Run like the wind

Today’s my personal trainer day. The day where I get up at stupid o’clock on a Sunday so someone 20 years younger than me can bounce about like an excited puppy while I wheeze, indiscreetly wipe snot on the sleeves of my micro-fleece and contemplate whether it’s possible to suffocate while running due to the fact my lungs can’t get the crap out fast enough to let oxygen in.

Whythenshaw Park was looking pretty gloomy today and it’s rained so much over the past couple of days little lakes have popped up all over the place

Lodge at Whythenshaw Park entrance

Lodge at Whythenshaw Park entrance

New lake

New lake

Today was interval training session. We did 1.5 minutes slow, 1 minute fast x 10. Twenty-five minutes with matching winds speed, squally showers with 25 mph winds pounding at me was, shall we say, refreshing. About the sixth interval I was really feeling it and as Adam is chatting away about how he wants us to do four more, I’m thinking… well, more praying really… that I won’t cave and walk, but suddenly we’ve done eight and I’m thinking ‘I can do this’. In the end I finished strong.

We then spent half an hour doing Mr Kettlebell drills with varying success. Although my lunges are much improved and my squats are almost a pleasure, I had some moments losing control of the kettlebell as I swung it over my shoulder. It’s only the blind terror over the potential damage I could do with 8kg of steel and my skull that keeps me in check.

I have now eaten an obscene amount of bread, butter, ham and about half a gallon of tea. I am complete; and bloody knackered.

Faster with fartlek

I beg your pardon?!

Sounds funny to non-runners I’m sure, but fartlek is a bit like interval training, but without the watch-watching.

It means ‘ speed play’ in Swedish, running fast, then running slower, depending on how you feel or how demanding the terrain is.

On a Saturday I always feel the word ‘chillax’ washing over me from the moment I stick my nose from under the duvet. I love my Saturdays and this Saturday Mr M is watching his beloved Everton play Blackburn in Liverpool, so I’m home alone.

After Mr M had headed out I pulled on my running gear, added a micro-fleece and left my hair untied. My chillax runs are about having fun and having my hair flopping about is all part of the joy.

It is windy, beyond windy today. Seven degrees, which isn’t bad but the wind is 25. I don’t know what it’s 25 of (anyone?) but I do know it felt like I was being pushed backwards as I ran up river. I trotted about for 3.6 miles enjoying the fresh air, thinking about my successes of the week and running as fast as I could just when I felt like it. I got home in 44 minutes which isn’t bad considering I had to clamber through trees to escape gargantuan lake-like puddles and run against a fierce wind that was hell-bent on pushing me over.

I know I’ve pledged to make my runs count and not amble aimlessly but fartlek does help you improve speed and there is nothing like leaping along with your hair flying to underscore a love of running and why you should be  out there doing it and not carping about the weather.

Hot, hot, hot!

So this morning I tried out my new Sub4 running tights with go-faster tagline. Can an item of clothing keep you running ‘longer, further & stronger’? Tall claim, isn’t it.

I did 3.5 miles of intervals and I wasn’t struggling too badly. But can I tell you whether I was running faster? Nope, because my MapMyTracks app has keeled over and died.

I got to my finishing point to find it had ignored 90% of my efforts and then wiped all my run histories and now just shows me a blue screen. Big meh.

But I can tell you Sub4 running tights  keep you warm. Really warm. I was cooking alive my the time I’d run up the hill out of the village. Mind you, it was warm this morning anyway but my legs definitely felt super-hot. Maybe better for chillier mornings. It was 14 degrees here today. No rubbing though and they’re now drying on the clothes horse so I’ll give them another run out very soon.

I am going to try out Endomondo, another running app, before I buy my garmin. At least this one comes with a customer recommendation, courtesy of Iddex.

Cool, cozy and safe

Getting a decent winter running kit together isn’t cheap is it, neither is it easy.

Running magazines are awash with the latest leggings, tops and jackets available on websites but I like to try things on.

Of course when I do go shopping I am plagued by a doppelganger who has exactly my taste in clothes and snaps up everything I like in my size before I get there. She likes running too.

But today I was able to find a pair of running leggings that:

a) didn’t break the bank

b) hit all the right ‘musts’ on wicking fabric, tie at the waist, no nasty, chaffing seams and some reflective twink

c) had a pocket big enough for my iPhone.

I like my phone with me. Just in case I fall over and can’t get up and need to ring for someone to scrape me up. Ok it’s never happened, but it could.

And much as I’m a big fan of Ron Hill products – certainly can’t be faulted on price and durability – I couldn’t get a twopenny chew in the pocket. Maybe my keys as well, but really? Hello. 21st century. And no, I am not trailing a bumbag round with me. Can’t be doing with spare fabric round my ankles never mind something bouncing round my middle.

There were some leggings that had fiddly fabric covers for the zip ends at the ankles, but not worth and extra £12. Yes they had more reflective twink on but my running top is panelled in neon yellow, any more reflective bits and I’ll be distracting Manchester airport traffic.

I settled on some Sub4 long flite tights which came in at £2 more than the Ron Hills and have the tagline ‘Inspired designs to keep you running longer further & faster’. Now that remains to be seen.

Moving on up

Sunday = Harry the personal trainer day.

As I got to the park there he was waiting for me with a kettle bell and dumb bells in his hands. I’m smiling but I’m not really smiling, if you know what I mean.

I was beginning to develop feelings of trepidation around training days with Harry. Could it be the DOMS? Could it be the waves of nausea?

Our routines go one week heavy on the weights, one week heavy on the runs. And this was, weights week.

Now as you’ll know, if you’re no stranger to my blog, I’m not wildly keen on Mr Kettle Bell and his pals. Aside from the fact I’m trying not to think about my reputation for clumsiness, coupled with what will happen if I accidentally let go of the kettle bell as it soars above me head, these fellas work your muscles big time.

But, bit of a revelation this week. I could not only do two sets of exercises – I could do three! Harry was bouncing around, cheering my progress while I tried to smile through the wheezing as I recovered from sets. And although it wasn’t easy it didn’t feel impossible.

So this is what I did today.

Five minutes jog round to warm up including skipping along at times:

  • squat position with kettle bell. Swinging kettle bell up as high as possible, squeezing glutes at the top of the swing. X20.
  • little jumps on the spot x 8 and then big massive jump, knees up x 1 (repeat x 6)
  • hold kettle bell in front of chest as far out as possible and rotate through the waist each side (x15)
  • little jumps on the spot x 8 and then big massive jump, knees up x 1 (repeat x 5)
  • lunge position, clutching hefty dumb bell, dip down left hand x 5, swap hands x 5 (repeat on other leg)
  • heavy dumb bell in one hand, light dumb bell in another. Lean over in squat position, but with bum out and straight back. Swing one arm up, twist through waist and swing other arm up. x 10.
Then repeat the whole set twice more. Sweat liberally and wheeze at will.
These exercises are designed to give me stronger arms and core and stronger glutes, a powerhouse of running energy.
Then after that lot – sprints.
Three times three lengths of gate to lamppost (about 25 metres), three times two lengths and three times one length.
Apparently I’m way faster, my jumping is stronger and running as fast as possible towards the finish line got me an ‘I like it, accelerating – that’s great.’ My wheezing is dropping off, though I’m still panting furiously and, weirdly, I’m starting to enjoy sprints.
Needless to say I’m aching now but delighted to feel progress. I can’t wait to get out and run again but, of course, I’ll be walking like a robot tomorrow. But I’ll be walking like a robot who’s moving on up.

DOM, DOM, DOM

,,, And we’re not talking about the dramatic chord sequence that accompanies the revealing of a murderer’s identity in old-time mystery films.

DOMS is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. After last week’s squat, lunge, kettle bell, medicine ball marathon with Harry the Personal Trainer I had three days of DOMS. Big time.

It’s unpleasant; it involves walking like a robot, it involves emitting weird noises every time you get out of a chair – mostly ‘Arrgggghhhhhh’. It involves learning new ways to get in and out of bed and it makes lowering yourself into a bath something of a challenge. It involves slow, strange descents of stairs and a slight feeling of nausea. It’s annoying.

Harry says what’s going on is the high-intensity exercise – jumping, squats, lunges stuff – is causing little tears in the muscles. This is what aches and feels tight and stiff. After the soreness goes the muscles are rebuilding, getting stronger and bigger and more effective.

So no pain, no gain is true here, annoying though the pain is. It also stops you running for a few days. (Ever seen a robot run?) which seems to contradict what I’m aiming to achieve here. How can I be running faster when I’m struggling to walk?

But when you can get your running shorts on without keeling over you should be a stronger runner. Says Harry.

Behold my nemesis – the kettle bell

There was a point this morning when I pondered whether Death By Kettle Bell was to be my end.

It was right about the moment when I completed my eighth one-arm swinging squat thing on my second set of 20 reps and I realised I had eight kilogrammes of solid metal approaching my head and I needed strength I didn’t think I had left to keep control of said flying kettle bell.

But I am alive. I didn’t die and Harry the personal trainer is still alive too. Even though I wanted to kill him after 30 minutes.

If you’ve never used them, they are great for building muscle using natural body movement. I’d advise kettle bell supervision though, these things are lethal in the hands of an idiot like me.

To get an idea of kettle bells in action, these guys do stuff with kettle bells that I’m familiar with.

I know they’re not as funny as they think they are but the squat-type exercises, swinging the kettle bell with both hands or one hand, and around the worlds are just what I was doing this morning. Together they create stronger legs, stronger core, stronger arms and that equals faster running.

If I’d thought about what Harry said when he arrived, that his football game was off and he thought he’d train with me instead, I would have been prepared. But no, I went blithely skipping into the park like a lamb to the slaughter.

This week was all about the kettle bell and this medicine ball thing with two handles that you can do press ups off and hold over your head while you do lunges. Backwards as well as forwards. Tricky.

We always do two sets of everything and then run down a track and back. Lots of ‘excellent’ and ‘well done’ keep me going but the last 20 minutes spent running at 5.2 – 5.7mph pretty much finished me off.

And now I’m lying on the sofa already bored with the aching thighs and arms and knowing tomorrow is going to be worse. But you know, stronger = faster. And that is the point to all of this, after all.

Dealing with stitches – literally

I haven’t been allowed to run this week.

Stitches, you know. And I don’t mean that irritating pain in your side.

I’ve got something wrong with my skin and the dermatologist wanted a biopsy. What I hadn’t realised was this would need stitching up, all under local anaesthetic thankfully.

Of course I asked if I could go to yoga that night and once the dermatologist had realised this involved being upside down quite a lot, I got a firm ‘no’.

‘So how about running?’ I asked.

Not for two days, apparently.

Now if I don’t go running due to holidays, trips, my own procrastination, somehow that’s ok. But tell me I ‘can’t’ go running and I’m champing at the bit to get out.

Especially as I’ve bought myself a glowing yellow long sleeve top for dark morning running sessions and I want to go out to play in it.

I realise I’m behaving like a petulant eight year old, but I don’t care! (see, my inner brat is alive and well and muttering ‘meh’)

I’m sitting here, looking out the window, pouting and imagining my ability to run faster slipping away with the hours.

But my running ban is over tomorrow – huge ‘yes’ and I’ll be out as soon as I can.

Oh joy, my running mojo’s back

I am a bundle of smiles and bouncing cheeriness.

The sky is grey and rain is pending, the cat has picked a fight with a neighbour’s cat, though thankfully her fury was only vented through the closed kitchen window where she hung from its frame, growling and puffing like a feline boxer.

Mr M snored half the night and wheezed most of the rest while I had a most unpleasant nightmare featuring a cast of people I’ve no desire to see in reality or dreams.

But all this is nothing; my first post-holiday run was a one-off, my running mojo’s back.

I set off at 7.30am this morning and decided to take the river route, along the Mersey and up into the park in Didsbury, round the woods and through the marshlands before jogging home.

Not fast, but not wheezing, not pushing hard but not feeling like my legs are like jelly.

So I ran for an hour, though I stopped to take some snaps of a glorious morning – before the grey clouds loomed to cast their shadow over Manchester. Harry the personal trainer may not approve of this as a training technique, but sometimes the joy of running and sharing the joy is greater than the science of training. Which I may use as my defence next week.

Cat calling: good or bad?

I’ve come to realise that my running is something of a spectator sport.

I can be wrapped up in my own little world of ‘come on, you can make it up this hill, distract yourself, legs up, run lightly, pump arms’ when my mantra is interrupted by the voice behind me…

‘KEEP IT UP, LOVE’ or ‘KEEP RUNNING’ and once ‘PUSH IT, BABY’ (I kid you, not).

Now it is a bit irritating, and it can more than put me off my stride, but is it really such a bad thing?

In the past I’ve had a bit of a harrumph to myself, mostly because these comments come from men who look like they couldn’t run for a bus/toffee/a free six-pack of cooking lager.

That and the fact that I’m usually on my last legs, pouring with sweat, bright red and generally looking like I’m about to implode.

But they have actually spurred me on to run a bit faster, which is what I’m aiming for after all.

Clearly I’m not alone and from this Runners World forum most people take it in good humour.

Of course I have the advantage of being past the NED fantasy age and so I don’t have to endure lewd, explicit comments from youths as I’m old enough to be their mother, or possibly grand-mother.

I think most of my commentators are trying to be helpful or identify themselves as ‘friendly’ rather than ‘threat’, and if that helps me run a bit faster, then all to the good.