Rants and Raves #22 and an injury update

Morning, morning. A few rants and raves this morning and another injury update.

Rave: I’m really enjoying the gym. When I have a focus this always happens.


It makes me feel bad ass 😉 I love making my workout plans the day before and deciding what I’m going to do when I get there. There’s no way I could get a proper workout in if I turned up to the gym clueless.

I’m trying to figure out what the best split is in order to do strength training…upper body/lower body, body parts, mixed… so far I’m kind of combining a few bits and bobs. For example, this morning I worked on shoulders, chest and triceps. I’ll do one or two big compound moves (such as deadlifts, squats, bench press and military press) and then follow with accessory moves or different variations to target different muscles.

I used to hate how my arms looked because they seemed a bit too muscle-y but now I love them! But my main goal is to just feel strong, any additional aesthetic gains is just a bonus 🙂

Rant and rave: Did I mention I bought some goat meat (specifically goat shoulder)? Well, I did. Goat meat isn’t that widely available in the UK. I think people assume it’s a tough meat, but it really depends how you cook it – as with all meat. Anyway, I asked the butcher how best to cook it and he suggested slow cooking it without adding anything crazy as it was my first time having it so I shouldn’t swamp its flavour.

Well, now that I have my teeny tiny slow cooker I couldn’t put the entire thing in it so had to halve it. I seared the entire thing by frying it in coconut oil quickly before slicing it in half and freezing the other half. By searing before slow cooking it helps retain the flavour and moisture.

Slow cookers are marvellous inventions and I love mine. It does help to turn the bloody thing on before you leave for work in the morning though. I only remembered as I was half-way to work. GARGH.

Anyway I slow cooked it over the evening instead (such a lovely smell to wake up to!) and had it for lunch on Saturday. I shredded the meat and then fried it with lots of veggies and roasted pumpkin in onion marmalade (a weird choice, granted, but I have limited condiments at the moment due to the move and packing etc.).

Slow cooked goat

Verdict? Very tasty instead. It’s kind of a cross between chicken and beef flavour-wise? And incidentally it has less fat than chicken.

Rant: As I can’t run at parkrun I’m still volunteering and helping set up and clear down. I take Alfie with me as well as it’s a great way for him to get a good walk in and he’s (fairly) well behaved. However with the autumnal weather and rain he gets so muddy. This means having to give Alfie a bath when I get back.


Oh just look at his face! He hates having baths but won’t kick up a fuss. He’ll just stand there looking miserable. He smelt gorgeous afterwards though.


He raced around afterwards and rubbed himself all over the carpet…lovely.

Injury update: So I’m almost 95% certain it’s not my IT band that’s causing me grief. I’m 4.5 weeks out from the marathon and my knee is still very painful. The odd thing is it’s not consistently painful. Sometimes I can walk around and walk up and downstairs absolutely fine. I get a glimmer of hope which is then promptly dashed later in the day when I suddenly get a sharp pain which then doesn’t go away until I stop walking.

The pain is intense, it’s a shooting and sharp pain inside my knee. There’s still a bit of puffiness around the kneecap. I’m icing, compressing, stretching, foam rolling…and no real improvement has happened. My muscles don’t feel tight at all. There’s no discomfort, just a sharp pain.

At the start of the week, I saw a sports massage therapist for another opinion (and he costs less than my physio and can see me in the evening at my home) and he’s pretty sure it’s an impingement of my fat pad in my knee. Massage won’t help it.

Bizarrely yesterday I was in agony walking a short distance to Tesco. I almost couldn’t make it. The pain was identical to the marathon pain (where I had to walk the last two miles). When I say agony, I truly mean agony. I was almost in tears and wasn’t sure I could make it back.

I’m hoping to see my physio again this weekend (he’s kindly seeing me out of hours on Sunday – I think he can smell my desperation) and I’m hoping he can confirm things and provide me with some light at the end of the tunnel.

At this point, I’m not going to lie, I’m panicking. I’m worried about Boston which I know is so far away but the weeks are quickly flying by. I thought I’d be running at some point in November but it seems highly unlikely. At the moment I can only dream of running at some point in December. As long as I’m running in January I can do the marathon. I’ve paid for the flights already and not mention the non-deferrable ridiculous costing race entry.

The only thing keeping me from falling into a dark, dark pit right now is how much I’m enjoying the gym. I’m just trying not to think about the next few months at all. Because it makes me feel sick.

What are your rants and raves?

Have you ever had a seriously painful injury before?

What’s the most exotic meat/food you’ve ever had?

New Rules of Lifting for Women – Stage 1

I thought I’d do a post covering how I’ve found the New Rules of Lifting for Women as I’ve just completed Stage 1.

Just rolling back before I started this, I was still doing lots of strength work in the gym. I’d found lots of good stuff on RunnersWorld, Kinetic Revolution and other random places. At the start of the year I was focused on getting my heart rate up while also strengthening my body. I was running three times a week low mileage and needed something else to give me that sweaty heart pumping boost. The workouts I did were a combination of HIIT and strength, but ultimately leaning more towards cardio.

That said, I did strengthen my body during this time. I came back from injury stronger and in a better mindset to get running again and training in earnest for the Liverpool marathon. I can, hand on heart, say my knees and hips (which I had problems with last year) haven’t bugged me once this year. My tight IT band grief is a distant memory as my glutes have come into action with my running and I feel strong. My only one bug bear this year is my shin/calf that occasionally likes to niggle (and haunt my dreams with thoughts of stress fractures…).

When my running increased I couldn’t maintain the same enthusiasm at the gym and found myself a bit confused as to what I should be doing. I then found out about the New Rules of Lifting for Women and it caught my interest. I bought the book, read it, agreed with so many of the concepts and points made and decided to start the training plan (not the nutritional plan though – I don’t follow diets/eating plans in books. Just not my thing).

I was surprised at how simple the plan seemed. There are several “Stages”, each lasting 4-8 weeks depending how often you train (I tend to do three sessions a week depending on what my running was doing), and each stage would have two different workouts.

The book doesn’t tell you how much to lift but it does tell you how many reps and sets and the rest in between. The number of reps was vastly different to what I was doing before. Whereas before I’d be squatting 30 times, this specified 15, decreasing as the weeks went on until eventually eight. The point being that the weight you choose should be tough for those limited reps.

Stage 1

I really enjoyed both the routines. Yes it got samey doing the same two workouts, but at 5.30am going into the gym with a no-nonsense plan I was familiar with was fabulous.

  • Workout A: Squats, press-ups, seated rows, step ups, prone jackknifes
  • Workout B: Deadlifts, dumbbell shoulder presses, wide-grip lateral pull-downs, lunges, Swiss ball crunches

I won’t go into all the weights I lifted but just to give you an idea…in January I was squatting 20kg (for around 30 reps). I can now squat 50kg for eight squats. And proper full, deep squats. That might not sound amazing to all those warrior lifters out there, but to me this is huge! And I know I can continue to increase.

The progress I was able to make and the confidence it gave me was fantastic. I stepped away from my ‘safe area’ in the gym and moved into the ‘male section’. There would have been no way I could have lifted a barbell to my shoulders to squat if I hadn’t have used the squat rack.

I’m also hugely pleased with the progress I’ve made to my deadlifts. Again, similar numbers to my squats.

What I also enjoyed was that it made me work on my upper body. In my family we seem to be blessed with naturally toned arms (check out the picture of my sister in previous posts – she hasn’t worked out in years *cough* so may say ever…and yet her arms are lovely and toned) so I would always neglect my upper body as I didn’t “need” to do it. But after Cheddar Gorge marathon and the next day my arms ached it further verified that your upper body is really important in running for maintaining good form and helping you push up hills.

I still included some of my ‘essential’ running-specific moves as well – but increased the weights and decreased the reps (things like single leg squats/deadlifts, Russian twists, box jumps, etc.). Since January my single-leg squat has gone from bodyweight to 20kg!

Not the most happy of faces so early in the gym!

Results: There’s a big fear of “omg bulking up” when women lift weights. I can safely say I haven’t bulked up at all. I have more defined muscles, yes, but I’m not the hulk (or at last, I don’t think I am!). I feel stronger when I run and have a better “kick” at the end. And the proof is in the pudding: I’ve been injury-free for the entire year (TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!).

Who says girls can’t lift?

What’s next? Stage 2! New workouts and moves to get to grips with (no pun intended). I’m keen to continue with increasing my strength on the squat and deadlift moves as well so will probably go back to them frequently. They’re perfect full body moves that compliment any type of fitness. Though looking at Stage 2 workouts the deadlift move is going to be ‘upgraded’ so that works nicely.

All in all, I’m hugely impressed with NRLW and hope to continue the stages until the end. Obviously my running is the priority so the workouts will always come second best, but the time it takes to get through the stages doesn’t bother me. It just gives me a good focus on how to further strengthen my body to be a good marathon runner.

Do you lift weights?

How do you remain injury-free for running?

Do you like to do the same thing at the gym or do you mix it up?

Stealing ideas from the gym

Wow the heavens have opened up in a big way in the South Coast of England. It’s absolutely tipping it down this morning!

I might have mentioned a few times I’ve been going to the gym a lot rather than running these days. I’m really enjoying it. I don’t tend to slog out numerous minutes on the cardio machines though as I just find this soul destroying. Plus my aim at the gym is not to just focus on cardio but rather strengthen my entire body (arms I’m looking at you) to hopefully reduce any injury chances later on when I get back into running and also to make my body strong and healthy. My body has just been running a lot for so long now and it’s not a great way to get an overall level of strength. Oh sure I could easily run 10 miles or a half marathon no problem but when it came to anything else, it was weak. Since going to the gym I’ve had muscles aching that I never knew I had!

IMG_8958Instead of doing cardio machines I do lots of classes. For example, this is my week:

Monday: Body Blast (a crazy session of HIIT and then a round of several weight moves, like overhead presses and weighted squats, etc., repeated) and Power Core (focusing on strengthening the entire core).

Tuesday: Pump (weights class) and Step (I worked up a sweat but honestly this is not for me. It was laughable how uncoordinated I was and how I was about 5 steps behind everyone else).

Wednesday: yoga

Thursday: an hour session in the gym doing my own thing (more on that below).

Friday: either Spin or the same as Thursday followed by a Tone class (using weights to ‘tone’ your muscles…I loathe the word tone but it is a good class).

Saturday: Spin

Sunday: Spin and Legs, Bums and Tums

Classes are great as you never know what to expect (so can’t dread them). It’s always very varied and you get motivated by the instructor and others around you. However it’s annoying that the only classes in the week I can make are in the evening. This means going to the gym straight from work and not getting back until late, meaning my evening’s are so much shorter.

And because it’s January, the evenings at the gym are PACKED.

IMG_8963The gym I go to is massive so it’s not really a problem but it means that the classes are full of lots of newbies who need lots of demonstrations and explaining. Totally fair enough but this does eat into the class time. I like to get to the gym, do my thing and get the hell out. No time is wasted. I hate to stand around…and not to mention hearing some of the people bitch and moan like they’re at school is just irritating. You’re PAYING for this so get on with it!

So I’ve been stealing ideas from the classes to make my own routines so I can do them whenever I want (which in the week means getting to the gym for 5.30am and getting out by 6.30am – perfect). OK I don’t get the motivational aspect but I’m quite a focused person and if I’ve gone to the gym I damn well will work hard to make it worthwhile. I’m not a social gym goer: I’m not there to make friends.

I always wear my Polar heart rate monitor at the gym as, like with running, I’m a stats geek and like to see numbers. I like to see how hard I’m working and if I’m pushing myself too much or too little.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of my routines:

Routine A:

Repeat 3 times: Make it harder:
2mins cardio at 100% effort  
40 mountain climbers Use stability ball
30 squats Add weights
20 bridge lifts (per leg) Raise one leg
10 press ups Full press up
5 burpees  

This routine took about 25 minutes which was perfect. I tried not to stop between exercises. It kept me motivated and entertained because nothing went on for too long to make me bored.

Routine B:

Repeat 3 times: Make it harder:
2mins cardio at 100% effort  
1 minute wall sit 2 minutes
30 Russian twists Add heavier weight
20 bent over rows Add heavier weight
10 cleans Add heavier weight
5 burpees  

Basically I’ve been stealing moves from the classes and then trying to create routines that are varied and hard enough to get my muscles aching and my heart racing. You get a good blast of cardio from the HIIT cardio and a good blast on the muscles with the strength moves.

I then add 30 minutes of focused running strength work:

Single leg deadlifts 12 x4 (per leg)
Single leg squats 12 x4 (per leg)
Decline single leg squats 12 x4 (per leg)
Hot salsa 3-4 minutes
Side plank on bosu ball with high knee leg raise 12 x3 (per leg)

**A lot of these moves can be found as videos on the Kinetic Revolution website HERE (anything Mo Farah or Galen Rupp do I am fully on board with!!).**

IMG_8969I did Routine A and the running strength routine this morning (though I missed out the single leg deadlifts) and it took around 50 minutes and I was shocked to find I burnt more calories than a 45 minute spin session! Calories aren’t everything I know but it was an interesting comparison nonetheless. I really enjoyed the workout (unlike Spin) and it zoomed by. I got to work on all the areas of my body I wanted to and got my HR up. And no moaning people or hanging about!

This is probably old hat to lots of you experienced gym goers but to me this is like seeing the light. I’ll still continue with going to the classes (especially at the weekend – there’s no way in hell I could do my routines when it’s absolutely heaving) but certain evening classes I’ll drop in favour of doing my own thing super early. I love that I can switch and change the moves, make it harder, shorter, longer, whatever! And focus on the areas I want to work on rather than what the instructor wants to do.

Basically, I’m a happy annoying gym bunny!

What classes do you enjoy at the gym?

What are some of your favourite strength-focused moves?

Why do you mainly focus on at the gym: strength or cardio, or a balance of both?

Week #6 Marathon Training

Hi guys, another week of training done. Now I know I said I probably wasn’t going to document my marathon training every week but I guess I am…sorry, I know it’s quite running heavy and probably boring.

Anyway last week was a mixed bag. I felt very tired and getting up really early in the morning was taking it’s toll. But I guess I need to ‘woman up’ and get on with it, this is what’s it all about.

Monday – no running but this strength routine:

– 4x 15/leg single leg squats
– 4x 15/leg weighted calf raises
– 200/leg clams with resistance band
– 4.5mins crab walk
– 3mins plank
– 100 Russian twists

Thera band workoutMy lovely theraband has snapped like three times… 

Tuesday – 5 mile tempo run (one mile warm-up, three tempo miles, one mile cool down). I went off too fast on the first tempo mile. In my head it went like this: “Wooohoo yeaaahh! So speedy! Yeaaahhh!” then 7 minutes later “I’m dying, god I’m dying. And here’s a hill. I’m dying.” And that trail of thought continued for the rest of the run. Well done, Anna, brilliant pace control.


Wednesday – I was supposed to do a strength workout but I was working from home and it never happened because when I finished work there’s so many more cool things to do at home than workout. I did manage some toe lifts and 100 bicycle crunches. Then I just lay on the floor watching a film (Gone Baby Gone <—amazing).

Thursday – 6 mile easy run. Usually I wouldn’t bother showing my splits for an easy workout to avoid my ego being enticed but this run annoyed me. I spotted a fellow runner ahead of me who was running a little slower than me. I eventually overtook her, said good morning as you do, and then had to pick up the pace to get a bit further ahead (it’s that awkward over-taking moment, you know?)


Anyway she starts getting faster to catch up! And all I can hear are her footfalls behind me. Like seriously, BACK UP. I overtook you. Don’t try and repay the favour on my easy run. I had her hound my heels for two miles (mile 3 & 4) which meant I had to run faster than I wanted to to avoid her overtaking me. This is probably all in my head I know.

Strength workout in the evening:

– 4x 18/leg weighted calf raises
– 4x 15 single leg squats (15 more on weaker leg)
– 4.5mins crab walk
– 200/leg clams with resistance band
– 4mins wall sit
– 4mins toe lift
– 2x heel taps

Friday – Alarm set for 5.10am, walk Alfie, out the door 5.45am for a 15 mile bike ride…One mile in feeling great “wooohooo cycling’s not so bad!” …a few minutes later “hmm feels so bumpy, better check my wheel”. GARGH flat tire. Even if I did have a puncture repair kit I wouldn’t know how the hell to fix it. So I turned around and walked a rather miserable 1 mile home. I was not amuse so took my frustration out with cleaning the bathrooms and hoovering.

My lovely husband (finishing at 12.30 on Fridays) fixed the puncture for me so when I got home from work I could try again. I loved it, really enjoyed it. But got to almost 12 miles and bam another puncture.

IMG_7259 But a really nice guy on a bike stopped and helped me. He was very nice and helpful, fixed the puncture after like 20 minutes worth of sorting as my wheel is so tight.

I was very grateful, we then parted ways and two minutes up the road another puncture. Seriously. Ben had to come and collect the bike and me.

Saturday – we went to our local (Netley Park) parkrun. I thought I’d just see how I felt and push it if I fancied. I went with it, pushed hard and got 21:56 and first lady. Quite happy with that!

Sunday – Ben and me and some guys from the running club did the Stansted Slog half marathon. Unbelievably hard. I’ll do a recap post soon. I finished in 1:53:09, fifth female. Brilliant race.


And now I’m shattered! But a good week of training. I’ve got a sports massage tonight with Kyle thank god as my legs ache so much. Good aches though (*touch wood*).

Have you ever had an annoying failed workout?

Have you ever done an off-road, hilly race? It’s like an adventure but so much harder than a road race.

Are you good with maintaining tempo speeds or a set workout without getting carried away?

BBQ chicken and weekly workouts

I spotted this while out walking Alfie a few days ago:

First blossom 2014I got stupidly excited. Does this mean spring and warmer climes are just around the corner? Unlikely, but it did make my day.

I’m all about things making me happy recently (with the exception of excessive cake consumption. That has been put on hold for a little bit). I like to plan our meals in advanced so I a) know what to buy at the shop and b) can easily prepare the meal in the evening after work. Waking up one morning I just thought “you know what, it’s not on the menu for this week but I really fancy it.”

Slow cooker BBQ chicken

BBQ slow cooked chicken

I had this with broad beans and roasted butternut squash

Oh my life this was good. And so very simple. Just chicken breasts, BBQ sauce (our favourite is Reggae Reggae at the moment) with a big dollop of cream cheese. The cream cheese makes things nice and creamy but it also helps cool things down a bit because the Reggae Reggae is quite spicy! I put a little bit of water in there as well and some seasoning and it’s good to go for 6 hours on low.

Apart from BBQ chicken, running is obviously making me very happy. My physio on Tuesday said things were looking really good and he positively encouraged me to up my mileage. He even said do a run up to 10 miles! In terms of my injury, he said he couldn’t see Paris being an issue!! But let’s just see how training goes…

I ran six miles on Wednesday morning. Well that was fairly tough I have to say. But I kept things nice and steady, not pushing too hard. Apart from stepping in a large puddle literally two minutes into the run it went very well. And for the rest of the day things (aka leg) felt good.

So my plan is to run between eight and 10 miles on Saturday. No Parkrun this week as I’m off to Bath to see my uni friends. [This time I will definitely be going (last time I had to cancel going because I had to work over the weekend).] I will see how I feel on the day and how it goes as to what distance I’ll do.

This week my workouts have and will (hopefully) look like this:

  • Monday: 4 mile run
  • Tuesday: off
  • Wednesday: 6 miles run
  • Thursday: morning personal trainer session and evening leg strength workout
  • Friday: Pilates
  • Saturday: 8-10 miles run
  • Sunday: leg strength (optional, depends how I feel)

Notice there’s no spin in there? I’m taking a break from it as I’m back into running. Spinning is a very intense workout and at the moment my body is learning to adjust back to running and I don’t want to stress it out. To be honest, this is such a relief as spinning is hard and not that fun!

And cake count this week? Zilch. Sad times but it’s got to be done 😉

How have your workouts gone this week? Any long runs planned for the weekend?

Have you noticed any hints of spring appearing?

What’s your favourite BBQ sauce recipe? It’s got to be BBQ ribs for me.