Category Archives: fitness

How to run your first 10K!

The sun is shining, finally, which means it’s the best time of year to think about new fitness challenges! Whether you’re stepping up in distance or putting your trainers on for the first time, here are my five easy steps to completing your first 10K

Have you recently completed a Race for Life 5K or parkrun? Or are you new to running and looking for your first challenge? The natural progression is to train for a 10K.

With 28.5 per cent of women taking part in sport two or three times a week, and 4.8 per cent of women trying either jogging, cross-country or running, more and more 10K races are springing up in a town near you. If training, and completing a 6.25-mile race appeals, here’s how you can ensure success.

It’s all about the training
If you’ve recently completed a 5K, well done! Even if you’re new to running, it’s worth knowing that moving up to your first 10K isn’t about speed, it’s about completing a new distance. Get ready to add time on your feet. ‘The more you extend the time on your feet, the closer you will get to your 10K goal,’ says running coach and Olympian Liz Yelling, who regularly trains new runners in her hometown of Poole, Dorset.

Training for a 10K is similar to a 5K, however the distance of your long run will double. ‘Slowly building your long run will help your endurance or ability to keep going when your body starts to tire,’ says Liz. A common misconception is that you need to have run the distance in training before race day: you don’t. If you’ve run five miles, the occasion will pull you through the last mile.

Kate, Amber and I after we finished the 10K

Very hot 10K in Barbados

Don’t think you need to be running every day either. It’s better to train smart, than train too much. There are three key sessions you should aim to include every week – a long run, a 30-minute steady run and an interval session. Interval running is about running faster over a short distance, then recovering before you repeat the effort. This helps your body get used to the feeling of running fast, and helps your heart and lungs adapt to let you do this.

‘One of my most popular sessions with runners aiming for their first 10K is running fast for 60 seconds, then walking for two minutes to recover, before repeating between six and eight times,’ says Liz.

When it comes to race day make sure you give yourself enough time to warm up. ‘Don’t waste energy on a really energetic warm-up,’ advises Liz, ‘at this stage, a brisk 10-minute walk will loosen your muscles.’

Pacing is key
When you first start to run, you can quickly become out of breath, which can feel scary if you haven’t done this since school. But it is normal. Training allows you to understand how to make your body run faster, and you shouldn’t be afraid to push yourself gradually, at small intervals.

The biggest pacing mistake for new runners is going off too fast in a race. How do you know you have done this? Think of the perceived effort you are running at, on a scale of 1-10. One is walking, 10 is running as fast as you can. If you are at 8-10 it’s too fast! You should be aiming for 6-7 to be able to finish comfortably.

Recognise that if you can’t keep running you have probably started too fast, and don’t be afraid to walk. Break the remaining distance down into periods of running, then walking for two minutes to recover, before trying to run again for two minutes.

Muddy 10K

Muddy 10K

Nail your pacing on race day by monitoring your breathing, and ability to talk while moving. For a first 10K, it’s unlikely that you are chasing a time, so you won’t be running flat out. Aim to be able to speak 8-10 words with the person next to you before you have to take a breath, and before you know it that finish line will appear.

Balance your diet
Can what you eat really affect your race? ‘Yes!’ says nutritionist and endurance runner Emma Patel. ‘Your daily training diet should be a consistent balance of natural unprocessed whole foods. Fill your body with processed junk and it will feel like you’re running on junk!’

A body loaded with junk is too busy detoxifying to thrive, leading to fatigue and low energy levels, and faster burnout when it comes to race day.

Try cooking with grains that have a low glycaemic index and aren’t processed, such as amaranth and quinoa. Both offer a vast quantity of carbohydrate, proteins and micronutrients. Processed, refined sugary foods such as white bread and pasta don’t offer much nutritionally other than carbohydrate and “empty calories”.

‘You also need healthy fats (free-range eggs and organic avocados), quality proteins such as sustainable organically farmed chicken and fish like salmon, plus an array of seasonal fruits, vegetables and spices,’ adds Emma. These are anti-inflammatory and are rich in antioxidants, aiding the recovery process after vigorous training.

Christmas 10K

Christmas 10K

Iron-rich foods are also important, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan, as they can boost performance. ‘This group of powerhouses includes dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and dark coloured berries,’ says Emma.

Eat your pre-race breakfast two to three hours before your run to allow the food to be digested. ‘I recommend a go-faster breakfast of brown rice, blueberries, a dash of maple syrup and some healthy nut butter on race day,’ says Emma.

It’s also important to refuel and rehydrate as quickly as possible after to reduce muscle soreness and boost energy levels. Even though you may not feel like it, eating within the first 15 minutes of finishing will kick-start your recovery.

Avoid recovery drinks with large quantities of sugar, sweeteners and additives; a homemade smoothie will be more nourishing and cheaper. Try making your own with banana, almond, coconut milk and strawberries.

Finally, if it’s going to be hot, you sweat a lot and your race will take more than 60 minutes, sip on an electrolyte drink on your way round to remain hydrated.

Sort out your kit bag
With the right gear you can avoid injury, which could halt your training. Buying untested shoes online could mean running in the wrong type of trainers. You need to get both your feet and your gait analysed in a specialist running shop, to get the right shoe for your running style.

Videos on the Internet may help you work out whether you have high arches or over-pronate (think of your knees rolling inwards), but it’s difficult to assess your own running style.

Any specialist should match your running needs with your budget, and give you plenty of options; your first trainers don’t have to be expensive.

Mountain 10K in Mauritius

Mountain 10K in Mauritius

The majority of runners over-pronate and need a little support in their shoes, but as the overall trend is towards natural shoes, even if you need support you can expect your trainers to be lightweight.

If you don’t wear a properly fitted, supportive sports bra when you run you could suffer permanent breast damage – even if your breasts are very small.

Also, when you’re buying gear to run in, your best option is modern polyester fabric, rather than cotton, as it’s breathable and wicks away sweat. This fabric doesn’t get heavier as you sweat and the more expensive items will have an odour control element, worth investing in!

You CAN do this
The surest way to ensure you achieve this goal is to work out why you are running. You need to find out the core “why” or motivation for running: the bottom-line reason behind your effort. For example, if you are running with a friend, ask yourself why? If it’s to support her as she’s raising money for charity, why do you want to help?

If the charity is linked to a specific cause, why is this relevant to you? Keep going until there are no more questions – this is your core motivation. ‘The more you can drill down to the core “why” behind your challenge, and get to the bottom of why you took it on, the easier it will be to keep going when it gets tough,’ says emotional wellness coach Janet Smith.

When this is your reward why wouldn't you train for a 10K?

When this is your reward why wouldn’t you train for a 10K?

If you are running to raise £1,000 for a breast cancer charity as you lost your mum to the disease, this is your core motivation. As you run you can then build on this motivation to keep going. ‘Each 1K you complete can become £100 raised towards your target, or a chunk of whatever goal you have set yourself,’ says Janet.

‘Keep thinking big: if you raise your target what will the charity do with this money? How many lives will be saved by this charity? This becomes your biggest goal: to help save peoples’ lives.’ If it helps, contact your charity to ask what your fundraising target will achieve.

When last minute nerves kick in, don’t let them stop you achieving success. ‘Either connect with others, via blogs or Facebook, to get external energy to boost your confidence, or journey inwards to do this. Renew your energy by spending time with yourself, whether you enjoy swimming, walking, meditation or art,’ says Janet.

Here’s my beginner’s 10K training plan!
Beginner's Training Plan 10K

Emma Patel’s ideal breakfast, lunch and tea:
Breakfast: Amaranth porridge with fresh mango and chia seeds. Start the day with hot water with fresh lemon and ginger.

Lunch: Mackerel and brown rice with an avocado, spinach and watercress salad, and a tahini dressing (rich in calcium).

Dinner: Roasted turkey breast with roasted veggies, celeriac, butternut squash, aubergine and peppers. Add melted feta cheese to the veggies.

Don’t forget to drink filtered water throughout the day (aim for six glasses).

Let me know how you get on with your first 10K!

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Spice up your spring training with some new sessions

Running is just as intellectual as it is physical. How can you keep your motivation up if you’re doing the same old warm-ups, sessions and races? It’s very hard. Adding variety into your training is essential – to push your body and your mind. It will keep you tuned up and ‘fresh’.

I asked some coaches for their favourite sessions, and have added in one of my own. Hopefully trying out something new, and different (and hard!) will see your spring running soar!

TRY ME:  Acceleration run
“This is one of my all time favourite sessions,” says Andy Blow, international level triathlete and founder of Precision Hydration (precisionhydration.com). “Basically you start at a jogging pace to warm up and either each mile or each kilometre you lift the pace in a linear way to a degree that means by the end of the session the final mile or kilometre is run at a hard effort (usually between 5K or 10K race pace).

On my way out I always ask Rosalind what she thinks of my sessions - she's useless at feedback

On my way out I always ask Rosalind what she thinks of my sessions – she needs to work on her feedback

“You need either a measured loop, or a GPS watch, to give you real time access to your splits to make it measurable and repeatable. The session can be anywhere from three to six/seven miles long, depending on your fitness level and training goal. I used to start at three miles in the late winter and build up to six over a period of about two months to allow for some progression in the level of endurance required. The differential in pace from mile (or KM) to mile depends on how long or short the run is and it really does require (and therefore train) good pace judgement to get it right.

Why do it?
“It also teaches you the value of starting relatively conservatively in races and picking up the pace as you go, as this is opposite to what seems to come naturally to most people. It’s a tough session but also very rewarding when you get it right and manage to hit your splits as intended and see each one being ticked off faster than the last.”

TRY ME: Short sets of speed
“Planning to do a parkrun? Have a 5K coming up? This is a tried and tested session that I think will be great for you,” says James Thie, performance director of athletics at Cardiff Metropolitan University (@TeamThie). “Aim to do the session on the Tuesday before a Saturday event (or equivalent number of days before). You can use a road or a good trail surface, a measured loop or go out and back.

“The breakdown is 5 to 6 x 1km with a light recovery jog between. Recovery will range on ability (e.g. 2min rest for 15min goal time, 2.5min/17:30, 3min/20min, 4min/25min). The recovery should be slightly shorter than the time you run, which is based on your current and goal pace.”

Find a hill, some steps, a steep road - anything to make a session harder!

Find a hill, some steps, a steep road – anything to make a session harder!

When you are more confident, you can increase your speed, says James, with something around five seconds per kilometre faster than goal pace being optimum. “The key is to think about the rhythm, feel and pace,” he adds. “Keep your full exertion for the coming weekend effort. It should be comfortably hard…but don’t leave all your best running out there in training! Then, run easier into the weekend; your legs, mind and body will be ready to roll at the event. Remember, be realistic with your current fitness. Training should be specific to what you are trying to achieve.”

TRY ME: Fartlek fun
“Fartlek in a local woodland park, which has a hilly loop of about 1350m, is at the top of my list,” says Olympian and Level 3 performance coach Penny Forse. “There is a 200m gradual hill, a 100m steep hill and a flat path for sprinting. After the warm up I ask my group to do four, five or six continuous loops followed by a cool down.

“The warm up includes the loop and I explain the paces at various points plus some technical aspects of hill running. One loop is roughly 200m steady, 200m fast uphill, 150 steady down, 100m sprint, 100m steady, 100m fast uphill, 150m recovery jog and 350m steady slightly downhill.

Even a tiny hill, run in a continuous fast loop, can dramatically influence your fitness

Even a tiny hill, run in a continuous fast loop, can dramatically influence your fitness

“I stress the change of pace they should run, otherwise the session can become just another steady run. If fatigue sets in slow the ‘steady’ efforts in order to maintain quality. The venue is popular with us all as it is attractive, the terrain is varied, it is away from traffic and the paths are a mixture of earth and gravel, so it’s low impact on the joints. This session works on endurance, strength and speed and is ideal preparation for cross-country races.”

TRY ME: Teamwork
“Work in teams of three, A, B and C,” says Steve Nolan, a coach leader at Fitmums & Friends (fitmums.org.uk) and international tutor for UK Athletics. “A runs round an oval of about 400m. When A gets back to the start B runs with them and ‘pushes’ A to run harder. When they get back again, A drops out and C ‘pushes’ B. Next round A ‘pushes’ C and so on. The number of reps depends on the fitness of the participants and the focus is on running faster than ‘normal’, not a steady jog.

“The frequency and intensity can be varied by changing the size of the oval, or by including more in the team. It’s important that the runners are of similar ability otherwise this session won’t work. When the runner is doing the ‘pushing’ they should not run away from the other runner.

Running with friends makes you run outside of yourself

Running with friends makes you run outside of yourself

Why do it?
It’s fun to run in teams as so much running is done on our own. It encourages runners to go out of their comfort zone and really push themselves. The focus of ‘just’ running around the oval is taken away as you are listening to someone else.”

Try me: It’s a hill, get over it!
Sarah Gardiner is the resident coach at Back on Track Runners, based at Hilsea Lido in Portsmouth. “I love leading my group in a hill session. The hill we use has three distinct parts to it, with linking roads and different gradients. After a dynamic warm up we do an easy run to the hill (1K) and then some drills on the slight incline focusing on triple extensions, ‘bouncy’ drive with knee lifts, foot flexion and arm drive.

“I follow this with a time trial hill climb (1K from bottom to top), times are recorded to monitor progress and then we do an easy jog back to the second section of the hill. We then do 2-3 hill repeats, with a climb of 300m, followed by a slow jog back to recover. You can add team efforts as a relay on this section, or run the hill in reverse (using the linking roads) or do another 1-2 intervals on an easier gradient.

My fav hill, Butser, along the South Downs Way. Him and I have history

My fav hill, Butser, along the South Downs Way. We have history

“Finally we take a slow run back. The session is 7K and takes an hour. Options are always available to do different reps, change directions, focus on key technique points, do shorter efforts and work on anaerobic fitness. Hills are great training for all abilities, they develop strength in key muscles such as glutes, quadriceps and calves. Very few people enjoy them but the payoff soon shows!”

TRY ME: Tough it out on the track
“My absolute favourite session is a tough track 300m repeat session, done in pairs,” says Peg Wiseman, co-organiser of the Women Can Marathon (womencan.co.uk). “I match my athletes for ability. Both start on the start line, one running anti clockwise at a good pace (mile pace) whilst the other jogs 100m clockwise slowly in the outside lane aiming to arrive at the top of the home straight at exactly the same time as their partner. Runner two now turns and runs at mile pace for 300m whilst runner one recovers by jogging back 100m.

“They continue until they are no longer able to hit their first 300m time, when they then take a full lap recovery before setting off again. The full session would be 12 repetitions. The key is to get the right pace and recovery, so the time stays consistent.

Why do any of these sessions? The cake after, of course

Why do any of these sessions? The cake after, of course

The recovery starts off feeling easy but the pressure soon mounts and a quality lactic/aerobic session also aids pace judgement.

The pairs element adds fun and focus. It’s suitable for all abilities and if you have an odd number just partner up two number ones.”

TRY ME: Shingle and steps
Obviously not everyone lives by the beach – maybe you can find a local track or trail. Ideally you want some steps or a hill – it doesn’t matter how small the incline is, even a tiny hill, run in fast repeats, counts. On my Friday morning we start a figure of eight loop – along the shingle (great for core and proprioception, tough on your legs though) then up some local steps, recover on the road at the top, head back down to the beach for another shingle stint that leads back to the steps, then up again to recover on the road in the opposite direction at the top. This is not an easy session but it works your whole body. Find a similar path or track with an incline in the middle then loop round it – try to push up the steps/hill to the top, recovering once you’ve made it. Don’t give up and aim to do a 20-25minute block of effort  in your loops around your steps/hill/incline.

Me running backwards down Butser. Why? I have no idea

QUESTION: What your fav session?

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Why you should try a tri… Fareham Triathlon

Due to an injury I couldn’t do Fareham Triathlon… well, that’s what I thought after I ran London Marathon three weeks before. Then I thought, why not just do the swim and bike. The run part of this triathlon is about 3.3 miles (just over the standard 5K of your average sprint triathlon), which in itself isn’t too long to run, even when recovering from an injury.

David and Simon abstained from a drink before the triathlon, why oh why oh why didn't I?

David and Simon abstained from drink before the triathlon, why oh why oh why didn’t I?

I did this race last year and loved it. Partly because it’s just about as local as you can possibly get for me – I cycle up to, and swim at, the leisure centre it’s held at most weeks. So why wouldn’t I want to do it? Most races we go to involve getting up early and travelling. There’s only a few that are usually close enough to just stroll up to. This is one for me.

The open nature and fun aspect of the event also appeals, especially last year when it was my first ‘proper’ triathlon (I had done a few events before, but the distance of 400m swim, 20K bike and 5K run was my official first). Anything goes in this race – not just any level of participant, but you can rock up with whatever bike you have and do the race at whatever level you like. All you need is a swimsuit, bike and pair of trainers.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some extremely competitive athletes who do the race every year – there are, and some of the times in the three disciplines are amazing! And check out some of the equipment. It’s stunning too! If you love triathlon you are probably going to invest in better equipment each year, and some of the bikes racked up at the start were expensive. Phew! Some weren’t though; there were plenty of mountain bikes and other, more standard bikes.

That's me in the pink hat, with my hand dangerously cutting across my midline

That’s me in the pink hat, with my hand dangerously cutting across my midline (Pic: Soul Perception)

This year the registration time was much less civilised – 6.30-8am. What’s that all about! Well, it’s about the event maturing each year and becoming more streamlined. Established triathlons have earlier start times. And this year there was a kids’ triathlon after the adult event.

IMG_0405

I was still horrified (I don’t think I’ve had a lie in for over four weeks). I couldn’t just breeze in at 7.45 either, as I had a clash with my parental responsibilities and had to drop my middle girl, Amelie, to another mum in the opposite direction before 8am for a dance competition she was going to in Worthing. Life is never easy! It’s never ideal preparation, is it, when you are racing around before an event getting children ready and to another location before you can head to your own. It felt a bit stressful, but I turned up with at least two minutes to spare before the race. I’ve left it later!

Thought I'd fiddle with my peddles for a bit before I got going

Thought I’d fiddle with my pedals for a bit before I got going

Everyone Active is quite relaxed with registration, and I knew Luke, the organiser, so I already had my pleading head on in case I missed the 8am deadline. I ran my bike over to the racking zone, ran into the registration hall to have my numbers written on my arm and leg (all good warm up), ran back to get my kit then, as the slower swimmers started their race, I had at least 15 minutes to de-stress before my turn. I had forgotten to get out a protein bar before I left my car so by the time it was my turn to enter the pool I was famished.

Pic: Soul Perception

Tiny Chantrey on her tiny bike (Pic: Soul Perception)

I knew my swim wouldn’t be better than last year as I haven’t done much. I worked out I hadn’t swum since before my taper for the marathon about six weeks before. Oh dear. The same went for my bike; I did quite a bit over the winter, but again, in the last seven weeks I only got out twice. It’s been a bit soul-destroying feeling all my fitness just ebbing away, but the first few weeks after my marathon I’ve had to rest, as my left leg is injured in several places.

Not going off too fast in the swim is essential when you’re not a good swimmer, and so I didn’t race off, but my breathing isn’t great and I tend to snatch at my in-breath. So pretty much all the way through the swim it felt as if I wasn’t getting enough air in. And I was starving! I find swimming so incredibly hard, as my asthmatic lungs don’t like the different type of breathing required for swimming – but I love doing it. And I want to get better. I’m not a relaxed or efficient swimmer, so I just do my best. My swim time was the same as last year, to the second.

What has happened to my gait - no wonder I had backache the next day, I'm all over the place!

What has happened to my gait – no wonder I had backache the next day, I’m all over the place! (Pic: Soul Perception)

Transition is where you can lose time, and I fiddled with my cycling shoes, didn’t get them on tight and squelched around the bike in them, but overall I really enjoyed the bike. There’s a steep hill where I always keep my brakes on as I’m petrified when I go fast, but on the second descent I didn’t use them and, just for a second, almost enjoyed myself (while at the same time imagining how horrific it would be if I came off). I didn’t have a spectacular bike but it went OK. I stuffed down two gels, but felt like I was lacking in energy (breakfast seemed so long ago) and there was no power in my left leg.

Into transition again, and this is where I planned to either not run, or try one mile then walk back if my foot was too painful. I made a big fluff of getting my trainers on as my feet were still wet, which scrunched up my insoles, and somehow my arch supports underneath these moved forwards so it felt like I had a few cocktail sausages rolling around in my trainers. There was no way I was going to stop and sort them out though. Luckily the first part of the run is slightly uphill (though it feels like a mountain after the bike), which seemed to help the insoles reverse back down my shoes a bit.

David came 2nd, Simon 5th, me, er...89th

David came 2nd, Simon 5th, me, er…89th

I was trying out my new adidas ultra boosts for the first time and I loved them. The knitted upper fits brilliantly, and these are a great trainer for triathlons as the design means you don’t need to tighten your laces. I already had mine double knotted before I put them on, which was incredibly easy, even with soggy feet. I loved running in them.

I wasn’t expecting much from my legs due to the marathon and lack of training for three weeks, plus the pain I’ve had in my leg and foot. So I was chuffed that I finished the whole run and wasn’t too uncomfortable. My feet felt quite numb from being cold and wet for so long, which I think really helped. The 5K run is lovely as you eventually head away from paths and into a forest route. I love running off the bike, and if I could spend some time practicing (that means doing something, anything, before next year’s event!) this is the place where I can make up time. As it was I did a bit faster than last year’s run, which I was chuffed with considering I can’t actually train or run at the moment.

I was so chuffed to participate and not spectate

I was so chuffed to participate and not spectate and got first in my age group

There was no need to walk, even though after the race and this week I’ve had a little pain in the problem areas. I think running anything further than three miles would have been foolish – it was just lovely to actually be able to use my legs!

Overall I beat last year’s time by a few minutes, which was a surprise as I didn’t think I was in the right physical shape to do this, and I enjoyed rather than raced round the three disciplines – it shows us all that it’s better to turn up and participate, and see what happens, rather than write ourselves off just because not everything is going to plan. I was certainly pleased I did the race, rather than sit at home feeling miserable.

Amelie came home with a couple of trophies so she was chuffed

Amelie came home with a couple of trophies so she was chuffed

There were lots of friends and fellow club mates also taking part, and most of them aren’t triathletes either. We’re all trying to learn something new, and trying to do our best at something that doesn’t come naturally to us, and I think everyone I spoke to improved on last year, or exceeded their expectations. Few train seriously, most just don’t have the time to fit in three disciplines, so the results overall were so impressive. I thought every one of these guys was amazing.

My award for best blog arrived, thank you if you voted for me!

My award for (second) best blog arrived, thank you if you voted for me!

Just giving an event like this a go, and getting the first one out of the way, allows you to go away for a year and prepare the next one. Everyone Active at Fareham organise my local triathlon brilliantly – the stress is on fun and participation by all. So go on, look on the British Triathlon website for an event near you. It will be a fun and amazing experience!

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Back to School

If you think there’s nothing wrong with your running technique, you could well be wrong. Or maybe you are like Phoebe from friends and fear your technique is beyond help? Think again, on both counts. This summer I decided it was time to check out the Running School in Southampton, to get a few lessons on how to improve my gait. I know I have a problem as I always get injuries in my left hip/glutes/knee. The question is, did I get a red card, or was I pupil of the week?

Before I start, here are my stats:
Age: 44
PBs: 20.55 (5K), 43.06 (10K), 70.10 (10miles), 1.40.44 (half marathon), 3.39.05 (marathon)
Current goals: Sub-3.30 marathon next time (or anytime…in fact make that just getting to a marathon start-line; this year it just hasn’t happened).

Here are their stats:
Cost: Six sessions £260
Expected outcome: ‘A detailed biomechanical analysis of running technique and movement screening, five coaching sessions, a handbook (including beginner/intermediate running programmes and a strength programme) and ‘before’ and ‘after’ clips of your running style,’ Paul Bartlett, Southampton Running School.
Contact: Visit the Running School website (runningschool.co.uk) to find your nearest Running School (there are nine franchises around the country, as well as one in Germany). For Southampton Running School Call 02380 653707 or email southampton@runningschool.co.uk

Before I started my six sessions, I talked to Mike Antoniades, the founder and performance director of The Running School. He told me how most recreational runners run without a thought for their technique.

“Running posture then becomes a leaning, mechanical shuffle rather than an elastic movement,” says Mike. “Most runners haven’t been taught, so they run how they think they should. To change [that], they have to go through a retraining process.”

This is what The Running School does. It aims to teach you the correct, and most efficient running motion. “This means the body has very little up and down movement (minimal bouncing) the arms are relaxed as they move, but like mini pistons backwards and forwards, and the legs are cycling with the heel coming up above the knee when it is off the ground,” advises Paul Bartlett, my coach at The Running School, Southampton.

I will make these legs run faster!

I will make these legs run faster!

I signed up for their six-week course, with the hope of transforming my technique, and the dream of ending my annoying niggles (and maybe even getting back into PB shape). I’ve suffered from recurrent niggles/injuries in my left leg for several years. The opportunity to get some expert insight into this was too good to miss.

What to expect
After a few minutes of easy jogging on a treadmill Paul videoed me from the rear and the side. When we looked at the footage I could see my left shoulder was sloping down more than my right. Paul was able to instantly tell me exactly what the cause was – my glutes (the big muscle in your bottom), and especially my left ones, weren’t firing. Paul informed me 95 per cent of the people he sees have poor glute activation. My right glutes were overcompensating for this, as was my whole right side; my right arm was coming forward and across my body; my right foot was further forward when it struck the ground than my left.

Next I tried a few functional exercises to make my glutes fire. I then hopped back on the treadmill to try out the correct running posture (your heels kicking upwards towards your bottom, your arms pumping forwards at a 90 degrees angle), which I found really hard. Within 20 seconds I was out of breath. After a brief rest, I tried again. Each time Paul shouted at me to adjust my hands (higher towards my chin), my elbows (drive back so that my hand comes as far back as my hip) and my heels (higher!). The first session was harder than I had expected, but I’d been equipped with the basics. It was up to me to go away and do the work.

Over the next week I did my glute activation exercises every day, and every time I ran I did some of the exaggerated technique. After about 30 seconds I would be exhausted though. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do what Paul expected me to!

Running faster, getting stronger
Session two was even tougher! I went over my functional exercises and I felt so much stronger than the previous week. Then it was straight onto the treadmill to practise the exaggerated ‘correct’ technique after a warm up; we did this session over and over again as I added in new elements (or tried to take out more bad habits!). We also went outside and I practised the exaggerated technique further – and surprisingly it felt quite natural (though still an effort; I knew I couldn’t maintain it in a race situation!).

Yep, had to do that even in a 60-minute session at the Running School! Good job it's big!

Yep, had to do that even in a 60-minute session at the Running School! Good job it’s big!

Session three was … you’ve guessed it, hard! I now realised the course was going to be more demanding than I thought. We warmed up with my functional exercises to get my glutes firing, and then hopped onto the treadmill to practise in full. An intense 10 minutes, doing co-ordination exercises on the mat, had me tapping back and forth with each foot onto a marker, as fast as possible. Then it was hopping forward, to the side, back and to the other side – all fast, all trying to keep your feet in the circle you start from. “These fast co-ordination exercises, that you do on both sides and to the back and front, re-teach your body to use all of the muscles in the legs at the right time,” Paul told me as I was sweating all over the place. “In just 15 minutes you can start to re-fire the correct sensory pathways to ensure you are using each leg properly.”

I can’t lie – I was relieved when the hard work was over! We went outside to practise my exaggerated technique half way across a football pitch, and it was surprising how I felt as if I was skipping along. Still, with the South Downs Trail Half Marathon (209events.com) that weekend I was worried I would revert to old habits as my body got tired running the hills.

Powered by fairy dust
The race was a big turning point for me. I expected to struggle so I couldn’t believe how I felt like a completely different runner. The sensation was of being ‘open’; my shoulders were back, even when I got tired towards the end. I was engaging my core much more than usual. With each new hill I did exactly what Paul suggested; used my arms to power up and kept my thumbs pointing forwards. It seemed to keep my gait in check, and I felt relaxed, comfortable, I even had a spring in my step all the way round. Was this a new me? I hadn’t been expecting that!

Sessions four and five also involved more functional and coordination exercises (jumping back and forth to different points on the mat), plus running on the treadmill at gradient 15! This felt so hard, even just 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. But it really worked. When I went back to running with no gradient it felt like I was a child, a springbok hopping over the African plains, that fairy dust had been sprinkled into my trainers. I was amazed at how quickly my body had adapted.

During the last session I redid the functional movement analysis I did in the first; my score went up from 60 out of 100, to 90. Being a competitive soul, I was duly proud. And in the first week post-course I ran a 5K PB. When you’re in your mid-40s any PB feels like 10 Christmases rolled into one.

I feel like my running style is incredibly different – and better for it. I’ve not quite done the speed training to complement it but every time I run now I am adopting the style without concentrating or efforting. Paul gave me a sheet of strength exercises; I even photocopied it to take on holiday.

If I need a follow-up session, to check my technique is correct, I will pop along. Keep up with the exercises you are given and this, hopefully, shouldn’t be necessary. Maybe combining birthday and Christmas money could help you save to invest in this type of course?

If you are struggling with injury or niggles, or lacking the speed you seek, or just feel you have lost your way with running, then a course with the Running School may be perfect for you. I almost feel love towards Paul. He’s my running doctor. Not only has he unlocked my biomechanical issues, the changes he suggested seemed to have traversed my energy systems and I feel as if I am so much more confident within, mind body and soul. The hunched, depressed-looking runner I once was, is gone. Forever. Click on my video below and it’s obvious to see the massive difference I achieved in just six weeks.

Summer quickly turned into autumn and I’ve been keeping up my strength exercises given to me by Paul. I find it’s easier to do them after I’ve finished a run, twice a week – if I have to allocate them a separate time there’s much more chance I won’t get round to them. Now I’m proud to say I’m a Running School ambassador – if it can make so much difference to me, it can to you, too!

Bargains, bargains people!
Southampton Running School is offering half price biomechanical analysis, at just £15, exclusively to Women’s Running readers.

The sessions involves a 1:1 session with one of their Southampton Running School coaches who will analyse your running technique to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This session will be tailored to your fitness level and running experience, they will show you where injuries come from and to stop new injuries occurring and how to improve your PBs. This is available to both children and adults.

The 30-minute session is by appointment only. To book please call 02380 653707 or email southampton@runningschool.co.uk, quoting Women’s Running magazine.

 

You can follow me on twitter and facebook 🙂

A lifelong addiction

noo noo girl running for David

I am like a wild animal that roams this world, seeking extreme terrain and weather systems and other creatures who inhabit our beautiful oblate spheroid.

Being in possession of a treadmill in this life is a blessing – I have three young children – but it only takes a nervous glance out of my window at black clouds, trees almost bent to the ground with the wind, and the odd splat of water and there I am, running for miles along what seems, at times, the stormiest coastline in the world.

It’s never planned; it never should be. Any of us can take the easier option – to wait, to run inside. But this week the distant rumble of thunder drew me outdoors, and what an explosive experience I had. I switched off the headlines about the coastline of our island flooding and headed down to my local beach to check out the lie of the land for myself. Breathing? I couldn’t. The first three miles out the wind was against me and I was slow. Coming back it sliced through me, a westerly wind from an imaginary world more grim than the Ash Mountains of Mordor in Middle Earth.

My iPod flicked on to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, music I hadn’t listened to for years. It transported me back to my school days when I would run the same route, fighting the same battle with the relentless wind. Which ever direction you run, it’s always there. In the run up to my O levels, my form tutor Linda (also my P.E. teacher) would suggest that my grades would get better if I spent less time out running, and more revising. But then, like now, I couldn’t stop myself from venturing out. It’s been a life-long addiction.

On my stormy run I thought about how, despite living and running all round the world, there were deep constants in my life. After spending half of my life trying to get away from where I grew up. I then spent half trying to get back. That tutor and P.E. teacher is now training my youngest as she takes small steps towards becoming a gymnast. When someone from your past reappears you can’t help but ask both why they have come back into your life, and what message life is sending you by the reunification. Thoughts began to flood back and I remembered I still had all of my school reports. I went up into my loft and found my battered old suitcase that holds the memories of my 40 or so years, and dug them out. Having told my girls that their athleticism is down to me (which of course they sniggered at) I found myself in tears within minutes as I read my form tutor’s words. “Could try harder” then “gymnastics is her weakest area” and finally, from my last year of school “…giving up athletics is such a waste of talent”. Those words winded me.

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Like the majority of teenagers I left my sport behind for what I thought were much more exciting options: going out, boyfriends, the pub… Regret is a heavy feeling that no-one wants to carry around, but sitting in our dusty, cold and still loft it’s what I felt. I’m not saying I could have reached any heady heights within athletics, but if I had at least persevered I could have discovered how far I could have gone. And would know now. Instead I stopped running for nearly 20 years.

Yet running came back in my life, and it still brings the ups and downs that athletics did when I was younger. Now I seem to seek many different things from running, one of the most important being connecting with other people. There was a time, when my children were tiny, when I desperately needed to go for a run, and ventured out to a club session, for ‘me’ time, but if anyone asked how I was I would hold back the tears. Now I want to talk to everyone; any runner I see I say hello to, but some are zoned out and I have to admit, this bugs me! Is a quick smile or wave of the hand wave so much to ask? Yet I know that once this was me, so caught up in myself that perhaps I didn’t have the time to reply, respond, or react.

Still, I look for eye contact now, and even though it’s sometimes hard to get this, I will keep trying.

What’s up?

noo noo girl running for David

Are you one of those runners who suffers from mood swings post run, becoming grumpy and irritable with those around you? Do you often fail to take on enough fluid during your exercise? The two could be linked, with dehydration being the root cause of your mood fluctuations…

Graham Bell experienced one of the worst possible outcomes to any runner in any race; he collapsed at mile 26 in the 2007 London Marathon. “Conditions were exceptional in 2007, and I basically didn’t take this into account,” he recalls. “I did hydrate, both before and from the start of the race. It was cool to start with, but the temperature seemed to rise very quickly.

“I probably hadn’t properly realised the effect of running in a city environment when the heat is rising, compared to the sea breeze I experience when running at home. And I certainly didn’t take this into account in my pursuit of the elusive sub three hours. This led to collapse, and for several hours my wife Tracy had no idea where I was, causing her considerable worry. We concluded dehydration was the route cause, as the only treatment I received was an IV saline drip, both in the St John’s ambulance and at hospital. Just as soon as my core temp had reduced I was free to go, and managed to walk to the tube station and get the train home. There were no after affects, apart from the pride issue.”

Graham’s problems didn’t end there; dehydration when running and after is a problem he constantly battles with. “I am not the best at hydrating and really have to force myself to drink fluids. I now have a pre-race day ritual of drinking plenty but it is a struggle. During a race I just can’t seem to find the right technique for taking fluids on board,” he continues. “The effect of all this is that I seem to use up all my reserves, and if I don’t rehydrate properly post-race, or reward myself with a beer or two instead, then I suffer the side effects.

“There are two other elements to this,” he adds. “Firstly, as I get older it takes longer to recover from a race, and this sometimes leaves me tired and irritable. Secondly if the race hasn’t gone to plan that leaves frustration and causes irritability! But the thread that joins them is the dehydration factor. Tired and irritable, with a tight feeling in the head means that it best to keep out of my way! I think this is partly born out of frustration from wanting to go for a run. After a recent 20 mile race I tried a new tactic. Instead of feeling sorry for my poor aching limbs and letting them rest I decided a recovery run would be good. Just by myself so no pressure and no chatting. It kick started the recovery and I drank plenty afterwards. I would say that it worked for me. I got back into running quicker, which was pleasing, and this generally made me happier than I had expected to feel.”

As for impacting those around him, Graham can’t deny that sometimes everyone in the family is affected by his post-race mood. “Living in a house where both parents work full-time, with two sons full of testosterone can be frustrating! When my energy levels are low, and I am aching and tired, the dehydration is just the icing on the cake in the recipe of a frustrated runner.”

“I can certainly say that immediately after a long training run or race Graham can be fairly grumpy,” says his wife Tracy. “I initially put this down to blood sugar levels as there is a family trait of grumpy when hungry. (“We can all relate to this!” Ed) If it is a big race we often have a fews days where he is low, however the impact on the family is less now our two sons are aware of the situation, but we do tease him and pull his leg to lift him out of it.”

Emotional connections
In Graham’s case, the link with dehydration, unpleasant mood, and unsatisfactory performance stems from the 2007 marathon. “If he suspects he is de-hydrated, even a hint, unpleasant emotions come flooding in mainly due to the link between not completing the 2007 race,” states Andrew Lane, a Professor of Sport Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton, and an expert in emotion regulation in sport. “Graham probably pushed himself greatly to complete the event below three hours. He would have required fluid after running for that time in the heat, and so it’s not surprising that he received a saline drip. It’s a strong connection that is reinforced by the fact that he struggles to drink during races.”

Prof Lane believes that developing a plan has helped Graham. “I suggest he sets a goal of being able to drink more during races. Most people learn to drink in races and not in training. I would advise learning to drink during training; treadmill running is the easiest way of doing this as your drink is already there. You can gauge how much you need to reduce speed to drink. Like with all goals, you start at one level and then look to improve. In long duration events its worth taking a drink at each feeding station, even just a slurp. Graham admits he finds this a struggle. Most people who miss three hours do so over the last few miles; they can run 6.40 miles easy enough early on, but during the last few miles the pace drops to 7.30, 8.30, or even slower. You only have to look at marathon splits from any race to see the second half is run a great deal slower.

“If hydration is factor, and if you have strong beliefs that hydration is a factor, then if you don’t drink, it will be. Your beliefs have a powerful influence on how you operate. If that describes how you perform, then try strategies to get better at drinking during running. If one week you have to slow to just above walking pace for 60 seconds but the next week you drink the same volume in 40 secs, you have made a 20 second saving.”

How sweaty are you?!
There is also a huge range in sweat losses between individuals. “However, many runners don’t appreciate this and simply drink fluids whilst running without structuring the amount they drink around the weight loss they experience through running and sweating (this can be worked out by weighing yourself before and after a race),” advocates Dr Charles Pedlar, Director of the Centre for Health, Applied Sport and Exercise Science (CHASES) & The St Mary’s Clinic at St Mary’s University College, London.

“For example an elite runner could loose four kilograms an hour due to sweat loss whilst running, while other runners don’t even loose 600 grams in the same time period. On top of this, some people are more salty sweaters with elevated electrolyte loss . If you don’t ensure that you replace sodium, as well as water, you can suffer from hyponatraemia (an electrolyte disturbance that is defined by lowered sodium levels in the blood).”

A sweat check to find out how much electrolytes you are losing may be invaluable to future performances, believes Andy Blow, an ex-GB international tri and duathlete and director of sports science at the Porsche Human Performance Centre at Silverstone. “If you do suffer from high volume losses of sweat your net sodium loss could be massive and learning to supplement this correctly would definitely help any runner to perform better.”

What’s the link?
How much dehydration can affect your mood is not well understood physiologically. “Research provides many different explanations as to how dehydration influences mood,” states Hannah MacLeod, a Lucozade sport scientist. “This may be due to hydration levels in the brain, increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol or changes in the way chemicals are transported to the brain. The human body is made up of around 65-70 per cent water. Any significant loss of body water, such as when you sweat during a race, causes multiple physiological and psychological problems. If you manage to make it to the finish line, but fail to replace any sweat losses incurred, you may experience headaches, confusion, reduced reaction time and changes in mood in the hours post race.”

“Anecdotally the evidence suggests that dehydration can affect mood,” continues Dr Pedlar. “Mood is a very good measurement of fatigue and overtraining, and often pre-empts physiological responses. As a holistic measurement of how you are feeling after running, your mood can often summarise for you how your body feels. If your exercise has gone well there are many positive effects on mood; you experience the release of endorphins.” Don’t forget that endorphins are endogenous opioid peptides, a morphine-like substance that function as neurotransmitters in the body which act on the same receptors in the brain as morphine, producing analgesia and a feeling of well-being. “You also release endocannabinoids,” says Dr Pedlar,” substances produced from within the body that activate cannabinoid receptors, promoting a feeling of euphoria.” We all crave the runner’s high, don’t we?

“It is likely this feeling is linked to hydration,” suggests Dr Pedlar, “so the better hydrated you feel, the better you run, and the better your mood.” Surely it makes sense that greater levels of dehydration will negatively impact on mood?

“If you are performing well and think you will achieve your goals, then its likely you will be in a pleasant mood,” continues Prof Lane. “If things are not going so well, then the reverse might occur and you will be in an unpleasant mood. That sounds obvious I know. Sweating gives an indication of work load; if you are sweating more than usual, this will send a message to your brain saying ‘I need a drink’ – if you do not have a drink then concern over being able to sustain your running speed will build. If you become concerned there will be a physiological response, which could contribute to further sweating. We know we sweat when we are nervous. Hence, your emotional state in response to feeling that you need to drink becomes an additional issue.”

Research also indicates a link with sodium replacement in drinks and improvements in cognitive function (suggesting the opposite could also be true). “We’ve also seen similar results in our own testing which suggest that insufficient sodium replacement in hydration drinks used during exercise can lead to compromised cognitive function,” adds Andy Blow. “Whether this is directly related to mood swings it would be hard to say (usually low blood sugar and over training are more likely to be linked to mood swings) but it would not be fair to rule it out; anything that affects the brain negatively could affect mood.”

What to do?
So, considering the above, what is the solution? “Firstly, you need to develop a mindset that you can cope without drinking and that excessive sweating is a normal part of running hard. You accept that you will take fluid on when it is available, and will plan to take on enough fluid to match your needs,” says Prof Lane. But how do you develop such a mindset?

“A feature of training in the heat is that you get used to altering sensations of hydration needs. When you first start running, you feel you need a drink all of the time. After a few runs in the heat, you start adapting. Part of this adaption is psychological; you re-interpret bodily symptoms. Warm weather training is possible for some athletes but not all. Running in gyms usually involves running in hotter environments than outside. Alternatively, wear additional clothes to create the sensation of feeling hot.”

Another great tool in the fight against dehydration, and possible mood swings, is using an isotonic drink regularly. It is important that you replace the sodium and potassium you lose through sweat, so your drink needs to include electrolyte levels similar to the levels you loose. How should each individual runner know how much fluid is enough? When training, you can weigh yourself before and after a long run. The difference will be mainly fluid. There will be a range of weight loss where you feel fine. If you run at your race pace until you feel you need to drink, you can then weigh yourself to see how much water you have lost. Once you know this, you can calculate how much you need to drink. “One pound of weight loss should equal one pint of fluid intake approximately,” advised Prof Lane. “If you were already hydrated at the start of your run, your bodyweight would need to reduce by more than five per cent to have a meaningful effect.”

Are you a sweaty Betty?
So how do you know if you are one of those really salty, sweaty runners? Most of us have a good idea of whether we are sweaty runners or not (our damp clothes are a basic sign), but if you see salty deposits on your black lycra it could be a sign of excessive salty sweating. Tasting your sweat it is also a good gauge, though not an accurate guide. A sweat patch is much more accurate and can be analysed to give you a more scientific reading. However, it is also important to be aware that your sweat range can change over time, especially as you become more fit.

What is a sweat check?
At Precision Hydration they measure your sweat and tell you how much electrolyte is in and then match you with the right sports drink giving you optimal hydration. It is a simple test. No exercise is required; you sit down, have electrodes placed on your arm, a sweat sample is taken with a sweat check analyser and within 20 minutes you get your results.
For more information about sweat tests visit www.myh2pro.com
Learn more about Andy Lane’s work at www.virginlondonmarathon.com/training-centre/training-centre/music-and-motivation or www.winninglane.com

Andy Blow: www.votwo.co.uk

Too busy to train? You are not alone!

noo noo girl running for David

Here are my 10 easy ways to sneak in running time, regardless of schedules, commitments or distractions

1. Get up early
“Running before breakfast is a brilliant way to get used to running when a bit tired plus when you are low on fuel, as you will be during the latter stages of a half or full marathon,” says Steve Robinson, an athlete, personal trainer and sports therapist specialising in exercise rehabilitation. Even though the thought of getting up before the alarm should be going off may send many of us into hyperventilation, especially in the winter, by fitting in your run whilst the rest of the house sleeps means it’s ticked off your to-do list, and cannot be put off later in the day. It may at first be a struggle, but give yourself the chance and you will soon be buzzing from your early-morning exercise.

2. Run to and from work
If your commute to work is the same distance as a normal training run, why not run to work instead? “I used to bicycle into work when I was a submariner,” explains ex-marathoner Bryan Head, “then run home at the end of the day. The next day would be a run into work, then cycle home. The cross-training benefits were amazing.” You may even find that running is quicker than your usual commute. If the distance is too long to run, either bike, or park your car further from work and run the last part.

3. Run during your lunch hour
“Don’t forget that in winter this gives you a chance to get out in daylight, providing vital boosts to your health and wellbeing,” says Steve. The research shows that individuals are more productive during afternoons when they have left the office, compared to eating lunch at your desk. Make this the most productive 60 minutes of your day.

4. Take your kids with you
Tanya Brady represented Great Britain in the Women’s Lightweight Quadruple Scull in 2004 and 2005. After retiring from rowing she took up running. “The best investment I made whilst my daughter, Orla, was a baby was saving to buy an American BabyJogger 3 wheeler with 20 inch wheels and suspension,” explains Tanya.

“I did steady runs, interval sessions, tempo runs and even hill reps with her watching the world go by as I puffed and panted pushing her along! On weekdays, I trained in the daytime using the BabyJogger. At the weekends, I would either train early in the morning before anyone else was awake, or mid morning. It worked really well for everyone and I had a bit of ‘me’ time again, time to organise my thoughts.

“I still take the BabyJogger out for a spin along the seafront,” says Tanya, “however, this is now so much harder as my daughter is three years old and not nine months old. She is now also very chatty and expects a full running commentary (excuse the pun) for the duration of the run!”

5. Run with your dog
Again, this could be vital time for running, with health benefits for your pet! The more your dog runs, the fitter it will become, and soon they will be dragging you along. There are many events out there for runners with dogs; together you can find a new dimension to your relationship!

6. Invest in a treadmill…
If getting out running is just not on the cards, then why not run indoors? It may only take a garage clearance and some research on the internet to get you up and going, and treadmill prices have come down considerably making them more available to all today. Once the children are in bed you can turn on the belt and let yourself go; you will have to rely on your imagination to make the miles melt away, though an iPod will be invaluable. If you are stuck in doors though, this may well be a worthy investment; just make sure that the one you buy fits your spec.

7. Fetch a pen and a piece of paper
“As not only a professional athlete but personal trainer I get bombarded with the same old question time and time again: how to fit your running training around your busy work and family life and not lose the quality and quantity of the training,” says Mike Buss, who specialises in ultra running. Mike suggests writing down columns for work, family time, shopping, watching TV and housework.

“Then have a column for per day and a column for per week and tot up the hours you do these activities. You might be surprised, but when I sit down with my clients, I will often find several hours free to train once everything is set down on paper,” he says.

“Then you need to look at your training. Many of us believe it’s alright to just go for a run three times a week and not put anymore thought into it other than putting one foot in front of the other. So it’s important to look at each session; are you just going out for 30 minutes or an hour run? Look at what you are running for, is it weight loss? Is it for your first marathon? Then look about tailoring each session around your goals and your lifestyle.

“Commitment will be key to your successful training in the rat race,” believes Mike. “It may mean that you have to get up at 6am to go for a run before work or go out at 8pm after the kids have gone to bed, but there are ways of getting your training in without too much loss of your relaxing time.”

8. Socialise on the run
Instead of having lunch or coffee with a friend, try catching up during a run. By setting regular dates with running friends, you’ll be more motivated to run, as it’s harder to let down someone else than it is yourself. Running clubs are a great way to meet new people as well; many runners join a club looking for social runs, rather than training and competitive ones. There is bound to be someone of your fitness at your local running club, so why not give this a try? Remember, strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet!

9. Run to and from…
… the gym, the garage to pick up your car, the shop, a friends, school, college, the post office, the mail box, to see a friend at the weekend; see, if you just look at your calendar, there are boundless opportunities to run just waiting for you to notice them. Not only does this give you health benefits as well as being more economical than taking a car, it allows you to run through the seasons and your community, instead of these whizzing past you year in and year out, without you noticing.

10. Keep a spare set of kit in the car…
You never know when the opportunity to run may arise. By always being prepared you are able to seize the opportunity to lace up your trainers, should it arise unexpectedly. Choose appropriate times to run though; Charlie Spedding relays a tale in his book, From Last to First, how during a date with a girl he left her to chat with a friend whilst he went for a run. So pick your moment! Or alternatively, go on a running date … it could be the best thing you both ever did!

Your top tips:

Graham Bell: “You have to find an excuse to run, not an excuse not to run. If need be, get up early while the rest of the house sleeps. On a day out get dropped off 10k from home, and run it. You’ll be home only a few minutes after the rest of the family, and they won’t have missed you.”

Emily Foran: “I used to run with both my two young boys in our Phil and Ted’s pushchair with them shouting ‘slow down mummy!’. I also always run to collect the car from the garage, if it has been left overnight . And with marathon training, at weekends I used to get up, eat breakfast at 6:00am and then go back to bed for half an hour before heading out running at 7.30am, so that my runs weren’t eating into family time. It’s a juggling act every week!”

Caroline Baker-Duly: “For me, I have to run with my kids. Its like a corral! I’m the lone ‘wagonner’ running round in circles whilst they are trapped in the park!”

Melanie Charlton: “In the park, round the outskirts, while the kids play on the apparatus.”

Lucy May: “My dad used to run for an hour when I was at swimming lessons. Recently I’ve been getting in from work and getting my kit on so I don’t sit down and start relaxing, otherwise I don’t go. I also have a motivational poster on my wall. One of my friends works through their lunches (eating while at their desk) to build them up so they can be taken together at once to fit in a longer run/cycle once a week.”
Sharon White: “I often go while my two boys are in their karate class which saves me driving home and back again. I also often set off half hour earlier for my Pilates class and do a tempo run first. It really is lovely to have a real good stretch out afterwards.”

Stephanie Gardiner: “In between drop off and pick up from cubs….an hour is just about right!”

Nicky Cole: “I struggle with childcare so sometimes my kids have to come with me on my runs. They are about the right pace on scooters and I make sure we end up at the park. I think they quite enjoy it!”

My experts:

Steve Robinson, Runability, Bury St. Edmunds, www.runability-runningshoes.co.uk

Mike Buss, www.mike-buss.com

The Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race

noo noo girl running for David

 

The Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race…an event of a lifetime! This race was amazing, even though it left me doing a serious John Wayne walk for a few days. Being the adventure race virgin half of the Running fitness team competing in this 60km run, bike, kayak, run, bike event, I was a little nervous.

When you start running everything is new, exciting, challenging. For some time you can step up the distance of races and every weekend you are meeting new people. As the years drift past
doing the same races and routes becomes tedious and uninspiring; this is the time to throw a new race, distance or challenge into your training. When I was asked if I would like to compete in the Killarney Adventure Race I was booking my flight online before I had replied yes please.

These races you book in months ahead have a funny way of coming round very quickly. Even though I was running regularly leading up to Killarney, I didn’t quite manage to fit in any bike training, and I had never been in a kayak. Killarney is quite a challenge; if I had known how tough it was I would have been scared on the start-line. In this race you will be running, hiking, cycling and kayaking some of the most dramatic, breathtaking and remote scenery in the world.

Held in early autumn, we were extremely fortunate in the weather; by the time we arrived at the start-line for our wave the sun had come out and the temperature had risen to zero degrees! The first run took us through a tough steep bog mountain trail up and over Strickeen Mountain, through hill trail and heathen bog. It was tough but culminated in the stunning views of the Gap of Dunloe, the Lakes of Killarney and Purple Mountain. However, I managed to face-plant myself six times during this first section and remember more the bitter taste of bog between my lips. I was covered in bog and very cold water up to my right shoulder, and couldn’t stop giggling.

Next came the bike stage; I had been looking forward to this… however, all media personnel who travelled to Ireland were provided with ‘sit-up-and-beg’ bikes that resembled the cumbersome bike that my 11-year-old daughter rides to school; the only difference being no basket on the front! This made for impossible cycling on the ascents and was hugely demoralising as every single competitor from our wave, who had bought their own bike, was able to overtake me on this section. The bikes were so under-geared we couldn’t peddle them up the mountains! Still, again, the views were worth it. A quick kayak was followed by the final run, incorporating a 1,755 ft climb to the summit of Torc Mountain, (at one stage we did a 30-minute mile!) then a slippery, almost treacherous descent causing my niggly knees to scream in agony throughout. The final bike was a breeze. The race took us nearly six hours; at times it felt impossible, but it was a huge achievement for every competitor. The Irish fairies seemed to have spread their magic dust on my pillow the night before, as somehow I finished it, and it will be an event I will never forget; I remember thinking that the next marathon I ran would seem easy.

Registration is still open for this year’s race on 4th October. Will I see you on the start-line? www.killarneyadventurerace.ie

Trapped! My running nomansland

noo noo girl running for David

 

Do you remember when takeaways started coming in those sealable plastic tubs, instead of foil containers with lids? Suddenly, the night after a takeaway, you had numerous tubs to do whatever you wanted with: store sandwiches, hold leftovers, even stuff with the kid’s craft leftovers. There were hundreds, even thousands of possible uses for them. It was truly exciting. I began to save them, so that it wasn’t too long before every time I opened the cupboard under the sink a stack would fall out. After every weekend treat, they were added to the collection. It became a compulsion, to add more and more. Then I got to the stage where I realised I had hundreds of tubs that I didn’t really use. But could I throw them away? No. I knew deep down in my heart that they were just plastic drift wood. I wanted to liberate my cupboards and throw them out. I wished they had never been invented.

Looking at my running kit, I think I may be following a similar pattern. Plastic containers no longer provide that moment of Scrooge-like pleasure when looking and just knowing they are there is enough. Now it’s compression socks, baselayers, running bras and tights (and hats are going that way, too). Perhaps none of us can ever have too much kit. My worry is that I may have had my running peak, and all this wonderful apparel will never fulfil it’s manufacturer’s dreams. I am in my 40’s – who would expect you to start churning out PBs at this age? I didn’t really like running at school, but I did jog through my early adult years. Then the epiphany came after having children and jogging morphed into a kind of alright-style of running where I felt I wasn’t too bad… considering. But was it just a fleeting experience?

I’ve had an OK winter of training – no records set, but consistent weekly running, with my club and on my own, has left me feeling I have gone some way to building a strong base. Yet that is all I have done for months now. The energy or fitness to take it to another level is gone. Mentally, more than physically, I am finding my running tough. If I could jog along at a happy pace for the next three decades I think I would be fine. I don’t want to though! When I run at a faster rhythm, one that my body loves as much as my winter dressing gown and fleecy slippers, I feel right. It really is one of the few times in my daily and weekly life that I do feel completely ‘me’. Less effort is still rewarding and relaxing and soothes my soul, but if I don’t get up to my natural rhythm, the buzz just isn’t there.

Once you’ve felt the joy of being able to run at a comfortable pace that is still stretching you, other running, just like those plastic tubs, becomes meaningless. I thrive on the social aspect of running, but that flash of competitive spirit has to be fed in all of us and seven minute miling is my running fodder. Once you’ve been running for a while you begin to understand that in order to improve you need to race.

Therein lies the rub. Children’s activities during weekend mornings, an overstretched week and an unwillingness to commit to pushing myself in a race scenario has turned me into a mouse. Having thrived on racing for the last two years, now I fear it. The desire to stand with all those other lovely runners on the start-line, feeling ready and able to race, has deserted me. All I can do is hope it will return. None of us want to race when we are not fit and speedy, but also, you have to get out there and just compete. This nomansland I washed up on this year is starting to make me feel lonely.

Something, or someone will somehow flick a switch in my head and will see me step back into my old shoes, or trainers. When it will happen, none of us knows. Life sends us down different paths for it’s own reasons, and hitting PBs isn’t one of the great lessons we must learn. The incessant rain seems to have returned, again, and I must admit, I have started to dream of owning a treadmill. Just imagine – no wind, cold, rain or snow. Did I just say that? There really must be something wrong with me at the moment.