A ‘not quite’ sort of day

1st of March. Hmph. Time seems to be flying and yet not moving at all. Time is weird. I went for a run today. I didn’t want to. I did a workout too this morning, didn’t want to do that either. I didn’t sleep well. My knees hurt in my sleep and I couldn’t get comfy at all and wherever I turned there seemed to be a cat making it impossible for me the stretch out or move. I didn’t make 30 miles in February – I nearly did but not quite – because I did not want to dodge all the people that the glorious sunshine brought out yesterday. They were everywhere and in hordes, even on the roads. So no quick 30 minutes to just tip the mileage over 30 and no 4.5 miles to fulfil my obligation to the plan.

Yesterday’s sunset

Anyway, I woke up early. Not that it felt like I had been asleep much. An exercise session was on my mind but I thought if I just keep quiet maybe that feeling that I should just get it done would go away and I could stay in bed drinking coffee, cuddling cats, watching the sun come up. Well there was no sun to be seen in the fog anyway and then Kath uttered the words I didn’t really want to hear: ‘I was thinking about doing a workout’. Oh sod it then, let’s do it. Let’s start the month positively. It was actually fine and I did feel better afterwards. There was a lot of ‘not quite’ in the session though, the not quite managing the same number of push-ups as yesterday, not quite sprinting on the spot until the timer beeped and not quite managing the bear crawl for 30 seconds… not quite.

I left my sports bra on as I had planned a run today and having to change bras is a major factor in not actually making it out the door (no? Just me? Oh ok). Kath headed out after she finished work. I was still faffing with stuff but decided I wanted to get it done. I wanted the first day of the month at least to go to plan. Well, not quite. I got changed and headed out. I felt cold. I rarely feel cold running and even if I do it’s only for a few steps really. But throughout the whole run I could not get warm. I couldn’t quite get into a rhythm, not quite. I was always not quite settled. I told myself that if I got to the end of the road and still wasn’t feeling it I would turn round and come home. At the end of the road I was neither settled nor more unsettled and on autopilot I just kept going. Everything though felt not quite right. I dropped to run/walk. I’m not sure why. I was going downhill. I had been quite clear in my head about the planned loop but now I just couldn’t face it. I turned off early and significantly shortened the loop. I kept going on run/walk. Sometimes though I didn’t run the full 45 seconds – not quite. I met Kath coming in the opposite direction as I huffed and puffed up a gentle slope. She turned round to come with me. From there it was uneventful, a walk up the hill, a run/walk home. I was supposed to do 30 minutes. I did 28.22 minutes. Not quite. I only covered 1.86 miles, not even 2 miles. Not quite. I also didn’t really feel better after the run. I felt better when I put my sticker on the calendar for today showing that at least on Day 1 I stuck to the plan – even if not quite.

On not feeling worse

Cup of black coffee
Coffee!

Well so far this week has been a funny one. I tried to go for a run on Monday. For those of you who know me, you will know that I generally function well on caffeine and have a pretty high tolerance for the drinking coffee in the afternoon. Not so on Monday. I had an espresso a little while after lunch and soon after felt sick and dizzy, like you do when you have too much coffee. I thought it would pass quickly and got changed for a run but it didn’t pass quickly. As I curled up on the bed trying not to puke I felt pretty crappy about running and exercise. Eventually the nausea eased and I decided to get over myself and head out for 30 minutes. Initially it wasn’t too bad. I headed down the road and then turned right going slightly uphill before taking the road down towards the canal. I had a loop in mind so didn’t head straight for the canal but along the road that would take me parallel to it. It slopes up. As I plodded along I was very aware of the sick-y feeling coming back. I kept telling myself it would ease when I got onto the flat. When I got onto the flat I told myself it would ease as I got my breath back down the slope I was about to get to. It didn’t ease and by the time I got to the bottom of the slope I felt both sick and dizzy. My watch beeped for a mile, I took a few more steps and then stopped.

I walked home feeling sick and grumpy but it was the right call. Tuesday was my planned rest day and even though I hadn’t done loads it felt like I needed it. Wednesday was supposed to be Body Coach and run day but my head wasn’t playing ball. It was one of those sofa days. I wasn’t so much tired as stuck. I barely moved off the sofa. I did try a Body Coach workout but it started with slow motion burpees and they hurt my knee and honestly, I just could not be bothered so I went back to the sofa. After tea Kath did drag me out for a walk in the rain and I am glad she did because up until our little 3 ish mile loop I had taken a grand total of 279 steps! The movement and air did me good.

On Thursday I woke up and it was one of those mornings where you get to decide what mood you’re going to be in rather than just waking up with a predetermined one. I hovered between continuing the flatness of the day before and being more positive. While I wasn’t exactly bouncing with positivity another day on the sofa did not appeal either. So I got out of bed, walked to the end of the bed and bent down to touch my toes and settle into ragdoll pose. There’s something quite nice about just hanging upside down for a while. I remember thinking that out floor was dusty and my hair stupidly long. I went to say good morning to Kath and then to make french toast with pineapple and blueberries for breakfast. We did the food shop for us and for our mothers. Then I was back on the sofa. I didn’t think that was such a good place to be really, it wasn’t a healthy sort of rest. So I got changed and did a Body Coach workout. Then I made lunch, then I prepped our tea and then I got on with some other stuff and then we went for a run. 30 minutes nonstop running. It was fairly horrible. It was such a mental battle. Anxiety levels are high at the moment and I could really feel that in my breathing and from the minute we set off the brain gremlins were telling me how crap I am at running and how there was no way I was running for 30 minutes today. I hadn’t actually planned on running nonstop – the route I had suggested has a big hill in it which I always planned to walk but I really didn’t want the gremlins to win so I asked to change the route so I could try and keep running. I made it and that felt positive. Friday wasn’t a bad day and I did a Body Coach workout and decided not to run because I wanted to run at the weekend and don’t want to overdo it and then crash.

Jacob sheep with lamb
One of our favourite ewes with one of her lambs – 2016 maybe

This morning we went for a run together and I was quite looking forward to it as I got sorted and then suddenly felt really scared about it. I went anyway. We did a run/walk in 45/30 second intervals and it was just a continuation of the mental battle from Thursday. Mantras didn’t work and instead my brain flooded my consciousness with negative running memories. Our old first field offered a little respite with 2 gorgeous black lambs tucked in next to their mother but then it was just me against my thoughts again with Kath doing her best to reassure and nurse me round. My breathing was off and everything felt tense. Along the canal we saw more lambs and it wasn’t until then that I actually relaxed a bit. We had breakfast and pottered about a bit and then I did a Body Coach workout from the app before lunch. I think this week has been one of just getting through it. I sort of acknowledge having done the runs and workouts but I haven’t exactly enjoyed them. I suspect if I hadn’t done them I would feel much much worse and maybe ‘not feeling worse’ is the win I take from this week. And maybe it’s actually a big win.

Running Wins

I don’t feel like I am winning at much at the moment. Things I thought I knew and was sure about, things I sort of know I am good at, things I love doing… all have been put into question over the last year and particularly over the last 6 months or so. So I take my wins where they fall. And this week’s running wins are both so unremarkable and so bloody huge at the same time.

I have yet to hit 50 miles for the year. I haven’t been hugely focused on running. I haven’t forced myself out in bad weather, I have stayed in when it’s been icy and I have kept distance low and running intervals short. I have done more Body Coach App sessions than runs and I am ok with all of that. I am quite happy to not push too hard right now because my brain can only do so much at a time and doing routine things sometimes (but no longer most of the time!) uses up a very silly amount of brave. On Wednesday I did my Body Coach App session in the morning and it felt good to have got it done and out of the way. In the afternoon I was tempted to do naff all but put my big girl pants on to go out for my run. I fully intended to run/walk but as I set off my knee felt a bit funny. Not painful as such just a bit vague and unreliable. I decided I wouldn’t take the first walk break and just keep going to see if the knee settled. It must have done because I don’t recall thinking about it again at all. I had sort of settled into a nice little plod. As I made my way down the hill I thought I could always drop into the run/walk when I got down the hill. I didn’t. Soon I’d run the first mile and I felt comfortable so I kept going. I wondered if I could get to two miles – the route I had planned would have a killer hill at about 1.6 miles so I changed the route and went along the canal towpath. As I plodded along I started to think about running the entire 30 minutes. I never actually decided to do that. I just kept entertaining the idea and as I got closer to the 2 mile mark and ticked off little landmarks the notion of just keeping going until the 30 minutes was up didn’t seem ridiculous. It didn’t seem possible either but the idea wouldn’t let go and when I turned round with 5 minutes to go the psychological boost of ‘heading home’ helped get me there. I was very pleased with that indeed. It was 30 minutes nonstop and it was 12.35 minutes per mile pace. Happy.

Thursday was busy and I ended up not doing anything and then Friday I meant to go in the late afternoon again but my knees were sore from the Body Coach session earlier in the day. This morning though I went to try another 30 minutes. Kath came with me and we picked a different route. So setting out to run for 30 minutes without stopping is psychologically harder than sort of doing it by accident. The route was also different and not mostly downhill. It started down, then sloped up, then down a short sharp hill and then flat and slight down for a bit until it started slightly sloping upwards, though it is barely more than flat. This was about 20 minutes in and this was where it got really tough. Another 2 minutes along and we were in proper upward sloping territory and I had a way to go. I wasn’t sure I would make it up the slope so I had to decide between trying, dropping to run walk, turning off and doing a sharp downhill, flat, bastard uphill, slope down, sharp up and slope down instead. I went for the latter option thinking that if I could get my breath back on the down bit I could have a go at the first hill, recover on the slope, have a go at the second and then finish. The uphill in that particular loop is always further and steeper than I think and I nearly didn’t make it. Kath kept telling me that I was doing it. My legs didn’t think so but my brain seemed to lack energy and focus to question what it was being told so as I was doing it I did it. I did recover enough on the slope to power up the last little hill and then I only had 30 seconds left so I stretched my legs and finished strong. Happy.

I have one more 30 minute run to do this week and I will try running it all again. I might try the same route again and see if I feel strong enough to try the slope this time. I know in the scheme of running achievements running nonstop for 30 minutes is nothing, it’s unremarkable and lots of people do it every day. But somehow it felt like a massive milestone after the crappyness of my running year and craziness of the last 12 months generally. I could have cried after the first one and to back it up today was fab.

Happy Weekend.

Eeyore-ish post about running life

I started a blog post yesterday. I was tired and grumpy and a bit worn down by general crappiness, lockdown and stuff. I wrote

Well, I am about half way through Cycle 2 of the Beginner Body Coach app and my mojo has sort of disappeared. It’s not the app I don’t think. I am just generally not feeling it. I can’t be bothered. I think my really bad period I wrote about the other day sort of threw me off a bit. The bleurghness lasted for the full 6 days rather than just the first couple and I still feel a bit sluggish.

We went for a short run on Sunday. It was our anniversary and it was a lovely start to the day. We saw deer and a kingfisher and I managed to up the running intervals to 45 seconds. It was good. But I haven’t run since. Partly because it’s been cold and potentially icy. I am pretty sure the roads round here would be fine for a 30 minute loop but I just haven’t felt like pushing those buttons. I have missed one Body Coach workout last week and I haven’t done one today. My knees are a bit niggly. I have just started wearing trainers when doing the sessions to see if that helps but if they don’t work I might buy some actual HIIT trainers.

And then I went to bed.

I thought after a good nights’ sleep I might be in a better frame of mind. I wasn’t. I procrastinated for a while. Then I grumped quietly into my coffee for a bit, then I scrolled through social media trying to find something to either grab my attention or provide some inspiration or motivation. Nope. Then I thought I might as well go for that run. It’ll be awful but at least it will be done and it’ll kill half an hour or so.

So I got changed and went out. It’s gloriously sunny and bitterly cold. I don’t really remember thinking anything when I set off running. I wondered if the 45 second running intervals would be hard given that I haven’t run all week. They weren’t. I wondered if it was going to be slippery. It wasn’t. By the time I hit a mile I was sort of settled into a very slow and gentle happy plod. I didn’t know which way to go so when I got to the junction at which I had to decide and there were walkers, bikes and cars seemingly everywhere (there weren’t, just felt like it), I looked at my watch, realised I had done 15 minutes and decided to turn round and just go the same way back. Now this might seem like a bit of a cop out. It’s not. My plan says 30 minutes so doing 15 minutes out and then back is fine AND the way back would be mostly uphill. The kind of uphill I don’t usually bother with because it’s too hard. This time though I did it. Same intervals, no additional walk breaks and only one minute per mile slower than on the downhill.

So do I feel better now? A little maybe, less vague and generically grumpy. I am pleased I went out. The sunshine was lovely and it was nice to manage the uphill running bits.It feels like I have achieved something today. And in a fit of optimism I have left my sports bra on to do a Body Coach App workout later on this afternoon. In the meantime our two youngest cats are keeping me entertained fighting over the hammock (Odin is currently holding the position but Kilian wants it, or just wants Odin not to have it).

January Round Up and February Planning

We finally come to January 31st (or 357th if you feel a bit like me), how are you doing? Even I am beginning to struggle with lockdown. I am not a people person, I’m quite happy not seeing people and am happy to keep in touch virtually but I would give quite a lot to sit in a coffee shop with a coffee that someone else has made for me and maybe a pastry and just watch the world go by. I don’t even mind doing that on my own, just being amongst people would actually be quite nice. So yeah, if I am feeling like this my heart really goes out to those of you who really need those face to face interactions and feel energised by them.

I thought I would have a little look back at January and share my plans for February. As I looked ahead to 2021 I really wasn’t sure what the year would bring in terms of exercise and fitness. I was anxious about starting running again and grumpy about the non-existent fitness levels. I knew I wanted to start again but I really wasn’t sure about how things would go. My review of the first cycle on the Body Coach App from the other day perhaps shows that things are actually going pretty well. Fitness and strength are very very slowly coming back. I am a long way from where I was at peak fitness (which wasn’t that fit really but a happier level of fit) and there is a long way to go but when I remember to not compare myself to when I was Dopey fit, I am happy with how things are going.

January running hasn’t been spectacular but there has been running! I finish the month on 29.65 miles (more on why not 30 in a minute) which I was initially a bit disappointed with but then I looked back and there are only 3 months with higher mileage since April 2019 and none of those months are loads higher (under 40 miles). So in the context of how running shaped up over the last couple of years, the crappiness that was flu or Covid just a little more than a year ago now and the post viral crappiness that took all my fitness (but if that’s all it is taking I know I am one of the lucky ones) and the snow and ice that stopped me from venturing outside, then nearly 30 miles is good going!

Every now and again I get grumpy about my inability to run consistently without walk breaks. I like run/walk and I think I will always want to use run/walk for longer distances but I really would like to be able to run 10km without having to walk. How hard can it be? I will get there again. Patience. I have mostly been running using 30/30 second intervals but sometimes I get bored so sometimes I run the first mile and then drop into intervals, sometimes I run the first 5 minutes and sometimes, on routes with steeper bits, I run when I can and walk the hills. I found 30/30 really quite hard at the beginning of the year and pretty much impossible if there was anything steeper than flat involved. It’s getting much easier although I still really struggle to breathe going up and I wonder if partly that is still a post viral hangover that is making it harder to get the air into my lungs.

I have mostly run from home and I miss travelling to places to run. I’d love a run on the beach at Seahouses or a hike up one of the Yorkshire 3 peaks or a joint run with Kath at Bolton Abbey. But, patience. I have been lucky in that my therapist is based at Bolton Abbey and I can therefore travel there to see her and then take the opportunity while I am there to run. I never go far though, partly because I am often tired after therapy and just a little gentle mile or so helps clear my head without adding pressure and partly because I get side-tracked by coffee and then walk back sipping it. I could go further and get coffee on the way back but that section is often busy and busy is not why I run at Bolton Abbey. When I went last I had the run from the Abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion all to myself. I didn’t see another human soul until I crossed the bridge and headed for coffee. Bliss.

Running from home has had its rewards though. It’s not a bad place to run. Even just on the roads round the village is not unpleasant at all and sometimes it is quite nice to have a nosey at people’s gardens. They might not be in full bloom or showing off all their glory but you can still see quite a lot and get ideas. Running along the canal has been mixed. Some days it has been too busy with people to actually be enjoyable. For example, today I turned back sooner than I had planned and went a different route making my run an out and back more than a loop really because the stretch of canal ahead was just full of walkers and I had already got tangled up with people who didn’t have their dogs under control which meant I had to stop until they had retrieved them before running on. But on other occasions I have seen a kingfisher and stood and watched for ages. I call them kingfisher breaks and they are most legitimate reason to stop whatever you are doing and just spend a few moments being in the presence of greatness. There is something powerfully restorative about seeing them perched on branches just above the water and then inevitably fly off in a flash of glimmering orange and blue.

Most of my running has been a couple of miles and then a walk up to come home, maybe a little over 2 miles but not much. I am ok with that. It’s actually all within the Disney 10km training plan that I am loosely following. That plan had me running (or run/walking) 3 miles today. Yesterday I looked at my mileage and got into my head that I needed 5 miles something to hit 30 miles in January and that I could totally do that even though that would be 2 miles more than the furthest run since goodness knows when. What I didn’t get into my head was that the ‘something’ actually meant I needed nearly 6 miles. So after having done my Body Coach App workout first thing this morning, I set off early lunch time to sort out these 5 miles something. I got half way down the first stretch of road, about 3 minutes in maybe and felt like turning back. Legs were tired and I was struggling to settle in the cold air. But you know, 5 miles something won’t just magically run themselves, so onwards. I looped round to the canal rather than running straight down to it – it’s a sort of cheap mile somehow and then plodded along the canal almost always sticking to 30/30 expect for the dog issue and standing in a couple of times to move out of the way of couples who clearly think they might be parted forever if they walk in single file.

I was going quite well when I bumped into a friend of ours and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I was about 2.5 miles in and intended to carry on along the canal for another mile and a half and then come back and loop up the former golf course and home. But like I said, the canal was busy and getting busier so I changed my mind, came off the towpath at the next bridge and ran along the road and back through the estate I’d run down earlier. It was hard going after that stop. I stopped my watch at 4.5 miles which happened to be just at a walk break because I felt sure my legs were done. I wanted to save the 4.5 miles run/walk and then just measure the distance home as part of the cool down. I knew it would be roughly a mile, just under. But once I’d walked for a couple of minutes I decided to have another go and ran a a couple of consecutive minutes and a bit more 30/30 so I actually ended up doing 5 miles of run/walk before walking up the rest of the hill home. I finished on 5.46 miles which wasn’t enough to make it 30 for the month. That’s ok though, my legs are tired and I am not going out again for the sake of round numbers. They’re just numbers and I am not quite sure why I’d got it into my head anyway. January finishes on a strong note.

Looking ahead to February, my plan doesn’t change much. I still plan to do the 5 Body Coach workouts each week and to run 3 times a week. The workouts have now moved to Cycle 2 and have stepped up a little as far as I can tell so far. If they end up being too much when combined with 3 runs then I will drop one but I think I can probably work round that by choosing some of the workouts which are a little easier or which are more gentle on the legs. My midweek runs are 30 minute runs on the plan so they are what they are – often I run a loop that’s slightly more than 30 minutes, I guess it might not be if I get faster. The weekend runs don’t increase much in terms of distance -they go from 40 minutes next week, 3.5 miles the week after, 30 minutes the week after that and then finally 4.25 miles in the final week of February. That’s what is on the plan anyway. You never quite know what I might decide to do. Given that I have been getting on quite well with 30/30 I thought for February I would step it up a bit and try 45 seconds running with 30 second walk breaks and see how I get on. I’ll let you know.