Half marathon training report week 4

I’m now a month into my 16-week training plan for my two autumn half marathons, and it’s been going well. Worryingly well… Starting to think writing my own plan might have been a mistake and maybe I’ve gone too easy on myself!

Last week was a week of firsts, both fitness and life-related, so I thought I’d give it a little write up.

Fitness-wise, it was the first time I managed an unsupported shoulder stand in yoga. I know this isn’t a big deal for most people who spent their childhood largely living upside down, but for me – a worrier through and through – it’s always been hard for me to let go and trust my body. Especially when the safety of my spine is involved. So when I was little I was universally underwhelming as a gymnast (forward rolls were about it) and I used to drive my mum mad by doing shoulder stands against the cream walls of the living room (“You’ll mark the paint!”) but I’d never felt the full weight of my body in the air, supported by my shoulders, head and arms. In fact, I was so doubtful about ever achieving it, even as I got into the right position and released my feet from the wall and into the air, all I was thinking was: “This will never work.” But it did. Unspectacular, yes; graceless, almost certainly; but I felt euphoric.

Another first was a visit to Bounce, the new trampoline park in Peterborough which was very exciting because until then the only thing I could take visitors to see in our fair city was the world’s worst bowling alley. But on Friday afternoon I took my friend (and sister of my boyfriend) Rachel to an overly warm room filled with trampolines, basketball hoops, foam pits and more. I maintain bouncing counts as decent cross-training, as after 40 minutes we had sought out the inefficient air conditioning unit and were panting beside it. While, perhaps unsurprisingly based on the above confessions, I wasn’t exactly back-flipping off the surfaces, I was pleasantly surprised by my low level bravery, launching myself onto inflatable crash pads and leaping as high as I dared. It was brilliant. The only downside was the effect on my poor plantar fasciitis-prone feet, which have been agony ever since – probably a result of wearing socks only, as being bare-footed (or practically) isn’t good for it.

My final fitness-first last week was my longest run yet, as I reached 7 miles on a sunny, showery Saturday. I’m not going to lie, it felt awful, but I think that was mostly the result of a stonking hangover. Oops. I’ve realised that beyond 10k I really need to start carrying water, so I’m thinking this week’s 8-miler should be easier in a way, as I was so thirsty on my return journey that I was genuinely considering begging passersby for a swig of their water bottles.

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In non-fitness firsts last week – a bit randomly – I saw my first badgers! I went with my friend Lucy to a Wildlife Trust event at Rutland Water and we sat in a hide for two hours, which was happily rewarded by the sight of two badgers snuffling around outside for slugs and peanuts.

I also had my first article published on Cosmopolitan’s website, all about the best online fitness classes to try (Yoga with Adriene FTW), so that felt amazing.

So, in a (pea)nutshell, I’ve learnt I need to push myself a bit harder to achieve more in my fitness, as well as the benefits of trying new, scary things. Which is just as well, being as this weekend I’m abseiling down a cathedral…

 

 

How to get motivated for a run

It isn’t always easy feeling motivated to go for a run. There are days when gravity feels extra strong; the sofa extra comfy. I get it. Especially after a day of multitasking in front of a computer screen, when I feel grouchy and my brain is frazzled and distracted. When all I want to do is have a long bath, possibly pick a fight with my boyfriend, and definitely eat dessert. Preferably one I haven’t made myself.

If this sounds a bit like you then firstly I’d recommend this article from The Guardian by Oliver Burkeman, because it’s very interesting. Although on the one hand I find it a bit depressing that the idea of a reward doesn’t really encourage us to work harder (if anything, he says, it creates the subconscious idea that exercise is an even more unpleasant task and we won’t enjoy it), on the other hand it’s probably true – I find running a reward in itself. [I realise how nauseating that sounds if you hate running, but really I’m as surprised as you by this new Pollyanna perspective. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed it possible to ‘enjoy’ a run, any more than one might ‘enjoy’ a colonoscopy. But I do.]

Anyway, for what it’s worth my motivating tips are thus:

  • Get it over and done with first thing. As the old meme says…

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I’d recommend this for lots of reasons, mostly because you won’t have had 5+ hours at your desk in which to look at the weather forecast, plan excuses aloud to disinterested colleagues, or generally talk yourself out of it. It’s a cliche, but having your kit laid out beforehand makes it easier to crawl out of bed and to the gym before you know what’s what. I also make myself a specific breakfast on gym days (overnight oats) so if I miss my workout I feel guilty with every mouthful that I backed out on my promise. I also maintain that there are few feelings in the world better than the ‘smug around the office’ feeling that comes from having run 3 miles before work. Whether you choose to crow at the tea station, or keep it to yourself, there’s a certain glow that others will rightly find sickening. [NB this will not make you friends.]

  • A bit like the overnight oats, there’s something to be said in self guilt. Imagine yourself not doing the workout. What would you do instead? Ok, if it’s something good like calling your best friend, mowing your neck-height lawn or baking cakes for orphaned baby animals then fair enough – go forth and think nothing of it.
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“We heard there was cake?”

But if realistically it’s just scrolling through Facebook and feeling slightly disgusted with yourself then you might as well lace up your trainers and get on it. I also find the image of the resulting smugness (see first bullet point) I will enjoy all day is usually enough.

  • Sign up to a race and make a training plan, especially if you are a massive nerd like me. God I love my training plan. So many numbers, so many things to tick off, so much structured fun.

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Plus it’s making all of my sessions have a distinct purpose, rather than just: ‘Urr, maybe I’ll run 10k, oh no wait I don’t want to, let’s stop here at this cake shop.’ So that gives them their own weird pleasure, even if it hurts and I’ve never sweat so much in my life.

  • Have someone who forces you to do things you hate. While in every other element of life this is not to be encouraged, in running it’s almost a necessity. After all, I really didn’t want to do the Insane Terrain obstacle course, and look what happened! (Really, go and look. Look at my happy piggy mud face.) It’s good to have friends who push you and hold you accountable, to a degree of course – it helps if they are a similar speed and standard, otherwise you might die.
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Neither of these are suitable running buddies for me

 

So how do you keep on keeping on? I’d love to know…

 

 

Training for the Disneyland Paris half marathon

I’m writing about the Disneyland Paris half marathon (the first ever such event) for Closer. Here’s my first post, but you can also see it with all its glorious GIFs here.

There are two things you need to know about me. Firstly, I love running. And by love I mean hate-with-occasional-moments-of-endorphins, and by running I mean jogging very s-l-o-w-l-y. So slowly that I’m frequently overtaken by toddlers, three-legged dogs and plastic bags blowing in a mild breeze.

Secondly, I love Disney. Like, really love it. Some might say too much for a woman approaching 30 (but they would be wrong).

So naturally when I first heard that Disneyland Paris would be hosting a half marathon event this September I signed up straight away, no questions asked. It didn’t matter that I could only run 10k at a time, and the thought of 13.1 miles made me feel dizzy – Minnie would be there! I could dress as Ariel! I could spend the afternoon recovering on rides and eating fries!

But now that I’ve told everyone and it’s officially happening, I actually have to do some serious running…

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A half marathon is no mean feat, even when you have Donald Duck as a cheerleader. It’s 13.1 miles of sweat, blisters and (potentially) tears. So to give me a boost and help me create a training plan, Run Disney put me in touch with living legend Paula Radcliffe – current women’s record holder for the London Marathon and general babe.

After messing around with Minnie Mouse ears and huge white gloves (mental note: don’t choose these as part of your costume, they are too sweaty) we talked about the finer points of race preparation. Namely, what to eat beforehand (surely it’s not just me who runs to eat more?)

Paula advised me to have a solid breakfast of porridge or similar, a good few hours before running, even if that meant getting up at the crack of dawn. That way I wouldn’t need to worry about carting gels and other fancy running snacks around with me, and could just concentrate on enjoying the race.

She also advised me to try some hill training on the treadmill (living in the pancake flat Fens, there aren’t many other options for getting my glutes in gear) as well as stepping up my distance slowly. She made it sound like a piece of (protein-based) cake, and I suddenly found myself looking forward not just to the race, but to the training too.

Paula will be running the Disney race herself, so obviously I’ll be giving her a run for her money (!) I’ve now made my plan and started the first week of training. Bring. It. On.