Summer, burpees and crackers

Park Run Pink LeggingsSo here we are in August. It’s hot, which is a surprise for us Brits, and the school holidays are in full swing.

I’m still running, but I have found it very tough running in the heat.

As a family we experienced a lovely 12 night break in France during which time we enjoyed/endured 38c days and 23c nights. It was scorching and it was too much for our air tent as it popped in the heat meaning that it collapsed and we spent the last 4 nights of our holiday sleeping in 2 hastily sourced festival tents. However, in spite of this, we still had an excellent time. Husband spent the entire 2 weeks undertaking a personal quest in order to find the cheapest, yet drinkable wine (€1.70 a litre was the result) and we all acquired a golden brown tan whilst reading books and generally spending time together without the enticement of electronic devices. It was lovely.

I had packed my running kit (actually it was the first thing I did pack) and was full of positive intentions as we set off. In the first week I did manage a run. It was ludicrously hot and I only managed 4k but I was pleased I went. There were lots of people from our campsite who were runners and we would see them every morning trundling off and then coming back drenched in sweat 30 minutes later. Unfortunately the heat spiked in the second week and I didn’t go again. It was worrying to realise just how soon I slipped back into my old habits of eating a bit too much and drinking copious amounts of wine, champagne (€8 a bottle at the supermarket) and lager. White bread and cheese were a diet staple in France for me and although I was careful to log 10000 steps each day (I took trusty Fitbit with me) I knew I would pay for it when we got home.

However, re-affirming once more that exercise is a very powerful friend to have, the damage wasn’t too bad and I resolved to rectify things immediately. The old me would have discovered that I had gained a bit of weight and then things would have started to slip again further but I was determined to nip it in the bud straight away. By eating sensibly and being active, it all came off the following week.

Youngest daughter volunteered to come with me on a run as soon as we got back and the next morning we set off. My little girl (now a strong park runner in her own right, placing in the top 2 girls in her last 2 Junior Park Runs) struggled a bit and so we ended up walking/running 4.8k. I was alarmed at how hard it was again for me as well as her in the heat and so I resolved to keep running but would also mix it up with other exercises over the hot period which would hopefully strengthen me overall and ultimately help me to run faster. Whilst I recognise that “you’re lapping everyone on the couch” and “you should just enjoy it” etc etc  I really don’t like being last in races – actually I’m not allowed to call them races anymore. On Curly Sue’s instructions I am now referring to them as “Events” – which I agree does sound friendlier. But regardless of what you call them, I would prefer to not always be last.

So I started to cycle to and from work each day and also signed up for some different classes.

There is a group called Run 4 Life which is full of wonderful smiley people and they lead a number of courses but the one I was interested in was Intervals. So I signed up and attended my first one. It entailed of a gentle jog to warm up and then running around 3 trees (each approximately 150m apart) sprinting/running fast, walking and then jogging, changing from each speed on the blow of a whistle. The fast run was 3 minutes and then 30 seconds of walking, 30 seconds of slow jogging and then fast running again. It was nothing short of horrendous. I couldn’t speak and contemplation of death was back with a vengeance, but I did survive and importantly it showed me that actually nothing bad will happen if I push myself really hard.  The worst and most difficult part of the whole session was the 1km slow jog to cool down afterwards. That was very difficult and my legs felt they as though they were running through treacle but I was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one who was feeling tired and so I enjoyed a very amiable jog (we walked a bit too) back with another lovely lady to finish off. One of the lovely things about running is that you encounter new people and often people whom you would never meet otherwise as you live in different places, work in different sectors and socialise in different circles. I love meeting new people and everyone I met at the Intervals class was absolutely lovely and the leaders were very encouraging. I’m trying to persuade Husband (who is deep into half marathon training) to attend the next one with me. I think I am strong enough now not to dissolve into tears as he speeds away from me.

Any scepticism I may have had before the class (do these things ever really work?…) was well and truly smashed  last week at Ashton Court Park Run as I took 1 minute 37 seconds off my previous PB. This was undoubtedly in part as a result of the interval training but I also think it was because I allowed myself to walk a little bit in return for also running flat out down the hill. I know this is controversial as I have spent the last 8 months trying NOT to walk, but I have realised that if I allow myself the odd (and I mean only a couple) of 30 second walking breaks, I can run much faster. The photo of me in the pink leggings (I am nothing if not stylish) was taken at Park Run last week, very close to the end. I was pushing myself harder than I had ever pushed myself before and I think it shows in my face(!) but the result was smashing my previous best time and I was ecstatic.

It turns out that I am not the only person to have realised that running and walking makes you faster and apparently it’s a whole thing called “Jeffing”. There’s a very clever chap (called Jeff, it seems like a good solid name to me) who pioneered a whole running technique where they run/walk whole marathons. Subsequent enquires have led me to discover that a local running Club has a group that run/walk distances and I am going to go along in September and see what it’s all about. I really want to crack 10k in 90 minutes and if allowing myself a little walk is the key to doing that, then that’s what I’ll do. After all, I’m still out there exercising and running so where’s the harm?

Carrying on with the theme of trying different things, this week I attended a HIIT class run by the This Mum Runs group. One of my friends (we’ll call her TwinMum) has been talking to me about the benefits of HIITs and in particular, burpees, for some time now. She has demonstrated them and is really very enthusiastic about them. I reciprocated the enthusiasm and had downloaded some Joe Wicks (Lean in 15) workouts to watch, but unfortunately I have actually only watched them. He is quite easy to watch whilst drinking a cup of tea (!) but it wasn’t helping me get stronger. So when the TMR said they were going to be running a supervised class with a qualified trainer, I signed up straight away.

The class was Monday night in a local(ish) park. We started with a gentle jog and then performed 6  (I think it was 6, I was quite lightheaded by the end of it if I’m honest) different exercises for 40 seconds with a 20 second rest before going straight into the next exercise and so on. The final section was to sprint across the park as fast as you could before returning to start all over again. I have to tell you that I think the class was harder than the 10k. Burpees are horrendous. You think that 40 seconds is short? It isn’t. Time it doing a burpee and then see how long it is. For those of you who are not familiar with a burpee (you are so lucky by the way) it’s where you jump up with your arms over your head and then place your hands on the floor and then “bunny hop” your legs out behind you, then back and then jump up again. It sounds easy but I promise you they are not.  I felt sick in my mouth at least twice but kept going. For some of them I could only manage 30 seconds before resting but I am confident that I did my best. Other exercises included squats, lunges and variations in between (see I told you I couldn’t really remember) but the sprints were the hardest, especially as they were the last one to do. I genuinely felt like I was running through peanut butter. I was the slowest sprinter there but everyone was super encouraging and (after it had finished, not at the time, definitely not at the time) I realised that I had enjoyed it. I was completely shell shocked but I was proud of myself for completing a class that lots of other (much fitter than I) ladies had also found tough. I’m signed up for 2 more….I must be mad.

I have also enrolled for 2 more 10ks this year. I need something to focus on. I have signed up for something called the “Christmas Cracker” which is a 10k around Weston Super Mare in December. Fancy dress is quite a thing apparently and will require some serious thought (more about this in later blogs I am sure). I’m hoping that training for this 10k will keep me on the straight and narrow during the notorious“wine and cheese” festive season but this is still a long way away. Therefore after much deliberation I have also signed up for a 10k on the 11 September. This is a more rural location and I’m looking forward to enjoying the scenery and breathing in the country air and hopefully not wanting to shoot myself. I’m chuffed to bits that my friend GodMum (who also has completed a C25k this year) is also going to run it with me, as well as Curly Sue who is tailrunning.

So with a couple of 10ks on the horizon I am back in training mode and today took myself off for my first solo 5k in a while. I cranked up my songs and set off. I ran 2k and then walked for 30 seconds and then ran again. I gave myself a 30 second walk at 4k and then went for it. I noticed on my watch that I seemed to have been faster than ever before so I really pushed myself over the past kilometre and for the first time ever ran 5k in 40 minutes exactly. I was beyond ecstatic. This is a huge deal for me. When I first ran the 5k around Little Stoke Park Run it was in 45.46 minutes. When I smashed my PB at Park Run last Saturday, the time was 43.07 and so today’s time is a huge milestone physically as well as mentally. Maybe I can run the next 10k in 90 minutes? Time will tell but I’m going to give it all I have and keep working hard. Whilst I contemplate this, I might just watch a short Joe Wicks video to assess his burpee technique…

10k T shirt fits