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.


Every breath you take

Greetings, from the sofa, where my aching thighs and I are having some well earned recovery time. That’s stock still with a big coffee and some giant chocolate buttons recovery time.

Today I have been out with Harry the personal trainer, circuit training round the park like a woman possessed. Who needs a stuffy gym when you’ve got park benches to do press ups on, picnic tables for step-blocks and slide steps for pounding up and down a la Rocky.

It’s the last edge of Autumn here now. The horse chestnuts are clinging on to their battered, golden leaves and in another week the trees will be bare. There’s a melancholic beauty to the park on mornings like this.

And in all this beauty me and Harry are swinging Mr Medicine Ball and Mr Kettle Bell in between skipping, jumping and side stepping, and running with our knees up as high as possible and kicking feet up to our glutes. Oh and squats. Lots of squats.

Squats = stronger thighs and glutes and stronger thighs and glutes equal faster, stronger running.

The new thing we did today was moving recovery. The plan is to get me used to expelling all that rubbish that builds up inside me when I exercise at capacity, but while I’m moving. So instead of walking in circles, wheezing, I jog and wheeze instead. Because I’m moving my muscles are kicking out more rubbish and I should be a little less DOMed out on Monday and Tuesday. Harry says.

So we jog along at a steady pace, taking turns to carry Mr Medicine Ball, who weighs 4kg. Running with an extra 4kg hanging off one arm and then the other seriously pulls on your core. Occasionally we stop for me to do 20 squats and then we’re off again. After a mile of this I’m struggling but I can do it. I’m wheezing, but I’m breathing and my body is still moving. 🙂

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.


,,, 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.

Sunday, day of rest… for some

What were you up to at 7.30 this morning. No, don’t tell me, let’s just pretend you were sleeping.

Me? Meeting Harry for our weekly one-hour sessions at the local park in south Manchester. I’m on the third one now, so I’ve learned to be apprehensive about what he pulls out of his car boot.

Medicine balls, kettle bells, dumb bells, big blue balls you lie on. Oh, I’m familiar with them all.

This week, nothing. This week we’re using a picnic table. No hamper, either. Straight down to business.

Exercise 1 – step up onto the bench seat with the right foot and then down, leading with the left. x 10. Repeat stepping up with the left.

Exercise 2 – step up onto the bench seat, just pushing with one leg and put the left leg straight back down. Repeat x15 times on each leg. This one is murder on the top of the thigh. Trust me.

Exercise 3 – press ups. So it’s hands onto the bench seat, out on plank position and press ups x15. Don’t go too low, you’ll never get back up.

Exercise 4 – dip things. Face away from the bench seat, bob down, hands on bench and do 20 dips. I can do these, I don’t know why. Harry pushes me to the point I’m keeling over on everything else.

Repeat the whole set again.

Sound exhausing? It is, but it’s all about strengthening muscles to give you more power when you run. The more strength on your arms, legs, core etc the easier you’ll find asking your body to do more.

Next – find a 20m length of grass.

Exercise 5 – side steps. Like sideways skipping but when you get to the end you do 5 squats and skip sideways back and repeat.

Exercise 6 – walking lunges. Walk the 20m length but lunge on each step Don’t go too low and do keep your back straight. This is something to do with your pelvis but I was on the verge of collapse here so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Straight back, not too low. There and back x2. There will be Jane Fonda-style ‘feeling the burn’.

Then repeat exercises 5 and 6.

This little playground of torture has taken 40 minutes. We now go for a run round where Harry keeps making sure I’m alive by chatting to me while I manage short sentences followed by a wheeze. This is pretty close to tempo running for a woman whose legs are mostly made of jelly now.

He then sets off in his car to go do something else athletic while I stagger home and lie in the bath. A small comfort, he was sweating after running for 20 minutes with me.