Active Every Day in December

I’m writing this 30 days into my #ActiveEveryDay in December Challenge. Here I explain why I chose to be active every day in December, how I did it – and what I gained from doing it.

Why I set the goal?

  1. Too busy to think – December is hectic – and extra crazy for me this year, as I’ve started a new business HER SPIRIT and launched a new coaching course GET KNOWN. I didn’t want to have to think too hard about training. Keeping goals simple is I believe the key to achieving them. To just run every day was a good base line from which I could add on layers, for example, a park run or a long run.
  2. Consistency – I believe consistency is the key to success in running, or triathlon training. Fellow endurance woman, Julia, who’d ran at a very high level often reminded me when we trained together, when one week is done you get up on Monday and start again. Doing the same thing, week in, week out, can be boring, and there’s no glory, but it is what gets results.
  3. Reactivate the runner in me – 2018 was a mixed year for me. Officially older now, and with two accidents on the bike resulting in two broken collar bones and a new tooth, had affected me physically and emotionally. I was shook, literally, and my back is still paying the price for it. Recovery and getting through the Ironman Training meant that running had taken a back seat. I’ve slowed down (partly age, partly less miles, partly biomechanics), but to feel like a runner again, I had to just run.
  4. Getting outside on winter slow-down –  December is dark, the days are short, it’s easy to hibernate . But for me fresh air and movement keeps me from getting too sluggish. To allow for that body clock slowing down thing (not sure if there’s any science there, just my experience) I made sure I had no pressure on pace and other than Tom’s sets I didn’t plan in hard sessions. Getting outside and absorbing vitamin D (which is in short supply) felt important.

How I did it

  1. Accountability and purpose – Even though I’ve  not been a regular at the club, I joined the Run Up 2 Christmas challenge and made myself accountable to the group. I set a goal of 200K between 1st and 25th December and went over it. and we raised cash for Mind, a charity I feel passionate about. I also made myself accountable to the endurance women community by setting up the challenge on Strava.
  2. Sustainable Goal – The basic goal remained active every day, but the second goal was try to stick to 5K running a day.  This has meant that some days I’ve ‘moved’ around the park at 10 minute mile pace for just over 5K, in the dark and at the end of a long working day. Having run every day as a minimum requirement means I’ve actually started to do more, and found it easier to make sure I go along to Tom’s speed sessions on Tuesday at 7pm (it’s dark, I’m tired, it’s often rained!).
  3. Preparing for the Crazy Week – I knew Christmas week would be hard, so I made sure I got a long run done on Xmas Eve before setting off on the road. For the rest of the week not only was there over-indulgence to content with but a lot of travelling. I drove at least 650 miles between Christmas Eve and Friday 29th. Having the goal meant I ran in Somerset on Christmas Day and saw great views and discovered a new path along the canal in Watford.
  4. Park Run – I forced myself to do a park run event though I knew I’d be slow. I ran one of my slowest park runs, at 22.48 for 5K. But it felt the same as when I ran sub 20 or 21. The effort was there – and so was Father Christmas!

The Benefits

  1. It felt easier than having days off – Without the option of not running, running felt easier. Once I’d taken out choices, I just did it. It’s advice I got from another endurance women training partner, Sam, when I was about to bail out of a swim set after a 19 mile-run, ‘Don’t question it Fiona, just do it,’ she said. It’s stayed with me!
  2. It cancels out the bad stuff – As well as running every day, I drank alcohol every day bar two. I think my unit count was probably the same as my mileage count on some weeks. I’m hoping that the running counteracted some of the negative affects of drinking (although I will be doing dry in January as I don’t think I could carry on doing this!).
  3.  I did more than I thought I would – I’ve written lots of complicated running plans in the past, and often not stuck to them. I know what’s needed for marathon training and by running every day I didn’t have to plan it. I just started to do a long run, add in a park run, go to Tom’s sets. The result is (once I’ve done today’s run) over 40 miles a week and regular long runs, ideal for preparing myself for Brighton in 2019.

What’s Next?

My running is still slow and by running every day I’ve worked out it could be biomechanics. My back aches a lot – so for January I’m adding in swimming three times a week to a basic weekly mileage for the marathon.

Active January

If you need inspiration for January I’d recommend trying to be active every day – keep it simple and relative to where you are now. So if you’ve done nothing walk every day, if you’re injured stretch, it’s a simple goal and a great feeling when it’s done (which reminds me… I’ve still got two days left to go!)

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7 Ways To Find Your Running Form

My running form feels like it’s gone. I’m running badly. But I’m also planning to run the Brighton Marathon in 2019 (it’s in 21 weeks). So what am I going to do about it? Here’s my 7-step solution to fixing bad running form.

I’m quite an obsessive type. But once the obsessing is done, it is also in my nature to find solutions. So, when I ran another bad session, and a very slow cross country, and felt terrible, I knew l had to deal with myself and my unhealthy and frankly annoying negativity. First tip, negative thinking and talking don’t help!

1. a) What’s Your Why?

Yesterday, I wrote on the Endurance Women Facebook page: “Running with others works. I went into a bit of a negative place about running over the last few weeks. Lost perspective. Beating myself up for not being fast etc… The thing is running is fun! Getting outside, getting fresh air, moving your body the way it should be moved. It’s the same for cycling and swimming. And the chat, the banter, the post run coffee is all part of it. Hope you’re endurance training always remains fun… Don’t lose perspective (as I did last week!) … keep smiling 😁😂🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️”

1. b) And What’s Your Why? (I’m not a ‘Fun Runner’)

What I wrote is only half the story. Yes, I do love running with others and getting outside – and smiling. But I realise it’s important to be honest with myself and the part two to my why is this: I run because I like to see what my limits are and to be competitive. I like racing, I like pushing myself.  I don’t just want to finish a race. I’m not a fun runner. You won’t find me shouting ‘oggy oggy oggy’ when I’m racing a marathon. I want to be breathing hard and pushing myself.  I want to compete and I want to progress, I want to see what my limits are.  That’s the main reason I do it. However,  if the only reason I ran was to compete in races and improve then I would have stopped. And I haven’t. And to make sure I don’t I’ve thought more about the solutions…Read on.

Aye Aye… who’s that on my shoulder? Run quicker!

2. Enjoy the means to the end… not just the end (yep, be in the moment)

When the balance tips over into the negative and I obsess and focus on how bad I feel I am, it doesn’t do me any good. I say things like I want to give up running – but I really don’t. It’s a bit like when someone’s trying to get pregnant and obsessing about it day in and day out. There’s a real danger they might stop enjoying the thing you need to do to get pregnant. And if you stop enjoying that (or only do it with the end in mind) it makes it even harder to get what you want. And really it’s a miserable place to be. You leave the moment, miss the good bits and only look at what you have’t got, that’s somewhere in the future. So of course, once again I’m reminded, what matters is being in the moment, and enjoying the process. And for me the process is a process where my goal is to get faster and improve.

3. Strength training

Running to perform well isn’t easy. Yes, you just put one foot in front of the other, but, to keep doing that there’s a bigger picture. There’s the total body to consider! I’ve got to stop talking about doing strength training and start doing (important for over 50s). When I did my PB in 2012 I was working with personal trainer Matt Shore and doing box jumps, dynamic squats and lunges and pull ups to work on my upper body. I worked on the core and did stretching too. It all helped even though I would often think ‘I should be running’, but without a solid foundation of strength, injury and bad form follow. I also did a lot more hill running and off-road training. All of this makes you stronger and boosts running economy (you go to from 0-7 min mile quicker).

4. Check in on nutrition

I can be very haphazard where nutrition is concerned and often eat carbs, carbs and more carbs, way too much sugar, tea/coffee and alcohol. It’s about getting the balance right. As we get older we need more protein for muscle repair and building strength. And we all know why less sugar, booze and caffeine is a good idea. I’ve been a person who’s got away with it for a long time, but I think I need to up my nutrition game, and put my focus on fuel. It’s not about drastic changes, just small steps, and being conscious of why I want to eat right.

5. Are you deficient (Iron supplements)?

Even with good nutrition iron, vitamin D, and magnesium can all take a battering when you do endurance sport. My blood was tested in June and vitamin D and iron levels were included and came back as normal, but following a chat with Emily Proto, top runner and masseuse, I remembered that iron needs closer attention when you run. Prompted by our chat I looked at my records again, they were the very low end of normal and I’ve read here, that for runners 20-plus is where we should be heading (mine was 18 in June and I’ve been anaemic twice before).  So my actions are: I’m having roast beef for dinner,  and I have started taking Spa Tone in my Smoothies again (liquid iron supplement) and will try to eat more pulses and dark green veg – and avoid drinking so much tea, swapping it for hot water (as tea can impair the absorption of iron).

6. Flexibility and core strength

Runners often neglect flexibility and core strength. Swimming is a great way to work on both of these and I love swimming but since the Ironman I’ve barely swam at all. My tattoo is firmly affixed now, so more excuses. I will work on strength in the pool, using paddles to build the muscles around my now repaired broken collar bones. And kicking with a board is great for my core. A stronger core, and good upper body strength will also help me feel more balanced and I hope improve my slightly compromised biomechanics.

7. Periodised training (add in a ‘building confidence’ mesocycle)

When you’re off form it can make you lose perspective and lose confidence. It makes sense to step back and look at your training year. Good coaches periodise your training and allow athletes to focus on different aspects of their endurance fitness in six to 12 week blocks. I’m clearly in the off season period having completed the Ironman on October 7th. But with five weeks passed I’m coming out of recovery (I think) and I’m ready to focus on speed. My goal race is the Brighton Marathon 2019 which is 21 weeks away and for the next five weeks my goal is to  build some confidence by working on speed and strength before I start marathon training. Joe Friel recommends athletes in the 50-plus category include more intense training, and my endurance has definitely been worked on this summer, so a little step back from miles won’t do me any harm.  As building confidence is a goal I did question the wisdom of racing tomorrow – another PW can zap my energy if I let it. However, a simple re-frame of my thoughts and a step back has convinced me it’s a good idea. Racing at my threshold pace is a great session for this week and will be another step to contribute to the mesocycle goal of getting faster.  A few more park runs, and some speed work and strength sessions will, I hope, result in a pick up of pace and a boost to my confidence, as well as giving me a break from the long runs until after Xmas. Of course, I could still be knackered, so the caveat is, if I don’t get faster I don’t give myself a hard time, I just keep working on finding solutions.