You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and, when it comes to fitness, I can definitely concur.  I’m not sure how much time I had off from running, but I think it was a good 3 months of doing very little, including an entire month off exercise completely, whilst recovering from foot surgery.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that I genuinely had no idea how fit I actually was.

When you constantly surround yourself with people who do more exercise, and more running, and more EVERYTHING, than you do, it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing yourself is actually far from ordinary.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t, at the very least, half marathon fit, if not marathon fit, and be able to not only run the distance, but race it in a time that was better than average, even though I was never happy with my time!

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Coming back from an injury that has set me right back to square one has been challenging on many levels.  How exactly do you motivate yourself to do something that has become so difficult and laboured unenjoyable and, quite frankly, hard work?  It’s a bit like dragging yourself to a hardcore tempo session that you know you need to do, but the difference is, there’s no reward.  There’s no reward to sending yourself out on a run that’s not only half the distance than you’re used to, but takes you 90 seconds per mile longer than you’re used to and leaves you more knackered than you’re used to.  No reward, just a lot of AAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHH.

I’ve had a lot of arguments with myself.

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Undeniably, I’m getting fitter and stronger.  I can feel it.  Especially with the strength work I’ve been doing – Monday nights burning at the Barre in a ballet inspired strength class are becoming my favourite!

While I know I’m still fitter than most, I’m still not ‘me fit’ and I’m not ‘my friends fit’ and that means I still can’t run with them.  That’s right, I can’t play with my friends and I’m miserable about it.  (Fair play to Gemma though, she has offered to run with me but I fear she doesn’t quite know what she’s letting herself in for…)

As I plod on with my slow runs home from work, attempting tempo at Parkrun because I can’t join in at actual tempo, and slowly increasing my mileage, I’ve found a new found awe for my former self.  She was tougher than I thought.  In light of that I thought it was time to set myself a new goal and, being lucky enough to get a place in Great North Run, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try and beat my half marathon PB of 01.40.50. Gulp.

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The Graceful Art of Aerial Fitness…

If you’ve ever been to a Pink gig you’ll be familiar with her spellbinding ability to combine flawless vocals whilst hanging from the ceiling twisted up in aerial silks and effortlessly flying through hoops.  More than just entertaining, it’s a little bit spectacular and a little bit magical.

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On Saturday, Bloggers that Slay invited me to an Aerial Fitness taster session at Skylab Studios, a small but perfectly formed dance studio in the heart of Camden.  I was excited to find my inner gymnast and learn how to gracefully glide through the air (ahem…)

The mirrored studio is fully kitted out with hoops, silks and hammocks that hang from the ceiling, and enough crash mats to make you feel pretty safe.  After a 10 minute warm up, our instructor, Astra, took us through the 4 key poses we needed to learn; tuck, straddle, pike and needle.  I was familiar with these from yoga, and they’re all quite simple…at least they’re quite simple with the security of the floor beneath you and gravity in your favour…

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We started on the hammocks, they’re a bit like silks but instead of 2 separate pieces of silk hanging down, they form a loop to help support your weight – perfect for beginners right?! ‘Sitting’ in the hammock the trick was to bend your legs like a frog and use your core to flip yourself upside down in a straddle position.  It sounds easy, Astra made in LOOK easy…but it wasn’t easy.  In fact it was really bloody hard!

With a little help I finally managed to get myself upside down so once there, I thought I would just hang out for a bit…

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We swiftly moved on to the silks where Astra showed us how to hang from them (again, a lot of upper body strength required) and hook your feet through to a pike position then hang upside down in a needle shape.  Soooo I got little further than this…

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Finally it was time to give the hoops a try.  I had high hopes that these would be easier than the silks but I was wrong, so very wrong…  There’s a particular method of getting up onto the hoop (of which I fell at the first hurdle, quite literally) which involves more upside-down-ness before flipping yourself up into the hoop and doing the ‘showgirl pose’.  So we’ll call that the plan for lesson 2 shall we?!

It’s safe to say that nothing about aerial fitness is simple or easy.  It requires a lot of core and upper body strength and it will definitely hurt to laugh or sneeze the next day (I suggest surrounding yourself with adequately dull people to limit the pain).  Despite its challenges, aerial fitness really is SO MUCH FUN and clearly has many fitness benefits to help improve strength and flexibility, I’m definitely keen to give it another go.

Many thanks to both Skylab Studios and Bloggers that Slay for having me, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!  If you’re keen to give aerial fitness a try, the guys down at Skylab are super friendly, super patient and welcome beginners.  You can find out more here.

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Suck it up Princess

Running is hard.  Running is harder than it’s ever been (if you can actually call it running at all) and  I’m really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel (there’s going to be a light isn’t there…please tell me there’s going to be a light??)

I’ve moved on from the run/walk strategy.  It was good while it lasted, mostly because it took the huge pressure off hitting a pace I was vaguely happy with rather than my foot, but it had to end at some point.  In all honesty I hadn’t planned to end it quite as soon as I did but it was actually snowing in London and my blood is 100% southern so, you know, I get cold and running is quicker than walking.  I didn’t dare look at my watch.

Of course after I had transitioned to continuous running there was no way back, you don’t make progress by taking steps backwards, and so for the last 2 weeks I’ve been shuffling around London trying to remember how to be a runner again.  It was hard and it was scary and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.  I didn’t know why I was doing it.

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The last two Saturdays I’ve made an appearance at my local Parkrun on Tooting Common.  Running with other people helps me to forget that I’m running and that I’m finding it hard, Parkrun is the perfect place to learn to run again.  It feels kinda safe.

The only problem was trying to run a Parkrun without running as fast as I could, that was another new one on me.  Being much slower than I usually am is difficult to deal with, but I have been enjoying running again and that was the whole point.  You’re ace Parkrun, thank you!

You can’t be at the top of your game all the time, there will always be times when you’re just a little bit rubbish.  But you don’t make progress by hiding away and doing nothing about it, you have to get out the door, suck it up and do it.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve also never got as much Strava kudos for so many rubbish runs so THANK YOU for making me feel better about it, it really does help.

I will get faster and I will get back to the top of my game but, for now, I need to suck it up and plod on.  Joy.

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Back to Basics

So it turns out that after breaking your foot you can’t simply throw your trainers back on and run 12 miles.  Not even close.  But that’s OK because, you know, it’s winter and it’s dark, and it’s cold out, right?

Yep, that’s really OK…

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I’ve had some physio. Sometimes we got on (when she let me run) and sometimes we didn’t get on (when she didn’t let me run), so throughout most of our relationship we didn’t really get on much.  But we did have a common goal, and as frustrating as I found it, I did everything she told me to, like rest, and glute activations, and mobilsation exercises, and squats, and more rest…which was, you know, lots of fun.

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On my final physio session, 6 and a half weeks after surgery, and after lots of squatting and hopping and jumping around, I was actually  allowed on the dreadmill. It was the BEST DAY!  We’re talking 2 whole minutes of running…OK maybe ‘jogging’…but still huge progress!

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What I’ve really had to learn is to simply go back to the boring stuff basics, which has been mentally challenging.  When my physio told me I was allowed to go for a little run that weekend, after an excessive warm up of course, BUT I was only allowed to alternate between 1 minute running and 1 minute walking, I wasn’t sure my ego could handle it…I mean, what if people SAW me?

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However, I did as I was told, well, almost, my legs being the little rebels they are settled into a pattern of 2 minutes running and 1 walking but it was close enough.  It was actually quite enjoyable because it took the pressure off trying to run at the pace I was used to, so I just didn’t worry about it at all.  Three miles successfully completed and I was back in the game!

The one thing I’ve found most difficult to deal with is my running confidence hitting rock bottom.  Just the very thought of actually going outside of my house and running in the actual outdoors made me anxious and nervous, how I ever managed to run a marathon was beyond me.  Something that used to be so natural, and a normal part of my life, now seemed a little alien and a little intimidating.  I now understand why people find the thought of taking up running daunting.

Of course, I really didn’t have a choice, I HAD to find my confidence again because, you know, running is like oxygen.  So I’ve been getting back into it slowly with short runs of 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking which has helped both physically and psychologically, as well as getting around because I can finally run home from work again (yeah, screw you tube strike!)

I’ve also taken the running-down-time to up my game in the gym which has helped improve my strength and stability and I’ve promised myself it will remain part of my regular routine, ya hear that body?  PROMISE

It’s taken a couple of months but, this morning I woke up with my entire body aching and feeling exhausted, and that makes me soooo very happy because I actually feel like my old self again! Well, being well rested and ache free is for wimps right 😉

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The one where they told me I needed foot surgery

So I have a broken foot. Yes. A. Broken. FOOT.  I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but when you’re a fitness blogger with an injury that will only let you do one legged planks and tricep dips (so that’s fun then), you find you don’t really have much to say.

My foot’s been wonky for a while, I’ve even used it to excuse why I’ve fallen over thin air after a few proseccos, but I’ve kinda been ignoring it.  The problem was, I was starting to get shooting pains through my foot not only after I had been running, but when I was simply laying down too.  I knew there was a problem.

It turns out that my big toe hasn’t been doing what it should and my other toes were taking all the weight.  Whilst this apparently isn’t too much of a problem for muggles, for an obsessive compulsive marathon runner (I’m coining the term OCMR), it’s a real pain in the arse…and the foot…and in fact the whole bloody leg.

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So, the official diagnosis was ‘Wonky Foot’ and the bad news was that surgery was the only way to fix it.  On the plus side, it explained a lot and explains why I was getting frequent injuries in my right leg, it was all related to a gradual change in gait to account for my wonkiness.

So I had a choice:

  • Don’t have surgery, continue to be wonky and struggle to run, but always have an excuse for prosecco based tumbles
  • Have surgery, have an injury that would stop me exercising for a while and lose the prosecco based tumble excuse, but potentially get fixed and comeback stronger

Before I had a chance to change my mind I was booked in for surgery.

Apparantly the procedure was fairly simple, they break the bone, realign it with pins and sew it back up to leave a double-hard action man scar.  Of course when I tell the scar story later it’ll involve a crocodile and the heroic rescue mission of an adorably cute puppy…

So this is my Frankenstein’s Monster foot.  Just be grateful it’s the post-manicured picture:

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After being pretty much housebound for the dullest 2 weeks ever, I was finally allowed out to play again last week for Christmas fun (you know the, sensible, well planned out controlled type of fun we all dream of), it made me so happpppyyyy!

Sensible, controlled fun has never really been my strong point so after a few mulled wines on Saturday morning (yes morning, it’s December, it’s fine), I found myself jumping (OK hopping) at the chance to participate in the Chaser pint mile relay!

It’s pretty easy, you just drink your pint as quickly as you can, run around the track as fast as you can, then tag the next person.  I went 4th in our team to avoid getting in anyone’s way and succeeded in completing a 3 legged hobble of the track putting our team firmly in, ahem, last place.  Honestly, I have never been more excited to go around that bloomin track!

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So, it’s been nearly 3 weeks and my broken foot is on the mend.  Not being able to run, or indeed fit my foot into anything other than an Ugg boot, is driving me completely insane but it’s Christmas so I’m trying to to chill out and let myself heal.  Who would have thought relaxing would actually be so challenging?

Hopefully I’ll be back in my trainers very very soon and I can work on my #ComeBackStronger approach.  In the meantime I still have these memories to remind me what I know I can do and a whole lot of sensible, controlled festive fun to look forward to 🙂

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“The biggest mistake is doing nothing because you can only do a little”

I don’t know who said that but, for now, I’ll credit it to Dad French.  Not long ago I came back from a 5 mile run (I say run, this most definitely fell into the ‘jog’ category) downhearted about both pace and distance. ‘When will I get faster again, it was so slow I may as well not bothered’ I moaned to my Dad.  He simply turned around and said:

There aren’t many people that can just go out and run 5 miles, they say the biggest mistake of all is doing nothing because you can only do a little

And he was right.  As I try and get myself out of a real running rut it’s time to hit the reset button and shake off the mindset that anything less than 10 miles isn’t worth getting out of bed for.  Easier said than done though.

Instead of going out for shorter runs I found I was making excuses not to go out for 12 mile runs.  My thought process went a bit like this

  • What if I can’t run that far?
  • What if someone I know sees me?
  • What if I forget to switch my watch off before it uploads to Strava for the world to see  how slow I am?
  • What if I get attacked by a dog?
  • What if I get attacked by the Beast of Wandsworth Common?
  • What if I can’t actually run at all anymore?
  • What if I fall over?
  • Well, 12 miles is quite far isn’t it, maybe I should just go for a run round the block?
  • No, that’s just stupid, what’s the point?
  • Maybe I’ll just stay here and watch the next episode of Stranger Things then…

And so that’s how it went.  Of course, eventually I ran out of excuses and finally managed to bribe myself into running 3 miles round the block with my favourite smashed avocado on sourdough.  I even managed to face the Beast of Wandsworth Common.  Don’t be fooled by those friendly eyes and little twitchy nose…

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I think it’s all so easy to get swept up in marathon madness and forget that it’s actually OK to run shorter distances (even at the weekends, yes really) and it’s much better to run a little, not matter how slowly, than to not run at all.

A couple of weeks ago I ran the Cabbage Patch 10.  That’s 10 whole miles.  I was dead nervous.  I woke up early on a Sunday morning to a miserable day pouring with rain and felt sick.  Honestly, if I hadn’t of promised Graham a lift to the race there’s a 90% chance I wouldn’t have turned up.

But I did turn up, I ran, and I got the t-shirt.  Plus, if you take out the pain of seeing my Garmin flash up embarrassingly slow miles, and the fear of coming last, I actually enjoyed running.  I needed that race to kickstart my confidence again.

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Sure, I’m slow.  Sure, I’m scared of long distances right now.  Sure, I can’t see myself improving.  But I know I will as long as I keep going.  Besides, I don’t really have much choice now I’ve signed up for the Brighton Marathon in April…

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Tallinn Marathon: The one that wasn’t

  • At mile 8 I was still hopeful
  • But at mile 9 my right leg really wasn’t so sure
  • By mile 11 my jog had turned to a distinctive shuffle
  • At mile 12 I was walking…
  • …and at mile 13.1 I was well and truly OUT

Just 2 and a half hours after I had started the Tallinn Marathon, I was back in my hotel room, physically and emotionally broken, having only completed half of the course.  I wasn’t sure how much cider and wine I was going to need to deal with the situation.

It turned out to be a lot, luckily I had good company…

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It was never going to end well.  I was undertrained and injured.  But my head was in a different place to my body, in fact, it was so far away, it may as well have been on a different planet.  Through a combination of really not wanting to go running, being too busy, and carrying some kind of leg injury that quickly shut down my late attempt to get marathon ready, it really should have been the one I never started.

But I did start.

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Tallinn is actually a very beautiful city, and with the weather bright and sunny, and some Chaser buddies around me, it really could have been a lot worse.  After a lot of thinking, and trying to figure out how I felt about the situation, I realised that although I didn’t run the full marathon, and I didn’t get my BQ (which was the reason for signing up in the first place), I still ran half of it and had a really good weekend in a place I had never been before.

The marathon is part of a weekend of events that consists of a kids 5k on the Friday evening, a 10k on the Saturday, and the marathon and half on the Sunday.  The marathon is 2 laps of the half, which starts later in the day.

The kids 5k in full swing

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Beginning in Freedom Square, the route takes you around the city and heads out along the coastline for around 7 miles, before switching back to the city again.  It was actually better supported than I expected, I thought it would be quite low key with less than 2,000 runners in the full and around 3,000 in the half, but there were people cheering along the route and a few bands making some noise.

It’s pretty flat, and a great course for a PB, although it could get quite windy by the sea in different conditions.  There’s also a smell, a kind of putrid dead fish type of smell that gets worse as the day goes on and really puts you off your caramel macchiato caffeine gels.  Be warned.

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I was feeling OK for the first 8 or so miles, I was running slowly, but I felt OK and was even enjoying running again.  But somewhere on the way back to the city, my right leg started to hurt and my hip flexors felt tight, I was getting slower and slower.  It was frustrating, and I was trying to calculate how I could adopt a run-walk strategy to the finish but, by 12 miles run-walk was more walk-walk.  It wasn’t happening.

As Freedom Square got closer and closer, I had to make a decision.  And I knew what the decision needed to be, I just didn’t want to admit it.  I could have carried on and shuffled around, but I really didn’t see the point, I was injured, I was going to be painfully slow, and I was already back near the hotel.  As my watch hit 13.1 miles, I pulled out.

Tallinn is a well organised event, I can’t take that away from them, but I wasn’t impressed that they wouldn’t let me get off the course very easily, and they wouldn’t give me any water despite having run 13 miles in warm conditions.  It didn’t help my mood.  Plus, as I hadn’t officially downgraded to the half, I didn’t even get rewarded for my efforts despite having run the half course.

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Well yes actually, I do. And I deserved one. So I got one.  And I wore it allll night.  Thank you to Paul and Lorraine, who managed to sweet talk the Estonian medal police into letting me have one, it made my day!

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Although Mike unfortunately couldn’t run due to injury, the rest of the Chasers ran really well with a sub 3 PB for Paul, a sold BQ for Rob, a great run from Emma despite hurting her back 2 days before, and an awesome PB for Lorraine in the half.

What then followed were a lot of drinks, some dinner, some more drinks, some silliness and some music.

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There’ll be other marathons, and other opportunities to get a PB and a BQ but, right now, I’m a little bit over 26.2.  I’ll face up to the fact I’ve signed up to a mountainous marathon in Gran Canaria next year a little later…