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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Week eight and half of nine of 40: Start, stop, snow, go…

Monday 19th February to Wednesday 28th February

Winter Triathlon Training

Week eight’s training was good. I had a busy work week with two London work days, but I was feeling enthusiastic to get going again after skiing. I went back to My Ride and the track at running club on Monday, I swam for the first time in 13 weeks on Tuesday, and I got back on the bike on the road (well the flat prom) for the first time since my accident in bitterly cold wind, but sunshine. Finally, after a busy few days in London including visiting the Tri Show in London I ran the Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday at the goal pace of sub 7.30 (on my Garmin). There are 168 hours in a week and I trained for six hours and 47 minutes and I felt satisfied with a good solid week of training and focus on my goals.

Thanks to Ant Bliss from sussexsportphotography.com for sharing this pic with me on Facebook.
A great race photographer and friend.

Snow Go

The first half of week nine however has not been so good. We’ve had the dreaded Beast From The East, the snow and the freezing cold. I don’t usually let weather stop me, and have always chosen to run in the snow, but this time I thought I’d be a bit more cautious, as I didn’t want to risk falling on black, or any other kind of ice. So I gave myself a day off on Monday. However, yesterday, Tuesday was one of those training days that just went wrong from the off, largely due to indecision and procrastination.

I put on my kit first thing intending on running outside, then I saw the snow and decided to do an interval session at the gym later in the day. Then I started work. I had to go to town in the afternoon and decided I’d run after that, but a variety of hold ups and becoming extremely cold (I’d gone out in my running gear and lightweight jacket) meant I simply ran out of time and motivation, and if I’m really honest I gave myself an excuse not to train.

False Start

This morning, I got up early to go to My Ride spin class at the gym, with a plan to follow this with a treadmill run. I arrived at 635am and could see that the gym was closed. A sign on the door said, it was opening at 8am.  As it turned out this was a blessing in disguise as when I got home I got a call from family about a close relative who’d been rushed to hospital, and all training and other plans were put on hold.

I know that running and training makes me feel good and not running and training makes me feel bad – and I also know that consistency is vital for success. I could have run when I got back from London this evening, but I chose not to. Family is more important than Strava logs and sometimes stopping, reflecting and resting is what’s needed.

If you can…Start again

If we’re lucky, every day is a chance to start again and presents us with a blank canvas. Every day my alarm call is Feeling Good  by Nina Simone,  ‘It’s a new dawnIt’s a new dayIt’s a new life. For me. And I’m feeling good.’  So, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Last week:

 

This week so far:

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!

Week 12 of 52: Training at Xmas

Training at Xmas is challenging, and if you’re like me it’s the weeks building up with parties, shopping, and routines out the window which make it harder to stick to plans. So, for me, the best thing is not to plan too much and ‘just do it’ when I have the time.

Last week the plan for training at Xmas was to ‘get out most days, train by feel and keep things ticking over… and I added, ‘I want to also include a long run, a park run, a swim and a bike.’ I didn’t swim or park run, but I did get out on the bike after a long break and I managed a medium long run with some speedy bits.

Here’s the detail of my training at Xmas week: On Monday I finally got back to the club for a track session, but a frozen track stopped play and we set off for an easy 30-minute jog. On Tuesday I got bogged down in pre-Christmas work and then a long Xmas shop. On Wednesday I got out for a 12 mile run. I decided to run the seafront as a tempo run, but my stomach got involved and that ground to a halt. However, it eased so I then managed to run 10 x 30 second strides with 2 minute recoveries for the last third of the run (this is a regular marathon training session). On Thursday, I managed a pre-party interval session, of 6 x 1K. The intervals were slow, and felt more like tempo pace, than intervals, but it was what I could do on the day. On Friday  post-party sluggishness meant I missed my early morning slot and then got caught up in Xmas shopping and – preparations. On Saturday I chose to go for a bike ride with club mate Rachel instead of doing a parkrun. The roads were clear as it was the Saturday before Xmas Eve and the weather was just right. We had coffee and breakfast after the ride. And on Xmas Eve I was up at 6am but still didn’t have time to run with packing and tidying to organise, before heading off to visit friends and relations.

 

Talking Age & Running With Ju from Soles Journey

In 2018 I plan to add vlogs and podcasts to the endurance women community as I build channels and conversation about endurance, being a woman, love, life, and hopefully some laughter!

Here’s my first conversation, with my very good friend Julia Chi Taylor. Julia’s an expert at Vlogging. I’m not! So excuse the lighting and lack of editing…


Find Julia at http://solesjourney.com/

Follow her Vlog at Soles Journey

Training update – the start weeks one to three

Time flies. I’m two weeks in, half a month done. It’s very easy to see the goal as some far off thing – but the reality is, it’s very close. A year is a NOT a long time in Ironman training.

So far, so good. Since moving to Brighton in August, I made it my goal from September to focus in on my running which took a bit of a nose dive. With my travelling coach Andy Payne on call, I’ve been doing steady mileage, speed work and some park runs.

Below is a snapshot of the last eight weeks (althought this week’s not finished yet). The big green blobs show my long runs, the yellow speed work and the red is for racing/parkrun, and for eight weeks I’ve averaged 38 miles.

Three weeks ago I started swimming again, and have completed three Brighton Triathlon Club Drill sets and one of my training sessions. Tomorrow I start back on the bike, after a 12-week break!

I’m hoping to keep the running mileage average at 40 miles, but now I have to add in a couple of bike rides and swims, every week.

I’m really enjoying my new clubs, Arena 80 for running and Brighton Tri Club for all things triathlon. Both are friendly and supportive and remind me how much I enjoy socialising and being part of a group with shared goals.

On Thursday the Tri swim set was all about the catch and drills. Swimming technique is something that I think could take a lifetime of practise! Graham, the Bri Tri coach reminded me that we cannot focus on too many things at once. Breaking up the stroke and focussing on one thing at a time is the only way to learn. It was good to spear the sharks and pick up the imaginary suitcase, and point my index finger in front. Like many swimmers I tend to cross my hands over in the front so I’m trying to remember to reach out wide (10 and 2 o clock in my head probably gets my arms to shoulder height).

Back in the summer I did a little bit of work on technique by going to the brilliant Fiona Ford for swim Smooth session. I’ll share what we did on You Tube later in the week.

 

 

A great long run is a series of small steps.

Doing the long session as part of your weekly training is what endurance is all about. I do love the long session. For me that’s generally a long run, but very soon will be a long bike ride, and a long swim too.

When it comes to running, the first step is the thing that makes it a great long run. Getting out of bed, putting on your trainers, and getting out the door.

Setting out on a long run can be a way to discover new places and can be a voyage of exploration on new paths, twists and turns. Yesterday we were checking out the route from Brighton to Eastbourne. The plan had been to run to Eastbourne and get the train home, but Storm Brian had meant the trains weren’t running so well. So instead, the plan was to run 10 miles out and 10 miles back.

I tripped on a very slight rise in the path on the prom just three miles into the 20-mile run. I whacked my shoulder and hip, but got up and was able to carry on. I felt good on the way out as the wind blew us along, along the undercliff path from the Marina in Brighton and then up to the top towards Peacehaven and a little beyond. It was, to coin a pahrase, a breeze. But the ease at which we were striding along the unknown path was an ominous warning of what was to come. And as expected the route back was tough, running 10 miles into a headwind, I have to confess I did get a bit grumpy as the jelly baby sugar rush dropped low, and I shouted out, ‘I’m not enjoying this anymore’.

Sea runThe path on the way back changed, too. The tide had come in and so the undercliff path was flooded and the waves crashed over the wall. At first I was scared. Thoughts of that one freak wave flooded my imagination as I splashed through the watery path. There really would be no way to escape it, if it had come in. But soon I was invigorated again by the huge waves. Getting closer to the wall so I could get splashed like a child on a water coaster.

The bull in the field, or the cow with her heifers, the odd-looking lone man, border line hypothermia in snow and rain, punctures, crazy currents and waves. The endurance athlete’s weekly event of ‘going long’  is like a mini life story with all sorts of emotions, obstacles, and terrains to cross, and very often a range of feelings from exhiliaration to  F**k this! Too much of the latter can lead to the whole thing being a negative experience, the long run being a drag, and in the long term damage gets done to our muscles and joints. It’s how we look at each long run we do that matters.

Yesterday, I pulled myself back together. And towards the end I was in the rhythm of the run, concentrating without thinking, in the flow, feeling tired, but knowing I could keep going. I also knew stopping was going to mean geting going was going to be hard work. Momentum mattered.

Going long is just a series of steps. At a very inspring talk set up by Virgin last week, the founder of the successful Conker Gin, Rupert Holloway said that business is just a series of decisions. There’s no big secret formula you need to discover to succeed. Take that next step or stop. Turn this way or that. Run up the hill or take the flat route today. Go out in the stormy weather, or stay in bed.  Buy or sell, be kind or unkind, happy or unhappy.

We live in an era where many of us will be in it for the long run. As medicine has advanced to keep us alive, it’s important to make a decision to live well now, not just live long. Diana Gould, is a 105 and was featured on this morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She lives well and it’s clear that her secret to a long and healthy life comes from those minute by minute decisions, and how she looks at her age. “I’ve got a lot of years, but I’m not an old woman,” she says. She says she’s kept moving, she’s kept social, she’s kept her brain active, and she enjoys life and things she loves. She loves chocolate and makes the daily decision to keep it in the fridge, that way she has to walk to go and get it – and that little step, that small bit of daily exercise contributes to making her live well in this long life of hers.

Listen to Diana Gould: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b099v2py#play