Bend it like Fitartist

I yoged again 🙂 We had a different teacher this morning and, at first, I thought ‘Oh no, she’s putting on weirdy floaty chanty whaley music’ but actually she was very good and, once I’d stopped being distracted by the fact that the beautiful white walls are already scuffed after just one week, I had a good old stretch and even drifted off in a relaxed state a couple of times. Her class wasn’t as ‘sporty’ as last week, more ‘relaxy’, but I really liked it.

To get there I decided I would run. I got some gorgeous new shoes in the post this morning and couldn’t wait a moment longer to try them out. Now, I know you’re supposed to ease gently into minimal running shoes, but I was just too eager, and I decided one mile to yoga, a bit of bending and stretching then one mile back is quite gentle enough.

Cute shoes

Cute shoes

As I set off I was stepping gingerly along, afraid that I might heel-strike and do myself a mischief but, once I’d got over the initial weirdness of it all, I remembered that I strike with my mid-foot anyway, and didn’t really need to adjust much. The fronts of my lower legs started aching quite quickly, so maybe I was tensing up a bit, but I guess that comes with time. I felt much lighter and springy, which seems odd when you consider that these shoes have very little in the way of cushioning – the spring was all my own! I will keep you updated with my ‘barefoot’ progress as I try them out further this week. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Hector’s Lego Daft Punk for Travelling Hopefully, who has been enjoying the pumping beats at the gym:

Daft Punk as seen by a six-year-old

Daft Punk as seen by a six-year-old

You may wonder what an very-nearly-six-year-old is doing listening to Daft Punk, well they look like robots and they sound like robots, so what’s not to like?!

Real life robot

Real life robot

You may also wonder where I’ve been hiding for the past few days. Well, I have run – I did the 10k section of Peter’s class on Saturday. This was a one-and-a-half hour session with very many press-ups, a gruelling up and down hill section and a forty minute run – when he said ‘And now you will run for fourteen minutes’ I thought ‘Oh that’s ok’, but then I realise he had in fact said ‘forty’. It was hard-going but really good stuff. I have also been to the gym and I have stood around cheering on fellow runners at Hilly Fields Parkrun, something I always consider to be running by proxy…

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Chasing Lamp-posts

That other Adele chases pavements, I chase lamp-posts. As is usual during Juneathon/Janathon, I have come down with a cold, which decided to creep onto my chest yesterday (the yoga only really happened because I didn’t feel able to run…). This morning I half-heartedly put on my running gear and thought I would go for a gentle plod. When I got to the park I noticed the lamp-posts and remembered the ‘lamp-post’ session I did a few times with the running club, and thought ‘Why not?!’

The ten lamp-posts illuminate a long hill, that stretches diagonally across the park and are spaced evenly, allowing an opportunity to use them for some serious hill training. So I went for it: down to the bottom, back to the top, down to the next lamp-post along, back to the top and so on. It’s hard work. I distracted myself by watching the skulky teenagers who were avoiding going to their school, which can be seen clearly from that spot. I was very tempted to tell the big floppy lad that his pants were falling down (what’s that all about?), but decided I shouldn’t, since he was much, much bigger than me…though I could easily out-run him…oh, the things that go through your head when you’re battling through a hill session!

Distance: 2.97 miles

Time: 30 minutes 40 seconds

Average Pace: 10.20

Best Pace: 7.34

Calories: 359

Winter fun

Yes there was snow on them there Hilly Fields and yes we were going ahead with our Parkrun. Forty-five runners turned up for a frolic in the snow this morning, but I resisted the urge, being Run Director and marshal, then satisfied my snow-fun needs afterwards:

Oh, what fun!

Oh, what fun!

Hector and Edward kept themselves very busy building a snow monster/alien thingy:

Watch out!

Watch out!

Yesterday was a gymmy day, then I got hot running around in the park after school, avoiding being hit by snowballs.

In yer face!

In yer face!

And trying to persuade Hector it might be getting dark, and we should go home.

So angelic. Ahem.

So angelic. Ahem.

On Thursday I succumbed to the lure of an extra layer and wore a vest under my long-sleeve top, I even wore a hat. I normally reserve such excesses for when there is snow on the ground, but I seemed to require a little extra help in getting out. I woke with a few alien aches, a result of my hard work on the floor on Wednesday: that Pilates class is good, with the aches being in all the right places (abs, butt) so I will definitely be back for more next week. It seemed like the perfect time to try out a pair of tights I am testing, the new ACTV tights from Puma. I had a sneak preview of these leggings back in the summer at a Puma press day up in East London, with the backdrop of the Olympic Stadium to glance at wistfully. The thing that interested me about these tights was that they are like a compression garment, but instead of being worn post-exercise, they are designed to be worn during exercise. The inside of the fabric is lined with little rubber tracks that massage your muscles as you run (this is the inside-out view of the knee area):

Wiggly

Wiggly

They are interesting to get on, with the rubber bits sticking slightly – there was some stealth-like manoeuvring going on in the bedroom and, as my legs are seemingly shorter than the average leg, some interesting wrinkling occurring around the ankle. Oh, to be able to order a few extra inches of shin online… As I left the house, it was very tempting to rub my thighs, but that would mean looking like Vic Reeves and getting the neighbours talking, so I resisted (whilst in public anyway). Did I mention it was cold? Well, I wasn’t expecting one of the qualities of these tights to be extra warmth, but they did seem to keep my legs warm and there was something reassuring about the gentle hug they were giving my lower limbs. I have been experiencing some ankle and knee pain in the past few days, but amazingly there was no sign of this. Maybe this was coincidence, but it would be great to find a garment that can offer this much support during a run. I suppose if I was doing a more scientific sort of test I would have gone out for a run in a regular pair of tights to offer a comparison, but I really needed to jump straight in the shower and grab a cup of tea on my return. The Puma tights will be available exclusively from Sweatshop and will retail at £100.

It was a gorgeous day for a run along the river and I was treated to views like this:

Through Ladywell Fields

Through Ladywell Fields

And this (but no kingfisher today):

The River Ravensbourne

The River Ravensbourne

And, on my way back, this caught my eye:

One sided

One sided

I feel good…

Da-da-da-da-da-da-dum! There I was, in the school playground, surrounded by umbrellas and rain-coated parents, embracing the drizzle in my lycra running gear when a fellow mum tapped me on the shoulder:

“You’re dedicated!” she said “You can do it for all of us!”

Good and grimy

Good and grimy

So I did.

I don’t put a great deal of thought into my school run runs, I just turn up in my gear, drop Hector off and run away(!) in a randomly chosen direction. Today it was upwards towards Hilly Fields. On Saturday I am run director for our pre-Christmas Parkrun, so wanted to check out the course and see just how muddy it is. We have asked people to don their Christmassy gear to get into the festive spirit, but I think it might be wise to choose wellies over running shoes this time! I pushed hard up the hills and slightly wussed out along the off-road paths that our course takes, choosing the pavement over the ‘pond’. I did, however, head up ‘The Hill’ and splashed through a mud-slide with a big smile on my face. I’m just glad I had on my trusty trail shoes and not my pretty purple ones:

Squelch, squelch

Squelch, squelch

I was absolutely drenched when I got back, but felt great: there’s nothing like a wet, muddy morning run to lift you out of the doldrums. It looks like the rain is here to stay, no white Christmas for us Londoners, so I should get used to it, especially as January approaches and we have JogBlog on our backs, nagging encouraging us to sign up for Janathon 2013. If you don’t already know about Janathon, it’s the slightly evil twin sister of the warmer and less gritty Juneathon, where a growing group of runners/joggers/plodders get together in virtual and real space to share their love of getting out and about in running shoes. The idea is that you get out every day for the month of January and run/walk/cycle/spin/gym/skip/whatever it is that gets your heart pumping and then blog about it. You can find out all the ins and outs and sign your life away up here. Watch out though, it’s addictive and you will find yourself getting up in the middle of the night or running home from the pub to fit in a run. Really.

Distance: 3.29 miles

Time: 35 minutes 47 seconds

Average Pace: 10.52

Best Pace: 7.44

Calories: 432

Toughing it out

Yesterday I managed to over-commit slightly in the running department: a friend has decided to start an informal running group for beginners on a Tuesday morning and I offered to help by joining in. When I thought about this it occurred to me that Tuesday in my new world is also Running Club Night. Oh dear. So, being a committed sort of person, I found myself in the park first thing and last thing, pounding the paths. It was nice to run with Helen, who has been out with an injury for months, so needed the motivation to test her body and see if things really are ready to go again. The sun was shining and the park looked gorgeous with its golden autumnal glow. For some reason I was out in the cold in capri tights, my lower legs all cold and goosebumpy, when really I should be thinking about wrapping myself up in something like this (and maybe even wearing these under my jeans on Parkrun duty – all that standing around cheering people on is limb-numbing on a frosty morning!).

I had tried to take it easy on my first run, knowing I would need some miles in my legs for the evening session, there were moments where I wished I hadn’t ventured out in lycra that morning, this club run was possibly the toughest session I have ever done. Now I like a hill, it’s in my Welsh blood, I am a mountain goat, but this was a Proper Hill Session, none of that thing I do by myself, where I run up a hill and jog back down, repeat, then saunter along on the flat. Did I mention it was tough? We started with a mile around the track to warm up, then we ran up to Hilly Fields, where we gathered at the bottom of a hill (the one by the phone box, for anyone who knows the area) where we were informed of our fate. We were to run up this hill, take a left and run down the hill on the other side, that’s run down the hill, no holding back, heel to toe. We would wait at the far corner for three minutes and come back the other way. This was to be repeated four times on each side. Yes really. Then off everyone went, fast. On the first one I wondered if this was going to be the session that would make me vomit (it didn’t), and wondered if my legs would have felt this bad if I had missed the morning run (probably), I also found that running fast down hill in the dark whilst avoiding other runners, potholes and the odd wandering dog out for its evening pee is scary. As the session went on I wondered if I really had it in me to complete the task in hand, my legs felt like lead, my chest hurt and I momentarily hated running, but things kind of warmed up a bit. The thing I like about repeating a lap is the moment where you are not sure how many you’ve done and (hopefully) you’ve under-counted, so the last two seemed to come round fairly fast. Not wishing to be overtaken at the end by the woman who had overtaken me without fail at the same point each lap, I legged it, arms pumping, face tense and it felt good. Just look at these stats!

 

Need for speed

In sixteen weeks I am going to be 40! I know, I know, I don’t look a day over – insert flattering number, please – but it’s true, and in celebration of this turning point in my life, I am going to attempt to get a 5k PB. My current 5k PB is around 26 minutes and was set many years ago when I was younger, slimmer and had more time to devote to such things but, having a quick glance over more recent 5k times on the Parkrun website, I can see that I ran a 27.30 race at Finsbury Park, so I can use this as a guide to what I might be able to achieve these days. This Saturday sees the inaugural Hilly Fields Parkrun, at which I will be playing the role of Race Director, so will be involved with something exciting and witnessing people improving their times as the weeks pass and they get used to the, erm, ‘undulating’ course – I might even get to run it myself occasionally.

So, how am I going to achieve this goal? Tomorrow is back-to-school day, so I will be able to get back into my school run/gym routine that has sadly fallen by the wayside during the holidays, and I will commit to running intervals on the track once a week – to run faster, you need to run faster, isn’t that right? I was secretly delighted last night when Edward informed me that he will be taking a short break from his weekly five-a-side football in four weeks’ time and won’t return until the new year. This means I will be able go to our local running club – I say this in a high-pitched, excited sort of voice because I’ve wanted to join a club for a very long time 🙂 – and do a track session led by a proper coach and everything! Whoop, whoop! I think, putting all of this together, I can see that PB in the distance and, on the day before my birthday (30th December), I will be tackling those hills at the Parkrun and crashing past that 26 minute mark. There, I’ve said it now, and you will hold me to it won’t you? I welcome any tips and ideas too.

Achievement

I’m sitting here looking at the pouring rain and thinking I’m rather glad I got my run out of the way earlier! I am finding that my running has been slightly neglected lately, not in terms of frequency, I am still getting out at least four days a week, but in terms of distance. When I go to the gym, I tend to rush my run so I can get there and get stuck in, so I have been running around three miles at the most. Today I decided to give the gym a miss and run a bit further, just to make sure I still can! A quick run to school with speedy bike boy and up the hill I went, turning for a moment at the summit of Blythe Hill and admiring the gorgeous view (I must take my camera some time) then carrying on along the Waterlink Way, taking a breath at the far reaches, while a passing walking lady said: ‘You’re not running back?!’ then reaching home at the five-mile point.

I found it interesting that this walker was surprised that I was turning and ‘running back’, since she had no clue as to how far I had already run. Maybe she was taking her clues from my panting and my dripping brow, but to her this appeared to be an achievement in itself that she felt she should comment on. I have recently been talking to a fellow school-gate mum who also runs, the difference is though that she has three children, one of whom is just ten weeks old! She has far more in her life to juggle in an attempt to fit a run in, so I wasn’t surprised to see her passing our house this morning as we ate our breakfast. Last week I saw her in the park and we ran part of the way together. She was telling me how she had measured herself and found that her waist was now 27 1/2 inches, I dream of such neat girthage! So, she sees me and admires the fact that I run a little further than she is managing right now, I see her and admire the fact that she is a master juggler who is back in her skinny jeans just weeks after giving birth and other parents at the gate admire us both for getting out at all!

Soon we will be enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Games, admiring those who are achieving international greatness in their chosen field then, further into the summer, we will admire those athletes who have overcome disability to compete in the Paralympic Games. I’m beginning to tire of the negativity being shown towards the Olympic Games, when I see many positive outcomes such as celebrations at school where the children are given the opportunity to try new activities, enthusiastic sports days at the running track (I heard loud cheers this morning, even though the rain clouds were coming in) and a little group of pre-school children in the park earlier with Olympic flames made out of tin foil and cardboard. If the presence of the games in London increases participation in sports at all levels and encourages otherwise inactive people to get out and try something new, it has to be a good thing.

Distance: 5.07 miles

Time: 50 minutes 51 seconds

Average Pace: 10.02

Best Pace: 5.23

Calories: 267