Balls

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

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Doing what your mum tells you

My mum has been pondering my arthritis and how she can help.

Her answer – callanetics.

Back from my visit to Banbury last weekend, I am armed with her callanetics book. Callanetics is based on ballet moves and was developed by Callan Pinkney.

Mum reckons yoga can be ‘harsh’ and callanetics is more gentle. She is clearly made of tougher stuff than me. I have the one-hour routine a go last night. You don’t sweat but you can feel those muscles working.

Will it develop the muscles that support my hip? Worth trying I guess and plieing about your back bedroom in your fleecy pyjamas is quite fun.

However, I look forward to shopping for the shiny leotard and rocking that perm. And check out the chap in the short-shorts! My how fashions move on.

When staying in bed is your smartest move

Seems to fly in the face of a runner’s worth ethic, doesn’t it, but I’m learning the lesson that resting has an important role in training.

After a heavy training session, while you are not running your body is busy building itself, stronger and ultimately faster.

And so although I was itching for a run this morning, when I got out of bed and realised my thigh muscles were still recovering from Sunday’s training session, I went into work early instead.

Last week I packed in three runs and two yoga sessions between Monday and Friday and consequently ended up limping round the office for a couple of days as the muscles around my hip tightened up.

So easy does it this week… until tomorrow morning anyway.

New highs, new lows

Sunday morning: Harry morning.

I meet him in the car park, he opens his car door and in the footwell of the passenger seat are my three (not) best friends, Mr Dumb Bell, Mr Medicine Ball and the dreadful Mr Hells-Kettle Bell.

But thankfully they remained in there, today is to be running based training.

After a 10 minute jog to warm up, that turned out to mean running up and down flights of steps – a la Rocky – 10x, which I can do. Progress! Then using one of those picnic bench tables as a step block and doing squats in between – 10x, which I can also do. More progress?!

Harry pronounces my legs much stronger and then we’re off for a run with me wheezing and Harry waxing lyrical about how fast we’re going as he glances at his smartphone. I know we’re going faster, I can’t breathe comfortably, never mind talk, but this is what I pay him for.

Now the following humiliation is completely my own fault. We’d done some intervals (these went well too) and we’re opposite Chorlton Water Park so I point out a hill that would be good for hill training. So we run up it. It’s a big hill. My arms are pumping, my legs are protesting and we go the top and then I… vomit!

Yes, I’ve now thrown up in front of my personal trainer.

I get waves of nausea quite frequently, about 30 minutes into a run. Harry’s advice; knock the coffee on the head. Acidic, apparently. Pre-exercise I should try that flat lucozade stuff which Harry says has been proven to be effective for people exercising.

I’m certainly willing to give it a go, I’m sick of feeling sick, if you see what I mean.

But, vomiting aside. And having it pointed out to me that I have a forehead dotted with flies stuck to my sweat (sexy, huh?!) today went well. I ran three miles in 35 minutes, including four intervals and a stop to throw up.

My ambition to run faster is an uphill struggle in more ways than one. I’m not making massive strides over night. But I am improving and I am getting faster.

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.

And Stretch…

We all know how our muscles tighten up after runs. And we all know we should stretch properly after our runs. How long do you give stretching, maybe five minutes?

As well as those post-run stretches, have you considered yoga as a real asset to your running schedule?  As a rest-day alternative, if you really can’t sit still, it has so much to recommend it.

I mentioned yoga to Harry the personal trainer and he nodded enthusiastically and mentioned ‘downward dog’. Downward facing dog has the calf stretch to beat all calf stretches – and it’s stretching hamstrings, arches, shoulders, hands and your back, to boot!

But there are a myriad of yoga positions you’ll move through during a class so all of you gets a treat.

Runners World featured yoga in their magazine’s August issue, showing a variety of stretches you can achieve with the aid of a pillow (no, not putting it under your head and falling asleep).

But there are also styles of yoga that are pretty testing on the muscles, increasing strength as well as . I’m a big fan of ashtanga yoga and there are classes all over South Manchester where you can drop in at classes. It’s an hour and a half work out but my goodness, you’re floating by the end. Metaphorically speaking.

There are many different types and yoga fusions out there today, you are bound to find something that suits your temperament, whether you like fluid movement, from one yoga position to another, or whether stillness suits you well.

But one thing’s for sure. A relaxed, stretched out body can only help in the quest: to run a bit faster.

Namaste, runners everywhere.

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.