London Marathon Training: Week Three

It has taken me some time to put words together that can summarise the third week in my London Marathon training – mainly because I have been a week long strop.

I began the week with the ultimate rest day, waking up at the Champneys resort in Henlow.

The temptation to book myself into high intensity classes and go for a country run was extremely high. However, with a slight niggle in my ankle from the previous weekends activity and a poor night sleep due to lack of heating in my room, I gave myself a stern talking to. Simply allowing myself to relax by the poolside before my treatments later in the day was the one thing I needed right there and then.

Tuesday, still in a rather relaxed state post treatments, I allowed myself a gentle day of walking before ramping up the mileage at the latter end of the weekend.

The rest of the week started well with spinning sessions and treadmill running. But on Thursday evening, whilst attempting to complete my long (10 mile) run that little niggle I felt in my ankle during the week got progressively worse.

Only 3 miles away from my 10 mile goal, running was no longer an option. I started to experience shooting pain all the way from the ankle joint to the hamstring – bringing training to a complete halt.

Hobbling home, I made a swift decision to book myself into the sports therapist the next day. Lucky enough, SV Therapy were quick to respond to my desperate messages and a tough session followed to determine the source of my pain.

The verdict: Peroneal Tendonitis.

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Not only did I have a touch of this painful condition, but I also had ligament damage and scar tissue from a previous ankle injury that had not healed correctly.

It is safe to say that my session with the therapist was not easy. The pain was intense and I left for the second time in two weeks feeling rather bruised and battered – but also relieved to have a action plan to strengthen my ankle.

First port of call? Rest. My least favourite activity. Meaning no running for a good few days. In addition lots of exercises and icing the affected area.

You can imagine the mood of a runner who has been benched, particularly when training for a big race. It was not great.

Riddled with another injury made me question, yet again, if I should be taking on such a enormous challenge. Despite many assurances by others that it was still only week three and I still had plenty of time to get the miles in – once I had recovered – I have spent every “rest day” since the diagnosis thinking I should defer my place. With loosing valuable running time I keep thinking of the long runs I would be doing had I not had this set back.

Analysing and overthinking the situation does nothing for confidence. So yet again I had to start then new training week telling myself to forget about the miles I have not achieved and take each day at a time.

And so, as I entered week four, my only goal was to take baby steps, to plan my training a day at a time and to find myself fit enough to run the London Winter Run this coming weekend.

But most importantly – I need to stop beating myself up about miles and training I have not been able to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Adidas City Runs: Clapham

Sunday 16th September saw my return to Adidas City Runs, with the Clapham 10K route. After my pleasant run with them a year previously with the Shoreditch 10K I was looking forward to seeing what South London had to offer.

As with most race days, it started with a very early morning to ensure that I arrived in plenty of time to get myself sorted before the start: multiple toilet breaks, adjustment of kit and filling up my running bladder for the miles ahead.

There was not much time to hang around, as within 30 minutes of my arrival the first waves were being called to the start pens. My wave (wave C) was soon heading in the same direction. Very little time passed before the runners were off!

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Starting at Larkhall Park the route saw participants head north towards Vauxhall before turning back towards Clapham, along Wandsworth Road, skirting the east of Clapham Common before winding round the tree lined streets of Clapham Old town and North Clapham towards the finish line back at Larkhall Park.

The race started off well. Despite the recent balmy temperatures the morning was over cast, cool and saw a welcome gentle breeze – making running conditions seem perfect.

From the first to the third kilometre I found myself comfortable, setting a good pace (albeit, slightly faster than previous races due to my training with Harlow Running Club) and generally feeling rather relaxed after a recent break away in the sunshine.

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However, perhaps due to my lack of training in the lead up owed to my holiday or my faster than normal pace, or perhaps a mixture of both, I started to find myself tiring rather quickly between the third and fourth kilometre. Add in a couple of unexpected hills around the “flat route,” slowing down my pace further, I found my spirit wavering slightly – stopping to walk the hills that I would not have caused issues previously. I also started to spend more time looking at my watch, trying to work out if a PB was on the cards. During the first and third kilometres this was looking likely. After four kilometres I started to give up on the PB yet again, deterred by my post holiday fitness level, and to simply use this race as a way to return back to training after a very inactive break away.

The route itself was not without challenges, as mentioned above there were a number of hills thrown into the mix that were completely un-expected, the twists and turns around the residential streets became tiring and to top it off, as with the Shoreditch 10K, residents ignored the signs about road closures and decided they were well within their rights to drive down the closed roads. I saw at least three drivers, with very little regard for the runners around them screaming at the marshalls, obviously putting both at danger with their stupidity to pay attention to the signs around them.

And the water stations? Where were they? There was nothing available until after the 6KM mark. Many runners were overheard asking the marshalls “where is the water station?” And on what transpired to be a rather muggy day once we got well under way, this was an error of judgement on the organisers part. Luckily, I always run with water so it did not cause an issue for me. But there were many participants clearly struggling with the lack of hydration.

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That did not put runners off enjoying the course, however. Many participants around me were clearly enjoying themselves (some more than others) and there were many smiling faces as we approached the final turns to the finish line.

Despite my lack enthusiasm throughout the route, I was undeterred as we came towards that final stretch. Any energy I had was used for a sprint finish, allowing me to come under my British 10K time from July (just).

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Was I bothered about failing to get a PB and a sub 60 minute time yet again? Not really. I had enjoyed my much needed time off, coming back feeling refreshed and ache free. I always say “next time.” And I will get there one day. With the ability I have gained training with Harlow Running club, teamed with regular Spinning classes – I have no doubt that I will eventually reach the goals I set for myself.

In the meantime, it’s time to head off to running club……….

The 30K Spinning Challenge

On entering the Spinning studio for last Saturday’s class the instructor says – “sit next to ‘X,’ we are attempting a 30K spinning challenge today and I think sitting next to them will keep you going”

Never one to say no to a challenge I thought “why not”. After all, the worst that would happen would be that I would not reach the distance and by pushing myself just that little bit harder I would become just that little bit stronger.

So, with all the enthusiasm I could muster, along with many others, I got to work with the challenge that was set.

The trick throughout the 55 minute class was to find the right balance of speed and resistance to hit an average pacing of around 32km per hour.

My range was averaging between 28-30km per hour so I knew early on I would not hit the 30 kilometres in the first attempt. But then, not many people would. I did however give it a good go, finishing at a distance of 26 kilometres. Only 4 kilometres off target!

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I had a second attempt during the week, at a 6:30am class, which despite taking part in Saturday’s class felt twice as hard. The earlier class time meant that my body was not as warm, I had not eaten breakfast (so had very little fuel in the tank). And to top it off – I had only completed the first attempt three days prior followed by London Winter Walk the next day. I don’t usually make excuses – but to say I felt a little burnt out is an understatement.

That said, my distance for the morning class was not too far off my first attempt – coming in at 25.6 kilometres. Only 0.4 km off my previous number.

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So now I take these two numbers as two different targets.

I have the 26 kilometres to build on for the Saturday morning classes and the 25.6 kilometres for any 6:30am week day classes.

In order to build up the strength for the second attempt I will be continuing my current training regime: lots of spinning, running, walking and Body Pump, with the addition of extra circuit classes. Lots of weights to build up my leg strength so I feel less of the leg fatigue during the 30K challenge.

Will it be easy? Definitely not. This morning’s class was a pure example of how hard it can be. A interval spinning class, one that I usually don’t struggle with, felt horrendous. My legs fatigued quickly, my knees were burning and no matter how fast I pushed my legs they just did not seem to be moving any faster.

It was a struggle. But it won’t stop me getting back on the bike and trying harder next time.

So – the challenge is set.

Will I be able to reach 30 kilometre spin in 55 minutes by the end of the year?

 

 

London Winter Walk

Sunday 14th January saw me take on my first challenge of the year, London Winter Walk – A 20km walk organised by Action Challenge as part of the Ultra Challenge series.

It was the first event I have taken part in with these guys and was booked as a attempt to kick start my training in preparation for the Isle of Wight challenge, also organised by Action Challenge.

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The walk promised the opportunity to get in some early training for one of the many events they have scheduled for the year ahead.

Setting out from Southwark Park, at the break of dawn in my case, the route saw participants pass over Tower Bridge, west along the River Thames into the City – taking in many of the capitals iconic landmarks en route. A quick rest stop, lasting around two minutes for myself, just after the half way point in Vauxhall, before the route sees you walk along the South Bank, crossing Blackfriars, Millennium, Southwark and London Bridges on the way back to base camp.

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Starting in the first wave, at a bright and early start of 8:30am, gave me somewhat of an advantage. For the first half of the route, there were very few pedestrians – especially in the city area – so there were not many people to weave in and out of. This enabled me to see a good time for the first half of the challenge – 18th in my wave.

 

The way back to base camp differed slightly. Growing numbers of tourists, cyclists and runners started to appear – slowing the pace and generally making you more aware of your surroundings.

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That said, by the time I was heading into the 19th kilometre it was not even midday. As some of the final waves were heading out at the start of the walk, I was finishing. And the timing was not too shabby either – 3 hours 9 minutes! My time saw me finish 22nd in the 8:30am wave, as the 10th Female.

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Obviously, throughout the day my rankings dropped somewhat as other participants completed in each wave. However, I was still considerably high up the charts considering this was the first walking challenge I had taken part in. Finishing 64th over all (out of 1600 participants) and being the 41st Female.

I took great pride in my results. I am not accustomed to walking challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I walk fast – years of commuting has done wonders for my walking speed. However, I have never walked as fast and at distance, as I did on Sunday.

Fuelled by those around me (not that there were many after the first hour), I power walked like I have never power walked before. I saw myself becoming a tad competitive when those more seasoned walkers over took me. I hated the feeling of someone approaching from behind. And when I crossed the finish line, I did so with no one in around me at an average pacing of just over 15 minutes per mile.

A pace that will definitely not be attempting for the Isle of Wight challenge, that’s for sure.

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The London Winter Walk was something new to my training.

Having run so many races over the last few years simply walking was a nice change to the norm. In the lead up I did not feel the pressure I would normally feel when participating, I didn’t feel nerves and I felt uncharacteristically relaxed.

The walk also made me a little more mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead. I now am aware that despite my trainers being wonderfully suitable for running, for walking they are not. Where you need the bounce when pounding the streets at a faster pace, with walking you need a little more stability and support. By the last kilometre I could feel every cobble in the street!

It also made me aware of pacing. Whilst the 15 minute mile pace was fine for a shorter distance I need to be aware of slowing it down as my training walks become longer and arduous.

The final factor I take away from the London Winter Walk, and one that has been mentioned to me on numerous occasions, is that walking is not easy. For someone who has spent the last few years developing my running pace and mileage, it was incredibly difficult to stop myself from breaking into a run a times and keeping the steady walking pace. Its not as easy as it looks!

The event was one that I would definitely look at completing again. The organisation by Action Challenge was outstanding; the staff were friendly, the rest stop had a multitude of snacks and refreshments, and to finish off a freshly cooked hot meal upon completion.

London Winter Walk is the first of the Ultra Challenges this year; with the Easter Walk (25km from Windsor) and the massive Isle of Wight challenge (106km) both booked in.

I am sure to become an ultra challenge addict. Not stopping until I have completed them all!

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Keeping fit over the Festive season.

Yep – it’s that season of tide and joy. That time of year when no matter how much you try to avoid it you find yourself surrounded by mounds of festive treats, and the exercise plan starts to waver to make way for the multitude of Christmas parties and gatherings.

Its no surprise that we come out the other side with a few extra pounds and finding getting ourselves motivated to exercise just that little harder.

So what do you do to stay focused and to stay on plan over the festive season?

Over the last few years, as I find myself wanting to go to “out, out” less and less I am finding sticking to plan comes a little easier too. However, like everyone else I have my downfalls and I will no doubt reach for a mince pie or two over the coming weeks.

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So I make a plan, to follow the following rules where possible:

Plan ahead! 

Not every meal I have is going to be Slimming World friendly. There will be some exercise classes that I will no doubt miss for some reason or the other. What I will do is plan ahead. Plan for those meals that may cause me to eat things that I know are not good. And if I know I will be missing a class or two, I will work around it. I will ensure that I keep to my lunch time power walks and throw in a few more for good measure.

I know that for Christmas Day itself the rule book will go out the window. I will enjoy every bite possible. So in the lead up I will do everything in my power to ensure that I am making the better choices to account for that.

Become the Designated Driver

One thing I enjoy these days is my freedom to drive and get about. I also enjoy the freedom to leave a party whenever I choose to, to not rely on cabs and other people to get home. Becoming the designated driver gives me the flexibility to do so.

It also means that I limit my alcohol consumption and therefore less likely to be hungover – which could lead to over-indulging and the likeliness to miss training sessions and classes.

Driving keeps me in control. I still drink, though these days it mainly tends to be at home, controlled with dinner.

Eat before you leave!

If your social event involves more drinking than eating make sure you eat before you leave the house. Years of not following this advice myself has lead to many nights getting drunk at super speed and mornings spent pre ordering Dominos to cure the hangover caused by overindulgence. Eating before hand means you are also less likely to head to the kebab shop at 2am too – though I make no guarantees!

Make wise choices!

Yes – we are all going to eat our share of indulgent foods. But that does not have to be every meal for for the next three weeks. Make better choices. If you know you are going out for a three course dinner, make a better choice for breakfast and lunch. One indulgent meal does not have to lead to an indulgent day.

When you are out and about think about what you are eating. Can you swap those chips for a side salad? Do you need to have starter, main and desert?

Don’t skip breakfast!

Its a given. The golden rule. Leave the house with a full belly and you will be set up for the day. You will be less likely to snack throughout the day. There is a saying – “eat like a King for Breakfast, a Prince for Lunch and a Pauper for Dinner.” Reversing your meals so that breakfast is the biggest meal of the day will mean you have more time to digest your meal throughout the day and not go to bed with a heavy stomach! I personally hate having a heavy meal after 7pm, I always find in doing so I feel ill and wake up feeling rather sluggish and bloated the next day.

Load up on your Vitamins!

It goes without saying that fruit and vegetables should be the most important part of your diet. Getting your five a day is key and loading up with Vitamin C is vital – especially as the temperatures drop and coughs and colds are wide spread.

Load up with a mix of the two by preparing a Nutri-Bullet each morning or prepping healthy snacks to take on your travels.

I always have a box of satsumas on my desk and take a pot of crudities and hummus to munch on between meals.

Allow yourself the rest and cheat days!

Giving yourself a break every now and then will mean you are less likely to fall off plan completely. We all need those days of rest, make sure you plan them in. If you have a cheat day or a cheat meal so be it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Draw a line under it, move forward and look to the next days plan.

Its an exhausting time of year. Give yourself a break. Its allowed!

Focus on the long term goal.

In the grand scheme of things the festive period is only a small portion of the year. Yes we become very indulgent, over excited and sometimes allow things to slide. However, it is short term. Think about the long term goal, how far you have come and where you want to go. Then make the next plan – the New Year plan – and get right back on the horse ready to keep going.

Whatever you are doing over the next few weeks to celebrate; enjoy yourself, relax, rest and remember to keep going!

Enjoy a happy, healthy holiday!

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Training Walk: 6 miles in Epping Forest

A few months ago, as I signed up to the Isle of Wight Challenge (the big one planned in for 2018), I was told something that I did not quite believe.

“Just because you can run, don’t assume you can walk.”

I did not think that much of it again, until I decided to get a head start in training for the big event next year.

65 miles will be no mean feat. With all kinds of terrains following the coast of the Isle of Wight, in what I estimate to take around 24 hours, and throughout the night too. If the miles don’t get to me, the sleep deprivation certainly will.

So, I took the time to start racking up the miles before Christmas and before the training plan kicks in in the New Year.

I have progressively increased the walking miles over the last few weeks, even covering around 30 miles whilst in Bordeaux. And this weekend I took to Epping Forest to start covering some mileage closer to home.

My first outing to Epping Forest came around a month ago. One wet, miserable Saturday afternoon I ventured out, got lost and found no joy in the route – which was rather desolate. It was not until the end of my walk that I found the “main path” detailed on the map and I kicked myself for not finding it sooner.

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This time I headed in the right direction. Again; it was wet, raining and generally a rather miserable day. Starting at the Wake Arms Roundabout I headed south into the depth of the forest following that “main path.” I did not get lost, I did not find it desolate – instead it was one of the most joyful walks I have had in a long time.

Despite the weather the forest was full of like minded walkers, runners, cyclists and even several horse riders. It seems I was walking in the right direction this time round – the forest had a wonderful bustling atmosphere.

Two miles in I reached the Kings Oak Hotel and continued along the main path a little longer. This is where the path changed considerably. What started as a predominantly flat route became one that saw some of the biggest hills I had trekked for some time.

Some runners were bravely powering up and down the hills. Although I was tempted to follow them, I stuck to my strong walking/ marching pace, which was a challenge in itself on the downhill stretches.

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Shortly after the hills my Garmin buzzed for the 3 mile marker and it was time to turn back on myself. Back up the challenging hills, that had a definite impact on my heart race but also left me feeling like I was having a great work out.

And then the Garmin died! I stupidly forgot to charge up before I ventured out, so after four miles I had to guess my pacing and overall time.

Quickly retracing my step I made it back to the start feeling a little worn out, but with a sense of exhilaration – that feeling I get every time I finish a work out that I am pleased with.

The next day I realised the comment my friend made rang true. My legs, glutes and calves were all tight. Walking is tougher than you may think.

And It was only six miles. Taking a total of 1 hour 46 minutes – averaging at around 17 minutes per mile. A great base to build up on over the next few months. At this pace, without stoppages, I would be looking at a finish time of around 18-19 hours. Not realistic, as lets face it not only am I going to have to account for rest stops but anything the actual day will through at me too.

However, I will use this timing as a guide to push myself forward and improve over the coming months.

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Winter Walking

Though we are technically in the Autumnal season, the temperature has dropped so significantly in the last few days you cannot help but think it’s already Winter.

And with the Winter months comes the planning. The planning for the New Year, the new training plan and the new adventures.

This time last year I was planning the winter months training for the London Marathon. And whilst I am extremely satisfied that I ticked one of the greatest races in the world off my bucket list, I am equally glad that I will not be spending months upon months over the Winter waking up at 6am to run.

Instead I will be taking my training in a different direction. I will be walking my way through the Winter in preparation for the Isle of Wight Challenge. 65.8 miles around the coast of the Island, hopefully in under 24 hours.

Lately I have been talking to a few friends. Friends who have completed challenges run by the same company, Action Challenge, and those who have completed marathons. The one common comment made by all was “just because you can run, don’t assume you can walk.”

This comment has thrown me somewhat.

I always thought running a marathon would be far more difficult than walking. Your heart rate and exertion is higher after all. Right?

I believe that I am going to prove myself wrong over the next few months. Because not only am I going to have to deal with walking long distances, for hours and hours, I am also going to have to deal with sleep deprivation and cold temperatures; whilst dealing with anything that Mother Nature decides she will throw at me throughout my challenge.

However with several 24 hour challenges under my belt, thanks to Mission 24 two years running, I know that I have the mind power to get me through the small, dark hours.

What I need to do in the lead up is just rack up the miles.

So with that in mind I have been thinking about the routes I could complete and the miles I could cover. The training plan issued to me by my chosen charity partner, Mind, is no where near as extreme as the one I received for the London Marathon. The Marathon plan showed many days running; running short distances and long ones. At this stage I cannot remember how many hours I spent running. And I did very little else. A little spinning, a little yoga here or there. But mainly -running!

This plan has the longest walk in the lead up as 10 hours long. And for some reason I find this less daunting than the longest run I had scheduled for the Marathon, at 20 miles.

Luckily, as I live in the Home Counties, on the Herts- Essex border, there are plenty of routes I can look at over the next few months; not only to change things up so I don’t get bored but also to ensure that I cover the required milage.

The Lea Valley – One of the flattest routes I took to train for the London Marathon. It was flat, it was picturesque – it is perfect to cover the miles I need for my longest walk in preparation. Starting from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park I will make my walk along the river path up the River Lea – passing through Hackney, Walthamstow, Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Harlow and finishing at Bishops Stortford – around 30 plus miles.

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Epping Forest – a walk I tested today and did not enjoy. Following what was a “bike” trail to being with, I lost my trainer in a swamp of leaves. Plus it was pouring down with rain, so I got back to the car cold, wet, shivering and muddy. I am determined that the forest will be a cornerstone of my training in the upcoming months. If I plan it right and scope it out enough I could easily cover 8-10 miles each time.

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Shorter Walks will be key, just like the 3-4 milers when training for the London Marathon. They will keep me ticking over. And lately I have discovered more around my area than I ever have before. I like the off road routes – so the likes of Broxbourne Woods close to home will be a definite player in the short walk routes.

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Old childhood stomping grounds in North London will also be key. Family and friends still live there so why would I not incorporate shorter routes with friends into the training mix?

The likes of Hampstead Heath offers miles of wild wondering, with plenty of hills. To this day I still get lost on the heath. Yet every time I visit I still feel the joy of a first time visitor.

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Aldenham Country Park offers a short route – which you could easily lap in your visit. A country park that is a stones throw from the area I was raised offers a little day out for the family, or an opportunity for someone like myself to train – lapping here will rack up the miles around the lake.

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Whatever happens over the next few months I know one thing – the routes need to be long and the routes need to be those that offer pleasing scenery.

I will not be able to cover boring paved streets; I need country parks, I need rivers and I need countryside. If I am gong to cover 65 point something miles – I need to be pleased by the views.

So whatever I plan over the next few months I need to take this into consideration. I need to feel appeased. I need to ensure that whatever route I plan, it involves a route that offers me something to look at, that stimulates my mind and offers me mileage to challenge me physically.

It is a challenge I said I would never do, but a challenge that will come from the heart. A challenge that raises money for Mind. A charity that has become so meaningful and so dear to all my family.

There may be times when I don’t believe I will complete. But I know that i will. Finishing is the only option. And I hope, just like the London Marathon, he will be there to cheer me on. It won’t be in person – but I will hear his voice, I will feel his warmth and I will make every step count – for him!

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High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT

Over the past few years there has been a steady rise of people taking part in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and with several influencers dominating the space, such as the Body Coach and Clean Eating Alice, it is hard not to take part in a session or two.

Studies show that just 15 minutes of HIIT training burns more calories than jogging on the treadmill for an hour. This type of training involves intense bursts of exercises followed by short recovery periods. The best thing about this kind of work out is that you can moderate it to suit your needs, abilities and is adaptable to complete anywhere and at anytime – so no need for expensive gym memberships if you don’t want them.

Three years ago, I was not savvy when it came to different exercises. Don’t get me wrong, I was always at the gym sweating it out, but in regards to anything other than cardio – I was clueless.

I then joined what was then known as Regiment Fitness, who provided outdoor boot camp sessions, and started to learn more about different exercises, using equipment and body weight.

When my place in the London Marathon was confirmed I stopped my boot camp membership to focus on my running and as a result my strength has deteriorated. Now, my situation has changed and I can no longer make the boot camp sessions. Therefore, recently I have started to take the matters into my own hands and put together my own HIIT work out.

Downloading an app that times my sessions I have been picking a couple of high intensity exercises to alternate. This week I have been combining the work out with my usual cardio sessions – running 3 miles outdoor (because I refuse to ever run on the treadmill), then 10-20 minutes on the stair master at the gym, followed by a 15-20 minute HIIT work out using a variety of equipment available at my local gym – Xercise4Less.

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My favourite this week – the battle ropes. Often thought as a tool to tone the upper body, they also work abs, backs and glutes. If you include jumps, lunges and squats then using this piece of equipment can work the legs too. And it is indeed a workout. Combining the battle rope (alternative waves) with sand bag squats or skipping with kettle bell swings have made me work up as much a sweat as running. Working a 30 seconds on each exercise for 10-15 rounds means that I was soon out of puff and once the work out was done I certainly felt that I had worked. I have had that dull post exercise ache all week – which made running up hills this morning incredibly difficult – but makes you feel that you have worked hard.

So, I am going to continue over the next weeks working on varying the exercises – perhaps using more of the battle ropes (they have always been my favourite) and re build my strength.

I thoroughly recommend others to give HIIT sessions a try. You don’t need equipment or a gym membership, so fit it into your day.

 

Learning to run again.

Its it approaching eleven weeks since I crossed the finish line at the London Marathon and I my running could never be so far from form as it was back then.

On completing the race I was so sure that I would continue on, running long distances with ease and enthusiasm. Sadly that is far from the truth. Other runner friends said once completed my running will come to a halt and I struggled to believe them. I had high hopes that I would dust myself off after some time out, pick up the running and learn the joy again.

How wrong was I? I had my time out, I had my two week holiday (with short runs included) and then I returned to normal life with every intention to continue running and slip back into running long distances with ease.

It has not worked out that way.

I find myself struggling. Struggling, mainly with getting into the running mindset I had during the training and on race day itself. The days where my mind went to a different place enabling me to run for miles and miles on end are simply lost. I look back and wonder, how did I possibly get into this mindset? How did I manage to get through the miles without thinking about stopping? It just seems unobtainable to me right now.

Lately, I don’t seem to be able to get into a running mind, I find myself stopping consistently during a run and I am only running short distances – three miles at most.

I am not sure why; is it the training in Summer months, rather than Winter months that is causing my slump? Is my mind not here or have I simply lost it? If you loose it, how do you get it back?

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Today I had an aim. I had an aim to run from Harlow Mill to Dobbs Weir – seven miles – along the river. A lovely route I managed with ease during my Marathon training. Today it was pure torture. It started well, running faster than my usual pace but then I quickly realised seven miles was unobtainable, I would have to cut it down. It was hot, even along the river, I was constantly checking my watch and my quad was tight – most likely due to the over zealous high kicks during last nights Body Combat. So I managed a slow three miles with a three mile walk back the way I came – which with it being such a warm, sunny day was pure bliss.

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Having recently signed up for two further half marathons this year (Bedford Half and Hertfordshire Half) I need to learn how to run again. I need to find my running mojo. I need to learn to get back into the running mindset. And I need to do it soon.

However, with a little more time on my hands than usual to focus, several shorter races in the diary and with the aid of my new found love of parkrun I hope to start to rebuild and learn to run again.

Falling in love with parkrun

Several years ago I registered for parkrun – a free, weekly 5k timed run available in numerous parks around the country. However, once I signed up I printed my barcode several times but always failed to use it. With other activities and events; from boot camp sessions, races and climbing mountains – there was always “something else” to do – so it never got used.

Signing up for the London Marathon saw me cancel my boot camp membership to concentrate solely on running and therefore Saturday mornings meant early starts with hours upon hours of running. I simply did not have time for such a short run of 5K. So the parkrun bar code went on to be a slip of paper I carried in my purse.

Marathon completed, with no plans to return to boot camp (due to location changes and needing more flexibility in my life), I needed something to keep me on the straight and narrow on a Saturday morning. Something to make sure I don’t spend my Saturday mornings in bed.

Enter the parkrun.

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There are several near me, some that are probably easier than the one I have been frequenting of late, but Harlow Town park is not only the closest but also a bit of a challenge. With a mixed course of hills, a mixture of grass and concrete path, plus laps to boot it is one that tests the most seasoned runner.

I went along to my first parkrun last week (10th June) with a goal of 35 minutes in mind. Giving myself a realistic goal but at the same time something I can work on, as not only do I hate hills but I have also developed a fear of laps of which Harlow town park had 2 and a half lap to finish. I ran and I walked a little (running uphill on grass is torture to me) and I finished in 34:20 according to my Garmin (parkrun had a slightly different time, so I am not sure how they work that out without a chip). So I set a goal in my mind and beat it. I was buzzing and ready to come back.

Today was my second attempt at the parkrun. With a forecast of scorching hot weather I did not imagine I would beat my previous weeks attempt. At 9am it was simply roasting. I don’t complain, I live for the hot weather, the sunshine and the opportunity to star fish in the garden. But when coupling this with running I turn into a melting, sweaty, heavy breathing mess. Today was no exception. I knew it would be hard. Waking up with scratchy eyes and sneezing consistently, due to hayfever kicking in, I had to make sure I didn’t go crazy. And I didn’t. I paced myself and if I felt the need to walk at times I did. Though, this week I walked less than the week before. There is part of the course where you have to run uphill on grass and for both weeks it has got me completely. This week, I had marker points in my mind and due to that I ended up finishing 8 seconds faster than last. Completing in 34:12 and not really having the energy to go out there with a sprint finish, I was buzzing. To have a better time than the week before with the heat we were facing was an amazing achievement. And I went away happy. Happy to be improving, no matter how many seconds and ready to come back next week and try again.

 

So I have fallen madly and deeply in love with the parkrun and everything it represents. I am in awe at the whole organisation and what it does to get people out there. To bring local communities together and simply bring goals to every day people.

Whether you want to run, walk or do a combination of the two, I thoroughly recommend you get involved. Get running, get walking, bring the kids, bring the dog. Everyone is welcome.

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I can’t wait to see how my performance takes shape over the next few weeks.

Bring on next Saturday!

 

 

 

Decathlon Sports Series – 5K

The first Sunday in June. It was a beautiful sunny morning and I had signed up for a free 5k run in my local park, run by Decathlon. The only problem being, I had lost my mojo. Not long returned from the USA, rather jet lagged and having not really trained for two weeks, I almost didn’t bother to show.

I am so glad I did. A maximum of 500 participants were able to sign up and on arrival I could see a fair amount of people had certainly done that. From all ages and abilities this race was put together by Decathlon to encourage people to participants to run and at the same time bring the community together. And they certainly had done that.

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It did not matter about your ability and that definitely showed. You had the fast runners, who you could not see for dust, the regular runners (I would like to say myself included), those who were probably less experienced in running and even whole families with children – who sprinted out at the beginning only to be advised by parents to pace themselves.

The route was not easy. Anyone who is familiar with Harlow Town park would know that. A hill start, on small park paths meant it took time for me to fall into my easier 10:30 min/mile pace. Though I did get there eventually, the hills that followed after pulled back my pacing and after running on flat, easy surfaces in San Diego the weeks prior I was rather unaccustomed to the inclines, the people and even the pot holes. That said, I finished in 35 minutes – which is still respectable – giving me the starting block to get back into a training routine. It also gave me the buzz of running again. That uphill start, became a down hill finish and I had the joy of a sprinting all the way to the end, passing many runners who over took me in the last mile.

A medal, of course, was available from the local Decathlon store along with a goody bag filled with treats, plus you get a free t-shirt too. As a marketer, I find that this was a clever tactic to get footfall in store after the race. After all if you are putting on a free race you want to encourage those people entering to spend a little money in store after.

Overall It was a well organised event by the team at Decathlon – plenty of people on course to keep the runners safe, great atmosphere and the most important thing – they got people running. Anyone that encourages people to get active deserves a gold star in my book.

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Would I run this again? Yes – definitely. I really hope my local store arranges another event like this. After running long distances over the last six months it was rather nice to run just a simple 5K. To know that it will be over in less than an hour, you don’t have to pack a running bag and probably don’t need to carry water (unless it is a hot day), was rather refreshing. No planning, just go.

And with this I want to continue with the 5k routes in Harlow Park. So with the “Park Run” membership that I signed up for years ago and never used – I am going to keep attacking the hills of the park in the hope to improve each week.

Stay tuned to see how I get on………

Return to Fit4OCR

Today was a good day, it was the day I returned to Fit4OCR (an obstacle course training facility), after a year of being absent from the arena. After months of just focusing on cardio, this summer my focus is to get back my physical strength and returning to Fit4OCR is part of that plan.

Fit4OCR is a obstacle course training facility where you are able to practice and learn technique to get over obstacles. From tyre mangles to monkey bars – you are taught and encouraged to overcome many obstacles you would face at an OCR race, whilst having fun.

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I first discovered Fit4OCR around 18 months ago, when a group of boot camp friends and I made our first visit to the facility in Baldock. Within the first five minutes of arrival I knew this would be my new playground. Run by an extremely friendly team – Gill and Marc – and a bunch of like minded participants, we had fun from the get go. Throwing ourselves over walls and into water filled trenches, we came away cold, muddy and buzzing. Safe to say we came back several times over the next few months, bringing along other friends each time. And each time we went, we had a blast. No matter who went, you were made to feel welcome, everyone introduced themselves and it had a great team spirit – no matter who you were grouped with.

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So the fact that it has been a long year since I have headed up to my favourite playground saddens me. But with a serious illness to overcome and then fear of developing an injury before the London Marathon – I simply had to prioritise and put my OCR training to the back of the list.

My performance at Dirty Race Race Weekend proved that I needed to get back to it, get dirty and harden up my now super soft hands. And that’s what we did today.

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On a beautiful sunny Sunday morning Jo and I headed up to the new location, ready to build back our strength – mine neglected due to recent events and Jo missing paying attention to her own training due to training others – we were ready to throw ourselves at it. And that’s what we did. Albeit – slightly slower than the other participants taking part today, and probably looking rather soft with our gentle approach to the obstacles, we made our way round – excited to see the new arena and just to be back.

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Slightly cautious at first, but then starting to throw ourselves at the obstacles – with Gill’s guidance – we began to fall naturally into our happy place. There is nothing quite like looking at an obstacle in front of you thinking “that is not possible” but then remembering that anything is possible if you practice, practice, practice. And that’s what we did today – quickly hardening the calluses and even ripping the skin, which put a stop to further activity on the monkey bars and the rings – which were not available at the previous location. That did not deter us though, we kept on, throwing ourselves at other obstacles – our muscles remembering we can overcome them with ease and summing up those we could not for next time.

 

We came away from the session, as we had done before, buzzing, determined and ready to come back and try again. In the meantime we have put a plan in place to keep the practice going. To harden up the hands and get them used to the motion of monkey bars we will be heading back to the local town parks to practice, practice, practice. We have achieved our goals before and we will do it again. The goal for next time – to conquer the rings like a true ninja warrior.

 

If anyone is looking for strength training or is planning on their first OCR race I would thoroughly recommend looking Fit4OCR up. There has not been a session we have walked away disappointed. Every time we go we achieve something new. Today, I climbed the cargo net after falling from one at Dirty Rat Race Weekend thinking I would have to come back down the way I came. But I didn’t. I was shaking at the top for some time, trying to calm myself down and work it out. But there was no pressure, Gill was there at the bottom, not rushing me, not saying a word and eventually I made it over the top and back down to ground level. I overcame a new found fear, simply by being there today. So when they say the best thing to do is “get back on the horse” they are right. That’s not to say there was no fear, there was. I was still slightly shaking when I got back to the car, but it is the tactics they use at Fit4OCR that enables you to overcome an obstacle that makes them special.

That and the fact that you feel like a valued family member every time you go – it is simply the best place to train.

I can’t wait to go back and overcome more! In the meantime, it’s off to the park we go!