Running commentary

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.

Flu season

IMG_1921I’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?

New look!

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.

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parkrun positivity

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.

Water works!

I’m pretty sure most of us don’t drink enough water. I definitely don’t – although I do carry a bottle with me, to encourage better behaviour in myself. My new absolutely favourite thing is this huge (2-litre) bottle, £15.95 from The Big Bottle Co. It comes in loads of colours; mine is purple but I think I might try to collect them all! (Might? Will.)

The idea behind it is that we’re supposed to drink 2ltrs per day, so if you get through this then you’ve done good. BUT… it’s also an awesome weight for circuits in the park! The handle makes it easy to do bicep curls, lateral raises, pretty much any resistance work, and you can fill it from a fountain when you get to the park and empty before you leave, so the walk there and back is a touch easier.

And don’t worry, I’ve taken the brainwork out of it by weighing it at various stages of fullness (1kg, 1.5kg, 2kg) – go forth and train/drink/train!!

Daily drills

I try to give my clients a ‘take-home’ exercise to do on a daily basis (or at least a few times a week) so that we can maintain the good work we’ve achieved in our sessions. One of my favourites is one I call The Compass, which I learnt from my friend Sarah Russell, who is a biomechanics coach. It’s not only brilliant for making your bum look great, but it helps strengthen your core as you try to balance, too.

How to do it:
Go into a single leg squat, then using the arm opposite to the one you’re standing on touch the floor in front of you in four places; north, south, east and west (you can pulse the squat between compass points). Do this a few times on each leg, standing upright again between goes (but without setting your other foot down). Switch the arm you use to increase the challenge.

Speed golf

Speed golfI don’t play golf – I don’t even have a t-shirt with a collar – so when I was invited to give speed golf a try at Trent Park Golf Course, I did a big laugh. But then I said yes anyway.

And I’m so glad I did – I didn’t know golf courses could be so fun! It really is what it sounds like – golf, but you run between the shots, rather than walk. Simple really, and great for impatient types who just want to get to have their next go. The fastest person sets off first (so you don’t keep overtaking each other), with their light bag that has only about four clubs in, and scoring is your normal golf score, plus the amount of minutes you took to complete the course. Easy. Or not, if you’re me. I’m not dreadful at golf (I hit the ball 90% of the time) but I’m not very good at it, and, in the pouring rain that we had on the day, I would have happily thrown my clubs into a passing buggy and hitched a lift to the finish. But the organisers from American Golf suggested I team up with another amateur, which was a complete game changer. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I had no idea what I was doing; we were in it together, supporting  (and laughing at) each other the whole way round – somehow I didn’t even notice the rain til the last hole!

I fully recommend this for any beginner – it’s fun, you get lots of goes, you don’t have to be good, and it’s much quicker than a standard game of golf.

Fore! (I don’t know what that means.)

Kettle bell ideas…

Kettle bells from Powerhouse FitnessLast week I got the chance to try out my new kettle bells (from Powerhouse Fitness) with one of my clients. So far so good – she uses a kettle bell at home but said these are an easier grip as the handle is that bit wider. We tried out some one-handed moves (as she’s used to the classic swings) and they really are just an easier grip than either of us have used before.

Try this: backward lunges, each time passing a lighter kettle bell underneath your front, bent leg (from inside to outside of the leg). So if your right leg lunges back, the right hand passes the kettle bell under the bent leg to the left hand. Stand up again and repeat on the other side. Start with a lighter weight to get the knack and the rhythm before progressing.
Always lunge backwards for this exercise.

A grand day out

Sunday was the one day this fortnight that play stops at Wimbledon – giving all the players a day off to prepare for week two and the Big Matches. Not for Martina Hingis though, as she was with me (oh ok, and a few others, including England coach Dan Bloxham and French coach Patrick Mouratoglou) over on the club courts for a tennis masterclass sponsored by Maui Jim eyewear.

I’m lucky that I get to attend events like this, due to my job in journalism, and despite my gammy shoulder stopping me from joining in, I had a great time. I took Matt along to take part while I watched from the sidelines and the 2.5hr class was fascinating. To see Dan Bloxhan help those who had never picked up a racquet before go from missing every hit to performing the perfect serve in the space of five minutes – amazing. Lots of people have a talent for playing, but it’s quite special to have a talent for teaching too.

Oh, and there was free Pimms and cake too, so don’t worry, I was fine all alone on the spectators’ balcony!