Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Finding my way again

A few months after we moved to a new town and I had let my running drift a bit and dribble on without purpose or real effort, I found a running group, the Dynamos.  I decided to give them a go because they seemed relaxed and friendly, not a very serious running club. There is another running club nearby that includes all those guys who run parkrun in 15 minutes... soooooo intimidating and not for me.  So I found it very reassuring to find that not all running 'clubs' are super competitive and full of fast marathon runners.  There are lots like that, and they are great for some people.  I even have friends now who run with said super speedy professional running club, and they are lovely too... but it's just not for me.  I can't be and will never be that serious and don't want to be intimidated.

I want to run with other people like me...!

Dynamos are run by women, mostly other mothers who are passionate about running, health and fitness but also balancing that with the school run, feeding hungry kids, having a social life (oh yes, we also have the occasional tipple together!), fitting running around work and into a busy family life and so on.  Perfect. Some of them are really good, experienced and/or fast.  Some have run marathons and others are complete beginners and everything in between.

They are also incredibly friendly and welcoming.  The first time I went to the Dynamo Monday night session I was absolutely terrified.  I was so convinced I would turn up and find loads of super fitties who could knock out 10 miles in their lunch break and I'd never fit in.  I sent a message to the organisers and got a text message immediately encouraging me to join them and making me feel welcome before I even arrived.

My first run was tough I won't lie - I had to push myself, which I would never do when running alone.  I joined a 5km run with no stopping and slightly faster than I was used to, but I kept up, and did it and couldn't quite believe it!  I discovered that running with people has so many benefits including:

- We chat on the way around so the miles go faster
- You can't just stop and walk if you're struggling as you feel you don't want to let the others down, so I always run further/faster etc when running with others.
- You always turn up and run, as others are expecting you, so you can't just chicken out and sit on the sofa.
- Making friends! Learning about what's going on in my community... (discussing the best primary school to apply to! hee hee).

But best of all, by joining a group I became a better runner.  As well as sometimes just leading simple 5-8km runs where everyone runs at their own pace, the run leaders will other times lead us in different training sessions - I started to take part in (still relaxed, informal) training sessions doing hills, intervals, running further, running faster, adding strength and core exercises to build my muscles. I didn't expect to enjoy that or be able to do those sort of things. But I did, and I did! I also learned more about running from talking to others more experienced than me.

And I never ever felt like I couldn't run and didn't fit in.  I started to feel like a runner. I became a runner.  There were (are!) people at every level in the group, from beginner to marathon runner, slower and faster.  But we all encourage each other and thrive off seeing each other's achievements.

I still run with Dynamos now most Monday nights at 8pm (if Hubby gets home in time or I have a babysitter), and I also run with another similar and lovely group, Chelmer Roadrunners.

Chelmer Roadrunners are an offshoot of the Dynamos, but they run on week day (Tues and Thur) mornings, so the runners are all women who come to run after dropping the children at school.  Both groups regularly run beginner training courses to help those who have never run before or want to get back into running.

When I first started going out with the Roadrunners I would take my son in a running buggy.  Now he's at school thankfully I get to run on my own which is a lot easier! Some of my running friends know me as the buggy lady though! There was another lady last year who used to run with a double buggy and three year old twins! Awesome woman.

Both of these groups, and the inspiring ladies that lead the runs have given me so much and helped me to really love running, by helping me to get better at it.    When I ran my first 5kms at the end of following a c25k app alone, it took me 37 minutes, and now my personal best (pb) is under 32 minutes.  Thanks to these groups I have now run some 10km races too.  I struggled through my first with lots of walk breaks, but this year alone (2015) I have run 7 10km races so far, road race and cross country, and seen that distance get easier and more comfortable.

So... now the big question is... what next for me?

What's next for you?

Lisa x

Losing my way

So I finished c25k and I was about to run my first ever event - the Race for Life 5km race.  I managed to run almost all the way - just walked about 2 minutes up a very steep hill, and finished in 37 minutes.  You see. SLOW.  But that was fine for me because having started as someone who couldn't manage to run for 1 minute non-stop, being able to keep going for that long and complete 5kms was a huge achievement!

And I achieved this all on my own. I felt very proud. My husband and son were proud. My friends were amazed by the transformation.  I was on cloud 9!

At that point I kept running a little now and then, but lost my way.  I had nothing to aim for.  Life got very busy and stressful. We were moving house, or attempting too, and the sale fell through, we lost a house we were in love with, ended up living with the in laws and super super stress abounded.

And then winter came in and I found it hard to keep myself going in the cold and dark and wet, although I did occasionally still venture out and jog a little, slowly.  I didn't have anything to push me on.  I didn't know if I was any good.  I didn't know if I should attempt to run further, or how. And because I wasn't running regularly with any consistency I never found it very easy to keep going.  I started to fall out of love with running a little bit. I started to find it really hard to keep going mentally and physically.

But finally, we moved into our new home in November 2013, had a lovely Christmas, and as the Spring (2014) started to peak its little head up, I started to discover new running routes around our new town.

Running is a fantastic way to get to know a new place.  Whether you move house, like me, or are on holiday or visiting friends.  I know my town now, and all the lovely riverside footpaths, back passages (oooer mrs) and cut throughs. I know the fields and the roads and I know exactly how long each park is and how long it will take me to run from my house to the pre-school and back!  I thoroughly recommend running as a great way to fall in love with your town or village too.

I have had lovely runs where I've bumped into people I know and ended up chatting or walking a while with them.  I have had runs where I've got completely lost and had to run fast as I freaked myself out that I'd get more lost as night fell!  I have had runs where I've experienced nature at her finest, migrating geese over sunsets and stumbled across lone deer and foxes... and I've even had a run where I accidentally surprised the local drunk being sick behind a bush.... nice!  Most of all I've high fived, and said hello to lots and lots of other runners.  The running community on the whole is amazingly friendly.  And there are lots of people out running all over the place these days.

But still I struggled, and I never felt like a real runner, just someone playing with it. I was lost and I lost my running mojo.

And then I found a running group. My running group(s) and running friends are wonderful, I've made friends and acquaintances, I've improved my running, had great fun, learned new things, and pushed myself to achieve things way beyond my imagination.  I recommend running clubs to everyone. They seem scary yes, especially to a beginner, but you have to do it if you want to really enjoy and get the most out of running.

So I will write in my next post about my first experiences of joining a group!

Do you run with others or alone?  Let me know!
Lisa x

Simple strength training at home for runners

2.5 years into my running journey and 2.5 years of saying that I have no time to exercise I have finally accepted that if I want to get better at running and, crucially, stay injury free, I need to do some other form of exercise to develop the muscles I use for running.
I've read lots of running magazines and put myself together the following little routine. It takes me about 10- 20 minutes (I don't do all of it every time - so adapt to suit the day) and I try to do at least 1 or two of these each day as a minimum. Perhaps a few leg raises and donkey kicks just before I have a shower or a few squats while I'm boiling the kettle etc.
Any serious runner would do something a lot more intensively and seriously but let's be honest, some days I don't have time to brush my hair!
You don't need any equipment and you won't get particularly sweaty so you could even do it while the kids play (my little boy likes to join in!) or while you've got half an eye on the tv!
So if like me you are time poor, and have a jelly belly from baby bearing ...  but want to do some strength exercises to help with running...  here's a few things to try out...
PS you tube has some other good work out examples - a good place to look up if you don't know what these names mean as well.

Classic Plank 15s (build up to 30s) and build up to repeating this.
Lie on side - side leg raises (15-20 each leg) (either straight leg straight up or bent leg scissor motion)

Donkey kicks (15-20 each leg) 

Bird dog (15-20 each leg) yeah I had to look this one up to. Might take practice as you need a little balance too!
Squats 10, rest and repeat, build up to more reps  (add arm raises when confident) 

Lunges (15-20 each leg) (add arm raises when confident)

Russian  twists (15 -20) - this is also really nice for rolling out a slightly stiff lower back.

What others would you recommend that are quick, easy and need no equipment?

How (and why) I started to run

I didn't really believe I could learn to run. I hated it at school and in the 15 or more years since leaving school the most exercise I had attempted was the odd Zumba class, a leisurely swim and a few hikes.
So I didn't tell anyone. And I downloaded a c25k app on my smart phone and started doing it either first thing in the morning or late at night when no one was around - that was February 2013.
Running was the only option I felt I had open to me at that stage in my life. I hated gyms, and even though is lost a lot of weight by then, going from a size 20 to a size 14, I still didn't feel comfortable enough in my skin to exercise in front of other people.  I also had an 18 month old child and was squeezing my growing freelance work in around raising the boy, nursery hours, help from the Grandparents and everything else that goes with Motherhood and life. I just needed something that was quick and easy. At the time I lived in a pretty little village - lovely for running and walking down the river, but a drive to a gym or pool or exercise class.  So running just seemed the only option.
I set myself the target of a Race for Life 5km run in late May 2013, and just went for it.
I vividly remember those early sessions. Cold dark mornings, trying to avoid bumping into anyone. I would lap the village cricket field until the man with the ride-on-mower showed up, and I would aim to get home before the commuters came out to head for the station, in case anyone recognised me.  
I remember the first few sessions where I jogged for 90 seconds and felt like my lungs were on fire, a band was tightening around my chest and I would never ever do this. I kept going. I have no idea where I found the motivation from! 
I remember weeks where I just couldn't do it, couldn't pull myself out of a warm bed, couldn't manage to keep going for a whole 5 minutes, couldn't get my breath, couldn't find the time. It took me 16 weeks to do a 9 week programme as I just kept having to repeat some sessions. 
But as winter became Spring, something clicked.  I remember running around footpaths skirting wheat fields as the sun came up and birds sang and bunnies scattered from my path and realising that I could run for 20 minutes without stopping! And I LOVED it. I felt euphoric. 
I never expected that to happen. I fully expected to fail, expected to hate it and give up. 
My aim in posting this is to show that anyone, yes even you, can learn to run. The c25k programmes are amazing, building you up slowly from less than nothing really quickly. Whether you join a running club and follow a programme with a coach, or do it on your own as I did... You can do it. It's not easy and yes at the beginning you will find it very very very hard work. But any one can do it. 
The key (here's my top tip)... It's all about the pace! (Did you wonder why the blog has this name?!), well wonder no longer. I am slow. Although I'm a little faster now than when I started I'm still never going to break records. And sometimes when I struggle, I slow down even more. But that is ok. Because when I'm slow and in control of my breathing, I love running and feel like I could run forever. It takes me to a happy place and my spirits are lifted for the rest of the day. 
When  you're starting out, it's ok to go slow. Slow enough to be able to chat is the main guide. Speed can come later.
And using a c25k programme and following this top tip you too will be running 5kms (3.12 miles) in no time. And maybe even further... Which is what I'm now doing. More of that to follow ....
Thanks for reading 
Lisa x

In the beginning

In the beginning there was a fat girl who worked hard and played hard but never found time to eat healthily or get any exercise.  In the beginning there was a girl who took up music and joined the band and the choir at school so she could get out of P.E. Lessons. In the beginning there was a girl who had such bad asthma she relied on inhalers and could barely walk up stairs without needing a puff (and with creaking knees). In the beginning there was a fat girl who was disgusted with her body and struggled with low self esteem. 
And then she had a baby.
And although at first it was hard to put herself first because the baby cried and kept her awake and demanded her time so she ended up surviving on gallons of coffee, coke and chocolate biscuits... the baby changed her.
She realised that she didn't want to be looked down on anymore as she made new mummy friends. She realised that she didn't want her child to be embarrassed of his fat mum. She realised she wanted to set an example and raise a child who loved to be active and wasn't addicted to sugar. She realised that after years of depression and low self esteem that something had to change.
And she changed. Something inside her changed. 
At first she joined a well known slimming group and ate lots of home cooked veggie based meals, had one portion of dairy and one portion of bread each day and counted her syns. And the weight came tumbling off.
And as the weight dropped and her love for herself and her body grew, the girl decided that she could do anything...
Any thing ..
Including wearing leggings and running  in public. Well at first she ran in the dark, and tried very hard to find places to run where no one would see her.  She followed a c25k app on her smart phone.  It was tough, incredibly tough. (There will be another post about C25k to look out for that will give more detail).  But she kept going and kept going all by herself. And she ran 5kms 3.5 months later. Ran. 
She still doesn't think she's a runner though... And her journey is really only just getting started.
I hope you enjoy reading the rest. 
Head up, shoulders down,
Lisa x