Crab walks, kettlebells and strava

Following my Joe Wicks induced “mountain climber” injury, I’ve had to visit the physio four times, which has been a bit annoying to say the least, not to mention expensive. The physio however was lovely, very supportive and he understood what I was trying to achieve…i.e. getting stronger so I wouldn’t get injured and need to see a physio – the irony is not lost on me. Still after a couple of weeks during which I was allowed to do “gentle running” I am pleased to say that I am now completely signed off, but with strict instructions that if I am pushed for time to exercise over the course of a week for any reason, I will not sacrifice a strength session for a run. He made me promise faithfully.

I had a stint over the summer last year when I was attending some barbell strength classes at the local leisure centre and I so with my clean bill of health, I decided that this would be the way forward again. However, over a few polite gin and tonics on my birthday weekend, the Red Lady persuaded me to join her gym. I have always hated gyms and have a string of failed memberships to my name over the years, but on the basis of basic economics I was persuaded. The leisure centre classes were £6.50/7 a class and the gym is £15 a month. I won’t insult your intelligence by “showing my workings” here but needless to say with no long term contract attached, it was definitely worth a go.

The class I was most interested in was “kettlebells” which alas, have nothing to do with Father Christmas or cups of tea. I’d asked for a kettlebell for one of my birthday presents (along with make-up and gin – I haven’t changed THAT much!) but then realised that I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. So I joined the gym on my birthday (yes….I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in….) and then signed up for a kettlebells class. A kettlebell is handbag shaped (so far so good) in that it is spherical with a loop coming out of the top (like handbag handles) but alas that is where the similarities end. It is a dead weight  (3kg) and the handle is for….well holding, as you put yourself through a variety of squats (this is where you get your body into a sitting position, but don’t have anything to actually sit on), lunges (one leg forward and the other leg dropping to the floor knee first) and arm related torturous exercises. I managed all the exercises and the next day could feel hundreds of new muscles that I had no idea that I had possessed previously. The good news was that it only hurt if I breathed or moved (!)….walking down stairs was the worst. But it did only last 48 hours and at least I knew it was working all the muscles that I needed to be working so I have signed up again for next week.

I’ve also started my proper training sessions with Curly Sue and they seem to be going well. They last around 30 minutes once a week and they largely focus on technique. There is more to running apparently than lumbering forward at the fastest speed you can manage whilst not falling on your face and I am keen to learn.

I’ve had three sessions now and we’ve worked on squats and lunges (everyone is obsessed with squats and lunges). I damaged my knee playing netball when I was about 15 and was advised by the doctor not to do lunges at the time – 27 years later it was clear that I have been using this as a cop out ever since because, let’s be honest, they really hurt. Knees have to be in certain positions so as to avoid hurting yourself, but once Curly Sue was happy that I could do a safe lunge (did I actually just type that?!), I had plenty of homework to be getting on with. Forward lunges, backwards lunges, side lunges, lunges round an (imaginary) clock, walking lunges, not to mention the walking squats I have to do, which has me moving like a constipated crab twisting whilst in a squat position, like I am trying to impress Len Goodman. These sessions take place outside, in public, where people walk past as I perform these dances. The weird thing is that a year ago, I was still running in the dark so nobody could see me, these days I’m always wearing something neon in colour so people can’t help but see me and I genuinely don’t give a stuff if they think I look ridiculous or not (although, I am fairly sure that I do look ridiculous)!

Curly Sue breaks everything down into easy bite size pieces and if I had been sceptical about her methods to start with (I wasn’t, as I trust that she knows what she is doing) I am no longer, as since the beginning of January I have taken 2 minutes and 39 seconds off my time at Ashton Court Park Run (and the mountain) and this is AMAZING.

In the first of the two park runs I ran with Youngest Daughter and I had to stop a few times as she had a stitch – she is only 9 and it is 5k. But she wanted to stop and walk at the beginning of the downhill – I couldn’t believe it, NOT THE DOWNHILL but being a good Mum I kept her going as much as I could and then told her that her sister would beat her if she didn’t get a move on …and that seemed to do the trick! but nonetheless, I knew I could have gone faster. So the following week, I didn’t put up too much of a fight when daughters didn’t want to come along to Park Run and so was able to give it everything I had. Another ThisMumRuns lady was there. She recognised me and introduced herself (I love meeting new people) and we ran together. I was tired at the top of the hill and said I was fine if she wanted to leave me (“save yourself!”) but she waited and we finished it together. It was great chatting as it distracted from the pain and I pushed myself harder than I have ever done before. I was still over 40 minutes at Ashton Court but the time had enormously improved. This pleased me. My next target is to get it under 40 minutes.

I’ve also been running to and from work. Work is fairly busy at the moment so with the exception of my diarised session with Curly Sue, getting out at lunchtime is practically impossible and there has been lots going on at home too. Therefore, I have been focussing on 3-4 runs a week but 2 of those have been the 3k commute to or from work. I’ve been trying to make them fast and sometimes this has worked and sometimes it hasn’t but on the whole I am getting faster. I guess the extra strength work, squats, lunges etc must be doing something other than making my thighs wonder what they did to make me hate them so much, as Strava is showing that more and more I am running each kilometre 30-40 seconds faster than before Christmas. I’ve also lost 6 pounds since the beginning of the year which is more good news.

Strava (another of those apps that track and logs your speed, routes etc) is something that Curly Sue asked me to download so she can be my “friend” and track my progress. It is AMAZING. I have so many Strava friends now and I can see routes that my running buddies are doing too. It’s fantastic.

I’ve also been on a couple of 5k runs with some local neighbour Mums (both really lovely ladies) and we all seem to run at a similar speed and so this has been positive too. The Trundlers are also still going strong and so I am having lots of opportunities to run with different ladies. I’ve volunteered to lead a “ThisMumRuns” formal run too. Next Sunday I will be leading a 30 minute run and I’m quite excited. If you’re reading this and have been thinking about coming along to one of these Sunday runs but haven’t managed to get to one yet – COME ALONG! I need to keep pushing myself and trying new things…although I suspect that squats and lunges will be in my future for many weeks to come…..which is good because my future also holds a 10k and a half marathon….yikes!


Runniversary and 2017

Tomorrow is my “runniversary”.  For those of you that do not speak fluent “Friends” (Annivegasary anyone?) it means that on January 3rd it will be exactly 1 year since I downloaded the couch to 5k app and went for the first run.


Much has changed in the last year.

  • With the exception of 3 weeks, I have run at least twice a week since the first week of January 2016 and often/usually this has been 3 times a week.
  • I have discovered more about my local area in the past year that the whole of the 14 years I have previously lived in my house. I have discovered shortcuts during my runs fuelled by a curiosity of “I wonder what’s down this road” followed by a knowing exclamation of “oh I’m HERE”. It’s been brilliant.
  • I’ve lost 3 and a half stone. That’s 22.2 kilograms or 49 pounds.
  • I have gone from a size 22/24 to a size 16/18.
  • I have slept better over the past 365 days than at any point since I was a teenager and I have more energy that I can ever remember.
  • We are now an active family – enjoying parkrun, cycling, hiking and even climbing together.
  • Sleeping on a camping roll mat is an enjoyable experience – even for a fortnight at a time.
  • I have run the 10k distance 5 times and the furthest I have run ever is 11.2k.
  • I’m strangely addicted to Superhero running leggings.
  • I have totally worn out a pair of trainers from running. They have a hole in them and I need a new pair, but I can’t seem to part with them.
  • I own more running bras than regular everyday ones.
  • According to the health check I had last week, I have a resting heart rate of 53.
  • I consider myself to be a runner.

However, as much as all of the above are achievements (even the Superhero leggings) that need to be celebrated, there is still work to do.

I bought the Joe Wicks DVD as I am aware that I need to strengthen my body as well as run. I don’t want to get injured and as someone who is now quite fit, I felt confident that the 20 minutes “absolute beginners’ workout” would be something that I could handle.

It was 4 exercises, each for 30 seconds as hard as you can go and then 30 seconds rest before heading into the next one. The exercises were running on the spot – fast (yes so far so good), burpees (hideous but manageable), power squats (jumping up from a squat – I decided to moderate this in order to achieve good technique so did normal squats) and then mountain climbers (this is a press up position and you bring your knees to your chest in a “running style”). It was hard but I managed it. But the next day I was in a ridiculous amount of pain around my glutes (bottom – it’s a sizeable bum, so a sizeable muscle group and so it was sizeable pain). This was good, I told myself, as it shows that I had needed to work the muscles. However, the next morning, as I was changing to accompany Curly Sue on a run at the Tyntesfield Estate, my right shoulder went into spasm. It was agony and I panicked a bit. I have struggled with my back for many years and so I knew exactly what to do. 45 minutes later I was at the physio’s for assessment in tears (partially because of the pain and partially because of the genuine fear that I was about to be told that I couldn’t run for a while), but the very helpful and sympathetic Dan, quickly diagnosed the source of the problem – Mountain Climbers. After 30 minutes of torture (or massage as he called it), he assured me that I would be running again after a week or so, as long as I rested in the meantime. I have duly rested and so hope to be back at Park Run next Sunday.

I may be fit but I am not strong. Not at all. In fact weak and feeble is a more accurate description. This is something that I will be working on in 2017. Coach Curly Sue assures me that this is part of the 2017 plan and apparently I will be getting quite well acquainted with something called a “kettlebell” over the coming months as staying injury free is critical if we are to achieve a solid time for the Bristol Half Marathon. I have promised to not do any mountain climbers for the foreseeable future and will go back to watching Joe Wicks exercise whilst drinking cups of tea….

So what are my goals for 2017. This is tricky and I have given it a lot of thought over the last few days.

  • I would like to lose a further 2 stone. Again though, as last year, I’m not interested in dieting and as you burn less calories the less you weigh, I recognise that this will be quite challenging. However, as the mileage will get higher as I train into the Summer, hopefully, as long as I continue to eat healthily, this should naturally take care of itself. I hope so, but we’ll see.
  • I want to run 10k in less than 1 hour 20 minutes and 5k in less than 36 minutes. I don’t yet know if I will be able to do this, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
  • I want to complete a half marathon. In my head I would like to do this in less than 3 hours, but I don’t know if this is realistic. More on this as we progress throughout the year I guess.
  • The final goal is more specific and relates back to my favourite gadget – my fitbit. I am going to do 65000 steps a week – each week. This needs to break down into 5 days of 10000 steps minimum. It sounds easy, but when work is busy it’s hard to get to 10000 steps so I think this will be a tough challenge.

My first ever blog post ended with the question “41 and a runner? We’ll see but I hope so”.

Well I’ll finish this blog entry with, I am 41 and I am a runner.

But will I be a half marathon runner at 42? We’ll see but I hope so.