Week in Review – An Easy Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Report – Loch Leven Half Marathon

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been in a hurry to sign up for a half marathon at this point in the year: not only did I know that I wouldn’t quite have worked my way back up to the distance again in my post-marathon training, but on this particular occasion I was going to a concert the night before. Not what you’d call ideal race preparation, but having been lucky enough to win a place in this race through the parkrun points competition last year, I figured I could take it easy round the 13.1 miles safe in the knowledge that my endurance base was up to the job – it’s funny how a month after a marathon you can just turn up and run a half marathon without any particular difficulty!

Actually, the last time I ran this race (in 2010, pre-blog) I did something similar: Paris marathon in April (my first marathon and hampered by injury during training) then the Loch Leven half marathon around a month later. At that point the course was very slightly different (minor alterations to the start and finish as well as a stretch which now takes place on the trail which opened more recently) but the bulk of the route remains much as it was.

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To be honest, I was a bit of a bad blogger this time. I left out some kit on Friday night (the race was 11am Saturday) but changed my mind about some of it when I saw the weather on Saturday morning. Being quite tired from my late night, I neglected to take a pre-race “flat runner” photo before I put it all on – oops! – but I opted for Nike twin shorts, a short sleeved Tech T-shirt, lightweight gilet, 2XU calf sleeves and my Adidas Ultra Boosts. On the drive through to Kinross, about half an hour down the road, I began to wonder if I should have brought my “emergency hat”!!

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Registration for the race takes place at the high school and we were able to park right across the street. We collected our numbers and race T-shirts then headed back to the car to sort ourselves out before returning to the school for a quick toilet stop. The start was about a mile from registration so we had to leave plenty of time to walk/jog there (they were transporting bags etc back to the start but we headed to the start line ready to run).

We chatted to one or two others en route to the start and once there I decided to have one last toilet stop before the race began – I had just enough time to join the short queue, nip in and line up at the start before the gun went off.

The race itself was quite nice. An undulating route around the perimeter of the loch with some hills in the second half. I gave myself the first mile to settle into a comfortable pace then switched on the latest edition of Marathon Talk to listen to and got a real surprise about 3 miles in when I heard my name mentioned in the “Rate Your Run” section!

I followed my usual strategy of a gel at 5 miles and 10 miles, but to try and avoid the slump I often experience around the 10 mile mark I decided to count DOWN the miles from the start, which psychologically made a difference.

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Running at a comfortable pace rather than racing meant that when I reached the steepest hill around 8 or 9 miles, I had plenty of energy left to start overtaking people who had gone out hard and for a good while I was passing other runners. Only a few overtook me in the last mile, which was on the trail, as I had developed a blister under my toe which was a bit nippy when I landed on it!

I also found time to pose for the photographer I spotted on a nice downhill stretch. Looks like I’m having fun (and doing a phenomenal balance manoeuvre!).

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Photo by Gordon Donnachie

[Source]

I wasn’t 100% sure where on the school grounds the finish line would be, but I also knew that since this was a smallish race (471 finishers – I was position 322, 97th out of 200 females and 43rd out of 94 in my category) my watch had been pretty much in line with the mile markers so I could trust how much there still was to go. Coming off the trail and around the final bend I began to speed up a bit to finish in 2:01:55. It would have been great to run just sub-2, but the second half was just a little too hilly for that. Still, I’m really pleased to run so close to 2 hours when I was tired and taking it easy as that means I wasn’t much slower than the pace I will need to run a sub-4 marathon and I still have plenty of time capitalise on my current form.

Once over the line I was handed my medal, a bottle of water and was able to collect a snack (there were bananas and that Scottish staple the caramel wafer). There was also a tent nearby where you could key in your number and get an immediate printout of your chip time, which was really good.

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I milled around taking selfies and chatting to folk until I was able to find Steve as he had my bag with warm clothing for the drive home. As soon as I’d sorted that out, we headed back to the car to get home for some food.

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Overall this was a great race. Well organised by Kinross Road Runners and with a lovely route (thankfully we were spared the midge cloud which had been in the news!), gender-specific tech T-shirt and nice medal. Definitely worth entering if you ever get the chance.
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Friday Finds – 19th 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.

It’s been a funny old week in the world of running and fitness. The biggest spring marathons are naught but a distant memory, the Breaking2 experiment is still generating some comment (more on that in the promised separate post soon!) and with the (mostly) better weather people are getting their summer training schedules kickstarted. For that reason it really is a bit of a mishmash of finds this week.

I’ll start with a story from the world of triathlon. You might remember Jonny Brownlee’s dramatic finish to the World Series finale in Mexico last September when his brother Alistair carried him over the finish line. Back in action for the first time since then, he once more demonstrated his grit and determination when a crash in the bike leg rendered his bike useless. Rather than give up, Jonny picked up the bike and ran barefoot to the transition a mile away so he could still head out on the run. Despite being almost 7 minutes behind the winner, he still finished the race, saying, “I had not come all the way…not to finish.” What would you have done?

While Jonny Brownlee may not have had quite the comeback he was looking for, what about the rest of us? Taking time out of training for any reason inevitably means a lot of hard work to regain previous form, something I’ve noticed even from taking a little time off after a marathon. With that in mind, I found it really interesting to read this piece from Outside in which a number of high-profile athletes discuss their approach to a comeback and what they learned from it. Some even went on to perform better than before!

At the other end of the scale, what happens if we run too much (yes, it is possible). This is a topic I’ve come across a few times recently, both in print and on podcasts, and I think it worth highlighting. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only running because it makes us feel good, but it’s important to find a bit more balance in our workouts in order to be create the strength we need to support our running and to be a bit more resilient. Getting the balance wrong is a fast track to injury, as I’ve learned to my cost, and if I could give myself as a beginner one piece of advice then this would probably be it. In this post the writer discusses how easily our running can become an obsession, and what we should do about it if that happens.

Possibly the coolest thing I’ve come across this week comes from Nike. The sportswear giant, fresh from their Breaking2 endeavour, has created a running track shaped like a running shoe. What’s so cool about that? Let me tell you. The track is also lit by LED lights and is integrated with a sensor worn on your shoe (a bit like a timing chip) which then allows you to race against your own virtual avatar. If you’re anything like me then as soon as you’ve watched the video you’ll want to give it a go. Shame it’s so far away!

And finally, here’s one for the ladies. Posts on social media lamenting the struggles of putting on (and taking off!) a sports bra are a regular occurrence (and a struggle our male counterparts will never know). For those in the know, this tongue-in-cheek set of instructions for putting on a sports bra is sure to raise a smile:

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week in Review – A Cheeky Half!

Another week, another week in review! As ever, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to bring you my weekly roundup.

From the title of this post you might have worked out that there was a half marathon in there, but here’s how the rest of my week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Loch Leven half marathon
Sunday – rest

At this point I’m in a bit of an odd place training-wise. The furthest I’ve run since Paris is 8 miles, but still have decent fitness from my marathon training cycle. I’m looking forward to capitalising on this over the summer, but right now am amused by having sufficient fitness to complete a half marathon without any specific training. Just another reason to be grateful for marathon training!

I began my week, as ever, in the pool. I’m really enjoying my Monday swims lately as I’m beginning to feel a bit more confidence in the water and can find a rhythm more quickly. What I need to work on is having more continuous swimming i.e. not stopping between lengths. It will come!

On Tuesday I was a bit pushed for time but still managed to squeeze in a set of intervals on the bike at the gym. No time for any mobility work or anything this week though as I had plans with my sister. We were seeing the second instalment of the trilogy of First World War plays which began last year with The 306: Dawn. This year was The 306: Day and where last year the focus was on the stories of some of the 306 men who were executed for cowardice, deception and mutiny, this year the focus was on the women at home. Three of the women were connected to characters from the first instalment and some of the same music was woven through to give greater impact, so while you could have watched it in isolation without having seen last year’s production, it was definitely more powerful if you had. Dawn had me in tears, but Day had me torn between tears and anger as I felt driven to start a revolution 100 years too late as I watched the way women were treated for standing up for themselves and the men in their lives. Shocking that this was seen as acceptable and I’m so glad there has been progress since then.

I was a little distracted during the performance as I recognised the male actor who appeared but couldn’t quite figure it out. Checking the programme he had a Casualty credit (but then most UK actors do!) and I thought he might have been a regular. It was only afterwards that I was able to look him up and remembered exactly who he was!

fullsizeoutput_1e00Wednesday was a repeat of the same hill reps from last week. It felt tougher this week and I’m still not sure if I was a bit sluggish or if it was because every time I turned to run up the hill I found myself running straight into a headwind. Tough, but I know it will make me stronger and hill training is definitely going to be key in preparing for the Loch Ness marathon which is an “undulating” course with a hill at 18 miles, exactly when you don’t want it!

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IMG_1845On Thursday I enjoyed a fantastic Ashtanga yoga class. It’s been about a year now since I began my yoga journey and every week I love it more. This week was special because a lovely lady who used to be a regular at the class returned as an observer as she is just finishing her yoga teacher training course. Having an extra instructor meant more opportunity to be adjusted, not because of issues in how I approached a posture, but to help me move more deeply into it. It was so nice to see her and at the end of the class she commented on how much progress she could see in my practice, which is really good to hear.

Then it was Friday, perhaps the most exciting day of the week. Not because it was scheduled as a rest day, but because the reason for that rest was a trip to Glasgow to see TAKE THAT live in concert! I’ve been looking forward to this for ages and as usual they didn’t disappoint. The band is renowned for the theatricality of their live shows and this one fetaured a cast of dancers and acrobats performing in the round with a set that changed levels and with props that flew around the stage and awesome lighting effects. I was on my feet throughout belting out every song and loving every moment.

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The thing about a concert, though, is that it’s inevitably a late night and heading through after work meant we only had time for food at the venue (pizza with a base apparently made of cardboard!). None of this is particularly ideal preparation for a half marathon, but that was the prep I had so on Saturday morning, after less than 7 hours sleep, I was off to Kinross for my race. Anticipating that I wouldn’t be at my finest, I had decided in advance to simply treat this as a training run with a medal and just take it easy rather than racing. This turned out to be a good strategy and I was pleased to find that even when at less than my best I was able to finish in just a little beyond 2 hours and feeling comfortable. I’ll write more about my experience of this race in a separate post, but I enjoyed it.

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Post-race we grabbed some food then had a relaxing afternoon of napping and reading before treating ourselves to a takeaway since we knew Sunday would be a rest day to allow our bodies to recover from a late night and a race. I even pushed the barrel out and had a Saturday night bath with Epsom salts, bubbles, a running magazine and a glass of wine. Lovely!

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It was nice going to bed on Saturday night and not setting an alarm (little chance of sleeping in anyway when you have a cat!) and waking when her majesty demanded food. It was then an easy day of coffee, food shopping (usually done on a Saturday) and a visit to my parents (there was cake again!). This must be what the non-runners do with their Sundays! It was nice, but I think I would get bored of this after a couple of weeks and be desperate for something different.

In the week ahead I’ll probably ease off training a little for a lighter week to make sure I recover well, then I’ll be back to my preparations for Loch Ness. September will be here before I know it!

How is your training going?
Any exciting events in your life?

Tunes on Tuesday – Could it be Magic

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

Could it be Magic – Take That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week In Review – Oops, I Did It Again!

With running back on the agenda again this week was all about returning all my workouts to their usual intensity and moving on from the lighter workouts of late. I’m linking up again with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my training week.

My post-marathon recovery involved a gradual progression from complete rest, to light cross training, to easy running and now my regular training schedule. Here’s how that looked for this week:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 8 miles

Monday was a bank holiday and the schools were off too so I was able to have a leisurely start to the day. Steve had an early client so I was unsupervised which, as it turns out, is perhaps not the best idea. First I did this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 08.37.05Yup, that’s my ballot entry in for the London Marathon. Again. The odds are pretty slim for getting a place, but you’ve got to be in it to win it!

But I wasn’t done at that. Next, I did this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 08.53.35I can now announce that I have entered the 2017 Loch Ness Marathon which takes place at the end of September. This will be my third time entering this race, and hopefully this time I will FINALLY reach the start line. My quest for a sub-4 time is back on (although perhaps after the weekend’s events in Monza I should call it #Breaking4 lol!).

It’s ok, I stopped there before I got carried away entering races! The rest of my day was spent catching up on some household chores before heading to the pool for a swim. I really enjoyed being in the water again and felt that I was swimming well. Unfortunately it was busy so I kept having to stop at the end of my lengths to allow those ahead of me to get further up the pool before I could start my next length. Still, I’m pleased with how my swims have felt lately.

I rounded off my day with a last-minute opportunity to watch a private screening of a play I saw wth my sister last year. It was part of the 14-18 Now project which is marking 100 years since WW1 and we are seeing the second instalment in a few days. When we saw the play last year we had to travel to a converted barn outside the city and the play itself was incredibly emotional. As soon as the screening started all those emotions came flooding back, the lump in the back of my throat formed and I was in tears by the end. At least there was popcorn!

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Tuesday was my first time back to the bike reps at the gym. The last time I did this was in the week before the marathon and since then I’ve had a couple of half hour cycles so I was unsure about how this would feel. Steve had me stick with the same work/rest intervals as my last cycle of these and kept the intensity level the same, simply dropping back to 10 reps to basically repeat the last cycle before considering how best to progress this. My legs felt weary from the re-introduction of running, but I soon got into the way of it and completed the workout feeling quite strong so I must have retained some of the gains from all the reps I’ve completed over the last few months.

When I was finished on the bike I did some stretching and mobility work before heading to the hot tub to relax before walking home. I’m really enjoying having so much daylight as it makes me feel like I have so much more time to enjoy my evenings.

IMG_1708Wednesday also had me switching from a light workout to a more intense session as I headed back to my “favourite” hill for some reps. I have been using the lampposts on this hill for my reps, most recently I was completing decreasing reps to each successive lamppost (i.e. 5 to one, 4 to the next, and so on). To progress this, we cut out the first two lampposts and focused on the reps to the last three. I have to say, it felt tough at first but just like with the bike reps my body soon remembered how to do it. The weirdest thing was not running the reps in the dark. Instead it was sunny, warm (for Scotland in May) and I had shorts on rather than base layers and gloves 🙂

IMG_1724On Thursday we had the local council elections and it was another sunny day so when I got back from work (it was an inservice day so no pupils and a different venue meant I was a bit earlier) I got changed and took a walk to the polling station. Civic duty done, it was off to Ashtanga yoga where I enjoyed another great class. It’s coming up to a year since I first went to this class and I can’t believe the difference it has made to my body. Every week I notice something different, even when working through the same sequence of postures.

I finished the work week with a PT session at Steve’s studio. It was the usual mobility work which I know is key in keeping my body moving as it should and helping to prevent injury. I then had a short walk to enjoy the last of the evening sunshine before going out to eat.

IMG_1766Saturday was, of course, parkrun day. I began my day with the results of the Breaking2 run – I can’t believe how close Kipchoge came to running under 2 hours! I also began my day with a bit of a scratchy throat and feeling a bit below par, however I was fairly sure this was the result of not sleeping enough recently and not drinking enough over the couple of days before, so still wanted to go to parkrun as that often sorts me out. I didn’t expect to run overly well and did feel the run was tough, yet I still finished 10 seconds quicker than last week so that’s a positive sign that my fitness levels are returning to where they were in the weeks before the marathon, at least when it comes to shorter distances.
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My Hatha yoga class re-started this week and it was great to stretch out and centre myself after the run. I really think it makes a difference to my recovery before my longer run on Sundays. My other excitement was the arrival of the tab to put on my Paris marathon medal so the back of it is now complete. It wasn’t the time I wanted it to say, but I remain proud of my achievement as I know how much training went into it and how tough it was on the day.

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IMG_1825Sunday was another sunny day – May in Scotland can be beautiful – and I had 8 miles on my schedule so donned my shorts and shades to head out into the sunshine. I hadn’t really paid attention to my splits last week as I was running relatively easy, and only noticed at the end of this run that something was a bit off. I knew I had been running fairly briskly on the flat and downhill sections, so was surprised by the average pace that flashed up on my screen when I pressed stop. Turned out I still had the autopause feature off from racing in Paris and I usually have it on when I’m out on a training run as I often have to stop to cross roads and don’t like the watch ticking away while I’m not moving. I’ve rectified that now!

IMG_1816And with that, another week of training comes to a close. Overall I feel pretty good and can sense my body getting back into the groove of regular training again. It still feels a little tough to hit faster paces or begin more intense training, but that’s to be expected coming off a marathon and having some time out. Now I officially have a target to aim for again it will help me to focus and build on the fitness I’ve already gained this year. Bring it on!

Did you enter the London marathon ballot?
What is your next target event?

Friday Finds – 5th 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.

The biggest stories this week seem to be all about records. While one of the biggest news stories is the Breaking2 project, world records hit the news again with the announcement that world and European records set prior to 2005 are likely to be struck from the record books as athlete samples to combat doping have only been stored since that date. This of course means that athletes like Paula Radcliffe, who has always fought for clean competition (and successfully argued to retain her world record after previous attempts to change the criteria) stand to lose their record. I can certainly understand that something needs to be done as there will be many records set by athletes who were doping, however it angers me that clean athletes are set to lose out. Whatever happens, Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 will remain the standard I compare other athletes to as it is a phenomenal feat of endurance that has stood unchallenged for over a decade.

Another controversial announcement surrounded the “exercise pill” which scientists have been studying for a number of years. It is claimed that the pill could provide some of the benefits of exercising, without actually having to work out. This could be of benefit to some groups of people unable to exercise, however it seems to me that it would also be open to abuse as the compound involved was banned by WADA in 2008 and concerns persist around the long-term prognosis of taking it regularly. Fitness benefits aside, exercising is about so much more than just gaining fitness: it’s about fresh air, endorphins and the simple feel-good factor of knowing you worked hard to improve your strength or stamina. No pill can really offer that, can it?

Something that’s really caught my attention is a new feature being rolled out by popular fitness app Strava. Their new Athlete Posts feature will initially be available to a small number of select athletes, but there are plans to roll it out to all users over the summer. Keen to delve even deeper into the social networking aspects of the platform, the new feature will allow users to write longer, blog-like posts to share in the Strava community e.g. tips, kit, training updates, etc. I can already see how this would really easily suck me in to spending more time in the app than I do at present, which may or may not be a good thing, however I will be very interested to see how this new feature develops and how it is used by different groups of people such as elite athletes, everyday runners and bloggers.

Phew! I don’t know about you but after all those serious stories at the start of this post, I’m in need of something a bit lighter, and fortunately I’ve found the very thing. Those of us of a certain “vintage” will well remember the opening credits of TV show Baywatch, with all the slow motion running. Well to celebrate the release of the new Baywatch movie a unique event was organised: the slow-mo marathon. Yup, it’s exactly as it sounds. If you’re in need of a laugh then I definitely recommend watching the video in the article below:

And finally, if even the thought of slow-mo is too much for you, then how about a gym class that’s all about sleeping? That’s right, sleeping. Designed to combat that scourge of modern life, a chronic lack of sleep, classes consist of a 45 minute afternoon nap. Now there’s a fitness trend I could get in to!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week in Review – The Joy of Running!

As April comes to a close I can hardly believe our trip to Paris happened in the same month – it feels like ages ago! So long ago, in fact, that I’ve had my two weeks off running so this past week I was ready to lace up my running shoes again and get back out there. As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my week in review.

Ever since watching the London marathon last week, I’ve been absolutely desperate to run again, particularly since that race showed me everything I love about marathons in one morning. I was glued to the TV coverage and wanted nothing more than to be on those streets running 26.2 miles, a sure sign that I was mentally and physically recovered and ready to run again. That meant planning a week that included my usual frequency of running, but without any particular pressure when it came to pace.

Mondayswim walk
Tuesday – easy cycle + swim
Wednesday – easy run
Thursday – walk
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – longer run

As you can see, the week began with a pretty easy day workout-wise. This wasn’t really my intention, however a later finish at work followed by some errands on the way home meant that time had marched on and while I could have gone to the pool, I would have been a bit rushed and I prefer to have my swim then take my time relaxing in the hot tub and sauna, so I decided to simply move my swim to Tuesday since I would be at the gym anyway.

Tuesday was another easy cycle at the gym as I didn’t want to leap into harder workouts just yet, but it was interesting to compare my workout data to last week. I cycled for the same amount of time and with more or less the same effort level, but covered a greater distance, which tells me that my recovery has progressed as I was able to work harder without really realising it. After my cycle I did a little stretching and mobility work before heading down to the pool for 20 lengths. I really enjoyed my swim as the pool was quiet and I felt really in control of my stroke, settling into my rhythm much more quickly.

Wednesday brought much excitement as it was finally time to run! I was quite amused to find that it took a bit more thought to get organised for my run than usual as I had been out of the routine for a couple of weeks, but once I was out the door my legs immediately remembered what they had to do. I decided to run a loop I like which is about 3.5 miles long, including a short uphill climb and delightfully long downhill blast. My plan was to take it relatively easy, to run to feel and just let my body do whatever it wanted to do. I must have been like a coiled spring ready to be set loose as my legs wanted to turn over fairly quickly and I probably ran a little faster than I should at this stage, but it just felt so good to be out in the fresh air and running that I didn’t try to hold back.

IMG_1584There was further excitement when I got home and opened up my copy of Women’s Running which had been delivered. Tina’s write up of the Paris marathon weekend was included so I flipped straight to that and saw the selfie Tina took of the two of us after the Breakfast Run. I finally made it into a running magazine lol! 🙂

78141BE0-3868-40F6-A4E1-D81BAA660633Thursday ended up being another rest day as there was no Ashtanga yoga class this week (my teacher was away for a family wedding and the usual cover teacher wasn’t available). I took a short walk for a bit of air after work then enjoyed a quiet evening at home. It had been a strange day as our senior pupils had their last day in school before their exams and I received the most thoughtful gift from a pupil I had worked wth closely over the last year or two. She had taken the time to produce a beautiful drawing of my cats (and as a tortoiseshell cat, my elderly lady is NOT easy to draw!) as well as a new mug since she had been witness to last term’s Great Mug Disaster. And some chocolate. You can never go wrong with chocolate! In all honesty I never expect my pupils to give me gifts, but this was such a surprise and so thoughtful that I was close to tears. Moments like this remind me of the impact I can have on young people’s lives. Hopefully a positive one!

IMG_1594On Friday, I had a PT session with Steve. Previously these had been on Thursdays, leaving Friday as a complete rest, however he told me the other week that he would have to change this due to a new commitment on a Thursday (those pesky paying clients haha!). This was a little frustrating as I felt we had established a workout week that works for me and I wasn’t sure how to tweak this without upsetting the balance, but in the end we decided that since those sessions are mainly mobility work rather than a high intensity workout, it would be ok to move the session to a Friday. The last time I had a PT session was the day before we left for Paris so I felt a bit out of the way of it, however we did work I was used to, targeting hip and upper back mobility using both that high-tech piece of kit the broom handle and the “giant maraca” that is the core momentum trainer!

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IMG_1603Saturday is parkrun day, and while I have been there as a volunteer over the last couple of weeks, nothing is quite like running 5k on a Saturday morning. The last time I ran was the 1st of April and I was a pacer then, so it’s been a while since I’ve run a 5k in my own way. It’s also been a while since I ran on our main course as we used the alternative course for a few weeks to allow the grass section to firm up and recover a bit. My plan was not to have a plan, just to see what my legs wanted to do and run comfortably hard without pushing too much. Given the time off I expected something in the region of 24:30-25:00, more likely nearer to 25 minutes, but as soon as we started my legs just wanted to go! Conscious that I hadn’t been running for a bit and my legs would have lost some conditioning I did ease off a bit, but still managed to not only finish in 24:15, but managed a Royal Flush Negative Split (each mile faster than the one before) which can be quite tricky when the grass, which can slow you down, is in the middle mile! 8:01, 7:58, 7:45(!) and the last 0.1 nubbin at 6:55 pace! It’s funny how the endurance work for a marathon, coupled with fresh legs, can result in a better-than-expected time.

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IMG_1641Of course I paid for my speed a little with slightly tight calves, but nothing to be worried about. My legs will soon regain their conditioning as I ease back into training. Clearly I’m needing to do some yoga to stretch out, so I’m glad Hatha yoga starts again next week.

After a couple of lazy Sundays, this week it was back to the normal routine of heading out for a run. I decided that 10k would be about right and worked out a route on some familiar roads. It was a nice sunny morning but I spent the first part of the run convinced I had forgotten something as it was so strange to be out on a Sunday morning without my hydration pack and gels that I had needed for my 18 and 20 mile runs! I took it at an easy pace and felt nice and comfortable, like I could go on which is always a good way to finish a Sunday run. Since it was my first longer sun since Paris, I thought it only right that my finishers’ top got an outing!

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IMG_1682And “only” running 10k meant there seemed to be plenty of day left to run a few errands and catch up with some blogging. Lovely!

How has your training been this week?

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?

Friday Finds – 21st April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,
The Running Princess