Decathlon Squared

Do you fancy a new challenge? I’m feeling pretty fit at the moment, but I’m not entirely sure I’d manage some of these challenges…

Decathlon have come up with a series of tests of grit, determination and all-round fit-bod prowess. Just sign up, check out the various challenges, such as Plank Push-Ups, Russian Twists and Skip Squats, make a little video of yourself in action and share this online. Of course, it’s not all about prizes, but there are some great sporty spot prizes up for grabs and a top prize of £500 to spend at Decathlon. Not bad for something that also gets you that little bit fitter along the way.

This chap makes it all look so easy.

Erm, I might give it a try, but I think I’ll have to do some training first and choose the right camera angle 😉

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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!

 

Motivation

There’s nothing like a good hard run to make you feel better for the rest of the day. Last week I forgot this and, by Friday, had that ‘Will I ever run again?’ feeling. But I did, I ran, I ran hard up hill, I splashed through big sweeping puddles and I felt good again. Today I woke to a mist, a strange dampness hanging low over our house, and was in danger of curling up under the mist until I noticed what it had done to our garden: a tangle of intricate spiders’ webs could be seen hanging in every bush and spanning every space. I carefully weaved between them – in my pyjamas – to attempt to capture this moment on camera.

Weighted

After letting my running fall slightly by the way-side last week, I was determined to start the week as I mean to go on, and got out this morning, with music in my ears and a smile on my face. It wasn’t that I was feeling lazy last week, or especially busy, but my knee hurt and this gave me an excuse to give in to a brief lack of motivation. We all find different ways to motivate ourselves out of the house and on the road, for some it’s a fitness or weight-loss goal, for others it’s the need for head-space and for others it’s a competitive spirit. Some of us gather all of those things together and still need a little extra sometimes. For me, the motivation of being part of Parkrun has been a huge boost, knowing that I have a group of people behind me and a weekly gathering that fills my ‘this is why I do it’ tanks. Joining a running club is also a good motivator, and is known to be one of the best ways to ‘improve’ your running whatever level you are at. For some people the push of working with a coach or personal trainer is what’s needed, or even working towards a qualification themselves. So, with the running club, Parkrun and my own PB-seeking goal over the next eight weeks, I have no excuse.

Distance: 3.96 miles

Time: 36 minutes 53 seconds

Average Pace: 9.19

Best Pace: 6.38

Calories: 488

(I kept an eye on the clock when nearing the 5k mark and it was 28.24, not too bad).

Welly Weather and Running in Company

I got very wet last night. Me and a few other runners. After a very, very long time of wanting to join in, I went down the road to the local running track and ran with my local club. Hoorah! It’s not that I haven’t had the inclination or the motivation to join in, but I have simply been unable to leave the house and run – Tuesday night is football night and Tuesday night has been football night for quite a few years now. The other week Edward informed me that he’s taking a break from Tuesday night football for a while, and would I like to to go along to the running club. I’ve been getting excited ever since.

Now Tuesday came round and so did Hector’s new drumming lesson: a train journey after school, sitting around while he learns about notes and rhythm and types of drums, train journey home then dinner. Phew. But this Tuesday was different: pull on running kit on return from drumming, look at self in mirror and wonder if this is the ‘right sort of kit’ to go running with a club, look disapprovingly at bum in lycra and think: ‘Yes, you need to get out and run’, go to the loo nervously a few times, grab stuff and saunter down the road to join in. It was raining, not a little bit of drizzle, but that big, sweeping sideways sort of rain, accentuated by the flood-lights at the track. I hung about and wondered what to do next. Now, since I started helping out at Parkrun, I have got to know some other runners and my day-to-day travels are punctuated by the odd ‘hello’ and a nod and a smile, so I was soon able to catch someone’s eye and have a chat with a familiar face as more runners gathered around and asked what we were doing tonight. I was introduced to the coach and was informed that we would be doing a mile warm-up around the track then 1200, 800×2 and 4×400 all with a 200m recovery in between, something like that anyway – he told us a few times and I still had to ask someone. And off we went. I didn’t want to exhaust myself during the warm-up, so took it easy and generally tried to hold back a little all the way through the evening, I didn’t want to show myself up by throwing up on my first session!

At first we were pretty much together, then some people pulled away and others trailed behind, there was a real cross-section of abilities, which was great. I was surprised to see just how well-used the track is on a Tuesday night. At one point I looked around as I ran, taking in the various groups going in different directions. I was plodding along in the inside lane as some faster runners from another group sped past on the outside, shorts shorter, limbs longer and leaner and ponytails flickier (always the flicky ponytails). In the centre of the track was a group of youngsters running diagonally across the football pitch, and outside the perimeter fence was a group of very serious-looking chaps being led by a man on a bike, and all of this was with heads down into the driving rain. I was surprised at how chatty it all was, with people catching up and talking about all sorts of things during the recovery sections, all so friendly and welcoming. Before I knew it we were on our last lap and gathering to set off on a warm-down around the park, avoiding being mowed down in the dark by the steam engines in shorts. Everybody said their goodbyes and I jogged home to a delicious noodly dinner cooked by a still slightly disgruntled at not playing football Edward.

This wet weather seems to have come out of the blue, though really, you’d think I’d have the hang of Autumn by now, but I do like to cling to the last remaining drops of summer, determined as I am to wear my Birkenstocks until my toes turn blue. I am a bit more responsible in my roll as a parent though, and swiftly got Hector off to the shops in search of some new wellies to splash about in Muddy Puddles.

Splash!

I’ve been buying wellies for Hector for a few years now, and have mostly gone for the cheaper ones at Sainsburys or Tesco, but last time I was fed-up of them cracking around the ankles after just a few months’ wear, so spent a bit more at Clarks. A few months later and they cracked in exactly the same place! A friend mentioned Crocs wellies, which seem thicker and a better shape for crouching down in rivers and retrieving conkers from under trees, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. If anyone knows of a decent but inexpensive welly that doesn’t crack then please let me know!

Fast track

I just had to share this morning’s track run with you. I wasn’t even going to go – I couldn’t find my gym membership card and was looking for ways to wuss out, but I went for it and the kind gym man let me in anyway since he knows me now. I had on my lovely NB Union Jack shoes again and my ears were plugged-in to some Audiofuel and off I went. It felt hard at first, and I wondered if I had it in me, but I soon warmed up and lengthened my stride. Each time I came to the long, straight edge of the track, I went a bit faster and picked up the pace again as the music increased in bpm. I was only going to run for as long as the track took me, but I glanced down at my wrist and saw how close I was to 5k and that I could possibly get a good time, so picked it up again.

Distance: 3.11 miles

Time: 26 minutes 51 seconds

Average Pace: 8.38

Best Pace: 5.50

Calories: 377

Yaaaaaayyy! My best ever 5k time is 26 minutes and I was not so far out there, I had even done the cool-down element of the run, so could possibly have kept the pace up a bit to get a better time! As you can probably tell, I’m a bit excited by this. My goal is to run 26 minutes or faster by my birthday on December 30th, so I think I’m going the right way about it 🙂 It’s interesting to see how much slower I am at the Hilly Fields Parkrun, so this confirms that my PB run is not likely to happen there!

Talking of Parkrun, here’s a nice little video filmed in Australia. Of course, we don’t always have the sunshine (though our three runs have so far been beautifully sunny) and we haven’t set up a BBQ yet, but we have coffee and cake at the cafe and we have friendly faces all round, so give the Hilly Fields Parkrun a go 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82LBLUK9sDg

(I tried to embed this, but it wasn’t working for some reason, so just click)

I also want to announce the winner of my Adidas MiCoach game competition. The winner is…Pete Howard, otherwise known as Follystone to his Janathon/Juneathon friends. Enjoy the game Pete!

Visiting the Mizuno Performance Centre

I am a bit behind with this post, having visited the Mizuno Performance Centre way back in the days when the Olympic Games were still the talk of the town. The Performance Centre was based at Centre Point in central London for the duration of the Olympic Games and I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of some new shoes called ‘Be’.

Performance Centre

As it was the summer holidays I had my assistant blogger in tow, so was armed with a bag full of pencils and paper and a little bag of chocolate buttons for any real moments of need (they were quite quickly whipped out of the bag when Hector announced loudly in a hushed room that it was boring and he wondered when the man might stop talking!). The man doing all the talking was the designer of the shoes, who told us that they were not designed for running, but for times in between training sessions, to aid running strength and ability. Here is some information about how these shoes came about:

‘The Be takes inspiration from the old Waraji sandals that were worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers during the feudal era of Japan. Fascinated         by why the Waraji were shorter than the feet of those wearing them, Mizuno conducted a series of biomechanical tests to determine the benefits of the toes protruding slightly over the front edge of the sandal’

We were told a lot about the biomechanics of the foot and how the Be has an inner sock which allows the toes to spread as if walking barefoot (these are not barefoot running shoes though). I had a look at some Be shoes and tried a pair on, they are lovely looking shoes, with the women’s design having a nice grey/pink colour-way and they are certainly comfortable. I’m not sure though how many recreational runners would want to spend money on an in-between-training shoe, but I imagine they might be good for someone who has an injury and wants to think carefully about how they look after their feet at all times.

Women’s model

Once ‘The Man’ had stopped talking, we went and had a look around the Performance Centre and had a go at the various activities on offer – you could test your footballing skills and there was also a mini running track to test how quickly you can come out of the blocks.

Checking out the track

You were given some rather nice spikes to try on and could race a friend or try your time against the clock. We just watched because they didn’t have children’s spikes – much to Hector’s annoyance – and were given a good view of the ‘race’ start from the top of the stairs:

Go!

I was also given a lovely pair of Mizuno Wave Rider shoes whilst at the centre, and have really enjoyed running in them since – I’ve had lots of comments about how lovely they are, they certainly stand out! I hadn’t run in Mizuno shoes before, and found them a little firm at first, but they have softened up after a few runs and I now find them just right for the road and a bit of trail – though I wouldn’t want any mud spoiling the lovely shiny toes! I found a page of nice colourful Mizuno shoes over on the Activinstinct website, and they now have the Be in stock as well.

Whilst at the Performance Centre, I was lucky enough to see some beautiful paintings by Hidekichi Shigemoto, and these have now been made into a moving image piece with brush-strokes capturing the movement of the Mizuno athletes in action.

Light-footed and patriotic

I miss the Olympic Games, I miss the Paralympic Games and I miss the uncharacteristically friendly London we encountered during the games. In an attempt to keep the spirit alive, I have been running around in these little lovelies:

Light as a feather

I received them in the post a few weeks ago and was, initially, slightly disappointed that they weren’t more Union Jackish, but have since forgiven their slight subtlety, and have embraced them wholeheartedly. I have always liked New Balance shoes, having had a pair of trail shoes when I first started running all those years ago. They were just lovely: light, bouncy, nicely designed and even waterproof; I was sad to have to replace them when they were no longer as bouncy. I was very pleased to be asked to try out this particular pair of shoes, having seen that they are a lightweight shoe, and they certainly are! You can see here that they have a blown rubber outsole that you can sense straight away, giving just enough cushioning and lots of flexibility.

Soleful

When I took them out of their box Hector took a great deal of interest in them, turning them round, looking at the sole and trying to take out the inner section. When I asked him what he was looking for, he said: ‘Is there a toy* in here?’. Shoe manufacturers, you are missing a trick, a little Mo Farrah would be just perfect as a little heel mascot 😉 There are some nice details such as the ‘British Miler’ logo on the tongue and the nicest – Union Jack – aglets I’ve ever seen.

Nice tongue

I couldn’t dirty these chaps up in the park, so went straight to the track. I was advised to go up half a size and, having had some NBs that stubbed my toes previously, I listened to this advice and ended up with a size six. As I walked to the track, I wasn’t sure if this was such a good idea, as there was a bit of heel slip but this stopped once I started running – I guess some clever lace-tying could rectify this potential problem (though I did find the laces a bit long, and had to do a double knot to stop them trailing and coming undone). These shoes are lovely. They felt comfortable straight away, they were light, so light in fact that I was totally unaware of them and could just focus on my running. I had a great session with some good paces hit and, when I went in to the gym, the manager said: ‘I saw you running on the track, you were fast! I was surprised!’ (I’m not entirely sure about that last bit, but let us imagine he was being nice)! Woo-hoo! Someone said I was fast! I have decided that these will now be reserved for track sessions, they are my special edition Union Jack lucky shoes and I don’t want them to lose any of their gloss.

*Hector has a pair of sport shoes that have a toy hidden in the heel.