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.

Warning: running may lead to Yoga, Pilates, Gym….

I don’t actually like the gym. We have been doing yoga at home – sometimes more and sometimes less consistently. However, its not really enough. I very occasionally popped into the gym at work but I often don’t get there because work stuff side tracks me or I want to get home…. So after much deliberations we joined the local council gym for a month in June to try out the classes and have another go at doing some useful cross training.

June was pretty good and we decided it was sensible to come back and get into a good exercise/cross training routine. So far we’re doing pretty well. One of the guys at the gym did us a short programme designed to support our running. It consists of some step ups with weights and then lots of stuff to strengthen core and glutes. I like it because it’s short and should work fine if done twice a week. In fact we have been doing this a little while now so it is probably time to go see him again and get a new one.

In addition we have done a fitness pilates class which I find quite hard but good and I enjoy it. Again the work on core strength helps and I think I am probably getting better even with only having done it twice since we’ve been back (and twice in June before we went). Last week we also tried a yoga class which I loved. The instructor was fabulous and very focused on form and technique coming round and putting us all in the right positions. I could most definitely feel that! We also tried a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class in June which I sort of hated but loved having done. We are having another go on Thursday next week. So with 2 gym sessions, 1 pilates, 1 yoga and 1 HIIT class as well as the running we’re pretty busy getting fitter. We might not be able to do all of this every week and if I’m honest, the HIIT class might prove too much for me, but we’ll see how we go.

I lost 2 pounds in the first week back from Australia, I’m sticking to Sunday weigh in just to keep track and eating is focused on fuel and eating yummy things that are overall healthy without going over the top. I feel quite content with all of that at the moment and I am getting stronger. It feels different not going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym or to lose weight or tone up but to go to support my running. It feels like there’s a good reason and somehow that makes it more enjoyable.