Friday, March 30, 2012

Outdoor Fitness

I am signed up with Outdoor Fitness for 6 weeks of sessions and seeing what it will do for me. I did my first session on Monday evening, and aside from being a slightly confused 'newbie' I think I did okay. The fact that I had to take things easy because of my ongoing hip / back (sacroiliac joint) problems meant that I didn't reach falling down tired. Although that said the sweat was literally pouring off me a couple of times.
Lime Avenue (Pontcanna Field, Cardiff) - photo by Peter Cox
(borrowed from a BBC local page

On Tuesday I did it all over again, a different instructor, a mostly different group of people (though I can't say I gave over much time to memorising faces when I spent so of it staring at either the ground or the sky doing press-up, squat thrusts, sit-ups, burpees, etc.), and the weather was lovely again. The workout is deceptive, it builds through out and the changing locations with changing routines don't allow you a great deal of time to think "oh, this is another exercise hitting my quads" and so forth. We did a fair bit in pairs which meant a poor guy had to piggy back me along at a 3 stone disadvantage, I like to think he appreciated the challenge (!).

The final session of the week (thanks to a busy family weekend) was last night. In the glorious sunny weather the session turned out to be mostly baseball / rounders with an exercise twist - every time your team lost out i.e. lost a run or lost a batter the whole team did a 5 burpee or some such exercise penalty. I haven't played in I don't know how long so it was awesome fun, even with the 'penalties'. It is not that I am saying this because I scored two runs, oh no, it was a genuinely fun, energetic giggle. The guy I'd met earlier in the week confessed he'd been coming a year and never had this kind of session. So true to their word the outdoor experience is absolutely mixed, varied and puts a lot of fun into exercise.

On reflection my week of running around a huge open park with about twenty people and a mad keen instructor was actually much, much more fun than I had perhaps anticipated, certainly the time flew by. The hour long session felt like much less because primarily of the variety and pace of everything. As part of my fitness 'mix' this certainly seems to be an interesting addition, I'm so interested to find out how I'll feel at the end of the sessions block I am involved with.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wittering on Wednesday

With the conversion of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland across to BST (British Summer Time) this weekend just gone the whole day suddenly alters. The apparent arrival of longer lighter evenings open up the day to many options, in my life that is getting out and about (cycling, running, rowing more in the weekday evenings). I can almost feel any hint of what might be called collective seasonal affective disorder burning off everyone in the last few days.

Blogger's own snapshot - City centre park coming into full blossom
The fact it has coincided with very lovely sunny weather might well have accentuated the benefit of the clock shift this year. That it also coincides with my training for a marathon this year might be heightening the feeling for me as it now means that evening runs will often be in daylight (and on routes that have felt unsafe all Winter as they are unlit paths / trials).

Training / fitness
I have been renewing my 'friendship' with the calorie tracking myfitnesspal app (see, thanks to having read a post by 'Morning Runner', specifically "WIAW (after a 20 miler)". I was using this app last year (I have the tag on my blog showing my progress still), but had gotten out of the habit. Reading a post by one of the many extremely clued in running bloggers that I have been browsing in spare moments which mentioned the app got me thinking, and moreover remembering how well it worked for me before the Cardiff Half last autumn. So I am back 'on the wagon' so to speak, and hopefully over the next few weeks I'll begin to see real benefits. One benefit, as pointed out in the post I read, is that it helps you keep track of 'refueling' after heavy exercise days, as it is all to easy to wake up the day after a busy day feeling awful just because the exercise left you with net negative calorie count for the previous day.

Motivation right here, I've got to get into green ;-) - an image pulled from my myfitnesspal tools page
Having had a look around my myfitnesspal online pages, with charts of last years effort and so forth, I came across the BMI calculator (result shown above). I was mildly miffed (!) that my BMI came in just over the green / yellow boundary, it would be so fantastic to get myself firmly planted somewhere in the upper quartile of the healthy range... oh, and so much easier to run a marathon if I can shift a few pounds, and not have to haul the extra around 26.2 miles!

Blogging and stuff
While I am wittering on about blogs I've read lately I often have a look at blogger 'Blogs of note' page on the way into or out of my blog. One that has caught my eye and my attention of late is '366 Random Acts Of Kindness', it is thoroughly simply and yet complete genius. A guy has decided to take the leap year and spend a large part of it paying forward kind acts (see his post 'Tomorrow it begins...' for his full motivation). Some of the acts at first look seem so, so simple and then you realise "hey, I could do that" - and there in lies the essence of the genius. I will be checking back regularly to see how he gets on.

PS. I am enjoying the new Blogger user interface it is certainly cleaner and crisper looking than I was used to. It seems that I can navigate my way around it to - which is always a good thing ;-)

Monday, March 26, 2012

How last week turned out - A week in review

It was a topsy turvy week last week, between physio sessions and considering my marathon training. In the end I resolved to keep training as best and as varied as I can for the next four weeks and then assess where I am. This is in the end all about getting 'on the move' and getting (maintaining) fitness, so I have relaxed a little at the realisation that this isn't the only marathon - it is a goal I set myself and I can give myself permission to move it if my body isn't capable, on that day, of completing it. By the way it is very much about completion in spite of my original flirtation with time/pace charts (I have revised these thoughts as well).

In the week just gone I got back to aerobics sessions and instantly realised this was a major missing ingredient in my 2012 fitness efforts. I switched to longer mileage on the road, then for time and other reasons dropped the simple aerobic workouts with all their active stretching, strength and lateral movement elements. A lesson learned last week that I hope will lodge itself firmly in my memory - "variety is the spice and the essence of training".

X-trainer a go-go - fuel, water, towel, ipod and an exciting beige wall to stare at.
Variety of a sort I suppose, also came in the form of my re-acquaintance with the elliptical cross-trainer in the rowing club gym. On advice from the physio the trainer was to be used to help keep workouts going while my hip / back gets sorted out. Two hours on the cross trainer went by pretty well much helped by the fact it's programmed to reset every twenty minutes (a throwback to it's former life in another gym I suspect). The frequent interruptions kept my relatively mind busy. 

I don't normally train outside with any music, but in the gym with it's associated background noise I found the ipod equally useful for my sanity. From my calculations of the distance after each twenty minute reset I covered at least a half-marathon distance on it which was pleasing to say the least. More sessions to come and more tactics to cancel out the tedium might be needed along the way... I am thinking a film loaded on the ipod might be useful, or a good audio book at the very least :-)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Regular Friday stroll - with a good friend

No exercise other than stretching today... well except for the regular stroll with the hound this morning. We get out most mornings for at least a trip round the block, although most of the time a stroll round along the river. I measured our strolls once or twice, but I forget how far we roam in a normal week and thats kinda how I like it. Our red hound does help keep me "on the move" in his own special way.
Our faithful greyhound looking all noble by the river

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oh dear that wasn't good

I got myself out on the road last night for the first time since my half marathon DNF, and it hurt like fury. My calf was so tight that I had to walk three times around a 3.8 mile circuit. Happily my hip was only sore after the run as I sat down to look at my GPS watch data. Lots of stretching had to be done in the lounge later in the evening to keep things comfortable. The pace when I was moving wasn't too bad, but it didn't feel at all free and flowing.
From here the plan still is to do more of these short runs and to get myself back onto a cross trainer to do some long low impact sessions. The rest of the plan is to do some light aerobics sessions, and to stretch, stretch, stretch!

Last night I looked at a googlemaps / mapmyrun 3D flying overview of the Milton Keynes marathon course, which was useful to assess the overall terrain and how many turns or level changes to expect along the way. I thought it would be a very useful motivation, and I think if I view it a few more times it could be a good tool.

...there I feel a little better... images in a post. I have not been particularly creative of late and frankly haven't had the greatest amount of time to sit down at the keyboard with these things. There are a bunch of photos from my recent 10k run that I have to get around to uploading. I'll have to get a little more strategic about my blogging again :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Physio session and another anatomy lesson

Yesterday saw another trip to the physiotherapist - I say another trip but I am lucky that I don't go 'that' often, it just feels that way when injury strikes. The pain from the half marathon attempt had not subsided and at times I have been finding it very hard to get out of the car - the power / strength in my hip muscles would seem to vanish as I tried to stand up out of the seat.

After a period of my relaying recent exercise / running history we got to the moment where the physio says something like "Okay, I think I know where the trouble may lie. Let's do some tests and find out". Therein I undertook the various required assessment movements and then received my anatomy lesson around the hip / spine area and meet my sacroiliac joint - not one I had ever heard of or indeed really wanted to meet. Finally a series of manipulations freed up what apparently was an immobilised (very stiff) right side and left me freer to move and flex through my hips.

Here on in I have a set of new strengthening exercises / stretches to do to for the whole area (right and left sides), to better respond to lateral pressures of running and eventually be better prepared to run long and tired without developing issues. I have 40 days to go until my first marathon and I have sworn to follow advice (do more cross-training, do the strengthening, and be extremely careful with mileage - more frequent shortened runs, rather than runs punctuated by huge long runs).

The physio is a genius, he lays things out with the most fantastic common sense and in an extremely user-friendly way. At this point I can only hope that I can be as much of a genius and stick to his advice.... especially if want any hope of standing on the start line with realistic hopes of finishing my first marathon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Triumph and disaster - highs and lows of a running week

Last week I had a week of opposites running wise, I start this roller coaster at the St.Davids day 10k run where I set a huge personal best. My GPS watch told me I went under 50mins for the first time, which even with the course change I think would stand (chip times were gun-to-finish thanks to the last minute course correction, so no official chip timed PB).

Fabulous then? So fabulous I then ran my now regular 9miler the following night at a fair 'ole' pace as well, so fabulous I then said "Sure I'll go running" to my training buddy the next evening... in total 24miles+ in three days (at intensity). Ah, now I knew the Bath Half was the following weekend (of course) so I resolved to rest for the rest of the week going into it... ahem, here comes the down slope to this story.

In work the rest of the week I was doing something 'new' which meant standing for near enough the entire working day 3 days running (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). So I wasn't much resting there, it is a complete change to my usually varied sitting / standing (mostly sitting) work routine. On the top I caught a viral infection that took up residence in my ear making me dizzy from the Wednesday onwards. Hmmm, you can perhaps get a sense of how well my half marathon weekend went... it was my first ever DNF... my first ever running FAIL!... I got to half way and pulled out.

There are though after a few days reflection some positives: (1) I now know I have the mental strength to make the right decisions for my health during an event / race [it would have been all to easy to have struggled on and broken myself completely], (2) the preparation logistically before the race went well, we were organised and in good time, (3) it seems that I am not too badly hurt, though yet more stretches have been added to my repetioire, (4) I know what signs to look out for that would stop me setting foot on any start line should they arise just before race day.