Monday, 25 November 2013

What's in a warm up?

OK, hands up if your idea of a pre-run warm up is a cuppa then a half-hearted hop around on the toes, with a side-to-side bouncy motion (y'know, that movement you do in the pens before a race, which does not warm you up at all)? 

*hand flies up*

See, the thing is, when I'm up at the crack of dawn to fit in my morning miles the last thing on my mind - or I have time for - is 'warming up'. Running IS a warm up, isn't it??

Strangely, while I'm happy to skip the warm up (as in give it a miss, not skip for my warm up...) I LOVE a bit of post-run stretching and quite enjoy Kara Goucher's pro-runner stretches on the Nike Training Club App. It has some nice yoga-esque stretches, takes about 15 minutes to complete, and you feel lovely, long and lean at the end. If only life could be one long cool down...

Alas, this post is about warm ups! 

At the track session I went to there was a good 15 minutes spent on warm up - 2 x jog round the track plus dynamic stretching - but I'm usually pushed for time so the warm up tends to get bumped down the priority list, and maybe it's just me, but I kind of feel a bit silly doing walking lunges along the main road in Clapham... 

Lately, however, as a number of my runner friends have been rendered sofa-bound due to injuries - get better soon guys! - I've started to think more about injury prevention. Thanks to recommendations from NY marathon runner extraordinaire Charlie, I've started listening to podcasts on my walk to work. One such podcast from Runners Connect seemed to fit the bill for my recent worries: Intelligent and Injury-Free Training. You can download it here.

In this interview, Jeff Gaudette outlines how important warm ups are. He says you should NEVER miss out on the warm up, even if it means you have to run a shorter distance if you're pushed for time. If time is an issue, he suggests the 'lunge matrix' - a 5-mine warm up featuring 5 types of lunge that can, if you're shy like me (haha!), be done in the comfort of your own home before stepping out the door. Here it is, from the wonderfully American Coach Jay Johnson:

Instead of making my excuses, I'm going to try to do at least this before I head out on a run - I'll just need to set the alarm 5 minutes earlier!! 

How do you warm up and cool down? Is the lunging enough? Could someone invent an awesome warm-up dance to a fabulous 80s track that I will never want to not do, please? That'd be lovely, thanks :)

Katy | City Girl Fit

Saturday, 23 November 2013

My first attempt at: track training sessions

To run fast you must practice running fast. 

OK, that’s pretty self explanatory. But I’m running a marathon, where I’ll be running long and slow, slow, slow so running fast isn’t for me, right? WRONG! 

If you look at any marathon training programme these days there is a lot of emphasis on adding in at least one session a week that involves increasing your pace - tempo runs, hill work – anything that gets you out of your comfort zone and breathing a little bit harder. This approach apparently makes you a more effective runner and will help you to run faster even when you run slow. Even if speed isn’t your no. 1 goal let’s face it – we’d all like to be a little bit quicker and see some progress on those race times! 

Now, I’m not a ‘lazy’ person, per se. I’ll happily kit up and hit the tarmac for a trot round the park and, if I’m training for a longer distance, dedicate my weekend hours to get some decent mileage in. But push myself to the point of hard breathing and inability to chat as I run (say what now??) – no, sorry, it’s not really going to happen on my watch alone. And if I ever try, I do a few short bursts of speed, give myself a pat on the back and then trot on home for a crème egg and a cuppa. 

My marathon training programme, however, says otherwise. As the teachers at school used to tell me, if you can’t be trusted alone then you require supervision! So, I had the bright idea to head along to a track session. Back in the day I was actually a track runner at school and, unbelievably, I used to do track training 2-3 times a week. Sometimes just for fun! Ah, to be young...

Through tips and advice from fellow twitterunners (did I just invent a new label for runners who tweet?? Trademark pending...) I found a session with run coach Karen down at Battersea track on a Wednesday evening. I’d already convinced my friend Josie it was a good idea too, and she’d gone along a few times already – a guinea pig of sorts, in the nicest possible way! – and fed back that it was quite good and she hadn't died yet: always a good sign. So I decided that this was the week to make my return to the track. Ah, dammit! I now have the classic 90s song ‘Return of the Mack’ inside my head... I digress (as always). 

I’d had my first post-school track experience when I went to Battersea stadium as part of my Run to the Beat training and – despite it being really tough – I loved it! The only difference was than back then it was in August, 20-odd degrees and sunny. As I walked to the track on Wednesday it was November, pissing down and freezing cold! 

As I walked along I gave myself a pep talk: “you’ve played numerous seasons of hockey in the Scottish winter, woman! You can do this!” And I’m glad that the voices in my head prevailed... 

At the track there turned out to be 8 of us plus Karen, and the rain died down so it was only freezing cold now and not wet. Relentless positivity, anyone? To try to explain just how cold it was, I had three layers on and an ear-warmer headband, and not one item of clothing was removed over the course of the session! 

A short ‘warm’ up of two laps round the track, some drills (walking on toes, walking on hills, high knees, bum kicks etc.) Karen explained the session. The regulars told me that each week was different and you don’t get told in advance so nobody knew what to expect... Karen paired us up in a two-man team, and told us we were to do non-stop 400m relays. For 25 minutes. Yup. 25 minutes solid. Ouch! 

Once we got going though it actually didn’t seem too bad. That is until after our 3rd or 4th lap of the 400m track when the legs really got tired and the lungs hurt from the cold air. For some reason I always seemed to die at 200m and had to spend the remainder of the lap screaming: c’mon stupid legs, work!! 

Battersea track in sunnier times!
We kept pushing through, supporting and cheering each other on the rounds and getting some tips from Karen while we recovered. For example, it’s much more efficient to run with short, fast strides than with long slow ones – my preferred mode of ‘bounding’ around the track. I tried the shorter strides out on my next few laps and, while I can’t vouch for efficiency or graceful technique, I certainly felt like I was running much faster! 

Team Josie & Katy managed 9 laps each in the 25 minutes, averaging around 7min mile pace. We were knackered at the end, but with happy, rosy-cheeked faces :) Time will tell how much these sessions will help my running, but it was great to mix up the training and to meet some new people; I really enjoyed it and will definitely be back: ‘Wednesday track’ is now a solid fixture in the marathon training plan! 

If you fancy channelling you inner Usain Bolt and getting down for some track action then get in touch with Karen – the sessions are held on Wednesdays at Battersea Millennium Park, cost £8.90: £3.90 to the track and £5 to Karen. 

Have you tried track training or other forms of speed work? Did it make a difference to your running? 

Katy | City Girl Fit

Friday, 15 November 2013

The week in training - too much (in one day) too soon?

So last week training took a bit of a back seat in favour of some fun stuff, and I'm still not quite in to my 18 week marathon plan. Nevertheless, I'm already I'm finding that fitting my not-yet-at-full-marathon-mode training in around work is tough. As I couldn't fit in my 4 runs this week I decided to push it hard for a few days. Not advised! Here's a breakdown of training this week so far: 

  • Sunday - crazy day: think I just about ran a marathon in 4 parts!
  • Monday - yoga
  • Tues & Wed - away for work trip
  • Thursday -6 miles + hills
  • Friday - yoga

Last Sunday turned out to be an epic adventure of non-stop movement in one day. 

It began with a 6am alarm call: up, quick shower, get in to running kit (this took a bit longer than usual - it was cold-ass morning, so extra layering required!) I love it when you get rewarded you for an early rise, and this Sunday my reward was a beautiful sky lighting up the London skyline... 

Good morning, London!
I was at Clappy J (oh god. I've been watching too much MIC, haven't I...) to catch the train to Putney to meet up with Stephanie and Jess, who were kind enough to let me tag along on their 12-13 mile run along the Thames path. I hadn't yet run this route, so was quite looking forward to some new scenery and a bit of trail action. 

It was also a great opportunity to try out my new New Balance trail shoes and test out approaches for eating/hydration for longer runs. I ate a coconut and macadamia Bounce ball on the way over (a treat from my Zero Calorie Advent goody bag!) and had a glass of tri-berry nuun - I love this stuff for pre and post run hydration. So tasty! - before I left the house at 6.30. There was a gel in my run bumbag - yeah, bumbag. Super, sexy, cool, I know - should I feel the need to use it. 

Shiny (not for long!) new shoes
Bounce ball: lovely protein-y goodness
After meeting the also layered-up Jess and Steph we set off along the river towards Kew Bridge. Now, these two are speedy girls, so I was a bit worried that by trying to keep to their pace I'd collapse in a heap of sweat and phlegm before we reached half way. Thankfully, the girls were happy to let me set the pace. I've only ever done this distance once before and that was at Run to the Beat half marathon, so I'm not really sure how fast I should run 13 miles in training, but we settled at a speed that, for me, was comfortably difficult, and turned out to be slightly faster that I would have normally - the good thing about running with faster runners than you!

As we were up so bright and early the path was almost empty and it was lovely to see the river so peaceful bar the odd group of rowers: the only other nutters up this early on a Sunday morning. At Kew Bridge - half way - we joined up with Lissy for the return leg. We looked like twins with our earwarmers, neon run jackets, run bumbags and leggings. Well, twins if you ignore the fact that Lissy is half my size and has white-blonde hair... I warned Lissy about the mud - and it didn't disappoint. With the downpours on Saturday the trails were super muddy - I was so glad of my trail shoes! Once you got over the fact that mud was inevitable it was quite satisfying to squelch in to a big muddy puddle :) 

A muddy Thames path run with Lissy and (in the distance) speedy girls Steph & Jess
I also noticed half way along that while Jess and Steph's feet were muddy their clothes were not covered in mud splashes like me. Lesson learned: if you want to stay clean then you have to run faster and IN FRONT of other runners! I earned a few sideways glances on the train home, which I responded to with my best "yup, it's 9am and I've already banged out 12 miles of trail running, suckas!!" look. Otherwise known as 'smug face'.

Home, fastest shower and change in history, off to opticians for an eye test, home, lunch, out the door at 1pm towards Clapham Common for my Sunday touch rugby league.

Some people have been asking about my Touch Rugby team, when we play etc. I play for Maigic Touch - It's a mixed team, and the rules of Touch Can be found here on the in2touch website. Magic are a great bunch to play with and to socialise with - you can catch up with our on-pitch and off-pitch our shenanigans on the Magic Touch blog.
Magic Touch: Greek goddesses & spartans

Magic Touch: super heroes!
Our main season is on Wednesday evenings at Regents Park, which run from April-September, and we are always keen to have new players, so get in touch in the spring if you're interested. We're currently playing in the Clapham Common Sunday Late Summer League. On Sunday we played our league match (lost 8-4 against the unbeaten team in the league) but then also another game against London Moths - like London Wasps, but at night - as their oppo didn't show (we won that!). THEN we had a third game of the Magic 'old skool' players vs us 'new skool' players (a draw - winners all round!). 

Magic Touch - old & new (& non-playing children)
I might be smiling in the post-game picture (above) but after three 40 minute games and a 12 miler in the morning - oh my god - the legs really hurt!! My knees were in agony and I hobbled for a good two days afterwards. 

I realise now that this approach to do everything in one day was probably a bit silly and I'm lucky that I'm not injured. In future, I maybe wont run an almost half marathon in the morning if I know I have sprint sessions in the form of touch rugby later in the day! Thankfully - well, actually, sadly - the Touch season ends next Sunday 24th Nov, so my weekends will be free for long runs and then afternoon resting. My goal over the coming months will be to slow down and take small steps to increase my training each day rather than almost killing myself by trying to take a thousand steps in one!

Have you hit training too hard too soon? How are you finding fitting training in to your schedule? Do you have a plan to work training in around work, Xmas parties and travel? If you've got any good tips then please share!!

Katy | City Girl Fit

Monday, 11 November 2013

Scottish adventures and an early Xmas party

It's been a busy old week for this city girl, but mostly it's been fitness-associated fun!

At the weekend I headed back to Scotland with the boy to visit the parents, which meant fitting in some fitness around home-cooked meals and wine in front of the fire (it's a hard life, eh?!). I headed out for a run in the sun on the Saturday on a nice 5 mile loop from the house through Uddingston and Bothwell. It was a lovely crisp day, and the autumn colours were beautiful.

On the Sunday we went for a walk around Chatelherault country park which has some beautiful ancient oaks and fantastic trails. I've earmarked these for my training runs over the Christmas holidays. It also means that I need some trail shoes, so went for some retail therapy in Glasgow and got some new shoes :)


The legs were feeling a bit tight and tired after an 8 hour drive back down from Scotland so on Monday night I decided to do a bit of yoga. It was a cold and wet evening, so didn't fancy heading out, but I remembered that I'd signed up for I selected a 20-minute free yoga for runners class, downloaded the audio and pose guide and off I went! The perfect solution for tight hip flexors and calves.

On Tuesday I decided to try out the Nike Training Club at Covent Garden. This class, unlike Nike Town, involved outdoor training rather than on the shop floor! The instructor, Kezia, was really friendly and the class was pretty fun. We jogged from the store down on to the riverside and along to Westminster where we encountered the a mass protest in front of the houses of parliament with hundreds of people wearing the V for vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. Running through that was quite an experience, but we stuck together and found a spot further down the river to do our class. We had six exercises recommended by athletes, ranging from one-legged lunge-hops to squat jumps and modified burpees, each to do hard-out for 1 minute. Then we jogged back to store for some stretches. I really enjoyed this class, particularly taking in the sights of London and seeing the fireworks over the Thames while we worked out. I'm planning to head back on the 19th when my blogger friend Elle will be taking the class - fancy joining? Sign up here.

On Thursday I was invited along to the launch party for Zero Calorie Advent Calendar, a great initiative to have a fat-free Christmas, which is being run by bloggers Mollie, Becca and Christine.

The party was held at Lululemon in Covent Garden, but in true fit-blog fashion we had to earn our prosecco first by taking part in Good Gym. The idea behind Good Gym is that you incorporate doing something good for the community - from helping with a local project to visiting isolated older people - into your fitness session. On the night we ran from the store to Somerset House where we worked as a team to dismantle radiator covers and move some wood for Makerversity.

Afterwards we had a 3km race along the Thames towards Tate Modern before heading back for some well-earned prosecco and cake! The chosen charity for Zero Calorie Advent Calendar is A Mile In Her Shoes - a great charity that supports women in crisis by helping them to get fit and stay healthy. If you have any old trainers or sports clothes then get in touch with these guys and they'd be happy to take them off your hands!

It was great to see some friendly faces down at the launch party, as well as meeting some people in real life for the first time such as #sub50project runner Sian. Mollie, Becs and Christine have done such a great job to pull the event and calendar together and I can't wait until December to begin the countdown to Christmas! It'll be helped along all the more with the lovely goodies and free classes in our goody bags - looking forward to trying out Good Vibes studio in particular.

Marathon training took a back seat this week - was great to do some fun things other than just run. Next week I start to build up the miles again though!

How is your marathon training going? Have you started yet or still in the planning stages?

Katy | City Girl Fit