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?

So You Want To Start Running…?

Perhaps you watched the Boston or London marathons on TV this week. Perhaps you have friends who have been encouraging you to join them for a run. Perhaps your children enjoy Junior parkrun and you’d like to set them a good example. Whatever your reason, at this time of year there are often many people who make the decision to start running.

For me, it was the spring of 2005 and the loss of my grandmother to cancer. I wanted to do something to make a difference for others, and having never run or done anything sporty before in my life, signing up to a charity 5k seemed like a great challenge.

The problem was, I knew nothing about running and had no idea how to get started. I was lucky that I had a PE teacher friend to help me, but not everyone is so fortunate. So if you’re feeling inspired to begin your running journey, today I’m sharing my tips to help make it a bit easier.

NB Remember I’m not a running coach. These tips are simply based on my own experiences and things I wish I’d known when I started.

  • Get fitted for some proper running shoes. Running shoes should be bigger than your usual shoe size to avoid pinching and blisters. It can be confusing seeing rows and rows of different brands and shoe types, but the most important thing is that they feel comfortable. You shouldn’t feel like they need to be “broken in”. If the shoe doesn’t feel good when you try it on, then it’s not the one for you (even if it is a bargain!). Ideally you should be able to try them on before you buy and have a run either in/outside the shop or on a treadmill. Running in the wrong shoes is definitely a mistake I made and it took me a long time to backtrack and find a shoe that suited me.

  • Ladies, your other essential pieces of kit is a sports bra. This is vital no matter what size you are as there are no muscles in this area, only very delicate ligaments which stretch easily through exercise. A good supportive sports bra will keep things in check and help prevent pain when exercising. Again, there are lots of different brands and styles so try a few on to see what feels most comfortable for your size and shape. Just make sure it’s a sports bra designed for high impact activity to give you the best support.

 

  • There’s no need to kit yourself out in expensive clothing right from the start. The most important thing is that you wear something you feel comfortable in. I know I’ve changed how I dress to run over the years as my confidence has grown and if running becomes part of your life then buying some new kit could be something to look forward to. Wicking fabrics are great at moving moisture away from your skin and if you do want some new gear then there are plenty of budget buys available. Check out High Street retailers and discount supermarket chains.

  • If you don’t want to go it alone then find a friend to run with you or consider looking out for a beginners’ group to join. There are plenty of friendly groups running programmes to take you from zero to 5k in a few weeks and many people have success with smartphone apps doing the same thing. Here in Scotland a JogScotland group might be useful. I did almost all of my early running by myself, but it would have been nice to have company. Even just having a friend alongside you to chat can make it much more manageable and can be a good way to have a good old catch up.

 

  • Keep it simple. If you sprint off then you’ll be out of breath in no time. I DEFINITELY made this mistake and it’s a common one when often our only experience of running is sprints in PE at school, or we’re used to high intensity classes and are chasing that same feeling. Instead, focus on how you feel. You should be able to hold a conversation and speak in sentences rather than gasped words. At this stage, time and distance aren’t important. Lay the foundations and get comfortable with your running first.

 

  • It’s ok to be “slow”. Speed is all relative. A new runner might look at my paces and think I’m fast, but my average pace is naught but a warmup for an elite athlete! Even if you feel like you’re moving only slightly faster than a walk, you’re still on your way. Find your rhythm and stick with it. As you get fitter, your pace will naturally quicken with the same effort level. Run your own run and forget about what anyone else is doing.

 

  • Be consistent. Unsurprisingly, going for a run then leaving it for weeks before you try again won’t lead to much improvement. Put your runs in your diary as you would any other commitment and stick to it. I run 3 times per week and 3-4 runs per week is about average. A good pattern might be to run every other day, being sure to leave rest days in between to allow your body to recover and get stronger. If anything feels sore, back off and consider seeking advice from a physio.

 

  • Set yourself targets. I started running in a local park and was using run-walk intervals. I used to aim to increase the length of my run intervals and decrease the walk breaks each time, until eventually I reached the huge milestone of one lap of the park (about 1.5 miles). I was so thrilled you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! I suggest targets like the next lamppost, a certain amount of time, a lap of the park, and so on. Ultimately you might aim to complete your local parkrun – a great place for a beginner to find like-minded people and a supportive, welcoming community.

  • Avoid getting bogged down in detail. You don’t need to be in head-to-toe lycra or wearing a massively expensive running watch. There’s plenty of time for that in the future if you want it. All you need is that pair of running shoes and some comfortable clothes. If you must know your time/distance/pace then there are plenty of free smartphone apps available.

 

  • Remember it’s supposed to be fun! Exercise isn’t a way of punishing yourself for something, it’s an expression of what our bodies can do. Take your time, run your run and enjoy being out in the fresh air improving your fitness. Running benefits not only your physical health but your mental health too. It clears your head and helps sharpen your mind. If you’re not enjoying your run then the chances are you’re running too fast. Ease off the pace, stand tall and repeat a positive message like  “I CAN do this”.

If you are at the beginning of your running journey, welcome. I hope you find everything you want on the roads and trails. Do stop by and keep me up to date with your progress.

What is your reason to run?
Any other tips for beginners or questions to ask?

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?

Week in Review – The Importance of Recovery

Look around any social media running group in the days after a marathon and you’ll find loads of people asking questions about when they should run again. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that. Just like training plans, recovery plans should be tailored to suit the individual: some people will be good to go after a few days, others respond better to at least a couple of weeks. Notice I said recovery plan. The thing about most training plans is that they stop on race day, but having a plan in place to recover properly and return to running when your body is ready is just as important, if not more so when thinking about future races. Those people asking the questions have no doubt followed some kind of training plan to get ready for their race, but not planned their recovery and are left feeling lost. I’ve decided to continue my week in review posts while I’m in my recovery phase to share what works for me. As with previous weeks I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

In the first couple of days after a marathon there’s no way I would want to go for a run as I’m still sore and tired, but by the end of the week I’m usually feeling a lot better and it would be easy at this stage to get carried away and get straight back to training. I’ve learned the hard way that this doesn’t work for me: while my legs may feel better, my CV system is still recovering and the stress of running increases the chance of picking up an injury. A marathon takes weeks, or even months, of preparation and the body needs a chance to recover properly afterwards. Over my last two or three marathon training cycles I’ve found a recovery strategy that works for me, and in the first week post-race my activity is limited to walking and yoga (with plenty of time spent with my feet up and enjoying some treats!). Here’s how my first recovery week looked:

Monday – walking in Paris then travel home
Tuesday – walk
Wednesday – walk
Thursday – walk + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – walk
Saturday – parkrun volunteer + walk
Sunday – walk

Spot the pattern? 😉

I awoke on Monday feeling really not too bad. My legs were weary of course, but nothing felt particularly problematic other than the huge blister I had picked up on my right foot! Once I had this dressed, my walking wasn’t too bad. Ok so stairs felt a bit tricky, but they were still do-able and the more I moved around the better I felt.

After breakfast we finished packing and set off towards the Champs Élysées where we took some photos and had a walk down to the Adidas store for a browse before heading for our favourite cafe.

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Sadly the next thing we had to do was get the train to the airport for our flight home. As usual, the departure lounge was filled with a mixture of slightly sore runners and families who had clearly been to Disneyland Paris. We had a snack (again!), chatted to some other runners we know then got on our flight. Then it was home via the Chinese takeaway for a quick dinner before heading to bed.

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On Tuesday morning I had an appointment with my hairdresser so the easiest thing to do seemed to be to walk there and back. That served the dual purpose of keeping me moving and making sure I still got my 10,000 steps for the day since I have the goal of maintaining my step goal streak this year!

Wednesday was similar. I had an appointment in town so opted to walk there since it was quite a nice day. I quite like ditching the car during school holidays and getting around on foot as much as possible. Steve met me after my appointment for a lunch date as he had bought an Itison voucher for a restaurant we hadn’t been to in a long time – 2 courses and a glass of wine for a good price. I had a yummy Parma pizza followed by a crêpe with Nutella and strawberry. I can confirm it was delicious and made me feel a little bit like I was still in Paris!

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The remainder of Wednesday was fairly leisurely, but rounded off with a Skype call to be interviewed for the Tough Girl Daily podcast. It was really nice chatting to Sarah but I was just so relieved that the technology worked as we had originally scheduled the call for Tuesday but had some issues. I do love technology, but it can be a real pain when it doesn’t work!

Thursday was another beautiful day, so after a fairly relaxed morning I headed out for a walk in the afternoon. Despite living in a fairly residential part of town, there are still a number of paths and trails which are great for running and walking and I have enjoyed exploring these since we moved into our house last year. On this occasion I spotted a path I hadn’t explored before so, not being in any rush, I followed it through some trees along by a stream until it emerged into a housing development. The rest of my walk was on familiar routes, but it was nice to add something new into the mix.

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In the evening I had my Ashtanga yoga class which I was looking forward to as I knew I would feel great after a good stretch. I did notice my body a little tight at first, but by the end of the class my mobility felt almost back to normal which was a good sign. I opted to walk to yoga then met Steve afterwards as our friend Linda had promised us a takeaway and beer on the house when we got back from Paris (she has one of the longest established Chinese restaurants in the area – it’s been in the same family for three generations). This gave us a chance to try out our new novelty chopsticks which I bought at Pylones in the Carrousel du Louvre. They’ll stick an Eiffel Tower on anything these days (and the chances are I’ll buy it lol!).

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On Friday morning I had one last errand – to get my front tyres changed on my car (oh the glamour!). I dropped the car off at the garage then walked into town whilst listening to the Tough Girl Daily podcast episode which had come out that morning and featured my interview (I wanted to listen to it before I got carried away and shared it with the world, just in case!). You can find out more and listen here.

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I met Steve for a coffee then ran a few errands in town before going back for my car. I then enjoyed a leisurely afternoon before we headed out to eat. This week we were treating my parents to a meal at our usual Friday night haunt as a thank you for looking after my cat while we were away. Ordinarily I simply bring them back a gift (which I still did) but since the cat’s needs were a little more complex this time with some medications she’s been on, I wanted to make sure we showed our appreciation.

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I know I’ve mentioned my cat’s health a few times recently as for a time she wasn’t well at all due to some side effects of a chronic health condition she has developed. To be honest, I was preparing myself for the end, but thanks to some new medication, she’s doing brilliantly. She was a transformed cat when I got back from Paris which is great news! Lots of you have asked after her in your comments, so thank you.

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My standard blogging setup!

On Saturday I was on the roster to volunteer at parkrun. Putting my name down in advance ensures I don’t get carried away and decide to run, which I think could have happened otherwise since I was feeling good from the rest, yoga and walks. I was a barcode scanner which is one of my favourite jobs and it was a lovely morning.

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After parkrun Steve and I headed off to meet his brother for a coffee. Steve does this every Saturday but since I’m usually at yoga I miss out. No yoga during the school holidays meant I could invite myself along for a cup of tea and a bacon croissant. Yum!

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Checking social media over my tea, I found a few people had tagged me in a post from the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. Turned out one of the pictures of me from the weekend in 2015 when I ran the 5k and 10k on Saturday followed by the half marathon and final relay leg on Sunday had been used in their Easter weekend post. Seeing that photo brought back great memories of that weekend and reminded me of all the things I love about running. Up until then I had no desire to run just yet, but after seeing that picture I could feel my mind starting to turn its attention to getting back out there again soon. That’s why recovery time is so important – it’s not just about making sure your body is ready to run again, but that your mind is too. The mental aspect of the sport is often much more important than the physical.

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Sunday marked the final chapter of our first post-marathon week. Steve went for a run since he has an event much sooner than me. While he got showered and changed I walked into town and he drove down to meet me when he was ready. The reason for this was our traditional “one week on” celebration of a marathon – breakfast out! We headed to our favourite cafe for a cooked breakfast then went for our usual Sunday coffee before heading home – me on foot to ensure I got my 10,000 steps!

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Yes, we ate it all. No, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty!

For me, this was a great recovery week – I kept moving, I stretched my body and I enjoyed some treats as well as spending time with family. During marathon training it’s easy to deny yourself treats or neglect friends/family. The post-marathon recovery period is a great time to address this. Your body isn’t going to lose a huge amount of fitness, in fact it will thank you for the time off when you return to running. When the time is right, that running will feel enjoyable rather than the chore it could be if you try to run too soon. I’m not claiming to be an expert in anything more than my own body, but if you’re struggling to work out what to do in the days after a marathon then perhaps my approach will help in some way. Whatever you do, take at least a few days off and be kind to yourself.

In my second recovery week I’ll return to work which will reinstate some routine and I’ll increase my “training” to include some light cross training (swimming and cycling at a low intensity) in addition to walking and yoga. Watch out for my post detailing how that goes.

If you’d like to read more about my recovery strategies in previous marathon cycles, then here are some links:

What is your recovery strategy?
What is your favourite post-race treat?

Week in Review – It’s All About Recovery!

Phew! Not long to go now until marathon day! For now it’s time once again for my week in review. Linking up as usual with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

This week, my plan was completely different as I needed to make sure I recovered well from the Inverness Half Marathon. The last thing I wanted was to run a PB then pick up an injury that would put my marathon at risk! I’ve done the majority of the hard work now, so a recovery week could only be a positive. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – sports massage
Tuesday – 10 mins easy on bike then swim
Wednesday – recovery run
Thursday – PT session then Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun then Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

On Monday I was tired and my legs were pretty weary and tight – not a big surprise given I had run a hard parkrun and a half marathon PB on consecutive days! I kept moving thoughout the day then headed to my sports massage in the evening. It was good to have my muscles worked and reassuring to know there was nothing untoward going on, simply that my legs had been worked hard!

My calves were still tight on Tuesday, and I decided it would be good to move my legs a bit more but without any impact so Steve suggested an easy 10 minute cycle before heading for my swim. I definitely couldn’t have done a set of higher intensity reps, but 10 minutes of moving my legs was nice and I had a good swim afterwards. I even got some useful tips afterwards from a very proficient swimmer and I’ll be working on those next time.

By Wednesday my legs were feeling better, but not completely back to normal so a recovery run was definitely in order! I chose a route I like which is gradually downhill for the first mile then flat, finishing with a brief uphill to finish. I could feel the weariness in my legs and I felt tired, but I knew this run would help get things to get back to normal. It wasn’t my greatest run ever, but it served its purpose and I still spent a little time afterwards wearing my medal from the International Women’s Day virtual race the previous Wednesday which had arrived that day. I can confirm that it’s a pretty chunky bit of bling!

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IMG_0973I felt really exhausted on Wednesday evening so practically as soon as I finished my dinner I was scooping up the cat and heading to bed where I fell asleep almost immediately. Poor Steve thought he was going to have to sleep in the living room with the two of us taking up all the bed! I definitely felt so much better the next day though 🙂

From Thursday my training routine was a bit more as normal. First there was a PT session with Steve and we did a little more work on shoulder/upper back mobility (the tightness in my right shoulder had been noticed by my “swim coach” on Tuesday) using both the core momentum trainer and another highly technical piece of kit…a broom handle!

IMG_0975Then it was off to the yoga studio for my Ashtanga class. I feel like this made the biggest difference out of everything I did to recover from the half marathon as my legs felt great afterwards and when I awoke on Friday morning I finally felt like I had my own legs back!

Friday was my usual rest day and meal out. That pint of beer with my dinner always gives me something to look forward to and feels like a mini celebration of another week survived! On the way home I spotted this little guy, who narrowly avoided being stepped on!

IMG_0977Saturday was a bit cooler again, but still decent conditions for parkrun. We were on the alternate course again, but since I was taking my recovery seriously I didn’t want to run as hard as last week. I ran the first mile quite conservatively, but once I had completed the first lap of the Inch my legs seemed to remember what it was like to run faster and wanted to push on a bit. I ended up running each mile a bit quicker, but with an official finish time of 24:19, I stuck to my self-imposed limit of a 24:XX time.

IMG_7309 IMG_7314As usual, parkrun was followed by my Hatha yoga class which felt really good this week. Lots of lovely work on the floor which I did with my eyes closed to enjoy the time to myself and I felt really relaxed and well stretched out when we finished. As has become my habit, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and napping with my suPURRvisor. Perfect!
IMG_0979Sunday saw me with 16 miles on the plan and I decided to run near enough the same route as my previous 16 miler, but with one minor change which, although including an extra hill, would then mean a direct run home rather than a slightly circuitous route to make up the mileage. I also decided to keep the pace nice and easy. I allowed my legs to go a little faster on my 18 mile run a couple of weeks ago, but since I had stuck to lighter workouts during the week I didn’t want to push it too much – the long run is about distance rather than pace and the fact that I was able to run a half marathon PB last week following this method gives me confidence that it is working. But despite the easy pace I was surprised to discover afterwards that I was actually a bit faster than my previous 16 mile run, further proof that my fitness is improving. I also discovered that thanks to a predominantly purple kit selection, I pretty much looked like a berry!

IMG_0997All in all, I’m pleased with my week. My performance in my long run tells me that taking the time to recover properly was the right decision and has actually helped to improve my fitness. Now to hope it all comes together in Paris next month…

How do you recover from a hard workout/race?
Do you have a goal event coming up soon?

Week in Review – A Welcome Break

Wow! The last week seems to have flown by really quickly and somehow it’s time for another weekly roundup already! As usual, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

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And this week saw “normal service” resumed with a change to when I completed all my workouts. I know this keeps happening, but there’s no consistent factor that interrupts the same planned workout, so I’m quite happy just to go with it. I know I’ll get it all done and there are some things I won’t move around as the timing is crucial so if I can’t complete that workout then it will simply be missed that week. That’s not really happened though. The original plan was:

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

The change occurred on Monday. I had a sports massage booked which I knew was long overdue and while it was possible to squeeze in my swim beforehand, timing was a little tight and I opted to work a little later as I had a looming deadline to meet. I did put my swimming stuff in the car just in case, but the massage definitely took priority to get my legs feeling in tip top shape again!

However on Tuesday I was able to fit my swim in after my session on the bike at the gym. After my revelation about the resistance last week, I wanted to use a completely different bike. I thought I was going to be thwarted when the gym was busy and I had to actually wait for a machine (this has never happened to me before!) but the first one to become free was not one of the ones I used last week so I was happy. It soon became apparent that the resistance felt much like the second bike I used last week, so I’ve come to the conclusion that the resistance was out of sync on the first one and I was trying to slug it out through something much harder than I wanted. At the time it was disheartening thinking I wasn’t making progress, but now I feel cheered that I was able to complete that tough workout a couple of weeks ago and must now be stronger.

After my workout I changed and headed down to the pool for 20 lengths. With my bike “warm up” I felt I settled into my rhythm much faster and completed my workout a little quicker than usual. That teaches me a bit about my preparations for getting in the pool and how I might change things moving forwards.

Tuesday was also Valentine’s Day. Steve and I had marked it the previous Sunday with a visit to the amazing light display along the walk by the river and a delicious meal, so although we bought each other cards, we didn’t make a big deal of the actual day since it was a weeknight and we both had a busy day. Who says romance is dead 😉

IMG_3271 IMG_3258 IMG_3260 IMG_326544C4C280-8A7E-4C42-A396-8DDE3906FD4AWednesday began with a bit of an adventure when I went out to my car and could hear some pitiful cries coming from somewhere nearby. An investigation soon revealed that one of the cats from down the road had managed to squeeze into a garage as the door wasn’t fully shut but she then couldn’t make her way back out. I released her and she was so pleased that she stared following me to my car and rubbing against me. I could easily have stayed chatting with her, but an inservice training day beckoned.

IMG_0730As part of the day we were all encouraged to take part in some fun challenges put on by different subject areas. I went to a quiz in technologies expecting some general knowledge questions. What I was greeted with was a multiple choice quiz interspersed with some more practical rounds: I had to make a paper aeroplane, hammer a nail into a plank as straight as I could with just one hit, guess how many screws were in a  jar and, the moment I thought I might be out of my depth, saw a shaped segment away from a piece of wood. I was so proud of my finished result that I kept it!

IMG_0731We also had an amazing curry lunch made by the team leading the next World Challenge expedition. It was so tasty and I enjoyed the small piece of cake I took back to my desk to finish off writing some reports.

IMG_0732 IMG_0733My workout on Wednesday was my hill reps and I wasn’t sure how this would go after missing that session last week (and having curry for lunch!). It was a bit warmer so I was able to wear 3/4 tights and a lighter top layer but I still felt pretty warm as I slogged up that hill. It was tough, but then it’s supposed to be tough. Once home I compared my splits to the same workout a fortnight ago and was pleased to see an improvement on each one by a second or two. Not bad after a gap!

IMG_0734Once that was done, I was officially on holiday for a couple of days as we had our mid-term break. This meant I was able to sleep a little later on Thursday morning (I got up at the time I usually leave for work) and take some time to catch up on my life a bit. First up was the mundane detail of dropping my car off at the garage for a service. I walked home enjoying a podcast, then Steve picked me up a little while later to go to the studio for a workout (it’s a bit too far to walk from home and he couldn’t fit me in at a time when I could get there by car or walk from the garage). We worked on knee drive, ankle stability and general core stability with the core momentum trainer again.

IMG_0743I was reunited with my car in time to head to my Ashtanga yoga class in the evening. Our regular teacher had to travel this week so we had someone else filling in. It was a little odd having someone who operates in a slightly different way, but I still enjoyed the class and it was so nice when I knew I’d had a relaxing day and could enjoy more me-time the following day.

Friday was my rest day, but I decided to begin the day by tackling some cleaning and tidying that was long overdue. I treated myself afterwards by heading to the gym to sit in the hot tub and have a sauna to relax. The rest of the day was pretty chilled as I enjoyed the break from work. This gave me time to catch up with my Believe Training Journal while Morven kept a close eye on how well I was resting!

IMG_0747On Saturday morning I headed to parkrun not entirely sure how I was going to run. I use parkrun to work on pushing hard – it’s basically my tempo effort each week – but right now the mud bath that is the grass section slows me significantly. After the briefing I set out quite hard, but probably ran my first mile too fast and paid for it later on. The second mile (which includes the grass) was a little quicker than last week and that combined with the fast first mile meant I had nothing left for the third mile and I slowed dramatically. Overall I was only about 4 seconds slower than last week, but I was a little annoyed with myself for getting the pacing wrong. Still a valuable lesson in not going out too fast, something I’ve not done in a while. I must have got carried away in my excitement at having a couple of days off!

IMG_0751 IMG_0753There was no Hatha yoga this week as the teacher was away on a yoga course, so I made use of the time to go and pick some new glasses (I wear them for reading – occupational hazard…or old age!). I had my eyes tested a month ago and was told I needed to update my prescription but I just haven’t been able to find the time to devote to trying on loads of pairs and deciding what I wanted. It’s a big decision for something that will be so visible on my face for a huge chunk of the day! I was successful so now I just have to wait for them to be ready.

My Sunday long run this week was 16 miles – my peak mileage for February. I’d be lying if I said I was feeling confident about this. In the past, 16 miles has been the point at which problems have crept in. In the autumn, it was the run where I battled with my left hip feeling sore; in 2015 it was the run where my quad strain started, and there are other, similar examples. So history was not on my side here! Thanks to my Believe journal, I had identified this as a belief that may be holding me back so reframed my thoughts to believe that I had been unlucky with my hip in the autumn but that other wise training had gone well and there had been no issues so far in this training cycle. I had to believe that I was getting my training right in order to go out with confidence that I could complete the run without issue.

And that’s exactly what I did. I plotted out a route involving a couple of big hills, slowed my pace down and even battled into a particularly ferocious headwind during the final miles. Run done without any problems and I even got to dig out my shorts and shades…in Scotland…in February! I wanted to take a great selfie to show this, but Steve decided to keep jumping in the shot and I couldn’t take the photo for laughing!

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Post-run I went through my usual recovery routine then sat down for some food. I had a bowl of soup like but had to set aside you bacon rolls as I realised I didn’t feel hydrated enough and eating them was going to be a struggle (eating after a long run is something I find tough, hence my recovery shakes). An electrolyte drink and a 20 minute power nap made me feel so much better and I INHALED those rolls shortly after! Then it was time for our usual Sunday trip out for coffee and a bit of blogging.

IMG_0815So overall, another solid week of training. Yes, some of the sessions feel challenging but that’s sort of the point. I’m getting stronger, building endurance and inching my way ever closer to that start line. Next week will be a cut back in my long run mileage so it will be interesting to see how I feel the following week on slightly fresher legs.

How has your training been this week?
What beliefs hold you back in achieving your goals?

Week in Review – Fitting It All In

Time for my weekly roundup of training for the 2017 Paris Marathon and as usual I’m linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL as part of their weekly linkup.

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Last week I began taking my rest and recovery much more seriously, aiming to go to bed a bit earlier, but I still found myself a little sluggish on my midweek workouts and really tired by the end of the week. I wasn’t sure if this was a training issue, a nutrition issue or a work-related issue, so this week took steps to work on all three (mainly by going to bed early and adding extra snacks to my day!). I’m now feeling MUCH better, although I am no closer to knowing which of the issues was at the root of the problem – perhaps a bit of all three! There’s still quite a lot going on at work, but I’m taking care to manage it a bit better.

This week was another example of being flexible with a training plan. When Steve writes my plans we account for any “knowns” i.e. any commitments that would get in the way of a workout. We knew that in February I would have two parents’ evenings which completely rule out a workout, and this week I had the first of those two evenings. Other than that, my plan was as standard:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym
Wednesday – no workout due to parents’ evening
Thursday – PT session + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

Monday’s swim felt pretty good after the previous day’s long run. I had my usual poor first handful of lengths and then it all clicked into place and I felt comfortable going up and down the pool. I also got my working week off to a good start by heading to bed at 9:30pm!

On Tuesday I headed to the gym for my bike reps. This was one of the workouts I found tough last week, but this week a very interesting thing happened which may shed some light on that. I think I was on the same bike and as I started my warmup I once more thought it seemed a little harder than I would like – better than last week, but still not quite right. I had 18 reps to do, but on the sixth the bike stopped responding to me changing the resistance. I tried one more rep, this time trying to change the resistance on the screen rather than the button on the side, but again no change so I had to stop the bike and move to another. Because of the break, I spent a minute just pedalling at a low resistance before starting my new rep, but as soon as I got to the resistance I wanted I noticed how much easier it felt than on the previous bike and it continued that way for the rest of the workout. I now think that the calibration on the bikes is the problem, with the first bike probably working at a higher resistance than the second at the same setting. If that calibration is too high, then that would explain my difficulties last week. I’ll be interested to see how this feels in the week ahead if I make a point of using a completely different bike.

After being able to do little more than ensure I got my 10,000 steps on Wednesday, getting back to it on Thursday was welcome. My PT sessions are still focusing on work on knee drive, hip strength/mobility and upper back mobility. This week I spent time using both of the core momentum trainers (not at the same time, although Steve might have ideas now!) and at one point the workout spilled out into the corridor!

IMG_0616Then it was my Ashtanga yoga class which is always a highlight of my week. I love stretching my body, settling my mind and it being a Thursday makes me feel like the weekend has almost arrived. I’m still loving my new yoga mat, but must find some time to leave it unrolled so that it will sit a little flatter.

Compared to last week, Friday felt much better. Granted I was a bit later in bed on Wednesday night thanks to the parents’ evening, but the rest of the week I was in bed at 9:30pm to maximise my sleep. I also made some nutritional tweaks which have made me feel much better. This meant that I was quite productive when I got home on Friday so I caught up on laundry, blogged and had a chance to relax before heading out with Steve to eat. This week I was able to enjoy my meal rather than mechanically eating it to get the energy in and as a treat we tried this limited edition gin afterwards:

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IMG_0621There had been some snow on Friday morning which made for a very “interesting” drive to work, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on Saturday morning for parkrun. A peek out the window revealed that the snow had melted but while the actual temperature was above freezing (just!) the air felt bitter so it seemed colder. I looked out some warm kit and opted for my new Salomons again as I anticipated a lot of mud.

I was very aware that I hadn’t run since last weekend and that both of my runs last weekend were slower paced so my legs hadn’t turned over quickly for about a week and a half. That meant that while I felt refreshed, it was a bit harder to move as quickly as I would like. Still, given the very muddy conditions I was pleased to finish in 24:21. I was running a bit quicker than that a month ago, but the underfoot conditions were much better then so I’m not too worried about it.

IMG_0627It was the last Hatha yoga class in the block (we start again in a couple of weeks) and I really enjoyed it. My body really liked the poses we did and my mind benefited from beginning the class in savasana to settle down after my run.
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For the remainder of Saturday my focus was on resting and recharging my body ahead of my Sunday long run, which this week was 14 miles. I had felt the last couple of miles to be a bit more challenging over my 12 mile run last week, so decided to tackle near enough the same route this week, but with an extra loop added in early on to make up the additional 2 miles. This seemed a good way to chart my progress and compare with last week.

Just like Saturday, the temperature was above freezing but the air was likely to feel colder, so after suffering really sore fingertips when I took my gloves off at the end of the run last week, I planned ahead, packing an additional pair of gloves and a pack of hand warmers (a tip I pinched from Hungry Runner Girl – thanks Janae!).

Although chilly, I enjoyed my Sunday run. I felt much better than last week, ran a faster average pace (but still within the limits of my self-declared ideal long run pace – just!) and was still feeling strong in the closing stages – I even had to make an effort to slow down. As for my hands, I decided to stop for my gel at mile 10 and change my gloves. I also put my hand warmers inside my gloves so my hands felt nice and toasty by the time I got home. Perfect!

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Although I missed out on a run this week, overall it was a pleasing week with things feeling like they’re coming together. It’s still early days and there’s a long way to go until I’m on that start line in April, but right now I feel strong and ready to keep on training. Bring it on!

What makes you feel strong?
Any issues to overcome in your training?

Week In Review – Rest and Recover

It’s a new week, a new month and time to move into the next stage of my marathon training. As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly roundup.

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This past week I made it a big focus to get more rest. I was really conscious that I hadn’t been getting enough sleep at night and no amount of lazy Saturday afternoons or weekend naps will ultimately make up for that. My aim, which I largely achieved, was to be in bed by 10pm, with no messing about with my phone to distract me from sleep. As a result, I have had more sleep and have felt a bit more refreshed at my morning alarm. I now need to make it a priority to continue with this and make sure I get enough rest.

When it came to training, the structure of my week remained the same (and I even got everything done as per schedule for the first time on this training cycle!):

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

My Monday swim seems to be falling into a bit of a pattern where I feel a bit “rusty” for the first few lengths then by the second half of my workout feel like I’m in a groove and could go on and on. I’m never really sure how to feel about my swimming. On the one hand, I still think of myself as a beginner, making loads of mistakes and suspect there are still some issues I could tweak. On the other hand, I’ve been feeling more and more that once warmed up it’s all clicking into place. It’s an odd position to be in, but I’ve no swimming-related goals right now and am simply using my weekly swim as active recovery and a bit of cross training to keep my fitness up without lots of high impact.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for my interval session on the bike. I had a couple more reps to add on to the workout but right from the start I knew it was going to be a tough one. My quads felt weary and I found it harder to sustain each rep. I still got the workout done and am pretty sure the weariness is a leftover from the weeks before when I wasn’t well enough rested. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this over the next few weeks to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

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Wednesday means hill reps and this time the workout progressed from what I was doing in January. I’ve been running reps between lampposts on a nearby hill – 5 to one, 4 to the next and 3 to the next. This week saw the addition of 2 reps to the NEXT lamppost. This hill gets progressively  steeper as you go up and there are a few changes in the terrain below your feet as there are driveways and lanes to cross so it can be pretty tough going! I felt the earlier reps were a little slower than last week‘s triumph, but I’m not sure if that was down to me still feeling weary or if I was holding back a bit in anticipation of the additional reps at the end. Again, this is something to monitor over the next few weeks to see how things progress.

IMG_0572My session with Steve on Thursday once more focused on upper back mobility then we did three sets of a mini circuit using the core momentum trainer to work on knee drive and hip strength. None of the exercises were new to me, however this time Steve had me using the heavier trainer so I was working harder, plus he had me doing single leg squat thrusts, which I find really tiring! Still, I know that ultimately it’s things like this that can make a huge difference to my performance.

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After all that it felt so good to stretch my body out at Ashtanga yoga and it never fails to amaze me how much progress I’ve made since beginning the class last May. I also love how the relaxation at the end makes me feel. I think I sleep really well on Thursday nights because of it and even though I should feel at my most exhausted on a Friday morning, it’s usually the morning I awaken feeling the most refreshed.

But despite feeling great on Friday morning, by the afternoon I could feel my energy levels dropping so was really pleased it was my rest day. The energy problem wasn’t helped by staying late at work to finish off some marking, so when I left my eyes felt really heavy, I was teetering on the brink of a headache and I felt the beginnings of that gnawing, marathon training hunger that signals a time to start taking in more calories. Arriving home I took the time to hang out on the recliner with the cat until it was time to go and eat. It was a strange meal because I was really hungry but I was also really tired so it was quite an effort to keep eating. Several times I toyed with giving up on my (delicious) meal, but knew what I really needed was the energy from the food so ate every last mouthful. As soon as I was done, we headed home and almost immediately went to bed. In bed by 9:15pm on a Friday night? I know how to party! I was asleep by 9:30 and slept all the way through until the “cat alarm” went off at 6:30am (I really must check her weekend settings lol!). Luckily Steve decided to get up so he fed her and I dozed for a little longer and enjoyed the chance to relax in bed for a bit before getting up for parkrun.

Since it was the first Saturday of the month, it was pacer week at parkrun and this time I had been asked to run 26 minutes. I knew the time was well within me, and since I wouldn’t be running at my usual pace, it seemed as good a time as any to try out my new “parkrun shoes” which had arrived during the week.

IMG_0580I’ve heard good things about the Salomon Speedcross 4 and have noticed a number of runners wearing them to parkrun recently, so when I found them at a good price online, I took it as a sign that it was time to try them out for myself. Half a mile of our parkrun is over grass and right now it’s REALLY churned up and muddy. This makes for a very slippy few minutes of running and a lot of squelching about!

Today the mud made for some tricky pacing. The first mile was near enough right, but I should probably have gone a little faster to make up a bit of time before hitting the mud. One runner had said she was aiming to stick with me, but unfortunately she dropped behind over the mud and I knew I had lost some time there too. Coming off the muddy section I knew I would have to pick the pace up a bit, and glancing over my shoulder I caught sight of my companion and encouraged her to catch up with me. Through the last kilometre or so I was constantly giving her tips and encouraging her in a bid to get her to the finish as quickly as possible. My shouts of, “I’m right behind you! Don’t let me catch you! Go on! You’ve got this!” caused some amusement to those watching and other runners we were catching! Sadly she narrowly missed out on a PB, but in better conditions she will nail it. As for me, I was slightly slow with an official time of 26:11, but since it was only my second experience of pacing and the muddy stretch was hard going, I’m really pleased with that. I’m also really pleased with the shoes which made me feel really secure on the mud, and they definitely got put through their paces!

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Parkrun was followed with a really good stretch at Hatha yoga, then the remainder of the day was spent relaxing. I took a nap with my furry supervisor and did a little blogging under her watchful eye! Basically Steve’s in charge of the content of my workouts; the cat’s in charge of my rest 😀
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Saturday night saw me having another early night and I slept through until the cat alarm once more alerted us to the fact that it was time for breakfast! I had a 12 mile run on the schedule which I had mapped out the night before so I knew my route. Having checked my weather app I knew it was chilly, but the information that there was only a small chance of rain was definitely flawed as it poured for the first 4 miles. I then spent the next 8 miles with my wet and uncombed hair getting a “fresh air blow dry” and arrived home looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. No wonder people were looking at me a bit oddly as I passed through the town on the final stretch home!

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Weather aside, it was a good run and I felt my pacing was a bit better. I still found my legs wanting to speed up, but I know the slower pace now will ultimately help me to run better on race day so I’m trusting that I’m doing the right thing and taking it as a good thing that my legs have a bit more speed in them.

The weekend showed me the difference that being better rested makes to how I feel. Now I need to work on trying to bring that more effectively into the rest of the week. I’ll let you know next week how I get on…

What is your training focus right now?
Anyone else woken up by a hungry cat in the morning?

Friday Finds – 27th 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.

One of my goals this year is to make rest more of a priority. I know that may sound counter-intuitive to improving my running performance, but I’ve recognised that at some points in the year (now being one of them!) I never really have much down time, and that then impacts on my ability to recover from workouts. When I try to do too much, something has to give. In the past, that something has been me: my body breaks down, I get injured and all my plans are scuppered. So this year. I’m trying to think in the same way that some of the elite East African runners do and trying to make more time to rest. The thing is, so far I’ve not done as well at this as I would like, so having seen a number of sources posting articles about sleep, I thought I would make this week’s Friday Finds a “sleep special” by way of encouraging myself, and others, to think more about how much rest is actually taking place in our lives.

First, the good old BBC and a magazine article about a sleep experiment. We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for us, but I hadn’t realised just how much difference just a small change in sleep patterns might bring. According to this, getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with a number of risk factors for various health problems, as well as preventing our brains from “backing up” our memories from the day. Perhaps that explains why I get so forgetful when I’m tired!

Next up, The Guardian, and while the first article I’m including is actually from January last year, the guidance it gives hasn’t changed. The writer has studied those looking to stick to their goals and found that those who slept well were more likely to succeed. Since we’re now at the point in January when those resolutions might be starting to waver, perhaps it’s worth considering whether or not better sleep might be the way to go:

More recently, sleep has become a big business, something I find rather strange for such a natural process, yet in the modern world sleep seems to have become a sought-after commodity. The inevitable result of this is the prevalence of technology to aid sleep on display at the Consumer Electronics Show. Now I’ll admit to having one of those lamps that wakes me gradually by simulating daylight to help me get up on dark mornings, but now all manner of gadgets and gizmos can be bought to help us get our beauty sleep. Here are some of the latest:

The other source really championing sleep recently is Outside online, which devoted one of its weekly emails to this very topic. First of all, I was intrigued by this article about our circadian rhythms. Whilst biology was never a science I studied, I have read plenty of the received wisdom and know that I am a natural night owl. However I was surprised to read in this article that contrary to other opinions I have read, fighting back against our natural rhythms might not actually work at all and we should aim to embrace our natural tendency. All very well, but that natural tendency doesn’t always fit with our work commitments which might be more problematic. I feel like I’m trying to work with a “best fit” rather than an ideal right now!

From a more athletic point of view, that same email from Outside contained links to the following articles looking at what one athlete did to improve his sleep (I actually have the computer program he mentions installed on my MacBook already); some thoughts on the effects of sleep on performance (since the chances of a good night’s sleep the night before a big event are usually pretty slim); and what to choose for the greatest benefit when we’re so time poor that we can either manage to sleep or to exercise. All of these tell me that I should be trying to sleep more, so I must make more of an effort to organise my life so that can happen.

And finally, if like me you need to rest more, there’s always this tempting challenge that appears frequently on social media. I like the look of this one far more than the usual 30 day challenges I see posted there (and I think my cat has been working on this for years now 😉 ) If anyone wants me, I’ll be taking a nap…!

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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?