Greetings from bingo wings on fire world

Running training with Adam in the gym tonight.

Circuits of:
* lunges swinging 5kg medicine ball from one side of my body to the other, across the room
* stepping up onto something the height of a coffee table and pushing up 4kg dumbbells over head and then back to shoulders x 12
* swinging a 12kg kettlebell about x 15
* pulling myself up on gym rings x 12

Repeat everything above again and then nice little quarter-mile run on the treadmill at 6.5 mph.

And then repeat three more times and see how wheezy you are on that last run when 2mins 20secs seems forever.

Of course running trainer Adam likes to mix it up so in those starred activities there was also:
* hopping on and off a bench
* press ups off a medicine ball and then lifting it over your head
*squats off a bosu (inner thigh killer) and
* something with one of those big space ball things that made my hamstrings go into spasm (was supposed to work my glutes, what can I say – lazy bot ;))

Those gym rings – you’ve got to love them. There’s something really empowering about pulling up your body and trying to control the rings while the muscles on the back of your arms burn. I mean really burn.

I can pull up my body if I lean back with my feet on the floor. How you actually lift yourself up, feet off the ground, goodness only knows. I will be watching those men in the Olympics with great awe. Nice shoulder muscles too and I smugly note there are no women on these things in the pictures I could find. Guessing any ambitions I may be fostering in this direction maybe pipe dreams, I suspect it’s going to be harder than running ūüôā


Dilettante of the gym

Apparently I’m a bit of a dilettante.

MrM¬†hoots with laughter when we walk past the golf course and I’m watching the golfers trundle¬† their clubs about in their natty smart casual clothes. He just says ‘no’ and then gaffaws a bit more. He¬†knows how interests go with me… He likes to remind me how I’ve read every Henning Mankell¬†novel ever written and¬†seen every Jean Cocteau film.

You see, I am an obsessive, but I’m an obsessive dilettante so ‘yes’ I¬†do wear a Breton¬†top every time we go out (I own five, what’s not to like about stripes?). I can be really, really, REALLY into something and then… not so much. I’ll be over¬†Breton¬†tops by September, even if two of them are real sailing tops from the cutest little shop on Shaftsbury Avenue where they sell sailing ropes and hooks and not much else…

And at the moment I am really, really not into running on the treadmill in the gym. Over it. I get too hot, I keep banging my hands and I swear I run worse on it than I do outside. I did one mile of steady pace, speeding up for a tenth of a mile, but it felt hard work. And not fun hard work.

But I am loving the weights. Well they’re a new toy aren’t they – and so many of them.

At last night’s training session with Adam¬†I did 12kg¬†kettlebell¬†(Hello? Anyone want¬†to buy a 6kg¬†kettlebell, bought at Christmas? I want a bigger one), stepping onto a box swinging an 8kg¬†medicine ball (was using 4kg¬†last winter) and doing lunges while pushing 5kg¬†dumbbells. I can jump forever, till my calves are on fire, and I’m a fan of the¬†bosu contraption. I had a go at rowing and learning how to use your whole body, not just your arms, and I did squats walking sideways like a hot sweaty crab (not one for impressing anyone,¬†I can tell you).

This week is all about one-mile intervals and now my blistered throat has cleared up I’m thinking good to go.

I’m planning on doing three sets of three-mile intervals this week.

What are everyone’s training goals this week? Do you set goals every week or do you have chill-out weeks too?

Does anyone else find their treadmill running isn’t as good as their outside performance?

Hell’s teeth, I can run!

Running training today was three one-mile tempo runs with some 5kg medicine ball and 8kg kettlebell exercises in between. Incorporating lunges and squats – the usual fare of Adam’s strength training.

Strong legs, strong core, strong shoulders.

It was a beautiful morning for training – frost on the grass but bright and clear.

frost on the grass at Whythenshawe Park

Frost on the grass - early morning at Whythenshawe Park

The first bluebells are just peeping through their buds now as well, so pretty.


Budding bluebells nestled under a tree

And the early morning light made tall shadows on the path to the  car park where I meet Adam, my running trainer.

Long shadows in Whythenshawe Park

Long shadows in Whythenshawe Park

Sitting on the fence, waiting for Adam

Sitting on the fence, waiting for Adam

Having had some less than positive runs this week I was a bit apprehensive about today.

We started off with a mile loop. Much wheezing. Adam was babbling something about having been training on a treadmill on a gradient all week. I wasn’t really listening, I was concentrating on repeating ‘You can, you can, you can, ignore the wheezing, it’s normal, keep going, run!’ That and keeping sight of his ankle just ahead of me before remembering to keep my head up and look at his shoulder.

Anyhow, first mile loop completed without trampling a small dithering pensioner and a sprint to the finish. 7.5 minutes! Like, proper running – and everything.

After strengthening exercises another mile loop – another 7.5 minute mile!

I couldn’t believe it. Twice?!

More strengthening exercises – my switch lunges being praised as ‘impressively bouncy’ – and we were off again. This time – not so fast. I was wheezing within a minute and my legs felt like lead. They kind of came to life again two-thirds of the way round but I was struggling and I was focusing on keeping going – with a sprint finish just to prove to my brain my legs had it in them. Not so fast but I completed.

Left to my own devices my average mile speed is 11-12 minute¬†mile pace. Today I was almost 25% faster than on my solo runs. Of course it’s one mile at a time – not four or six, but it’s impressed on me what I can do. I can run. Not jogging, proper running.

I also have homework this week. One mile tempos x 3. Let’s see if I can match that pace, solo. With some thumping musical inspiration I think – it’ll drown out the sound of my wheezing for a start.

Yes, you can!

Rainy, grey running day

Rainy, grey running day

Running training today. In miserable weather. Beyond dreich. Somewhere between torrential rain and sleet.

So I’m anoraked up, because otherwise I’d be on my way to hypothermia by tea time. It was pelting down this morning.

Today’s training starter; one-mile circuits passing a 5kg medicine ball to each other x 2.

The first one was pretty tough – wheezing, sore arm muscles, scowling on my part. Adam keeps trying to talk to me while we’re running. He’s now taking my silence as an indicator that I’m finding it tough. I’m just trying to keep my breathing under control. Second lap was easier, but I think we’d slowed down. This medicine ball weighs 5kg, that’s one kilo up which might not sound like much, but you notice the added weight.

Training main course; pad work with squats against a resistance band. You’ll notice squats figure pretty much weekly in our training and to be honest I find them relatively easy now. My glutes are on fire by the third set but they’re nowhere near as testing as lunges. I’d squat over lunge any day.

But the pad work was great fun. Now many years ago – about 10 – I used to be a pretty committed kickboxer – lau gar don’t you know! I trained three times a week in two to three hour training sessions. And while I as a terrible competition kickboxer I very much enjoyed the belt training and the aesthetic of kickboxing. Claude Van Damme, cheesy I know, but that man has it going on when it comes to the grace of kickboxing. Kickboxer is one of my favourite films – judge me, I don’t care.

So, everything Adam’s call out for me to do, I know it. Jabs, twisting, long punches, ducking, bouncing on my toes, switches – like a trip down memory lane. Somehow my memory fires into my body and I have complete confidence that I can do it. And so although my arms were on fire I kept going, because my memory remembered training where we punched through any burning muscle sensation and I was expecting to be carrying on long after Adam said ‘stop’.. My legs were springy again and although the final lunges were really tough I was determined to complete each one properly.

Confidence that you can achieve, to have no doubt – I reckon that’s more than half the battle for me with running. Just doing it, without analysing the probabilities of under achieving -without any fear. Imagine!

Bad Harry, Bad Mr Medicine Ball

Harry’s been training me for, oooh nearly four months now.

In that time I’ve got to read him pretty well. We do hard on the muscles session followed by more on the speed sessions. I know that.

I think he knows me. If he says ‘be careful jumping back, it’s slippy’ he knows (NOW!) to stand behind me so I don’t fall over.

And now I know ‘well, you have worked pretty hard’ that means two days of ‘ooohing’ and ‘ouching’ around the office. I’m ok walking, once I’ve warmed up, but every time I get up from my desk the guy I share an office with gets to hear me run the gamut¬†of grumbling expletives.

Remember Sunday’s run with medicine ball, do squats, repeat session?

Not only do I now have inner thighs packed with burning rocks but my core muscles are deeply unhappy about my laughing. Or breathing.

And it’s not those front muscles that make up a six-pack, or in my case the soft squidgy bit at the front. No, it’s the side muscles that run from your armpit to your waist. You use these quite a lot in running because when you run you make a kind of twisting motion and that engages these muscles, so having them strong; no bad thing.

Of course walking like a furious¬†robot means I’ve not been able to run yet this week. And I have had half a mind to text Harry and have a whine.

But then the other half thinks he wouldn’t push me further than I could take and I¬†do like pushing to my limit.

Did I mention I’ve been thinking about buying a medicine ball?

Am I completely out of both halves of my mind?!

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. ūüôā

Hill starts full throttle

Ok, what is it about running up hills I like?

Could it be the almost immediate fast, pumping heart beat, the bouncing up on your toes while lifting your knees as hard as you can, or the fact the top of your thighs and your bum muscles are screaming ‘for the love of god, what are you doing?’ as you focus on the hill brow and push on – and on?

Sounds like a recipe for Fresh Hell al Feugo but somehow it’s fun – even in the rain of a mizzly Manchester Autumn day.

Today is Harry Day so we meet up near the hills by opposite Cholton Water Park. There are three in a row of varying heights and gradients. Put there, no doubt, for sad people like me.

Oh and we took Mr Medicine Ball with us for fun so in between runs I’m doing sets of lunges and squats with the medicine ball (it has handles in it – 4kg).

1. Jog down hill – run hell for leather up hill x 3

2. Medicine ball on floor – hold handles and get into press up position. Left one knee to the ball, then the other. Repeat x10 each knee

3. Jog down next hill, run up following slope and down the hill after that. Then run back.

4. Do squats, holding medicine ball just in front of chest.

5. Repeat 3.

6. Do lunges. As you lunge right down swing medicine ball to your left and then to your right, twisting at the waist – that’s a balance tester! Repeat x10 each leg.

7. Run down the hill in 1 and then down to the sequence in 3. In effect running up one long hill, along and then down, up and down two short hills.

Then run back to the top of brow of hill one, where the medicine ball is.

Harry’s always complimenting me on my acceleration to the top of hills. This is my desperation to get there as fast as possible.

8. Press up position again but this time lifting leg out to the side, bit like a frog doing a  kick. Repeat x 10 each side.

9. Repeat 7.

10. Hold medicine ball with left hand and dip into a lunge with left leg forward, though not too deep. Lift medicine ball up in an arc over your head, collect handle with right hand and complete arc, swinging down to right and standup. Swap legs and repeat.

Final hill run. Start at the bottom of hill run, get to the top, feel your bum on fire, jog on, down the next hill and feel your muscles wobble all over the place. Then up, then down, then find yourself running as hard as your legs will take you up hill yet again while someone in the blurry distance of exhaustion, but is actually on your left, shouts ‘awesome’ at you.

Try not to repeat vomiting episode from a couple of Sundays ago.

Cool down jog while Harry tells you all about muscle fatigue and something about your neurotransmitters not firing so well because they are tired too, but contrary to what you think you can run down hill, so don’t worry.

And all that took just an hour. I’m still a bit all over the place, thinking about yesterday’s news and Theresa’s kidney cancer, but running this morning did give me a complete break from thinking about her illness and this general feeling of sorrow.

This was my first hill running session and I really enjoyed it. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in that makes it ideal today, but I’m hopping it’s going to be as much fun in the future.


,,, 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.