. But more fun to run down
  • Having all day to run, eat, read and sleep is dreamy and I must do it more often!
  • Foam rolling is good for you (ugh)
  • I LOVE like running again