Week In Review – Are We There Yet?

The last full week of the school year (the final week is shorter as we finish on Thursday lunchtime) was a busy one with a day out of school on a course, a school show to see, and the initial preparations for a move of classroom. What with all that and my decision to ease off on running for a few days to help settle the issue in my right leg, I feel like I didn’t train as much even though realistically I only missed one midweek run! As usual, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly roundup.

Having already made the decision not to run midweek, my schedule looked like this:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 4-5 miles

The week began with me out of school for a one day course. Next session I’m going to be taking on the role of supporter/mentor for a probationer teacher and needed to attend a training course to learn more about the role and the various things that need to happen for that probationer to become a fully registered teacher at the end of the year. The course itself was really interesting, but I must admit that at this point in the year it was an awful lot of new information to take in and the room we were in was pretty warm. Still, I did have the additional advantage of being able to head straight home afterwards rather than get caught up in anything else so was in the pool by 5pm swimming my lengths. It did feel really refreshing after being so warm all day and I felt much better when I got home so decided to head out for a walk after dinner (it was a lovely evening and I still had some steps to get to reach my 10,000 target!). I’m so lucky to have this practically on my doorstep:

IMG_2235
On Tuesday I had 20 reps of my bike intervals to do. Regular readers may remember that each cycle goes up to 20 reps before changing, so this is the peak of the current cycle. I chose the same bike as last week and started out very interested to see how my leg would feel. Interestingly, this week’s 20 reps felt easier than last week’s 18, so clearly the extra rest made a difference, which I found encouraging. I then followed this up with some mobility work and stretching before squeezing in a quick sauna to finish off.

Wednesday’s rest day came at quite a fortuitous time as I decided this would be the day that would best suit me to go and see our school show, Billy Elliot. We have been very lucky to get the rights to stage the schools’ version of the show and are the only school in the country to have the honour. Two boys were cast as Billy and performed on alternate nights so each had two shows. I have to say, I knew we had some talented pupils but watching the cast sing, dance and act to highly professional standards was phenomenal. They were in turns funny, dramatic and emotive, with me almost in tears at one part. It was just amazing and I felt so proud of them all, but particularly the ones I knew from my recent senior classes who have grown into fine young people ready to move onto the next stage of their lives. Sob!

IMG_2236
IMG_2237
I’m incredibly glad I had the chance to see the show, but my goodness I was tired on Thursday after the later night! Thankfully I had my Ashranga class that evening and it was just what I needed to stretch out and relax. I DEFINITELY drifted off during the relaxation this week!

Friday was another rest day. I was heading off for a post-school coffee with my colleagues and a former colleague who retired this time last year. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we headed to the cafe at a nearby fruit farm. I really enjoyed my tea and peanut butter slice (yum) but couldn’t resist getting a punnet of strawberries to take home as well.

Having done lots of mobility work through the week to sort out the tightness in my right leg, things were feeling much improved. There was no longer any tightness at all in my calf and just a slight sensation of it around the back of my knee so I decided to go ahead with parkrun so I would have a comparison with last week. After a week off running my legs, of course, set off at a suicidal pace which I had to reign in, but there were no issues with my leg this time and I was pleased to finish in 24:15 – better than I expected and not too far off where my fitness has been recently. Very encouraging.

IMG_2238
IMG_2257
Saturday Hatha yoga classes are finished for the summer, but I did devote some time throughout the remainder of the day to further mobility work so I can finally overcome this issue in my leg and get back to some longer runs. No yoga did mean I could join Steve for a post-parkrun coffee and bacon croissant though 🙂

IMG_2264
Since everything had felt ok on Saturday, a Sunday run was back on the agenda so long as I kept the distance down to between 4 and 5 miles. Steve set out early for his final big training session before Ironman 70.3 next weekend and I had a more leisurely start before heading out on a loop which I thought would be about the right distance. It turned out to be 4.8 miles which was perfect and my leg still felt ok when I was running so all the work I’ve been doing has clearly helped. It was a bit cloudy but I still felt warm so did all my post-run stretching in the garden – including legs up the wall, which this week was legs up the fence! I’ll not manage a run next Sunday, but hopefully things are getting back to normal for me now.

IMG_2267
IMG_2273
IMG_2291
So that’s another week over. Listening to my body and taking the extra rest has made a difference and hopefully I won’t need to miss any more runs. Fingers crossed that by the time I return from my holiday later in July my body will be ready to ramp up the training again as I get ready for the Loch Ness marathon.

How has your training been recently?
What sessions make you feel strong?

PS Did you see my posts for Tough Girl Challenges this week? I wrote a piece for National Writing Day to encourage more women to have a go at blogging and make their voices heard (you can read that here) and a piece encouraging others to take up running as part of Women’s Sport Week (which you can read here).

How Yoga Changed My Training For Good

Happy International Yoga Day!


I still find it strange that International Yoga Day is something that even registers with me. Yoga was always one of those things I thought I should do.  I would read about its benefits in magazine articles, see it mentioned in blogs I follow and regularly come across social media posts featuring incredibly flexible people twisting themselves into a pretzel. The more I was presented with the idea of yoga, the more I wanted to try it, but just never got around to doing anything about it.

But that’s not to say I had no experience of yoga at all. Years ago, back in what I now think of as “another life” as I tried to forge a path through early adulthood, I realised I should probably try getting some exercise, and alongside the odd “swim” (heads up breaststroke) or visit to the gym where I would faff around on various machines for a while, I also attended a few Dru yoga classes at the local college. The classes were led by a pleasantly plump, motherly woman who took us through a selection of gentle stretches before tucking us in under blankets for the most glorious relaxation. I enjoyed it, but as life moved on and things changed, it was something I let go. Yet somewhere in the back of my mind the idea of “properly” taking up yoga was firmly rooted, waiting to sprout when the time was right.

And that time was early 2016. Now leading a very different (and happier) life with lots of structured training and regular races, I was also coming across more and more about yoga and its various benefits. It finally dawned on me that it could make a difference to my training and perhaps help to “injury-proof” my body. I had tended to shy away from yoga as I thought I wasn’t flexible enough, but was realising at last that yoga would IMPROVE my flexibility – not going because I wasn’t flexible enough was like not starting to run because I couldn’t run far enough. A ridiculous notion! So I looked into my options, sent some emails and decided on an Ashtanga class at a local yoga studio.

I loved it from the very first class. It was a beginners’ session designed to introduce the basics before joining the main class. As it turned out, despite others being expected I was the only one there so had a one-to-one session to introduce me to ujjayi breathing and some of the key postures. With my grounding in running and fitness, the teacher felt I could join the main class the following week: a led session working through around half of the Ashtanga primary series. At first it was a little tricky as I was unfamiliar with the sequence of postures and didn’t know how each one should feel if done correctly, but soon it became almost like muscle memory and I found I could more easily move from one posture to the next without reminder. I also began to notice improvements in my flexibility as I was moving more deeply into some of the postures as time went on and progressing into full postures from some of the options.

Now, I’m a little more than a year into my yoga journey. My weekly Ashtanga class is a crucial part of my schedule as it makes such a massive difference to how I feel. I leave the class feeling stretched out, relaxed and centred. At crunch points in the year it helps me to forget about the stresses of work and unwind. During marathon training it helps to keep my body in check and the improved strength and flexibility I have gained DEFINITELY help me to run better and be more in tune with my body to (hopefully) notice any little niggle before it becomes a big problem.

I’ve also added more yoga into my life with a weekly Hatha class – a more gentle selection of postures and breathing exercises which allows me to take some time for myself and focus on how my body feels. This is more about the stretching and the mental wellbeing than the strength and flexibility I am building in Ashtanga, but the two are mutually beneficial. More recently, I committed to 100 days of completing at leat 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work as part of the Tough Girl 100 challenge. This is making me think more carefully about how I can make yoga part of my everyday life and I have been exploring various resources to help me with this.

Thinking about my journey as part of International Yoga Day, it’s clear that yoga has changed my training for good. I like how strong I have become from moving through postures and holding them for a number of breaths. I like how much more flexible my body is, something that really counteracts the demands of running. And I like how going to a class allows me some dedicated me-time and headspace to focus only on the present moment without dwelling on everyday stress or thinking about my to do list. For that alone, yoga has become invaluable in my life and as we approach the summer holidays I intend to spend much more time focusing on my yoga practice so that daily yoga becomes part of my routine.

Yoga really has changed my training for good, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Namaste.

Tell me about your yoga journey…

Week In Review – A Less Than Fresh Start

This past week was one of ups and downs. On the one hand I had a day off work on Monday, but on the other hand I returned on Tuesday to the start of our new timetable and the final stretch to the summer holidays (schools in Scotland do this so that the senior pupils who are returning from their exams can begin their new courses rather than marking time for a month in subjects they may not be continuing with). Starting fresh with new classes is refreshing, but takes a great deal of energy to establish boundaries etc right from the start. Future Me definitely needs this to happen, but Present Me is exhausted and finding the energy for those new classes is a big ask! Somehow I still managed to squeeze in my training, so I’m once more joining the link up with Jessie @ The RIght Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly roundup.

Sticking to my well-established pattern, my plan for the week was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Fridaymobility rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

And around all of that I also maintained my commitment to to my Tough GIrl 100 challenge to complete at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day. On the days when I don’t have a yoga class I have been using a mixture of my usual mobility work alongside videos from Jasyoga and Yoga With Adriene. At the moment I have been using shorter sequences as my time is so limited, but as the challenge progresses and I have a bit more time available over the summer, I’d love to try some longer sequences as well as turning my attention to some postures from my Ashtanga class which I would like to work on further.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, Monday was a holiday in the region I work for so the school was closed. I used the time to catch up on some household chores and get some more of my exam marking done. Around mid-afternoon I walked down to the gym for my swim then walked home by a rather circuitous route to go the supermarket for some fresh fish. That made sure I reached my step goal for the day as well as enjoying my time in the pool when it was a little less busy.

Despite the day off, Tuesday was exhausting. I met a succession of new classes and there are always a few kinks to iron out to make sure everybody is in the right place at the right time. By the time I got to the gym for my bike reps I was feeling pretty weary, but was unsure if this was a mental or physical tiredness. I got stuck into my bike reps and the first few felt hard – I even wondered how I was going to manage the full set – but as I went on my body adapted and I was able to complete my workout feeling strong. After my stretches and mobility work I headed to the steam room for a few minutes to relax and unwind before heading home to get stuck back into my exam duties.

IMG_2182
Wednesday meant more of the new routine, but at least when it was time to head out for my run the sun was shining (the weather this week was so awful I thought I might have to build an ark!). I was still feeling a bit weary but again my body knew what it had to do as soon as I got my hill reps started. It felt tough, but I don’t think my performance was overly different to previous weeks, so I’ll put that down to the end of term exhaustion! A great way to celebrate Global Running Day.

IMG_2169
Thursday’s Ashtanga class was a much-needed moment of calm and me-time in a hectic week. Far from the outdoor class in beautiful sunshine a couple of weeks ago, this week we were watching the most awful rain through the studio windows! The class really helped me to stretch my weary legs and calm my mind which had been whirling with exam papers and new classes. Phew! I wasn’t so enamoured with the almost wintery weather though. It was so nasty that someone whose house I passed on a post-yoga walk when the rain finally stopped seemed to have decided it was time to put their Christmas lights up 😉

IMG_2176
Usually on a Friday I have a mobility session to complete, but with Steve away on a course I decided to take this as a rest day. I caught up on some exam stuff then walked the mile or so to pick up some Chinese food to eat – step goal met and a delicious dinner as a reward!

I awoke on Saturday to the most awful weather. On Friday night I had seen pictures showing flash flooding in the car park and parts of the path in the park where we have parkrun. The event was going ahead, but we were all warned we might get our feet wet!

18951474_1438785916215430_7092287101982899012_n

Picture from Perth parkrun on Facebook

I opted for my “winter parkrun shoes” as I thought a wash for them might be in order, and made sure to take a jacket as it was POURING! It turned out the worst of the flooding had gone, but I was still greeted by the sight of over 100 runners gathering in the foyer of the nearby sports centre questioning their sanity! After the quickest possible briefing we headed off…right into the wind! As we left the park to join the riverside path the rain did stop and conditions felt quite nice, but as soon as we hit the turn it was BAM! Straight into a headwind that we battled all the way back (and it was STILL raining in the park!). It was a strange one as I felt I was working awfully hard but couldn’t decide if it was the conditions or how tired I had been feeling. I was passing people, but my pace wasn’t spectacular and I fought hard for every second of my 25:03 finish when I know that realistically I’m in around 24 minute form. Looking at the results later I noticed that most runners were 30-60 seconds off their best times so I think this one was mainly the conditions. I headed home looking pretty bedraggled (with a bonus stop at the vet to pick up some supplies for the cat – God knows what they thought of me!)

IMG_2178
There was no Hatha yoga class this week, so after a shower and some marking I headed out to get some food shopping then settled in for an afternoon of marking interspersed with some other short tasks to force me to move about a bit and refresh my mind. Still, by the time it got to early evening I’d had enough so made my dinner (pizza – not up to the usual standard since my personal pizza chef was away and I had to settle for shop bought) then settled down with the cat to finish watching the latest series of Once Upon a Time on Netflix (with a cheeky G&T since it was World Gin Day – it would have been rude not to!)

IMG_2191
Sunday was slightly nicer. I was still feeling tired so decided that I wouldn’t necessarily push the pace on my long run but just run to feel. I also decided that I didn’t fancy another run around the same route I’ve used the last few weeks so opted for something different which would have no steep hills but a couple of longer, shallower inclines and the likelihood of some headwinds.  It would also take me here:

IMG_2193
I took this photo whilst sheltering under a tree to put my jacket on as the rain had come on again and was really heavy. Typically, it had cleared by the time I got to the other side of the path a mile further on so I had to stop again to take the jacket off. That’s Scottish summer time! In the end I ran quite well and was happy with my 8:53 overall pace for 10 miles as that’s at the quicker end of my ideal marathon pace and over a route with a lot less downhill to let me really go for it!

D3C3F4FB-5898-4ECA-8A10-4FEC05394CE5
The remainder of the day was, again, spent on my exam duties. It will all be finished in the next few days though and I’ll suddenly feel like I’ve created lots of time!

Next week my mileage cuts back a little to allow for some recovery, and I think I’m definitely needing that right now!

How has the weather been where you are? Has it affected your training?
What is your current goal or challenge?

Week in Review – A Break From Routine

Like last week, this past week hasn’t exactly followed my normal pattern, but I’m pleased to report that I still completed all my planned training. Go me! As ever, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly recap.

The structure of my training is now pretty well established, but here’s how this week looked:

Mondayswim Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – mobility
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 9 miles

The week began with a degree of training uncertainty. As part of my exam marking role I was required to be out of school again on Monday for a meeting in Edinburgh. I got the train so I wouldn’t have the stress of driving into the centre of Edinburgh on a weekday, but this meant I wasn’t sure when I would get back to Perth. Steve dropped me off at the station as my train was at 8am and I walked from the station in Edinburgh to the meeting venue (about a mile) so was already more active than usual for a Monday. The trains are about once an hour so I couldn’t be sure what train home I would get. In the end I arrived back in Perth around 5pm and walked the mile or so home from the station. This meant there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a swim before going to yoga (I had another missed class to make up), but had the bonus of reaching double step goal on a day when I normally have to be quite creative to meet my goal at all! I enjoyed the class and really appreciated the time to myself after another day focusing on the intricacies of exam marking, but sadly it wasn’t enough to help me drift off to sleep that night and that poor sleep set the tone for the week.

Tuesday was a bit of a struggle as I was feeling really tired from not sleeping enough, but I still went to the gym for my bike reps. I was perfectly prepared to back off a bit and go by feel, but the reps actually made me feel a bit better. I used the chance to also do a bit of mobility work before hitting the pool for a swim. I really like having a swim after the bike session but don’t always manage to fit that in. I had hoped that this would mean a good sleep, but I made the mistake of working too long into the evening and just wasn’t in bed for long enough. Oops!

Wednesday was warm, but not as much as last week so I felt much better during my hill reps. I’ve had the same session for the last couple of weeks so it’s easy for me to compare my performance week on week and consider the impact of factors like weather and how I’m feeling. Although tired, I felt my performance was better than last week so I was pleased. Still not enough sleep that night though – I just didn’t learn my lesson!

IMG_2093
On Thursday my day was a little different. I was in school, but only with one year group (the seniors were still on study leave and two year groups were out on various activities). It was a bit of a weird day and for various reasons I just didn’t achieve as much as I had hoped. Heading to Ashtanga that evening was a welcome relief! We were back in the studio again as the weather wasn’t as good, but it was a great class, despite my tiredness making my balance a bit iffy in some of the postures! Afterwards I (yet again) got caught up in some exam stuff and worked a little too long. Not ideal, but it’s only once a year and the marking period is relatively short so I can cope.

Friday was another different day for me and I really enjoyed it. As part of our annual health promotion week the junior classes are taken out for a day on an organised walk. I had been assigned to accompany the year group heading out on Friday and was pleased to find myself with a really nice group of 50 pupils. Their walk was taking place at Loch Leven (where I recently ran the half marathon) but on a portion of the heritage trail. Our starting point was where we had registered for the race and we were led from there onto the path which we followed for about 3.5 miles around by the loch to reach our lunch venue. Fortunately it was dry (in fact, conditions were ideal for walking – dry and mild but not too hot) so it was really nice having our picnic on a nice grass area. We spent about an hour there and the pupils had a group activity to complete about responsible behaviour in the outdoors. After lunch we set off again for a slightly longer stretch (not quite 4 miles) to our bus pick up point (there were two other groups out walking around different stretches of the trail so we were a bit more spread out and unsuspecting walkers wouldn’t have 200 young people suddenly descending on them!). The kids were brilliant: super behaviour and no complaints, although I was amused at the fact that they had covered less than half a mile before they started asking when lunch was ha!

IMG_2101
Once back at school I had a bit of a chat with my colleagues (we had all been on various activities over Thursday and Friday so hadn’t all been together) then drove straight to the studio for a mobility session with Steve (I had spent the day in workout gear so there was no need to change). We worked through a series of exercises targeting the usual spots: upper back, hips and core. The temperature picked up during the day so I did have to clean myself up a bit afterwards before I was fit to be seen in public when we went out to eat lol!

IMG_2103
I had been hopeful of a longer sleep, however the cat decided to allow me just half an hour extra before declaring that starvation was imminent and I had to get up and fill her bowl. I did manage a short doze afterwards, but it wasn’t quite the same.

It was pacer week at parkrun so I was down sharp to collect my pacing bib. I had 29 minutes this time and to be honest I found it pretty tough to settle into the required pace and ended up finishing in 28:39! Oh well, I can’t imagine anyone would complain about getting a faster time than they wanted! I ran most of the course with a lovely woman who is quite new to running. Turned out she had met with Steve during the week to discuss some training and we had a nice time chatting while I gave her a bit of advice on her running. It was only her second parkrun and she did brilliantly, sprinting off in the last kilometre while I tried to keep the pace even and encourage some others around me. Much as I love to run a hard parkrun, I also really enjoy pacing as it gives me a chance to chat to new people and run at a more leisurely (for me) pace. I would definitely recommend it if you ever get the chance.

IMG_8045
IMG_2114
After parkrun I had a quick change then headed off to my Hatha yoga class. I really feel the benefit of that post-run stretch and it sets me up for the rest of the day which, right now, is mostly centred around the exam marking and my team management duties.

On Sunday Steve headed off on a long cycle as part of a brick session for his forthcoming half ironman. I, meanwhile, had a bit of a tidy around the house then got ready for my 9 mile run. It was sunny but not too hot, so shorts and a vest were ideal. Of course the weather suddenly became very changeable and I got soaked in a midrun downpour, but it was still a good run. I have been running a very similar route every Sunday, with slight tweaks to vary the distance, and my plan remains the same: capitalise on the endurance I’ve built by running a bit faster so that after my holiday I will (hopefully) find marathon pace feels a lot easier as I build up the miles again towards the Loch Ness Marathon. Given that my route features a pretty big hill, I was pleased to finish with an overall average of 8:46 per mile, only a tiny bit slower than last week, but with much more of a headwind through large chunks of the route. Needless to say, by the time I was finished I looked pretty bedraggled!

IMG_2138
Next week I’m hoping to get my sleeping pattern back under control. The marking process should level out a bit, with my team perhaps not needing quite as much input, and I’ve changed my bedding as I know clean sheets help me to sleep better. A day off work on Monday should help too! I’ll let you know how it goes…

How has your training gone this week?
What is your next event?

Tough Girl 100

Ever since I first listened to the Tough Girl Podcast back in 2015, it’s safe to say that it’s become a huge influence in my life. Listening to all the amazing things the women interviewed have achieved inspires me to keep chasing my dreams, and being part of the Tough Girl Tribe (a closed Facebook group for female listeners of the podcast) is incredibly refreshing in how supportive and inclusive it is.

I’ve written before about how much I love the podcast (did I mention that I was interviewed for the Tough Girl Daily Podcast after the Paris marathon? 😉 You can read more about that here) and often encourage others to listen to it. I believe so strongly in what its creator, Sarah Williams, is aiming to achieve that I not only listen each week, but support the show as a patron and have become a member of the Tough Girl Team supporting Sarah behind the scenes with various aspects of social media, especially while she is away taking on her latest challenge: Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail in 100 Days!

And that is where today’s post comes in…

Sarah’s hike started today (3rd June 2017) and to help involve her listeners more she has encouraged us all to take on our own 100 day challenge. The idea is that we commit to doing something positive every day that will create a habit and add value to our lives. It could be absolutely anything like drinking 2 litres of water every day, getting 10,000 steps every day or reading 10 pages of a book every day. As soon as the challenge was announced I knew I wanted to take part and it wasn’t long before I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do: yoga.

One of my goals for this year is to commit to more yoga outside of my classes, and so far I’ve not really done much about that. I am going to at least one yoga class every week, but haven’t created the habit of doing yoga at home. This challenge gives me just the push I need to start doing exactly that and make yoga part of my daily routine.

And so, for the next 100 days I am committing to at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every single day. I kicked it all off with a Hatha yoga class this morning and intend to make more use of Jasyoga and other online resources (as well as working on some postures I’d like to progress in) to help me reach that goal. By writing it here I’m making myself even more accountable and will chart my progress in various blog posts. I’m really looking forward to it!

Fancy joining me? It’s not too late to commit to just one thing that you’re going to do each day to improve your life. I’d love to hear what you decide…

Week in Review – A Change Is As Good As A Rest

It’s been a bit of a different week for me. Apart from the arrival of summer at last, I was away for a night on a work trip – something that’s a bit of a rarity in teaching – which meant a change to my routine. Read on as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to I recap my week.

Despite my trip I did manage to keep the structure of my week (mostly) as planned:

Monday – swim + Hatha yoga
Tuesday – Bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – Hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 8 miles

Monday was a bit of a rush as I had a dental checkup at 5pm and got stuck in traffic on my way home from work. Luckily I made it. Just! My dentist is near my gym so I was able to head in for a swim afterwards and benefitted from some tips from a very good swimmer who has taken an interest in my progress. He often gives me advice on how to make form tweaks which will help improve my swimming and I find this really helpful as I have no idea what my form looks like as I make my way through the water. After my swim I had time for a short relax in the hot tub before getting showered and changed. Since I had missed a couple of my Saturday Hatha yoga classes I was going to a Monday class instead to “make up” (we pay for a block in advance). Going on a Monday evening was a really nice way to round off the day, especially after all my rushing around after work!

It was on Tuesday that my routine began to change. I am involved in the process of marking and quality assuring exam papers, and the preparation for this each year requires me to be out of school for two days while the standard is finalised. This year my meeting was taking place in Edinburgh and I opted to stay over in order to remove the stress of driving up and down the road in peak traffic, through lots of roadworks. This also helps me to clear my head and focus on the task ahead. Since teachers don’t often have meetings or courses outside of school, one of the highlights is always the food! So for my readers who are teachers, this was my lunch:

IMG_1943
IMG_1944
I wasn’t staying at the same venue as the meeting but my hotel was just a few minutes away, right next door to the zoo! This made my “commute” much shorter, giving me plenty of time to make use of the hotel gym facilities for my bike intervals. Using different equipment made it harder to get the right intensity level on the bike, but the most important thing is that I still got my workout done and was able to spend time on some mobility work as well.

IMG_1945

I also did a few lengths of the pool to try out the form tips I was given on Monday, before making use of the hot tub and sauna!

Since I was viewing this solo work trip as a bit of a treat (I was working hard during the day, but the evening was my own), I opted for a steak dinner and a small glass of wine which I enjoyed whilst catching up on some blog reading I had fallen behind with.

IMG_1951

And no hotel stay would be complete without a relaxing bath. Yes, I take hotel stays VERY seriously lol!

IMG_1953
My short journey back to the meeting venue on Wednesday meant I could sleep slightly later, although I did end up waking up a bit sooner than I need to so enjoyed time reading in bed with a cup of tea before getting organised and heading to breakfast. Given how seriously I take hotel stays, it should be no surprise that I fully availed myself of the spread available to create a three course breakfast!

IMG_1954
IMG_1955
IMG_1956
The remainder of the day was spent over marking preparations, pausing of course for lunch!

IMG_1957
IMG_1958
Once home at the end of the day I had hill reps on my schedule. It was a hot day and I’d spent two days eating heavier meals than usual, but I gamely headed out anyway. I’m not going to lie, some of those longer reps were hard work, but I completed the set before heading home to melt into a puddle in the garden! It’s nice to have some good weather as I enjoy doing my post-run stretches (and jumping about!) in the garden.

IMG_1979
IMG_1964
Thursday was another hot day so it was lovely to arrive at Ashtanga yoga and have the teacher suggest taking the class outside. I know they did this one night last year, but I think it was when I was away on holiday so missed it. We took our mats over to the North Inch and worked through the series of postures on the grass, surrounded by lots of other people out enjoying the warm evening in various ways: sunbathing, dog walking, sports… It was perfect! It felt a little odd having a different surface under me, and one or two times I had to shift around on my mat a bit due to a bit of uneven ground, but I would definitely do that again.

IMG_1992
On Fridays Steve has added a mobility session to my programme. Ordinarily I will do this at home on my own, however he had a cancellation this week so was able to fit me in at the studio. It was another hot day so in the end I refused to go inside and I completed my session in the car park! I may have had a few funny looks from those departing for the weekend, but at least I got to enjoy the fresh air and nice weather for a bit.

IMG_1996
It was so nice that I actually took a short walk once I got home as I wanted to enjoy the sun for a bit longer. I then took my MacBook into the garden and worked there for a while until it was time to go and eat. It was a bit warm for my usual choice of chicken curry, so I opted for a chilli burger instead (yes, I did cut it in half before remembering to take a photo – bad blogger!).

IMG_2007
IMG_2008
The run of hot weather continued into Saturday morning and I knew parkrun was going to be a toasty one. I wore pretty minimal kit, but the bulk of the course is in direct sunshine so I got pretty warm and ended up being a little slower than last week with a 24:03. To be honest, I thought I would be slower! It was a really busy parkrun and we had a new record turnout of 286 which was brilliant. There was also the annual volleyball tournament taking place in the park so the area was really busy and buzzing with activity.

fullsizeoutput_1e40
Of course I was a pretty sweaty mess afterwards but managed a quick turnaround to freshen up and head to my Hatha yoga class. It was a really good class and I must have been really relaxed at the end as I suddenly became aware of the teacher telling us to start moving our fingers and toes at the end of the relaxation. I must have completely drifted off!

Saturday afternoon was quite overcast and there was a little rain, with a bit of thunder later on, but by Sunday morning this had cleared to leave another hot and sunny morning. Once more I found some minimal kit and headed out a bit earlier for my run. I had 8 miles to do and was taking the same approach as last week to run harder in order to capitalise on the endurance I’ve built by adding a bit of speed. My route was pretty similar to my 10 mile run last Sunday and the sun definitely made it tough in places, but I finished with an overall pace average a bit quicker than last week so I was pleased. If I can continue to perform well in warmer weather then I should definitely gain some performance benefits as the weather cools down into the autumn. Right now I’m all about finding those marginal gains that will make a difference to my marathon performance!
IMG_2060
fullsizeoutput_1e47It’s been so good to get some warmer weather, even if it did make my workouts a bit harder! Still, I’m happy with how I performed throughout the week and I know strong performances in the heat will be beneficial in the long term.

How do you fare in warmer weather?
Do you enjoy staying in hotels?

Week in Review – An Easy Week

Despite treating last weekend’s half marathon as a training run rather than a race, I still felt it worthwhile to cut back my training in the week afterwards since I had jumped up my mileage a little in order to take part. Yes, I recently ran a marathon so have all that training “in the bank” but I still prefer a sensible build up in mileage to help avoid injuries. In this post I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my post-race recovery and training.

Last week‘s race, unusually, was on a Saturday so I’d already enjoyed a rest day on the Sunday. Here’s how the rest of my week went:

Mondayswim sports massage
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 4 miles
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

I actually fully intended going for a swim on Monday as I find getting in the water after a long or hard run really useful. Unfortunately I was too late getting away from work and needed to nip home to check the cat had enough food so didn’t quite have enough time to squeeze in a swim before my sports massage. I have a sports massage every month as part of my strategy to help me recover and to spot any issues before they become problems. I was really pleased to find that my legs were in pretty good shape and they felt even better after Katie had massaged them. Thanks Katie 🙂

Tuesday was a complete rest. If I’m honest, I would have been OK to train but I had a commitment to meet a friend for coffee after work and the logistics of that meant there was no time for a workout. Since it was a nice evening, I took a short walk when I got back before settling down to eat and relax.

By Wednesday things were back on track, but rather than go for another set of hill reps, Steve advised sticking to a simple run. No particular pace, but around 4 miles. I decided just to let my body tell me how it wanted to run and while I felt a little sluggish at the start, by the end of my 4 miles I was feeling much better.

IMG_1893
Thursday remains by far my favourite workout of the week. I feel such a difference in my body (strength, flexibility, movement) after a year of Ashtanga yoga and I still notice improvements all the time. The class covers about half the Ashtanga primary series, led by a teacher, so we don’t do exactly the same sequence every time. This week we did a posture we haven’t done for a while (I’m still not great with all the Sanskrit names!). It’s quite a tricky one and I was able to get much closer to being able to do the full posture than I’ve ever been before. I was quite amazed as I wasn’t expecting that to happen.

It was another rest day on Friday. I had initially wondered about fitting in a swim here, but the cat was due a checkup with the vet (you’ll remember she’s pretty old for a cat and with an age-related health condition) and Friday was the most convenient. They were running a bit behind due to an emergency so while the cat quietly seethed in her basket, I enjoyed watching the other pets in the waiting room, my favourites being the cutest little sausage dog I’ve ever seen and the the tiny turtle with an infection (absolutely no idea how they could tell!). It was a positive visit as there was no need for further medication or tests and she’s even put on a little weight! Once home, I headed out for a walk since I had been sitting around for a while then it was time to head out to eat. According to Facebook, Steve and I have now been friends for 9 years so we marked the occasion with a delicious steak dinner. I’m so glad steak was on as a special that night as I was really craving it!

IMG_1897
On Saturday the cat decided to give me one of her famous early wake up calls, so I wasn’t sure how I would perform at parkrun. As soon as we got underway my legs decided they wanted to run fast and I was waiting for the rest of my body to mount a protest, but I managed to not only sustain my pace but actually get a little quicker with each mile to complete the Royal Flush Negative Split and finish with a time of 23:49 (7:51, 7:46, 7:40 and the last nubbin at 6:43 pace!). That means the three parkruns I have done since Paris have been progressively faster – 24:15, 24:05 and 23:49. In actual fact my fastest this year is 23:39, so it looks like I’m not too far away from that and hopefully I can improve on that time over the summer. Saturday was also a pretty wet day so I didn’t look my finest when I finished!

IMG_1898
IMG_1930
No Hatha yoga for me this week as I had an appointment, but I plan to go on Monday instead. It will be a lovely way to end my Monday.

My four-legged friend provided another early alarm call on Sunday, but I took my time getting ready for my run. I had 10 miles on my plan and have made a decision about my training for the next few weeks. Through the winter I was running slowly on Sunday mornings to build endurance, however now that endurance is in place I need to work a little more on my pace. I won’t run any more than half marathon distance before heading off on my summer holiday, so it seems that the best way to use those runs to capitalise on my endurance base is to run them a bit faster. On this run I was aiming to run at or faster than marathon pace, with the target of completing 10 miles in 1:30 or less (approx 4 hour marathon pace which is 9:09 per mile). I also included hills towards the end as I know that’s what I can expect at the Loch Ness marathon. Despite Mother Nature providing yet another free shower, I was well within target with 10 miles in 1:28 and an 8:53 per mile average. Perfect! Hopefully this approach will help develop my pace in the next few weeks then when I return from my holiday I’m going to use my long runs in a different way, a bit more like fartlek-type runs.

IMG_1938The rest of the day was spent relaxing. We had a chicken to cook and guess who took it upon herself to act as guard? Shame she can’t have any due to her dietary restrictions!

IMG_1942All in all, I think my decision to have an easier week definitely paid off in my performance over the weekend. I’m feeling excited now about the weeks ahead and am already visualising my finish at Loch Ness. Now to make it happen…

How do you like to recover from an event?
What are you training for just now?

Week in Review – Fight the Temptation!

In many ways the second week of my post-marathon recovery is the hardest. I know I need that time to make sure my body is fully ready to return to running, but at the same time everything feels ok and I start getting a bit itchy to get out there again – not helped by it being both the Boston and London marathons this week! Being back at work meant everything else felt “normal” so not having all my usual training made things seem a bit odd. It was a week of fighting the temptation for the greater good! I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share a roundup of my recovery week.

Having spent last week limiting myself to nothing more strenuous than walking and yoga, this week I began to reintroduce my usual training rhythm by including some light cross training. Here’s how my week ended up:

Monday – swim
Tuesdaygentle cycle walk
Wednesday – walk gentle cycle
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – walk
Saturday – Parkrun volunteer plus afternoon walk
Sunday – walk (after watching the London Marathon!)

Monday was the first day of term which is always a bit of a shock. These days I fall into “holiday mode” quite quickly and get so bound up in my “real life” that it can be a bit of a wrench to be back in the classroom. I was at least cheered by my calendar – even Gary Barlow is getting into the marathon spirit this month!

IMG_1511Since I would normally swim on a Monday, going for a swim after work helped to remind me of my own routine. It was nice to be back in the water, and despite a gap of a couple of weeks since my last swim, I felt I swam quite well. I took it nice and easy since this was technically a recovery workout and although I felt a little more tired than usual at the end, I knew that was the after effects of the marathon and length of time since my last swim so nothing to worry about.

However Monday may have been a bit much for me as I awoke on Tuesday with a scratchy throat and aches that didn’t lift all day. My eyes felt heavy and I didn’t feel like doing anything more than going to my bed. Since Tuesdays had previously been bike intervals, I had planned a gentle half hour cycle to get my legs turning over again, but decided instead to just have a walk in the fresh air then relax at home with some hot food and a nice bath before an early night. One thing that did cheer me up was the arrival of my April challenge medal from Virtual Runner. I had entered a cumulative challenge involving running the marathon distance across the month. I, of course, had decided it would be fun to do the whole thing in one go haha!

IMG_1512
IMG_1513By Wednesday the aches had gone but my throat remained scratchy first thing in the morning for the rest of the week. This meant I felt well enough for the cycle I had missed the day before. It felt good to get my heart rate up a little again, and I enjoyed sitting in the hot tub and steam room afterwards. On this day I was also cheered by the replacements for my end of term “casualties”:

IMG_1514I’ve not yet made a return to my PT sessions so Thursday was simply my Ashtanga yoga class. It was another great class for me and I could feel my legs becoming even more “my own” with every posture. I left feeling relaxed and better than I had done all week.

Ordinarily Friday is my rest day, however I’ve not exactly been over-exerting myself lately! The weather was nice when I got home so I went for a walk for 20 minutes or so to enjoy the extra daylight then waited for Steve to arrive home so we could head out to eat. After returning to work and fighting off what was likely a bug, I was more than ready for my Friday night beer and curry!

IMG_1519Saturday is parkrunday but my two weeks off running were not quite up yet so I was on the volunteer roster once more. This week I was on finish tokens which meant I had to check through them before the run started, but was held up in traffic, so enjoyed a bonus run from the car to get to the start! It felt really good to be running, albeit briefly, and I would have loved a bit more, but at least I know that the enjoyment will be there next week when I do run again.

IMG_1521Since Steve was away at a race further north and Hatha yoga hasn’t restarted yet, I decided to head out in the afternoon for a walk. I had a few errands but didn’t need to go into town so instead walked to the retail park, got a coffee then picked up the bits and pieces I needed before taking a different route home. I was probably out for a couple of hours but it was still a productive day.

IMG_1524

Sunday was London Marathon day and since it was also my last day “off” when it came to running, I had grand plans for a morning on the sofa watching the coverage. I love watching all the races from the elite to the runners in crazy costumes. It’s so inspiring and always makes me want to run another marathon! I spent the whole weekend feeling rather envious of those in London soaking up the atmosphere both at the expo and at the race, so would definitely love to get back there again some day. True to form the combination of the theme tune and inspiring stories had me in tears and keen to get back to running again. There’s just something about the London marathon that makes people lace up and get out there!

When the TV coverage finished I realised that I really should move so walked into town for a coffee and to do a little work for the blog.

IMG_1529Thanks to the time out I’m now itching to get running and target my next challenge. My recovery strategy is one week completely off, one week of light cross training then a week where I re-introduce some easy running so long as there are no issues such as injury or tight muscles picked up in the marathon. Right now my legs feel good and I’m looking forward to a couple of easy runs in the week ahead. I know to expect a slower pace, but I also know that I’ll soon feel like I have my own legs under me again.

How long do you take off running after a marathon or goal race?
Are you training for anything in particular right now?

Friday Finds – 21st April

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

At this time year there are always loads of running-related articles around: from coverage of the Boston and London marathons (as well as the countless other spring marathons taking place around the world) to advice on how to get started/run your first race/get faster that come hand in hand with the improving weather. As a result, there are plenty of articles and stories for me to share with you today, covering a wide range of topics…

I’m going to begin with some positive news surrounding parkrun. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you may remember my outrage when Little Stoke parkrun closed after the parish council wanted to charge for the use of the park every week, a move which flew in the face of parkrun’s message of being free forever. But last weekend it emerged that the government is to consult on proposed legislation which would ban councils in England from charging volunteer communities (such as parkrun, a not-for-profit organisation) offering free weekly events in public parks. Parkrun is a fantastic community doing great things to motivate more and more people to exercise regularly, so I for one will be pleased to see such legislation put in place.

For those who enjoy cycling (something I really should do more often as I always love it when I do) then the results of a University of Glasgow study published this week provide some good news. The five year study suggests that those who cycle to work cut their risk of death from causes such as cancer and heart disease by over 40%. Great news for those with an active commute, but as ever the downside to this is that the infrastructure for cyclists in this country needs to be improved in order to tempt more people away from 4 wheels and on to 2!

Also published this week were the results of an interesting study into how “contagious” our exercise habits are. Factoring in our propensity to befriend those who are like us, the study looked instead at a network of worldwide participants and analysed a wealth of data to show that, when it comes to running, friends do influence each other. This seemed particularly pronounced when there was a degree of competitiveness involved, and gender differences were noted too. The article mentions that the researchers now plan to look at how this applies to other forms of exercise, and I think it would be really interesting to compare the results.

Something I’m becoming more interested in is the mental side of training and how a strong mind can help improve performance. Part of my preparation for a race, particularly a marathon, is visualising how I want to finish and using long runs to develop strategies to overcome negative thinking. This next article explains a little more about why building mental strength is important, and how we might begin to do that.

And finally, you may remember back in November I included an article about Harry Potter yoga…well now there’s some video! I think my favourite thing about the whole concept is the “Downward Dumbledore” and now I really want to have a go at this. Any takers?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

7 For 2017 – Quarterly Review

At the start of this year I set my 7 goals for 2017 and at the end of March we were already one quarter of the way through 2017! But am I a quarter of the way towards achieving my goals? Today I want to check in with them and see what progress I’ve made.

1. Set some new race PBs
I’ve only raced twice so far in 2017 and achieved a PB at one of those races (the Inverness Half Marathon) so I guess that’s a 50% record. My main target when it came to this goal was a new marathon PB, but the hot conditions in Paris put paid to that one. Watch this space for my future plans as this is one goal I’m not ready to let go of yet!
My second target was to finally better my 2012 half marathon PB which I achieved in Inverness. I wanted to get a bit closer to 1:52:XX and with !:53:03 I came pretty close over a hilly course, so that’s definitely a big tick!
Finally I thought I might have a go at breaking 50 minutes for 10k. That one is more of a summer/autumn goal when I tend to enter more 10k races so that will be on the backburner for now.
Progress: 1/3 achieved

IMG_72602. Run my 100th parkrun
To achieve this I simply need to be consistent in participating in parkrun every Saturday. So far, this has happened. I missed one parkrun while I was in Paris (I did the Breakfast Run instead) and am currently taking a couple of weeks off to recover post-marathon so am missing a further two, but with 73 parkruns under my belt now I still have a little leeway there to achieve 100 by the end of the year so long as I can continue to be healthy and injury-free. Fingers crossed!
Progress: On Track 

IMG_72953. Maintain my Step Goal Streak
At the end of 2016 I had a step goal streak on my activity tracker of 6 months straight, so my goal for 2017 was to take that initially to 12 months, but to ideally take at least 10,000 steps per day for the full year. As I write this I’m on day 292 so am closing in on the milestone of 300. Getting my steps has become habit for me now and I incorporate extra walks into my day which really make me feel better, so this one is currently looking good.
Progress: On Track

4. Read at least 30 books
I have this one set as a challenge in Goodreads so I can keep a close eye on how I’m getting on. In 2016 I managed 27 books (but one of them, rather ambitiously, was War and Peace!) so 30 should be do-able when I consider I’m likely to read several books during my relaxing summer holiday. At the moment I’ve read 8, which Goodreads tells me is 27% of my total and puts me comfortably ahead of the quarter-way mark.
Progress: On Track

5. Make more time to relax and prioritise rest during the work week
This was one I knew I had to really work on as I’m a natural night owl but have to rise quite early in the morning. During marathon training I got better and better at getting to bed early, and I’m trying to be a bit more conscious of going to bed when I feel tired rather than sitting downstairs longer for no good reason. On Saturdays I’ve become used to an afternoon nap, and I even had a short nap after one of my long runs as I felt too weary to eat! What I learned in this last marathon training cycle is to prioritise rest and early nights much sooner in the process. For the first month or so I was quite busy but since my runs were still fairly short, I felt ok. When the accumulated training load started to take effect, I really noticed the difference in how tired I felt. Next time I’ll make sure I’m well-rested from the start.
Progress: Much improved 

6. Commit to more yoga outside of my weekly classes
Perhaps the one I’ve done least about. I have continued with my two yoga classes per week and not only have I noticed the difference in my flexibility and strength from this, but my Ashtanga teacher commented that she could see the difference in the way my body moves. Both of these are really positive for my running. Unfortunately I’ve not done quite as much outside of these classes as I would like. I’m still to work through my Hit Reset book from Jasyoga, but I have incorporated one or two things from the associated videos into my post-run routine, most notably lying with my legs up the wall for 10-15 minutes which I am convinced is making a difference to my recovery. I also include some mobility work in this routine and my gym routine, however I’d still like to find a place for more frequent yoga practice in my day to day life. Perhaps now my marathon training cycle is complete I can turn my attention to this one.
Progress: Working on it!

IMG_13287. Blog more consistently
To develop from my 2016 postaweek commitment, in 2017 my aim was to write at least one post per week IN ADDITION to Friday Finds. So far, this has gone well. Friday Finds has actually gone out on time every week and I have published a Week in Review every Monday. Many weeks have seen other posts go out too, so to date I’ve met my goal on this one and still have plenty of things up my sleeve which I’d love to write about. I have gained some new followers along the way (hello to you all!) and since I’m fond of statistics, it will be interesting to look at my stats at the end of the year and see how they compare to 2016.
Progress: On Track 

IMG_1461When I sat down to write this post I wasn’t actually sure I’d made much progress towards my goals at all, but writing it all down has given me a great opportunity to reflect and realise that I have. Several of my goals require long-term commitment, and that commitment is there. I’ll check in with them again in the summer to see how things are going.

How are you getting on with your goals for 2017?
Any book recommendations or topics you would like me to cover in a post?