London Marathon Training: Week One

Yesterday saw the end of week one in the London Marathon training schedule. After a shaky start to the year, with what appeared to be shin splints threatening my plan, I finally found myself back into a rhythm. I found myself finally coming to terms with my ballot place and gently working through the week – looking no further than the day ahead rather than the bigger picture.

49628799_367626130680971_410201726461673472_n.jpg

So what did I manage to get into the schedule this week?

Monday: 4 Miles outdoor, undulating terrain. Steady, yet wary of the shin issues.

Tuesday: 4.6 Miles. Running club speed work on the track, with warm up/ down runs to and from home.

Wednesday: Spinning.

Thursday: 6 Miles. Indoor. Treadmill.

Friday: Spinning

Saturday: 5.4 Miles. Indoor. Treadmill.

Sunday: 7 Mile walk. Hilly terrain, Epping Forest

Total Running Mileage: 20

Considering I was concerned about my physical ability the week prior, I am pleased with such a solid number to build on in coming weeks.

50227105_820857234974231_3625308407663165440_n.jpg

If I compare this to my training for the same week in 2017, when my last marathon training schedule kicked in, there is a increase of 6.5 miles. So already I am getting off to a better start. Perhaps having experience this time round is working in my favour.

So the shin pain has eased, my mileage has doubled on the previous week and I have finally got back into routine. However, as with all plans there is room for improvement. For instance, yes I completed a good week of training, but where in that schedule was a rest day? There was not one. I unintentionally carried on training as I did not feel like I needed one. A mistake I cannot make again. Rest days are equally as important as training itself.

As I enter into week two I have a few goals in mind:

  • TAKE A REST DAY.
  • Get back into food preparation.
  • Have a sports massage to work out any niggles.
  • Increase mileage (aim for an extra 5 miles).
  • Plan an outdoor route for Saturdays long run.
  • Add in some weight training (return to Body Pump).

With many goals there is no time to waste. It’s time to get into week two!

City Break: Berlin

Berlin, Germany’s capital and largest city, has a somewhat turbulent history. Badly damaged after World War Two and broken apart by the Cold War, recent years have seen the city rebuild itself – especially after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

Despite Berlin now being known for it’s lively nightlife, cafes, bars and street art, the references to its tumultuous history can be seen throughout the city.

49673962_288588942012325_8840655390963138560_n.jpg

Growing up learning about the events around the World War and remembering the fall of the Berlin wall, it was always a city that was on my bucket list. So, when I discovered a few free days between Christmas and New Year I quickly booked in a bargain break to explore the sights Berlin had to offer.

50404221_2246251718980858_1383615279090630656_n.jpg

With our base being in the lively, shopping area of Alexanderplatz – one of the best-known squares in Berlin – we were right in the hub of the city. Not only was the famous TV Tower (The Fernsehurm) visible from our hotel window, but the hive of the Christmas Markets were a stones through away. The TV Tower was on the top of our list, it’s views were reported to make a visit top of the list of things to do whilst in the city. Due to foggy, cloudy weather obstructing any views, we sadly decided to save this for the next trip.

50247417_281657402520144_6108191446286729216_n.jpg

The area of Alexanderplatz had numerous sights to explore, including the World Time Clock, and due to the season, the Christmas markets offered plenty of traditional German treats and Eggnog.

A little further East (a good walk if you are up to it) is the East Side Gallery. The open air gallery consists of numerous murals painted on to the remaining Berlin Wall and is now a heritage protected landmark.

49726529_373426690136503_8737074966060597248_n

The Berlin Cathedral Church is a sight to be seen. Nestled along the banks of the River Spree this elaborate 19th century cathedral is one of Berlin’s main landscapes.

49864373_969770756743810_3228716685238206464_n.jpg

Twenty minutes east of the cathedral you will stumble across the iconic, and most famous landmark in Berlin, Brandenburg Gate. The gate has come to represent German unity and peace since the end of the Cold War, with hundreds of thousands of people celebrating here when the Berlin Wall fell. Today, thousands of visitors flock to the landmark as part of the city’s New Year celebrations.

49715071_390158328387169_4861094099291209728_n.jpg

Minutes away from Brandenburg Gate you will find the Reichstag and the most significant historical buildings. Visitors can enter the building for free, when booked in advance, and explore the new roof dome with fantastic views of the city. If you want to visit the the dome and take in the views from this modern adaptation of this historical building make sure you book at least three days in advance. Our visit left us rather disappointed when we discovered that advance booking is imperative after a series of terrorist threats in 2010. Sadly, this meant that we missed out visiting this impressive building.

49213418_511347309388304_3155137495956455424_n.jpg

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe is located on the other side of Brandenburg Gate. The outdoor memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged on a sloping field. Designed to produce an uneasy atmosphere, many visitors have noted it resembles a graveyard. When visiting and taking in the scope of the area I found the memorial rather harrowing and somber. It is hard to imagine the suffering of the victims and the immorality of those that caused this.

50285519_751069781934249_7473094222883586048_n (1)

After visiting such a saddening sight, Tiergarten offered peace and tranquillity. The picturesque paths and ponds was a runners dream (just a shame that I did not bring my running gear). The huge park is home to the Berlin Zoo, Victory Column and forms part of the Berlin Marathon route.

On our final day in the city we found ourselves fully immersed in yet more of Berlin’s gloomy history.

A visit would not have been complete without visiting the famous “Check Point Charlie,” the name given by the Western Allies as the well known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

50302011_367877977310899_3589971877767938048_n.jpg

The Berlin Wall Memorial on the border strip in East Berlin, is an open air sight commemorating the division of Berlin by the wall and the deaths that occurred there. Nearly 80 people were killed trying to cross from East to West Berlin between the years of 1961-1989, all of which can be seen at the memorial. It is estimated that around 5,000 people made a successful escape from East to West Germany during that time.

50012364_2003750493258722_3279665562988314624_n.jpg

It is safe to say that, despite enjoying our visit, taking in the sights and culture, our trip left us feeling rather melancholy. Whilst the city offers a lively energy in parts, the depressing monuments and gloomy weather left me wondering what more Berlin had to offer.

London Marathon Training: The Treadmill

With Christmas and New Year now a distant memory it is time to prepare for the most important time in the running calendar….Marathon Season.

I’m not going to lie, getting myself motivated to train for the London Marathon the second time round has been rather tedious. With the festive season taking precious running time away, bad weather, injuries and re-occurring bouts of illness, getting out to pound the street has been difficult.

I have never been a fan of the treadmill. The monotonous pounding on the belt, going nowhere, staring at a wall and watching the clock slowly tick away simply bores me. I have always been a runner who prefers getting outside, running in the fresh air and picking picturesque routes to stimulate my mind.

However, the past few months have meant that I have had no choice but to jump on the dreaded treadmill (or “dreadmill” as I like to call it), to keep my legs ticking over and to work through injuries and illness without the harsh impact of the pavement or weather aggravating my ailments.

49213455_611700635929300_6789557638083379200_n.jpg

In doing so, I have found a way to carry training when factors outside my control prevent me from getting outside. With the trusty iPad covering the time and distance, I can now work around anything that is thrown my way between now and marathon day.

Although I will never be a lover of the treadmill, spending time racking up the miles on the dreaded machine, I have come to appreciate there are benefits of getting indoors to train.

Its safe and convenient!

As the last few months have taught me, treadmill running allows you to focus on training without the risk of slipping on uneven surfaces or the aches and pains that you gain from the harsh pavement. Running in cold weather takes its toll on our bodies, as it takes a while to warm up muscles – using up precious energy. A treadmill workout allows us to invest energy into the job at hand – the training.

After running in the cold, and subsequently coming down with a rotten cold on several occasions, I have made the decision to take my running indoors in wet weather over the next few months. The idea of completing long runs on the treadmill fills me with dread, but loosing weeks of training due to illness is not ideal either. The treadmill allows me to adapt my plan to the weather.

49533924_785414578462794_6435881808700637184_n.jpg

Running indoors is also safer. Dark winter mornings and nights are not ideal for women running alone. You can keep to the most well lit paths and still be at risk, especially if you go into your own running world like I do. During the dark hours I try my best to stick to busy areas, main roads and routes where I know I can get help quickly should I need it. That said, I would not risk training on dark mornings, when there are few people around. This is another occasion where the treadmill offers an alternative solution.

Control the pace!

Although they can be a bore, the treadmill is a great way to control a steady pace or training yourself to run at a faster pace for a bit of interval training. Adjusting the incline can also help your stimulate races, with pre-loaded race profiles to aid your training.

Improve your form!

According to Runners World, researchers discovered that runners have reduced stride lengths and higher stride frequencies on the treadmill compared to running outdoors, due to the feeling of instability when running on a treadmill. This in turn can help to improve form and reduce impact on the joints.

49764880_360851688031103_1362635192778358784_n.jpg

Treadmill running is by no means the same as road running, and certainly not a form of training I enjoy. However, it offers a perfect way to keep my training for the London Marathon going during busy times and unpredictable weather. I definitely intend to take the vast majority of training outdoors. But, if I find myself on the “dreadmill” at times too, that is perfectly okay!

 

 

Exploring Pompeii, Sorrento & Capri

Venture to the southern area of Italy (into the “Italian Boot”) and you will find yourself surrounded by a mixture of history, culture and culinary delights. Several years ago I found myself immersed in Italian charm and sunshine, found in the south.

Known in Italian as the “Mezzogiorno” or “Midday” region, it is home to some of the most historical towns, tranquil bays and stunning coast line.

With only a few days to make most of the area I settled slightly south of Naples in Vico Equense – a quiet coastal town – in the historical farm house “Astapiana Villa Giusso.” High up in the hills, away from the hustle and bustle you would normally experience this farm house offered an idyllic break away with nothing but charm and tranquillity.

47573834_752381988470533_3982399053873807360_n

Far from the mainstream hotel, this family run gem allowed an escape from everyday life. If you are looking from a break from Wifi, TV and luxury amenities then this is the place for you. Its remote location offers exactly that, whilst providing amazing views over the bay of Naples and being a great base for many attractions in the area.

47470935_1142280449264075_8598243640025808896_n

Pompeii

I could not visit the region without taking time to absorb the remains of Pompeii. The ancient Roman city that was obliterated when Mount Vesuvius erupted back in 79AD is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting over 2.5 million visitors every year. You can easily spend a day wondering the ancient cobbled streets taking in the ruins as they stand today.

47572132_1974754659307250_4515722430261493760_n

The site can get extremely busy, especially in the summer months, so if planning a visit it is advisable to book in advance or plan a trip during the off peak season. I visited in September, when the weather was still pleasantly warm but had less of a crowd.

47169751_514617359029714_1945850287960883200_n.jpg

Sorrento

This southern coastal town facing the bay of Naples offers a great combination of culture and history. Not only is it convenient for visiting nearby Pompeii, but also provides a gateway to Capri – just a short ferry ride away. Here you will find copious numbers of restaurants with sweeping water views offering gourmet cuisine, tasty Limoncello and of course Gelato! A day spend it in Sorrento is pure delight.

47688447_915787748610004_3948168765820108800_n

Capri

We did not get much time in Capri, but the time spent was enough for me to fall in love with its rugged charm. If you have time it is advised to visit the Blue Grotto – only accessible by boat.

47571890_2195976093989373_4828933293984448512_n

Sadly with only a few hours to spare, we did not get to visit this waterfront cave but spent a great deal of time at the marina, swimming (or floating) in the crystal clear waters and riding the funicular railway to Piazza Umberto – the centre of the island which offered breathtaking views of the island below.

47684380_491207708035377_1382455238488752128_n

A few hours on this stunning island was not enough – so much so that a return trip is on the cards.

My visit to the region was a whistle stop tour filled with culinary delight, stunning landscape and an abundance of Italian charm. I hope to return to explore more of what Southern Italy has to offer in the near future.

 

 

London Marathon Training: Fearing the known

When I discovered I had secured a space in the London Marathon 2017 I had a number of fears, with a little excitement. Despite any fears I had I threw myself into training, embracing all the highs and lows as and when they arose.

From the boredom and loneliness of training, to the fear of the unknown. It was a period in my life where everything was uncertain. Having never experienced a marathon before I was clueless as to what I should expect or how I would feel. As the miles increased week by week, so did the fear.

Whilst at the time this fear, the fear of the unknown, was unbelievably overwhelming there was some comfort in not knowing what exactly I had to face. Ignorance was pure bliss.

46815679_2198392143736941_364622459774697472_n

Its been a good couple of months since I discovered I have received a ballot place in the London Marathon 2019 and I am finding myself feeling a higher sense of trepidation than before. I have not thrown myself into training, as I did back then. Instead I am finding excuses to pass on vital running miles with the hope that I will “get into it” in the New Year. That is not to say that I have not been training at all, I am still throwing myself into Spinning, walking and shorter running distances. However, I seem to have an aversion to racking up the miles and getting out there no matter the weather.

And the reason for this? The fear of the known!

I am putting off getting into the swing of training, not because I am lazy or that I don’t want to run the Marathon or do my best.

My mind just knows what is to come over the next few months: the early morning runs in the cold, the boredom of the long run, the worry of injury and knowing that in a couple of months the pain from training will be so immense that it feels like your legs will never be ache free again. And as such, it is not playing ball.

As with all training, it is not just the body that needs work its the mind too. And my mind is working overtime in attempt to combat my nerves and anxieties for the months ahead. Whilst the only way to alleviate these feelings is to simply get out there and run, sometimes it is just not that easy.

46519567_2198392153736940_8767792421837733888_n

So in an attempt to get my marathon regime under way I have to find new ways to push myself, to work around my fears and take my mind off the end goal. Its time to break down the training, to put a plan in place and to take training one week at a time.

It’s time for the work to begin.

Time for new running shoes?

As I set off on a bright Saturday morning for an easy four mile run, a route I have completed with ease on numerous occasions over the years, I quickly found myself struggling somewhat. The dull ache I had felt in my knee in recent weeks resurfaced, along with a throbbing pain in both shins.

I persevered for a mile or so, stopping now and then to give my shins a little rub, thinking my legs just needed to warm up. However, I quickly begun to think back on my runs of late and realised this was not right. I have struggled for weeks, with achy shins and knee – putting it down to being tired or just being a wimp.

46417540_2343056299055793_42727223718838272_n

With the London Marathon training due to kick in shortly, I knew I needed to buy a new pair of running shoes, but it was just one of those things I just had not got round to doing. So, I was plodding along with the same trainers I had trained and ran the London Marathon in, back in 2017 – giving very little notice to the state of the shoes or how they were affecting my performance.

What became clear today was that my running shoes were well and truly dead. They had died some time ago, but I was too preoccupied to realise and replace them. And the consequence was that they were starting to cause me issues.

So how do you know when it is time for a new pair of trainers?

Is the mileage on your current running shoes too high? After researching this afternoon I have realised that mine were well passed the recommended distance. Depending on your running style, body weight and running surface your running shoes need to be replaced every 300-400 miles. This year alone I have hit 300 running miles, and this does not even begin to factor in the training I completed back in 2017: before, during and after the London Marathon. Just shy of two years of running miles!! It is no wonder, therefore, that I am starting to struggle with my well worn pair.

46440310_346915672736619_4720978672524197888_n

Feeling pain? Muscle fatigue, shin splints and pains in your joints could mean that the cushioning has worn out on your trusted runners. Not only have I been feeling rather fatigued, but today’s running (and a few others recently too) caused pain in my shins and a week off of running due to issues with my knee. Pain box ticked!

Do your trainers fail the twist test? If you hold your shoe at both ends and twist the shoe the sole should remain firm. Older shoes that no longer have support will twist easily. Mine did not have an issue here, but that is not to say that they were still suitable to run in.

Are the treads worn out? Whilst stretching on the track at running club this week another member spotted the well worn patch on the sole of my shoe. Running with worn soles is a complete no no. I have been well aware of the issues with mine for some time, but carried on running regardless. I should know better than to allow my trainers to get to the current state and continue training. So why I am surprised with my performance this morning I don’t know!!

Alternating running shoes is often advised. Running with numerous pairs of trainers will mean that half way through the life cycle of one pair they will become a reference to help you notice when the old pair are ready to be replaced. I always have multiple pairs of trainers, which a rotated on a regular basis. My only problem this time was that it took me a while to pick up on that reference. Instead I put my performance, the aches and pains, and the fatigue down to over training and exhaustion.

17796406_1878916139017878_997894433919814390_n

If, like me, you have problems keeping track of the mileage there are a number of things you can do to keep track. Either simply write the date you started training on the label or log the shoes on the app you use to record your runs. Both my Garmin and Strava have the ability to enter this information and keep track of mileage.

So, as I tell myself off for being so blase with the most vital piece of equipment a runner could need, I lay my well worn trainers to rest and begin the hunt for a new pair to get me on the road to the London Marathon 2019.

 

Sleep Trackers: Five Stages of Sleep

It is well known that a combination of a good diet, low stress and exercise enables us to sleep better. However, in the busy world we now live in, where we find ourselves having to deal with the stresses of every day life, snoring partners and restless children, it is no surprise that getting a good nights rest is something of a struggle for most of us.

According to Sleep-Science, scientists before the 1950’s believed that as people drifted off to sleep their brains and bodies would go into a “shut down” mode, entering a passive state which would enable them to recuperate from the days events.

What we have since learned is that sleep is a lot more complicated and active than we think.

Many fitness trackers have a built in sleep monitor that enable us to understand how well we are resting and in turn offer tips to help us improve our sleep. For many years I have tried not to focus heavily on the sleep tracker itself, as at times the constant monitoring of my own sleep cycle caused further stress.

45480459_531622153975734_5864385458770804736_n

So what are the five stages of sleep?

Within Stage One of the sleep cycle our brains produce alpha and theta waves, and eye movement slows down – usually within minutes of nodding off. Here we are in light sleep, are somewhat alert and can easily be awoken. This stage of sleep is rather brief – usually lasting only several minutes.

Stage Two of our sleep cycle is also light, where our brain produces a sudden increase in brain wave frequency known as sleep spindles. The brain waves then slow down. If you were to have a power nap this would be the optimum time to awake.

45624444_201466397411063_4152325642483924992_n

Stages three and four is the stage whereby we enter into deep sleep, as the brain starts to produce slower delta waves. No eye or muscle movement is experienced during these stages and it becomes a little harder for someone to wake us due to the fact that our body becomes less responsive. As the brain starts to produce more delta waves, we will then move into a deeper, more restorative stage of sleep, and it is most difficult to wake up at this stage. This is the optimum time for our bodies to repair muscles and tissues – especially important for those of us who spend a great deal of time training.  This stage is also important for stimulation, growth, boosting immune function and building up energy for the next day ahead.

We then enter Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) about 90 minutes after falling asleep, with each REM cycle lasting up to an hour. On average, an adult has five to six REM cycles each night and during this stage our brains become more active. This is where our dreaming will occur, our eyes will jerk in different directions, our heart rate and blood pressure increases and our breathing becomes fast and irregular. The REM stage of sleep is important for the learning and memory function – this is where our brains processes information from the day before – storing it in our long term memory.

45617290_1104151873086473_2816547047711178752_n

As adults we spend half of our sleep time in stage two, 20% in the REM stage and a further 30% is usually divided between the other three stages. As we get older the time we spend in the REM stage will become progressively less.

My own cycle follows a similar pattern, with the vast majority of my sleep in the lighter stages – it’s no wonder I am easily awoken my snoring or our mischievous cats. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my limited time in the deeper stages of sleep but as I get older and understand how sleep cycles change, this has become less of a worry.

The important factor for me is ensuring that I improve my sleep cycle as much as possible. Ensuring I keep to a regular schedule for both going to bed and waking up is extremely important – even at the weekend (though sometimes life even gets in the way of that bed time). Keeping a TV out of the bedroom is a must for me; though I am guilty of focusing on gadgets (i.e. my phone) before I drift off, falling asleep with the lights and sounds of a television will only have a negative impact on my sleep.

Other great ways to improve sleep is exercise – I never have an issue falling asleep due to high levels of activity, it is just the staying that way that’s the problem. So, at times I like to add Floatation Therapy sessions and massages to help relax my mind and body.

As our personal and professional lives become increasingly busy and stressful it is imperative that get the rest we need to keep our bodies functioning to their full potential.

Over the coming months, as my training for the London Marathon starts to take on a new level, my sleep will be most important and something I will keeping a close eye on.