Taking it slow

Having accepted that my recent running hiatus has affected my stamina, a conclusion I drew partly due to my failure to run one of my regular routes on Wednesday and partly due to how much my legs ached after the attempt, I’m going for a slower return to running over the next few weeks. Initially I’d planned to be straight back to 3 runs a week plus gym, but it’s clear I need to take it a bit easier and be more realistic about what my body can do.

So instead of a run today I took my teenage son and dogs out for a long walk. We did 5.6 miles in 1 hour 37 minutes, punctuated with a break for lunch. And that was with the dogs stopping to investigate every new smell and my son slowing dramatically towards the end!

It was a lovely walk, despite the cold. We sailed my son’s boat on the lake in the park, had lunch at Cafe in the Park, who gave the dogs sausages and helped me work out how to pay with my phone when I realised I’d forgotten my purse. It was cold, but not too cold while we were moving, and I definitely felt I could have gone faster.

Old dog standing guard while young dog relaxes in the Cafe.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing parkrun, possibly as a parkrun tourist elsewhere if I’m up early enough. I think two runs is plenty for my first week back at it.

I’m still keen to build my stamina and distance though. I’ve put my name into the ballot for Great North Run places, and am intending trying to get a charity place if my ballot’s unsuccessful, so I have a definite goal to aim for.

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Seeing Results #NewcastleCan

After several months of the scales stubbornly staying still they’re finally moving in the right direction again, and today I was able to contribute my first additional pounds to the Newcastle Can target since June! It’s a relief.

I’d been trying hard not to be too bothered by the scales lack of movement. I knew my body was still changing shape, and I could feel that I was healthier, but it was becoming frustrating. The period of static scales included both a period of ill health and my summer holiday, so the fact my weight hadn’t gone up is a very good thing. But still, it was beginning to worry me.

So why did the scales stick, and what got them moving again? After reading Why You’re Burning Fewer Calories Than You Think I suspect that what happened was by new, healthier body wasn’t having to work as hard. I’d got used to my weekly gym and cardio session, and no longer burned off as many calories as when both were a massive effort. So, the fix should be upping my exercise.

Luckily this happened just as I decided to sign up for the Great North 5K with NewcastleCan. I added walk/running home from work once a week – this week it was for the first time predominantly a run, with a little bit of walking. Instead of a cardio session on a Saturday morning I ran my first parkrun. I went out and walked the dogs, even after running, rather than ask my partner to do it when I’m tired and have already exercised. I switched from a fast walk to a slow run on the treadmill and upped the weights at the gym. You can see the difference in my stats from the treadmill:

22 minutes, 142 bpm average in July

To:

38 minutes, 151 bpm average in August

In short I stopped being complacent and started pushing myself.

I hadn’t noticed the gradual slide into complacency. I was, very gradually, upping the amount I did at the gym, and thought that was enough. I hadn’t realised my body was getting fitter faster than I was increasing my exercise intensity.

Luckily the challenge of the 5k and the regular contact from NewcastleCan kept me on track, by reminding me why I’m doing this. I think if I’d been trying to lose weight on my own a static spell of three months would have seen me giving up.

Fitness isn’t either there or not, it’s a continuous process. So I’m going to keep pushing myself. I’ll be trying to beat my personal best, trying to lift heavier weights, bend further and cover more distance. I’m not stopping now!

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Pushing myself, physically and mentally.

Since signing up for the NewcastleCan wave of the Great North 5K I’ve been running three times a week, either at the gym or locally. It’s getting easier, or at least less difficult. 

I’ve shared some of the things that happen to me while I’m running on Facebook. Highs like the old man waving his walking stick in the air as he cheered me on. Lows like being stopped by preteens who wanted to scrounge a tab (how unhealthy do I look when jogging that they assume I’m a smoker?) Several Facebook friends suggested I should try Parkrun as I’m running. 

I’ve known about Parkrun for a long time, but never thought it was something I’d take part in. I’d read the news stories when a council tried to charge runners, and agreed that people should be free to run in local parks without paying for it, but that’s as much as I’d ever thought about it. Parkrun clearly must be for runners, and I’m not a runner. It’s a similar situation to how I’d discounted This Girl Can because I’d misunderstood the age range it was targeting. Had I made it to the Parkrun website I’d have seen how welcoming it is to all ages and abilities, but I’d never got that far because I was so convinced it wasn’t for the likes of me, just based on that one word “run”.

Luckily word of mouth, or comments of Facebook, got me reconsidering. And as soon as I’d seen the Parkrun website I realised I could give this a go. I signed up last weekend , determined to go along this week. 

I think going to something new, alone, feels intimidating to a lot of people, even if their mental health’s good. When you have anxiety like mine it can become impossible to face new situations. Throughout the week I worried intermittently. I knew I could do 5K, even if I had to walk bits of it. My main concern was that I would be last. It takes me just under 40 minutes to run 5k on a treadmill at the gym, and I was sure I would be slower out in the real world. The previous week the slowest runner at my local Parkrun had taken just under 44 minutes. I worried that if I was last I would never feel confident enough to go back. 

And then I got a news email from Parkrun with a link to this fantastic blog. As well as being impressed with Helen’s determination I realised I couldn’t come last. Until then I hadn’t heard of Tail Walkers, volunteers who bring up the rear at each run, providing support and encouragement and taking that worrisome last place. 

Saturday arrived, annoyingly warm and sunny (I’d hoped for drizzle or at least clouds and a cool breeze, to mimic the air conditioned gym I’m more used to running in.) I drove to the park, and got almost to the start line when I realised I’d left my water in the car. I decided to count the run back to the car as warm up! 

My initial impression walking from the car park was that it was mostly men. Once I was nearer the start line there was more of a gender mix, perhaps women just are less likely to drive there, or to leave it as close to the start time to get there? There were lots of incredibly healthy looking young people, but there were also children, older people, people of all shapes and sizes. Most people seemed to be in groups, or at least to know others. I felt conspicuously alone and large, but kept telling myself that was my paranoia talking, and that I could do this. 

I couldn’t hear the briefing, I was near the back of over 500 people, but it was obvious when people started running. So I started running too. I still struggle with my pace and breathing when running outside, I had to slow to a walk a few times over the 5k to get my breathing back under control. There were other people slowing to a walk every now and then, so I didn’t feel like it was a sign of failure. Generally though I kept running. I even speeded up towards the end!

I was particularly impressed by how supportive everyone was. Not just the volunteer marshals, who were whooping and cheering me on at every stage. Also the other runners. There were a couple of places on the route where runners were going in both directions, and those further on were saying “well done” and “keep going” to those of us near the back. I couldn’t manage supportive words while concentrating on my breathing, but sent lots of smiles to fellow runners. 

At the end of the run I was handed a token and had to queue up to get it and my barcode scanned (my barcode I’d printed off the internet in advance). People in the queue were friendly and chatty. I can see why people had recommended it to me, its a real community atmosphere. 

When my time came through I was really pleased with it. My fitbit had said 37 minutes but I wasn’t sure I’d started it at the right point. My official time of 37min23 is more than 2 minutes quicker than I’d run 5k on a treadmill. Clearly being surrounded by other runners helped me pick up my pace. Now I’ve done it once I’ll definitely be back. 

Running for the reluctant. 

I went for a jog this morning. I’m determined to complete the Great North 5K at a jog next month, so am pushing myself to get fitter. (More on that here).

Up until now my running had been done on a treadmill at the gym. I’m doing quite well there, up to 2.5k at a run, or 3k if you include the cool down. But as my free training plan has me running 3 times a week I decided it was time to venture out into the real world to run too.

It turns out the real world is much harder than a treadmill. There’s the obvious hazards: hills, puddles, dogs, pedestrians, traffic, uneven surfaces etc. all of which I was prepared for. What I hadn’t realised was how hard I’d find it to control my pace. My body just kept speeding up to a pace I couldn’t maintain, and I ended up having to slow to a walk to get my breath back several times. 

I managed 1.3 miles in 17 and a bit minutes, which is distressingly close to my fast walking pace, and a fraction of the time I can manage on the treadmill at the gym. But the race is in the real world, so I need to get used to running in the real world. 

I wish I enjoyed it more. My body doesn’t naturally move in a running stride, and I’m more looking forward to it being over than enjoying the moment. I’ve been watching some of the athletics from London and marvelling at what the human body can do. I saw Usain Bolt’s final race last night and wished I had just a smidgeon of his effortless grace when running. I saw Jessica Judd interviewed after her race saying how much fun she’d had and wished I had a tiny part of her attitude to and enjoyment of running. 

All the advice on getting fitter and more active says to find something you love doing, but I love curling up with a good book and a cup of tea rather than anything energetic. As well as training my body to move more I’m having to train my mind to enjoy it. So far my body is responding better than my mind, but I’m determined! 

My Gemma Correll water bottle sums up how I feel running! Pic from, and bottle bought from https://m.ohhdeer.com/collections/gemma-correll