Further or faster?

It was an experience – achieving my first massive fitness related goal.

For the first two days I was so proud of myself, shattered, stiff and proud of myself, in that order 😀

Then, in the tiredness, it happened.

The post race blues – time when your body is putting all efforts into repair and recover from the pounding!

While still too exhausted to run anywhere I spent some time wondering if I’d go out running again, ever.

It was such a long way from the determination, energy and effort sustained for eight months of training. I felt outside of it all, trying to look in and wondering why anyone would do this to themselves.

Not being able to walk downstairs comfortably for three days would not be helping either!

At the same time, getting restless, wanting to find the energy, determination and the sense of achievement again but not feeling motivated to start.

This is probably a good thing – I think I underestimated the time needed to recover and my body and mind took on the job of not letting me back too early!

A nasty creepy cold has also snuck in, but apparently that’s normal too.

Time for a new goal to get motivated and start over – I don’t want to lose the fitness I’ve worked so hard for by leaving it too long.

The question was then ‘further, or faster?’

Marathon time!

Trail marathon, to be more exact- I’m hoping it will be more interesting, and varied with better views. After all, Cornwall has fabulous trails and footways so getting out to enjoy them has to be top of the list!

Also, I’m keeping it local; some races open up usually private land so a long nosy run is on the cards around the China Clay pits at the Imerys Trail Marathon.

For this I must go shopping for essential things which I’ve not thought of yet but am very much looking forward to buying!

I had so much fun sorting a training plan too – a perfect occupation for a tired evening – colour coded and everything. My plan is a combination of two free ones I found online that together would get me there.

Runners World has a fab tool to use in working out training paces. I’m going to stick to these paces which seems counterintuitive at first, is explained here. Going all out to beat that last segment might not be what’s needed longer term.

I might draw my plan up properly at some point and make it a thing of beauty.

The first part of my integrated plan is focused on building a strong mileage base, before moving on to the trail marathon part.

The eagle eyed will spot the change to miles. I was working my way into the start crowd at Eden and asked a runner what her pace was, to get a feel for where I needed to be. 9 min/miles – had to ask her what that was in km 😳 = went further back in the queue. I hope to feel more grown up, working in miles and the numbers are lower. It all helps (well hopefully!). The bummer is having to convert back to m/km or km/hr for treadmill so the plan has evolved several stages along the way.

Hot tip – Save pace charts for the different run types in both km and mile formats and screenshot them so they’re always ready.

You’ll maybe notice that the plan goes on beyond the trail marathon, and you’d be right that there’s something more. Stay tuned, however you tune 😃

I’m going to try to do a series of posts but there’re some family discussions needed first.

What do we do this for?

Running hurts.

Sometimes it’s disappointment, disillusion and depression when things go badly. You’re thoroughly put off from even lacing up and getting out of the door next time. It was crap from beginning to end.

Like my long run two weeks back (#6 of my 20 week plan) where I was a couple of days late getting it in. I’d wanted to avoid the heat, and also felt guilty and needed to spend time with my family over the weekend – and it all started to slip….

Anyway, on that Tuesday I’d gone straight from work, probably not well hydrated and feeling drained. It was hot and muggy; as I slogged it round tiny bugs flew in my mouth and eyes (eyes are the worst).

I knew I had under 1km to go and had already done 10k (a flat circuit); I looked up as I reached what I thought was the final bend with a short straight to finish and saw the road disappearing into the distance. I stopped dead. My feet wouldn’t move. I did start up again but it was a struggle. The psychological effects are huge.

When I got back to the car, warmed down and uploaded the run while blasting air con and chugging (warm – eww) water, I found that had I kept up the pace a little I’d have achieved bests in 5k and 10k. It wasn’t that bad though – at least I’d managed to get out there, and it was done.

Sometimes it feels like I really only keep doing it because I’ve signed up for a race, I have decided to stick to a training plan and I’ve told people I’m doing it. Those are positive, but they have a cruel downside too.

It’s my insurance against laziness and inertia. Using the fear of failure, shame and embarrassment. It has to be said, these are not the ideal ways to motivate oneself and I really don’t recommend them as the only ways!

Perhaps they have a minor place in a bigger picture?

Maybe more of a positive motivation could involve

  • The idea of the experience (not necessarily the actual experience at the time)
  • Somewhere, somehow, there will be evidence of change, whether it’s your time/hr stats, size, weight, endurance: whatever measure does it for you, even in a few weeks of trying for consistency you’ll find something has changed.
  • Keep a record, whether in a diary or as an electronic log, then you can see your progress
  • Be kind to yourself. Push when you want to, don’t punish yourself if it doesn’t go right that day.
  • Remember why you started all this, your goal in the long term (usually referred to in the now/ in yoga classes as ‘setting your intention‘)

It’s a sensory experience.

I’m making a bit of an effort to keep it interesting and to vary my routes where it fits with other commitments, so I’m getting to some lovely places I wouldn’t otherwise go, and being rewarded with beautiful views. There’s precious time to think – moving through the air, creating your own breeze. The smells; a honeysuckle that tells me I’ve reached the top of my hill, the lilies flowering at the moment in the cottage garden in the lane opposite the church. The approaching sounds of bellringing practice as I crest the hill in the woods and head for the hill through the village. No shield between you and everything outside. Being in the moment under your own steam.

Some of this starts to sound a bit mindful doesn’t it!

Sunday last week I did my long run, completing week 7 of my 20 week programme, so again it was 11km, and very different, far more enjoyable! See Getting Better.

It went well – and made a welcome counterbalance to my experiences of the previous week.

There’s a feeling afterwards, when the redness and breathlessness recedes. Accomplishment. Wellbeing. Peace. A sense you could do it all again (and the absolute certainty that you don’t have to – at least until next time….)

Getting better

My long run this week was 11km!

It’s not that long ago I couldn’t manage 1.5 km without a walk or two in the middle to get my heart and breathing rate down.

In the meantime all those sessions where I’ve decided to run every hill but bumped out and walked them. All the time spent feeling pretty down about the figurative mountain I’ve set myself to climb. Those runs have been making a difference. The 11k tells me.

When changes are occurring slowly it’s often not that obvious.

Like kids, when they inexplicably grow out of various trouser leg lengths while remaining the same sort of size – then one day they appear in a doorway and block out all the light!

Those changes are still happening though, even when we don’t see progress in the day to day; and as with growing kids it’s cumulative.

Pausing for a moment to take stock and appreciate progress must be as important as looking forward and up.

Running Outdoors – Breaking down Barriers

Feeling selfconscious

Self consciousness can be a tough one to get over for many women in starting to exercise; it was a real barrier for me.

The combination of how we feel about ourselves and the concern about how others may see us create some powerful effects – like not getting out there and doing it. Whatever ‘it’ is.

I’ve found a few helpful strategies to feel less self conscious when exercising, although now I have moved from super-self-conscious to really-don’t-care, and hope shortly to arrive at don’t-give-a-flying-****! 😂

I started by staying off road, that way no drivers I knew would recognise me and I wouldn’t draw unwanted attention.

You could go running with a friend or in a group to build confidence and feel less exposed.

Wearing sunglasses and full length/ capri leggings, with a long, loose, sleeveless running top that reaches down to cover my backside with a band at the hem to stop it riding up was helpful too (LA Gear and Mountain Warehouse have both been known to produce such a top).

How far and how fast?

There are apps you can run from a phone to give information, but I found that my phone has some GPS quirks and makes a number of strange assumptions at times!

I wanted to know exactly where I’d been, plan where to go, and have an idea of progress and of my heart rate and possibly even pace. I found that the addition of a fitness watch with inbuilt GPS and associated apps made a great difference to my motivation. Using a watch lets you keep a record of what you’re doing, and an at-a-glance on totals, patterns etc depending on the features of your watch and app.

It also made a difference to me getting out onto footpaths and trails I never knew existed, as I can plan a route beforehand to work out distance and how much up it involves!

Staying safe

Another barrier particularly for women getting out there and enjoying the scenery.

Being aware of who is around is important, and for that reason I tend not to use headphones while running, particularly on trails and paths.

Carrying a charged phone and letting someone know where you’re going is also a sensible precaution. I use a money belt to keep my phone, some tissue and a glucose tablet in. That way it doesn’t bounce around (I find putting the phone on my arm interferes with balance), so the phone stays out of the way. The phone is handy when I get lost as well.

I don’t mind running in public now, that self consciousness has worn off a bit and I can concentrate on getting each foot on the ground in turn. I’ve found that other people don’t seem that interested, which is ideal!

Being out there, whether on city streets, country lanes or on trails, certainly beats the mirror and the gym TVs……did I mention that you create your own cooling breeze as you run?

#womensrunning

#thisgirlcan