Friday Finds – 22nd September

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.

In a bid to make my preparations for marathon weekend a bit easier, I’ve written the bulk of this in advance so let’s hope there’s not some huge story that breaks when it’s too late to add it in! Theoretically, as you read this I’m getting myself organised for the trip to Inverness and/or making sure I relax ahead of the race, but there’s no way I wanted to miss sharing some finds with you.

Last week I included the bizarre story of all the runners accused of cheating at the Mexico City marathon. This week, even more has come to light around this with several sources carrying the story. I originally picked it up from Marathon Investigation, where analyst Derek Murphy now believes that the cheating was motivated by a desire for the medal rather than a BQ. Now I’ve coveted some bling in my time, but I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing I hadn’t earned it legitimately.

And the story prompted SBNation to remind us of some other tales of cheating from throughout running history:

Another race hit the headlines this past week, but for very different reasons. Perhaps you saw footage from the Copenhagen half marathon at the weekend, but if not you need to take a look at this. The race began in beautiful weather, but soon changed as storms swept in. Amid lightning and torrential rain, the race had to be stopped to help ensure safety (there were reports of people being struck by lightning) and even the timing mats were floating away. Yet some dogged souls still continued their race. What would you do?

And speaking of dogged determination, that’s definitely one way to describe marathoner Devon Bieling. After falling to the ground exhausted just metres from the finish line, she tried to crawl to the finish but was hampered by the sharp gravel…so she rolled over the line instead. Not only that, but she still managed to finish within the cut off for her BQ. Now that’s one incredible finish (but I really hope I don’t have to resort to that on Sunday!).

I couldn’t let this week go by without mentioning cyclist Mark Beaumont. Not only has he just set an incredible new world record with his around the world cycle, but he’s from my part of the world. What an adventure!

And finally, we all know running can do funny things to your insides and have probably all had to take an unintended pit stop during a run or cut a run short to answer the call of nature, but in Colorado Springs a most bizarre situation is unfolding as a runner nicknamed “The Mad Pooper” appears to be targeting some residences to leave her mark. How very odd!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 11th August

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.

Have you been watching the World Championships Athletics from London this week? I’ve been loving watching world class competition every evening and there have been some thrilling performances to watch – the men’s 10,000m, the women’s marathon and the legend that is Usain Bolt to name a few. There have also been some more “controversial” moments – continuing discussion of Caster Semenya, Makwala not being allowed to race due to illness and the reception of Justin Gatlin spring to mind. All of these have been covered extensively in my news feeds this week, but rather than go over old ground I thought I would bring you a few articles I had already saved…

I’m going to start with this piece by Running Like a Girl author Alexandra Heminsley. Considering the brilliant This Girl Can campaign from Sport England, Heminsley reflects on some of the barriers we create for ourselves which hold us back from participation. I have often heard people make comments like, “I’m not a real runner,” or say that they can’t take up a particular sport or go to a particular gym class until they lose weight/get fitter/become more flexible – some of the very things that activity would help with. Heminsley herself recognises that these moments mirror her own thinking before finding sport and once upon a time I felt the same. A great reminder that whether it’s running, swimming or something else entirely, nobody is born a fully-formed expert, but participation is all it takes to be able to call yourself part of the tribe.

This next article has raised some very interesting debate. Is it more impressive to run a super fast mile or to complete a marathon (or ultra)? It seems to me that every distance presents its own unique challenges, but that doesn’t necessarily make one better than another. In the mile, you’ve got a few minutes of lung-busting, heart-thumping effort (possibly ending with a bit of “pavement pizza” if you’ve really pushed it) whereas in the marathon and beyond there are the challenges of time on your feet, aching limbs, blisters and keeping your body fuelled. Different distance, different challenge. Is running a 4 minute mile impressive? Of course it is. What about completing a marathon? Apparently only 1% of the population will ever do so, so I’d say that’s another yes. What makes a challenge impressive is the possibility of failure rather than what that challenge actually is. For me, a sub-4 hour marathon is waaaaaay more likely (and appealing!) than a sub-4 minute mile. Both would present their own challenges. What are your thoughts?

If maintaining motivation is your issue, then perhaps this next article will help. A number of running bloggers were asked for their top tips to stay motivated. Most of the suggestions are probably fairly familiar, but it can still be useful to see it written down and read about another’s experiences. Perhaps you’ll find something in this extensive list useful. Do you have any to add?

Now to some cycling. Although I’ve been completing a bike workout every week in the gym for months now, it’s been some time since I’ve been on my trusty steed Trixie. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere with plenty of cycling options, but I know that for many this is not possible which can be off-putting, and am conscious that many cities on the continent are much better equipped for cyclists than we are here. But what would an ideal cycling city look like? That’s exactly what Steven Fleming considers in his new publication Velotopia. Would you want to live there?

And finally, I’ll leave you with this poem by Nat Runs Far published on Women’s Running. There is a certain poetry to getting into the groove of a long run on a sunny day, and this really captures that moment.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – It’s All In The Hips

We’re still playing around a bit with the content of some of my workouts, but this has been a great week of getting to grips with some different forms of training. Not only that, but the World Championships Athletics has now started and I know I’ll be glued to that for the next few days! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share the details.

In general, the pattern was the same as ever. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – 1km drills + Hatha yoga
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 12 miles

As always, the week began with a swim. I find this a great way to recover from my weekend runs, which helps to both boost my fitness and make me think about my breathing. This week, unfortunately, wasn’t such a great swim for me. The pool was busy (I had spent a good chunk of the day at work getting my new classroom organised for the start of term) so it was really hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I also think they might have adjusted the pool chemicals and my nose felt quite blocked throughout the swim, making it hard to get my breathing right. I have noticed this before, so if you’ve any tips that might help then I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, in all honesty, was a bit of a disaster. It was really wet in the morning so I decided not to go to the gym until later on. During the holidays I tend not to use my car unless I really have to as I spend so much time driving to and from work during term time. What I’m now noticing is that in bad weather I’m more likely to either delay an outing or re-think my clothing for the conditions rather than get in the car instead. Things seemed better later, just a few brief passing showers, so I set off. About half way to the gym the rain started, but rather than ease off it quickly became Florida-like monsoon conditions. I know we get a lot of rain in Scotland, but nothing like this with drains instantly overflowing and rain bouncing off every surface. I was stranded under a bus shelter for ages until it eased off and I moved on, but I was soaked through and realised that I had a problem: all I had was the clothes I was wearing and the clothes for my workout. If I did my workout I would either have to walk home in sweaty gym clothes or put my rain-soaked clothes back on (including very squelchy shoes and socks!). Neither option was appealing!

IMG_3380Steve was free so I got him to pick me up and drive me home. Once there I got dried off, put my gym clothes on, grabbed the things I needed and drove to the gym. It was a case of walk in, do workout, drive home. By the time I got there the workout was the last thing I felt like doing, but it’s good mental training to carry on when you’re head isn’t in it and I got the bike workout done.

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It’s not all glamour this marathon training!!

For Wednesday, Steve had something new up his sleeve for me. Rather than another set of hill reps, he wanted me to do some form drills. We’ve been working on knee drive in my PT sessions, so now this was being incorporated into a run as well. I had a 10 minute warm up, then it was 6x 1km drills, focusing on knee drive and arms. Basically, running with really good form. After each rep I had 90 seconds recovery. The first rep began well but as I approached a road crossing I had a most unfortunate encounter with a swarm of midges and had to stop while I hawked and hacked. Pretty sure I still swallowed a couple. Let’s call that “bonus protein”! The second and third reps were great as they were mainly downhill and I felt like I was flying. The last part of the fourth and first half of the fifth were uphill so by the time I got to the last rep I was digging deep, but this was the reason I had six to do as Steve knew from his own experience that after that the form would start to go and then the workout would have little benefit.

IMG_3395I had a short cool down after the last rep then a really quick shower and change before heading off to meet Steve. Some friends of ours are going to Florida later in the year and were feeling a bit overwhelmed with planning everything so we offered to sit down with them and talk through some things/answer questions/give recommendations over a cup of tea. I really hope they found it useful. Perhaps I should seek an alternative career as a Central Florida holiday planner/guide (I’d be happy to offer personal tours “in situ” lol!).

I finished the day with a nice relaxing Hatha yoga class up at the golf club again. I was feeling sleepy from a busy day (I ran quite early compared to what I usually do in order to fit everything in) so this was just what I needed.

On Thursday I had a little indulgence when I met Steve at a coffee shop after some errands. They were offering half price frozen drinks so we tried the double chocolate cookie mocha. I can confirm it was good!

IMG_3399My main workout was my Ashtanga yoga class. It was a small class this week and all people who go regularly so we were able to flow quite quickly through the postures and try something new at the end of the sequence. I felt good and am pleased with my progress in one of the postures that I wanted to work on.

Friday began with a PT session. More work on my knee drive, hip mobility and upper back mobility. Like last week I used both weights of Core Momentum Trainer and the broomstick. We also finished with some short hopping drills to consolidate the work on knee drive.

IMG_3402I got home to find that the medal from my July virtual challenge had arrived. I do like it when this happens!

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IMG_3407Later that afternoon I had to walk up to my parents’ house and I definitely felt some weariness around my hips after all the work this week! Whilst at the house I realised that there was tons of rhubarb in the garden so headed out (in the rain!) to pick some before I left. I usually make some stewed rhubarb with it as Steve likes it with his breakfast and I quite like it with some Greek yoghurt. It’s not good to have too close to a run though, unless a sprint finish to the loo is what you fancy lol!

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The evening was spent enjoying the first night of the athletics, including an incredible run from Mo Farah. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month that meant it was pacer day at parkrun. This time I was pacing 27 minutes and knew I was aiming for about 8:45 per mile. It was a beautiful, still day (great for PBs!) and I found myself slightly ahead after the first mile. No big deal as it can take a bit of time to settle into the right pace. Just before the turn I found myself alongside a runner I’ve seen a couple of times now and exchanged a few words with. She said hello and asked what time I was pacing. A couple of minutes later she spoke to me again and said that she was running parkrun as the last part of her long run but she was starting to struggle and asked if she could run with me. At that point I decided just to focus on helping her rather than getting my pace spot on. So I fell into step beside her and just started chatting (I was not even very sure of her name but now I know lots about her and her running plans). As we got closer to the finish she told me she was so glad I was there as she had been on the point of giving up and slowing right down, but having me there had kept her going. I may have ended up about 30 seconds faster than I was supposed to run, but it felt so good to know that I had helped someone. That’s something I really love about parkrun – that sense of community and meeting new people all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if she now became one of the people I speak to regularly at parkrun.

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Steve was away all day so no photographer for my jumping shot this week!

Once home, I got myself settled to catch up on the morning session of the athletics, then when Steve got home later on we watched the evening session together. What a shame that Bolt didn’t have his fairytale ending with another gold medal, but the women’s 1500m is shaping up to be an incredible final. Even the cat was glued to the TV!

IMG_3427Sunday is all about the long run. Currently I am aiming to run every third mile faster, so 2 “easier” miles followed by a harder mile. Last week I tried to do this by aiming for a particular pace, but the route I chose for this week’s run was rather undulating and I knew a couple of my faster miles would not be on flat terrain. Instead, I focused on maintaining good form and keeping up the intensity in the faster miles, using the first part of the following mile as recovery.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 18.41.51As the session went on I increasingly found it harder to run the slower miles as my body was becoming accustomed to the faster pace and better form of the faster miles and although these were harder on my CV system, I actually found myself looking forward to that faster blast. I did not expect that!

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Yes, I have become so fed up of my hair that I found a way to tie it out of my face into the world’s smallest ponytail for the run. The Florida heat and humidity has sent it on a mad growth spurt and I can’t wait to get it cut at the end of the week!

I got home from my run in time to see the last part of the men’s marathon at the World Championships (an awesome run from Callum Hawkins) while I cooled down/stretched and then squeezed in a quick shower before what was a very exciting women’s marathon with Alyson Dixon leading for a good chunk of the race. A very enjoyable way to relax after my run, safe in the knowledge I had already done the hard work for the day.

And I rounded off the week with my usual “recovery bath”, accompanied by the magazines I brought back from my trip to the US. Bliss!

IMG_3459Overall, this week has had a lot of focus on form and I’m hoping to build on that in the coming weeks so that my target marathon pace begins to feel easier.

Are you watching the World Championships?
How is your training going?

Tunes on Tuesday – Could it be Magic

Many studies have shown that working out to music can have a number of positive effects and help us to push ourselves further. Music is also strongly linked to personal memories and hearing certain tracks can transport us to a particular moment in time. In this occasional series of posts, I’d like to introduce some of my favourite tracks from my workout playlist and share some of the memories they have given me.

Could it be Magic – Take That

It was only a matter of time before a Take That track made its way into Tunes on Tuesday. There are actually a few in my playlist, but I’ve picked this track today because I do have a story to tell around it.

For my readers not in the UK, Take That is a pop group formed waaaay back in 1990. I guess you could say they were one of the 90s “boy bands” and were created out of a desire to emulate groups like New Kids on the Block in the US. The band split in early 1996 while I was in my final year of high school and teenagers around the country were bereft – there was even a telephone helpline set up to help fans deal with the announcement! 10 years later, in 2006, the band reformed for a reunion tour and have continued to produce new material (and tour) ever since. To date, they are the most successful “boy band” (more of a “man band” now lol!) in UK chart history.

Basically, I’m old enough to to have loved Take That the first time around, but never got a chance to see them live until 2009 when Steve surprised me with concert tickets. In fact, the video above is taken from that tour. If you had told my teenage self that one day the band would get back together and I’d still be getting to see them live at my age then I’d have laughed in your face!

The song I’ve picked today is their cover of the Barry Manilow classic Could It Be Magic, the track which gave them their first big success. Not only is it a great song, but it has gained its place here thanks to the last time I saw then tour back in 2015.

The day after the concert, perhaps not feeling my most rested, I took part in the Tayside Challenge, a cycle event which I was using as a warm up for the Etape Caledonia the following week. My head was, unsurprisingly, still full of Take That songs so it was a bit like having my own playlist as I pedalled, but without the inconvenience of earphones (something I never use when cycling as I’m so conscious of safety). I was cycling with a friend, but at one point I was alone on a downhill stretch. We had been talking about the concert so as I swept down the hill, enjoying the sense of freedom, I began singing away to myself. Loudly. The song I picked? Could It Be Magic. I was having a great time, so it was only marginally embarrassing when another cyclist overtook me, no doubt having heard me singing to myself like an absolute madwoman! Oops!

The song itself featured on Take That’s first album which was released in 1992 (yes, I am that old!) so this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. The original lineup of 5 may now be reduced to 3, but my favourite (Gary Barlow) is still there and what better way could they have found to celebrate than to go out on tour? So on Friday of this week I’ll be heading through to Glasgow to see my “boys” performing live for the 4th time. Frankly, I can’t wait!

Please note that under UK Athletics rules, racing with headphones whilst on open roads is banned. If you choose to train with headphones, please be careful and make sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times.

Feel free to share your favourite workout tracks in the comments below…

Friday Finds – 28th 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.

Can you believe it’s the end of April? It’s been such a great month in the world of sport, at least as far as marathon running is concerned, and you can look out for a post from me over the weekend about why marathons are so special. In the meantime, here are some other articles that have caught my eye lately.

This week saw our senior pupils finishing school for study leave as the exams here in Scotland are about to start. Most are (hopefully) heading off to to sort out revision timetables and spend big chunks of their day with their heads in their books, however one piece of advice I always like is to take time to exercise as well – even if that’s a simple walk with the dog. On that topic, my first article this week features former Ireland rugby captain Fiona Coghlan explaining why exercise is so important for young people, particularly in an exam year.

Next, a reminder about the power of positive self-talk. Many endurance athletes use mantras or other mental tricks to help them when the going gets tough (mine is, “I can. I am. I’m strong”) and this article explains the difference using self-talk can make to performance. Since the mind will give up before the body, mental training and having a strategy ready for tough moments (and in endurance challenges there will ALWAYS be tough moments!) is as important as the physical training when it comes to pushing limits.

Someone who took on a really huge endurance challenge for charity is Rob Pope. Originally from Liverpool, Rob decided that, like Forrest Gump before him, he would run across the USA. He has already run from Alabama to California’s Santa Monica pier where, like Gump, he simply turned around and kept on going! Judging by the pictures, he’s even starting to look a bit like Forrest Gump!

Another endurance athlete with his sights set on a major challenge is cyclist Mark Beaumont who recently announced his plans to beat the current record for cycling around the world (123 days) by attempting to complete the circumnavigation of the globe in just 80 days! With his imagination fired by Jules Verne, Beaumont will set off from Paris in July with his support crew and will be raising money for charity through this epic challenge. All I can say is wow!

And finally, these days we’re all guilty of using apps like Strava to record our runs and share them with others. But what if your run doesn’t go as well as you would like and it’s out there for all to see? This tongue-in-cheek post takes us through some ways to use the name we give the run to account for any issues encountered. I found it pretty amusing and will definitely be remembering this the next time I have a bad run!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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!

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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.

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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

Week in Review – Keep Calm and Carry On!

Week three of my current series of “Week in Review” posts where I’m sharing my training for the Paris Marathon in April. As part of this series, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

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This past week has been a tough one for me, not because of training but because of a big and stressful work commitment. I decided to make sure I got in some quality training, but not to worry if I felt that my performance level was down a bit. It was more important to listen to my body and in this early stage of training, staying healthy and avoiding injury is much more important.

The pattern of my week is perhaps becoming familiar now, but here it is again:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

Monday’s swim was interesting. I’m never very comfortable in the first few lengths as my breathing hasn’t settled into a rhythm and I’m more likely to breathe in water or, on some occasions, actually forget to breathe! But once I get the first few out the way it feels like something clicks into place and the swim feels more effortless. After a questionable start to this session, I finished up feeling really good and like my body was “getting” it. What I really need to work on is consistency, to feel like I can just get into the water and swim comfortably every time. At the moment, I’m not sure I know how to do that, but am pleased with how much progress I’ve made since I began this process.

Tuesday was my second session of bike intervals at the higher intensity I’m now working at. I possibly didn’t work at quite as high a level as last week, but I made sure the effort felt the same. In a week where I was working harder throughout the rest of the day and probably not getting as much rest as I should, this was perfectly fine. Usually I head to the sauna after my gym session, but with lots to do at home I simply completed my workout with some stretching and mobility before hitting the showers.

Wednesday it was back to the hills for some reps. It was the same session as last week, but a little less windy and without the snow flurry! I somehow managed to stop my watch after a couple of reps so had to fiddle around with it so that the rest of the pre-programmed session would work which probably lost me some momentum, and there were also a couple of lengthened rest intervals while I waited for cars to pull in and out of driveways, but overall I was pleased with how I did. Last week I realised that when the main workout was finished I still had to run gradually uphill to get home, so this time took a different route to see how it felt. It did give me a nice downhill stretch, but I’m not actually sure if I preferred it so will return to my original route in the week ahead and maybe alternate them.

IMG_0494On Thursday I had to make a little change to my routine again as I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fit in both a PT session AND a yoga class. With a stressful Friday looming, I decided it would be much more beneficial to go to yoga and I’m so pleased I did. My body felt stretched out and light afterwards, and my mind was stilled by the yogic breathing. I arrived home in the right frame of mind to prepare myself for the day ahead and get as good a sleep as possible.

On Friday morning I had the big work commitment I had been preparing for and was conscious that my body was running on adrenaline. As a result of timing and driving over lunchtime, both my hydration and eating got out of sync. By the time I finished work I felt drained and hungry. Fortunately Friday is my rest day so I once more joined some work friends for a coffee, but since I had missed out on a proper lunch I also ordered a delicious focaccia to fuel me up a bit as it was still a while until Steve and I would head out to eat. That revived me and I finished the day feeling much better and ready for a really good sleep as I’m supposed to be prioritising rest. That definitely didn’t happen during this week!

IMG_0496On Saturday I felt a bit more refreshed and ready for parkrun. I suspected my performance would not be as strong as last week, but accepted that I would go with what my body felt like doing. It was chilly in the morning but the last few days had been reasonably mild which meant the grass section was really muddy and slippy. I definitely felt my pace slow over that stretch after quite a fast start, but I didn’t really lose any position as everyone was affected in the same way. Coming off the grass I had settled into a more steady pace, but did pass a couple of people. Coming into the finish, I was aware of Steve standing at the side indicating that someone else was catching me. Normally I ignore him and just do my own thing, but I glanced over my shoulder and saw Ella and couldn’t resist seeing if I could keep ahead. Turns out she has one hell of a sprint finish in her legs and it was probably a photo finish as we crossed the line side by side, but I was pleased to find a reserve of energy in my legs at a point where I was feeling tired as that’s what I’ll need in the marathon. I was also pleased with my time of 24 minutes exactly as I had expected to be slower this week.

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After parkrun it was a really quick shower and change at the gym before heading to my yoga class. I love my Hatha class on a Saturday morning as the gentle stretching after the run feels great and the class is always really relaxing which is perfect to start the weekend. Since I run both days at the weekend, I think this helps me to recover from the hard run before my long run on Sunday morning. I then dedicated the remainder of the day to rest. I read, I took a nap and I cuddled my cat. Just what I needed after a hard work week.

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My suPURRvisor made sure I rested!

I awoke on Sunday feeling better than I had all week. Taking the time to rest and reset really helped, as did finally getting a good night’s sleep, uninterrupted by anxious dreams! I did, however, wake up to this:
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An iPhone snap doesn’t really do justice to how “blue” the light seemed at 8am. With 10 miles on my schedule, I checked the weather app to get an idea of temperature and noticed it said a 10% chance of snow. “Nah, that’ll never happen!” thought I, only to look up and see the flakes beginning to drift down. But rather than be put off, I felt quite excited at the prospect of running in the snow, so after a light breakfast (and prepping the evening meal for the slow cooker) I got myself layered up and out the door.

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So good knowing this will be bubbling away all day and our evening meal is taken care of BEFORE we get our long runs in!

This week I was much better at reigning in the pace so that overall I was about where I wanted to be. There were still times when my legs wanted to go faster and if I wasn’t paying attention I would settle into a quicker pace than I should be at on these runs, but used my watch to keep an eye on things and slowed down when necessary. The 10 miles flew in as I listened to podcasts and it wasn’t really all that cold once I was moving. I really love these long runs in the early part of marathon training when having built a solid base means that I feel strong and like I could easily keep on going. I know that won’t be the case every week, but for now it gives me confidence in my training and confidence that I can have a real go at getting a new PB in April. Paris, I’m coming for you!
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Next week is a cutback week so my Sunday run will be shorter, however since I probably worked at a lower intensity in my midweek workouts this week, I won’t be making any conscious cutback there. Things should also be a little quieter at work so I can refocus on making sure I get some quality rest as I believe that’s crucial to keeping me injury free as training progresses.

How has your training been this week?
What’s your favourite workout?

Week in Review – Settling In

Time for the second in my series of regular “week in review” posts to document this cycle of marathon training. Like last week, I’m linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL since I really enjoyed joining their linkup for the first time last week. If you write a weekly recap and want to be part of the linkup too, then all the information is here.

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This past week was the first of the new school term. That meant a bit of a shock to the system at being up earlier and being much more mentally challenged day-to-day whilst still maintaining the consistency of my training, hence my reference to “settling in” in this week’s title. In order to capitalise on the base I’ve built, consistency is key to further improving my fitness and preparing for the demands of the marathon. The pattern of my training remained the same, it was really just the time of day that I trained that was affected by a return to my “normal” routine (which meant fewer photos as there was a lot of working out in the dark!).

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

Whenever I write about my training I always include a reminder that it’s important to make your plan fit around your life, not the other way around. Sometimes that means making a few tweaks and adjustments when you know you won’t be able to fit a particular session in. Already, I’ve had to make an adjustment as I knew I couldn’t get to my Saturday yoga class, but since my teacher also has a Monday evening class, I switched to that one for this week. It was actually a really nice way to relax after the first day of school and the timing fitted well with my swim session after work.

Tuesday saw me back at the gym for my weekly session of bike intervals. Having completed the last workout in my previous cycle (pun intended!) of these last week, it was time to move on. This meant dropping the reps back down but putting the intensity up. I’ll now add on a couple of reps each week until I get to the same number I reached at the previous intensity. It’s always a funny moment when I get to this point. On the one hand, the workout is about ten minutes shorter, but on the other it feels just a little harder. Not impossible, but my body has been used to a particular intensity and now that’s changed. It’s definitely worth it though as these progressive workouts are what makes me feel stronger and, in turn, this helps me to run well.

I had another new workout to begin on Wednesday with my hill reps. Like with the bike, I reached the peak of my previous sessions last week so Steve devised something new to move me on. This meant a new hill and a new workout. Rather than a repeated point-to-point, this time I’m running between lampposts e.g. 5 to this one, 4 to the next, 3 to the next. When I first arrived at the bottom of the hill I thought maybe the first set wouldn’t be challenging enough, but I wasn’t taking into account the “sting in the tail” with this hill which gets steeper as it goes on. By the time I was on the last, most challenging set, I had the added bonus of high winds and the beginning of a snow flurry as well, but I got it done. It was the sort of workout which will not only make me physically stronger, but mentally stronger too or, as Steve says, it was “character building” ha ha!

Thursday is often one of my favourite workout days of the week. After work I have a PT session with Steve. We have been focusing a lot on core strength and mobility using the core momentum trainer, but Steve varies the exercises each week. In the main, we’re making sure my hips remain strong after the problems I had in the autumn. Just because I rehabbed that problem at the time doesn’t mean it can’t return so I do need to keep that as a priority.

I go straight from that session to the yoga studio for my Ashtanga class. My last one was mid-December as they were closed over the festive period and I was really looking forward to getting back as it helps me to relax and focus towards the end of the school week. I also love seeing the progress I’ve made since starting last May and realising my body can now move in ways it just couldn’t before. I was worried that I might have lost some flexibility during the break, but I don’t think I had, so that’s good news. My only disappointment was that the new mat I ordered hadn’t arrived yet, but hopefully I’ll have it for my next class.

Friday is my rest day and I sometimes take advantage of that to go for an after school coffee with some friends from work. This week, four of us managed to get together and have a really good catch up which was really nice. We don’t always see much of each other in the hustle and bustle of the school term (we don’t all teach the same subjects) so taking the chance to get together out of school and catch up on the news is great. It doesn’t happen every week, but even with a longish drive home afterwards I still love it when we do go. A great way to start the weekend, followed up beautifully with eating out with Steve (our Friday night tradition since we moved into our house almost a year ago).

We had a bit of a cold snap with lots of ice and some snow which by Saturday was frozen pretty solid. There was a small question mark over parkrun on Saturday, but fortunately after an inspection of the course it was deemed safe enough, albeit with reminders to run with care. I decided this was the ideal time to wear my all-terrain Adidas Boosts and made sure I was well wrapped up against the elements with thermal running tights, a Climaheat top, my favourite running hat and two pairs of gloves since it’s usually my fingers which get cold. Given all that, I didn’t really expect much of my time, simply running was more important. So nobody was more surprised than me when I finished in 23:46 (the time on the photo below is pulled from Strava rather than being my official time). This was faster than the week before Christmas when I was thrilled to sneak in a sub-24, and my fastest time for the parkrun year so far (our parkrun year began at the end of November). I’m crediting my shoes with this one since although the course was mostly covered in ice/snow, I felt secure when I landed and was able to run with confidence. The improvement in my time in a month also tells me that the training is working, so I’m pleased with that.

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Finally, Sunday and the long run came around. The temperature had picked up a little so most of the ice had melted although there were still a few slippy patches to watch out for. I had 8 miles on the schedule so planned out my route, loaded up the latest Marathon Talk podcast (my favourite for long runs) and set off. I’ve been trying to run my long runs quite slowly to help build endurance and trust that this will make me faster on race day, however I’m pretty sure I went too fast today as my average pace was 9:20 per mile, even with a big hill towards the end. I should probably be aiming closer to 9:30-9:40 (and definitely slower on the flats and downhills!) so will need to try and take it a bit easier. I still felt strong all the way round though, so felt pleased with that.
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So that’s week two done. The week ahead is going to be a busy one, but I’m hopeful I can still get my training done and get some quality rest.

How was your training this week?
Any obstacles getting in the way of what you want to do?

Friday Finds – 6th January

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.

And just like that, it’s 2017! Happy New Year! I hope the first week of 2017 has been a good one for you and you’ve made some positive steps towards achieving your goals for the year. To help, this week’s finds are all about motivation and inspiration to help you get there.

First, Ed Whitlock. I know I’ve mentioned him before as he recently added another record to his impressive collection. At 85, Whitlock continues to perform phenomenal athletic feats (and can run a faster marathon than I’ve ever done!) which really challenge our belief that age is a barrier to what we want to do. What I find so interesting in this article from The New York Times is the results of various scientific tests Whitlock underwent a few years ago. His VO2 max, muscle physiology and attitude to life all far surpass those of his contemporaries, and scientists are now reassessing what this means for ageing and performance. For me, Whitlock is a fine example of not letting age stand in the way of achievement and reminds us all that it’s never too late to take on a new challenge.

On a similar theme, did you see the story of Robert Marchand earlier this week? Marchand set a new record for the furthest distance cycled around a velodrome in an hour, and while his distance of 14 miles may not sound all that impressive, that changes dramatically with the added information that Marchand is 105!!! He already held the record for those over 100, and now adds the over 105 to his collection. Like Whitlock, Marchand has a fantastic attitude, saying, “I am not here to be a champion. I am here to prove that at 105 years old you can still ride a bike.” Hear, hear!

Now, if you ever wondered about the New Year’s resolutions of elite athletes, wonder no more as Athletics Weekly has you covered. This piece confirms for me that other than athletic prowess, the elites are no different from the rest of us as the common themes in their resolutions are about making opportunities count, making more time for themselves and working hard to get what they want. Probably very similar to your own goals and resolutions for 2017.

If one of your goals was to get more serious about your running, then Runner’s World has provided some great advice about what you might have to change or prioritise in order to improve your running. Lots of sensible ideas here, with the benefits and potential risks set out clearly. I, for one, know that rest and recovery is something I need to pay more attention to and I will be trying to prioritise rest in the months ahead.

And finally, something heartwarming for you this week. A German film student made a 100 second ad as part of his course and this is the result: an ageing marathoner struggling to come to terms with life in a retirement home fights back against the deterioration in his body (and confines of his home) to run again. It may not be an official advert, but I’m still sure it will bring a smile to your face and perhaps even a tear to your eye. So in the spirit of Ed Whitlock and Robert Marchand, enjoy!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess