Why I Run

Over recent years I’ve entered a lot of races.  10k, half marathons , even a marathon.  People always ask why.  There is one simple answer.

For the goodie bag.

That’s partly a joke – I like the support from the crowd and the variety in the route which makes running a long distance more palatable than just plodding down the same cycle route or park that I normally run in.

But essentially getting some food and a t shirt at the end is an incentive for me (want to be my friend- I’m very food motivated)!

I have a friend who literally runs for medals- she picks races based on what the medals are like!

I have another friend who does endurance events almost purely just to see how far they can push themselves.

In all our cases the event itself, location, the time we might get, our likely finishing place are almost irrelevant factors in our decision to take part.

Our motivation for doing incredibly challenging things doesn’t always have to be a story worthy of it’s own background music on a Britain’s Got Talent audition.

Do you struggle to set yourself a fitness goal?  Is that because you can’t think of that thing that sets your soul on fire and when people ask you about it you can give a long inspirational speech about how an angel came to you one night and told you that you were destined to do this thing?  Do you have something you’d quite like to try for whatever reason but that reason seems a bit superficial, silly even?

I run for goodie bags.  You can do literally anything you want for any reason you want!

Post Marathon Blues

Today’s blog topic is a request (possibly my first ever topic request!) and is focused on the Post Marathon Blues.

This doesn’t just need to apply to marathons, it could equally apply to people who have trained for any big sporting even (half marathon, 10k, big swim or cycle, triathlon, a show, a tournament- anything where all your focus for several months has been working towards being in your peak physical form and at the top of your game for one specific event).

How we feel after an event is not something we tend to focus on.  We put lots of thought into preparing for things and on the day itself and even on the immediate recovery in the hours or days after a physical event.

But many people report feeling a bit down in the weeks after a marathon or other big event.  Words like lost, aimless, flat, down, void, lacking in motivation come up in conversations.  It’s a lot like that feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and the realities of normal life hit you and now because the holiday has been and gone you don’t have anything to look forward to.

This is due to both physical and psychological reasons.

Physically the day itself will probably have left you feeling extremely tired, a cumulative effect of weeks of training hard and the extra effort of the day itself and you may have picked up blisters, bruised toenails and niggles which don’t help make you feel great about yourself.  Your endorphins will have been high during the event and as you settle back into normality this can have an effect of how you feel as you struggle to replicate the high you felt in that moment again.

Mentally, you no longer have the event to focus on and that can leave you feeling like life has no meaning or focus after months of everything you do revolving around training (can’t go out Saturday have a long run on Sunday morning, can’t eat that as I’m in training and so on).  It can make it harder to you to motivate yourself to eat well or train as you no longer have that reason for doing so.  Many of us thrive on routine and having something meaningful to us to work towards and once you reach your goal where do you go from there?

Thankfully, these feelings tend to only last a few weeks and people normally spring back to their normal self but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better in this situation and feel the positivity you probably expected to feel after your big achievement.

Celebrate

Plan to do something nice to celebrate your achievement – a massage, spa break, celebration meal.  Take time to congratulate yourself for what you achieved so it doesn’t feel insignificant now.

Book something nice

Similar to above, you could consider booking a weekend break or holiday- something to focus on that is nice and not exercise.  This is bound to improve your mood

Reflect

Think about what you achieved, all the positives and even what you would have done differently in hindsight.  Think objectively about whether it’s something you would like to repeat or if once was enough.  That way if you choose to train for the same event in the future you know what pitfalls to avoid and if not you know you can confidently say once was enough.  Sometimes reflecting on your feelings can give you more ownership on how you feel and help you both make decisions and manage your emotional responses better.

Recover Properly

Get a sports massage, continue to eat nourishing food (and enough of it) to help the body recover, stretch, get some good quality sleep and take some time to just sit and chill.  Any sporting event which take a toll on your body requires some proper mindful recovery in the days after to help you feel better physically which in turn will help you feel better mentally.

Do some low impact exercise

Don’t feel like you need to be back training he day after.  A week or two off could be exactly what your body needs.  If you feel the urge to exercise though try and stick to low impact options which place less strain on your CNS.  You may want to try some yoga or similar during this time.

Don’t run for a couple of weeks

Similar to above, a couple of weeks not doing the exercise you have just trained hard for can be beneficial, both in allow you to physically recover but also give you that little bit of excitement when you do go back out for that first run after a couple of weeks.

Find a new challenge

After a couple of weeks when your rested and refreshed this could be the time to think about what comes next.  Another run of the same distance, a step up to the next distance (Ultra anyone), maybe looking at trying something new instead.  Setting your next goal will give you a renewed sense of focus.

Above all, don’t stress about feeling a bit blue after a big event.  It’s human nature and being sensible and kind to yourself is the key to letting it subside.

Equally, if you suffer from depression anyway, don’t let the idea of post event blues put you off training for an event.  Research has shown that having something to aim for and the training and self care associated with that training can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of depression and as long as you are mindful that you might feel a bit down immediately after the event and have your coping strategies in place this should have a generally positive impact on your mental health.

Race Day Eatings

Yesterday I ran my first long distance run for a year.  I used to run quite often so had my race day routine finely tuned to suit me so found it relatively easy to get myself back into the swing of things even after some time.

This is what I did to fuel my body on race day.

Breakfast:

2 Turkey rashers, 2 poached eggs, 1/2 avacado, mushroom, asparagus and grilled tomato; Pint water; Coffee

My race was at 2 pm so I had a late / leisurely breakfast around 11 am.  I’m a fan of a reasonably big breakfast before a race, and if I’d have been running for over an hour would have added some more carbs, such as some toast or a bagel but for a 10km run this filled me up well and remained within my calorie goals for the day.  There can be an urge when you have a race day to eat lots and lots because, well you’re running a long way, but you need to bare in mind that run won’t burn more calories than your training runs or normal training sessions in the gym so you need to be mindful not to over estimate how many calories you need in comparison to normal.

Tip: Eat one of your normal breakfasts – before a race is not the time to try something new – you want to know your stomach can handle running on what you eat.

Tip: Have plenty of water the day before and when you get up to hydrate then don’t drink for an hour before you run so you don’t need a wee half way round!

During the Run:

Water 

I sipped about 250ml water on the way round to stay hydrated.  It wasn’t very warm and I was running for an hour so there was no need for any additional fuel as my body was already well fueled.

Tip: Gels are not necessary unless you are running for over an hour if you are sufficiently well fueled and hydrated leading up to the run.  For longer runs an energy gel after the first hour may help, but try them in training runs first and stick to the brand you practiced with on the day (again you don’t want to risk your stomach objecting!). Jelly babies act similarly to gels in giving ou a boost on longer runs.

Post Run:

TGI Friday’s Sesame Chicken Strips with fries, Frozen Irish Coffee, 500 ml water

After a run you want to eat a soon as possible – ideally within a 30 minute to an hour window.  I planned to eat at home but ended up facing an hour wait for my train so found somewhere in the station to eat.  I ideally look to replenish with a meal that has both protein and carbs.  You always want to eat something that feels like a treat after a race too so my go to post run meals are chicken and chips or a roast dinner.  No roasts around in the station so this was the best thing I could find!  Alcohol should be consumed in moderation – although it’s always nice to have a celebration tipple, but try and have some water as well.

Tip: Look to eat asap after you run, and to get something with carbs and protein in it.  Chips are not the devil.

Recovery:

Pint water with electrolytes

When I got home I made sure I drank lots of water and the first glass I had I added a scoop of electrolytes to replace any salts lost.

Tip: A hydration tablet or similar product can aid recovery.

 

 

Ten ways to get ‘fitter’ in 2019

  1. Work out how many calories you burn a day on average and eat this many (to maintain weight) or 20% less (to reduce weight)
  2. Swap one of your sugary snacks with a healthier replacement (e.g. a piece of fruit) each day. And yes I know fruit has some sugar in it but a banana over a Mars Bar will help you cut calories and provide less of a post sugar slump.
  3. Stop having cheat meals. Cheat meals create a restriction / binge / food as a reward mindset.  Eat whatever you want whenever you want within reason without viewing food as good and bad.
  4. Eat protein. Aim to eat 1g of protein per kg of body weight. Will help you feel satisfied without overeating.
  5. Drink at least 0.033 litres water per kg of your body weight each day (so if you weight 60kg drink two litres a day).  Fat loss, performance – hydration is so important to your health.
  6. Don’t exercise at all at the moment? Aim to complete a 30 minute session every week for a month, two 30 minutes sessions a week the next month and three 30 minutes sessions the following month. Boom = Exercise habit created.
  7. Increase your NEAT. However much you exercise aim to increase your non exercise movement by at least 10% each day (i.e. walk more)
  8. Get more sleep. Enough sleep every night will help with weight loss, stress, energy levels.
  9. Learn something new. Want to learn to do a handstand, swim, play netball? Practicing towards mastering a skill will get you moving without exercise being the main goal itself.
  10. Set yourself a challenge. Run in a race, do a Tough Mudder, compete in a swimathon. Setting a challenge can give you the incentive to get to your training sessions and maintain focus.

What Should I Wear To The Gym?

Simple answer.

Whatever you feel comfortable in.

And that answer is fine if you spend a lot of time training and know what does and doesn’t work for you.  This blog isn’t for you though.

Because that answer isn’t very helpful if you are thinking about starting some form of exercise in the New Year and really don’t know what to wear.  Then it’s just another obstacle to getting started.  I know because years ago when I was overweight and knew that I probably needed to do something not knowing what I should wear (and not feeling comfortable in a ton of lycra) was a good enough excuse to keep putting getting started off.

So here’s some tips to get started:

  • You don’t need to spend lots of new kit. If you want to and can afford it and it will make you feel more confident by all means go splurge in Victoria Secrets.  If you’re starting to dip your toe into the water you don’t need to though – go to Sports Direct or Primark and buy a couple of pairs of bottoms, a couple of tops and a couple of pairs of socks (and if youre female a couple of sports bras).  They don’t need to be any fancy materials to start, as long as you feel comfortable and can move about in them they will work to get you started.  As you get more into training and get to decide what you enjoy doing you can then invest in kit that works for that particular sport in time – right now those expensive compression running tops could be a waste of money if you find out that really you much prefer Zumba.
  • You don’t need super expensive trainers. Same as with clothes. Once you settle on a sport or area of training you may wish to invest in certain shoes (lifting shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, cycle shoes) but to start just buy a pair of trainers that are comfortable.  Think about what you are planning on doing.  If you are going to try classes out a trainer with a spin spot on the sole (a circle type mark on the sole will indicate this) can be useful as it allows you to turn on the spot (which you will do in most dance based classes but is also useful in classes such as Body Combat) – most trainers in the ‘studio’ section on a sports store website will have this.  These shoes will also work well if you plan on venturing into the gym.  If you are going to go running look for a trainer in the running section of the store / website- it doesn’t need to be expensive right now.  For cycling classes you may eventually want to be a cycle shoe you can use cleats with but until you know it’s the exercise for you just pick a trainer with a decent sole (very thin soles will make the class a little painful).
  • You don’t need to wear very fitted clothes. Of course you can if that’s what makes you feel good but don’t feel the pressure to go super skimpy lycra clad if that will make you feel self conscious. People wear all sorts of things to the gym from baggy tops to brightly coloured comic strip style leggings so whatever style will make you feel good is the style to pick and if that means covering up or wearing something loose go for it (just try and make sure it’s not so baggy it impedes safe movement / is something you risk tripping up on!)
  • You don’t need to expose lots of flesh. As above, wear what makes you feel good. Some people like wearing shorts or a crop top to train in, others people prefer to wear leggings and vest tops or long sleeve tops – it has nothing to do with how ‘fit’ people are or what their abs look like – it’s just personal preference as to what makes people feel comfortable whilst training so go as covered or uncovered as you wish.
  • Your basic kit shopping list might look something like this:

 

  • Gym bag (big enough to fit everything in)
  • A sports bra (females) and a comfortable pair of knickers / Boxers
  • Leggings or shorts
  • A comfortable, breathable top (t shirt, vest, crop top) – not something like a jumper because you’ll just be too hot
  • Socks
  • Trainers
  • Hair bobble if you have long hair
  • Water bottle
  • Small towel

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****

I’m not a fan of treadmills but I do enjoy getting outside in the fresh air, so whenever I get running in my training programme I try to do it outdoors.

The first time I got a session that mixed running with body weight exercises that I would normally do in the gym I was torn.  I didn’t really want to do the running on a treadmill but how else did I mix it in with Bulgarian Split Squats? The answer was I got a bit creative and used tree stumps and park benches I found along my run to mix them in (body weight squats obviously).

Since then I’ve adapted lots of my running plus body weight sessions so they can be done outside and they are often my favourite workouts of the week.

When I tell people about these workouts I am often met with slight horror at the idea of doing a squat or a burpee in the middle of a park or along a cycle path.  Some people don’t even like the idea of running in public so the idea of adding in body weight exercises just seems too embarrassing.  What is people see me?

I would say, don’t worry, nobody is looking at you, but actually that probably isn’t true.  It’s a bit different so sometime people do look.  Last Friday I went out on my lunch break to a nearby park which is right next to a main road.  I did some sprints mixed in with body weight squats and half way through a set of squats a couple of blokes in a van felt the need to shout their ‘feedback and encouragement’ in my direction.

To be honest though this didn’t bother me and certainly didn’t stop me finishing the workout.  Of course I felt a bit silly the first time I trained outdoors but now as long as I finish my workout and get to do it in the environment that makes me feel good (and running outside does that) I don’t care whether strangers watch me or even take the piss.

Because there’s one thing I’ve learnt from doing these workouts outside.

If you are doing what works for you it doesn’t matter what other people think, especially people you have never met, and those people that feel the need to judge you not only don’t matter but are probably holding themselves back from doing what they really want to do because they are too insecure to stand out from the crowd.  Essentially it’s ok to be different.

I’m also pretty confident that the odd person that walks or jogs past as I’m doing mountain climbers on a patch of grass in a park would like to have the confidence to do the same and rather than looking at me to judge they are perhaps just curious or even a little impressed.

A few months back I was in the middle of set of jump lunges on a cycle path in between runs and two elderly ladies stopped and asked what I was doing and why.  I explained and they asked a few more questions about what they could do at home that was perhaps a little less jumpy and then went on their way.

I appreciate that training outside isn’t for everyone and if it isn’t for you fair enough, but if there is a type of training you would like to try but are holding back for fear of what others might think then stop.  Give it a go and pretty quickly you will coem to see that even if people do judge you it matters very little.

Training outside has been like my own little version of learning the subtle art of not giving a shit!

How to Travel and Train

Travelling can throw you off your training routine, whether it be for a holiday abroad or at home or a short break or work trip.

However, there are a variety of ways you can keep active whilst travelling: 

  • Hotel Gyms

Many hotels now have gyms – albeit the quality of equipment can vary from a full gym worth of equipment to a couple of pieces of cardio equipment and a single dumbbell.  If you are staying in a hotel with a gym then taking your gym kit and an open mind can be one option.  You may be able to get an idea of what equipment the facility has from their website beforehand so you can plan a workout ahead of time, but if not you can probably work with what is there to keep moving- even if it means departing from your normal routine.     

  • Running

Free and something, you can do anywhere.  Often if I’m staying overnight, in a hotel I’ll just take my running gear and go for a 15-20 min run in the morning.  No checking gym opening hours required so you can fit it to whatever your schedule is.  The added bonus is running somewhere different to usual can be interesting – a run around the city’s sights or along the beach is often more inspiring than running round your local park (or for me down the local cycle paths) and the fresh air first thing can set you up for he day.

  • Yoga

Something which you can do in even the smallest of hotel rooms without worrying about people complaining about you jumping up and down and making noise!  If you already practice yoga you can probably run through your own sequences of moves but if you need inspiration, You Tube has lots of free guided yoga sessions which you could follow.

  • Virtual Services

There are lots of workouts you can do from home now- think Les Mills On Demand and Beach Body.  Some of these require equipment but plenty do not.  If you travel a lot it could be worth a subscription so you can workout in your hotel room when you are away.  If you don’t travel that often many services offer week long trials for free which you could utilise whilst on holiday.

  • Local Gyms

A great option to consider – especially if you are travelling in the UK.  Check if your current gym membership allows you access to any gyms in their chain, as you may be able to access without additional charges.  If not gyms such as The Gym Group and Pure Gym tend to do day and week pass options / trials for less than a tenner.  The benefit here is you can pretty much guarantee the gym will have all the equipment you need to stick to your normal workout routine without having to make changes.  You may even be able to get to a few classes if that floats your boat.  I did this when I went to my mums last Christmas – visiting the local Nuffield (I have a Nuffield membership) on Christmas Eve and then getting a day pass for The Gym on Boxing Day.  Managed to get my workouts in for an extra £7 without having to make any adjustments to what I wanted to do.

  • Body Weight Workouts

You can put together an entire cardio and / or resistance workout using body weight only (think push ups, burpees, lunges, squats, jumping, plank work).  This can be done indoors or outdoors to suit you.  I’m quite keen on short bursts of running (say 500m) with sets of jump lunges, squat jumps, burpees and press ups performed after every run- gives you a quick all over workout and lets you take in some fresh air. If space is tight you could focus on core stability moves and work the trunk of the body, taking out impact work.

  • Tabata

My favourite HIIT tool- 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest x 8.  You can do any moves you want.  7 rounds gives you about a thirty minute workout which will elevate the heart rate.  The ability to do any moves means you can do it anywhere with any equipment you have or just your body.  Type tabata timer into the app store and you will find lots of timers you can use.

  • Tennis / Golf

If you are on holiday abroad there will often be tennis courts or similar at your hotel.  Getting involved in some sports whilst you are away is a great way of getting exercise in – beach volleyball, tennis, golf- without really thinking about exercising.

  • Sight Seeing

Walking might seem less intense than your normal training sessions. But if you are on holiday and planning on visiting lots of sites remember that the walking you do will count towards keeping moving, so perhaps you want to leave the gym kit at home and just get in lots of steps whilst away.

  • Rest

If you travel all the time finding a system for training whilst away is a good idea.  However, if you are only away for a week or two on holiday there is no harm in deciding to just take a break from training completely.  This could be the perfect time to let the body rest so you are eager to go again upon your return.

I would love to hear other people’s ideas and methods of staying active whilst on the move.