Cross training…

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.8 mile | Cycle: 30 miles | Run: 20.3 miles |
Comment: We all need a rest week from time to time

This week I ended up having an unplanned rest week (of sorts). I had to travel for work and then I worked from home on Friday which meant that I didn’t do my usual cycle commutes, and also that I missed my scheduled Dirty WKND ride.  I didn’t even attempt an LSR this week either! However, I still didn’t have a lazy week as I kept up my usual level of cross training. I think cross training is essential to avoid injury when you are doing a lot of endurance training so here is a list of the things I have been doing to try and keep myself fit and strong.

  1. Weight training: I have mentioned before that I follow the GHOFITNESS plan. It involves 5 weight and cardio sessions a week that always leave me feeling exhausted. I am almost 5 months into the plan now and I absolutely love it! I can see a HUGE difference from when I started and I am now using weights that used to feel almost impossible during “easy” sessions. Following this plan has completely changed my mentality on gym sessions and turned them into something that are just part of my day. I even took my gym kit to Amsterdam where I was working for the day so that I could squeeze in a session before my flight home!
  2. Yoga: Everyone knows that it is important to stretch after a workout, but for me the only way to truly get that deep stretch feeling is regular yoga sessions. I currently attend a taught yoga session every Tuesday lunch time, and I can’t describe how amazing I feel afterwards! I am constantly trying to push myself during the class, stretching further than before, and trying out new postures (I am currently working on handstand and bird of paradise and look like an absolute fool week after week but I will get there in the end).

    Finally mastered my headstand and now I want photos doing it everywhere!!
  3. Group fitness classes: I am the kind of person that needs a plan to stick to, but sometimes I get a little bored of the plan and swap one of my full body workouts from the GHOFITNESS plan for a class, usually at the Adidas women fitness studio. This week I was also invited to try a fitness class on the beautiful sunborn yacht. You can read more about it here.

I’m not saying you need to do train every day like I do but whether you are an endurance athlete or a couch potato, all of the things I have mentioned about are a great way to improve your general fitness and improve your mood. And you don’t have to invest in a fancy gym membership, there are tonnes of free fitness events and classes running across the UK, you just need to look for them. Social media is a good starting point but there are specific websites like Our Parks (predominantly London but also elsewhere), and the NHS website has a page recommending ways to get fit for free that you can find here.

Picking up the pace

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 1 mile | Cycle: 110 miles | Run: 22 miles |
Comment: 110 miles?? Where on earth did that come from??

Ive had an awesome training week this week and have managed to hit some new PBs in all of my training areas…. partly because I have managed my nutrition reasonably well, but mostly because of all of the help I have had from others.

Swimming: This week I managed four open water swims of 400m each and I managed to knock around 90 seconds off my previous best NOWCA swim on Saturday. How did I do it? Well my regular morning serpentine sessions are definitely helping, but also the water was FREEZING. The main thing though was chasing a wet suited friend around the course hoping to finish in a similar time so that neither of us had to wait too long for our post-swim coffee… and it certainly worked so thanks Gaby!

I have toyed with the idea of joining a cycling club for a few weeks now, but since I am trying to make sure that my training schedule doesn’t impact too much on the time I get to spend with my husband it has been difficult to find one that suits my schedule. That is until I discovered Dirty WKND. They have regular morning meets, as well as having longer rides on a Saturday and Sunday, the set up is super casual,you register online before the ride then just turn up and go, and the guy who was leading my ride was super friendly and helpful. Seriously if you work in central London and don’t mind an early start, I cannot recommend their morning Regents park laps enough. Fuelled by cereal, oats and lots of peanut butter I managed around 15-18 miles with the Dirty WKND crew, before squeezing in a coffee and heading back to work, combined with my ride to get there I clocked up 29 miles in total. The best bit about doing loops is that we hit all of the Strava segments multiple times, meaning that I managed to clock up 100 trophies!! Cycling in a group is a great way to pass the time and I genuinely had no idea how much distance we had covered when we pulled back into Mile 27 for a post cycle coffee. I absolutely cannot wait for next week!

Running: Finally, the jewel in my training crown this week came this morning. I didn’t do an LSR this week but to keep my distance up I did do two (or 1.5 really) run commutes on consecutive days, as well as a track session*, park run, and then today I had a 3.3 mile (just over 5km) race. It’s so rare for me to just do a 5km run because I usually squeeze in park run at either the end of a long run, or the start of something else like swimming or cycling, but today I had already decided that I was going to cycle down to the start for a bit of a warm up (7 miles that were mostly downhill so nothing too stressful), run the race as fast as I possibly could, and reward myself by taking the overground home so that I had nothing to try and “save my legs” for. I’d mentioned to a couple of members of my running club that were also doing the race that I wanted to really push myself and one of them suggested I try and come in as first woman (thanks again Gaby!) and what do you know… I only went and did it! And I managed my fastest ever 5km at 19:45 according to Strava. That works out at around 6:30 minute miles which is an absolutely incredible pace for me! Suddenly that elusive sub 22 at Crystal Palace Park run feels like it might be within my reach after all.

Hanging out with some of the CPFR ladies after the run!

*The track session was a pyramid consisting of 2*800m with 1 minute recovery, 4 *400m with 1 minute recovery, followed by 6*200m and 6*100m both with 30 seconds rest. I was “lucky” enough to have the run leader pacing me and a friend so I ended up working harder than I have ever worked at the track before, and although I felt like I was going to throw up by the time the 100m started, afterwards I was absolutely buzzing and felt amazing! I’ve heard people say that track or interval sessions during the week can improve park run times and this one definitely worked for me!


Looking back and moving forward…

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 1 mile (!) | Cycle: 50 miles | Run: 20 miles |
Verdict: I made the 1 mile swim mark and got in an LSR!!!!

This week I finally managed to get over my newly found dread of long slow runs with the help of a very good friend who is also an LSR-hating runner. We ran 15 miles at an 8 minute mile pace, although my watch ran out of battery so I only logged 10.5 on Strava so I am not sure if it even counts. I also saw a picture on Facebook from what I think was only my second 10km run just two years ago and it got me thinking about how far I have come since then, and all of the things that have helped me along the way.

  1. Signed up to park run. I started park run in 2013, after a friend from university told me about it. I had just completed a sprint triathlon and absolutely HATED the running part, so it was natural for me to decide that the best way to get around that was to voluntarily run 5km every week. I did my first run in just under 30 minutes, and went back sporadically over the next two years, totting up 33 runs, and using any excuse to avoid dragging myself to the park. Fast forward 4 years and I have just done my 123rd park run, visited 16 courses, and taken my PB down to 21:20. I rarely miss a Saturday, I love running in the rain, and I run every christmas day… so its safe to say I am hooked. Whether you are a runner or a walker, I strongly recommend you to get yourself out of bed on a Saturday morning and give your local park run a go. You can sign up (for free) here.

    Lining up for a park run pacing event with my running club
  2. Joined a running club. Well technically I joined two running clubs, and they were without a doubt the most helpful thing for me. I know that the thought of joining a running club can be intimidating, and that a lot of people think that its not for them because they are not fast enough, or can’t run far enough, but those people are 100% wrong. Believe it or not, it was my mother that persuaded me to join my first club, the South Leeds Lakers because a lot of our friends from park run were part of the club, and she wanted to lose weight. Both of us were able to run together because the club has run backs, as well as different paced groups, and neither of us ever felt under any pressure to keep up with the pack when we didn’t have it in us.  It was the lakers that got me through my first 10km run, and onto my first half marathon, so I owe them a lot! I recently moved to London and the first thing I did was join the Crystal Palace Fun Runners. I made a whole bunch of new friends, a lot of whom were marathon runners, and 6 months after joining I too joined the 1% of people who can run a marathon, by completing Barcelona in 3:35. If I hadn’t joined a club back in the days when I couldn’t run I would NEVER be contemplating my first iron man right now!

    Preparing for a trail run with the lakers
  3. Decided to commute by bike. I’ve owned a bike pretty much my whole life, but I have never been what you would call a cyclist. That is until I started commuting 20 miles each day by bike almost a year ago. When I first started cycling it would take me nearly an hour to get home, but since purchased a nippy little road bike (entry level, of course) I have managed to take 15 minutes off my time! If you are considering commuting I really do think a lighter bike is worth the investment because it really makes all of the difference to me!

    Even when it’s raining I always prefer to ride home than take the tube!
  4. Discovered open water swimming. I might have mentioned it before (I think it features in every blog post so far) but I LOVE OUTDOOR SWIMMING! My pool at work is 18.3m long, and while its really convenient for getting a few lengths in, the constant turning is soul destroying. As a solution, I found the Serpentine Swim Club who swim every day in the Serpentine between 6 and 9:30am. The serpentine lido is 100x40m, is currently around 16-18 degrees, and is full of swans, and its amazing. Having the opportunity to swim outside every day has revolutionised my swimming experience, and I only signed up 1 short week ago!

    One of my fave shots from the Serpentine last week
  5. Found friends that will do all of these crazy things with me! Whatever I decide to do, it is always made a lot easier by the kind of friends that don’t think twice about going for a 15 mile run on a Saturday morning or jumping in a lake for a swim because I have asked them to. We all need more people like this in our lives!

I know that not everyone can commute, and that the open water swim thing isn’t for everyone (although I think everyone should at least try it) but everyone can, and should, set a goal to try something new this month. You never know, you might just find out you like it!

Fitting it all in…

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.8 miles | Cycle: 40 miles | Run: 25 miles |
Verdict: Not too bad for a week where I worked from home.

One of the most common excuses for not going to the gym among my friends and family is simply “I don’t have time” so this week I decided to write about how I fit in all of my training. At the moment I try to get in 5 Ghofitness workouts, a sprint session, a long run, park run, yoga, cycling, and at least two swims a week, alongside my job and spending time with my husband. Yes, this is a lot, and no I am not suggesting that everyone starts doing this much exercise, but I am working towards two not entirely complementary goals at the moment so the training I am doing is a necessity for me. I am not making any recommendations here, I am simply stating what works for me.

The first thing is planning both of my workouts, and my food for the week on a Sunday so that I have a plan to follow and a schedule that I feel guilty if I don’t stick to. Without a doubt this is the most important thing.

I also get up super early, around 4:30am, but I do go to bed at 10pm, and 6 and a half hours is plenty of sleep for me. This wasn’t always the case, but during my PhD I started pushing myself by putting my alarm back by 10-15 minutes a week until I got down to 6 hours sleep, and thats when I started to feel tired during the day, so I decided that 6 hours is my minimum.

Another trick is to go to the gym first thing in the morning, so that I don’t have chance to talk myself out of it during the day. Now I am lucky enough to have reasonably priced gyms both near home and near work, so I am a member of both, and tend to use the work gym on a week day and the home gym on a weekend. I also use my commute as part of my training by either cycling or running to work every day (10 miles each way). I try and run home doing sprints, and throw in a couple of stretches of single leg cycles every few days. Of course there are lots of issues with this (Boris bikes, and slower commuters for example) but generally my commute is pretty stress free, and it gets me to and from the gym/work in a reasonable time.

Finally, I eat A LOT! Its the only way to keep going through all of this training! I always have at least 2 breakfasts, lunch, dinner, and a couple of fruit snacks throughout the day as I absolutely do not believe in letting myself go hungry even if I am trying to lose fat. Check out my instagram page to see my typical days worth of food (although you might have to scroll back a week because I am on a super strict diet at the moment).

And that’s all there is to it. Get up earlier, try and incorporate cardio into your commute, and eat as much food as you burn off!

Next week I will be reviewing my diet plan since I will be 2 full weeks in by then. I wanted to do it this week but didn’t think it was really fair after 7 (long) days.