This is the time of year everyone’s looking for ways to get fit. It’s a lot to do with making new year’s resolutions and a lot to do with the guilt of Christmas excess too. And for what might be the first time, I am facing that challenge too – to pick myself up and improve my fitness. Just before Christmas I hurt my back. I mean, properly, can’t stand, can’t sit, can’t move territory. I’ve never had that before; never had to completely stop all exercise, and it sucked. Also, it happened at exactly the wrong time of year, so I was burning about 4 calories a day but consuming about 40,000, in mince pies and red wine alone. Roughly. So now I’m facing that daunting task of getting back to where I was.
If you’re in a similar situation you’ll appreciate it’s not great. But it has given me insight into what it’s like and how to motivate myself from here and I’ll take that as a positive; a good tool for my skill box. Best motivator so far? Telling myself I can stop after five minutes if I really can’t bear it. Once I’ve got going, it’s really not that bad, and the five-minute cut-off is forgotten. If you’re in the same boat, I’d love to hear your tips too!
We all know it’s much warmer out there once you’re moving, but if you’ve got a tag-along like we had today, there are a few more things to consider. If you’re working out with a tot in a pushchair, obviously you need to wrap them up warm. Also, try to find a place out of the wind and if you have a kids’ hot water bottle, tuck that in with them too. Lastly, change up the workout – they can’t sit for an hour like that, so a HIIT workout with tough intervals where you really work hard, will have just as much benefit in half the time and you can be sipping hot drinks inside before you know it. (We also find the promise of 10 minutes on the swings seems to keep the toddlers sweet while they wait!)
I’ve had my running gait analysed this week. It’s not something I’ve ever really subscribed to as I think your body moves in the way it sees fit and, unless you’re in pain or injured regularly, you should leave well alone. But I went along to the Saucony Stride Lab anyway as it sounded very high tech and not like the shop-floor treadmill analysis I have had before.
The whole approach was a lot more holistic than I’ve previously seen; the first 20 minutes I just sat in a chair and chatted to the analyst about my running experience, what I’m doing now, what I plan to do and any set-backs I’ve had. So before I even got on to the treadmill he knew what sort of runner I was. The filming set-up was three cameras to look at my side, back and feet, so he could get a good overall look at how my whole body works when I run (which was another plus – the body is a kinetic chain and you need to focus on the whole to find out where your movements stem from).
Looking at my gait in slow motion and pause, we found that I pretty much run in a well-balanced way, but have a slight pronation that might cause problems in longer runs (and it does – ITB is an initialism I am way too familiar with in the lead-up to a marathon). It also seems I stride out slightly too far, so could be a little more efficient energy-wise there. What I really liked about it though, was that I wasn’t told “wear supportive shoes” or “you’re a neutral/pronator/over-pronator”. There were no labels, we just looked at what I do and how I might deal with set-backs and preventing problems. I came away feeling quite empowered and like I understand my running just that little bit more. It’s changed my mind completely about gait analysis – if you’re a runner, go and get it done!
Find out more here.
I’ve just crawled out of bed after days of flu and feel like I really need to go for a run. But then I made the bed and that wiped me out, so I guess a run is out. If you’re seeing results from your training and have something to aim for, it can be hard to take a step back when you feel a bit under the weather, but it’s important not to overdo it and end up bed ridden. If you’re not sure whether to train, one way to figure it out is to use the ‘neck check’. This basically means that if your symptoms are above the neck (head aches, runny nose, sore throat) you’re good to go – you’ll be able to exercise moderately and still be ok. If it’s below the neck (chesty cough, aches and pains in your body) then it’s a no.
And when you’re better, take it easy – a fantastic option for those recovering from illness is Pilates. Your heart rate stays steady, your body is challenged, but you can push yourself less if necessary, and you’re staying in one spot, so won’t find yourself out in the park or pool, wishing you were at home in bed. I can’t recommend Harri Angell’s Pilates for Runners enough – it has beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises and you can get back on track with as little as 15 minutes a day, at home on the living room rug – what’s not to like?
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally finished the new-look Outdoor Fitness magazine and it’s gone on sale this week! To be honest, we rehashed it quite a lot, so I’m hoping this is met with delighted gasps when readers old and new get their hands on it. I’ve added a new feature called ‘Outdoor Bootcamp’ (treating you to an early look below) and will be adding one each month – suggestions are welcome although I already have quite a few in the queue! So if you see me snapping friends doing squats, burpees etc etc around the parks of Crystal Palace, now you know why.
Super-excited this week as I am featured in House Beautiful magazine advising readers on keeping fit through the colder months. Everyone should read this, it is sage advice from a great expert.
Saturday was my 99th parkrun. It’s taken me a long time to get there (more than 99 weeks, for sure) and I’ve done many runs in between, but it never fails to amaze me how the same old routes on the same old days can be so utterly different. I’ve been to other parkruns (about 9, I think), so we can discount those, but I can confidently say that, despite approx 90 slogs around that 2.5-loop route on a Saturday morning, I can never predict how I’m going to feel, how fast I am going to go, or even whether I will enjoy it. And that’s true right up until I cross the finish line. I can sometimes rock up feeling full of energy, bouncing around at the start, raring to go, and then flag completely within ten minutes. Or get stitch. Or feel sick. Then other times (like this week), I feel like I could do with a nap even before I get there. On Saturday I even stepped to the side to do some Pilates roll-downs as I felt so snarled up and tired. But then I zoomed around, consistently overtaking, and finishing faster than I have in ages.
I guess it’s an example of the benefits of just getting on with it, and I mean that for exercise in general (not just running!), proving that you shouldn’t let your mind tell you that it’s not worth bothering, or convince you to give it a miss today. Easier said than done, I know, but I have started to use good memories of my surprise parkruns to get me out of the door when I’m not feeling motivated. And maybe, if it helps, now you will too.