8 Minutes and Mantras

Well it stopped being too hot and with that I ran out of excuses really. I still managed to not run for a few days, I kept finding excuses in the morning, reassuring myself that I would get out later. Guess what. Yep. Later never happened. This morning my excuses didn’t really sounds believable, even to me. So I gave myself a talking to. ‘You’re a double Dopey’ I told myself ‘just get your butt out there and run’. I tried to convince myself that running for 8 minutes three times on a West Yorkshire August morning was not going to be anywhere near as hard as 26.2 miles in Florida January heat. ‘It’s also less fun’ niggled that little voice in my head.

Anyway, then Kath said she would come with me and given that none of my excuses had sounded plausible in my head, I wasn’t about the try them out on her. So I got dressed and off we went. It was only 8 minutes running. I mean really, 8 minutes is not a very long time. Except it is. The first 8 minutes actually felt ok. I settled into it quickly and while it started getting hard at about 5-6 minutes as we got to the steepest bit of the uphill I huffed and puffed my way up relatively happily. So far so good. 2 minute walk was enough to recover a bit and I felt ok setting off for run 2. Run 2 mostly sloped very very slightly upwards (after a sharp short down – which on the way back becomes a sharp short up – see below). The annoying slope you really only notice when you are running that way. It doesn’t feel like it slopes downwards the other way.

In run 2 my brain started not playing ball. It felt too hard, thoughts of walking a bit crept in. Excuses formed: ‘I can always try again to run it all tomorrow’ and ‘I’m just feeling a bit heavy because of all the food yesterday’ (It was Kath’s Mum’s birthday and we had a lovely roast dinner and birthday cake). Often what happens next is that we progress from that to ‘No point, can’t do it, might as well just walk, crap, can’t do it’. I managed to refocus before the real negative got hold and sent the little voice off into a corner of my brain for a time out. Instead I told myself that I really just had to run for 5 minutes because then I could turn round and head back towards home. And as I knew from run 1, 5 minutes was actually easy. I was huffing and puffing, sweat was dripping and I was barely going snail’s pace but I was going and at about 5 minutes we turned, back up a little tiny hill and then down the slope that doesn’t feel like a slope and run 2 was done.

My lungs were screaming for air as I mourned my lost fitness and cursed myself for having stopped running after the marathons last year and not really every getting going again. But after 2 minutes I had recovered enough as the watch beep told me it was time for my moonin butt to get moving again. Run 2 started with that short sharp uphill. Just a 10 second kind of hill but as I got to the top to another section which pretends to be flat – it’s the flattest on the route but at this point is really slightly upwards sloping, I felt like I had jelly legs. I was sure I couldn’t possibly run another minute even though I had only run less than a minute so far. Nope, I was going to have to admit defeat. I think I whimpered. Kath told me I’d recover now we were on the flat. ‘It’s not flat’ I felt like screaming but I had no spare oxygen for that. She told me I could do it and to remember my mantras.

Ha mantras. Yes I’d forgotten all about them. Mantras are funny things. In a way I am skeptical about them and on a cynical day (so most days) a bit dismissive. Somehow I can’t quite bring myself to accept that talking to myself and repeating affirmations or whatever is an acceptable way of getting through life or through a run. It just seems weird to me to be telling myself how amazing I am. It makes me cringe. So while I thought about how cringeworthy mantras are and all of that went through my head, I hadn’t stopped running. I was, somehow, miraculously still running. I heard Kath say ‘Come on keep going, you’re strong’. And I sort of shrugged and thought ‘well compared to three weeks ago I am, I’ve done all my strength workouts after all’ so my mantra became ‘I am strong and I can do this’. After saying it in my head three or four times, not finishing the run was no longer an option. All I had to do was get up the hill, down the other side and depending on time, up another slope for a bit. I am strong and I can do this. Car to car to gate to lamppost to car to gate to tree to wall to car… I am strong and I can do this. And I did.

Collapsing in a heap at the end of run 3 was tempting. But I kept walking for the 2 minutes as per the programme and by the end of that had recovered a fair bit. We were nearly home – just a couple more minutes of walking. It was slow and it was hard but it also reminded me that while often at the start of running or at the re-start of running things are physically hard, really hard and the sayings about running being mostly mental etc don’t really help or apply, there is absolutely still a place for training your mind to help. Yes I found the run today physically hard but I am now aware of the mental strategies available to me to push to the end of a physically hard run. I tried to just focus on something else during run 2 – I was still thinking about the run on this occasion but it was enough stop the negative spiral and I got through run 3 only because of the mantra. This is a definite advantage a running re-start has over starting for the first time I think. I have experienced runs were it’s all mental and I have tried different mental strategies. Now I just need to remember to use them as I make my way through this programme!

Run 2 of Week 2

Happy International Cat Day from our 4 boys. I did run 2 of week 2 with Kath early this morning before it got too hot. Bloody hell 3 minutes is a long time when you’re unfit and trying to run uphill. Even thinking of it as an upwards flat section which usually makes me giggle didn’t really help. But there we are, run done. When we got back we figured we might as well do our other exercises while we were already sweaty.

I had a 30 minute endurance workout and it didn’t really go to plan. Well it did, in that I did a 30 minute workout. But my music app stop working after 2 songs leaving me with no music and just my outrageous breathing to listen to. I don’t run with music – I like the sounds around me, particularly the bird song etc and I like to hear others coming. But the idea of doing a strength or endurance workout without music is just miserable. I could have paused the workout I think and sorted the music but that didn’t occur to me until later. Then my arms did not want to play at all. Does that just mean I used them properly during my run? I nearly face planted after 15 seconds of high plank which I am sure would have been hilarious for anyone watching. My legs were also a bit tired so the workout was a struggle and had I had the energy I might have sworn quite a lot. I have a rest day tomorrow although if I am awake early I might like to do the next run on the list.

After a shower and a delicious breakfast of griddled nectarines, asparagus, parma ham and burrata we enjoyed the morning sun with a coffee before springing into action. Kath washed and polished the car and I cleaned our BBQ ready for lunch. Kath made a lovely apple coleslaw to go with some pork steaks and we sat on our patio soaking up the sun and having lunch using our Disney picnic set. It cheered me up. With the January Disney trip cancelled I am missing the planning, the booking restaurants, the anticipation and the coming together of plans as the holiday draws nearer. We would be in full blown restaurant booking mode now, possibly hunting for particular time slots in particular places – like a California Grill reservation that ensures we can watch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from the roof terrace. Anyway, going full Disney for lunch was nice.

We’ve been trying new food ideas out this week. Mostly they come from the Joe Wicks books. This isn’t about dieting or losing weight but about getting the food right to feel healthy and strong. We have both been dipping in energy levels massively in the afternoon and Kath in particular noticed that her fuelling isn’t right for her running. So we have tried to plan food for the week to link to the exercise we’re doing and see if that helps. So far the recipes we have tried have been really good and not difficult or time consuming to make. It’ll be good to add some new things to our usual list. I’ll let you know how we get on.

So overall today has felt like an overall positive day. No major slumps in energy or in mood. I am tired now but a normal sort of tired, not a crap day sort of tired. I’m not saying I have settled into being on leave fully but I do think I am winding down properly. And I also think running first thing helps. And maybe sleeping outside in the summer house adds to the feeling of adventure and relaxation – hedgehogs certainly do!

A rant about plank nonsense

Well it was too hot to run today. It might have been ok first thing when Kath went or actually when I first briefly woke up. We slept in our summer house for our little stay at home adventure and I woke up periodically through the night and maybe I should have just got up the first time I woke up and it was light. But anyway, I dozed off again and by the time I woke up fully, Kath was setting off on her run and I needed to sit and stare at the world with coffee for a while. Then we took the car for its service and MOT and then I fell asleep reading and …. Ok this is just a long way round to saying that I did not run today.

I did however do my Nike Training App exercises and that’s what I wanted to write more about. I sort of like the training app. I like it because as well as having what seems like quite a lot of workouts to choose from, it will also build you a plan. You give it basic info and it spits out a plan. The plan will apparently adapt and it is pretty flexible – so you can move the workouts around. So, I selected the Start Up Plan and answered the app’s question for it to build my plan: I have some dumbbells, I want 3-4 workouts per week not including running (I sort my own running) and I am a total beginner doing basically nothing at the moment. The start up plan is 4 weeks and for me it selected 4 workouts in weeks 1 and 3 and 3 workouts in weeks 2 and 4. They vary from the first benchmark workout which is about 8 minutes to a 45 minute endurance session.

So what’s in the sessions. Well there are squats of all varieties, hip lifts, bear crawls, dumbbell shoulder presses, press ups and lots and lots and lots of core exercises – in all of them. In the endurance workouts you just seem to repeat them more often and add some silly things like A skips, star jumps or lateral shuffles. It is all sort of doable. It’s hard – harder than it looks when you scroll through the workout to see what’s coming – but totally doable. Except there are some moves which are just not beginner moves. They’re just not. The app does tell you that you can modify the moves, do the planks from your knees for example. And I do! But in almost all of the workouts I have done so far, there are some moves that just strike me as silly to try given that I cannot do a high plank for the length of time required without dropping to my knees. So plank leg raises, plank arm raises or plank sew-saws or side plank leg raises etc just piss me off. It’s what made me stop the plan first time round. This time I have decided to ignore this nonsense. I will simply work on staying in plank position until I can do it for the required time without dropping to my knees. Then we can have a conversation about arm and leg raises and doing other silliness.

So, while I have regained my sense of humour about this, there is a more serious point. It’s actually hard to keep going with something which you know you can’t fully do. It’s a bit soul destroying to always ‘fail’ even if that fail is only in your head and it is actually perfectly ok to modify the exercise. It would be good to be able to say on the app that some of the moves are too difficult and for them to be changed out but I guess that’s just not how they build the workouts. At the end of every workout you rate the whole thing on a scale of 1-10 in terms of how hard it was but there is no option to single out one exercise as too difficult in that form. I know it shouldn’t really be a big deal but somehow it is – they’re just not beginner moves so they shouldn’t be in a beginner’s plan. Hmph.

Ok, rant over. 1 workout left this week and then 4 next week.

Yep, starting again?

What do you do when you are struggling to get back into running, struggling to run a mile and generally struggling with being heavier and far less fit than you were? Well naturally you sign up for a hilly half marathon. Of course you do. Never mind that it seems totally unrealistic and undoable, you just decide that in 5 months time you will run 13.1 miles most of which are on upward flat sections. Yep. That’s what you do. Yes.

So having established that this is the done thing, I am delighted to tell you that Kath and I have now signed up for the Suzuki Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavik on the 25th June. The elevation profile looks like this:

So I should probably give you a running update and tell you how much progress I have made since the beginning of January. Yes, well, about that. I ran on the 5th January – dragged my butt 6 miles to go have breakfast. And then I carried my running gear across Europe for a few days while I popped in to see Dad in Hamburg and then went to a workshop/conference in Osnabrück. I meant to go run while I was over there. I am normally quite good at running when away from home like that but somehow it just never quite happened. The workshop was pretty intense and they were long days with late dinners and even though I was awake early enough every morning, I felt too full still and it was still dark and I had no real idea of where to run… excuses excuses excuses.

Torture Device!

So then I got back and started marking and that was that. I basically didn’t move until I was finished (I still have extensions and paperwork but mostly I am done) and here we are another week disappeared. On Thursday I had a strength and conditioning session. The first one since I gave up sometime in December because everything just felt impossible. I was in two minds of whether to go back but actually I didn’t hate the session. I found it hard but it was good to be doing.

Wonky headband!

Yesterday I finished marking and didn’t really do anything else other than the odd stretch every 3 or 4 scripts. At some point though, I sort of realised, I am actually going to have to stop thinking about running and actually run. So in glorious sunshine I headed out late morning today to run the sheep loop and pop in and see Mum at the end. It was lovely out. I ran the first half mile or so, then put in a 30 second walk break and then continued on running for a bit. As the ground got more uneven and muddy I dropped into 30 sec/30 sec intervals to protect my calf muscles and feet. That seemed fine.

I walked for a couple of minutes towards the bottom of the former golf course – I have never liked the bit where it switches from muddy path to tarmac and I always feel like it’s damp an slippery so rather than tensing up and making my feet hurt, I just walked through that. Along the canal I stuck to 30/30 again and it wasn’t until right at the end that my feet started niggling a bit. Overall it felt good to be out and positive to actually be moving and doing something.

I was having fun really!

So, work towards the midnight sun run starts here I guess. I’m mad.

Going for 1000 Miles Again…

….or the one where I need to talk about weight.

Well here we are again. 1st of January. New Year. New Decade. Bla Bla. Yep, I am my usual grumpy self about new year. I wrote about how I like New Year for the reflection it brings last year. I haven’t changed my mind on that but somehow I am always a little disappointed that nothing happens at that magical midnight moment when one year or in this case one decade ends and another starts. Surely something should be different?

Well it isn’t. The world is still turning, arseholes are still arseholes and lovely people are still lovely. I am still me. Actually the last two of those are not disappointing. They are just as they should be but could we start a thing where every year at midnight on the 31st December an arsehole we each know turns into a lovely person. That should sort the world out pretty sharpish. Anyway, two things are on my mind. One is the the fact that Kath and I once again signed up for the #Run1000Mile Challenge – which you already know but which is now official. I have no idea if I’ll make it, we’ll see. As of today I am ahead of schedule! I went for a very slow and painful 3.66 mile run/walk. I tried 30/30 second intervals to see if I can nurse my calf muscles and feet a bit but it didn’t seem to help that much. Any slight up or uneven ground and everything tightens up and starts screaming. At least today it was manageable on the flat – yesterday I could only run downhill.

The second thing is weight and the new year new you bollocks that is going around as it always does at this time of the year. Honestly, I haven’t actually noticed it as much as I have done in previous years- but it’s early yet – still plenty of time to guilt-trip us into some sort of diet or gym membership. Anyway, the obvious thing is that I am still the old me and I am perfectly happy with the old me. There need not be a new me or indeed a new you just because there is a new year/decade. You do not need to upgraded, renewed, replaced or upcycled. Also the whole start and end of decade thing that is going on with pictures of 2009 and 2019 – if looking at old photos etc is bringing you joy then yay for that. If it’s not and you’re finding the entire experience uncomfortable then just don’t do it. I seem to be totally indifferent to it. Which is odd because I often get caught up in things like that. I am also lazy though and for 2009 pictures of me I would have to actually turn on the old Desktop computer… yeah, forget it. In 2009 I was also just me. A decade on – still just me.

So weight. I’ve been thinking about it as I grumpily flick past the ‘running to lose weight’, ‘yoga for weight loss’ and ‘get your dream body now’ adverts not to mention the weight watchers, slimming world and diet product marketing… Over the last few years I have genuinely shifted the focus from what I look like to what I can do. I am no longer concerned about the number on the scales or the number on the label in my clothes (though not being in-between sizes would be really really welcome). I’ve read stuff and learned stuff (and written stuff) about weight discrimination, about fat shaming, about body positivity about being fat and healthy and all of that. And I am uncomfortable with all of it. There is something about body positivity that just freaks me out. Maybe it’s that the focus for me is not on what you can do… anyway I am digressing – not the point of this post though I may come back to it…

The point I was trying to get to – in a roundabout, long sentences, thinking as I am typing kind of a way – is MY weight. I’m too heavy. Ok, now before you start with the positivity or with the telling me off for thinking and writing about weight and weight loss, calm the fuck down. Don’t tell me I’m not fat – I am. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter, I look just fine as I am bla bla bla – nobody cares. I know how much I weight today, after a bath, butt naked with wet hair. It’s not a number I’m keen on but I have spent a lot of time trying to move away from caring about numbers and that has worked – so it wasn’t the number that made me think I was too heavy. It wasn’t even the tightness of my jeans – I can buy bigger pants – it was a general feeling of bleurgh. A feeling of being unfit, sluggish, weak and a bit sack of spuds-ish. Things niggle or take more effort than they should and running is so much harder.

So – am I doing anything about it – Am I going to be lighting up the search engines looking for the next trendy diet, how to burn fat in 6 easy moves? Don’t be daft. I’m not going to do anything about the weight. The weight isn’t the problem. I’m going to do something about feeling less strong, less competent, less fit and generally less wonder woman than I want. No, I’m not changing anything major or joining a fancy gym. I hate the gym. I am simply going back to what I was doing and what brought me joy as well as fitness. I am looking forward to starting to feel the benefits of daily yoga again and the sense of fitness that comes with consistent running and the feeling of power that comes with strength – gained through yoga and through the strength and conditioning exercises. The number on the scales will change in a downward directions – almost certainly – but probably not by as much as you might think.

And just to be clear, this isn’t a January new years resolution thing. I kicked this off last year when deciding to look to RunRight for help to make sure I can run injury free in 2020. While the sessions with them were getting too much for me mentally at the end of last year (well no, everything else was so I had nothing left for them), I am now looking forward to going back later on this month. December was a month of slowly coming back to things I’d neglected and the trick in future is going to be to make time for at least some of those when things get crazy busy and I get tired.

Anyway. Happy 2020.