A stretch in time…

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.5 miles | Cycle: 85.2 miles | Run: 13.2 miles |
Comment: Sometimes you just have to accept that life gets in the way

This week I haven’t managed to get much of anything done really… although I did reach all 5 gym sessions (I consider this to be my cross training, something I think is more important than getting in the miles). Although I don’t feel great about not doing a run commute this week (I’ve been unable to run with a backpack after last weeks long run disaster) or missing my LSR, I think that the benefits I will gain from “resting up” for a week can only help me in the long run. With that in mind I decided to share my top tips for staying well during periods of intense training.

  1. If you have any small niggles, go see a physiotherapist. It is quite apt that I am writing this post on the same day as the great north run because it was this race two years ago that I learned just how important this little piece of advice is. I trained really hard for what was to be my third ever half marathon, and had been ignoring a slight twinge in my knee choosing to patch myself up with kinesiology tape and get on with it. It was a beautiful day on race day,  I started off running the fastest first two miles of my life and bumped into an old school friend on the way (what are the chances??) so I was in pretty high spirits when at 2.5 miles in my IT band gave in and I had to run/walk the remaining 11.5 miles in agony. I finished the race eventually but I was out of action for several months afterwards. When I finally gave in and saw a physio he diagnosed me with a glute weakness and gave me some exercises to do and within weeks I was right as rain. The injury still bothers me from time to time but I now know that doing my exercises will sort it out before it becomes a problem. If I had just gone to see a professional as soon as my leg started hurting, I would have had a much more pleasant experience at the GNR and maybe even prevented future injuries.
  2. Practice a little self-massage. Now I am as terrible as the next runner about getting the foam roller out and doing some rehab but one thing I always make time for is the power plate machine at the gym. Its fantastic for a post run massage! The pictures below demonstrate my favourite positions using this machine so next time you’re in the gym, instead of ignoring that weird machine in the corner that nobody uses… get yourself on there and give it a go.
  1. Make some time for yoga and mindfulness. So, I am a bit of a yoga nerd. I only tend to make one full session a week but I often practice little poses by myself at home or in the gym (especially balancing poses which are my fave!). I favour a vinyasa or ashtanga style of yoga but every now and again I try and do a bit of yin to help get into a really deep stretch. Even if you can only manage 15 minutes a day, there are loads of youtube videos that you can follow, although for me nothing beats an instructor led class, especially if you’re new to yoga and would like some guidance. If yoga is not really your thing, you can still benefit from spending a little time focussing on you, with a bit of meditation and deep breathing. This week I have been lucky enough to try out a new app by Thrive that made me take some time out of my day and practice some breathing and relaxation techniques. You can read more about the app here. 
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Running: the good, the bad, and the ugly

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 1.25 miles | Cycle: 61.2 miles | Run: 34.6 miles |
Comment: Not bad for a four day week.

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. A bank holiday always scuppers my training plans as I don’t cycle to work and running club is cancelled, so my milage is generally reduced on these weeks. Despite the fact that there was no running club, I still managed to significantly increase my running miles to the furthest I have done since I finished marathon training. Also, since I had some really nice and dare I say enjoyable runs last week, I did something stupid and committed to Beachy Head marathon (even though a few weeks ago I said that people who did multiple marathons in one year are crazy). Now the thing about Beachy is that it is notoriously tough, and there is no point going for speed, so the important thing is getting in the miles and the hills so that your legs can cope however long runs all the time are super boring so I tried several things to mix it up a little with varying amounts of success.

  1. Run, swim, run (10.1 miles):  I had left my bike at work last week, so on Tuesday I decided I would run to the serpentine swim my first mile, and then run to work. This didn’t quite work out as I got too cold to reach a mile so had to get out after 3/4s, but the run was a success. After the swim I threw my shoes on, and set off running to work without even removing my swim cap, and actually I quite enjoyed it!
    Things that worked: Knowing that I was going for a swim (aka going to my happy place).
    Things that were difficult: Even though it was just two miles, its not easy running when your whole body is that cold.

  2. Running with friends (5.1 miles, WU, 6*800m with 200m recovery, CD): This week saw the introduction of our new weekly Wednesday lunch runs where me and some girls from work have committed to dragging each other out of the office and into the park for a run. We don’t necessarily need to run together, we just need someone to motivate us to run! This week I did run with one of the girls, but she is much fitter and faster than me so I definitely won’t be holding her up every week.
    Things that worked: Having someone to motivate me to get out in the rain and run, as well as planning my route and speed splits… If you read this then thanks a lot AO!
    Things that were difficult: I had trained legs 18hrs before the run. This definitely made the splits we were running much harder to achieve. Also I could have done with eating something before hand I think!

  3. PARKRUN (3miles): This week it was our run directors 250th park run (well done Tom!!!!), so he decided that for a special occasion he would send us on a magical mystery tour of the park and do a single lap park run. This was without a doubt the best park run I have ever done and I believe people are petitioning to keep this route permanently which 100% gets my vote. Also, just call me Melania Trump because I was FIRST LADY!!!! (only because our regular first lady is on holiday but I am not normally second either so its still a huge achievement and it got me a mention in this weeks run report. 
    Things that worked: They say a change is as good as a rest and that was definitely true for me this week. Also I had a good breakfast a few hours before setting off for the run so that definitely didn’t do any harm. Oh.. and I wore my lucky hat.
    Things that were difficult: To be honest this was pretty much an ideal run for me! I can’t really fault it. 

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    Coming up the finishing straight in the sun
  4. LSR/3 Parkrun Challenge (16.2 miles): Now, as you can imagine by this point in the week I was feeling pretty confident in my running ability, and decided to design myself a 3 park run challenge for my LSR. Now let me tell you something very important… putting in 3 good runs of 3 different lengths literally does not help you at all in the mental game that is the LSR. The 3 park run challenge is a simple concept… you pick 3 park runs that are close enough to each other, and run between them. If you’re looking for a shorter distance you can choose to do a junior park run route, or just a single lap of a multiple lap course, but if you want more distance then you put in the full 5km at each location. I picked South Norwood County Parkrun, Dulwich Parkrun, and my new home run at Crystal Palace. I planned to do 18 miles but ran out of time before junior park run at Crystal Palace so came in just a little bit short. This run was the worst run I have done possibly ever… but please don’t let that put you off the idea!
    Things that went well: I saw a man doing something similar in one park, and we met up again in another. Having someone to chat to for a couple of minutes really made the run more bearable for that short amount of time. Eating fruit while running (which was surprisingly easy)
    Things were difficult: RUNNING IN GENERAL. Today I picked up a blood blister the size of a 20p coin, didn’t eat enough before hand so my stomach was actually rumbling the whole way through. I squashed my post run sandwich, and I picked up a horrendous marathon tattoo from my camelback.

So in conclusion, the main point of this post is that every run is going to be different. There are some things I learned that will help every run though I think. These are:

Get a lucky hat and wear it whenever you can
Running with friends where possible
Don’t wear a vest and backpack combo
Make sure you eat a good breakfast and have plenty of time to digest it before setting off
Wear proper running socks
Orange segments in a bag in your pocket make a pretty good pre-run snack

Hopefully reading about all of my different run experiences this week might help you with yours in the future!

 

 

 

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).

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    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!

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Cycling: 
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.

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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.

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    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!

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    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!

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    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!

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    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.

 

L-S-ARGH!!!!!

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.5miles | Cycle: 60 miles | Run: 16 miles |
Verdict: Must try harder.

So after last week’s wonderful adventure you’d be forgiven for thinking I would be pretty tired on Sunday morning, but you would be wrong. I woke up bright and early, and had my trainers not been drenched from the previous days soaking I would have taken myself off for a long slow run (or LSR).

 

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Absolutely loving life at last weeks park run.

However, as running in wet trainers is not a desirable option I donned my gym trainers, that I definitely can’t run in (incase you were wondering) and finished the last workout on this weeks Ghofitness plan. Its always handy to finish on a Sunday so that I can start a new cycle on a Monday morning and my week tends to run much smoother that way. Unfortunately this week was just not one of those weeks and I had a total fitness/food fail on so many levels. I know many people who read this blog are training for their own events or working towards their own (probably more sensible) goal, so I will take you through my week day by day and highlight all of the things I did wrong to hopefully stop you (and me) from making these mistakes again.

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    The offending breakfast

    Monday: My plan for today was to do a legs workout before work and then go to the track and put in a really good track session with the Crystal Palace Fun Runners. For this to work I needed to do two things: 1) eat a sensible high-carb, low-fat, breakfast. 2) Have a mid-afternoon snack with some healthy fats to keep me full until after running club. What actually happened was that I made a super sickly banana and data pancake for breakfast that I covered in maple syrup resulting in a huge sugar rush that had just about gone before I even walking in the gym, resulting in a half-hearted workout that took twice as long as usual with only half the benefit. Then I came home, ate half a packet of dates, picked at the food I was cooking for my husband, and ended up giving myself a stitch when I got down to the track. Both of these things are more annoying because they were self inflicted. Oh and then I went home and armed with a tablespoon proceeded to eat peanut butter out of the jar.

  • Tuesday: Actually despite my terrible diet on Monday evening, I made a pretty good start on Tuesday. I cycled to work and then did a good arms session in the gym, finishing with an abs blast. I had a healthy breakfast, then I went to yoga at lunch time and had a really strong class. And then in the afternoon a colleague pulled out some biscuits he brought back from France (that were DELICIOUS, obviously), so I ate about 1000 calories in french pastry biscuits, but then I did cycle home and play tennis so there was at least a little bit of damage limitation… until the peanut butter somehow came out of the cupboard again and demanded I eat it right before bed.
  • Wednesday: Today I intended to swim for a mile just to prove to myself that I can… It turns out I can’t. In my defence I lost count somewhere around so did 50/88 lengths and just got out, but in that time I swallowed a lot of water and realised that my swimming style is just so inefficient that if I ever want to complete even a half-iron man in the near future I need to do something about it right now. The moral of the story here is don’t just expect to be able to do something big, start smaller (say with half a mile), and build up gradually. Oh and it was cake club so I ate SO MUCH CAKE… and also more peanut butter obviously.

  • Thursday: I had to work from home today because I couldn’t go into the office but I still got up early to go to the gym and ate a sensible high-carb breakfast… and then sat around in my PJs until I forced myself to go workout and run some errands at lunch time. I actually ended up having a pretty good workout with minimal snacks today. It was probably the best day of the week.
  • Friday: Working from home again so the plan was to get up early, go for a run, and throw in a gym session later on. But I did none of those things… Went to the gym for a free PT session that I had won a while back and learned some interesting things about my wonky legs, did some deep stretching, and then came home and ate a cheat meal (you know, cos I had really earned it).
  • Saturday: Finished my gym plan but missed park run because we were too short on volunteers so I ended up scanning barcodes (which is actually my favourite volunteer role), and I couldn’t swim because there was a race on that I am nowhere near fit enough to enter. Oh and I ate aaaaaaall the carbs, but I did have relatives visiting so you can’t blame me for letting go a little today.
  • Sunday: Today I got up all ready to go for an LSR of around 18 miles before volunteering at junior park run… but I just couldn’t. I ended up doing 4 miles and going home because I just didn’t have it in me. I do kind of think the draw of having my mum and my auntie sitting in my flat and making me cups of tea probably contributed to todays lack of effort though.

Anyway… to combat this terrible week I have made several changes, and every single one of them involves a plan. I am starting a new diet plan, I have ordered a swimming guide book, and unlike last week I have carefully written out my exercise/food plan ready to start a new week. I really can’t stress enough the importance of a good plan to help stay on track. This week is a prime example of that but its important for me to share these times as I am obviously going to hit some stumbling blocks on my way to an iron man.  Hopefully my next blog post will be about how sticking to a plan helped me to be more organised (but it will probably be a “How to eat a whole bunch of egg whites every day for a week without wanting to vomit” post).