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 Life Lessons from Endurance Women

Endurance training and racing is a great metaphor for a successful and happy work and home life and applying the principles of endurance can teach us many key life lessons.

Endurance Women are…

1. Consistent

We do the same thing week in week out. Training can be boring, it can be hard, it’s not rocket science and one of the key things is just doing it. Once you’ve made a commitment to it, it’s a case of doing it day after day, week in, week out. Any elite athlete will tell you consistency is one of the key components of success. The same can be said of going to work and repeating daily tasks, doing the housework, the food shopping, getting the kids to school. The buzz, the excitement, of gold medals, promotion and great exam results, won’t happen without the doing!

2. Focussed

Endurance women set a goal, whether it be a race, or training session goal and they stick to it. Taking part in events for running, triathlon, open water swimming, cycling gives you a linear path to follow. The goal is crossing the finish line, whether it’s 5K or a 500-mile trek across Asia. Big or small, goals are simply the end point, and help set you on the path of doing. Goal-setting works in life, as the famous Harvard business school study showed when students who wrote down their goals were found to be the achievers 35 years on.

3. Patient

In 2002 before setting up my own residential running courses and doing my first marathon, I joined a training group run by Keith Anderson. He taught me the importance of patience when it comes to marathon running. As they say it’s a marathon not a sprint. Longer events take longer to prepare for. There are no quick fixes. Similarly, if you’re starting your own business, working on a marriage, raising children, you have to take the rough with the smooth, work at it, be patient, keep doing, be consistent, persistent and positive.

4. Positive

A positive mindset means you look at what we’ve achieved not what you haven’t. Endurance Women celebrate success, and yes, we have learnt the right to brag on social media; if you want to wear your meal after a race, go ahead! The very action of doing endurance sport, makes a person more positive, as the blood flows and you’re body moves, getting outside in the fresh air, being sociable makes it easier to look on the bright side. Saying yes to life, being positive is one of the keys to a successful and happy life.

5. Boundary-free

Endurance Women live life to the full. They never say never. They have what Carol Dweck calls a ‘ growth mindset’, open to challenges, open to ideas, open to opportunities. This doesn’t mean pushing too hard in SAS style, it does mean not giving up. This is about stretching yourself and seeing where you can go in a relaxed and meaningful way. We live in a world of opportunity with more doors open than ever before, see where you can go, but remember there’s no pressure.

6. In the Moment

Endurance Women learn to stay in the moment. Ultra runners like Jo Kilkenny, recent winner of Deadwater, a 235 mile run over six days, who I interviewed for EW Stories, tells me that  you have to take each step as it comes, and break the distance down. Looking at the bigger picture is overwhelming. Whatever your goal, or dream is, break it down into manageable chunks, and enjoy where you are. It’s the core message of time-management books, of mindfulness, of self-improvement tomes and as the saying goes, ‘every journey starts with a single step’. Just thinking about the step you’re in is a good way to live.

7. Resilient/Persistent

Two qualities of Endurance Women that feed into one. Endurance training and racing teaches you to be resilient. A puncture on a bike ride, a cramp on a long run, a panic in a swim, to endure all of this requires you stay in the moment, to not panic and as you do this, you build your resilience. Being resilient allows you to persist with your dreams and goals. The more times you don’t let a knock-back set you back, the better you become at learning to handle failure, the further you will go.

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READ MORE….

A Freelancer? Business owner? Part of the gig economy?

Check out my article, 7 Ways Endurance Sport Can you Help you Survive the ‘Non 9-5’.

 

Junior Doctor Takes on Spartathlon

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Last week I chatted with fellow Brighton Triathlon Club Member, Kat Ganly, 33, about her real passion, ultra running. In May 2017 she ran the legendary Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ which follows the mountainous spine of Wales from north to south. “This incredible five-day journey is 315KM  long with 15,500 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain” states the website. Kat says: ‘it’s tough’. Continuing her epic year, in October 2017, she took on the 250K (153-mile) Spartathlon, an iconic race and a bucket-list event for any ultra runner  (for those who can qualify. Last year, well known sports presenter and ultra runner  Vassos Alexander from BBC Radio 2 also took part).

Kat is a junior doctor and trainee anaesthetist, and yes, that means long hours, study and shifts at ungodly hours. She kind of makes a mockery of the ‘I haven’t got time excuse’! She’s under-stated and a fine example of someone living a life of just doing it. She counts time on her feet, not miles and pushes her boundaries every year.

Kat started running a decade ago when she gave up smoking. She started with a half marathon, then she moved onto ultra running.  In her 10-year running career she’s fitted in a 40 and 50 miler ultra, then four 100 mile races, The Grand Union Canal 145-mile run and the Marathon des Sables as well as the two big races in 2017.

She loves running on the trails. She loves the solitude and the space she gets from running. Running has changed her life. It’s given her confidence and with each boundary she’s broken, she grows in strength – and it’s taught her that she can do more than she ever thought she could.

Kat’s takeaway:

Set small goals that you can  reach – and then you keep going forward.

Listen to what she’s got to say as we chat in a noisy Brighton pub!

Turning injury into a positive

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Shelly Hynes, 47, is mum to Bladen 17 and Liliana 14, and married to Dom, 47. They live in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Shelly took up running and got the bug in a big way, running marathon after marathon. Then injury stopped her in her tracks. But being an endurance woman, Shelly, tenaciously worked out how to get herself back to running and found a new direction in the process.

IMG_0542‘When I fell pregnant with Bladen I stopped smoking and started the journey to a healthier path. Once he was born I wanted to get out and about and shed the baby weight, and headed down to the David Lloyd to get fit. It was here I met Debbie, who looked amazing, and I asked her how she’d got a body like that. She told me she’d lost five stone just by getting out and running – and that was it, I joined her running group.

‘At the start I was right at the back, but I didn’t let that bother me, I just set myself the goal of getting to the front. I’m not sure I’m competitive, but I do like to have a goal, and I think it works to be with people who are faster than me if I want to improve.

‘Soon I was at the front in the running group, and decided I was ready to enter Race For Life. I had stitch and had to walk a bit, but I loved it. It wasn’t long before I’d entered a 10K, then a half marathon and by 2006 (five years after starting running), I’d entered my first marathon. But I had made the classic first-time marathoner mistake of doing too much too soon and ended up with shin splints – earning myself the name, Shelly Shins. In training I only ever got to run 14 miles as my long run. I limped and walk/ran around the marathon and finished up with egg-size blisters and a time of 4.45.

‘I swore I’d never do another marathon, but a week later as we sat having coffee at the David Lloyd, and showing off our medals, talk turned to the next one. Like childbirth you quickly forget the pain of running a marathon.

‘Over the next few years, I ran marathon after marathon, running 4.20, then 4.09, then 4.06 and finally 3.59.58 – which was followed by 3.49. I was on a roll, then when training for the Valencia marathon, injury got a grip.

‘It was a groin injury, and at the start I couldn’t even walk properly. As things improved I started aqua jogging, which made me a feel a bit stupid. I had to go the local pool in the morning when the elderly crowd went in and ‘run’ up and down in the deep end with my aqua belt on. I tried all sorts of treatments and experts, but it seemed that nothing was working. And if I’d listened to some of the people I saw I would have given up. But I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Running had been something I’d learnt to rely on to deal with stress, so without it, I needed an alternative to running. It was over this period that I discovered Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which involves tapping your temple, under your eyes, around your nose, on your chin, and on your wrist, whilst saying positive mantras. (Ed: EFT is sometimes referred to as Psychological acupressure, find out more in this article from the Energy Therapy Centre.). I’d never have found it if I hadn’t been injured and it’s something I use to this day. Injury also meant I wanted to find something useful to do that felt positive so I started volunteering at a the Herts Inclusive Theatre (HIT), helping people with learning disabilities to get involved with the performing arts.

IMG_1050Eventually, after 15 months of no running, I found a treatment that worked. It involved taking my blood, ‘spinning’ it, then injecting it back into the injured area. It worked! And soon I was back to running.

Last year I raised over £2,000 for HIT. Taking time out and having to dig deep to get back to what I love helped me to be more holistic in my approach to running. I also got very into yoga, particularly Ivengar yoga which focuses on stretching the faschia and on alignment, which is the perfect balance for running. Now, I’m looking at creating a new business, creating yoga clothes which I’ll sell online. Without running or my injury I’d never have found this new path.

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#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit #ordinarywomenextraordinary

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