Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Glow Yoga - it's not running but it still counts!

I'm feeling a bit guilty tonight as I gave myself a night off from the running club. I haven't been feeling 100% today - I felt quite dizzy during my yoga class this morning and the feeling stayed with me for most of the morning. So when I left work to be greeted with a cold, wet and windy evening the decision to go home rather than go running was quite a straight forward one.

I don't like missing running sessions that I've planned in. Part of it I'm sure is my inner project manager shouting at me that I've missed a milestone. and I also somehow feel like I'm letting the new 'running me' down a little bit. However, I also know that I need to listen to my body and I think tonight coming straight home was the right thing to do. My marathon training plan hasn't yet started so I'm not 'cheating' and I've got lots of other opportunities to run this week, so I'll make the time/miles up another day.

It also occurred to me that I've alread done two Glow Yoga sessions this week, both of which were dynamic and challenging. For some reason, my brain feels differently about activity that's not running. It doesn't register as being as important as a run, as if the calories that I will have burned don't count as much, which is clearly nonsense! So despite missing my run tonight I've done 2 hrs of exercise this week already so I really don't have that much to feel guilty about.

What is this 'Glow Yoga' that I'm referring to? It's a yoga class done in a warm room which is heated with infra red panels, the first of its type in Europe. The room also has SAD ambient lighting which when combined with the warmth make for a lovely environment to practice yoga.

As I am a relative novice when it comes to yoga so I have been attending the Foundation Course every Tuesday morning for the last couple of months. These are taught by Nahid who is the owner of the studios and developed the Glow Yoga technique. Each week she's taken us slowly through a selection of poses, teaching us the correct alignment and giving us lots of opportunity to practice. I've really enjoyed the classes and I feel like I've been making good progress.

What I didn't realise when I started was how well Glow Yoga complements running. It takes quite a lot of principles from Pilates and so is great for building core strength, something that's really important for good running technique. It's also fantastic for flexibility - something I struggle with and really need to work on.

Some people have the perception that yoga is just about lying on the floor making 'umming' noises but this couldn't be further from the truth. The classes are challenging but in a really good way and I leave the studio feeling energised and ready for the day.

So while I didn't go running tonight I did go to yoga this morning and my body has no doubt benefitted from it. While running will obviously be the most important part of my marathon training, building core strength and flexibilty are also crucial and I fully intend to make Glow Yoga part of my training plan.

Friday, 25 November 2011

From a dream to reality

So having watched the London Marathon 2011 and deciding that I wanted to run that marathon 'at some point in my life' I have a place to run the very next year. So what happened to make that dream become a reality in such a short space of time?

As I was training for the Great South Run I realised that it was a lot easier to add miles onto my long Sunday run than I thought it would be. My sister in law, who has run several marathons, once told me that the first 3 miles are the hardest and then it becomes relatively straightforward to add mileage after that. I started to understand what she meant.

Quite often when I was out running I found myself wondering what running 26.2 miles would be like. It's obviously a really long way, but plenty of people do it every year so at some point I can't really remember I adjusted my goal from being 'at some point in my life' to 'before I'm 40' or more specifically in 2013.

I had it all mapped out in my head, I'd do the Great South Run in October 2011, a couple of half marathons in 2012 and then London in 2013. I was quite happy with my little plan. It hadn't even crossed my mind to try and get a place for 2012, the ballot had closed a long time ago.

Then towards the end of September I saw a couple of my friends post on Facebook that they had got places for London 2012 through the ballot. I really surprised myself at how envious I was but again I didn't really think anything more about it as I had my intentions set on 2013.

A few weeks later a good friend at work mentioned that she'd seen that there were still charity places available for 2012 and asked if I'd thought about trying to get one. I talked her through my 2013 plan but she had clearly planted a seed in my mind as I went home that evening and stared searching the internet to see what places were still available.

I found a few but most charities wanted around £2000 in sponsorship and had quite a complicated application process. I decided that I'd stick with my 2013 plan and justified this to myself very logically, despite the fact that everytime I thought about running in 2012 I got a knot of excitement in my stomach that I was doing my very best to ignore.

Back at work the next day I told my friend that I'd looked for places but decided against it and gave her my long list of justifications. She listened and smiled but I could tell by the look on her face that she was thinking "what a load of old rubbish". All she actually said to me was "you could absolutely do it if you wanted to"

With her words ringing in my ears that evening I found myself back online and happened to come across a website for an organisation called CRunCH. They match up people who want to run the London Marathon with charities who have spaces available. I saw that a charity local to me had places available with a far more modest fundraising target than I'd previously come across and before I knew it I was filling in the application form.

The next day I had a phone call from someone at CRunCH who asked me a few questions about my motivation to run, my abilty to raise the money and my running experience. And at the end of the call he uttered the words which would change the next six months of my life - "I'm pleased to be able to offer you a place in the London Marathon 2012".

I was in!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Boutique Running Club Week 3 - Keeping up with the hares!

I'm just back from my third run with the Boutique Running Club run by the lovely people at Boutique Sport and I had a really good time. The group of girls that run are so friendly and I'm really enjoying getting to know some new runners.

We took a slightly different route tonight as the Christmas Markets are in full swing by the London Eye and it would have been far to busy to try and negotiate our way through. The new route took us further south over Waterloo Bridge before we turned back on ourselves and made our way down towards the river.

London looked very pretty tonight with the Christmas lights all twinkling in the night sky. The London Eye was lit up in red and white which looked particularly festive.

The pace this week was pretty steady and I felt confident all the way around. I realised that as long as I kept myself towards the middle of the group then mentally I didn't worry about falling behind so I made a conscious effort to not be the last person in the group.

I was really pleased that when we got to the hill up the side of The Savoy that I ran pretty much all the way up - much better than the two previous weeks.

My Garmin showed that we covered 2.77 miles in 30.45 mins. Slightly further than last week in a slightly quicker time. Progress! This week I definitely kept up with the hares!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Views from my runs

One of the things that I enjoy most about running is being outside. I love the fact that as long as I've got my trainers and running gear with me I can run wherever I am. Most of my runs have been around Limehouse where I live in London but I've also been lucky enough to run in Rome and California this year. Here are some of the things that I've seen....

By the side of the Tiber in Rome

Through Wapping towards Tower Bridge

Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, California

A seal in Monterey, California

The boardwalk in Santa Barbara, California

Beautiful autumnal trees in Limehouse

Towards Canary Wharf from Limehouse Marina

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Boutique Running Club number 2 - not so much of a tortoise after all!

This time last week I was posting about how I'd just taken part in my first Boutique Run and how hard I'd found it keeping up with the pace. Well, I've just come back from this week's run and it was quite a different story.

The Boutique Running Club is run by the people at Boutique Sport It's a great idea - a free running club for women that meets once a week to run just under 3 miles in Central London.

I'd had an e-mail during the week from one of the Boutique Sport people who had seen my blog last week and wanted to make sure that I was coming back this week. I thought it was really nice of them, I had decided that I would go back anyway but it was good to get the e-mail all the same.

When I turned up this week I was feeling less nervous than the week before. I knew what was in store and recognised some of the people from the previous week - everyone was really friendly. The group was a bit smaller this week which turned out to be a really good thing.

We set off on the same route as last week but this time we all stayed pretty much together. After the first mile I was right in the middle of the group, the pace was challenging but manageable. The second mile took us along the Southbank and over Westminster Bridge. I didn't realise it at the time but I was running the faster mile I've ever done.

By this time I was towards the back of the group but I could still see everyone ahead of me, really different to the week before where I had fallen way behind. I think having a smaller group made a real difference. Before I knew it we were making our way back through Covent Garden to the studio where we started and this week I didn't finish last!

I took my new Garmin watch out with me and couldn't wait to get back and look at my stats. I ran 2.73 miles in 31.21 mins and I ran the 2nd mile in 10.20 mins. This is brand new territory for me and I'm delighted with that time.

I'm really glad that I went back after last week, proud of what I've achieved and looking forward to next week's run to see what else I can do!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Great South Run - it's a bit of a long one!

I ended my last post saying that if it hadn't been for Thinking Slimmer then I never would have taken part in the Great South Run and I shall pick up that story from here.

One of the keys to Thinking Slimmer's success is that it gets you to set yourself goals. Your goals can be weight or dress size related but it also encourages you to set goals around things which will become easier or more fun to do as you lose weight. It won't be any surprise to know that one of my goals is around running.

Having completed the 5K in June, I had set myself a goal of taking part in a 10K race by December 2011. One day having got back from a training run I tweeted something about how I'd done and got a response from Sandra asking if I'd like to join the Thinking Slimmer team that were taking part in the 10 mile Great South Run in October. One of the other 'Thinking Slimmers', Darin McCloud that I've mentioned previously, had set himself this goal and the Thinking Slimmer team had decided to support him by joining in.

Now 10 miles is quite a lot further than 10K but I do like a challenge. So without thinking about it for too long I accepted Sandra's invitation and set about training to run 10 miles rather than 6.2 a whole 2 months earlier than I'd intended to!

I actually really enjoyed the training, it was great to keep up with how others were doing and share stories of how we felt in the run up to the big day. Each Sunday as I went out for my long run I was breaking into new territory, running further and for longer than I had once ever thought I would be able to. The day I completed my first 10 mile run is one I'll never forget - I was so proud of how far I'd come and it gave my confidence a huge boost to know that I would definitely complete the distance on the day.

So, on Friday 28th October my husband and I left London for Portsmouth for the weekend so that I could join the 23999 others running the race with me on Sunday. We enjoyed looking around Portsmouth on the Saturday as we'd never been before

However, as Saturday progressed I started to feel a bit under the weather and by the time I went to bed I had the startings of a miserable cold. I was so cross - months of training for the race and I had to come down with something the night before!

On Sunday morning I woke feeling quite under the weather. If it had been a normal Sunday I wouldn't have gone out on my long run but I decided that it was just the start of a cold and I wasn't going to let it spoil the day. So at just after 9am we found our way to the Charity Village where I met Darin for the first time in the flesh. It was great to meet him after months of chatting on Facebook and Twitter - he looked so different to some of the photos that I'd seen of him - he'd lost so much weight!

As the clocked ticked down to the start of the race we made our way over to the starting area for our wave. I started to feel quite nervous. I knew I could do the distance but I'd never taken part in anything this big and as I wasn't feeling 100% I was worried about how I'd do. We lined up for another team Thinking Slimmer photo - we'd now been joined by Trevor as well

The final member of the team to arrive was Lorraine, Darin's diabetic consultant who had been the person to suggest to him that he should take part in the race. As I said to her later, at about mile 8 I think - "this is all your fault then?"

At just after 11.15am our green wave set off, by this time I was excited and ready to run. By a stroke of luck I managed to see my husband just before we went over the starting line and it was lovely to have a last minute smile and cheer of support from him.

We had decided that we would use a run/walk strategy for the race. Running for around 10 mins and then walking for one to recover. I was a little apprehensive about this as I'd never tried it in training but Lorraine assured me that it would help me to achieve a better time, so I went with it.

The first couple of miles were really crowded, the atmosphere was brilliant with the crowd cheering and people hanging out of their windows waving and shouting encouragement as we went past. The route took us through the historic dockyard and past HMS Victory where there was even a brass band playing!

After about the 3rd mile, I realised that we were a little ahead of Darin. I think Lorraine and Trevor must have agreed between them that she would run with me and that Trevor would run with Darin because before I knew it she was asking me what time I'd like to aim for and encouraging me to pick up the pace for a bit.

We got to the 5 mile mark in a good time, I was feeling OK and the run/walk strategy was definitely working. We pushed on through mile 6 and I was amazed when Lorraine told me that we'd got to the 10K mark in an hour and 14 mins, 6 mins faster than I'd ever managed in training.

Mile 6-7 is when it started to feel tough for me, my legs felt tired, I could tell I wasn't well and I think the early pace started to take its toll. But we pushed on through to mile 8. At this point the course takes a turn out onto the seafront. We were greeted with a wall of wind and rain coming straight into our faces. It felt like running through treacle. The hardest mile of the whole race without a doubt.

By this time I was exhausted, I just wanted the finish line to appear in front of me, but I was given a massive boost when out of nowhere my husband appeared by the side of the road, cheering me on. He took this picture, the smile on my face is no reflection at all of how I was feeling at this point!

Before my longer there was suddenly only 400m to go and Lorraine was encouraging me to give it everything I had. I crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 1 min and 58 seconds - over 6 mins faster than I had ever run in training. I was elated, relieved and exhausted all at the same time.

Lorraine and I collected our water, medals and goody bag and we made our way back to the Charity Village to meet our other halves and find out how Darin and Trevor had got on. After a very welcome cup of tea and a banana from the lovely people in the Diabetes UK I saw Darin coming across the field looking pretty much how I felt. He'd done brilliantly - it was an amazing achievement and his friends and family were obviously brimming with pride.

I want to say 'thank you' to Darin, Sandra, Trevor and Lorraine. Without you I wouldn't have taken part in this race, proved to myself that I'm capable of running 10 miles and had a fantastic experience. Most of all I want to say 'thank you' to my husband, for being so supportive of what I'm doing, for carrying my bags in the rain and for magically popping up in the crowd, cheering me on at exactly at the point I needed to see him.

This is me, home showered and changed in the T-shirt and medal. Tired and achey but very proud indeed.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Thinking Slimmer

I can't get too much further into my story of how I have come to be training for a marathon without talking about ThinkingSlimmer

I came across this revolutionary approach to weight loss back in May and and able to say with no hesitation that it has changed my relationship with food forever.

I have 'struggled' with my weight for as long as I can remember and have tried many different diets to try and lose weight. Weightwatchers, Slimming World, calorie counting - been there, done it. I've been through cycles of starting something new, doing really well for a few weeks then dropping off 'the wagon', getting disheartened and putting the weight back on again. I think it's a something that a lot of serial dieters can probably relate to.

Thinking Slimmer is totally different. It's not a diet at all. There's no counting of calories, sins or points, no good or bad foods and no humiliating public weigh ins.

At the heart of the Thinking Slimmer approach is the Slimpod, a downloadable mp3 track that you listen to for 10 mins a day, ideally before you go to bed, for 21 days and then for as long as you need to after that. During those 10 mins Trevor Silvester, the founder of the Cognitive Hypnotherapy technique talks to your unconscious and magically changes the way that you think about food.

Within days of using the Slimpod I found that I was thinking about food a lot less and only really when I was hungry. I also found that I was able to stop eating when I was full and leave food on my plate, something I had never done before. Day by day I noticed more and more changes to my relationship with food and soon enough the scales started to show the impact of these changes.

Since June I have lost over a stone in weight, a dress size, 4 inches off my tummy and most importantly I have lost my obsession with food. I still eat whatever I want and really enjoy my food but I am now in control.

One of the other great things about Thinking Slimmer is the support that's available. Sandra Roycroft Davis, the founder of the company makes herself available to answer any questions that you have on Facebook and Twitter, or via the Thinking Slimmer website. She's incredibly supportive and an all round lovely lady who clearly cares about the people who are using her product.

I've also met fellow 'Thinking Slimmers' and they have some fantastic stories to tell. From the inspirational Dawn aka The Moiderer who has shrunk from a size 22 to a size 14 to the amazing Darin McCloud who has lost a staggering 5 stone in six months

I have a lot to thank Sandra and the rest of the Thinking Slimmer community for. Not least that if it hadn't been for them that I would never have thought about taking part in the Great South Run. But that's another story for another post on another day!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Tortoise and the Hares

Tonight I did something that at the start of the year I wouldn't have even contemplated - I went running with a running club! I joined the ladies at Boutique Sport for a 'gentle' 4K run through Central London.

Things didn't start too well to be honest, when I arrived at the gym studio that they use as their base for the runs I was handed a T-shirt to run in - they wanted everyone to be kitted out in the same gear so that we were identifiable on the run. Fair enough I guess. However, their choice of running tops really could have been more forgiving - tight fitting white tops are not my usual running gear of choice!

I was one of the first to arrive and as others joined the group it soon became clear to me that I was one of the oldest, and the only person in the group who wasn't a size 10. I started to feel a bit nervous about what I'd let myself in for.

We set off through Covent Garden, towards Waterloo Bridge at a reasonable pace - the biggest challenge was dodging through the crowds and watching for traffic. When we got to the other side of Waterloo Bridge and made our way down onto the Southbank the pace started to increase. I found myself at the back of the pack, really struggling to keep up with everyone.

We ran along the Southbank and along by the London Eye before crossing back over the river via Westminster Bridge. By this time the group were a good minute or so ahead of me. The pace was much faster than I'm used to running. To her credit the group leader ran with me, chatting along the way and offering a lot of encouragement. It still didn't stop me from feeling a bit rubbish to be honest.

After we'd turned right back along the Embankment we took a left turn along the side of The Savoy hotel. This road is pretty steep - perfect for a hill sprint, so the group leader decided. I increased my speed as much as I could but the others were at the top and around the corner before I'd got halfway up!

Thankfully, before long we were nearly back in Covent Garden where we started and I was once again encouraged to sprint the last 100m. After some cooling down and stretching the group leader took the time to check that I'd enjoyed it and gave me some more words of encouragement that I really appreciated.

So, I was definitely the tortoise of the group, but unlike the fable, I never actually overtook the hares. I could be really demotivated by the experience, but I'm choosing not to be. I did it - I've been out running with a group of people who were much faster than me and I didn't give up. I pushed myself, completed the run and when I go back next week hopefully I won't be quite so far behind them!

Monday, 7 November 2011

My first 5K race

Not long after I started out jogging a friend of mine at work signed up for a 5K Race for Life after finding out that a friend of hers had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She wasn't a runner at the time and I was really impressed by her decision to do something that was going to challenge her so much but enable her to raise money for charity and feel like she was doing something positive.

Inspired by her decision I found myself wondering if I could manage to run a 5K and before thinking about it for too long I signed myself up for the City of London Race for Life. At the time I remember thinking that 5K was a really long way, given that I was still only managing to run for a few minutes at a time. I'd tried to run a 5K race before but had found the training really difficult and had ended up walking half the distance. I decided this time would be different.

I found a brilliant website called www.runningintoshape.com where I downloaded training podcasts to see me from 'Couch to 5K' The training programme was great, gradually increasing the periods of running in small but manageable amounts. Each week I made steady progress - I remember the first time I ran for 20 minutes non stop - it felt like such an achievement.

So 9 weeks later I found myself lining up in the cold and drizzle near the Guildhall in the City of London ready to take part in my first 5K race.

I was very nervous before the race, I knew that I could do the distance but I'd trained so hard that I wanted to do myself justice on the day. The atmosphere was fantastic - hundreds of women running, jogging and walking all to raise money for Cancer Research - everyone had a sign on their back to say who they were running for. Having lost my uncle the year before, I decided to run in his memory

I really enjoyed the first two miles of the race, I felt confident and enjoyed the atmosphere and the crowds cheering us on along the route. The last mile and a bit I found very challenging, but I kept going, cheered on by my husband until I crossed the finish line. My time was 38minutes, not fast by anyone's book, but 2 mins faster than I'd ever been in training. I felt elated and exhausted at the same time.

I would really recommend Race for Life for any woman who is thinking about taking up running. The events are well organised, and cater for runners, joggers and walkers. 5K is an achievable distance and the training can be fitted in pretty easily.

If you're reading this and thinking "I couldn't do that" believe me - if I can, you can!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Watching the Virgin London Marathon 2011

I've watched the London Marathon on TV many times. Although I've lived in and around London for most of my life I have never been out onto the streets to watch it 'live' so I had no idea what to expect on Sunday April 17th when we walked out of our flat.

We had been able to hear the music and cheering from our balcony for an hour or so and knew that something 'big' was going on not far from our front door but neither of us were prepared for the sight that greeted us at the end of the road

There were hundreds of people lining the road, cheering and clapping the hundreds and hundreds of runners who were streaming along the route. From the moment I saw it I was transfixed.

I managed to find myself a spot with a great view and I stood and watched and applauded the runners as they went past. I clapped my hands until they were sore.

As I stood there and watched the runners go past I saw some truly inspirational sights. Running 26.2 miles is tough enough in itself but there were people doing it in rhino costumes, carrying a washing machine on their back, joined together into a human caterpillar and countless other crazy things, all to raise money for their chosen charity. I spotted fit young things, people far more out of shape than me, people who must have been older than my parents - people of all shapes and sizes out there doing something amazing.

I made a decision there and then that one day I would run the London Marathon

How on earth did this happen?

Welcome to my blog which I've set up to record my progress as I train for the London Marathon 2012.

So how on earth did this happen given that just over seven months ago I couldn't run for more than a minute at a time? To be honest, I can't remember exactly what it was that made me decide to give running a go. It was probably a combination of things:

- I am in my late 30s and want to get in shape before I hit the big 4-0

- I am facing redundancy in the next 6 months and wanted to do something for me to keep me sane through what has and will continue to be a pretty stressful time

- We'd recently moved to Limehouse, a lovely area of London which is very popular with runners. I'd spent a lot of time looking out of our windows watching other people out running and thinking "I'd like to be able to do that"

So one day in April I found myself outside our building in my trainers ready to go for a jog. I didn't really have a goal in mind, I just wanted to see what I could do. The answer was, not very much! I think I probably managed a minute or so before I had to stop and walk. I'd heard from other people that this is very common so I wasn't too disheartened, although it was a bit of a shock to have such a stark indicator of my lack of fitness. I decided I'd try and do this a couple of times a week and see how I got on.

The next weekend was the weekend of the 2011 Virgin London Marathon. We hadn't realised when we moved that our new area is right on the marathon route. We live smack bang inbetween mile 14 and mile 21. We decided that we'd go out and see what was going on, take in some of the atmosphere and cheer on the runners.

At the time I didn't realise what significance that day would have.