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?

Full of positivity and MuscleFood pre-workout review

I’m in a super positive and happy place right now. I’ve started 2017 just feeling good and ready to take on the year. I came into work on Tuesday feeling in a good mood, much to the delight of my colleagues 😉

Though I don’t tend to make big grand New Year’s resolutions (last year’s resolution was to be more punctual. That lasted a week) I have made a couple of notes to myself on things I’d like to improve on. One being more conscious of my spending – so only one takeaway a month rather than three or four… Another is being more confident and ready to take on new challenges at work.

I’ve recently bee promoted, to start the new role in March, and it gave me all the anxieties before Christmas wondering if I could actually do it, whether I’d fail, whether they’d demote me once they found out I couldn’t do it…But instead I’ve switched it round and thought, “OK let’s do this”. If people have confidence in me, then who am I to argue with that? I just need to stay focused, work hard and not be afraid to ask for help.

In terms of running and goals in the fitness area? I actually haven’t a clue. I’ve become a lot more relaxed about running in general and I no longer feel the desperate urgency to fulfil my Marathon Major goals as soon as possible. After Tokyo I want to reset and chill for a bit. Just run for fun. Enter races that make me happy and just pootle along. I’m enjoying the gym so I’ll carry on there, maybe look for some new challenges in that area. Basically I’m content and it feels like a weird place to be in, but also very nice. I think I’ve relaxed a bit more….weird.

Onto my review then!

MuscleFood Rampage™ Pre-Workout Formula

A few weeks ago MuscleFood sent me some pre-workout to try out.Pre-workout is actually something I’ve only just become familiar with. I drink BCCAs (branched-chain amino acida) during my workout which help maintain muscle mass when doing strength workouts, especially as I do my morning workouts fasted. My goals are not to lose fat and I don’t want to lose muscle either.

So what’s a pre-workout then? You basically drink it before you workout as the name suggests! It usually contains a stimulant like caffeine and some other supplements to help get the most out of your workout and reduce fatigue.MuscleFood kindly sent me two different flavours of the their pre-workout Rampage (what a name, eh): Lem & Pink Grapefruit and Orange & Pineapple. It contains BCAAs to reduce muscle breakdown and help with recovery, as I mentioned above, Arginine AKG which is another essential amino aciden which helps the body to create energy from protein, fats and carbs, Beta Alaine which helps with performance (though be warned, it does cause some rather odd tingling!), Taurine for muscle growth promotion and recovery, Citrulline Malate to help fatigue and manage lactic acid, Creatine Monohydrate which is a well documented and studies supplement to help with building muscle and Beet4Perf™ which is a natural beetroot ingredient to help boost performance as well (I love my beetroot supplements!). It also contains 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent two cups of instant coffee).To be honest, I was highly sceptical of pre-workouts in general when I first heard about them as it all sounds a bit weird. Stimulants for working out? Hmmm. But then caffeine has been proven to help push harder and I often use caffeinated gels during marathons and drink a coffee before a race – and in general most mornings. I obviously don’t want to become dependent on caffeine but getting up at 5am to start my workout at 5.30am is tough going and having caffeine just before really helps. I just make sure I don’t have any further caffeine later in the day.

Though to be honest I don’t find I need anymore, whereas if I don’t drink the pre-workout by 10am I definitely need my morning cup of coffee. Normally I’d have two cups of coffee a day so now I’ve switched to decaf on days I drink this. I’m not hugely sensitive to caffeine and don’t get any headaches of withdrawal symptoms if I don’t drink it for a few days so I think I’m OK.

So what did I think? Well, the taste isn’t amazing. It’s not disgusting or unpleasant, it’s just something to get used to. Both flavours are nice enough but some mornings it does take an effort to get it down. I make up one scoop with 200ml of water and that seems like the perfect amount. Any more water and the taste gets worse as it waters down. The grapefruit flavour is better than the pineapple in my opinion.

Taste aside, did it aid with my performance and recovery? It’s a tough one to know for certain, but I do believe it’s helped me. Within 15 minutes of drinking it I start to get the tingles (they’re no hugely unpleasant, just a weird itchy palms kind of feeling) and then I feel a lot more awake. It’s not made me feel invicible and nor can I suddenly deadlift 10kg more. However I felt more “get up and go” and more alert. Obviously the caffeine is a big factor here but the other bits and bobs could be contributing too. After particularly heavy squats, my legs weren’t quite as sore as they might be. But again this is all very cause-effect stipulation and subjectivity.

I do enjoy taking it though and am happy to keep it in my routine. I won’t take it before every gym visit, just when I think I need it. I’ll also have a week or so without it every now and again to help keep my caffeine tolerance at a nice level. I don’t want to become too dependent or used to it.

I don’t think it’s necessary for the gym or to make any significant gains. It’s more of a pick-me-up to help supplement you as and when you need it – if you need it at all! But I do recommend it if you fancy adding a little it of oomph to your workout occasionally. I’m tempted to try it before a race as well to see how that goes.

Have you ever tried using per-workout?

Do you use any supplements?

Have you made any big goals for this year?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Rampage Pre-Workout from MuscleFood for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

 

But I’m still a runner

I’m in a quite frustrating position. I’m still not running. And I’m not hugely bothered.

Who even am I? I feel like I’m in a really odd place. Normally when I’m injured I feel really down, really frustrated and angry.

Not running, just volunteering at parkrun

Normally going to parkrun and volunteering every week would be hard; watching runners get their parkrun mojo on. I would feel a huge leap of jealously at any runners I drive past. I’d wonder if today is “the day” I’ll try running again before I’ve even gotten out of bed.

But…I’m actually not thinking those things. I mean, it obviously helps that the weather is pretty gnarly. It’s dark, cold, wet and unappealing to be outside. During the warmer months I find it hard because I just want to be outside in the fresh air. But right now all I want to do is hibernate away in fluffy socks and Christmas jumpers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not suddenly become a couch potato and happy to lapse into inactivity for days at an end. Quite the opposite. I’m loving the time I spend at the gym right now. I can lift heavy weights without wondering how it will affect my running the next day. I can push my limits of my strength and reach new PBs. I can work on non-running-focused strength training without feeling guilty.

And my gym is lovely and bright, cool not cold and it’s full of other like-minded people. Rather than the dark, lonely streets at ridiculously o’clock in the morning or straight after work, I can skip into the gym at 5.30am and it’s full of people. I don’t converse with these people, good God no! I’m there to workout and my social switch is firmly in the OFF position until I get to work, but I’m around other people and don’t feel like I’m the only person in the world working out.

This is obviously a problem though. I mean it would be a fantastic situation ordinarily…had I not got an impending marathon in February. Every time I think about the marathon I feel a bit stressed and a bit sick. Oh sure I could bin it, but I’d rather not waste the money I already spent on it (a fair chunk) and I do actually want to do it. I just don’t want to train for it.

I only have myself to blame for this situation. Too many marathons, too much running, stupid biomechanical faults, questionable training… Yes I know I’m an idiot when it comes to running in a variety of different ways. But marathons are not 5ks or 10ks, or even half marathons. You can’t decided one week to just enter one and run it in the near future. You don’t know what the situation is going to be like in the months ahead. And this marathon more than most is one you need to apply months and months away from the start date.

I’m just in a sticky situation of not being able to train for a marathon I’m not sure I want to train for. Problematic. I suppose it’s better that I’m feeling indifferent than to be feeling full of despair for not running. Mentally I’m in a good place (increasing nausea and panic attacks for impending marathon aside of course). I just need to hope that I can run soon so I can find the love again… Though I love the gym, I’ll always still be a runner first and foremost.

Have you ever felt demotivated for a race coming up?

What do you consider yourself – a runner, crossfitter, climber, cyclist, etc.?

Where do you draw the line?

So lately I’ve been using the elliptical machine to keep my cardiovascular fitness up while I wasn’t running much. I could have done a spin class but I didn’t really fancy it. I wanted something similar to running and something that I could control depending on how I felt.

With spin it’s very much go-go-go, whereas I can do whatever I fancy on my own. But invariably I’d find it so incredibly dull and would require some sort of entertainment to get me through. I found watching YouTube videos on my phone an effective way of keeping me on the machine. I would want something a bit mindless but also motivating and inspiring. So I ended up watching lots of fitness vloggers go about their lives. This entailed the types of training they did in the gym, the foods they’d eat and just generally what they’d get up to. Pretty much like the blogs I read really but visual, obviously.

I found myself watching videos of vloggers who I’d never in my wildest dream ever want to be like (which is actually quite different to the blogs I read). Not because they’re terrible people but because their goals are so far beyond what I’d ever aim for or want. But it wasn’t half fascinating to watch.

Some of the fitness vloggers were bikini competitors. At first I really had no idea what that was. I knew it was vaguely bodybuilding but I had no idea that you could (or would even choose to) train for months to just stand on a stage, in a bikini, and basically show your body off. These women would train, bodybuilder-style, in the gym and then drop their calories down to “cut” in order to show off their newly honed muscles. Like really cut down their weight – we’re talking 16% body fat.

To me it doesn’t look attractive at all. Why on earth would you do that? Why would you want to? For a short period of time on the stage?! Many of them would apply a shed loads of fake tan, wear unbelievably thick make-up, have fake nails, fake hair and boobs… and these muscles popping out everywhere from their hard bodies with barely an ounce of fat on them.

And before they’d go to that point, I’d watch them weighing out their food. ALL their food. Counting macros and calories with scrupulous detail. As the competition gets closer and closer, their food would basically be oats, tilapia fish, chicken, sweet potato and rice. I even watched one girl take her scales TO THE BEACH to weigh out her snacks while she sunbathed.

But this is a genuine thing. Apparently this is not crazy disordered behaviour, but an effective route to achieve their goal. They are not seen as disordered, but focused and determined. They work hard, striving every day to get one step closer to their dream. They have coaches, actual qualified professionals (most of the time), who guide them through this process.

I watch, fascinating and bewildered. I enjoy watching it because it’s just so mad and bizarre and I’m carried along their journey, hoping they do well. Whatever “well” turns out to be… winning a trophy, placing so they can go to another, better competition, or just achieving a certain body to prove they could.

It got me thinking. Their goals are a million miles away from my goals. I love running and hope to run many marathons in my time. I want my body to be strong and injury-free. Of course I try and watch what I eat most of the time (weekend adventures aside…) and I care about what my body looks like. But I have to stop myself before I say, “I’m not as obsessed as they are”.

Am I sure about that?

I’ve had many people (non-runners and people who aren’t interested in fitness) say to me “I don’t know how you do it”, “you’re so motivated”, but mostly “you’re crazy”. I get up at 5am most weekdays to go to the gym to remain strong and healthy for running. I’ll spend hours over the weekend running long runs while most people will be in bed. I walk round a park on freezing Saturday mornings setting up a course to then run round in teeny tiny shorts, my thighs turning pink with the cold. And I’ll finish smiling.

I’ll turn down social events when I’m in the thick of marathon training, or make sure I’m leaving so I can get home in bed for 9pm. I rarely drink alcohol. I’ll cry to my dad on the way to work about my latest injury. I’ll sob because I so desperately want to be outside, in that blizzard/hurricane/storm so I can get in my precious miles. I’ll pour over my spreadsheet to make sure I’m getting in the miles I need, I’ll analyse past performances on Strava comparing where I am now to where I was then. Can I run that pace? Am I faster? What’s my segment best?

I’ll endure hours of painful sports massages. I’ll roll about on the floor in awkward positions to get that knot out of my calf/glute/hamstring. I’ll spend hundreds of pounds on trainers, gymwear, running clothes, gels, foam rollers, running books and magazines, running holidays… it goes on and on.

There’s not one day that passes that I don’t not think about running or what I’m going to do at the gym. My weekends revolve around my running and fitness. My year is broken into when my next marathon is, when I’m training and what races I can squeeze in between.

Am I obsessed?

Where do you draw the line between determination and obsession? When does drive and ambition turn into something darker? Do you need to be an outsider looking in to gain a certain perspective? Am I wrong to have judged those bikini competitors just because it’s not my goal and it’s not what I’d do?

I guess we all have our own obsessions and goals… and it’s managing them and keeping them under control that’s key. I know from experience of injuries not to put my whole heart and soul into running because when it all comes crumbling down, you need something to be left with, whether that’s anything to do with fitness or not. But after thinking about it, I do judge those vloggers less harsh now. We all have goals, and those goals require different routes and methods, however bizarre they seem to me. People in glass houses…

What do you think?

Would you say you’re obsessed about anything?

Has anyone ever commented on your hobbies?

Why I’m OK with being average

No one is going to write a book about my life. That much I’m fairly certain. In fact, I’m always quite shocked that people actually read my blog.

Though I’d still write it even if people didn’t read it. I find the whole process very cathartic and it’s a great way to keep track of races, restaurants and significant events and the fine, mundane details surrounding them that I’d probably never remember otherwise. I’ve often referred to my blog when trying to remember certain things – like where was that place I went to that had that amazing cake? Or what time did I run that race two years ago? Or just being able to flick back to old posts and see how much I’ve changed, or in some cases, how I haven’t changed at all.

But it’s not ground-breaking stuff. I’m not smashing through glass ceilings with my critical thinking and diverse approach to different topics. I’m not even that great a runner. I’m middle of the pack and, worse still, injury-prone. My running is not exactly awe inspiring and I’ll never get super fast times or do a super amazing challenge (spoiler alert on my life right there, guys).

I’m not selling myself short. I’m not being pessimistic. I’m just being honest. That honesty doesn’t make me sad. And I don’t want to be famous (jeeze, what would I be famous for? I daren’t even think… some weird cake eating competition or girls vs. food event – but even at that I’m hardly remarkable to the people who genuinely do those things).

In general, I’m a very happy person. Day-to-day/hour-to-hour this obviously changes (I hate you, commute! *shakes fist*) – as it does for everyone. But when I get home at night, lock my door and get into bed, I’m happy – alone but not lonely. I don’t have any huge regrets in my life, aside from small and insignificant ones (why didn’t I start running earlier?).

I don’t regret getting married and that period of my life. We had good memories together and it helped me grow during that time. And when it ended I learned a lot about myself as a single person, rather than being part of a pair.

It was actually something my physio said to me that made me think. He said, “People underrate feeling fine”. They only come to him when they’re in pain or something’s not right. Then they only realise how incredible feeling normal and not in pain actually is. I know this well; it’s always a momentous occasion when I tell my physio that I feel fine.

This same logic applies to life. Though my life is so very average, that’s OK because I’m happy. I have no major gripes: I’m healthy, I have a loving family, a solid group of friends, I have no money issues, I enjoy my job, I don’t think I look too much like Quasimodo in the great scheme of things, I have a lovely flat and, of course, Alfie. Yes it’s average, mundane and, to a lot of people, boring but I’m happy and healthy, and that is certainly not something to take for granted.

Sometimes I think it’s important to take stock. Your stock may not be one in a million or the stuff of blockbusters, but if you’re happy and healthy, that stock is pretty damn good.

Are you above average at anything?

Would you ever want to be famous? And what for?

Perhaps a fairly personal question, but are you happy?