Prepping like a Boss!

Over the last month, I have found harmony in a peaceful Sunday which usually consists of an early morning run, then back home into fresh PJ’s with a day of food prep, cleaning and drinking wine.

Well today, the run didn’t happen. I woke up this morning just not wanting to run. Months ago I would have felt guilty about this, but knowing that the hard training is yet to come I have become a little more relaxed about missing training when I feel the need lately. Today was one of those days.

Instead I have set about with my round of food prep for the week ahead. As I research more and train harder for the London Marathon I am finding myself more organised than usual. This is not just with food preparation, but actually scheduling in runs into my diary and sticking to them. I find that this has helped me become more focused and will certainly keep me on track in the New Year when the real training kicks in.

In regards to the food prep – having meals ready for the week ahead has been a god send. Yes it does mean that I am eating pretty much the same for the whole week but it also means I don’t have to worry about cooking after training. The food is there, ready to heat up and means that I am still in bed at a reasonable hour. It also ensures that I don’t spend money on rubbish lunches at work.

This weeks food prep was extra exciting – I saw a recipe on Lucy Bee’s Facebook page ages ago and finally remembered to whip up a batch of her Halloumi Burgers. They are so quick and easy to make. Most ingredients went in the processor (who actually has time to spend grating all the ingredients) and now the burger paties are ready to cook up with some asparagus and poached eggs after training during the week.

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Not stopping there (as I do need lunches at work too), I made a nice roasted red pepper soup along with a Quorn Shepherds pie (my own recipes); so I can alternate at work throughout the week.

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Yum!

So I’m all set for the week ahead and constantly keeping my eye out for new recipes to ensure that I don’t get bored with food. If anyone has vegetarian, gluten free recipes they would recommend please do share.

Preparation is going to be key over the next few months – from prepping kit, food and keeping a running diary.

If only there was something in the plan to help with the multitude of bad treats found in the office……..I think about that in the New Year – it’s Christmas after all.

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How do you fuel a 6am run?

I often head out running without having a second thought to the fuel to get me through. Lets face it most runs are short, and to be honest you technically could get by without anything additional to water and electrolytes.

But what happens when you plan in a 6am long run? Yesterday we planned just that. Originally mapping out just under 11 miles, Jo and I decided to smash it out early. Both having busy schedules and taking advantage of the quiet roads at that time of day, we were happy to get it done. However with it being so early, getting up at 5am and thinking about eating breakfast made my stomach turn. Not only would I feel the food was sitting heaving in my stomach but there is always the fear having to use the bathroom en route.

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So – I had nothing. My Camelbak was filled with water and added electrolytes so I felt that this was sufficent. Naughty – I know.

The run itself was amazing. Starting in the darkness we made our way through the industrial side of Harlow. Running up to the Pinnicles I managed to overcome hills that had previously brought me to tears, without even thinking about it.

Chatting our way along the country roads to Roydon, I ran up a hill and didn’t even notice until we got to the top. Amazing! It just shows that having Jo as my training buddy, chatting away can be great to distract you from the challenges in front. And it shows that I am continueing to make progress with both my running and recovery from the illness I faced this year.

 

Hills all complete – we just had a long beautiful run along the River Stort back to Harlow Mill. What an amazing route it was. With the sun rising and mist coming off the fields and river, we couldn’t help to stop and take pictures. It is so amazing to have such scenery on your doorstep. Never having run this route before, however, we were unaware that the river path was open on a cow field. There is nothing like fear of 50 cows looking like they are going to charge to get you moving faster.

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Heading back past Harlow Town station, around mile 9, fatigue hit. We realised that the 11 mile route we planned might end up being more like 10. This is when I knew that I have to start thinking about fuelling properly for a long run.

Although I simply cannot eat before a 6am run I need to start thinking about having some form of energy for half way. I clearly needed some fuel at 9 miles, when the fatigue set in and the lactic acid was building in my legs.

Having tried energy gels before, with a bad experience, I am very sceptical as to what I use going forward. Any suggestions anywhere? I know a bad experience with one type of gel should not put me off. Now really is the time to test different sources; when my training is not yet critical and my body has suffcient time to get used to having gels or bars in my system.

So over the next few weeks I will welcome any suggestions, testers or advice about what to use for long runs. I myself will be spending a lot of time researching the different types to see whats best for me.

Do It Like A Commando…..

 

Saturday saw me complete the final race in the diary for 2016 – Commando Series. We certainly saved the best for last.

I have completed many OCR races this year; Gauntlet Games, WAR, London Rat Race and even Bear Grylls survival race. But none of these compare to how great Commando Series was.

Set in the stunning grounds of Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the back drop for this race was something beyond imagination.

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From the get go the whole event was well organised – with the warm up alone enough to get you going. The instructor got all racers ready to face the obstacles. No talking allowed, it consisted on high energy exercises and a lot of rolling around in the mud. So we were wet, muddy and ready for action.

In previous obstacle races you will find that the waves are very segmented. The elite go first, then regular racers and finally the kids/ family. Not in this race, everyone was in it together. Our wave ranged from the obvious elite looking runners to young families. Each person had a colour coded wrist band so the instructors knew how they wanted to be treated – you could choose from “treat me like a commando” or one that stated “just get me round.”

Another visible difference between Commando series and others of its kind was the fact that there were so many obstacles. You have no idea how frustrating it is to sign up for an obstacle race and end up having run for miles between each one. Here you completed an obstacle and could see (or hear) the next one. Commando series took full advantage of their surroundings – making use of natural obstacles as well as those they had built. Caves, swamps, river crossings – these obstacles were so simple yet gave you a break from those that were slightly more challenging. They even had re-enacted a battle scene in the woods with smoke and gun sounds to make you feel you were in a battle zone.

There was nothing that was unachievable. In previous races I have come to obstacles that have been build so high or so badly that only the super elite can pass them. Or you throw yourself at the obstacle with such gusto you end up with a multitude of bruises. Commando Series got this spot on – they clearly wanted you to feel challenged but at the same time actually be able to tackle each obstacle. There were no OCR kisses to be found the next day.

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In all the races I have been to I have never met a more friendly group of instructors. Each and everyone one of the Commando Series team encouraged all the racers and took the time to ask us if we were enjoying ourselves. If waiting for team members they encouraged us to keep warm by jogging on the spot. These guys really showed they cared.

When we finally passed the finish line volunteers were ready with medals and a hot Ribena! A hot Ribena!! I hadn’t had one of these since childhood – and it was a perfect refreshment to hit the spot. Just what we needed to warm up.

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In addition they had heated out door shower cubicles and changing rooms. There was no wriggling in your towel by the car at this race.

To sum up this event…. Simply amazing. Everything from the organisation, staff, volunteers, obstacles to the hot ribena… It was spot on all round.

If I was to have one criticism – it would be the lack of action photos. It seems that there were not many camera men and they moved around. So we were missed at the most fun obstacles – like the slide. Going down as a group of five that would have made for a great picture. However, if this is my only critism it shows you how good it actually was.

I was starting to loose my OCR mojo and these guys have revived it.

Well done to all the Commando team for helping me finish my racing year on such a high.

Our team will definitely be back next year!

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Just keep Spinning……

Before I became a member of Regiment Fitness just over two years ago I was an avid Spinner. I would typically attend a Spinning class on average around five times a week. It was the one thing that kept me sane.

Sadly – when i stumbled across Regiment Fitness, the social life and the new friends it brought me – spinning was no more. I embraced the outdoor life.

At the beginning of the year however, I attended an independent Spinning session and quickly picked it back up again. My muscles remembered the joy of spinning and my mind was racing.

When a Pure Gym opened next door to my office in Southgate for £20 per month (including classes) I signed up without second thought. There were many Spinning classes available to me both before work or even during my lunch break. I reclaimed my Spinning Mojo.

Since my London Marathon was confirmed several weeks ago I have been spending a lot of time researching training plans to ensure that I give this my all. In my last blog post I mentioned that I will be freezing my Regiment Fitness membership after Christmas, and to replace this I am going to be mixing up my running with Spinning sessions for the duration.

My research, advice from my PT friends and my own personal beliefs all point towards Spinning being the best possible cross training activity to improve my running.

Lets go into the reasons behind this shall we?

SPINNING IS INTERVAL TRAINING

Each spinning class is different – unless you have a very poor instructor (I have had a few of those in the past). You will often have a mix of flats and easy hills – often in the seated position, hence the sore butt the next day – which are usually at a steady aerobic level. Enough to raise your heart rate and get you warm, but not quite break out a sweat. According to my research this kind of activity activates slow-twitch muscle fibres and will help develop endurance. Perfect for runners.

During a class you will also experience the harder sections. The stuff that makes you sweat. That makes you feel like your legs are going to fly off. The stuff I love. The Sprints and hard hill climbs. This level of activity will enable riders to move into an anaerobic state of training which enable to fast twitch muscle fibres to be recruited. Entering this training zone will help runners finish strong and fast in races. For me, perhaps I will finish strong – but definitely not fast.

SPINNING IS NON-IMPACT

A bit obvious, but Spinning is a non-impact cross training activity. It gives a runner a break from high impact training. It is especially good at times when you have an injury or to give you a chance to recover from races and hard training runs. In addition Spinning could also be substituted for hard runs that involve some speed-work. For those who may be suffering with minor pain or tight muscles, spinning provides that opportunity to get stronger and faster without dealing with risks involved with high-impact training.

My research shows that there is a correlation between pedal stroke cadence and running strike cadence. Therefore the idea is that developing a higher pedal stroke will lead to higher foot stroke cadence. The higher foot strike cadence means that your feet would be turning over faster and as a consequence spending less time in contact with the ground – lessening impact and chance of injury.

It will interesting if this theory proves correct with my training.

SPINNING STRENGTHENS YOUR LEGS

Spinning develops leg muscles more than running. This is simply due to the fact that it takes more power to push the pedal through different level of resistance than it does to move the leg through a running stride. With exception of hill runs – they obviously have the same impact and develop strength too.

SPINNING GETS YOU LEANER

Most runners are often recognised by their lean physique – though I am an exception to the rule. For many runners, myself included, weight control is particularly hard. Spinning is one of the best work outs for burning calories, due to the fact that it works some of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. When these muscles work together greater metabolic effect occurs. So you burn calories not just during the session but also for an extended period after the class has finished.

So there we go, some science behind mixing Spinning into your running schedule.

I didn’t need the science to know it is good for me. I may not be a strong or fast runner; but stick me in a Spinning class and I will happily be there sprinting until my legs are flying, dripping with sweat, but still smiling at the end of it.

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