Week In Review – Lots Of Yoga!

I know, I know. Things are slipping on the blog a bit right now as the rest of my life is just so busy and my time for writing posts seems to have disappeared. Thank goodness I will soon have some time off to sort myself out! Thankfully I am still managing to fit in a bit of training, but am listening carefully to my body so I don’t overdo things. This past week actually ended up being pretty heavy on the yoga. Here’s how it worked out:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – SUP yoga
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Astanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun then SUP yoga
Sunday – 10k

For a variety of reasons, Monday was a pretty challenging day for me and despite REALLY needing my yoga time, I found it really hard to focus my mind and kept noticing my thoughts drifting. It was a great class as ever, but my head just wasn’t in the right place throughout and that irritated me.

Thankfully, I was a bit more focused on Tuesday and a session of SUP yoga was exactly what I needed. My friend Ella came along and there were some others new to SUP yoga so it was good to have a range of experiences out on the water. Having made great progress with the yoga postures across the classes I have done so far, I was keen to try standing up to paddle back afterwards, however right at the end of the class the wind suddenly whipped up as if from nowhere and we actually had to do a “self rescue” – lying on our stomachs on the board and paddling back with our arms. Kind of like swimming front crawl but with a paddle board under us.

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IMG_7260On Wednesday things were really busy and once more I felt a little unfocused. Steve suggested a run to clear my head, but I was wary of piling physical stress on top of mental stress so stuck to a short route and easy pace. I definitely felt much better when I got home again!

iHwMM0G3S4mtiSsZZbibMgThursday saw me at another yoga class, this time Ashtanga. My focus was back and I felt like I moved well through the postures. Still working on that headstand but I like having something that I want to improve on and am waiting for that “a-ha” moment that helps me to finally realise what to do.

On Friday I had an appointment to get my nails done but not until a bit later than usual so squeezed in a personal training session with Steve first. We did some work with the TRX and Core Momentum Trainer as well as some mobility work to really test me out. It’s been a few weeks since I went down to the studio and I really enjoyed it.

r0EnpOIlR%CmvcAF+nXzrgThe weekend, whilst much needed, was also really busy. I began on Saturday with parkrun. I really wasn’t sure how I was feeling after a tiring week so decided just to see what happened. And what happened was I ran a sub-24 minute time for the first time since the marathon at the end of April! I said recently that I really wanted to be back in that sort of form before going away on holiday so I guess I’ve achieved that now. It will be interesting to see if my time improves any further in the next couple of weeks.

t4SMTI0eTlKa7ue8637OlgPost-parkrun I was back on the paddleboard for another SUP yoga session. It was raining but with a wetsuit on that didn’t really matter. It was, however, still rather windy so that affected the postures we were able to do. All that yoga, especially the SUP sessions, really worked my core this week!

I had to get myself organised fairly quickly afterwards as we were picking my sister up and heading over to Glasgow for the evening as she had got us tickets to see comedian Michael McIntyre at the SSE Hydro. There aren’t too many food options in that area (and I’m not a fan of the food in the venue) so we grabbed some food at a nearby hotel. I had a pizza which was fine but pretty average compared to the ones Steve makes.

gjqqWgB8S0mtRcPHpJ+PBQThe show, however, was brilliant. I wasn’t a massive fan of the support act, but Michael McIntyre was hilarious so I’m glad we were able to see him, even if it did mean a late night!

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bIp%I7dDRzi7vxNIjP%1kgAs a result, I was pretty tired on Sunday morning so decided to head out for 10k rather than trying to increase my mileage any further. I was pretty tired and sluggish for the first mile but then my body woke up and remembered what it had to do and the rest of the run felt great.

IMG_7302The rest of Sunday involved a number of errands followed by a visit to my parents since it was Fathers’ Day.

How much longer until the summer holidays???

Other than running, how do you combat the stresses of life?
Are you going away this summer?

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Friday Finds – 15th June

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.

Yes, I am late with this. It’s been a bit of a tricky week and time just totally got away from me. But never fear, I do have some interesting bits and bobs to share with you in this week’s Friday Finds Saturday Stories

Since I’m actually writing this on Saturday morning, I’ll start with an article about parkrun. Last weekend parkrun in the UK teamed up with the NHS to celebrate 70 years of the NHS. In this article from The Guardian, Jack Dickenson considers how the two might continue to work together to improve public health.

Next, a report on a recent study into arthritis which suggests that despite what the “you’ll ruin your knees” brigade has to say, marathon runners actually have less arthritis than non-runners. Even more reason to get down to your local parkrun and keep your body healthy!

In a more lighthearted story, Canadian Running magazine rounded up some of the more unusual running-related world records. It must be really cool to know you have, however briefly, held a world record. Problem is, all of these records are faster than my PB even whilst doing something like knitting or carrying an egg and spoon!

I also loved this story from a 50km event in Australia. A couple of race volunteers met a koala along the course and gave it a drink from their hydration pack. What an amazing thing to have happened. I generally just return from a run with a story about stopping to talk to a cat haha!

And finally, I never expected to be including an article from Vogue in a Friday Finds post, but there’s a first time for everything! With International Yoga Day coming up this week, I think I’ve found my ultimate yoga experience – Disneyland Paris! This special event taking place in front of the castle sounds amazing and I only wish I could be there. Work can be such an inconvenience sometimes 😉

Happy reading,
The Running Princess 

Week In Review – Nose To The Grindstone!

I always find this a rather odd time of year in school. On the one hand, it feels like we should be winding down towards the summer holidays, but on the other hand we’re beginning our new timetable so teaching brand new classes and with my additional duties surrounding the recent national exams, it tends to feel like there is an awful lot to do in June! I’m trying to find a balance between continuing to train (since I know it makes me feel so much better) and avoiding completely overdoing things as the last thing I want is to reach the end of this month with a niggle or injury. This week, that required a little bit of creativity:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – early run 3.8 miles
Wednesday – evening run 10k
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 8 miles

Monday’s yoga class came at the end of a very timely day off. The authority I work for always takes this Monday holiday at the start of June and I actually used it to catch up on a few chores around the house that had been neglected lately. As a result I felt much fresher than usual when I rolled out my mat, but it was good to have the mental focus and time for myself ahead of what I knew was going to be a really busy week.

PJ4AbEn3QWeNjtNCIG%6BQOn Tuesday we had an inservice day so no pupils but lots of things to do. I had realised that since I had an appointment after work to get my hair cut and a commitment on Thursday evening, fitting in much training was going to be a challenge. So I decided to get up on Tuesday morning and go for a short run. Ordinarily I don’t tend to run on a Tuesday as I like to give my body a bit more time to recover from a Sunday long run, but with my Sunday run having been short, I knew I would be ok. The early alarm was a bit of a shock to the system again and I definitely felt sluggish in the first mile (why did I pick a route that begins with a slight incline???) but once my body woke up it felt good and gave me some happy endorphins to see me into a difficult day.

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fullsizeoutput_25e0Wednesday was the first teaching day of our new timetable (most Scottish schools change early as the pupils who have just sat exams are returning for the last month of the school year and we need to get the new courses started). This meant a whole day of largely unfamiliar pupils in front of me which is pretty draining! I was really glad to get out for a run that evening, even if it was rather warm. Fortunately I found a running top with plenty of “air conditioning” lol!

1Ec%3fhqTRy1BzDmkoF0nAI had thought that I was going to miss out on Ashtanga yoga on Thursday thanks to having plans with my mum and my sister, but as it turned out the class was cancelled this week anyway. I compensated by doing some home practice before getting my lift into town. We were going to see Strictly Come Dancing favourites Ian Waite and Oti Mabuse in their touring show and, as ever, booked in for dinner beforehand. I think I opted for the same starter and main as the last time (chicken strips and a gourmet burger) but this time there was enough time for dessert. Good thing too since I had clocked king of all desserts sticky toffee pudding on the menu!

6aVO%mEpS1GawO3c19dobAThe show itself was brilliant and brought a little sparkle to my week. It was good to get away from the exam duties for a bit since this involves a lot of screen time.

Pzt%8fQzS4mBIzmsK3clngBy Friday, however, I was exhausted. My Friday timetable is pretty full for the year ahead and at this point in the year it’s hard work. I actually needed a nap when I got home (not something I’m in the habit of unless I really need it!) before catching up with some exam stuff. Steve and I went out for some food as usual, and when we got back home I realised I was still pretty tired so opted for an early night. Such a party animal!

But after a good, long sleep I was refreshed and ready to go on Saturday morning. My parkun 100 milestone Tshirt arrived along with my volunteer Tshirt that I wore last week so it was time to give it a whirl.

lsFuwSXnRcyZocfle%EV%gThis was to be just the 3rd parkrun I had run since the marathon and since one of those was pacing, I was curious to see if I could run a bit quicker than the 24:32 I ran on my first post-marathon run. I tried to keep the pace fairly steady and somehow ended up locked in a bit of a battle with two other women who were alongside me for most of the run – we actually all finished within a second of each other! Although they outkicked me at the end, I know I ran the best I could for this point in time and was really pleased with a 24:11. Getting back into the sort of form I like and I would really love to be back in sub-24 form again before my summer holiday (I need all the fitness I can get before running in that humidity!).

IMG_7215After all the usual Saturday errands, I settled in the garden for a while with my laptop to do some exam marking before the sun disappeared and I had to retreat inside.

On a more positive note, Saturday was World Gin Day so Steve and I made sure to mark the occasion with a gin and tonic that evening. We bought this gin when we were getting our food shop and it was actually really nice.

2tt40AtSSNiTNmfV1upBvgSince I had been so tired, I decided not to set an alarm for Sunday morning and just wake up naturally. I woke a bit before 8am (I must have really needed the sleep!) and realised I had been dreaming about cats. Not sure if this is because the exam paper I’m marking happens to be about cats or if I just have cats on the brain generally!

Since I had run 10k midweek, I wanted to stretch things for my Sunday run and go for 8 miles at an easy pace. This meant I could run out to, and through, my favourite woodland path, so after a bit of hydration I got changed and headed out the door. It was actually a bit stickier than it seemed when I left so I was glad to be in shorts and Tshirt, but it was also good to run at an easy pace with no pressure to hit a certain time.

IMG_7246When I got back, Steve had gone out on some errands so I spent some time stretching in the garden and enjoying a bit of warmth on my skin before heading inside to get showered and changed.

It was a tiring week overall, even with a Monday holiday, but then this time of year is always tiring! Roll on the summer holidays…!

Do you get up early to run?
What are you looking forward to this summer?

The Year Of Me!!! – May Update

I’m a little later with this one than I wanted, but better late than never! 2018 is the Year of Me! A year of adding positive habits and value to my life. Each month I’m checking in to see how it’s going, so today it’s my May roundup.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Despite beginning the month with a couple of weeks off to recover from the Stirling marathon, I’m still ahead of schedule with this one. I may have only run about 27 miles, but by the end of May I had brought my total to 404 miles for the year, keeping me ahead of the pace.

IMG_67082.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’ve written frequently about how much I’m loving yoga and in May I added SUP yoga to the mix. But despite that there were definitely a couple of weeks in May when I only managed to practice yoga 4 times in the week. It sounds so easy to fit in just 5 minutes, but some of my work commitments really interfered and I suspect this may continue into June. I’ll need to think about how I can address that since yoga really helps to calm my mind when things are busy so it’s even more important to try and carve out time in my day to go to my mat at those times.

IMG_65553.Read at least 30 books
My reading dropped off a little in May and I’m fairly certain this is what happened last year too,  however I did still read a further 2 books, bringing me to the halfway mark of this particular challenge ahead of schedule. I’m really looking forward to having a bit more time to devote to reading from late June through the summer and have already got a reading list prepared!

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I’m still very conscious of getting to bed early, however I definitely find this one harder in the summer months. Even when I’m tired exhausted, the lighter evenings mean that my body just isn’t getting the signals to wind down and sleep. With work getting increasingly busy, I must make more of an effort to get to bed early more often to balance this out.

5.Watch at least oneTed/Ted X talk per week
I’ve kept up with this one well and watched a variety of interesting talks. I only wish I could find more time to watch talks and this is another thing I’m looking forward to in the summer as I can probably watch a talk most days. Bliss!

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I was concerned that without the lengthy runs of marathon training that I might not keep up with this one, but I still found plenty of occasions to listen to podcasts. I listen when I take my morning walk, in the car home at the end of the day and while doing chores (as well as when I’m running). I’m now totally up to date with my favourites and have listened to one or two episodes of other podcasts that sounded interesting. To be honest, i’d happily listen to podcasts all day if I could.

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
I returned to a written post with my (rather last minute!) response to the prompt Volunteer.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I really don’t know what to say about this one. I’m trying not to use my phone so much, especially in social situations and when watching TV, yet I have a nagging sense that it’s creeping back in a bit. I think I’m needing to take a step back and try to find better ways to keep up to date with the groups I’m involved in and the social media for this blog. Probably I need to set aside particular times of the day for this, however at a time of year that can feel a bit chaotic, it’s difficult to impose a bit of order on things. This is one I really think I need to focus on a bit more as the school year draws to a close.

Despite some slips, I continue to think the Year of Me is going well. I can’t expect to meet all my goals every single day/week/month and need to accept that there will be times when things don’t go exactly as I would like. What’s more important is to keep on doing these things I’m enjoying and look for more ways to fit then into my life.

How is your 2018 going?
What positive habits add value to your life?

Friday Finds – 8th June

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.

My oh my! What a week! I hope you’ve had a good one and were able to mark Global Running Day on Wednesday. I’m really looking forward to a bit of downtime this weekend, and am kicking it off with your weekly fix of things to read.

Let’s kick off with some thoughts on recovery from good old Alex Hutchinson. For me, getting the recovery strategy right is key to running without any niggling problems and at this busy time of year I know I need to be even more aware of this since the body doesn’t know the difference between mental stress and physical stress – stress is stress and eventually something has to give. Of course recovery is something that’s very hard to quantify scientifically as often the impact of a strategy is entirely psychological. Still, this makes for an interesting read as Hutchinson delves into some of the research.

What can be harder is the mental side of recovery, particularly if you experienced a DNF in your last race. It’s something I’ve not (so far) had to deal with (although I have had some particularly emotional DNS experiences). If it’s something you have had to deal with in the past, or are struggling with now, then you might find this article from Women’s Running helpful when it comes to putting things into perspective.

Another mental struggle comes from dealing with injury. I know from bitter experience how hard it is to deal with the unknown of when I might be able to run again. I suspect it would be quite different if someone could put a definitive time scale on recovery, but sadly it just doesn’t work like that. In this next piece, Brad Stulberg considers the mental tools the elites have developed to help them in such situations.

Working on the mental aspects of running has been priority for me this year, however it seems Asics have gone a step further with the new track they have opened in South London. Named the “Blackout Track” it is in complete darkness to allow runners to completely focus on body and mind. It’s an intriguing concept and I wouldn’t mind trying it out, but I’m not sure I fancy the 10k ‘mental marathon’ undertaken by various running luminaries recently! Would you?

And finally, a great way to calm the mind is to practice yoga and there has been a trend of late for various “novelty” forms of yoga. However participants in a goat yoga class in the US recently got more than they bargained for when one of the goats gave birth to kids during the class! I definitely recommend watching the video of the cute little baby goats in this one – so adorable!

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

Week In Review – Fun! Fun! Fun!

It’s been an unusual week – another day out of school for exam marking duties, a couple of more unusual days in school and a full-on weekend of fun events to round it all off. Plenty of training in there too (including a massive leap out of my comfort zone!) so here’s what I got up to:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – sports massage
Thursday – run + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + SUP yoga
Sunday – beach race

The week began pretty much as normal, but with the weather still beautiful I spent some time marking in the garden before going to my yoga class – got to make the most of the sunshine when it puts in an appearance in Scotland! It was the first yoga class in a block that will see us right up to the summer holidays and due to it being a UK bank holiday (not a holiday for me) and the weather being so nice, it was a quiet class but I don’t mind that at all. We worked on a new posture and it was fun to try something different and see how far my body could progress into it right now. It will give a great measure as I continue to work on it.

Tuesday was also pretty straightforward. Work then right to the gym. With my exam marking duties I wanted to be fairly swift so went with a steady cycle for about half an hour then headed down to the pool for a few lengths. Already my swimming felt so much better than last week and I enjoyed being in the water to cool off a bit.

cIUb%3rGQQ2xPg+vPKmIMQIt was from Wednesday that things were a bit more out of the ordinary. First of all, I was out of school for an exam meeting. I was back on the early train to Glasgow and heading to a different hotel for the day (no overnight stay needed this time). It was a beautiful morning and Glasgow is always lovely in the sunshine so I opted to walk to the hotel. A few people had raised their eyebrows at this, but with the logic of a runner, I knew it wasn’t that far since the venue was at the far point of the Santa Run course which is a 5k loop from right by the station I was arriving at. I therefore knew it would be a little over 1.5 miles away and probably only a 30 minute walk. I had plenty of time and really enjoyed the walk.

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H5+roKLuT5+I+BM+7d9rigSince it was so nice I headed out with a friend from the marking team for a walk at lunchtime and everything looked amazing.

8vKvDuouRb2H3GvTSZlVGAThen after the meeting I walked back to the station for my journey home. By the time I got back I had walked a fair distance but still had a run on my schedule. However I also had a sports massage booked and realised I wouldnt be able to squeeze a decent run in before heading along there (it was 6pm and the massage was at 7pm) so began to wonder if I could possibly get up early and run in the morning. I actually laid out my running kit and mentioned to a couple of people that I might do this as that would keep me accountable…

…and I did it! Out the door just before 5:30am for a 4.5 mile run. Waaaaay out of my comfort zone to be running so early but I felt so energised afterwards that I began to wonder if I could do it more often, but as a natural night owl it’s not really best for my rhythms. Still, I know it’s there as a possibility if I need to fit a run in again in future.

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DRnwc0c2TQa+T9UnpLfPQgI rounded off my Thursday with Ashtanga yoga. I was feeling good and surprised myself by managing TWO full rounds of Wheel for the first time. Now I can tick that off as something I have progressed to in the sequence, next up is to keep working on my headstand as I’d love to be able to do this unsupported.

By Friday I was exhausted from 2 early starts and a tiring work day on Thursday and Friday as the pupils were off timetable for our health/activity days. I took a rest day and caught up on myself a bit ahead of a busy weekend.

Saturday was pacer day at parkrun and I had picked the 28 minute slot this month. It was a pretty humid morning so I was pleased not to have to slog it out for a faster time. I also got my first opportunity to wear my new 25 volunteer T-shirt which had finally arrived.

2GUQXPpNTCqdMajUjZRblQI had a group running with me, some of whom were looking to run a faster time than they had been of late, and at least one who was hoping for a PB. I always find it so strange to run along with a group bunched around me – like having an entourage! Despite the heat and the group working hard, we managed to smile for the photographer so it looked like we were all having fun!

34201958_1794687760625242_8411694200835276800_nI came in at 27:52 so everyone wanting sub-28 was fine and there was definitely a PB in there for someone. It’s always so nice when this happens. The runner has put in the work to get that time, but it’s nice to feel like setting a steady pace has helped them to reach that goal and seeing how pleased someone is to run a new PB is fantastic.

Y98W47jTRS2KUjcaIDe3SwPost-parkrun I got myself organised for another session of SUP yoga. It was feeling warm and I was in two minds about the wetsuit but just couldn’t face the idea of going in the water without it so decided to sweat it out in the wetsuit. It was a fantastic session and I was able to stand not just in Mountain pose but in Warrior this time (I only managed this for about a millisecond last time!) so I know I have made progress on the board. Towards the end of the class there were a couple of people in the water so I decided to slide in off the side of my board as I was conscious that I needed to get in the water to overcome my fear of falling in. It felt really nice and I loved just bobbing about with my floatation device on. Now I’ve been in, I’m less scared of the thought of a fall. I’m, also considering buying a “shorty” wetsuit for warmer days as I know I can borrow Steve’s full length one if I need it.

On Sunday I headed to St Andrew for the Chariots of Fire beach race. I’ll write a separate post on this one, but it was a great event and although they suffered a couple of hiccups on the day, I would happily go back again as I really enjoyed it. I mean, dressed in all white, running on the beach to the strains of Vangelis, what’s not to like? A great day out!

g0lx95HSTS+THhuBgfhcvQI do love this time of year when I don’t have anything imminent to train for and can keep my training up but without too much pressure so there’s room for a bit of fun. With all that exam marking to fit in, it’s a welcome distraction!

Do you like early morning runs?
Ever run on a beach?

Friday Finds – 1st June

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.

I can’t believe it’s June! It hardly seems like any time at all since we were battling the worst of the winter weather and now the summer holidays are in sight! It’s been a busy week for me, so I’m a bit later with this post tonight but I’ve still got some interesting articles to share.

First up, a piece from coach Mario Fraioli in which he details habits common to the most effective runners (note the distinction between ‘effective’ and ‘fast’). Much of this is in line with the principles behind my own training and I was especially pleased to see reference to the process since that has been a big focus for me this year. Do you recognise any of your own habits in here (or habits you know you should have)?

Following on from the point about different types of run, good old Alex Hutchinson, writing in The Globe and Mail, explains the reasoning behind easy and hard runs (and why they make a difference). His point at the end is most important, that most of us lack the discipline to stick to the different effort levels required and therefore don’t reap the benefits. I know it can seem counter-intuitive to run at a really easy pace, but having greater variety allows us to build endurance and have enough energy to work hard when we need to. That’s what improves our running. I’d love to know your thoughts.

As someone with a milestone birthday this year, I was intrigued to read about Anthony Famiglietti’s quest to become the 4th man in history to run a sub-4 minute mile after age 40. While many of us expect to slow with age, there are plenty of athletes who continue to run strongly and if successful, Famiglietti will offer hope that we can all continue to challenge ourselves as we get older and not accept that we must slow down.

Another intriguing post features a writer for Outside spending a month on a very different kind of training programme – one where he did the training he felt like rather than the training his plan dictated. For stats geeks, the data at the end paints an interesting picture, but what is more important is the story behind that data, the decisions writer Michael Easter makes about his training in future. Personally I’m not sure this approach would work for me – given the opportunity to be lazy I would probably grasp it more often than I should – but perhaps others would feel differently…

And finally, as a devotee of the Church of the Sunday Long Run, this last piece really amused me. Perhaps a ring of truth?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

The Daily Post – Volunteer

What’s not to love about parkrun? The free, weekly, timed 5k has become a staple part of my week since I first went along at the start of 2015. Since then I’ve earned my 50 and 100 run milestone T-shirts as well as my T-shirt for volunteering on 25 separate occasions. And while one of the wonderful things about parkrun is that the milestone achievements are inclusive and can be reached by everyone whether they run, walk or jog their Saturday morning 5k, this post is not about taking part in a parkun, it’s about the crucial role of volunteer – after all, no parkrun event can run without the high-vis heroes who set up, marshal, time, hand out finish tokens, scan barcodes, manage funnels, tail walk, pace, take photographs and clear away in parks up and down the country (in fact, around the world!) every week.

IRVvVcWyTVysW1q5x7JbogBeing a volunteer at parkrun is an awesome job. It gives you the opportunity to interact with all the participants, not just those you normally run/walk beside. It gives you the opportunity to feel appreciated as those taking part smile, wave, nod and say thanks. And it gives you the opportunity to give something back to the parkrun community. Most parkruns have enough participants that if each one volunteered just twice in a year, the whole operation would run smoothly (and give the poor run directors much less stress in the days before the event!).

Yet it can be all too easy for some to overlook the opportunity to volunteer. For those new to parkrun, being involved in the running of the event might seem intimidating. For those suffering an injury, watching others run might be torture. For those who want to run every week and not “give up” a run to help out…shame on you! EVERYONE can find a couple of occasions in the year to help out, and there are a number of jobs to be done that would still allow you to run – I’ve known some super-speedy types to finish their run then grab a scanner and start scanning barcodes, so there really is no excuse not to do your bit. I always sign up to volunteer on the two Saturdays right after a marathon so that I stick to my recovery plan and avoid the temptation to run sooner than I should. I also take on the role of pacer on a number occasions throughout the year. Others volunteer the day before a big race when they want to make sure they are rested. And although turning up to a run when you’re injured sounds tortuous, it’s actually a great way to stay in touch with the running community and still feel involved. I spent much of the winter of 2015/6 volunteering when I had a stress fracture in my foot and I really enjoyed it as I still felt like it was part of my routine and I was getting the chance to catch up with my running friends.

IMG_3972So what do the volunteers actually do? In a nutshell, they make sure that parkun happens every Saturday morning. It’s the volunteers who set up the start/finish areas, stand at assigned marshal points to ensure everyone goes the right way, time runners crossing the line, hand out the finish tokens and scan the all-important barcodes to make sure you get your time later. There are also volunteers who check out the course beforehand, who act as pacers to help others reach a time goal and who take photos of all those grimacing smiling faces striving to do their best. The roles are all really straightforward, and you would only ever be asked to do something you feel comfortable with, especially if it’s your first time. I had only run about 10 times before I volunteered for the first time, and there are plenty who start out by volunteering, perhaps if a family member is a regular participant and they want to get involved too. In fact, if you’re considering going to parkrun but are feeling a bit anxious about trying something new, volunteering can be a great way to see what it’s all about first.

My favourite role is probably pacer. I love taking time away from worrying about my own times to run at an a easy (for me) pace to help someone else reach a new time goal. It’s incredibly satisfying to have someone say thank you and tell me they got a new PB or ran faster than they had expected because they were running with me or keeping me in sight. I also love barcode scanning as I get to be one of the first people to chat to runners after they finish, to ask about how their run was, congratulate them on taking part/getting a PB and help out with any queries.

UntitledFeeling tempted? Then getting involved is dead easy. Either speak directly to the team at your local parkun (they will be delighted to have you on board) or opt-in to the volunteer emails via your event’s website or the option within your weekly parkrun email. You’re sure to love the experience.

How often do you volunteer?
What’s your favourite role as a parkrun volunteer?

Week In Review – Signs Of Summer

It’s the end of May and we’ve had a decent spell of weather here in Scotland – hard to believe that it was only last month that I was still running in snow! My week has been a little different as the exam marking period has kicked in, but that is always one of the last hurdles to overcome in the school year before the summer break comes into view. It can’t be long now!

My main goal this week was to keep some consistency in my training despite a few unavoidable changes, so here’s how it ended up:

Monday – yoga at home
Tuesday – bike at the gym + swim
Wednesday – run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – swim at hotel
Saturday – rest
Sunday – run

I mentioned last week that I wouldn’t have my usual Hatha yoga class this week as my teacher was taking a well-deserved holiday, so I made sure to do an at-home practice instead. I started a new Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey (I don’t do these in 30 days as I work around my other classes and don’t necessarily practice every single day, but there is no expectation of consecutive days – it’s all about showing up and taking time on your mat regularly). It’s always exciting starting these and getting into the flow of postures that will be the focus throughout the videos.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for a cycle. This time I stretched the duration a bit then carried on for a few seconds more to hit a round distance. I probably eased off on the pace a little compared to last week’s shorter effort, but I also knew that I was going to follow this with a swim so that was ideal. It struck me recently that I haven’t really swum much this year so am intending to get in the pool a bit more in the last few weeks of term. In actual fact my swimming was ok, but I did feel like I was kind of congested from the pool chemicals which definitely affects my breathing. If anyone has any advice on this then I’d love to hear it. Once home, I did some more yoga since the videos tend to be an ideal length for me.

Wednesday, of course, is a running day for me and I knew I needed to make the most of it as I wouldn’t get another run until Sunday. It was a pretty warm evening so it was great to be outside, even if I was rather red-faced afterwards. I’m not going to complain though – after the winter we’ve just had I’m looking forward to some warmer runs so fingers crossed the good weather is here to stay!

FGYyd4MbRQ6Zw05pNsByFQThe run itself was a slight stretching of the route I did last Wednesday, coming in at around 4.33 miles. It wasn’t planned to be spot on 4 and 1/3, I just chose a loop to run, but it’s fun to see the result.

It was so good to be back at Ashtanga yoga after missing it last week. I was feeling good and was particularly pleased with how strong I felt in Wheel after working so hard on it. I also managed another supported headstand but really want to make more progress on this one. I will be patient though as I know it will come in time.

After yoga I went to get my nails done as the friend I go to for this is going on holiday and I had to squeeze an appointment in before she left. She was running a bit late which was fine, but it did mean I was home a bit later than I thought and didn’t really have much to eat. Thank goodness I’m not marathon training!

FpDeRpTLRJaT+0c3A670XAFriday was an early start as I had to get a train to Glasgow for the first part of my exam marking duties. We were meeting in one of the city centre hotels and I had a booking to stay over that night rather than go back and forth. I quite like getting the train as it gives me some time to read/listen to a podcast/blog and feels quite relaxed when the train is quiet.

Wzvyz%dAQZexzZqcF1nqKQWe always eat really well at these events so I soon made up for the light eating the night before! Lunch was awesome as it was all the various bits and bobs to build your own fajitas, plus a salad bar and selection of desserts. That evening I ate in the hotel bar with one of my friends from the team and had a pretty amazing burger followed by a double chocolate brownie with hot chocolate sauce and ice cream. Yum!

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fullsizeoutput_2576Fortunately, I did have the foresight to get a bit of activity into my day as well. I knew we would finish around mid-afternoon and since it was a glorious day (the west coast of Scotland gets the best weather) I took a walk into town with my friend and we treated ourselves to a drink at Hotel Chocolat. I picked the salted caramel chilled chocolate.

DGiY+wQaTRmNVRJuZW2CGAOnce back, we located the hotel pool and I had a bit of a swim before we headed into the steam room for a bit of a blether. It was good to have a bit of chill out time around all the work (and forthcoming marking!).

GDqIYao3TpmU2LljyGGqnwSaturday was more of the same and sadly no chance of fitting in a parkrun, so I consoled myself with a selection of food from the breakfast buffet (it’s a hard life!). I started with a selection from the cooked breakfast foods, then saw someone with a pancake and chocolate sauce. I investigated and realised that there was maple syrup so treated myself to a pancake with bacon and maple syrup. Not something I have often but oh so tasty!

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uB3DN4P3TwWYNzKJlvIO6AWe had another great lunch where there was a selection of foods and I just went for a mad selection of a little bit of everything. My plate seriously had rice, ratatouille, ham, veg, fries, spaghetti and salad all at once! I then “double-desserted” as there was mini key lime pie and profiteroles. How was I expected to choose!

When we finished work for the day I loaded up with some sweets from the selection in the hotel lobby (awesome idea!) and walked back into town to get the train home. There was a bit of time to fill and I was warm so I went back to Hotel Chocolat for one of their ice creams which they call ‘Ice Cream of the Gods’. It was yummy!

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3ouxwATxSz2FlnyhIXwhrgThe train journey flew by as I bumped into some others I had been working with and discovered that one of them is also a runner so we chatted about races all the way back. Steve had offered to pick me up but I was needing to move so opted to walk home. It was a nice surprise about half way up the road to find him walking down to meet me. I didn’t do much else the rest of the day as I was feeling tired and actually went to bed quite early. What a party animal!

My plan for Sunday was to not set an alarm and just wake naturally…so I woke up at 6:45am! It must have been how light it was and I had slept for a good long time. I got up, got organised and headed out to run 10k before it got too warm (for us poor Scots who aren’t used to it!).

a8n69qojQm6TeyYbA646YwPost-run and breakfast I took my work into the garden and got down to some exam marking while Steve was out for a long bike/run brick session.  We had a few errands but once that was done I headed back into the garden to make the most of the sunshine since there’s no guarantee of it lasting around here!

And now, the next three weeks will be dominated by exam marking, but I will be making sure to get my workouts in as well to keep me feeling fresh.

How are you making the most of the weather where you are?
What’s your favourite ice cream?

Friday Finds – 25th May

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.

Hello! I hope you have that Friday feeling! My week is ending a little differently to normal due to a work commitment, but I’m still here to share a few bits and pieces I’ve read this week to get your weekend off to a start.

I’m writing this on an early morning train journey and am most definitely fuelled by coffee to get me on the move! Over the years a pre-run/race coffee has become part of my routine and I know a lot of other runners are the same. It seemed fitting, therefore, to begin this week with an explanation from Canadian Running Magazine of the history of caffeine use in sport and just why it can provide such a benefit to athletes.

Also fitting today as my train passes through Stirling (whilst remembering my recent foray around the University campus as part of the Stirling marathon) is this piece from The Guardian looking more closely at the phenomenon of The Daily Mile. I love the idea of children taking 15 minutes outside each day to boost their fitness and wellbeing. While it only goes part of the way to helping them reach their optimum activity levels, it’s still far better than not going out and the statistics bear this out. As for those who express doubts about the time away from the classroom, I would wholeheartedly agree with the argument that the endorphins and fresh air is more likely to IMPROVE outcomes in the classroom and wish that more schools, including secondary schools, could find a way to incorporate these ideas into the curriculum.

Something I’ve been fascinated by of late is sleep. It’s already one of my goals this year to try and get a bit more sleep and since reading Matthew Walker’s book “Why We Sleep” I’ve been even more fixated on making sure I get enough shut-eye. I was pleased, therefore, to see one of my favourite columnists (Alex Hutchinson of Sweat Science) publishing some information on how athletes can use the latest sleep research to help them.

I also came across something a bit different this week. I’ve touched on the idea of training plans before and always maintain that it should fit into your life rather than you being an absolute slave to it. I’m lucky that Steve writes my plans and fits them around the weekly pattern I want to maintain and the other commitments in my life. To an extent, I’m handing over that responsibility then simply following the plan (with the option to make adjustments as I go). But what if training involved TOTALLY delegating responsibility for your training to others? Well that’s exactly what one runner did when he allowed his twitter followers to dictate his half marathon training. Foolish? Inspired? I’ll let you decide…

And finally, it’s the stuff of pre-race anxiety dreams to get lost or get the timings all wrong, and runner Mike Koehler found out the hard way what happens when you don’t read all your race instructions carefully enough. I have to say, training for a half marathon and “accidentally” running the full is impressive, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess