Test yourself

Below are some pictures I took at work while Bury Football Club were in doing their post-season training.

Today football clubs monitor how fit their players are at the end of the season and then again at the beginning of pre-season training. Gives them an idea of what they get up to over the summer, I guess.

Fitness testing

Fitness testing

fitness testing

Look at those feet go

Of course we can all access facilities like this in universities today. Many have sports science courses which are partially funded by offering services to the public. Certainly ours does and will attentively test any amateur sportsman or woman as assiduously as they do any professional.

Of course you can test yourself without any fancy equipment. A timed run is as good as any measure, I guess. But if you want all those lovely stats, a complete fitness testing session will give you plenty to pour over.



Tennis balls, to be precise.

tennis ball

sports rehab muscle tension equipment – tennis ball to you

It turns out they are brilliant for pounding away at those tight spots which cause muscles to spasm. I highly recommend. Apparently squash balls are even more effective.

So while I am pretty much welded to my roller, to knock out the ITB area tightness, for those hard-to-reach spots, you can’t beat a tennis ball.

I’ve discovered knots of tension all down the sides of the muscles running from my hip to my knees. back and front. Inside and outside the leg.

My most annoyingly persistent tense spots are on the outside of each knee, but my roller is great for the back of my hip and round the sides.

roller and tennis ball

Tension tacking combo kit

I woke up at 4.30am this morning with my hip niggling so I’ve been up an hour rollering myself. I know, ridiculously early, but there’s nothing more irritating than trying to get comfortable with muscles spasming themselves stupid, right, left and centre. And it’s not much fun for MrM, having me toss and turn while he’s trying to sleep/do an impression of an unconscious walrus/wake the street with his snoring.

Of course there’s always someone wanting attention…

fifi the cat

you try to roller – she wants her morning cuddle


As we all know, I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis in my hip and it’s caused me all sorts of problems with my leg muscles.

I’ve been having sports physio on it for the past six months, I’m now well into a year-long advanced yoga course which is helping me understand the therapeutic application of this ancient mind-body philosophy, and I have changed the way I eat so I consume as many natural anti-inflammatories as I can during the day.

So, six-month review.

1. pain – overall huge improvements. The muscle cramping moves around still, but it’s been a long time since I felt twinges stepping onto a bus. The bone ache has gone but i am still stiff if I sit for long periods.

2. flexibility – I can actually sit crossed legged for a wee while now, without shooting pains down the outside of my knee and the general impression that my inner thigh muscle is going to tear off.

3. mindset – I am optimistic, I do believe I can run again, and I do believe my flexibility far further with time, application and patience.

The other day I ran for a bus and i didn’t immediately get any pain at all. That odd tightness pulling on the outside of my knee and across my inner thigh kicked in after 30 seconds, but it didn’t pull me up short with its intensity.

Moving forward. 🙂

Running hard

I found this article on the Guardian website today. It talks about running being hard and what does motivate us? That’s a tough question.

Of course running can be hard when you can’t run as well – if that makes sense.

Mind you, as I look at the blizzard out the window today, I don’t think anyone’s running here – all in the same boat today.

Creaky old me

I’ve been missing a while now.

Not because I’ve been too busy, or too lazy, or too suddenly brilliant at running that I’ve discovered the secret of speed and don’t care to share.

No, I’ve been avoiding you all.

I could say that I’ve been coming to terms with a bitter truth. Because there is a bitter truth to be told. Yes, partially that is true, but i could have written this weeks ago. I’ve been avoiding.

Back late last year my sports physio suggested i get X-rays on my hip as his weekly pummelling, prodding, stretching and bending efforts weren’t making great progress on my stiff leg and less than flexible hip joint. Here’s why; I have early onset osteoarthritis.

Lots of sulk-triggers to go at here:

  • I’m getting older – arthritis, you what? I’m not 50 yet. Arthritis is for old people, right?
  • I’ll never run again *dramatically throws back of hand against forehead and gaze stoically into the distance, lip trembling, noble chin tilted*
  • I am in pain and I’m sick of it.

When the doctor read me the x-ray results I cried. Then apologised for crying and then cried some more. “I don’t know why I’m crying,” I whimpered through the tears. Frankly, the fact she was about 25 and right then, at that moment, i wanted my body back at her age – it really wasn’t helping. But most of the reasons I was ploughing my way through her tissues are listed above. “I’m not saying you can never run again,” she added. This helped; i can’t stand being told what to do by authority figures who haven’t earned my respect, and as for young doctors…? The thought of her thinking I would never run again if she said so… and i was clear. To grossly misquote the divine Scarlett O’hara:

‘I’ m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I WILL run again.’

That was October… since then I’ve discovered some perspective and some facts. (Scarlett will be pleased):

  • anyone can get arthritis and age isn’t a barrier.
  • I’m not alone, there’s about 10 million of us in the UK
  • I may run again, but I will have to be patient.

So, thought it was about time I got back on the horse again and let you know where I was at.

Perhaps i should start a link about getting to grips with arthritis and leave a link here. What do you think?

Hippy, hippy stretch

My hip tightness is easing 😀 and that’s down to yoga.

I’ve tried rollering by ITBS and in some ways it’s helpful, but the tightness in that outer knee area is impossible to get to. And it didn’t really solve the hip tightness, which was turning into added lower back tightness – big ouch.

But I have found the solution in yoga. I’ve been doing yoga since I was eight, you’d think I’d cotton on to the answer being where I know.

On YouTube now there are dozens of demonstrations. Really helpful in helping anyone self-practice. I love the Ekhart Yoga’s contribution to sharing knowledge. They have a subscribe website, but they also have dozens of free sessions on-line – including hip-openers.

How when I run I get a tightness around my knee still and I can feel my hip, but the tightening across my lower back has stopped, I don’t limp when I stop running and start walking either.

I love this session – but there’s a lot to choose from. Enjoy.

Breakfast on the run

I had a pleasant if slow run out this morning – 35 minutes at an average of 12:26.

I was out last night seeing friends and we sat up to watch the end of the Olympics opening ceremony which was also on in the restaurant where we were eating last night. A Spanish tapas bar in town called El Rincon that’s hugely popular, noisy, boisterous and always seems to be filled with people having a good time.

I had some amazing things to eat. Meatballs, steak cooked long and slow with peppers., chicken in a creamy paprika sauce.. lots of tasty potato dishes… and superb Spanish beer

So let’s just say I was a little blurry around the edges this morning.

When I got back from my run this morning I whipped up a breakfast smoothie. This is very easy, packed with good things and keeps you full till lunch. I know you can buy smoothies in cartons but I’m not convinced pasturising fruit retains all that goodness the fresh thing has. I make this with rice or soya milk because I get enough dairy from my cheese habit, but you could use milk if you wanted to. It’s a variation one one put together by Mike Dolce who is a peak performance coach. He’s been a power lifter and martial arts competitor. Tough guy – likes his fruit.

One handful of strawberries (I use 5 usually)
One handful of blueberries
Half a banana
I sachet of porridge oats (or 30g if you buy loose)
100ml of rice milk (soya, dairy)
1 tspn honey

Blast in blender. Scoff.

breakfast smoothie

breakfast smoothie

Who knew you could blend porridge oats? It’s a great way of getting a proper porridge goodness breakfast down you when it’s too hot to face a hot breakfast. And it’s fast. Try it, it’s really nice.

It’s hydrating, it’s natural and it’s not full of preservatives. Mike Dolce is very big on natural food being key to recovery. Thirty-five minutes gentle running hardly requires extra nutrition but I do try to make sure I eat as much fresh, natural food as I can.

What’s your favourite fitness foods? Do you like to keep it natural or are you into sports drinks and supplements?

It’s running, Jim…

… but not as we know it.

My first post-injury run this morning. Hmm…

I’m sure I’m not alone in my paranoia that my fitness will evaporate with every day I don’t run. In the dark and grizzly recesses of my imagination I’m sliding down, down, down until I’m a wheezy amorphous creature; like The Blob with asthma. (see 5 mins into this clip)

Now of course I know this is illogical. I’m doing weight training to strengthen the muscles that let me down last time, but it’s not running and that’s what I exercise for – running. Weight training is empowering but there’s no rush. No fresh air. No nature.

So, now you can see how my headspace lies (bloody bonkers, yes, thank you) as I set off past the church (quick prayer and holy ground can’t hurt, can it).

Immediately I get pulling, yanking pains flicking round my hip and glutes, but I keep at it and the frequency of said pain drops and then goes off. Mindful of not pushing my luck I have my watch on, not my garmin, I do not want to know how slow I am.

But slowly I jog round for 30 minutes without feeling out of breath. I feel strong. My head is up and the pain isn’t ridiculous. I begin to feel a dull ache round my knee and inside my hip, but it’s not making me limp.

And all those things I miss happen; I start running through work issues and making decisions about how to deal with them, I say ‘hello’ to strangers walking dogs, I splash through puddles, I smell the summer air. I get a face full of soggy ivy miss-ducking back over the bridge.

After 30 minutes I jog-walk the last half mile home and I’m super cheery. I’ve run. I can still run. My body is still strong (probably a bit stronger actually, thanks to the weight training).

I am not back at the beginning. I am further along on the running journey.

As NBA basketball player A C Green said: ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’


Well, flaming June it’s flaming not!

I made a dash out for a run at around 12 noon today to discover my planned route was under water.

flooded road, Northenden

flooded road, Northenden

The Mersey was over her banks after several days of heavy rain.

fast-flowing Mersey

fast-flowing Mersey

So I turend tail, ran back through the village and down to the motorway bridge that takes you towards Chorlton water park.

It’s only about 2.5 miles but the muscles around my hip weren’t enjoying it at all. They started stiffening up again and so I slowed to a trot as I met up with the river and used the rest of the run to trot, take pictures, and try not to get caught in too many downpours.

at Chorlton water park

At Chorlton water park

You probably can’t see but there’s a heron on the bank to the right.

sodden and muddy

sodden and muddy

The bridge and i had something in common – we were wet and muddy.

I jog-walked back, stopping to stretch off my hip.

flowers in the rain

hedgerow flowers in the rain

At least the flowers in the hedgerows seemed to be enjoying themselves but the rain kept pouring down.

I gave in and sheltered under a bridge in the end, waiting for the worst of  downpour to give over.

more rain

more rain

river at northenden

river at Northenden – flooded

Looks grim doesn’t it – this was the view when I got back to Northenden. The weir had disappeared, as had the island in the middle of the river.

It usually looks more like this:

Usual view - Northdenden weir

Usual view – Northdenden weir

I dare say the four horsemen of the apocolypse will be by at teatime.

Back out there, running the trails

At last, Sunday, I was back out on the trails running again.

How I’ve missed running this week. I was so busy I didn’t even have time for yoga – literally out to work, home, eat, bath, bed x 5 – no time for anything but a book before sleep.

Sunday I ran three miles around the trails in rain. Deliciously refreshing.

Today I ran 45 minutes round the trails in the opposite direction, I’d tell you how far but apparently the garmin satellites are on strike today. I had to make do with a timed run. he muscle stiffness in my hips is playing up and in spite of it niggling all the way round, at 45 minutes i was getting shooting pains in my knee if I tried to run up hill.

So like a sensible runner I called it a day, stretched off and walked the mile and a half home, semi-limping and stopping to stretch off en route.

Bit concerning, but I’m going to give it a good rollering over the next few days, keep stretching and get a sports massage ASAP.