It’s been over a month since my last blog and since the Bristol 10k. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride to say the least and I have learnt a lot about my body, determination, running and fitness.
According to fitness magazines, after a long run (10k is considered a long run) you should take as many days rest after a long race as the number of kilometres you ran. Of course, I didn’t know that, and also having signed up for the Westonbirt 10k, 9 days after the Bristol 10k, was not in a position to rest. Therefore I afforded myself a couple of days off and then over the next week ran a further two 5k runs. They were hard and frankly, I was knackered. However, I didn’t have the confidence that made me feel that I could take a week off and then run another 10k, so I felt this was the right thing to do…..it turns out it wasn’t.
I’ve made a lovely new running friend (we’ll call her Curly Sue) who is a Park Run Ninja and knowing that I was a bit nervous about running Westonbirt and probably coming last, offered not only to give me a lift but also run with me. I was very grateful. It also meant that Running Sister, who was also there, didn’t have to babysit me and could run as fast as she could and go for a quick time (which she did). If you have never been to Westonbirt before, GO! It’s beautiful. It was another hot day and I was worried about overheating again, but the shade from the majestic, tall trees kept us cool and Curly Sue and I genuinely had a wonderful evening running through the estate. It is, without question, the nicest place that I have ever run and I will definitely sign up for same race again, next year. Unfortunately around 7k, the joint between my hip and my leg started to ache, a lot. CS urged me to stop and stretch, but like a chump, I refused as I simply wanted to finish. We came last. Running Sister was cheering loudly again as I made the final straight and although I was in quite considerable discomfort, I still managed to enjoy the evening immensely. As we stretched out, my entire hip started to seize up and I knew I was going to be in trouble the next day.
Running Sister had been telling me for a while that I need to strength train as well as run, and in my head, I had made a mental note to investigate this AFTER the two 10ks were out of the way. Turns out, I should have investigated it sooner…..
The next morning my hip was in bad shape. It hurt to lift my right leg up at all (imagine walking) and so I agreed to rest for a week. For the first couple of days, I was grateful not to be running, but by day 4, was irritable. My hip felt fine (as I had been resting it) and so I started walking to and from work as not exercising was not sitting very well with me. I had been running 3 times a week, every week (except one) since New Year and not running was an unfathomable sensation. I hated it. It also meant that I had to watch what I ate so as not to gain back any of the 3 stone that I have lost. I HATE dieting and this was one of the reasons I started running in the first place. Basically, that week sucked, but I was a good girl and didn’t run.
It was towards the end of this week that my daughter got a new bike (early birthday present) and so we took it out for a spin on the Bristol to Bath cycle path. We cycled 18 miles over the course of that day. We didn’t set out to cycle 18 miles when we left the house, especially as my youngest daughter only has a little six speed bike, it just sort of happened. It was a great day and I look forward to doing it again. I love partaking of sporting activities with my girls and Husband and now, happily, I can join in. However, the point is that my hip felt fine after the mega bike ride (as Sporty Daughter now refers to it).
So on the Tuesday (which made 7 days of rest) I ran the short route to work (3.5k) and when I arrived my hip was aching, so with a heavy heart, I called and made an appointment with a local physio who was able to see me the very same day.
My diagnosis is frankly hilarious. Apparently, I have very weak glute muscles (muscles which are in your bum). How this is possible I have no idea as I would have suspected that due to the size of my derriere, my glute muscles would have been near Herculean in strength…but apparently not. So with weak ass muscles which do NOTHING whilst I run, this means that the front of my legs have to do all of the work – and 2 x 10k races had pushed them to their limit.
So the recovery plan was put into practice. I had to do squats and shoulder bridges daily (ouch and yuk) and not run for another week. Then, provided everything was ok, I was only allowed to run up to 5k for another month or so, and I MUST keep up the squats (have I mentioned how much I hate squats?) for EVER (seriously?!). She also recommended a strength class.
So, I did what I was told. In order to keep running I knew I had to be sensible so I rested for a full week and didn’t run. I cycled and walked lots but didn’t run. I was averaging 30-50 squats a day and my ass?…well just let’s say that it does have muscles in it after all, and I could feel every single one. The physio was happy and so I was allowed to put my trainers back on.
So I have entered a new phase in my running career. I have to keep the distance down….so I have been experimenting with trying to be quicker over shorter distances and not looking at my watch. Let me tell you, not looking at your watch is very hard, especially if you are borderline obsessed with your stats. It happens to everyone eventually – you complete a c25k and you’re happy just to be in one piece at the end of the run. Then suddenly, out of no-where, you are frustrated with yourself because the same run you ran last week, was 45 seconds slower. It’s easy to forget to just enjoy the run. CS is very good at simply enjoying the run, and so I tried to take a leaf out of her book and not look at my beloved Fitbit Surge quite so much.
I also attended a strength class which was 50% hideous and 50% ok. The class itself is basically 45 minutes of squats and lunges whilst holding a barbell over your head or swinging a kettlebell. The class was attended by a broad cross section of society and attendees ranged from a woman in her 70s (at least) who looked like she could pick me up and bench press me whilst not breaking a sweat, some “Yummy Mummies” a couple of “Muscle Men” and interestingly, 2 chaps in “Bristol 10k” T-shirts. I spoke with one of them at the end whilst packing up and it turned out that he was there for the same reason that I was – strength training to be able to run. Apparently it’s quite common. The chap running the session was very friendly, called Dave and he really looked after me. As it was my first class, he made me set my stuff up at the FRONT right next to him and then asked me to demonstrate to everyone how each move was performed, to show him (and everyone else) that I understood what was required. I did as was asked, but have the co-ordination and balance of a drunk fish on a unicycle and it was fairly embarrassing. I had a terrible fit of the giggles half way through which did nothing to help my rapidly disintegrating energy stores. But but I did my best and that’s all I could do. It’s fair to say that it was a full body workout as it hurt the next day (and day after that) to breathe….and as for trying to sit down on, and get off from the toilet….well let’s just say it wasn’t easy. Still, I was using muscles that I hadn’t used for years and this can only be a good thing and so I will definitely go again (I’m booked in for another class tomorrow).
The other thing I have tried is interval training. This lunchtime, I had a structured interval session with Curly Sue around Queen’s Square. We have started meeting on a Tuesday for a quick lunchtime Harbour Loop (5k and it sets me up brilliantly for the afternoon and we have a lovely chat as we run, I can talk for some of it now at least), but due to the amphitheatre being closed this week due to pre-Glasto concerts, CS suggested we go for intervals and as I’ve not ever managed them, before properly, (I attempted it on the way to work last week) I thought that having proper instruction would be a good thing.
It was BRILLIANT.
For those not familiar, Queen’s Square has footpaths running across it that mark out a “Union Jack”. This means that you can plan very specifically, equal distances to sprint (yes you read that correctly – SPRINT), then walk, then run faster than you would normally but not sprinting, then slow jog. I haven’t “sprinted” since school and as I ran full pelt between the corners of the square, knees lifting and elbows pumping, I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, be sick, or squeal with delight! The first one or two were fine (good even) but I tired quite quickly and so after 2.5k of intervals, we stopped and walked back. A good stretch followed (CS is very good at making stretching mandatory) and then I was back at my desk within 35 minutes. I had burned 393 calories in 30 minutes which is brilliant. Of course, I had also broken the World record for the most amount of sweat that a human being can produce, but I had sprinted and it felt AMAZING. I am definitely going to keep going with this.
Summer holidays are around the corner now. I’m off to Spain for the weekend with my BFF this week and I think a run is unlikely – unless we spot a 2-4-1 on gin and tonic somewhere – and we have our family holiday coming up imminently also. The intervals have shown me that I don’t have to drag myself out on long runs to keep my fitness levels up and so I will try to keep these going whilst I am away. I’m also thinking of booking another 10k race for September, but for now, I want to keep going over the Summer and not let the gin undo all of my good work.
I’m confident that it won’t though and this is the reason. Last Saturday, both my daughters asked to come and run Ashton Court Park Run with me and they both completed the entire 5k including the mountaineering section up the hill. They raced each other with youngest daughter leading her elder sister the whole way and then being furious at being pipped on the line. I couldn’t keep up with them and Curly Sue’s sister very kindly ran with them and kept an eye on things. I ran the whole route (including the uphill part) for the first time ever (no walking). My daughters cheered me into the finishers’ funnel and were completely ecstatic about the whole experience and immediately asked when they could do the next one. My daughters have been my running buddies since the first loops around the allotments all those months ago, and I am sure that they will be my running buddies over the Summer and beyond. One day, I am hopeful that I will be able to keep up with them but they make is easy to keep trying. My collection of medals is growing, but the best reward for any of this is seeing my girls embrace fitness and sport and that we do it together.