Friday, August 29, 2014

Change all around

This weekend I get my running shoes on again after our holiday and a week back in work, happily I am looking forward to getting out there again. This week has seen me finally change my eating habits, gone is the snacking, gone are the random lunchtime menus (I am packing my bag each morning with a lunch), gone is the huge breakfast, gone is the quick lunch. All of this is of course sensible, by the way my breakfast is not microscopic just not so large, and so I am feeling the benefits already. I have been using the myfitnesspal app for a few weeks again now, and I am using it to generally follow my habits this time using it to make sure I don't have massive high and low days.

Other change sees me tackling a new parkrun course, but at the same location (?). Thanks to the NATO summit coming to Newport (and Cardiff) this year the local parkrun has had to move its route to a neighbouring bit of parkland. Its all to do with rather imposing (and expensive) fences, and turning a whole city upside down so that two lunches can be held. Be amazing if there were ever a lunch that caused so much upheaval - I am sure someone with a better knowledge of History would come up with some clever examples of ones that have. Anyhoo, I digress, this weekend should be a solid run with no PB attempt as I have the 10k race next week (also disrupted and on a changed route) and really need to build into the three races I have steadily.

In other change, I start a new contract in a few days time that means little on the face of it but quite a bit in terms of progression of the project (in fact it means that I stay with the project for a while longer). Changing across contracts is something I have had to do a few times, but every time I seem to forget that feeling that comes with the process, renewal, excitement, nerves, paperwork (!). Very happily I get to keep the same desk so my new lunch routines should be easier to keep rolling.

And the last change is I haven't referred to the term 'mojo' out loud (or in my head) for a few days which I also hope is a sign that things are back on track... I'll let you know on Monday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Up - Down - Up - Down... repeat

So just what on earth does that post title mean?

Well it refers to my recent exercise habits, one week upbeat (good habits), one week down (bad habits), I think you get the gist. To be fair I was in France last week for a fabulous family holiday... ah, but if you've ever read one those magazine articles titled "How to keep your exercise going on holiday" then I did just about the opposite - mmm, and the French food is sooooo good.

I am left wondering whether the next month (40 days actually) will be 'kill or cure' as regards my running woes, as in that time I have three races signed up and paid for. It will be the best possible outcome if I manage to find some sort of routine during that period and head into the Winter in a good running mojo 'place'... now where's my phone I need to try and book a run with my training buddy...

Hope your running is going strong and you are heading into the autumn season with good races ahead :-)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fun - "It Doesn't Matter" - Wyclef Jean, The Rock, Melky & Sedek

Today I just thought I'd share the song that is guaranteed to make me smile... the title says it all... enjoy :-D

Wyclef Jean, The Rock, Melky & Sedek - "It Doesn't Matter"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not exactly rocket science - Wittering on Wednesday

Eureka, I think I have hit upon a complete new and novel approach to getting this fitness thing done - eat better X move better = feel better - a simple and powerful equation to sit with the collection of other important equations from across the ages...
Image"Hand Drawing Scientist Portrait" by MR LIGHTMAN courtesy of
...aaaah wait no!!! I have of course 'rediscovered' the mantra that near enough all health and fitness professionals will quote in one form or another. Did this revelation come from listening to these good good people? Well no, it came from me being constantly broken, feeling crap, generally getting no where, and then having one of those light bulb moments after finding myself in my fitness slump - I was not moving as much as I used to in as many ways as I used to, plus I was not eating not so well on top of that - in the end wasn't difficult maths at all... after all I am not a Rocket Scientist :-)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Last weeks surprises

Last week all in all was a good running week, including three sessions (the experimental short run, the medium length (8.3km) running buddy run, and the 5km parkrun on Saturday). I could have done more runs, but I am trying to avoid going crazy and diving into big distance increases. Taking into account my recent mojo issues none of them were awful although none set my World alight.

The highlight in the end was simple - the parkrun on Saturday turned out to be a PB. Why say it like that? Well because when I crossed the line it didn’t feel like a PB, in so far as it didn’t feel smooth, relaxed, or moreover quick! I went out from the ‘gun’ with the intention to get a PB and so stood further up the starting funnel. Over the first km I felt I hadn’t moved far enough up the funnel because I couldn’t get a rhythm going and was swerving off the path here and there to get around groups of runners. Kilometer number two was where I started wrestling with whether I should be forefoot landing or heel striking as I discovered I have already developed two distinct styles (how in a short time I did not know, I am old I am not meant to learn new tricks) and could feel real differences between them. I opted to heel strike, as I knew I was asking for calf trouble if I got carried away ‘forefooting’ or ‘midfooting’ (I am not 100% sure where the new strike is).

So I wobbled through the middle km musing ‘those’ changes and trying to run relaxed with whatever my feet were, or weren’t, doing. At this point I was musing chasing red shirts or blue shirts for the second half of my negative split effort. The fourth km got very difficult, I was sure I wasn’t on a PB by this point and wasn’t seeing the other runners coming back to me as fast as previously (“because you should further up the funnel dummy” – I realised later). I was puffing and blowing at this point wondering why it was so sunny after cooling rain had been threatening and falling for most of the rest of the morning. It was hot!

The final km of the parkrun in through the trees began to feel a little better, mostly because fatigued had wiped earlier musing from my overactive monkey brain. I was chasing blue tops by this point, which was great as there were quite a few of them. I held my final burst for the last 100m rather than 200m - unlike every week, and finished absolutely shattered – like every week. I headed off home confident that a PB had eluded me telling myself that the GPS told me the same as it had the previous time... happily I was wrong I had bagged a PB by fully 30sec! (big enough for me and my fragile mojo to celebrate).

Otherwise there is slow progress as my weight has probably stabilised but is showing no signs of dropping. I have though been getting a bit more sleep and if I can do that more consistently I think I really will see a difference. A bit like seeing the model car you just bought on absolutely every street corner, I have been seeing and hearing references to quality sleep and training all week – as if to bash me over the head with just how bad at resting I had gotten during my summer slump.

All the ruminating and stride analysis did lead to one same lightbulb moment, which is this – I march! When I walk I over stride and smack me feet into the ground as if I was on the parade square. I have been tempted to blame being an army brat (child of a forces family), or the fact that I am tall and maybe carried on showing off my huge stride as a kid into later life. But whatever the reason I have been tried to consciously walk ‘light’, not exactly forefoot walking (not sure that does or should exist) just walking without the almighty thumps I normally do. I think it was this that has engrained the running stride changes in my muscle memory and that complained as I started banging my legs against the ground in kilometre two of the parkrun.

Whatever last week was or was not I am happy that I am trying changes, and that some unexpected outcomes, if not the expected outcomes, are reminding me that it is all worthwhile.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Breaking out of a running rut

30 days to go until my first autumn test – that’s right I have a 10k race in a months time even with my mojo still lost in the woods somewhere! Better than that from there I have a 'race' every other weekend until the end of September... it will be either boom or bust with my running mojo by the end of that period.

I am pinning a few hopes on the theory that immersing myself in things will help shake the junk out of my system and bring about a good autumn / winter of running and training in general. At the moment I am doing just about everything that any reasonable running magazine article might suggest to break out a rut...

  1. Running for fun not goals.
  2. Eating better.
  3. Trying new things in running training.
  4. Running with a friend.
  5. Joined a club (I am stretching the definition to include the parkrun experience).
  6. Building / changing routine (specifically by trying to get into a better sleep pattern).
  7. Incorporating targets, such as races to shape and direct training.

Did I leave anything out that would also help?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mojo? Mojo? Anyone seen my mojo?

And so I went for my comeback run yesterday inspired by my recent reading and musings, and in fact it turned out to be a complete mixed bag of a run...

  1. I did it.
  2. Managed to complete the run with what felt like a new non-heel striking action.
  3. I used the pair of less cushioned shoes I've had for ages.
  4. It was raining.
  5. I ran with a quicker cadence the whole way powered by a Metronome app.
  6. I forgot my GPS watch (I didn't want to know my pace during the run).
  1. It was very very humid.
  2. I realised just how completely and utterly unfit I am at the moment .
  3. My calves started to complain with 500m to home.
  4. I had to put up with the Metronome app the whole way (my brain started to ache, tick-2-3!)
  5. I forgot my GPS watch (I wanted to know my pacing after I'd finished).
All in I suppose I was pleased, but felt very far away even from tentative plans I was making back in May for better running ("Variety I hope will be spice of running"). I am back around the loop of 'lack of fitness' to 'some form of fitness' again, and I am not at all happy about it. Finding my running mojo will, I hope, sort this out though its obvious you can't shake a slump in a day (d'uh!).

I dared stepping on the weighing apparatus for the first time in a long time and it really slammed home how crap things had gotten in the slump. I am at the high part of an oscillation I have been in for the last three years of wandering up to nearly 15st and then down to 14st and back again. Thus, I am back using the MyFitnessPal app again albeit it with the heavy heart of someone who recognises as a yo yo diet pattern when he sees one. Perhaps this time, eh? Again I am hoping that moving / running will fix things here, as long as I can be smart enough to avoid injury.

Tonight I ran 8.5km of a standard loop with my running buddy, wherein we chatted the whole way and I found I was working much harder than my compatriot. This is all good though because when we get our act together the pair of us make a good motivational pair. I ran the whole way 'normally', in that I didn't accentuate any change of style (i.e. I landed most of the time heel first). To begin with I am aiming for one session a week of forefoot, hoping to bed it in slow and increase things gently. Almost certain I will run all my autumn events with no particular style in mind and see what feels comfort at different points in the races.

The biggest realisation that I have had is that I am going to navigating a difficult balancing act of fitness vs. form, it will indeed to tricky to do much quality running while I am so unfit and yet I don't want to run those 'get fit' runs in with a poor running form that might bring on old injuries... chicken -> egg, egg -> chicken??

Monday, August 04, 2014

Getting my mojo back

The last few weeks post-slump haven't really been too much different from the slump itself in that I haven't done anywhere near as much as I want to and I have eaten poorly. With that said I have signed up for 'new' challenges (two 10k races as well as the half marathon), I have been reading for inspiration, and I have been formulating (at least in my head) an 18 month plan to really tackle my running issues. Yup, as a runner I just said "I have running issues", a little strange perhaps but true - more something you might hear a non-runner say. I know a lot of runners want to change this and that, go faster and so forth, but I am trying to rebuild the love that I realise I lost a little whilst walking the second half of my last marathon carrying injury niggles and poor preparation around 26.2miles.

So from here I am running for fun again, aiming to enjoy race events, and taking any kind of pressure I can away from any run. I am going to get to the local Parkrun when I can and enjoy the event, I am going to work on my running systematically without a big stick with "go faster!" written in large letters on it. Somewhere I forgot to enjoy the fact that I used to be unable to do this running stuff without major issues, and forgot to just enjoy the fact that my body moving through space is so much more fulfilling than my body resenting movement and craving lazy time.

Part of my reconnection with running and hopefully my running mojo has been through reading and by reading I don't mean those 'how to' manuals I mean reading the life affirming types of running books. I just finished "Born to Run", having had so many people look at me a bit weird for not having picked it up... it was / is a great book and I think will aid my revival.

The copy I borrowed from a friend and read in a hurry - a book review post may well follow

Until I lace my shoes up next (as soon as I can, within the next 24 hours) I will really find out if my running soul searching has shifted the slump and delivered a hefty dollop of mojo.

I hope your running mojo is alive, kicking, and bringing fun to your runs.