30 Mar 2013

The Handstand

I've never been a particularly gymnastic person, as a kid I chickened out when attempting to do cartwheels and handstands and as an adult I've always felt like too much of a weak blob to manage. It's part fear of hurting myself and part lacking in confidence that's kept me from doing these things but I've always had a wish to be able to do them.

Since coming home I've been practicing chins under our stairs (and actually managing to aaaaaalmost do one strict chin) so I thought I'd face another demon from my past - the handstand. I enrolled my dad to help me, with balance and mental support. Since I'm not really strong or gutsy enough he had to help me get my legs the last bit up but I was still chuffed to be able to do a handstand! Now I want to be able to do it on my own and have been watching tutorials all morning. You know, if you can't train you can at least watch videos of other people training....

Isn't It Just Typical

Yesterday I woke up sporting a proper chesty cough and a runny nose. I'm hardly ever ill but let me home over Easter to ski and I get sick as a dog. Freakin' typical!

28 Mar 2013

Sunshine running

Today I took my cousin Friday on her frist longer run. Her parents were both pretty good runners back in the day and she's just getting into running after years of football and other sports. We've entered a half marathon that we are to run when I come hom in the summer and today we did our own, private, half marathon. In blazing sunshine and the temperature just above freezing we cruised through 22 kilometres, through old little villages and the lovely northern Sweden forests, enjoying running and enjoying the easy companionship.

27 Mar 2013

So You Think You're Fit??!

Get on a pair of cross-country skis and you just might think differently.... I can run 26.2 miles in less than 4 hours, I can easily cycle a 100k and lift fairly heavy weights, but put me on a pair of cross-country skis and I'll eat a tonne of humble pie. I'm (clearly) not as fit as I think I am and I'm reminded why I think cross-country skiers are the most impressive athletes ever. Still I love it and an hour spent on the skis is balsam for a bruised big city soul.

25 Mar 2013

Pain and Gain

'As soon as you accept that the last 20 minutes will be painful you'll feel better'
 Coach Martin at BOOM! Cycle isn't afraid to challenge you, and he doesn't hide the fact that it's going to hurt. If you're willing to subject yourself to a little bit of pain and lactic acid then Coach Martin will help you get results. Today's session focused heavily on working around the anaerobic threshold and you know what - that just ain't easy! 2x20 minutes hills, with a short rest in between, at just under, on and over anaerobic threshold. Constant intensity and accumulation of lactic acid.
Training isn't always easy, quite the opposite actually. To get results you will need to challenge yourself and it will be uncomfortable - maybe even painful. Some people are quite happy to just do 'feel good'-training but I'm not, I want to be pushed to my limits and redfine them. Sometimes I succeed, other times I fail - but I'd rather know I tried and failed, than that I didn't try at all. Today my legs were strong and I know I walked out of that studio a little bit stronger than before and that's enough to motivate me to love the burn.


That Thing Called Love

Thought of the Day

24 Mar 2013

When You Least Expect It....

.....you swim like a real swimmer. No, that's not an old and famous saying, just a good description of today's training.

With a temperature near freezing, snow and a relentless wind I decided to take my training indoors and do a 15k progressive tempo run. I can't say that it was the greatest session ever but in hindsight it wasn't the worst either. I increased the pace every 3k but got tired towards the end (that should teach me to et a proper dinner the night before...) and finished off with a moderately paced kilometre. For someone who's a bit OCD it's always disappointing not to be able to follow one's plan completely but at least I ran 15k with an average pace quicker than race pace - and that's always something, right?!

After the run I debated hitting the sauna instead of the pool, but I'm glad I didn't! I did half an hour in the pool, alternating between front crawl and back stroke (I find that back stroke helps with my front crawl) and for the first time ever I felt like a real swimmer! I wasn't the slowest person in the pool but one of the fastest, my technique was pretty good and I even managed three perfectly executed tumble turns! Getting out of the pool I was filled with confidence and eager to do more swimming. Maybe a half Iron Man in 2014 isn't a utopia after all....

23 Mar 2013

Ok, Weather, You Win.

It's a blizzard here in London today. The temperature hovers around freezing, it's snowing and very windy - and I've decided not to run my race today. As much as it pains me to throw in the towel I don't want to fall ill or get injured 5 weeks before the marathon. If the race had been a normal road race I think I would have braved the weather, but the Orion 15 is anything but a road race. It's proper cross country and it'd be just like me to fall over and break an ankle....so yeah, weather, you win.

22 Mar 2013

Let's Talk About The Weather

Last weekend they warned for heavy rain and I had to run a 20 mile race in the pouring rain. This weekend they're warning for snow and sleet - and I've got a 15 mile race to run tomorrow. 15 mile cross country that is. Wish me luck....?!

This is how my street looked in January. Let's hope it doesn't look like this tomorrow....

On My iPod At The Moment....

Apart from being a proper exercise nerd I also love music. Countless hours have been spent at festivals such as Glastonbury and various concerts with former and current favourite bands, not to mention how many hours a day that are spent with a pair of headphones plugged into my ears. I will now let you take part of a snapshot from my iPod....but beware, some guilty pleasures will feature!

1. All The Time - The Strokes. My longstanding favourite band, and responsible for my all time faourite concert experience (Dingwalls, a 500 capacity venue, on June 9th 2010).
2. The Rat - The Walkmen. Top quality live band
3. Vampire Weekend - A Punk. Classic Indie tune, never fails to lift my mood., reminding me of a fantastic Glastonbury 2010.
4. Bastille - Of The Night. Fantastic cover from an up and coming band Bastille.
5. Heart + Soul - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Yet another favourite band, and a fantastic song for running long intervals. 6 minutes of pure rock.
5. Sick Sick Sick - Queens of the Stone Age. My second favourite band, and with added vocals from Julian Casablancas from The Strokes (you just cam't go wrong with that).
6. The Girls - Calvin Harris. Calvin is one of my big time guilty pleasures
7. Blue Blood - Foals.  Mesmerizing long run material.
8. Right Where It Belongs - Nine Inch Nails. If you've ever been on a rainy run through a dark London, listening to this song, then you'll have experienced something a little bit special.
9. Everyday - Eric Prydz. I've been at some pretty great 2 hour spin sessions feauturing this song, with the lights turned down and a class of 45 cyclists silently pounding the pedals...magic!
10. I Only Want You - Eagles of Death Metal. Short and sweet, perfect for a short, high paced, interval!
11. Don't You Worry Child - Swedish House Mafia. Try and run a bad interval while listening to this tune....I dare you!
12. Slowdance - E-Talking. Works equally good at a late night rave as in the gym. Believe  me, I've tried both.
13. New Lands  - Justice . Loving the mix between EDM and The Who, perfect for running. Just...perfect.
14. All My Life - Foo Fighters. The drive is just made for some high intensity interval training. You know, the kind of training that jellifies muscles and have the lactic acid burning in every single muscle you have.
15. Language - Porter Robinson. Yet another almost perfect spin cycling song, for those indoor road cycling experiences.
16. Still Life - The Horrors. Probably one of my favourite stretch songs, ever. The soundscape is just amazing!
17. Hawaiian Air - Friendly Fires. If you don't want to move when you hear this song there must be something wrong with you...
18. Groove Me - Maximum Balloon. Pretty great cool down song, for those times when you feel like you're invincible.
19. Devil Town - Bright Eyes . Just...beautiful.
20. Sleep Alone - Two Door Cinema Club. For your tempo runs.

20 Mar 2013

Speedwork In Disguise

I bloody love hills. It hasn't always been like that but sometime when training for my first marathon I decided to stop hating the hills, and instead embrace and learn to love them. So why do I love hills? There are three key points:

  • They make you a strong runner. Training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, expands stride length and enhances your running economy. When you go on to race on the flat after having trained on hills you'll feel pretty immense.
  • If your route is hilly you'll get natural intervals on your run - hills are sometimes called speedwork in disguise as they condition your legs to the same kind of fatigue you experience in races and develop your cardiovasculatory system to deal with serious speed.
  • They are good for mental strength. If you've run a lot of hill in practice you'll feel more prepared and less scared for any hills during your race.

Today I did one of my two current favourite runs, hill intervals combined with a - relatively slow - tempo run (the other favourite being Olga Intervals). So what did I get ouy of that session? I worked my glutes and hamstrings a bit harder than if I'd done either session on their lonesome, as well as  getting the legs used to keep going when fatigued - not to mention feeling strong mentally after having finished my hour-long session. What's there not to love about that??!

Make It Happen

19 Mar 2013

Willpower Knows No Obstacles


You know what - lately my early morning runs have been, well, pretty rubbish. I've felt weak, not been able to push myself as much as wanted and have left the gym a bit dejected. Today I was determined to do better.

After my Body Pump session I hopped onto a treadmill with the aim to do some sort of intervals. I decided to do Olga intervals in the same format as I did last time so after a short warm up I cranked the speed up and set off. I ended up doing three 2 kilometre intervals and despite not feeling as weak as I did last Thursday they all demanded a fair bit of willpower. Luckily enough I've got plenty of willpower (or sheer obnoxious stubbordness, as my mum would say) so I gritted my teeth and powered through. The last kilometre on the last intervals was tough but I managed to push through it and when I was done I wanted to raise my hands over my head as a prize fighter. Willpower had once again won over tiredness and mentally I felt a little bit stronger.

Running has got a lot to do with willpower. Running a 20 mile race in the pouring rain requires willpower, as does getting up at 5.30am to run intervals and running home from work after a long day.  On marathon day you will both thank your willpower for all the training it has helped you do and test it once again. Your legs will ache, you will feel tired and you will start wondering why on earth you're running 26.2 miles when you could lay on the sofa eating chocolates - but that's where your willpower takes control over the situation and carries you over the finish line. Practice your willpower, as it knows no obstacles.

18 Mar 2013

Give Yourself A Break

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~Ovid
Today I'm resting. Although my body feels good I know that running 32 kilometres is a bit of a strain on your body so today I'm resting and recovering, preparing my body for future challenges, refuelling  and assuring that all my training will get good results. When marathon training it's easy to get caught up in it, constantly pushing yourself to train the best you can so to be well prepared on the big day but resting is essential and should be as highly prioritized as the training. Don't get any unnecessary injuries because you push yourself to hard. Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live, and no marathon in the world is worth risking its health for.

What with London being grey, dull and rainy it's good to be reminded that the world is beautiful.


17 Mar 2013

Race Report: The Finchley 20

The Finchley 20 is a bit of an institution among London long distance runners, having been founded in 1933. That first year 22 runners participated and the winner Vic Sellars finished the race in 2:09.01. Fast forward to 2013 and it's now the longest running 20 mile race, attracting 700 runners to take on 4 laps of the 5 mile course.

Today I took on that course. I was up at 6am as I needed to get on the first westbound Central Line train to get to the race in time and the combination of being tired and nervous made it  hard to eat breakfast. Having spent most of yesterday worrying about the weather (and what to wear!) my worst fears came true - heavy rain and just a few degrees over freezing was the weather out in London today. Now, this is something new to me as I've only ever run races where it's been warm/HOT and sunny and as someone who's got no circulation in my hands or feet I was a bit apprehensive. I ended up wearing my favourite Craft tights (i.e. the mystery tights), a merino wool base layer shirt and another long sleeved shirt as I don't have a waterproof running jacket. On my hands I put my thin Gore running gloves but I also brought with me a hand warmer in case my hands got terribly cold.

The race kicked off at 9am sharp but I was so far back in the field that I didn't pass the starting line until a minute or so after the race had started. I had decided to treat the race as normal long run and not push myself too much and I set off at a comfortable pace. As it is a smallish race the roads weren't closed off so you had to keep your wits with you and I was glad I'd decided not to run with my iPod. The first lap was all very comfortable with just a little drizzly rain but during the second lap the heavy rain set in. During the third lap my hands got proper cold but with my little emergency hand warmer they soon got pretty toasty and although my legs got a bit stiff from the cold rain I managed to keep my pace. During that lap I finished of the Shot Blok I'd brought with me which helped when I had a little bit of an energy dip at mile 14. The fourth lap was a bit strenuous, my right shoulder felt stiff, as did my legs, but I soldiered on and kept my pace. With 1 mile left I passed the lovely lady marshalling the mile 4 (9/14/19) mark for the third time and as on the prvious laps she gave me that last bit of energy to finish off the race. I finished on 2:59.10, with water running down my body and probably a slight case of hypothermia hence heading off to quickly get changed and go home to a hot shower.

So what about the course? On the website it was described as 'undulating' and indeed it was. The hills weren't scarily steep but fairly long and there were almost no completely flat parts which took its toll on your legs. There were 2 water stations and at the mile 3 mark they gave out Jelly Babies. The marshals were helpful and encouraging and the Hillingdon AC club house provided warm changing areas (and showers for those who wanted to shower post race). I got a medal and a goodie bag with some edibles. All in all it was a good race, I did 20 good miles alongside some other very nice runners - not to mention I got to practice running in cold and wet conditions. That said, I do hope for sunshine during my marathon in April...


16 Mar 2013

Pre-Race Nerves

When pre-race nerves kicks in this is my mantra. Running is first and foremost a gift.

Lose Or Boost Your Confidence

Confidence is a fickle thing. It's a vital thing in everyday life but sometimes it seems like it's so easy to lose it and practically impossible gain. On Thursday morning I ran a tempo run after my Body Pump class. I felt weak and tired, despite not challenging myself with any great speed and I had to properly push myself to get through the 45 minute session. When I stepped of the treadmill I had zero confidence and thoughts like 'I'm not gonna get through the marathon' were running through my head.

Fast forward to yesterday when I ran intervals, the much feared and highly effective Olga intervals! I decided to take the easy road and run my intervals alternating between above and under threshold, as I didn't have the time to calculate all the different paces (I don't even have a mile pace...). As Thursday's run had been so abysmal I stepped onto the treadmill with apprehensive legs and nerves fluttering in my stomach but after a kilometre long warm up I knew things were different. I ran 3 sets of intervals, with a 3 minute rest inbetween, alternating between 14k/h and 12k/h and you know what - I felt bloody great! Maybe I should've cranked up the speed a bit more to make it 'so-hard-you-almost-puke', and I definitely should've done another set but work was calling.

When I stepped of the treadmill yesterday I was brimming with confidence and was ready to take on the world. I think that the moral of this story is that one bad run doesn't define you as a runner. Have faith in yourself and your abilities. Allow yourself to have a bad day, because a good day will soon come. Today I'm resting ahead of tomorrow's race and am hoping that yesterday's confidence boost will carry me through the 20 miles.

15 Mar 2013

The Search For The Ultimate Marathon Outfit

I want them all!

So it has begun. It happens every time I run a marathon, the wild chase for the ultimate marathon runnning outfit. It's not (only....) about looking my best whilst punishing my body over 26.2 consecutive miles and perspirating heavily, it's also about finding an outfit that doesn't leave too many marks on your body (no thick seams anywhere...), an outfit that's not too warm or too cold and will be comfortable during (at least most of) the race.

Now a lot of my free time is spent browsing the websites of my favourite brands (Craft, Adidas, Nike), looking for that perfect combination of shoes, socks, tights, shirt...but also checking the weather! Now, I know it's a tad early to know how the weather is going to be in the end of April so at the moment I have to plan for all eventualities - rain, snow, sandstorm, heatwave and earthquake - and this is where it gets tricky and stressful. My bank account is telling me to lay low, but my inner control freak just wants to buy all the things.

I am sure that my bank account and inner control freak will come to some sort of understanding and hopefully not ruin yours truly in the process. Until then, I'll keep browsing the internet for just a little while longer....

Olga Intervals

In 1988 Olga Bondarenko from Russia became the Olympic champion on 10000m in Seoul, setting a new world record on the distance. Before she won the Olympics she lacked in finishing speed so Olga and her coach worked out an interval session that would give her just that.

This interval is all in all 2 kilometres although you don't keep the same pace throughout the whole 2 kilometres. You can (should) do several sets with a 3 minute rest between each - although Olga herself reportedly did 3 back to back intervals, rested, did 2 back to back intervals, then rested and so on. So how are these intervals structured? Take a look at this....

400m hard
400m a little less hard (but not by any means easy)
300m hard
300m a little less hard
200m hard
200m a little less hard
100m hard
100m a little less hard

I have seen some different rules and recommendations for the pace you should use, but when I was first told about these intervals I was told to alternate between being above and belove threshold. Now that's quite easy if you're just starting out with intervals as it's less complcated only having two different paces to alternate between but running coach Chris Curtis advocates this session, with the pace increasing in each hard interval forcing the body to run faster even though it's tired.

Today I'm running Olga intervals, who's coming with me?

14 Mar 2013

Inspiring Reads

Not only to I like to exercise, I also really like to read about other people exercising. At the moment these two blogs are my favourites for inspiration.

Running and Stuff - Ultra runner James Adams writes about running very long distances in a very funny way. Equally impressive and entertaining.

Peanut Butter Runner - Food and fitness, WOD's and miles, yoga and gym - this blog's got something for everyone.

Both blogs are well written and aesthetically appealing, by people who are passionate about what they do. The blogs are filled with knowledge (for instance James has, among other races, run the Spartathlon and Jen is a personal trainer and Yoga instructor) and information.

Do you have a favourite blog?

It's Official! I'm Running An Ultra!

Royal Parks Ultra, 50k starting in Hyde Park and finishing in Bushy Park. City, river, park. Road, towpath and trail. Bring on October 6th!

But first I've got a marathon to do, obviously.....

...and I don't really know how to train for an ultra race, but surely there must be books for these kind of things?!

13 Mar 2013

'From Here To The Top There's Nothing But PAIN'.

As the headline hints Coach Mark at BOOM! Cycle doesn't sugar coat things, and he doesn't do things by healf measures. There's just no such thing as an easy session with Mark and today was no different.

Today he put us through 2x20 minutes of progressively steeper hills (until your heart felt like it was about to dislodge itself from your chest) and finished (us) off with a 4.5 minute time trial followed straight away by a short 5 minute hill and 4x30 seconds high intensity hill sprints.  It was tough, it was sweaty, it was intense and there was nothing to do but to love the burn (because it was almost ever present)......

Actually, to say it was tough is understatement of the year. To use a popular Mark saying we were all 'chewing the handlebars' at more than one occasion and my hamstrings almost seized up towards the end of the session but Mark's got a strange way of making you work through the pain and claim your rewards from it.  Always focusing on quality ahead of quantity, always reconnecting back to road cycling and always specifying the reason why he makes us do the things we do. Clear, concise and with great results. Coach Mark, I salute you!

12 Mar 2013

Tackle The Impossible.

Some things seem pretty impossible to you. For some it's running a full 5 kilometres, for others (like me...) it's front crawling a full kilometre. I know that practice makes perfect but sometimes it's pretty disheartening to practice, practice and practice without, seemingly, making any progress. Yet you just got to keep going, keep tackling what seems impossible. Every now and then you'll make a bit of a breakthrough, enough to motivate you to keep you going, only to then again feel like you're making no progress whatsoever.

I know I am making progress with my 'impossible' task. It's slow going, painfully slow even, but I am making progress. I can't call myself a swimmer yet, but I'm getting there. The swim cap doesn't seem all that alien anymore, the goggles have become my friends and I don't come out in a rash just by the thought of wearing a swimming costume anymore....and I know I'll just have to keep my head down and carry on, whilst telling myself that Rome wasn't built in a day.

11 Mar 2013

Embrace The Weather (Or London, I Love You).

It's pretty damn cold in London today, it's been snowing on and off today and the wind is positively cruel. This morning I decided to run home from work, despite being sore as h*ll after yesterday's Boot Camp Beating, and all throughout the day everyone kept commenting on how cold it is. My motivation to run home sank with every comment about the weather but when I (finally) got out of work an hour late I'd made up my mind. I could either let the weather ruin my run, or I could embrace the weather.

I decided to embrace the weather. Sure it was cold, and at times the head wind was so strong I almost fell backwards, but London looked beautiful and the wind blew away the work induced head ache. I did a bit of fartlek, sprinted between road crossings at Euston Road, had to zig zag between people around King's Cross, did something of a hill intervall up Pentonville Road, increased the pace down City Road and then just enjoyed all the assaults on the senses that the east end offer during the final kilometres of the run. Once I crossed Regent's Canal in Mile End, and looked down on the bright lights of the Canary Wharf scyscrapers, there were nowhere else I'd rather be than here in London, running.

Monday Morning Motivational

10 Mar 2013

'Just Imagine You're Michael Phelps'

Coach Martin, I know you mean well, but no amount of imagining will make my butterfly look like Michael Phelps'....

Mud, Sweat and Tears (of exhaustion).

Well, the tears is a slight exaggeration but Coach Karl did put us through our paces this morning. After a warm up where the slowest sprinters had to do burpees we got divided into pairs and got to work at a kind of circuit. Each lap consisted of (between the two of us) 100 squats, 4 sprints, half a (fast paced) lap round the park, 50 push ups, 50 box jumps, then a whole (fast paced) lap of the park, and the aim was to do 3 laps - but the time limit was 20 minutes, meaning you had to keep the speed up....

The first lap was pretty hard, the second agony and the third....well, let's just say I was quite happy that  my friend Jane and I only managed two and a half laps. Coach Karl was on our backs, pushing us to squat lower ('Ass to the grass!'), sprint faster ('Keep your hips forward, lift your knees, use your arms!'), not cheat on the push ups ('Chest all the way to the ground!') and not slow down during the box jumps ('No resting between each jump!'). Now, this is the kind of training I like - hard and challenging but always with the support of your trainer. Coach Karl pushed us but made sure our technique was good throughout the session and also gave us constant praise for our hard work.

Cycling home the legs felt jellified and whilst I cursed the strong head winds when crossing London Bridge I still felt pretty damn awesome. Sunday Boot Camp, I think I love you.

Save the Earth.

9 Mar 2013

Favourite London Running Haunts Pt 3

My beloved Victoria Park. Victoria Park also goes by the nickname The People's Park and I think that's a very fitting name. It's not filled with tourists like Hyde Park, instead it's used by the locals - there are football and cricket matches being played, runners and cyclists training, familes and couples strolling....not to mention it houses festivals and concerts at summertime.

If you run around the outer roads of the park you run roughly 4.5 kilometres per lap, which is a decent amount for an inner London park. There are paved roads all through the park but there are also gravel paths and some impromptu paths created from people running on the grass.

If running along Regent's Canal, another favourite London Running Haunt, you can tick off both Victoria Park and Regent's Park and get yourself a long distance run. Anyone up for that?

The Big Smoothie Experiment Pt 2

A week or so ago I started experimenting with smoothies. The first try was pretty much a failure, since I managed to produce the worst tasting smoothie ever. I think I described it as rank, but in hindsight I think that was understatement of the year.

Today I decided to try again, determined not to fail this time (I don't really do failure, you see). On my way home from the gym I stopped by Holland & Barrett and even though I'd planned to pick up some vanilla flavour protein powder I stopped myself, determined to make that pea protein powder work for me. After all, I have 1.5kg or so of it...but I did buy, on a whim, some milled flaxseed with probiotic & Vitamin D from Linwood. This moning I had put a chopped up banana in the freezer and earlier this week I had bought some frozen blue- and strawberries. I was all set for success.

After mixing my banana with some skimmed milk, the frozen berries, half a scoop of pea protein powder (as opposed to a full scoop last week) and a table spoon of my milled flaxseeds I anticipated a delicious smoothie. The smoothie was a lot better than last week, but the taste of the pea protein was still pretty intense. I might have to admit defeat and go and get myself another protein powder....

But let's not talk about my slightly failed smoothie anymore (it depresses me to think of yet another failure), let's instead talk about my trip to the gym! On Saturdays I frequently go all the way to the West End just to go to my fav instructor Roo's Body Pump class. All of you who've ever gone to a group exercise class know that an instructor can make or break your class. I want the instructors to inspire me to challenge my limits, and that's what Roo does. Today she'd put together a class with old favourites and it was god d*mn hard...muscles were shaking, sweat was dripping, people were gasping for air. After that effort I got on the treadmill and did 6 or so kilometres with some hills, just a bit quicker than race pace. It was in no way memorable, as I'd put most of my energy into the previous class, but it was nice just to get the legs moving a bit.

I had also brought my swimming costume (and swim cap, goggles and nose clip, obviously) with me but getting off the treadmill I felt tired and was gonna skip the swim. Then my inner control freak, that I talked about yesterday, surfaced and made me change into my swimming gear. The pool was busy with both swimming lessons for younger generation and super swimmers but I got in and got going...and I'll damned, but today I was a half-decent swimmer! I managed to improve my timing slightly and could glide without pulling prematurely, not to mention my kick! I have pretty strong legs and when I utilized them properly today my simming improved, and I got more time to breathe. If only coach Martin could have seen me....

My motto on my favourite hoodie

8 Mar 2013

Happiness Is a Run In The Rain!

You know how I was talking yesterday about how it's alright to fail sometimes? This morning I had that as a mantra, after I'd ditched a planned interval (or tempo) run this morning before work. I didn't get home from work until 9.45pm last night, and didn't get into bed until 11pm, so I prioritized sleep this morning and re-scheduled my interval run to a distance run home from work. As a slave under planning I did feel a bit, well, guilty about it....the voices in my head were saying things like 'a tempo run substituted by a distance run?! Will that help you to run a sub 4h marathon again, Josefine?!'. What with the pouring rain, my rubbish lunch, a sleep deprived induced headache and proper stiff glutes from yesterday's Body Pump session and you have a recipe for a rubbish run. Or so I thought...

It turned out to be a great run! The legs were proper bouncy, I breathed easy despite keeping a high-ish pace and when I was almost home I decided to swing by Victoria Park, hence adding on 5k to my run. The park was pretty empty and I found myself enjoying every step of the rainy run, loving how little effort it took to keep the pace and marvelling over how amazing running is. After a rubbish week at work I felt all the stress leave me and despite tiring myself out with running I felt more energized than I'd done for days.

Today, in the middle of wallowing in self-pity over my missed morningrun, I ran 15.2 kilometres at 5.16min/k pace. Longer than a morning interval run would have been. Possibly quicker than a morning tempo run would have been. All in all just a bit better than anything I would've done at 6am this morning, and you know what - no one can keep wallowing when you do a great run and the endorphines are flowing through your veins!

No Friday run is complete without some top tunes, and the theme song to tonight's run was this classic. Happy Friday, people!

No Drinking Till Marathon Day

You heard me. In preparation for this year's marathon I've deicded to swear off alcohol the last two months before the big day. Will it help? Well, in all honesty I do not drink that much - it's not easy getting up for a 20 mile run if you feel like someone's kicked your head repeatedly and then gotten the norovirus five times over - but who knows?! To be honest, I'll try (almost) anything just as long as I get under 4 hours again *

I also think it's good to test yourself every now and then, and I tell you I would be very worried if I couldn't stay off alcohol for two months. Ask me to stay off coffee though and I'll reply with a firm 'no'. Alcohol might not be essential for my existence, but I'm pretty sure caffeine is....

(*everyone's welcome to wait at the finish line with a pint though)

7 Mar 2013

You're Too Good to Give Up.

This week is a bit of a failure.....I've not been eating as well as I should, nor have I eaten enough. I've worked too much (36 hours over 3 days is just not on). Sleep deprivation is my middle name. My training has been far from ideal. My room is a mess and I have a massive pile of clothes that need to be washed - and so on!

But I'm not gonna stress myself out over any of the above mentioned failures. I'm staying in the realm of fail for just a little while longer then I'll brush myself off and get back on track again. You could say I'm resting at the bottom before I climb all the way back up again. Because you know what - it's alright to fail every now and then, just make sure you can get back up again.

Thursday Truth

Don't we just know it.

6 Mar 2013

Exercise of the Day

Coach Karl had us jumping like tennis balls the other week at Sunday Boot Camp, doing box jumps. This exercise strengthens and tones your legs, improves explosiveness and power and can help improve your running.

To perform a box jump you need a sturdy platform. If you got height adjustable one that's grand, otherwise find one that's at a (for you) good height. The height of the step/platform depends on your ability to jump as well as your height, but most people find their sweet spot somewhere between 12-24 inches.

Squat down in front of the step, as you do when preparing to jump for height. Jump onto the step and squat down when landing on the step. Jump back down again. You might find it beneficial to swing your arms when jumping, and some people advocate single leg box jumps.

Look at this video, and be in awe!

4 Mar 2013

Sunshine Cycling

Today I went out for a little spin on my hot wheels. Normally I always have a goal with my cardio training - it can be everything from pace, distance or exertion rate - but today I just went out riding my bike because I really like to ride my bike. The sun was shining and I just kept the wheels rolling at a pleasureable pace. After little more than an hour I'd done 30k and had a smile as wide as a mile. I bloody love my bike!

Why Are Some of Us Not Happy With Just One?!

Yesterday when I was running lap after lap around Victoria Park I started wondering why some of us has this urge to go longer, get stronger, challenge ourselves a little bit more. While some of us are happy with doing one lap around the park three times a week, but some of us have this urge to do five. What's the difference between those two groups of people and why is there a difference?

When I first started running after having recovered from my eating disorder I almost straight away signed up for the Stockholm Marathon. I'd never run more than 10k before. I was equally scared and excited and stuck, almost religiously, to my training program. After that I was hooked, and I've not looked at running the same way since. I think that this need for perfection partly comes from my previous life as a rider. My then trainer was never happy with half measures - either you were in, or you weren't. It was alright to fail, just as long as you tried and in the process gave it your all. Once you'd reach one goal you set another and you never, ever, settled.

As a person I'm very much a Type A-personality. Competetive, achivement addicted, driven. Yesterday when I started running my laps I felt very focused on the distance. 20 miles, no less. The run was a means to an end but as the endorphines started flowing the balance shifted. All of a sudden I found myself less focused on the distance and more focused on how it felt like I could run forever, and the contentment and enjoyment that brought. I saw kids running around and how the simple pleasure of running brought them so much happiness. I went from 'being on a run' to just' running' and the kilometres flew by. When I ended my run I had done 20 miles, as planned, but that wasn't the best ting about that run. The best thing was the happiness I found just by running.

Regardless if you're one of those people who run five laps of the park or that person who runs one lap every now and then, the most important thing should always be to appreciate the happiness running brings. Stop demanding so much of yourself - not everyone are fortunate enough to be able to run, so remember you are one of the lucky ones next time you go for a run.

3 Mar 2013

Y Swim Masters Club

Today Coach Martin asked me if I wanted to join the Y Swim Masters Club. How that happened I do not know, he must be impressed with my persistence and inablity to drown...

Golden Sunday!

  1. 32k done! I woke up with slightly stiff legs from yesterday's Body Pump + spinning and had no high hopes for great speed or great distance. Instead I  ran 32 kilometres at race pace, with legs that felt pretty great the whole run and I bet you I could have done the full 42.2k under 4 hours today. Effing YES!
  2. My beautiful friend Julia is going like a boeing in this years Vasaloppet. Just now she passed Oxberg, and I couldn't be prouder.
  3. Swedish skier Johan Olsson went and won the men's 50-kilometre classic on the last day of the World Championships in Val di Fiemme! Cross country skiing is a big love in my life and the patriot in me loves a gold. The 50k is the big challenge in the WC's, a big test in both physical and mental strenght and stamina, and I'm slightly ecstatic. Well done Johan!
  4. Sunshine! We have sunshine in London today! I love me some sunshine, a rare treat in London lately.
  5. Victoria Park. I love Victoria Park, the best park in London without a doubt. Today it was full of runners of all abilities, several football matches were being played, families were out Sunday strolling, there were skateboarders and cyclists....it truly is the people's park, and definitely one of my favourite London running haunts.

Vicky Park, I love you!

2 Mar 2013

Race! It's a Race!

So, in the space of 30 minutes I've entered TWO races. On the 17th of March I'm running the Finchley 20 (32k) and then on March 24th I'm running the Orion 15 (24k). Two weekends of racing on top of each other, but I just see them as organised training sessions ahead of the Greater Manchester Marathon -  and as opposed to Rowan Atikinson I have no hope of winning either....

The Big Smoothie Experiment

Now this isn't the way my doctor would want me to do things ('Less stress Ms Eriksson!') but breakfast time needs to slim down. I am a big fan of a long, slow, breakfast but when I hit the gym before work I sometimes run into some time trouble (i.e. there's not enough time). This has led me to re-think breakfast strategy and the new strategy might involve smoothies.

Today I performed the first Big Smoothie Experiment. After some previous research it has emerged that some people out oats in their smoothies to make them more filling and people also add some protein powder. My smoothie today had skimmed milk, some blueberry/strawberry flavored yoghurt, some frozen blueberries and strawberries, a banana, a small scoop of oats and a scoop of pea protein. It looked pretty delicious. It tasted pretty rank, hence rendering the first Big Smoothie Experiment a failure. I think the problem was too much pea protein, and that overpowered all other flavours. But fear not! I will not let this little failure defeat me! Tomorrow I will try again, and conquer The Big Smoothie Experiment.

1 Mar 2013

Run All The Hills!

Did you know.....
that lactic acid is not a biproduct from anaerobic running, but fuel?! During low intensive running it's cleared as quickly as it's produced but during high intensity intervals it's accumulated in the muscles as the muscles can't clear it as quick as it's produced.

Working 8.30am to 8pm means you have to sort out your training either at the crack of dawn or way past (my) bedtime.... That meant I got up at 5.30am (Jesus wept!) and at 6.30am I got on the treadmill, with the plan to do a tempo run. Nothing very far, fast or exciting, just 6-7k of running 15 seconds faster per kilometre than marathon pace (which is totally manageable at that painful time of day). To avoid falling asleep on the treadmill I decided to set the machine on a hill interval session but run it at tempo pace, hence working my hamstrings a bit harder and also making the whole workout a bit more intense, especially since I wasn't braving any high speeds.

That all sounds like a semi-cushy run, but if you've dragged yourself out of bed that early you want to get something out of it. A while ago I read an article on how you can train your muscles to use lactic acid more effectively by alternating running faster and slower than threshold. By keeping a higher speed in between the intervals, instead of the normal complete rest or easy pace, you hover around threshold and you will (hopefully) train your musecles to use lactic acid more effectively and sharpen your fitness. Today I (kind of) applied this training technique to my morning run. Instead of decreasing the pace on the flat sections in between the intervals I kept a steady tempo run hence making my recovery periods more intense and not quite so restful.

Now, this made things a lot more interesting and quite a bit harder. The intervals started after 8 minutes, and were all 1 minute long with a 1 minute flat rest in between. The incline varied from 2 to 5%, creating some gentle hill intervals, long enough to create some burn and get my heart rate up but short enough to be doable without dropping the pace. After 45 minutes I'd done just over 8k, working fairly hard throughout. I was about happy being able to combine a tempo and a hill run, a concept I'm going to try and do on a regular basis. I finished of the morning's gym visit with a sneaky swim, and I'll be damned if this whole front crawl malarky isn't going a bit better than before. Persistence is the key, or so I hope....

This was me at 6.30am. Sometimes it helps to be a little bit insane...