Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Overcoming the 'run funk'

After the excitement and exhilaration of getting a place in London marathon I descended into what can only be described as a ‘run funk’. My morning runs and solo evening runs were becoming a real slog and, while running usually lifts me out of any work- or life-related ‘funk’, it was no longer taking me to my happy place. 

I began to get a bit panicked about whether I’d be able to commit to training in this state and wondered if I could even complete a full marathon. But I’m not one for self pity and am a firm believer that if something isn’t right then swift action is needed. So, here’s my action plan to get out of the run funk: 

Action 1: Mix it up 

There’s still 24 weeks to go until London marathon. If I only focus on running for 24 weeks I am sure that when (if?!) I cross the finish line, I'll throw off my running shoes and be happy never to see them again for the rest of my days! So, ok, the drama queen rears her ugly head again – but you catch my drift: if I only run up until April then I will go mad. Oh, alright. Mad-er. 

Full-body/strength training 

On Monday night I headed down to Niketown London to take part in one of the Nike Training Club (NTC) classes. If you’ve not tried this out yet then I suggest you get on board – ladies only (sorry boys!) FREE fitness classes, run by world-class Nike trainers. I’ve been to the outdoor classes in Regents Park with the amazing Gil and Clapham Common with the ab-tastic Crossfit machine that is Gemma, but this was my first experience of Niketown NTC and I was in for a few shocks. 

First shock: the class took place on the shop floor while the shop was still OPEN. Cue bemused shoppers watching as I sweat my ass off! Second shock: it’s really hot on the shop floor – Niketown is certainly no air-conditioned, temperature-regulated gym (I think I’ve only sweated more at bikram yoga). Third shock: although we worked bloody hard through high-intensity style training, I loved it! Disclaimer: as the class is in the store it’s hard to leave without making a purchase. It took ALL my willpower not to treat myself to these purple beauties: 
Hot Nike kit. Want, want, want!
The NTC trainers really push you to your limits, but that’s what we’re there for, right? I’m definitely the kind of person who works harder under supervision. For those of you with self-motivation there’s also the NTC App, which contains loads of workouts tailored to your goals and fitness level:


The NTC App is available on iTunes and you can sign up to the NTC classes for FREE (did I mention that already?!) through the Facebook page – they take place in parks across London and Nike stores UK wide, and they also have the odd sessions that come with the chance to win free kit or receive goody bags :) 

Track sessions 

The dreaded sprints. I know that they are a necessary evil in marathon training if you want to do yourself justice, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. As mentioned above, I am unlikely to push myself hard enough if working alone, so I am planning to head down to Battersea Track with run-coach Karen. If you’re interested in joining the sessions then check out the details here. I’ll let you know how it goes once I’ve faced up to the inevitability of having to run so fast you can taste blood. And then repeat. I know, sounds fun, right...


The Twitteratti of running have been telling me that I need to crosstrain – that is, do some other form of aerobic exercise other than running. As marathon-running supremo Hal Higdon posted on Twitter today:

Does strength training qualify as ? I endorse lifting but crosstraining needs to be aerobic. Nevertheless, lift away!

I’m a big fan of the pool and so I’m planning to make swimming my crosstrain event, and hope to get at least one swim in a week on my training plan. I recently discovered the new(ish) Clapham Leisure Centre just off Clapham High Street, which has a lovely clean pool (hard to find!) and opens at 6.30am – plenty of time for me to get a swim in before heading to work. I can currently do about half a mile fairly hard out, non-stop, so I’m going to try to gradually increase that distance as time goes on. 


Another approach to mixing up my training is to incorporate yoga into my plan at least once a week. I’m not one for too much of the ‘om’-ing and spiritual side, so I’m yet to find a yoga class that is more about flexibility and fitness and is also accessible to me in the south of London. I’m going to try out flow yoga at FRAME Shoreditch this week – the hunt for my marathon-training yoga class begins! 

Action 2: Run with Friends 

A few weekends ago I got up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning to run 8 miles around Kingston in the wettest conditions known to man (note: not an actual fact). Sounds grim, right? Well, if you look at this picture of me (in the pink top) at the finish line you will see I am sporting not a grimace but a big cheesy grin! 

Wanna know why? To the left of me, also cheesing it out, is my blogger and runner friend Leah. This race taught me that nothing whiles away the hours spent pounding the tarmac and can distract you from negative thoughts like running and chatting with friends. This, dear readers, IS an actual FACT! 

Continuing my ‘friends + run = happy days’ approach, last Sunday I made the most of an extra hour in the day and met up with my friend Josie for a morning run. We first met at a track-training session back in August and are both running London, so thought a little run date was in order. I took her on a 4.7 mile loop from Clapham Common to Battersea Park in the pre-storm sunshine – a beautiful morning, nice steady run (with a tiny, but sort of not so tiny, hill at the end – sorry Jose!), although I think we both overdressed and suffered from the heat! Our plan was to run and then catch up some more over coffee and cake, which leads me on to my next action... 

Action 3: Rewards! 

If can drag my ass out of bed in the cold and dark at 5.45am or pull on my trainers even when the heavens have opened then I’m damn well going to reward myself for it. I know there’s folk out there who decry food-based post-workout rewards as ‘it defeats the purpose of exercise’ but let’s face it – I’m not here because I want to shift a few pounds. I’m here because I’m training for a marathon. And this is MY plan. So I WILL have my cake AND eat it, thankyouverymuch! 

Do run, get cake. Simple!
If you don’t fancy cake-based rewards (do such people exist?!) then perhaps have your eye on a nice new piece of running kit and set a goal distance to hit in training to reward yourself. Or you could take my lead and use both reward strategies in tandem :) 

From the twitter response it sounds like a lot of runners out there love a bit of post-run cake. #RunCakeClub? Watch this space... 

So that’s it! Action ‘out-of-run-funk’ is in progress. Josie’s pearls of wisdom rung true with me – I’m not yet in to the 20-week training programme for the marathon so I’m probably struggling as I can’t yet visualise my end goal. Once full training mode kicks in I’m sure I’ll switch on. Perhaps I need to pick me up one of these fab vests from Fierce Fizique to show others that my fierce mode is well and truly ON!
Have you ever hit a run funk? What do you do to keep training interesting?

Katy | City Girl Fit
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Friday, 25 October 2013

Running my first marathon: HOW?!

After getting my head round WHY I had decided to run a marathon, the question remained: HOW do you even begin to be ready for the assault on the body that is 26.2 miles of tarmac?

Let me be honest: I have never run more than 13.1 miles (once), and I have no idea how to run a marathon. ‘Just put one foot in front of the other on the day’ clearly isn’t going to cut it.

Fortunately for me, there are plenty of people who have survived such events and who have lots of advice to give. Even more fortunate is that, thanks to the world of Twitter, these people can hear my cries for help from The Tower of Marathon Terror and, with their advice and support, swoop in as my virtual knights in shining armour. Eat your heart out, Rapunzel!

It’s 25 weeks until London marathon and I know that I want to give myself the best chance of injury-free training success and get started ASAP. So, I hollered at my Twitter homies:

Runners! What marathon training plan have you followed? What training plan advice would you give to marathon 1st timer?

Here’s some of the responses:

I followed one from Runners World (free download) with the last one I ran. Always tailor to suit your own needs though!

I made up my own :) Increased the weekly long run every week and had 1 short run + 1 medium run a week + 2 crossfit sessions
I believe the strength training keeps me injury free and it helps that Crossfit is a lot fun too :)

@melissawebb_ (this girl is gonna be taking Paris marathon, 2014, by storm!)
I'm going to be using this Hal Higdon one for Paris:  There's more advanced ones on there too.'s a bit standard, so I'll make some of the sessions speedwork too. Will def go crazy if I can't continue yoga as well!

@Cat_Simpson_ (an Ultra-marathon runner, no less!)
take an online one (lots @runnersworlduk) & make it your own to fit around what you can realistically do training-wise...
:D It's all about making it work for you, not complicating things & enjoying it as much as poss-you'll get far more out of it

the weekly long run is so, so important. Stay within a weekly increase in mileage of no more than 10%

run consistently. Cross train too. Keep stretching as much as possible. I stretch 2-4 times a day.
Reply from @UKRunChat: 
great advice, also core work will improve your running massively and your tummy tones up. #result!

I used Hal Higdon novice for my first one and currently using his next step for my second!

LSR [long slow run] is absolute key to your training plan each week. Don't be a slave to the plan. Drop back weeks are key. Stretch!

From these pearls of wisdom I have deduced that the key steps to marathon training are:

Cross training (i.e. swim, bike)
Long slow runs
Stretching (hello yoga!)
Tailor the plan to your own needs
Have fun & try to enjoy! (Eh... we'll see!)

So I’ve taken the advice, downloaded an online plan and modified it around my life. As Rhianon says: “don’t be a slave to the plan!” I really want to get the most out of marathon training without losing heart too much as it takes over my life, so I’ll listen to this sentiment and aim to make this plan MY bitch, not the other way around! Yeah, yeah, you’re right: I’ll believe it when I see it too...

Have you run a marathon or are you training for one? What’s your approach? What would you change if you had to do it again?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Running my first marathon: WHY?!

A few weeks ago I arrived home to this:

My initial reaction: I'm in? I'm in?! Oh my God - I'M IIIIIINNNN!! *tweets, Facebooks and makes phonecalls until the WHOLE WORLD knows that I’m doing the London Marathon*

My delayed reaction: Uhoh. I’ve told everyone about it so now I’m actually going to have to do this. 26.2 miles of what can surely only be described as self-inflicted pain. WHY?!

Obviously I WANT to run a marathon: I entered the ballot. Well, I watched the London marathon last year and thought it looked like fun (!) so I threw my hat in the ring. Nobody gets in first time, right? I know people who have applied 8 times and haven't got in... and now li'l ol' me is in! I'm not gonna lie - this realisation fills me with both excitement AND dread. Let me tell you why... 

why I should NOT run a marathon

Yes, I’m a runner. I can declare this because I run about, sometimes for fun, sometimes in a race. However, I’m not anywhere near what you would call ‘a proper runner’. Y'know, one of those runner kinds that need to be in the brackets; one of those lithe, lean individuals who make running look like a breeze. Who nimbly overtake you on your slow Sunday slog and, as you watch their tiny arse and slim-but-muscular calves disappear into the distance, drive you to think: that’s OK. I could never run like that. They look like they’re 'a proper runner’. Although I still feel my chunky calves burn with envy. Well it's either envy or it's the lactic acid - who can tell?

Running for me is hard but I do enjoy it; even if I don’t enjoy it during the run I love the feeling of having been a run AKA ‘the post-run smug-fest’. This smug feeling usually ensues within minutes of finishing 5-10K and can be known to last for days beyond if a medal was achieved at the end.

Just-finished-10K smug-fest

Beyond 10K, however, or – to be precise – 8 miles, my body begins to ache. My knees are notorious pains in the ass. Body-movement logistics meaning that, obviously, this is a figurative statement rather than a literal one. The ladies of my family have a history of knee troubles and it seems I am following suit. In fact, the knee issue is why I stopped running about 3 years ago and have had to build up again over the past 6 months or so.

Surely running 26.2 miles – 18.2 miles beyond my ‘knee comfort zone’ – is a bad idea?! Hmm...

So, here’s why I SHOULD run a marathon

I’m 29 for christ sake. I should NOT be letting my knees stop me running (unless medically advised to stop, as has happened to one of my friends who no longer runs over 10K – if concerned about any aches or pains then please check with your doctor and physio, peeps!). Perhaps in the long term I will have to stop, but for now I’m fortunate that my knee issues can be counteracted through joint supplements, good running trainers, strengthening the muscles that support my knees while running and – importantly – ensuring I have a good running technique.

Focussing on technique, I attended a Marathon Masterclass talk at Sweaty Betty last week where Mike Antoniades – founder of The Running School – took us through his tips for effective marathon running. 

Technique is top of his priorities, and I learned a few key things that I need to think about in my running, such as to stop swinging my arms across my body and to run from my glutes and hamstrings rather than my quads and hips. My friend Zoe put together a nice list of the key points from the talk here – thanks, Zoe!

I also have a few personal driving forces to run a marathon.

I love the London Marathon. I’ve watched the coverage on the telly box every year since I was a wee girl. As those who know me can testify, I’m not a ‘crier’. Droplets do not form easily on these ol’ eyes very often (well, unless I’m fuelled with wine, in which case the floods can be biblical); however I blub my eyes out when I see the joy on people’s faces as they cross the finish line and I  well up reading about other blogger's achievements, like getting new PBs. But cry at Bambi?! Pah! Bambi needs to get some miles in before I’ll shed a tear!

I'm also stubborn, so when people tell me it'll be ‘too hard’ or ‘too far’ it makes me want to go and do it just to prove them wrong. I want to be crying along with the other finishers and feel that sense of collected survival – we did not succumb to the road! We made it!

In all honesty though, more important that my selfish desire for long-term bragging rights and race bling, I want to run this marathon for the same reason as so many other runners of marathons: 

I want to run it for someone else.

Be it through illness, disability or absence, there are many who can’t run a marathon, for whom the decision to run a marathon is not there for the making. My friend Sarj is one of those people. 

We spent three years as desk buddies during our PhDs at Edinburgh Uni – Sarj ‘affectionately’ referring to me as his ‘bench wench’. We had some good times:

Sarj was knocked down on his way home in October 2009 and did not recover from his injuries. He was 27 and had just qualified as a teacher. I can’t explain how tragic this loss was to everyone who knew Sarj; he was a beacon of fun and full of mischief. Our lives are better from having known him and I feel sad for those who never had the chance to meet him. 

Inspired by Sarj's outlook on the world and his approach to life I moved from a small town in Scotland to London, and I try to live my life to the fullest. Which, evidently  means throwing yourself head-first into a marathon and giving it a bloody good shot!

Wherever he may be, looking down on me and waving a banner he’s made – I imagine it says ‘Run, Bench Wench, Run!’ or some borderline-offensive, politically incorrect, cheeky comment - I know it will amuse Sarj greatly to see me break myself while running around London on his behalf. It is this belief that, in my hours of pain during training and in the race itself, will remind me just exactly WHY I’m doing this: I’m doing it for you buddy.

So! Knee pain or not, I WILL be completing 26.2 miles around our great city next April. Now I just need to work out the small issue of how...

Katy | City Girl Fit

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My first attempt at: Crossfit

"It's not a cult. Well, if it is it's a bloody good one!" 

These are the words spoken by Nigel, one of the trainers who took me through my paces at Crossfit Bold in Earlsfield on Tuesday night. 

I was invited down to the 'Box' (Crossfit terminology for 'gym') on Tuesday night by Laura, as part of the Sport of Fitness event. The Box is actually in a warehouse in an industrial estate just 5 minutes from the train station and easy to miss if it's your first time so don't be afraid to call for directions! 

There were supposed to be about 6 or 7 of us there, but it turned out to be just me, the lovely Leah (who I ran with in the most horrible weather at the Garmin Kingston Run Challenge last weekend) and one other blogger. Three of us against two of the trainers = no slacking off! 

I have to admit, I've heard a lot about Crossfit over the past year or so - some good, some bad - but I've always been a little intrigued given that most people I know who do it are addicted. But it's not a cult you say? Well, I'll be the judge of that... 

Before I regale you with the highs and lows of a Crossfit class, let me just say that our instructors were great - really knowledgeable,  helpful and encouraging - and I appreciated that Helen (the second of our instructors) took the time after our class to sit down with us and answer our questions about Crossfit. Leah and I were particularly keen to know how Crossfit could benefit our running and it seems that they have trained numerous endurance athletes and triathletes to reach PBs. I'm sure that strength training could save me from injury too, so my mind was put at ease by their reassuring words. 

The other question I had was about cost. I won't go in to too much detail as each club is different, but Crossfit isn't cheap. After attending the class I can see why: as the class sizes are small you have in-depth training and on average 3-1 coaching. There's a lot of focus on learning the right technique: it's almost an education in fitness form! So yes, it is expensive, but until you go down for a trial session (many of which are free) you wont know if it that cost is value for money for you. So why not give it a shot!

Meanwhile, back in 'the Box'....
Some workouts were already going down, and there was lots of throwing around of medicine balls, which, I have to admit, looked quite fun! Okay, so they were GIANT medicine balls, and doing it was probably less fun than looking at it being done, but still - I was optimistic.

Scorpion stretching
Crossfit chat
After a 200m jog and some stretches for warm-up we started by learning the proper technique to squatting. Yes, there is a proper technique, people! I discover that I have a problem with keeping my chest up and getting low enough for it to 'count': you see, all Crossfit moves have standards that would have to be met in a competition scenario - if you miss the required standard then it doesn't count as a rep. Better get this technique down then! A few adjustments and I was there. Slow squats, then fast squats, then faster squats with a wee jump in between. Easy peasy. Lovely (sort of).

Learning the technique...
...putting it in to practice!

Then: box jumps. Now, I haven't had the need or desire to jump on boxes since I was in primary school. Here I was, feeling like a 12-year-old, tongue out, concentration face ON. The instructors said "two-feet jump & land, then lock out your legs at the top". Again I thought: easy. Hmm. Not so easy when you're actually 29 and not a lithe and nimble 12-year-old! But I managed, and actually once you get in to a rhythm it's not too bad. 
Jump, lock out, step down, repeat. Sorted. 


Next: Kettlebell swings. I've done a few kettlebell classes so had the technique for Russian swings down - albeit that the kettlebell was a bit heavier than my usual 3-5kg! American swings are a different story: you have to take the kettlebell up above your head and stop it there before swinging back down. Now that's tough! 

Russian swing - half way up
American swing - aaaaallll the way up! Loving Leah's face here :)
But again, we all got there. See - the instructors were right - we can do this stuff!! 

Finally: the dreaded burpees. Burpees are the bane of my life. They were sent here by the devil himself to train you for hell. Because that would be my hell: never-ending burpees. Not that I'm dramatic or anything... So we got down (literally, flat down on the ground before leaping up again and clapping) with burpees - if you don't know what they are then look it up, do three, and I DEFY you to disagree with my earlier sentiments. E.V.I.L. 

A little rest ensued. Hurrah, she thinks, class over: high fives all round! This Crossfit malarkey is fun! Eh, no. The writing is on the wall...

"OK, so 21 of the first, 15 of the next, 9 of the last - totally do-able," I think. 
Again: WRONG! 21 of EACH, 15 of EACH, then 9, you guessed it, OF EACH. Oh, and as fast as you can, please. GO! 

Death by burpee is not how I want to go, but I came close. I had to take a few deep breaths between the burpees and the box jumps, but the coaches encouraged me on, and all three of us worked our asses off and finished in just under 10 minutes. Yes, that's right. Just 10 minutes of flat out effort and I almost died. 

Then I smiled. 

Then we stretched. Ahhhhhhh! 

Then the penny dropped. 

This is what Crossfit does. High-intensity, controlled-technique training: it pushes you (safely) to your limits and then, when you think you're done, pushes you to give that little bit more. That 'little bit more' is why you will see changes - it's where 'change' lives. Reaching that point hurt, and I wouldn't have done it by myself in the gym. It took someone standing over me telling me to keep going, that I could do it, not to give up. 

And the trainer's statement at the start was right. I wasn't 'brainwashed' into thinking or writing this, it just all of a sudden made sense! I get what the Crossfit masses see, I really do. And, while I'm sure it's not for everyone, I think I've got that competitive spirit and drive to be physically fitter, which means I could get addicted and love it and believe that it's totally worth the money. I'm just not sure my bank manager will be too happy about that...

One thing he does like is when I get some lovely goodies for my efforts - so thank you to Laura for arranging these Pure Pharma and Rock Tape goodies for us. 

Almost want to strain a muscle or two to be able to tape myself up in the cow tape. It's the simple things, right? :)

Are you a Crossfit lover or hater? Has it improved your fitness or running pace? I'm tempted to try out the beginners course and if I do you'll be the first to hear how it goes. If I survive...

Katy | City Girl Fit

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A marathon runner in the making? The September-October round-up

It’s been all quiet for the blog-life of City Girl Fit recently owing to various goings-on, but that doesn’t mean it’s been all quiet in real-life – oh no! Here’s a little round-up of events:

Wednesday 11th September – Cyclebeat vs SportPursuit Challenge, London
I headed down to Cyclebeat, a new spin studio in Central London, with a host of fitness bloggers to take on the SportPursuit team in a cycle to the death! It was also my first experience of the mighty Beatboard: read all about it on my guest blog over on Be Pretty Fit.

Sunday 22nd September – Teach First 10K, London
Over on Twitter, Jen announced that she couldn’t run this race due to a dodgy knee and offered her place up for one lucky person. I was quick off the mark to put my hand up – I normally run 10K on a Sunday, so why not do it for a good cause (and a medal!)? Starting down by Camp Bo-Jo and the Tower of London, the route took us a loop around the Thames with lots of pretty sights to see:


It was an open course, so lots of tourist dodging involved, but came home in just over 52 minutes – my new ‘official timed 10K’ PB, knocking 2 mins off my last one in 2011, and earned a well deserved chocolate cake slice :) Hope I did Jen proud! 

Nevetheless, a sub-50 10K race still eludes me, so have signed up to speed and hill sessions to see if I can remedy that next time... Will keep you posted!

Thursday 26th September – You’ve got mail!

After a long day at the office I came home to this little bit of mail. Yes, that’s right, I’M RUNNING THE LONDON MARATHON NEXT YEAR!! Ahhhhh! I now have a sound understanding of what combined terror and sheer delight feels like. Can’t quite believe I got in, and it’s now starting to sink in how much work I have to do to be fit enough to not only get round the course, but also to finish in a time I’ll be happy with while managing to enjoy it! This also means that over the next 6 months you, dear reader, will be subjected to many a blog post of ups and downs on my VLM journey. Lucky you, eh?!

Thursday 3rd October –#CHOspin with Chobani and BOOM
Another day, another spin class - spreading the spin love! - this time organised by  the lovely peeps from Chobani UK and in collaboration with BOOM Cycle in Shoreditch.

My love affair with spin actually began at BOOM just over a year ago: I signed up to a ‘5 classes for £25 deal’ assuming that I would go once, be completely out of my depth, hate it, and never go back, only having lost 25 bucks in the process. How wrong I was! BOOM is a different world of spin. It’s fun, energetic and atmospheric – the darkened room means you cycle in candle-light and the shiny disco balls give a nice touch – and the instructors are super motivating, friendly and approachable. There’s also a variety of classes to suit your needs and goals, including experts in fat burning to teach you the best way to lose those belly rolls... After just a few classes you will feel like part of the BOOM family!

And can I just say, I’ve always had fairly big thighs and assumed that spinning wouldn’t help my situation; however, since starting to spin I’ve actually reduced my thigh circumference and even have a tiny wee gap between my legs! If I’d known that through exercise on a bike I could reduce thigh chaff-age (yes, I have known the pain of walking quite far while wearing a skirt with no tights on a hot summer day: ouch!) I’d have been spinning long ago. Anyway, I digress...
Chobani were kind enough to set us up with a BodyBOOM class (taught by the lovely ab-tastic Tara, this class provides an amazing full-body workout – where else would you get hand weights with spinning?!) and they served up some delicious strawberry Chobani smoothies afterwards. I also took home a pack of passionfruit Chobani – delicious! – and a handy new Chobani tote bag for my working lunches, as modelled here on my way to work.

On another note, BOOM have just signed the lease for a new site over in Holborn so you should be able to check the new digs out soon!

Wednesday 9th October – Elle’s Supple Strength Class
Last week, I was lucky enough to get a place on ElleLinton’s tester session of the Supple Strength Class. I first met Elle a few years ago while at the NTC classes in Clapham Common, and enjoyed her laid-back (in terms of attitude, not exercise!), fun approach to exercise. 17 fitness fanatics met with Elle at the O2 workshop space on Tottenham Court Road - I didn't know this place existed; it’s a really cool spot to book some meeting space, complete with free coffee! 

Some new faces, some old friends – we all got set up with our yoga mats and started the class. The class combined yoga and pilates moves with strength moves to give a full body workout – boy did my arms and abs hurt the next day! For more info and a full description check out Elle’s blog, where you can also find classes that you too can be experience 'the Elle effect' :)

What next?
I've got more fitness adventures lined up for the next few weeks and I'll be in touch with more details soon. Today I ran an 8 mile race followed by a game of touch rugby in the driving rain, so I'm off for a well earned bath! Next time, let's not leave it so long to catch up, yeah? ;)

Katy | City Girl Fit