Everything is good

January is the worst month of the year, I’m sure most of us we’ll agree. Conversely, however, I’m starting the year feeling pretty good.

To be honest, I shouldn’t really be in such a great mood. My leg is still feeling a tad niggly and my runs aren’t going as smoothly as they should this close to the marathon (sorry this is such a boring repetition right now). There’s no pain or horrendous discomfort, but I know in myself it’s not perfect and running twice in a row or pushing out the mileage or number of times I run in the week would definitely be risky. Not only this but my longest run for a fair few weeks (months!) is six miles. Seven weeks out to a marathon this is not ideal.

That said, I’m a glass half-full kind of girl (which is one of the reasons I have so many adult fails as I just presume things are going to work out and neglect to double check or consider contingency plans). I’ve got a general fitness, I’ve run seven marathons before, I have seven hours to complete it… I mean, it could go terribly let’s be honest. My leg could really start to bother me and walking could even eventually be an issue. I might DNF my first marathon. I might be in the middle of a foreign country I’ve never been to, knowing no one, half-way through a marathon I can’t complete, in tears. I mean, that’s the worst case scenario and if it happens it happens. The silver lining is that it’ll make for a great blog post 😉 In a very schadenfreuden way, failures and mishaps are sometimes a more interesting read than someone who succeeds. Obviously I don’t want to fail. More than anything, it’s a bloody expensive failure. And also, having a marathon meltdown isn’t that fun when it’s actually happening to you.

Foam rolling like a trooper

Marathons aside, mentally and physically I’m in a fantastic place.  I feel strong and healthy. Though I’m not running regularly, at the gym I’m lifting heavier weights and feeling strong. I’m still maintaining a level of fitness through running two-three times a week as well as some of my own spinning sessions and steady-state elliptical machine.Long-term readers may remember some frustrations I had a year or so ago about my body basically failing me in certain ways. Things have changed, for the better! I’ve put on about three pounds over the year – which I know isn’t massive and is probably a mix of muscle and fat. I mean, my weight probably varies a few pounds either way but long-term I’ve remained at the same consistent weight. It seems be a nice happy point for me and it’s clearly helped bump me in the right direction to feel and be in optimal health. I feel happier where I am at the moment and really like how I look and what my body can do. My main intention is obviously not lose any weight when my running increases but I’ve got a pretty good handle on this.

Key things that I’ve found that helped get me here:

  • Eating good food and lots of it. I tend to be fairly healthy during the week and then relax at the weekend. If I want cake, I’ll eat it. If I want a takeaway, I’ll have it. I don’t restrict anything but I am conscious of what I’m eating in general. I eat lots of good fats, complex carbs and protein. I’d say my diet is probably more protein and fat heavy though than carb-based. And I’ll tend to time my carbs around when I’m running to get the max benefit. But I do eat a lot, as I’m sure you’ve seen by now! I’m a three course kinda girl 😉 Essentially, I don’t worry about what I eat as throughout the week it all balances nicely.
  • Sleeping enough. I get up ridiculously early in the morning to go to the gym (3-4 times a week, lifting weights). I try not to stay up past 10pm and I find that works for me.
  • Minimising stress. In general my life is not that stressful. I enjoy my job, though my commute sucks at times. I’ve just come to accept some days are good and some days are bad – learn to control the controllables and don’t worry about things are out of your control. I have a great network of friends and family so when life does get hard I’m fully supported. I know I’m very lucky and blessed in this respect.
  • Being sensible with running. Running is a stressor and clearly my body is sensitive. So not training for a marathon all year round will help. After the spring I will be spending the summer and winter just enjoying running and entering races I fancy, but not a marathon. The training for a marathon is a fairly long and arduous process, one that my body might appreciate not doing all the time. I will be running marathons in the future, obviously, but it’s no longer as big a priority as it used to be.

So yeah. I’m feeling pretty happy right now. Mentally over the past year I’ve become a lot more happy in myself and confident. It’s nice that that’s also being reflected to how I feel and how my body functions.

What are important things for you in terms of reaching optimal health?

How much sleep do you get?

How is January for you?

Training for a marathon on minimal running

Over Christmas and New Year I didn’t do a whole lot of running. While it’s super frustrating to still have this shin niggle, I wasn’t too bothered.

It helps, obviously, to have a lot of distractions going on with meals out, seeing friends, going to the pub and spending time with people I care about. I’ve never felt so – what’s the best word? – indifferent about an injury before. Yes it sucks and of course I’d love to run but it’s kind of an annoyance that I keep batting away as I get on with other things.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not entirely sure this is a great way to think considering my impending marathon in February but hey ho. I’m enjoying a”putting my head in the sand” kind of mentality because there’s not much else I can do.

I am running but I’m not running nearly as much or as consistently as I should (for marathon training). Ramping up quickly and steeply would frankly be very stupid. So I’m pootling along doing the odd run here or there. I’m supplementing my lack of running with cross training so it’s not all doom and gloom but it’s the pounding on the legs that I kind of need to experience. All the cardio fitness in the world won’t help if my legs get tired and worn out after 10 miles.

That said, the running I am doing seems to be going OK. I left it a week after the Christmas parkrun to run again as I wanted to be super sensible. I got some acupuncture and a massage from my friend Kyle which definitely seemed to help. Instead I went on the elliptical machine and bike – either doing steady state cardio or short sharp sprints with recoveries. I quite enjoyed being at the gym and not having to rush about like I do when it’s super early in the morning.I could do my cardio first and then do my usual weights. It meant for a longer period in the gym but seen as how I wasn’t running it made sense. Plus I really enjoyed it. I like the gym and feel like it’s my “happy place” right now. And a lovely woman gave me a really nice compliment one day by saying I had a fab body and clearly worked hard. That was nice because, well, yes I do kind of work fairly hard so it’s nice someone doesn’t just assume it’s good genes or not eating – like so many people have said to me before. Cue dramatic eye roll whenever someone says that to me.

On New Year’s Eve I headed down to Netley for parkrun. My leg felt really good and, though I was nervous, I was keen to get out and run. I pushed the pace more than I did at Christmas. It felt quite tough and towards the end I was near my limit.

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I found the hills tough going but luckily I had a few people around me to keep me going – though they did sprint off at the last bit effectively ditching me! 😉

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I was quite pleased with my time: 23:13 (the fastest since August, but that’s not a particularly good feat seen as how inconsistent my running has been for the past few months!).I was more impressed with my negative split. I mean the start was fairly awkward because I was stuck behind lots of people, having positioned myself too far back, but then that helped stop me going too fast. I did feel fairly shattered by the end. My niggle felt fine though the entire run and at the end so I was more pleased with that than anything to be honest.

My next run was Monday. I had a great weekend of eating lots of good food and celebrating New Year’s Eve but felt ready to go in the morning after breakfast and doing some chores (those oh so fun “back to work” style chores that get left to the last minute). The run felt amazing! My legs felt smooth and it felt comfortably tough but enjoyable. I listened to some random music and just felt in the zone. The weather was crisp and cold but lovely and sunny.To be fair, the route I took was fairly flat so it was easier to push the speed but I was really pleased with being able to maintain a faster pace. I mean, I couldn’t have run much further at the pace I was going but it was nice to blast out some speed. Probably not entirely sensible I guess with the old niggle but it felt fine during and after so I’ll take it!

So basically my plan of attack for this looming marathon is to try and run three times a week. Probably two of those runs 3-4 miles and then a longer run at the weekend…But we’re not talking any crazy 18 milers. I’ll be lucky to get to 16 miles I think. I’m just going to take each run as it comes. The goal is to be able to run the marathon – at what pace I frankly don’t care, but just to not be injured or suffering through any pain or discomfort (asides from the usual marathon-induced fatigue). It’s a big ask but I’ve just got to be sensible!

Did you run over the holidays?

Have you ever had to do a negative taper for a marathon? Which is effectively what I’m going to be doing!

Winchester Christmas markets and a come back?

Oh I feel super Christmassy now. I’ve bought all my presents (wrapping is yet to be done but, details!), sent all my Christmas cards, worn my Christmas jumper, had my Christmas parties and eaten a proper roast turkey meal with all the trimmings. Yes indeed, Christmas is in full force.

The one thing I’m holding back on is the Christmas playlist. That bad boy gets rocked out closer to the day to maximise the effect (or rather, not make me want to tear my hair out too quickly after the 17th time of hearing All I Want For Christmas…).

On Saturday I forwent parkrun for the Winchester Christmas markets instead. Though I obviously love parkrun and my shin/calf is feeling better, the Christmas markets was just too much of a lure. I stayed at my parent’s house on Friday night and we left super early to beat the traffic and rush (well, we left at 9.30am which isn’t that early but pretty good for us considering we’re the most disorganised family known to man).

We got the Park and Ride which is probably the best way to do it (£3 to park the car and then everyone gets a seat on the bus, pretty good and only 15 minutes away from the centre). It was busy already though!We headed straight to the Cathedral where the actual Christmas market was located and wandered around slowly looking at all the different stalls. There were lots of craft-style stalls selling handmade jewellery, scarfs, ornaments etc. There were also food-related stalls selling cheese, dried meats and fudge and then hot food stalls selling bacon rolls and burgers.

There were some quaint old fashioned style ones selling roasted chestnuts, caramelised nuts, hot mulled wine and toasted marshmallows as well which all smelt divine.

There was also an outdoor ice rink as well but we weren’t tempted! I got myself a Schokokuss (a ‘chocolate kiss’) which I’d had in Berlin and loved. There were lots of different flavours, like Baileys, chocolate orange, dark chocolate, but I went for a white chocolate almond and honey flavoured one. It was delicious. Basically it’s like a teacake – waffery base topped with marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate.I shared it with my mum and dad (who didn’t want one of their own as they’re trying to be healthy – who even are they??) and it was delicious.

Obviously got a photo of the nativity scene because…Christmas. Though the sign above kept reminding me of Madonna’s “Step into the groove” song. Not sure why I felt the need to touch Mary’s shoulder. Perhaps I just thought it made her feel more involved in the photo 😉

And then the pièce de résistance… hot churros dusted with sugar and melted chocolate.Despite seeing the churros being dipped into boiling oil and then quickly sprinkled in sugar and chocolate and handed to me within a one minute period I still felt the need to try one immediately. And then, delightfully caught on camera by my loving father, managed to look oh so attractive in my first scorching bite. The burning was worth it though, they were damn good (but if I had one tiny criticism it would be more chocolate was needed…but that’s just coming from a very greedy person).Overall, the markets were really good. There was a choir, it was very Christmassy and the food was good. But it was rather small and there were no gingerbread biscuits or more snacky items like that (again, this is from a greedy person). It doesn’t help that I’ve been to Berlin where their Christmas markets really do steal the show and I’m comparing them to that.

After doing a bit more shopping on the highstreet and general moseying around, we decided to have some lunch at a lovely Thai tapas restaurant called Koh Thai that, funnily enough, my physio had recommended to me.

Usually tapas is a bit of a pain for me as I don’t share food but as I was with company who understands that (i.e. my parents) so I knew I was in safe territory 😉 We all ordered a main (which wasn’t really a true main, but a slightly bigger small dish that you didn’t share) and then I ordered ribs strictly to be eaten only by me and some pork salad bites to share. My parents ordered chicken satay, crispy beef and fishcakes for sharing, because they’re reasonable human beings.My main was a chicken salad. Honestly the food was AMAZING. I’m actually not a huge Thai food fan (or Chinese fan either) but it was so good. The flavours were so fresh and tasty. However there were some very cheeky sneaky chillies in my salad and halfway through the meal I felt like my tongue had had a layer taken off the top of it and my eyes were streaming. The ribs were to die for though, obviously.

Though I wasn’t hugely hungry to start with because of said treats above, we left no prisoners behind. Though to be fair, the meal was pretty healthy for a meal out (quantity aside). Though my tummy was buzzing by the end.

I had planned to do a run that morning before we went to the markets but I decided to leave it until later so I could be a bit more warmed-up and also not have wasted a potential lie-in (though I woke up naturally ridiculously early anyway…*sighs*). As it took a while to amble back to the bus stop, then the car journey home my stomach was in a better shape to attempt a run. I was super nervous and fully dreading it. I decided to run from my parent’s house before I left to go home just because I had a better three mile route and I could moan like a brat to my parents if it went badly (aren’t I delightful?).

Expecting the worse as soon as I stated I was pleasantly surprised to feel fine. As the run continued I could feel an echo of the niggle so just concentrated on my form and breathing and tried not to over-think things. It didn’t get worse so I carried on. I actually felt great running in terms of fitness. I felt very comfortable and within myself, though I loathed to look at my watch, thinking I didn’t need to see how much speed I’d lost. So I was really chuffed to see a nice negative split.

And a good pace for having not run in a far number of weeks! Clearly my boring cardio sessions have maintained something. My calf/shin felt reasonably OK after the run – not better, not worse. Not perfect…so I’ll need to take this very slowly and one run at a time.I mean, Sod’s Law will be that my next run will be terrible and I’ll be back to square one, but hey let’s be positive. It’s Christmas after all 😉

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year?

What would you buy/eat from a Christmas market?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

All the puddings

This weekend was full of highs and lows. Let’s get the lows done quickly, shall we?

I ran on Monday night and my shin/calf was really niggly. It had niggled slightly at parkrun a week ago but I put it down to it being really cold and my muscles not being warm enough. But Monday clarified things. It didn’t feel right and afterwards it felt pretty crappy. I’ll go into this in another post but basically this is rubbish.

Anyway, I didn’t run again until deciding to try a few miles before parkrun this weekend (because I was panicking I hadn’t hit the 8 mile long run I needed to for Tokyo). Though I knew I was lying to myself. I knew the run wouldn’t go well really and this was just to avoid me going to parkrun believing I could run and having to DNF. So on my pre-parkrun walk with Alfie I ran up the road with him and decided it was a no-go. I got back home, wrapped up in warmer clothes and headed to parkrun to set-up and volunteer.img_6900It was very cold and despite having several layers on and a hat I was cold. I was grumpy as I was overthinking about my leg, running and marathon training…but I was eventually cheered up by the lovely parkrun crew. You can’t be too sad at parkrun!

After parkrun and a hot bowl of porridge, I headed to the gym to take out some of my frustrations. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which made me feel a little better about not running and then did a fantastic glute workout which I’m still feeling today. This included:

• Squats
• Landmine squats (these are great for really working on your depth)
• Monster walks with a resistance band
• Cable pull-throughs
• Leg press burnout
• Single leg deadlifts

I left the gym feeling accomplished and far more happy. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out!

I was also feeling good because I was going out for a Christmas meal with my friends. It’s always so nice to dress up. I wore a very sparkly dress with sparkly shoes and felt really happy 🙂img_6924

We went to the Cams Mill pub (where the Fareham parkrun starts at). It was very nice!img_6935We’d made our menu selections a while ago and I was disappointed with myself for choosing trout as my main rather than turkey (who does that!??!). I think my rationale was that I didn’t want to over-do turkey before the big day. I was very jealous when the mains came out though. However, my trout was delicious (and I got some leftover turkey from one of my friends so it was a win-win!)cams-mill-pubAnd again I was annoyed that I’d selected a pear tart for pudding… but then realised I’d chosen it because the cheesecake was chocolate orange which I don’t really like. I’m not a Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan at all! And Christmas pudding is a bit too rich and alcoholly for me.

The pear tart, however, was really really good. The ice cream was lovely and creamy and the tart was lovely and (dare I say) moist. No big nasty chunks of pear in which I was fearing. As nice as it was, I got serious food envy when I saw the cheesecakes. They looked so good! My friends laughed at me for ordering the inferior pear tart and I grudgingly watched them enjoy their cheesecakes (the far more popular pudding choice). Isn’t it the way when even though the meal you’re eating is nice but you see something that looks more appealing suddenly your meal isn’t as good…just me?

However, I was very lucky that two of my friends didn’t finish their cheesecakes and passed them down to me! Now, on reflection, I can say the pear tart was the better pudding. I’m still not a chocolate orange fan and who serves cheesecake with orange sorbet?? But I can’t say I complained too much 😉 Though I felt very full afterwards!!  Just call me the human dustbin…

I did have a few gin and tonics as well, because it’s Christmas 😉 Though amusingly my first G&T didn’t actually contain any gin and I was sipping away thinking “this is lovely!” until the barman ran over to me and said he needed to put the gin in as it got taken before it was ready! Oops. Shows how much I drink!img_6940Anyway the evening was good. Nothing like good friends and good food to make you feel 100 times better.

Christmas meal number two this week 😀

Are you going to any Christmas parties or meals this year?

Will you be dressing up?

What would you normally order on a Christmas menu?

ENERTOR™ Insoles Review

A few weeks ago I was sent some full insoles from the lovely people at Enertor Insoles.

Enertor Performance Full Insoles 1

As regular readers are probably aware, I’m terrifically injury prone and, due to my fallen arches (flat feet), I tend to suffer from lots of injuries. Obviously I can’t simply blame my feet because there have been many times I’ve made stupid training decisions too, like not taking enough rest between races. But I live and learn. Eventually…

Anyway, as I said I was sent some insoles for my trainers for when I run. I’m not new to insoles and have used them on and off for a number of years. So when I was sent these I was quite intrigued to give them a go.

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Though the insoles do help ward against injuries, they apparently also aim on improving performance. They give long-term cushioning and aim to support normal muscle function and reduce leg pain. They’re made with patented D3O® technology, which is basically a “smart” material that cushions and supports the foot when the foot is moving slowly but when there’s an impact (i.e. your foot hitting the ground) the material absorbs and disperses the energy. This allows the insoles to reduce shock by 44% and provide energy returns of up to 36% [Source].

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You cut the insoles down to size using regular scissors to fit your trainers and then slide them in (in place of your original insoles).

Thoughts? They were easy to cut to size and put in my trainers. I found them really comfortable. I didn’t notice them as much as previous insoles but I could tell they were there. In terms of improving my performance, I couldn’t really say but they are comfortable and I felt like my feet were adequately supported. Running was nice and smooth. It helps that I’m becoming a lot more aware of my feet since working with my physio to improve my arch strength and I could feel that the insoles were helping support this.

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I’ve had previous insoles which have been really inflexible and have given me very bad blisters  but these are far more forgiving – no blisters! That’s not to say they don’t support my feet, but they seem to work better with my feet rather than forcing them into a very unnatural gait. What I loved about them is that they’re designed to reduce the pressure on the forefoot and improve the functionality of the big toe area – which is key for flat footed people like myself and something my physio has specifically mentioned. They are quite ‘springy’ as well – you can feel the cushioning power of them.

So I’m very happy to continue to wear these in my trainers. And they apparently last 18 months which is very good! So I can just remove them and put them in new trainers as I go.

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I was also sent a technical Enertor t-shirt as well which is always very welcome! Especially as it isn’t ginormous on me.

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Have you ever tried insoles?

What kind of trainers do you wear?

Are you injury prone?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the insoles and the t-shirt in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**