These Streets

I’m really enjoying running on streets I’ve never visited before. Particularly while the parks are swarmed with people walking 4 across who glare at runners for daring to exist in their presence.

English streets – particularly those in this part of London – are so different to the streets I grew up with.

New Zealand is all about the 1920s wooden bungalows, large front yards and windows and doors facing the street, but far enough back to still be private. Terraced houses are reserved for modern, new-build townhouses, and you rarely see them out in the ‘burbs.

Here in Greenwich, I love the wet brick, terraced houses I run past. The small old working class homes, and the large ones up along the park.

They might vary in size and decoration, depending on the street. But once you’re there… uniform but for the colourful doors. Who knew that the colour you painted your door would be your shot at showing the world your personality? That’s a lot of pressure on a door!

I like to ponder the prices some of these houses go for – ridiculous prices – and I can only hope to be in a position to seriously consider buying one one day.

My mind wanders as I think about the families that live in the houses, and those that have in the past. Some still have childrens’ pictures of rainbows offering kindness and thanks to the NHS staff from the first COVID-19 lockdown in March/April. Others have fluffy cats lazing in the window, giving zero f*cks about those of us outside.

This all provides great distraction from the physical feelings of training my body to get used to this running, but it also gives a great change of scenery, reminding me of why I enjoy living here, and taking me away from the worries I’ve had in the day – work, family, anything. I’m in the moment, appreciating my surroundings, and the community that I live in.

Back on it!

The last couple of weeks I’ve been concentrating building back up to running more than a couple of kms at a time, and – touch wood – I think I’ve done alright.

I managed a couple of good runs over the weekend and a really fun (wow!) casual 5km around Greenwich this evening. I’m back on my training plan!

Well, cautiously back on my plan. As long as my legs are up for the challenge. If nothing else, I’m learning a lot about listening to (and understanding!) my body . And that is everything!

It doesn’t hurt that Greenwich at Christmas time is absolutely gorgeous.

Old Royal Navy College, Dec 2020

This time last year, if you had suggested that I would be out on the street, running in public where strangers could see me exercising outside the gym, I would have openly laughed in your face.
Laughed. In. Your. Face.

Now, I really don’t enjoy the thought of heading to the gym. COVID absolutely has a part to play in that, but I love being outside. The fresh air on my face, the changing scenery, and the reliance on my body to tell me what I’m doing – not a machine.

Of course, I would happily do without the groups of people blocking the walk ways, and y’know, the weather. But that’s also part of the charm!

No steppin’ in dog turds at the gym, though. At least, not yet.
If 2020 has taught me anything; never say never.

A Weighty Topic

Can we talk about weight for a minute?

I wasn’t sure quite how to tackle this topic, but I think it’s one worth discussing. Even if it’s just to document how I’m feeling now so I can refer back to it in a year or two.

If I were to go and stand on a scale right now, it would tell me a number that would bring many women to tears. I’m 20-or-so kilos heavier than when I was at my last fittest peak. I jiggle when I walk (and run!). I have cellulite. And stretch marks. I have to test all trousers with a squat test before I buy them.

And I bloody love my body.

I can’t remember a time when I’ve loved it this much.
I don’t accept it as it is.
I don’t love it despite my weight.

I love my body.
For what it does to keep me alive.
For what it does to keep me safe.
For what it does when I push it to work hard.
For what it does. Full stop.

I know that losing weight will help my body with my running.
Less fat on my body will reduce the effort required to propel it forward.
A lighter frame will reduce the stress on my joints.
If I lost weight, I’d reduce the likelihood of injury over these months of training.

All valid. All make perfect sense.
And if I lose weight during my training, great.
But I am done actively trying to shrink myself.

I do not need to make myself physically less to feel more.

This body – obese if you trust my BMI – walked the width of England this summer. 6 days along the length of Hadrian’s Wall. There were long days. There were complaints. There were blisters on blisters, sore legs, and an aching back from carrying my gear from accommodation to accomodation. We walked in the (English) summer sun, and the pouring rain.

This body is a good body.
This body deserves love and respect.

Music to my Ears

How do you keep motivated during your workouts? I’ve always found that I need something to listen to, regardless of whether I’m at the gym or outside.

The only exception is when I’m actively engaging with someone else – it’s hard to talk when your attention isn’t entirely there!

I’ve walked a lot this year – the first lockdown had me craving long walks outdoors, breathing in the spring air, and it was a habit I happily kept up (more or less) as the lockdown restrictions lifted. On these walks, I listened to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. It was easy to give them the attention needed to follow them, and I really enjoyed being transported to these new worlds, with these new narratives, as if I was out on a long walk catching up with my friends.

At the gym, I was never able to do that. I couldn’t follow podcasts, books, or be one of those people watching Netflix on their phone while on the cross-trainer. I needed more ‘oomph’ to what I was hearing. But more importantly, I needed to be able to zone in and out as required – to check form, or to concentrate on a particular action – to get the most out of my session.

The right music is great for setting the baseline mood, and to get lost in when you need the mental distraction.

Now that I’m spending so much more time running outside, I find that I’m searching for another solution.

I think music is the answer – I need something with a good beat to keep me motivated, and I definitely need to be able to block it out without consequence for things like crossing the road or navigating obstacles (like today’s surprise wildlife).

But I would love something more than that – something to keep my mind engaged, like I was running with friends, to pull me out of the ‘oh-God-I’ve-only-been-going-10-minutes!?’ and help me settle into my rhythm earlier.

That’s exactly it. I’m struggling to find the right audio to help me find my rhythm.

Of course, like so much in life, it’s going to come down to trial and error to find out what works for me. That’s part of what this regular practice of running is all about…

… yes, my legs are getting used to running …
… yes, my lungs are getting used to this new way of breathing…

… and yes, I’m finding and strengthening the mental tools which will get me through, too.

Music is going to be one of those tools.

Sample of workout playlists on Spotify, Nov 2020

Currently, I’m experimenting with Spotify workout playlists. I haven’t built one of my own – I’m not sure if it’s going to be worth the effort?

But I’m very interested to hear what you do?
What do you find helpful (or unhelpful – that’s good to know, too!)?
Any suggestions for approaches I should try?

I don’t suppose you know of any magical music-podcast hybrid that will magically solve everything!?

Keeping the Theme

Well, in keeping with the theme of new experiences, I had my first run in the rain tonight.

And I feel amazing now…

It’s been sunny all day, and I should have known better than to leave it until after work. But hey-ho, here we are.

The run was miserable.

No, that’s not fair. The actual raining was pretty good. I’ve had a wonderfully calm day, and my anxiety is starting to feel under control. It felt like I was making real progress with my breathing while I was out running.

The rain was f*cking awful.

My running jacket was actually pretty good. my upper body stayed pretty dry, and my phone was absolutely fine. I wouldn’t trust it to run it for an hour, but for tonight’s run it served me well.

I kept to the streets for better visibility, rather than running up on Blackheath, and it was nice having a change of scenery (though, I’ll pick Blackheath or Greenwich park in the day time, any time!).

Okay, now I’m rambling.
The point is: I ran in the rain. It sucked at the time but oh-my-God it feels amazing now.

My lungs have space. For proper breathing.
And I’m cozy with my PJs on.

Here’s to setting goals, working towards them, and feeling the buzz of progress.

We’ve got this.

Favourite Yet

Tonight’s run has been my favourite yet. I’m not sure why exactly, it could be a couple of things – but I was totally there for it.

30 minutes of run / walk intervals. Just under 4km, with a good mix of (slight) up-and-down-hill sections. And alllllllll of the endorphins.

… maybe it was the weather. Tonight was beautiful and clear. It was cool, but perfect with a jacket. I didn’t get too sweaty, though I know I worked hard.

… maybe it was the fact I hadn’t been on a run for a couple of days. Yesterday I did a bit of cross training at home, after my morning run plans fell through. And I had intended to run this morning before work, too, but dropped that hope when I was still wide awake at midnight.

… maybe it’s because I haven’t been sleeping or breathing particularly well lately. Yeah… that’s one for a different post.

… maybe I just prefer evening runs, where my body is fuelled by meals earlier in the day, and I can turn off my thoughts of work. Transitioning from work mode to relax mode, claiming this evening time as mine.

Whatever it was, I really enjoyed it and I can already feel the progress I’m making, even just in week 2.

I didn’t even stop my jog for tonight’s (wonderfully terrible) photo. One of those lines is a giant, red moon that was sitting low and bright tonight. Can you guess which one? Ha!

The Importance of a Plan

To quote an arrogant, but in this case correct, ex of mine; failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Uplifting, isn’t it?

But it’s true. Having a plan is important. That plan must remain flexible, and it may change, but it’s important to have one. And to follow it.

Not just in running, but in achieving any goal.
Structure is important. A goal without a plan is just a dream, right? The structure, the steps laid out, and followed are what make the goal attainable.

Think about it like the degree you did at uni. You likely started with a rough idea of the papers you wanted to do, the steps you’d take, to get your major(s). Those probably changed a little as you went, but if you kept with it, you graduated. You got that degree (even if it looked a little different to how you intended at the start).

So, I’ve searched the internet for a free training plan – there are so many out there, and this is my first half marathon. I don’t have a goal for time, and I don’t want too many options to choose from. In the absence of a personal recommendation, I’ve searched for beginners plans with a focus on completing a half marathon without injury.

Completing a half marathon without injury is my goal. While I’m hopeful that I will have the fitness that will enable me to run it well, with a good time, my primary focus is on finishing. And if I can do that in under 3 hours, I will be over the GD moon.

And with that in mind, I’ve settled on one.

I’m going to follow the ‘couch to half marathon’ plan by the Marathon Handbook.

It’s a 15 week plan, and I have 21 weeks until race day. I will follow this plan, but I can be flexible. My current expectation (note: not plan!) is to repeat some of the latter weeks at the 10km-ish stage, but I’m going to listen to my body and respect it – and the plan – as much as I can as I go.

And I start tomorrow.

In Earnest

Sunday marked 6 months to my half marathon. I’ve had 2 runs since then. Though they have been very, very different, I can say I have started in earnest.

On Sunday, recovering from Saturday night, I hit the treadmill at the gym. I knew going into it that I wasn’t going to rock a casual 5km, or really do anything to ‘do the miles’. I was there to be there. To show up. To do what I’ve committed to. And I did that. With some run/walk intervals.

Today, though, was meant to be different.

The weather was clear, and I had a couple of hours until I needed to log on for work. Time was not an issue. Rain wasn’t going to hold me back. And – most importantly – I got up when the alarm went off.

There is a lot to love about getting up before everyone else. I love my bed more. But I don’t hate being up that early.

I walked for 15 min to get warmed up, but mostly to get to the big, wide (flat-ish) Blackheath – my favourite place for a no-pressure run around in South East London.

Once I got there, the running (read: run-walk, don’t worry, I’ll tell you when that’s no longer a thing) went easily. Until it didn’t.

I learned a lot this morning.

Lesson one: I need trousers that actually fit. I have so many leggings, but they were all pre-lockdown purchases. I need to be realistic and look after the body I have now. This body was a squished sausage with a wriggly belly dancing about as my waistband rolled down until it meet the savage resistance of The Hips.

Lesson two: what you eat the night before matters. We all know that our body needs to be appropriately fueled. I know I do well on an empty stomach, so I didn’t eat anything this morning. But last night’s pizza made itself known. So much so that I had to stop running half way through and power-walked myself right back home (at a not-much-slower-pace, sadly).

Lesson three: never trust the weather forecast. Actually, I already knew this, but I need to be reminded every once and a while. If I’m going to be training over the winter – which I know I will – I’m going to need some wet-weather running gear. I was warm enough while I was running, but when I had to switch to my power-walking, it started raining just a little and I really felt the chill. Really, preparing for rain in London heading into November is just common sense.

Taken with a grain of salt from now on…

So, yeah, this is probably going to get expensive.