Saturday, 7 April 2012

Marathon Training Week 1

This was my first week of marathon training. It was *varied*.

Tuesday was my first run. The weather was attrocious. Blowing a gale, rainy with sleet. I had 4 miles to run, well within my comfort zone, and if it hadn't been "my first run in my marathon training", I would NOT have gone out in it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a woos when it comes to getting out there. I have run three times a week, EVERY week through the winter. Snow has not stopped me, cold has not stopped me, rain has not stopped me. In fact, now that the streets are busier with runners, I feel quite sniffy that they've not been on the pavements through thick and thin, like I have. But when I heard the wind howling down my chimney, I knew it was not going to be the greatest run ever.

You know how we say that we never regret a run? Well I *very nearly* regretted this run. It was *miserable*. My face ached from the freezing blasts of wind and sleet. Every so often I'd be suspended in mid-step, unable to run through the force of the wind. Some roof slates crashed to the ground from a tenement as I ran past (scary!).

When I got home, I took off my clothes - full-length leggings, 2 tops and a jacket - and my skin was *burnt* underneath. I've never seen anything like it - bright red like sunburn on my legs, arms and tummy. Add to this the fact I was pretty stressed about running anyway, and I actually wanted to cry. What else could it be but an omen? The first run of my training was one of the worst runs of my life!

So for the rest of Tuesday, I was preoccupied with my imminent failure as a marathon runner. I was pretty close to logging on to the EMF site to register for the half marathon.

Wednesday's weather was a bit better for my 8 miles, but not much. Scaffolding was blowing loose above my head in Portobello. When I got home and discovered I'd actually only done 7.6 miles, I wanted to cry once more. It looked like half marathon for me.

Thursday morning I did 5 miles, to make up for being half a mile short on each of Tuesday and Wednesday. Thankfully it was a bright, clear spring morning. I went to Holyrood Park and really enjoyed the scenery. I did my 5 miles without any stress and felt much better. I could possibly conceive of continuing with my marathon efforts now, phew.

Today's run was 16 miles. I've never run 16 miles before, my max has been a half marathon at 13.1miles. I was a bit nervous. I had a lovely rest day yesterday, resting a lot and eating a lot (although failing to avoid sweeties and wheat as I'd hoped to do), and thinking about doing my 16 miles. With my bottle of water and energy gel, I hit the road at 5.20am.

Well, it was *amazing*. Just brilliant. It was cool and drizzly with light wind. For the first mile I felt nervous and ran too fast - running nervous is something I've only done on race days before, because my regular runs are for pure enjoyment. I worked hard at calming myself and listened to podcasts.

I ran to Cramond and back, with few little detours to make up the distance. I had a big grin on my face the whole way. I kept checking my watch to see how far I'd gone with my feelgood factor, planning to blog "I felt really happy until X miles" - but the bubble never burst, and I felt really happy all the way through. This is training, I thought. The nerves, the change of expectation from relaxed enjoyment to achievement, stepping up and realising that it *feels different*.

The little detours were lovely, just like when I'd just moved to Edinburgh and my runs to explore different streets in my neighbourhood. When I hit 16 miles - 2 hours 27 minutes - I had a wee walk before I got home, which was actually the hardest part of the run! My knees twinged and the change of muscles in use was challenging!

I wore my grin *all day*. was starving for my porridge and loved every mouthful, it tasted amazing. I danced with my daughter and tickled my son in a way I never usually have the energy to do on a Saturday. I dragged them out leafletting for the elections in the afternoon (they didn't enjoy that quite as much). It's dinner time and I still feel fantastic.

So today I added 6 miles to my regular run. That's a big step-up and there'll need to be stretching before bedtime. But it was *fine*. And now I feel like that marathon experience is in my reach after all.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Eight days and counting...

On April 10 I have an interview at Jewel & Esk College to get on to their HND in Health, Fitness and Exercise. That's one week tomorrow. It's been a long time since I had to prove myself in an interview situation and I'm pretty nervous, even though I know it's an opportunity to prove myself and get further towards my goal of being a personal trainer.

As well as having to bring with me any certificates of qualifications I have (I'll need to get my degree and post-grad diploma out of their frames and, more challlenging, search the house for my higher and o-grade certificates!), I'll need a pen (I can manage that, I think), "indoor practical kit" (that'll be gymwear, right?) and supply a referee, "either academic or work related which is current (i.e. no more than 6 months old)." I haven't studied for a decade, and as a self-employed person, I'll need to think creatively about the reference - I don't think they'd be too impressed if I went to my boss for one!

And if that wasn't arduous enough, "the interview will take the form of a group discussion and an individual interview." Not only difficult questions but interacting with other people!

Tomorrow is a four-mile run, which is well within my comfort zone, so I won't be too tired to be preoccupied with preparing for the interview! My biggest ally here will be Paul McKenna, the hypnotist. Earlier this year I prepared for a dance show using his hypnosis CD and book "Change Your Life in 7 Days", and it was an amazingly positive experience. It was doubtlessly the best performance I've done, and it was all down to fixing my head with Paul McKenna. I'm really looking forward to doing it again for this interview.

Better knuckle down!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Marathon Training Programme

This is the marathon training programme I'm going for. It comes from the Edinburgh Marathon Festival site and I think that 4 runs per week will work better for me than the 6 that my friend Luis recommended to me! It is their "First Timer Option 1" schedule, no tempo or pace runs, which makes things a bit more straighforward and a bit less daunting. If I'm finding it too easy (which I doubt!!) I can always step it up a bit to one of the other programmes.

I'm a bit disappointed that tomorrow is a rest day - I'm desperate to get started! But since this schedule is designed for a Sunday race, I'll stick with this programme. Maybe a bit of stretching and some weights tomorrow instead. After all, tomorrow is the first day of the Easter holidays, which means that I'll have an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old at home all day with me. I will need to do all I can to keep my sanity intact and a workout will be a good start to the week!

W/E Apr 8  Rest 4m run  8m run  4m run  Rest  16m run  Cross Train 
10 W/E Apr 15 Rest 4m run 8m run 5m run Rest  12m run   Cross Train 
11  W/E Apr 22  Rest  4m run  9m run  5m run  Rest  18m run  Cross Train 
12  W/E Apr 29 Rest  5m run  9m run  5m run  Rest  14m run  Cross Train 
13  W/E May 6 Rest  5m run  10m run  5m run  Rest  20m run  Cross Train 
14  W/E May 13  Rest  5m run  8m run  4m run  Rest  12m run  Cross Train 
15  W/E May 20 Rest  4m run  6m run  3m run  Rest  8m run  Cross Train 
16  W/E May 27 Rest  3m run  4m run  2m run  Rest  Rest  EMF Marathon 

DVD Review: Yoga For The Warrior

I have enjoyed Bob Harper workout DVDs for a few months now. I like his encouraging-yet-ass-kicking style, and his workouts last for about an hour without pauses. As you'd expect from a celebrity trainer, the production values are high. This DVD goes is in the Inside Out Method series, which also features one strength and one cardio session. You can watch a clip of the DVD here.

My collection of yoga DVD - which I confess are largely dust-gatherers - has taught me that they tend to fall into one of two catagories - those which are fitness-based, and those featuring more on the mind-body connection. Each to their own, and I expected this one to be in the former catagory. Bob acknowledges the mind-body connection, particularly for the big chill at the end where he says that for some people, lying still is the hardest thing about the workout (yup, that's me!) but if you do just one thing, that should be the part you do. He opens by telling us that this workout is going to take what we know, and turn it on its ear - which pretty much covers all bases, right? If you expect fitness, woah, you're gonna get yoga - and if you expect yoga, you'll be surprised to get some fitness!

Bob has three demonstrators with him, two fit and bendy girls and Robert, a slightly-less-bendy but still-in-awesome-shape bloke at the back. Robert gets *really* sweaty in the workout. He must have been under much brighter lights than there are in my living room, that's for sure.

What's in it? Bob begins with some forward bends (a challenge for me first thing in the morning), mountain pose and downward dog, and at this point, tells us to always think about our breathing

There are shoulder presses in downward dog position; push-ups plank to chaturanga; and side stretches finish off this 'warm up' section.

Bob teaches us a vinyasa - plank, down dog , up dog, mountain - which is repeated often. For the legs and back, a chair pose, then from warrior 1 we learn warrior 2, and back to chair pose held with a twist.

There are plenty of balances - tree pose, hand-to-big-toe pose, and the most challenging, half moon pose. From table top we go into awkward airplane (does anybody else call it that?!!), and we move from wrapped extended side angle into the hilarous balance of the bird of paradise.

There are push ups and one-leg push ups, and a series from extended side angle pose to reverse warrior. From triangle pose there is a series to work on your hamstrings. Bridge and/or wheel comes in just before ab work: stomach crunches, toe-touches and scissors, to add to the side-planks for the obliques.

To finish there are a few gentle stretches on the floor - a twist, a straddle, seated forward fold and a reclining twist - and a 2 minute chillout at the end.

What's it like? Bob is his usual, encouraging self throughout, but definately nicer than in the other DVDs in this series - he doesn't try to push you with yoga the way he does with strength or cardio. While he does tell us at the start to keep focusing on the breath, he doesn't remind us of this very often. I find that I do need to be reminded to breathe! There's no "do this on the in breath, and do this as you breathe out", and I miss that.

The abs section does tick a box, but doesn't feel very yoga at all! Mind you, the DVD also features a 15-minute pure abs workout, so if you're keen to work the abs, that's for you. I haven't done that yet.

In some of the poses which are to be held on one side then the other, it seemed to me that they're not held for the same amount of time on each side, particularly the half-moon. The first side I'm sure went on and on, the second was over as it began!

I wasn't sweaty during this workout, not a bit. Although, I wasn't cold until the chill out at the end. 

If I hadn't known anything about yoga, I would have struggled - it's not for total yoga beginners, because it doesn't teach you how to do each pose. 

How did I feel? I didn't feel achey afterwards like I usually do with Bob's workouts. Which is good, because let's face it, I did this DVD because I wanted a rest. But I don't imagine you'd be building lean muscle even if you did this for a month.

On the third day my hips and my toes started to ache. I've felt this way with yoga before - it's not the ache of "ooh that was a heck of a workout", it's more like over-use. But my back - my usual flashpoint as I have some hypermobility - was fine.

Will I do it again? Yes I will. Do I recommend it? Yes, if you know a bit about yoga and you're looking for something a bit gentle without being bored.

And just FYI, here's a nice picture of me doing some yoga when I was pregnant with my daughter, about 5 years ago. I don't think I'm that supple now, but that'll be the pregnancy hormones.

Observations on Yoga Week

Well that's my Yoga Week over. For 4 mornings I did Bob Harper's Yoga for The Warrior DVD instead of my usual run or workout. I did no lunchtime workouts, although I did still teach 4 hours of bellydance.

My observations are as follows:

1. Yoga makes me *hungry*. I feel more hungry after an hour of yoga than I do after an hour of cardio or cardio & weights. My breakfast never felt big enough after my yoga.

2. After four mornings of yoga, I got ill. It could be utterly unrelated, but on day 4 and 5, I was utterly miserable, with pains and spasms in my stomach and nasty backache. A dancer friend said "don't stand like that, you know it's bad for you!" but my back was so tight I had no choice of how to stand, there was no movement there! I slept for 11 hours each night and woke up feeling just as bad. Could I have done something knock the alignment out of my spine?

3. Did Yoga Week make me feel more flexible and balanced? Not so I notice.

4. Did Yoga Week make me feel happy? Um, not really. Being hungry and eating so much more than usual just made me stressed.

I did yoga week to let my body recover from over-training, and get my quads back to normal. I think I've managed that. But I think rest, rather than yoga, would have done that.

Back to normal next week please!

Hooping Fantastic

Today I was at a hooping - aka hula hooping - workshop. I adore hooping. I love it because I get to move to pop music (when most of the time I'm dancing to more challenging Egyptian tunes); I get to follow someone's instruction (when usually I'm the instructor); and I get to be on my own (when usually I'm with my lovely children). The hoopers I've met are quite a friendly bunch so that helps too.

Our teacher is Ann McLaughlin, who, like me, teaches bellydance. She's friendly and cheerful and her workshops have a nice atmosphere.  The hoopers ranged from total beginners to some ladies with some really lovely moves, with lots of us who'd only been to Ann's last workshop in Edinburgh. We were at the Pilmeny Youth Centre, which is as bright and sunny as the day was.

The pace was good and my heart rate was up for most of the hooping time. I usually practice at home on my own, so it's very easy to go at a comfortable pace and not challenge myself! When we were working on getting the hoop to spin at an angle - higher at the front than at the back - which involves tilting your pelvis upwards and pushing up from your heels - I got sweaty and really felt like I was working hard.

The continuous hip movements required to keep the hoop round your waist come from the feet, and really work up and down your core. Moving your hips side to side - which also keeps the hoop in motion - really work the sides of my butt - I think that's the gluteus medius and minimus. We also did hoop spinning overhead with one hand - a real challenge to keep going with a heavy hoop for more than about 20 seconds, good for upper body strength.

On the way home I stopped in a couple of parks with my daughter, enjoying the unseasonal warm Scottish weather. While she clambered, swung and slid, I did a bit of showing off with my hoop, practicing NOT thwacking my nose as I lowered the hoop from over my head to on my waist! It was so much fun, being out in the sun and being active.

 The wisdom of making fitness something you enjoy doing makes hooping a perfect workout for me. All I need now is sunny weather and a great big garden with a stereo and I'll get everything I want from hooping!

Oops I seem to have entered the Edinburgh Marathon.

I got an email on Tuesday to tell me I'd won a place in the Edinburgh Marathon.

To say I *won* it makes it seem like I was awarded it on merit. In fact I entered a draw in the ESPC which I found while I was waiting for me daughter to finish her gymnastics class. So it's nothing to do with my running prowess, and everything to do with the fact that most readers of the ESPC are probably too busy buying or selling property to enter competitions with silly prizes.

And today I redeemed the code I was sent and entered the Edinburgh Marathon on 27 May, just 8 weeks today.

What have I *done*?? My stomach is in my mouth just thinking about it.

I was not sure I wanted to do a Marathon, but when, a few weeks ago, I found out that it was full, I had a bit of a twinge of regret. And that seems to have developed from a twinge to an ache to a proper strain. And here I am, stomach in mouth.

My safety net is as follows: entries for the half marathon - on the same day, which I did last year -  should close on 19 April. So if I start training and it's really looking like I won't be fit enough for the marathon, I can enter the Half, and it won't have cost me any more because I won the Marathon place for free. So I could still back out and thintgs'd still be okay.

But there are a couple of things spurring me on. Firstly, I just called my blog "Anything You Put Your Mind To". So, how can I wimp out when there's a chance, an opportunity, to do this?

And also, I want to show my kids that it's all right to try, even if you're not sure you're going to succeed. A breakdancer came to my son's school assembly on Friday, trying to drum up interest for his dance classes (don't start me on advertising in schools, that's another rant entirely).  The kids all clapped and cheered, and I wondered what my son was thinking. I worried that he might be thinking "I won't try that class because I don't think I'll be able to do it." And then I realised that this was exactly what I was feeling about entering the Marathon.

I'm off to read training programmes now, excited and nervous.