Plyoptic All in One Yoga Mat – Review

I hope everyone has had a good first few days of 2021. It is funny how the calendar rolling over from one year to the next invites us to re-set. My running etc re-start actually kicked off a little while ago and has nothing much to do with new year. I have started the Joe Wicks App – again nothing to do with New Year but simply with when Christmas and my birthday fall as it was a present. I didn’t wait until the 1st January to sign up and get going but the first proper week following the food and exercise starts now as we still had so many left overs etc that we fudged the food last week. I have however done all 5 workouts from the app for the first week now (the first one twice) and joined the live bootcamp this morning – but I will review the App more fully when I have finished the first cycle.

I have also come back to yoga more and have done some yoga every day for the last few days. I forget how much I enjoy it. We got new mats for Christmas, we chose them but Kath’s mum bought them for us. I wanted to spend some time reviewing them now that I have done a variety of exercises, poses and moves on them. Our old yoga mats did a pretty good job but one of them was too thick to do some of the moves and certainly too thick for any sort of HIIT workout. The other one was textured and the cats loved to use it as a scratching carpet (or post if rolled up) so it was looking rather worse for wear. It also repeatedly tried to kills us by scrunching up during exercise and making us roll our ankles or trip. We spent ages looking for new mats and reading reviews and really trying to find something that we could use for yoga and some strength work and HIIT. The mats we eventually settled on were chosen because several reviews said they did not slip or move on carpet. Well.

The mats are from Plyoptic and they are gorgeous. Plyoptic do several designs and they are all stunning. Ours mats come from their All In One range so are intended to be reversible so that one side is yoga etc with the beautiful designs and the other is for other gym type workouts you might do in trainers etc. I really like the feel of the mat on my hands and feet for yoga, it doesn’t feel cold and it feels grippy. The rubber side also feels fine. A little cold maybe if the room is cool but I guess the idea is that you’d probably be wearing trainers anyway, I wasn’t. The mats smell a little rubbery but not over-powering and nasty like some. They roll up easily and come with a carrying strap. The strap on my mat was missing but when I contacted Plyoptic they sent one in the post immediately. So they look great and feel pretty good but do they work?

Well, let’s do yoga first: I don’t slip, even when I get a bit sweaty. So that’s great and better than my previous thicker mat which was a bit slidey when my hands and feet got sweaty. They’re thin mats but that’s no issue on carpet which provides plenty of padding. So for general yoga they are really good mats and the designs add something. But they do scrunch on carpet. I left the mat down for a HIIT session and star jumps or even just marching on the spot were a non starter. I would have risked breaking my ankle leaving the mat down as it was. I ended up just using it for the press-ups and moving to carpet for anything else. I did leave it yoga side up though…

So for the next HIIT session I flipped the mat over. That worked a little better. I would still not be able to run on the spot on the mat as it scrunched up but I did do star jumps without risking tripping. This way round the mat also stayed in place better for things like mountain climbers although I was doing a slow version. Slow motion burpees were also ok. There is some scrunching and the mat needed re-adjusting during every rest period after an exercise burst but it was much better than trying to do the same thing yoga side up.

So where does that leave us? Well I am a bit disappointed. The whole point is the beautiful design and now much of the time I am not going to see that while exercising. And even when flipped over, the claim that the mats are good for use on carpet just isn’t true. They still scrunch, just not as much and some things we will definitely not be able to do on the mat which means the plan of protecting the carpet a bit needs a re-think. Honestly, if we were just buying a mat for doing yoga and nothing else, we probably would have gone for something cheaper. There are plenty lovely yoga mats out there that are much less expensive and do the job we need them to for yoga. That’s not to say that the mats were really really expensive – in the scheme of yoga mats they were what you might call mid range at about 50 quid each (they’re showing as more expensive on the Plyoptic page now). So would I recommend them? Well yes, if you have that spare cash and fall in love the design and want to stick to yoga poses/flow but you could also get something cheaper – including something cheaper from Plyoptic. The environmental credentials of these mats are probably better than most of the cheap ones I’ve seen elsewhere – they are made from biodegradable materials and are PVC and toxic glue etc free so for that I think it was worth spending a bit more. However, if you’re looking for something that won’t move or scrunch on carpet for whatever exercise you want to do – these mats are not it. We’re keeping the mats and I will enjoy doing yoga on mine but there’s this niggle that it’s not quite what I thought it was going to be. And if anyone does know of any mats that really honestly do not scrunch up on carpet when you use them, please let me know.

Week 2 Run 3

Come on, who stole the air last night? Even though it was a bit cooler during the day than it had been, last night was just the worst for sleeping. I couldn’t get to sleep for ages and once I did, I didn’t stay asleep… event the cats were hot and bothered. At 5.19 we gave up and Kath got us a cup of tea. The sky was stunning and as I tried to stretch and shake off the sleepiness I thought that it was probably worth getting up and out. It took me a little while to get going but at about 6.30 I left the house for the 3rd run of the second week of the 5km plan. Run 3 is run 5 minutes, walk 3 minutes and do that 3 times.

Given how hard I found running for 3 minutes the other day I really wasn’t sure about 5 minutes. After having returned Odin cat to the house to stop him following me I set off, not really thinking much about anything. Just a little way down the road I passed a neighbour who cheerfully informed me that she had seen Kath and I was way behind and wouldn’t catch her and that she knew what I’d been doing. I have no idea what she was talking about. I set off a good 10 minutes or so after Kath on a completely different run and as for what I was doing – erm, getting up, dressed and sorted to run. Thinking about the random, often well meaning but slightly idiotic comments you get when running kept me occupied until my watch beeped to tell me 5 minutes was up. I guess 5 minutes is shorter than 3 minutes in some cases!

I walked the rest thinking I didn’t really need the three minutes and set off on the second run at the beep. I got mostly downhill here so it was fine. I turned after 4 minutes of running still quite happy. Again I did not feel like I really needed three minutes of recovery but I was sauntering, looking around and daydreaming rather than marching on. Run 3. Well, if run 2 was mostly down hill and I had now turned round then Run 3 was of course mostly uphill. Well the first 2 minutes were uphill and wow that was not comfortable. I huffed and puffed my way to the top like a steam train and when I got to the top my glutes were burning. It was quite tempting to stop, I’d done the hard bit after all but I still had 3 minutes to go and figured I’d recover a bit on the down before sloping up again. Yeah something like that. That 5 minutes was looooong. Trust me, 5 minutes is not always the same length of time.

Kilian showing off his slightly
unorthodox yoga moved

Once home I looked at my Nike app and saw that today’s session was a strength yoga class of 23 minutes. Kath wasn’t back yet so I thought I might as well give that a go before breakfast. It was actually not bad and Downward Facing Dog really helps stretching out legs. They were feeling quite tight after the run but so much better after the yoga. There were a couple of things I struggled with a bit because I have no upper body strength – the transition from plank to upward facing dog for example – but generally I was quite happy with that.

The advantage of having done my run and my exercise session before 8am is that it is done. I don’t have to spend the rest of the day worrying about when to fit it in and how that works with food and how that aligns with Kath’s work pattern today etc. I’m done. The day is mine. The disadvantage is that I am not quite sure what to do with myself now. I have all day with no real plans (unless renewing car insurance counts as a plan). Still, it feels like a positive start to the week.

Happy Monday.

Beginner 5 km – Week 1

Shackleton

As I said in my last post, I am back on a 5km programme. In some ways it is incredibly frustrating. It seems a bit pathetic to find myself here, with 4 marathons under my belt, struggling to run for any time or distance even at snail’s pace. But it’s fine. I can’t do anything about that. In other ways it is quite nice. There is no pressure to work for distance now. There is no pressure to do anything at all. So here are my reflections on week 1 and my thoughts on week 2 coming up.

The first run was running for one minute and then walking for 1 minute and repeating that 10 times. The day I did that was hot and humid but the outing itself was fine. I essentially did the first part of our sheep loop, turned round after 6 runs to leave a little extra walking at the end to cool down. The next two runs were both running 2 minutes and walking 4 minutes repeated 5 times. The first one of those I did with Kath on Friday when it was even hotter and more humid than run 1. I used the same route. I found the 2 minute runs up the slopes annoyingly hard but overall it was pretty easy. Yesterday I did run 3 – which was the same intervals as run 2 – and went a fair bit further by just increasing the walking pace I think. I might have been running slightly faster just because it wasn’t as hot (in fact it was bucketing it down).

Einstein

I have enjoyed those three runs. I haven’t gone anywhere exciting on them – while a bit boring the out and back road route I have been using has a nice mix of gentle down and not too ridiculous up (almost no flat) so makes sure I don’t just run on the flat or downhill. I really noticed that two minutes uphill wasn’t easy. Clearly I have been avoiding running uphill! But I also noticed that 4 minutes seemed like a really long recovery time and that I didn’t really feel like I needed that at all.

I have also been doing a workout plan on the Nike app. I have done 2 endurance and one mobility session this week. I quite like them but I do think they have funny ideas about what beginner level is. In many of the workouts there are several moves that I can’t do fully. I reduced the level of the plan from the lowest intermediate to the beginner level as a result and the plan changed to reduce the overall number and duration of workouts and seemed to change some of the individual exercises. The mobility session I did today was much more doable all round. However, looking ahead, tomorrow’s session includes things like plank leg raises and side plank leg raises… I am not sure they are really beginner moves – I’ll just be trying to stay in plank/side plank for the given duration.

Kilian

So next week then. The Nike plan has 4 session. 2 endurance, one mobility and one strength. I think each of them has at least one exercise I will need to modify but we’ll see how we go. The runs next week should be absolutely fine. The first two are running 3 minutes walking 3 minutes four times and the third is running for 5 walking for 3 minutes a total of three times. For the first two I think I will stay on the same route – it’ll make me run the hills and should be good for an out and back over that time/distance. For the final run next week I might have a re-think.

I’ve also been doing a bit of yoga. I actually really like it when I can get my backside off the sofa! Some mornings I have just done a few gentle back bends and forward folds with one or two downward dogs to plank and back strung together in fairly random sun salutations and other days I have actually followed one of the routines from the yoga studio app. My current favourite for a grumpy back is the morning stretches routine which has lots of happy baby in it and for later on in the day I am enjoying the Rodney Yee hip opening routines.

Odin

So all in all it has been a pretty good exercise week. I’m sure the physical and mental benefits will come. I feel positive about both the running plan and the Nike app plan. I am conscious though that I am not really moving much other than when I specifically do some exercise – working at home eliminates walking for the bus/ from the train etc. Anyway, some movement is better than none! I haven’t been taking pictures while out and about so you have all 4 of our cats, in age order, dotted throughout instead. Oh and we’re not talking about the scales, they’re refusing to budge.

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.

September round-up

September has been a miserable running month really. It started so well. It started with relatively happy running and a decent build up to the Great North Run and then overall a solid GNR and an awesome post GNR run and then I got this hideous cold/flu/chest/throat thing. Then I thought I was getting better and got out for a 5 miles come-back run which I loved and then I wasn’t better so I have now had 3 weeks with hardly any running and it is annoying the hell out of me.

I will finish September on 31.2 miles – my worst mileage month by over 10 miles. I am stuck on 532.51 miles and my hope of reaching 800 miles for the year is slipping away. I am behind on my Dopey Challenge training plan, I am losing fitness, I’ll be putting on weight (I haven’t bothered getting on the scales this morning for my Sunday Weigh-In because I actually just don’t want to know today). I have spent three weeks mostly on the sofa and trying to push through to get work stuff done and keep things ticking on as best I can so I don’t get even further behind. In short, I’m grumpy.

I’ve had two back to back nights of 11 hours sleep and I think I am beginning to feel a bit more human again. I’m working at home tomorrow so will aim for the same again! There are still extraordinary amounts of snot but I don’t feel poorly today. Tempting as it is to pull the trainers on I am resting today. Tomorrow evening I’ll be off to my yoga class for the first time in what feels like forever and then on Tuesday I am back on the training plan – 45 minute run. I should be ok. I was half marathon fit for the GNR and I have only missed one long run of 13 miles so while it might not be pretty I should manage the next scheduled long run of 15 miles if I take it nice and steady. I know I have time, I know I don’t have to go the full distance as dictated by my training plan and that I could afford to drop back to the ┬áprevious long mileage on the plan but not running is playing havoc with my head. The enormity of taking on Dopey is there in the back of my mind and I don’t want to just drag my butt round, I want to enjoy it. Or at least most of it. Chances of enjoying ESPN Wide World of Sports are pretty minimal – it’s the part of the marathon I am least looking forward to – though if I can make it through that I’ll finish!

So, it’s 100 days until we fly out to Florida. 100 days to get Dopey fit. I’ve just been looking back and in 2015 I had flu a little later than this cycle and I still got myself Dopey fit (ish). I should stop worrying and just get on with getting better and then get the training done. I know I can do this, now I just need to believe it.