Thursday, 30 January 2014

Why I won't cheat on running. Yet...

Last week my lovely friend Lesley, who I met and lived with during our undergraduate science degrees at Glasgow Uni, sent me a picture. Despite being mostly lovely, Lesley lives in Dubai and often likes to rub my face in all the sunny outdoor activities she gets involved in! This time, however, the picture wasn’t of the Dubai sunshine...

This scrawling is, in fact, an attempted scientific correlation between Lesley’s weekly workout schedules and her 10K PBs for the years 2011-2014. Now, the scientist in me feels that I should point out the flaws of this study design but, scientist or not, I’m sure you can fathom that this research is entirely lacking in statistical power and there are numerous variables that have not been controlled for... HOWEVER, I believe the moral that Lesley was trying to show me this: 

Less running = Faster running

Although she is a highly intelligent and gifted being (I hope that tenner is in the post, Lesley), my friend did not invent this concept. BUT – despite some questionable stats – the results are quite striking: going from running 3-4 times per week in 2011 to just one running session a week plus one of, bootcamp, weights and rowing in 2013-2014, Lesley’s 10K time decreased by a whopping 7 minutes! More interesting to me is that the bad hip and knee that she suffered from back while running loads in 2011 is no more: she runs 10K pain free and – as her Picasso-of-a-picture suggests – with a smile on her face.

On top of this bombshell dropped from Dubai, my London-based and equally delightful blogger friend Charlie put up a post on the notes she took while at a talk at Runners Need on Monday on avoiding injury while marathon training. I was supposed to be there but work had other plans for me. Unhappy face.

Fortunately, Charlie’s post captures what was said nicely:

‘Running is not bad for your knees, running on weak muscles is bad for your knees.’

And the advice? combat muscle weaknesses and strengthen the muscles in your legs [you should] perform single-leg weights, including squats, lunges, hopping, as well as using the weights machines, and perform these lower body weights at least twice a week (although not on consecutive days)."

Weights twice a week!? WHILE marathon training?! This got me thinking...

Back in October I wrote a post about ‘mixing up my training’ – keeping the variety to prevent myself from getting bored. And back then I was doing that. Now, at the end of January, I have to admit that it’s sort of fallen by the wayside. 

As my marathon deadline creeps ever nearer (10 weeks to go!) I’ll openly admit that the fear has gripped me: can I actually run 26.2 miles? Will my legs stop working at 18 miles in? Am I nuts??! 

My way to combat this fear and to give myself the confidence that I CAN run - that I can run lots AND far - has been to run. Lots (not always far) but also far (which takes lots of time, so still counts as ‘lots’). On reading this back I realise that, essentially, I’m attempting to prove to myself that I’m not nuts by being entirely more nuts!

Anyway – back to my point! Between working an 8.30-5.30 job (or should I say ‘5.30 most of the time, unless I have something I want to be at’, like marathon talks...) with an hour commute each side, plus the boy and friends to enjoy time with, that leaves not very much time for this running malarkey never mind anything else! My weekends are pretty much given over to running for hours then eating and vegetating. I’m often shattered at the times I’m supposed to be socialising. But I soldier on with a beer in hand because, y’know. I’m a trooper.

Lately I find that I miss my (sport-related only, ofcourse!) ‘bits on the side’. I used to go to kickboxing – loved it! – to spin, to NTC classes and to more yoga classes. I’d also like to get more involved in weight training, but I just can’t find the time. And even when I do try to do something else I feel like I’m ‘cheating’ on running. And – all the more scary –- that running will come along like a deranged, wronged lover and punish me at some point on my 26.2 mile jaunt around London in April (I find that denial is also a great way to get through the fear: this thing I’m running? Pah, it’s just a ‘jaunt’!). 

I’ve seen some posts from those who follow Julia Buckley’s ‘Fat Burn Revolution’ plan, particularly a blogger friend Becca who has had a pretty amazing transformation. Julia is a big advocate that marathon training or any running training can be fit in around other activities and that you will see the benefits. I think that once I get the marathon thingy (oh, hello again there denial!) out of the way I might try to give it a go. 

Until then you can say what you like - get Paula Radcliffe to tell me that I don’t need to be faithful to running! - it doesn’t matter: the fear of 26.2 miles will keep me channelling my inner Forrest Gump and keep on running (minus the trucker hat... And the chinos. And check shirt. But I've got the Nikes!) 

I wonder if it’s because this is my first marathon. Maybe more experienced marathon runners don’t sweat the time spent courting activities outside of running... Is it just me? Do you have illicit affairs with cross fit or a yoga mat behind the back of running? Go on, tell me. I can keep a secret ;)

Katy | City Girl Fit

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Training update: when the going gets tough...

The week in stats

no. of runs: 4
no. of yoga classes: 1
no. of spin classes taken after running a half marathon: 1 (just about!)

11 weeks to go until 'the big one' and it's been a tumultuous week. A busy one at work, including a few nights away with the inevitable 'client socialising' time - cue too much wine and rich, indulgent food - plus early mornings and late nights. 

Fitting in my training hasn't been easy, and I've been left a bit drained come Sunday evening. Yup, marathon training is really hitting home. It's not easy, but then nothing that's worth doing ever is, right?

My first run was a 1.5 mile speed session en route to meet the boy at the train station - figured I might as well make the most of any spare time I have and, rather than walk over to the station, did a 5min warm up, 5x200m sprints at full pace plus 1.5 min recovery in between. Short and sweet, but productive!
A dark, dark morning in Weybridge

Run number two was an early morning effort while away with our clients. A 6am start and my plan was to head down to the Thames path in Weybridge, but upon arriving there I realised just how dark it is out of the city! 

No Thames path for me, and as the pavements in Weybridge just end abruptly with nowhere else to go, my planned 4-5 miles was cut short to 3 miles. Ah well! 

Thursday night brought an Urban Yoga retreat with the crew from AdventureYogi. I'm keen to head on a weekend yoga retreat in the UK and my research brought me across the Adventure Yogi retreats. They run city-based evening mini-retreats to give you a taste of what their longer retreats involve, and I'd recruited my twitter friends Steph and Felicity to come along too.

Vegan feast
We had a lovely flow yoga class with Sally from Stretching in the City - exactly what I needed after two long days of work! - followed by some lovely vegan food by Tatu. I have to admit, I've always shied away from vegan as I'm a carnivorous being , but our 3-course feast was lovely - lots of food for thought!

A gloomy Tower Hill
Thoroughly stretched and refuelled, I took Friday as a rest day in preparation for my third run, the long run, on Saturday morning with the Team Naturally Run girls, headed up by Leah. Long runs means an early start, and Saturday was no exception. I was up at 6.45 to get my porridge in my belly before heading out to meet the girls at Tower Hill.

Together, Leah, Lissy, Charlie W, Charlie B, Lucy and I set off heading west along the Thames. We met  Sian at Embankment who joined us for a few miles, while the rest of us continued on towards our ultimate destination: our brunch spot at Outsider Tart in Chiswick.

Team Naturally Run!
After 13.1 miles I've never been happier to walk in to a brunch spot! Treated myself to a cranberry and ginger beer juice, earl grey and chilli chicken scramble. Amazing!

Not content with running half a marathon, Charlie and I joined Zoe in attending the NTC week spinning class at Equinox gym in Kensington - more about that later in the week. Needless to say, our legs were pretty tired, and I was happy to get home, have a shower and a well-deserved nap!!
Post-run brunch!

Run number 4: the reluctant run. I've been expert at recruiting friends in to various events that I'm taking part in, and the up-coming Surrey Half marathon is no exception. The boy has signed up (well, I signed him up...) as have two of my friends and colleagues Anto and Georgia. None of them has run this distance before, so when they organised a 6 miler on Sunday I felt obliged to take part as well! 

Despite tired legs, I managed to keep up with them and get round in the horrible weather. That'll teach me for dragging others in to my running craziness!! 

Hope you've had a good week of training. With the distances starting to mount it's tough to fit everything in, and the doubts inevitably start to creep in: will I really manage 26.2 miles??! We've still got time - we can do this!

Thanks to Stephanie and Charlie for some of the pictures used here - I'm still rubbish at taking pics while running/yogi-ing. Must take some lessons from these two blogger-superstar ladies!

Katy | City Girl Fit

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Training update - 12 weeks to go!

The week in stats:

No. runs: 4
No. double-run days: 1
No. of face-plants on the pavement: 1

Week 2 of Jantastic and I hit my goal of 4 runs/week again. A total of 26 miles run - almost a marathon in a week :)

My Tuesday morning run was relocated from Clapham to Cardiff courtesy of a work trip. I'd phoned ahead to the hotel to check they had a gym and when it opened in the morning - yes, I am THAT person now. When did that happen? Probably about week 2 of marathon training...

I've not run on a treadmill for ages as for me it just doesn't compare to hitting the road with the wind in your hair. I'm not even a fair weather runner anymore - I love running outdoors so much that not even torrential ran, snow, wind or hail will put me off! I only had a 3 miler on the schedule, so 30 mins on the dreadmill I could just about cope with.

Err... Where is everyone??
I got down for the gym opening at 6.30, figuring it might be busy (it's one of those hotel gyms that's open for public memberships). Well, I've never seen an emptier gym in January! 

I started out on an incline of 1.5 and at a slowish pace (6.30min/mile), increasing the pace every 4mins or so until I was flat out sprinting for the final 2.5mins. And, surprisingly, it was pretty fun! Mixing up the pace and keeping it a short session seems to be the key to enjoyable treadmill running - lesson learned!

Run 2 this week was - wait for it - on the same day! Now, I know some runners are a big fan of double-run day, but this was my first. It wasn't really of my choosing: the boy guilted me in to joining him for 3.5 miles with his puppy dog eyes and complaints of abandonment from the night before! 2 runs down, and it was only Tuesday. I was on a roll... 

Until Wednesday. When tired, tired legs got the better of me and so I decided to give track a miss. I've been known to take on too much and push my body too far only to crash and burn. So, listening to my body, I decided a Wednesday rest day was in order as my legs let out a collective sigh of relief.

Pretty Battersea Bridge
The gods of weather and running seemed intent on punishing me for missing track as the rain was battering down on Thursday evening and the wind was howling. Somehow I managed to find a window of 60 minutes where the rain eased off to fit in my run: a tempo 6 miles. 

The joys of running in bad weather is the quietness of the roads and paths. Battersea bridge stood defiant in the stormy conditions - the view always makes an evening run through Battersea park worthwhile.

My fourth and final run was supposed to be on Saturday but - as I'm sure seasoned runners will know - you have to be ready to change your plans and be flexible with your training: you never know what's around the corner... So, owing to various reasons, Sunday run day it was, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise given that the sun was high in the sky, a slight chill in the air: perfect running conditions. 

There is no reason, therefore, why this should be the day that I manage to trip over myself and face-plant in the streets of Battersea at 5 miles! Fortunately I got my hands out quick and escaped with a skint knee and red face. I had the boy with me for the first 5.5 miles and, theoretically, it should be better to have someone there to comfort you when you fall. Theroetically...

As I lay flat out on the pavement I looked up to find the boy standing with a confused look on his face. "What was that?" he asked. No 'are you ok?'. No 'oh my god, let me carry you home my dearest princess!'. "What was that? What was THAT? That was me making an arse of myself. Help me up?" I replied. What's the saying? It's not the falling that counts, it's the getting back up. So, I got up and carried on. 13.1 miles in total at ideal marathon pace with a war wound of honour to show for it. That'll do pig. That'll do.

So that was that. 12 weeks until London marathon: eeeek!! Weekend long runs are going to be hitting the 2h30 mark soon. Scary biscuits!! 

How has your week in training been? Are you a fan of the double run day?? Or how else are you fitting in the runs that you need to reach your running goals?

Katy | City Girl Fit

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Marathon Training: January week 1

January 6th-12th 2014 marathon training stats:-

No. of runs: 4 (23.2 miles total)
No. of new things tried: 3 (Park Run, Kalenji top, Natural Hero Hot Muscle Rub)
No of times told to go to bed because I'm a grumpy little sh*t: 1 

First week of January means first full week back at work after 2 weeks of long lies and too many pies! It also meant return to full time, less-of-the-excuses marathon training. It was always going to be a toughie! Sure enough, the days seemed long and the legs felt tired, but fortunately I not only have the impending marathon to train for, I'd also signed up to Jantastic as part of Adidas Team Boost with a goal of 4 runs per week. 

The competitive nature in meant I wasn't going to go down without a fight, and stubborn-ness got me through my four runs of the week - three TomTom-tracked runs plus a track session on Wednesday night.

Monday: rest (managing to get through first day back at work was achievement enough!)
Tuesday: 3 miles early morning run 
Wednesday: Back to track - Yasso 800's (6 x 800m at 8min/mile pace with 2min rest)
Thursday: slow 6 miles with the returning-from-injury bf
Friday: rest
Saturday: 11.4 miles total...

Saturday was a a good day for running. My running friend Steph has been keen to rope us all in to try a Park Run (they should give this girl a medal for her marketing and recruitment), so I finally agreed to head to Fulham Palace for my first ever one. I had 11 miles in the schedule, so decided to run the 4 miles from Clapham to the race, complete the 3 mile race and then run 4 miles home = 11 miles. perfect!

Saturday brought a glorious chilly, sunny winter morning, with a beautiful sunrise as I headed out along the Thames towards Putney. Arriving at Putney Bridge I met up with Steph, Lissy and Charlie and we headed over to the park at Fulham Palace.

I had always been slightly nervous about Park Run, convinced it would be full of super-speedy folk, but as we arrived it was clear that the park Run crowd is a mixed bag: all sizes, shapes and ages; from some men and women that would be pushing my grandparents age to those not yet able to walk, in buggies! After a brief run-down of the rules and course form the friendly course director we moved to the start line and, with little fanfare, we were off!! 

Having already run 4 miles and with the marathon firmly in my sights I wasn't looking for a PB, just a reasonable pace to add to my long run. Happily, Charlie and Lissy were also happy to adopt this approach and we trotted round together, coming in at 27.45. 

It was only half way round that I realised I had never run a timed 5K race - this can only mean a new PB! And something to target on my next Park Run - yes, I will be back. Plans are already afoot to try out some other Park Run sites around London and, if Fulham Palace is anything to go by, I can't wait for the next one.

To top off a lovely morning of running, we popped in to the cafe at Fulham Palace for some much needed warmth and hot drinks. Showing no end to her talents, Steph had baked us some post-run reward Banana Cake - just the ticket to fuel me for the 4 mile run home!

I also tried out some new run goodies this week. First, the new Kalenji run hoodie that I bought when back home for Christmas from the sport superstore Decathlon. It was perfect for running in the cold mornings we've been having. And it has the thumb hole thingy that I love for that not-quite-cold-enough-for-gloves weather, if you know what I mean?!

Need a hero? A hot one? Here you go!

I also FINALLY got round to purchasing some Natural Hero Hot Ginger Muscle Rub, which I'd been eyeing up for ages after seeing so many great reviews on twitter. 

I massaged some of the cream in to my sore hamstrings after this week's track session, thinking 'it smells lovely but it's not that hot...' About 20 mins later my hamstrings were basking in a lovely warming sensation - it felt brilliant! You can have a look at Natural Hero's products here. The products are also 98% natural products, which is pretty good for something that works so well!

All in, I'm pretty pleased I made it through this week given that I was coming back from post-Christmas holiday excess. I'm not sure the boy as too impressed though, as I was sent to bed at 10pm on Friday night for being too grumpy - a combination of tired legs, a sore head and a busy work week. I reckon he did me a favour though as I really enjoyed Saturday's run AND managed to keep going through to cocktails in the evening with a smile on my face, grump free. RESULT! Thing are definitely on the up. Bring on next week...

How was your training this week? Are you a Park Run regular? I would love to try out other Park Run sites throughout the year, so I'd love to hear where you run and why it's a great course.

Katy | City Girl Fit

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Hello 2014!

Happy Days: New Year's Day walking with the family at
Burghead beach, Scotland
New Year is always a time for taking stock of the year gone by and looking ahead to the year to come; setting goals, making plans, new years resolutions. Well, I pre-empted the new year's resolutions a little this time, beginning my 'reboot' back in August 2013

That's when I decided to get back in to fitness, set myself some goals and start really living my life to it's fullest. It's also when I started this blog, as a means of accountability and, I hoped, a place for others on a similar journey to come and see, share and enjoy.

Just 5 months on and a lot has changed! Reading back over my previous blog posts I realise how far I've come, how many new things I've tried, what new feats I've achieved (my first half marathon a definite highlight!) and how many new friends I've made through blogging, running and tweeting. Thanks to the things that the latter half of 2013 brought I'm heading in to 2014 - and towards the big 3-0! - with a smile on my face, a strong mind, a warm heart and looking forward to plenty of new challenges ahead.

Runners, bloggers & friends connected
through a love of post-run cake!
New friends should always have great jazz hands...

The biggest challenge ahead, without a doubt, is running my first full marathon: London, April 13th 2014. Training began at the start of December and, in spite of a minor knee-pain wobble, has been going well. Over the next 3 months I'll be posting a weekly training update as I count down to the big one. This will also tie in with my record of runs for the Jantastic running challenge, which kicks off tomorrow - so if you want to join in get signed up quick!

One of the aims I set in August 2013 was to do a triathlon before I hit 30. My swimming and cycling has definitely taken a bit of a back seat to marathon training, but I've bitten the bullet and signed up for a super-sprint distance triathlon in May!! 

Another first in 2014 will be my first 24-hour race experience - the Adidas Thunder Run at the end of July. Along with four other amazing running-blogging ladies in the relay team, we will be tackling 24 hours of trail running come rain or shine, light or dark. I'm really excited about this one: head torches at the ready!!

There are many more races and challenges already in the diary, and more sure to come as the year moves along. As things stand, 2014 is shaping up to be a vintage fit year for this city girl....

What goals have you set for the new year? Are you running a marathon this spring? I'd love to hear how training is going - drop me a message below or come say hi on twitter :)

Happy New Year - hope it's a good one!

Katy | City Girl Fit