First run in three weeks

I have been very lazy lately. It started out with putting running on hold to focus on getting a lot of other things done but then as one week off became two weeks off, I developed the habit of not getting out there. 

I think this is very easily done. I have heard it said over and over from self-improvement type people that habit is more important than motivation. Habit is reliable; it keeps the wheels turning long after fickle motivation has moved on, or burnt itself out. 

So I’m trying not to be too harsh on myself. (If you could peek  inside my head, you would know that this isn’t an easy thing for me. My internal voice tends to come out with stuff like: “What’s your excuse today? You’re so lazy, you make me sick. You’ll put all the weight you lost back on at this rate. You’ll lose fitness etc. etc.”) 

Thoughts like this won’t change the fact that I’ve had three weeks if inactivity. 

On top of that, who’s to say a rest is actually a bad thing, especially after non-stop training for events throughout the whole year to date? A lot of professional runners have a few weeks off at the end of the season. It is highly beneficial as it gives the body a chance to rest and repair. 

Of course, I’m not a professional and I didn’t plan to have a break. But let’s just sweep that inconvenient consideration under this rug for a minute shall we? 

I may have inadvertently done myself a favour, even if I am full of it. 

And none of the above analysis does anything to change the period of inactivity. In fact the only thing that can amend it is to get back on it again, like I did this morning. 

If you ever find yourself experiencing a slump like mine, whether it’s been three weeks, three months or even three years, don’t let negative thoughts stop you from sorting yourself out. Accept what you can’t change, lace up those shoes and be glad about it! 

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Internal monologues

10:38

I can’t be bothered to run today. It’s the first day of my holiday and I’ve lost the early morning magic. I let a few hours slip away already. The day’s basically done now anyway.

I’m allowed to have one lazy day on the first day of my holiday and I did a lot of driving yesterday to get here, and I’m tired because I couldn’t sleep-in past 06:30, as usual (thanks for screwing up my body clock, work!)

And I can’t be bothered. AND I DON’T WANT TO.

 

11:02

Wow, this is going well – killed my first kilometre in less than five minutes. I hope I do this again tomorrow. I just need a bit less faff tomorrow morning.

Hello, friendly old lady, good morning to you as well!

 

11:23

Cool, 5k in 26m46s and it didn’t even feel as if I was going that fast. Keep going though – I love this track.

 

12:12

Feeling so good after my bath, what shall I do with the afternoon?

 

 

The Versatile Blogger Award

I would like to thank Holly and Yuvi for their nominations, and I would encourage you to check out both of their blogs!

I lack the media-savvy to stir up controversy in the style of Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, and get myself on all the front pages of the tabloids, so I’d better just play it straight and skip to the rules:

Rules for the nominations:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate ten other bloggers of your choice.
  • Link your nominees and let them know of your nomination.

VBA1

And so to my seven facts…

  1. I am English but I lived in Japan for a considerable length of time.
  2. I love music, and (directly linked to number one) karaoke!
  3. Like Yuvi, I enjoy drawing and pencil sketching. (I also like painting with oils but the pencil and sketchbook is a lot less hassle to set up.)
  4. Like Holly, I enjoy interacting with the blogging community, and enjoy browsing the Reader just as much as writing new posts.
  5. I have been playing guitar for about seventeen years and I’m still not very good!
  6. I am in my early thirties and I still can’t get over the fact that the nineties finished around the same time I got my first guitar.
  7. I am a pretty awful runner, but, contrary to the title of my blog, I have both of my gluteus maximus muscles thoroughly invested in my efforts!

And these are my nominations, which are only a small sample of all the great blogs I have seen on WordPress…

  • Olive Tree by The Sea – a beautiful website with attractive photography, there is a pervading sense of calm to this blog.
  • Spaghettihead1 – worth a visit for the name alone, this is a very brave site, documenting the trials of living with a borderline personality disorder.
  • thesm14 – this blog is a real life example of courage in the face of adversity. Be inspired!
  • Fantasy Road – this site is overflowing with hilarious banter! Considering the extent to which the self-proclaimed King Wrecket insults his readership, I’m amazed he has any followers at all.
  • I Run Elite – this blog is at the opposite end of the spectrum to my own. If you want some running advice from someone who actually knows what they’re doing, this is the place to go.
  • My Stories With Music – featuring short form fiction with bespoke evocative music to match, this is a highly original blog. I especially like the song that accompanies Wonderland.
  • Inexorable Spark – juxtaposing the profound with the prosaic, Nathi comes up with a range of thought provoking musings in the process.
  • The Real Stories – Yoly shares anecdotes from her life, which seems to be both fascinating and tumultuous.
  • cat h. bradley – writer/traveller/foodlover/yogi/runnin’ fool – this is the brilliant tag line to an equally brilliant blog – diverse and highly readable
  • The Payslip Pauper –  documenting one man’s quest to financial independence, this blog is well worth a read.

Running in the Rain

I wasn’t expecting that – a torrential downpour specifically timed to coincide with my run. It was sunny when I went out, and after I got back, it was sunny again, but whilst I was out the river level rose and there was flash flooding on the paths.

Thanks for that, sky!

I normally enjoy a bit of rain on the run. It can be refreshing, and it gives you that slight edge – you get to feel just that little bit tougher. After all, nothing is worth doing unless it’s hard. The only way to build character is to take yourself out of your comfort zone. He (or she) who conquers adversity becomes that much stronger because of it.

etc. etc.

Today I just hid under a tree.

After all, it really was raining heavily and the gel from my hair was running into my eyes, making them sting (that will teach me to be such a metrosexual and use products).

Back to the gym tomorrow, I think.

Thoughts on running nutrition and weight loss

This post was inspired by The Story of my Treadmill on the Yuvi’s Buzz blog. It is a really good account of the emotional ups and downs of dieting. I recommend that you read it first and then (hopefully) return and read the rest of this post. You can read it here.

I hope she won’t mind me saying this but I fundamentally disagree with the idea of dieting. (Yes, I said it. I don’t follow diet plans.)  Instead, I think the way forward is to embrace long-term, sustainable changes. This embraces a number of ideas, such as healthy food swaps, portion control by stealth, and small adjustments.

Let me explain further…

Healthy food swaps

This is stuff like replacing beef mince with turkey mince in your cooking, replacing refined sugar with honey (sugar is still sugar, but honey hasn’t been stripped of it’s natural, fibre-containing, context), replacing soft drinks with sparkling water, and so on. These might not seem like too much of a big deal but could add up to a lot less fat and sugar in your diet. The jury’s still out on fat consumption but reducing sugar intake should contribute to weight loss.

Portion control

This one is dead simple: buy smaller plates, preferably attractive looking ones that will complement your food presentation.

My partner and I used to eat portions that were really far too big. For instance, those microwaveable rice packets that you get that they recommended to serve two people, well, we used to have one each. As rice is a carbohydrate, I decided to use only one pack for the two of us. I then upped the amount of vegetables on the plate so we didn’t feel that we were on a diet. (I always put butter on our vegetables by the way because a nutritionist at the gym told me that butter is not a problem. In fact, news stories have come out lately saying that margarine may be more harmful than butter. Seriously, search that one in your browser. And it makes a huge pile of vegetables much more palatable.) I try to have at least two different colours of vegetable if I can; it makes the meal look more attractive and gets more micronutrients onto the plate.

Cutting down the plate size is a well-known trick and really is portion control by stealth. A larger plate that’s half-empty always looks a lot sadder than a full smaller plate, even though there may be the same amount of food on each.

Below, you can see a picture of our old plates and our new plates, which are black and make the food you serve look more fancy!

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Small adjustments

Do you take sugar in tea or coffee? Could you cut the number of teaspoons/sugar cubes you take by one?

I challenge you!

It may take you a while to get used to the new taste but in the long run it will reduce those sweet-tooth cravings and reduce your teaspoons of sugar per day by the number of hot beverages you have everyday. That means if you’re like me, and drink three to four coffees a day, you will reduce your sugar intake by three to four teaspoons per day, everyday, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. No diet plan. No calorie counting. Just one simple change. What’s more, if you try going back, you will find that your taste has adjusted and having your previous number of sugars now makes you feel a bit sick. (A sweet-tooth really is more of a habit than a pre-set disposition.)

Upgrade your nutrition

There is a lot of emphasis out there about eating less. It seems to me that a lot of people think the way forward is to just keep reducing their calories. In the short term, this may work, but you inevitably cannot sustain eating fewer calories than you need. It has been shown that a staggeringly high percentage of yo-yo dieters not only re-gain the weight a few years later, but they normally put more on as well.

I think a lot of people need to eat more: more fruits and vegetables, more protein (not if you’re already on protein supplements), more healthy fats. So instead of thinking in terms of cutting back, it may help to think in terms of cramming as much nutrition into a dish as you possibly can.

Porridge made with milk and honey is good. It’s got oats, it’s got protein in the milk, and it avoids empty-calorie refined sugar.

Porridge made with milk and honey, and added flaxseed, is even better though. Now you’ve added omega 3!

And porridge made with milk, honey, added flaxseed and added blueberries, is even better still!

This is a breakfast that will really set you up for the day, and should satisfy your appetite so that you aren’t craving a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar later on. (If you buy fruit and can’t manage to eat it all before it goes off, a cheaper option is to buy frozen blueberries and take out a small portion to defrost overnight. I know this is starting to sound like hard work but it’s really not.)

Food really isn’t something to be scared of.

In fact, it’s essential for your life, energy and wellbeing.

Eat well, enjoy your food and give yourself the fuel you need for an awesome run!

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing Race to the Stones – the 100k Ultra Marathon

In some of my posts I have referred to “my running buddy”. We often do long distance training runs together, and sign up for many of the same races. In this post, I interview him about what it was like to compete in the 100k (62 mile) Race to the Stones, if only to prove that he really does exist, and isn’t some Tyler Durden style hallucination, although when it comes to running he is equally as bad-arse as the founder of fight club. (And yes, he has the same T-shirt as me but that doesn’t mean he is me – I’m far too lazy to run 100k.)

IMAG0476

Why do you hate your feet so much?

Most runners have a love-hate relationship with their feet. They love what they can do for them, but they treat them with abuse. But not looking after your feet is like having a car you never bother to service. It will catch-up with you in the end.

(As background to this question, Running Buddy’s feet are covered in blisters and one is the size of two fifty pence pieces. He has also just informed me that he lost two of his toenails. We thought we would spare you the photos.)

Part of the reason that you have such large blisters was the rainfall early on in the race? We have now raced in extreme (for the UK anyway) heat and pouring rain? Which do you prefer?

The rain is better if you’re prepared for it but the heat just drains you! If you’re running a long way and there’s even the slightest chance of rain, you need to have a spare pair of dry socks with you. I think this is one of the areas in which our lack of ultra-running experience showed.

I ran the 50k version of Race to the Stones as this was my first attempt at such a long distance and I thought I would see how I handled that, but what you did could technically be described as running two ultra-marathons, back-to-back. What’s wrong with you?

How do I answer a question like that?

It’s like that part in the Barkley Marathon documentary when the guy says it’s not really a challenge unless there’s some chance that you might not finish, that you might, in fact, fail. You’ve got to test yourself in a way that’s relative to whatever level you’re at.

How did you feel when you left me at Basecamp*?

*Basecamp was at 51k and marked the finish of my run, but only the halfway point for Mr Buddy.

I felt good actually – ready to get some more miles in and not dwell on the fact that it was only halfway.

You keep saying you slowed me down but the split was actually eight hours for the first 50k and nine hours for the second.

IMAG0489.jpg

 

What would be your advice to someone contemplating their first ultra?

Bring clean, spare socks and stuff your face continuously! Eat whatever you can get your hands on and in your stomach at each and every pit stop. And don’t leave eating until later on: after the ninth pit-stop, I saw a woman trying to eat and then just throwing up in a bush afterwards.

So you were trying to replenish all those calories so you wouldn’t hit a wall. How many calories did you burn overall?

According to my Garmin, it was well over 9000, nearer to 10,000.

The Race to the Stones follows an ancient English path. What were you favourite parts of the course?

All of it, the general scenery – I didn’t end up seeing many of the landmarks. The field of gold was good; everyone was fresh and enjoying it.

How many days do you think it will take you to get back to normal?

Actually, I’m contemplating going for a run tomorrow. (This was the Tuesday after the Saturday event.) The only restriction is the state of my feet at the moment.

Do you want to do the Ring O’ Fire in September?

For the last two days, I’ve been thinking, “I’ll never do another ultra again”, but now I’m thinking that 100 miles has to be the next target.

I will need to work out a way not to get horrible blisters though.

Do you have anything else to add?

Yeah, Race to the Stones was a great event, really well-organised, and the pit stops were amazing.

The atmosphere was great too. There was a real sense of camaraderie and no-one judging anyone else.

Ultra-marathon completed – what next?

Race to the Stones was the biggest event I had booked this year, and now it’s over.

Apart from breathing a huge sigh of relief (for the first time this year I am not coming out of one event and straight into the training plan for another) I feel that my recovery period is an excellent time to start considering where I want to take things next.

The swelling in my ankles tells me that I need to pay more attention to warm-ups, stretching out and general conditioning exercises – basically all the stuff that should help to prevent injuries. I have said in another post that I feel as if I’m living on borrowed time with regard to not having suffered a serious injury yet. It is luck, not competence, that has kept me injury free so far!

Aside from that, I want my fitness to go beyond running. But that means learning more stuff: routines, methods, that sort of thing. It’s so much easier just to pull on the trainers and head out the door for a quick 5k. Not to mention being overwhelmed with choice. Do I do weight training, cycling, swimming, yoga, HIIT classes?

In the wider world of exercise, I am not only half-arsed, but a complete novice, someone who has occasionally followed gym routines in the past.

Oh well, it’s time to take a deep breath and launch operation “all-round fitness”.

I hope I can learn some useful insights and share them with you along the way.

(A post on Race to the Stones is coming soon, and will cover the race from the perspective of doing it as a 50k and a 100k event.)