Friday, 30 April 2010


I haven't been ordering anything parcel sized lately so it was a bit of a surprise to get one of Royal Mail's red cards through the letter box this week. I managed to get to the depot on Friday morning and discovered that I was the happy recipient of a goody bag from Triathlete's World. This wasn't another competition I'd won, well not quite. If you'll remember I won tickets to go to The Outdoor Show a little while back and they never arrived. So I emailed to ask about it and didn't get a response. I was a bit put out by it but thought life was too short so just forgot about it. Anyway this goody bag was the magazine's way of saying sorry and very good it was too. It contained:

A pair of zoggs goggles
A bike bento bag
A waist pack
2 energy gels
1 protein/recovery bar
A water bottle
A tub of energy drink mix
The latest copy of Triathlete's World magazine

All in all, it made my Friday. I then felt it appropriate to head to the gym after work to complete the triathon challenge. I didn't expect to complete it all in one go but I did! 750m row, 20km cycle and 5km run. Phew! Now to tackle Snowdon on Sunday... looking forward to it so much, especially as it'll be the second peak my cousin Rich and I are attempting together!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Oo, Ee, Oo, Ahah

These are the sounds I am making today, following another mountain bike session after work last night. I met up with Phil and Stu at the Forest at 6.30 and feeling mightily unfit after cycling from home I attempted to hold conversations whilst following them around the tracks. After a little while I started to feel invigorated rather than wrecked and settled into the pace, which was admittedly fairly gentle. We're all at about the same level of experience which is great because I don't feel like I'm holding them up and we encourage each other in different ways, me by belting down hills, Phil by trying to cycle up every hill and Stu by just wanting to get out there and get fitter.

It was a perfect evening for biking and we were probably overly surprised by the numbers of fellow cyclists and runners out and about. Mostly we considered them to be "proper" cyclists and "mental" runners. We did have a couple of rest stops and attempted the cutting again (I almost made it out without falling off). Around about 8pm we went our separate ways, resolving to try and make this a regular thing, probably on Wednesdays. I just need to find a way to enjoy the ride to the forest more; coming home always seems better.

I reckon I ache so much today because I also did swissball and abs classes at lunchtime. I'm having a day off today and not going to Skip class after work because I've got Snowdon planned for Sunday and I don't want to overdo things. I'm thinking a short run or a gym session on Thursday or Friday though, as I've got the gym Triathlon challenge to complete before May 9th. If I complete a row, run and bike ride that fits with one of the standard Tri distances I will be entered into a draw to win a Trialthon starter pack, including a road bike!

In other news I'm getting on great with the pressups now, into week 5 I think. Closing in!

Song of the day is Ali In The Jungle by The Hours. Check out the lyrics. I felt a little bit smug when I realised they were talking about Joe Simpson of Touching The Void fame. Good song for singing at the top of your voice in the car... I imagine ;)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Do you grow your own potatoes?

I'm lying on a paper-covered doctors bed, lower half stripped to my pants with Neil, my Physio, using ultrasound on my legs. In order to put me at ease we're chatting about allotments and vegetable growing. And it's sort of working.

I think I've finally figured out what to wear to my appointments now; big pants, boy shorts or a pair of gym shorts to change into. Today I have had the foresight to shave my legs and wear boy shorts but I'm still feeling self conscious. I've wandered around in my pants wearing my running shoes and walking boots so that Neil can see if they're supportive enough. The verdict's good on the trainers and he reckons that using the insole from those in the boots will make all the difference.

I've not had any pains since the last session really so I'm feeling like a bit of a fraud, and have to keep reminding myself that I've generally not been doing the sorts of exercise that bring on the pains, at Neil's advice, so really I shouldn't be worried. I seem to be doing my stretches ok but I'm still lacking "buttock strength" so I've got to try extra hard with those exercises. This along with calf stretches in particular, Neil says, will be key to getting rid of the pains for good. General flexibility is deemed to be good but better on the left that the right still. This week I'm allowed to start going on walks again, but only a couple of miles - does he not know me at all? My idea of a walk is much more than two miles! Still at least it's progress and I may try a short run once or twice, on the promise that I will stop if I start to get any pain. Because my memory's awful and in order to settle a discussion with my mum I ask again whether I under or over pronate... I over pronate. I feel better for knowing that.

After discussing the relative merits of buying seeds and veg plants, the mystery of the never-growing-carrots and when potatoes and sprouts should be planted I agree to share my (Green & Blacks) now famous recipe for courgette chocolate cake and he agrees to see me again in two weeks time. I feel this is a fair swap.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Let Me Ride Through The Wild Open Country That I Love

It's beautiful weather! It's driving me nuts because I have to sit in an office all day, wishing I was outside. Not only that but the blinds are automated so they close in the morning and sometimes don't open again until it's hometime. I seem to have recovered from cycling on Sunday. I don't think I cycled a great distance but I'm out of condition so felt a bit sore anyway. Monday's Swissball and Abs classes didn't seem to work as well as last weeks but the Skip and Tone class definitely wore me out. I'm trying to decide what exercise to do today, I feel quite energised although that may just be a result of the large mug of coffee and home-made rhubarb muffin I've just consumed. It's been tough trying to fit in 10 lots of five minutes into my day to do my physio-prescribed stretches but I'm just about managing. We'll see what the verdict is on Thursday!

This week I am continuing to follow the exploits of Sticky, the guy who's doing Parkour over 1000 miles. He started out on Sunday with a 100 mile ultramarathon. Rather him than me at the moment! There was some fun coverage of The Tweed Run. It's something that started last year as a charity event where people get dressed up in retro clothes, hop on to some retro bicycles and ride around the capital. How jolly super!

One final article I'd like to mention this week is this one from The Guardian about the growing popularity of city marathons. I've perceived running as becomming more popular but put that down to the fact that you notice things more once you get involved with them. Certainly the 5km and half marathon scenes seem to have boomed in the past couple of years. And I think there's a lot of truth in the statement that increased popularity of running and a decline in gym memberships are linked. I resent paying for a gym in the summer months when I'd much rather pound the pavements than stare out of a window (if you're lucky) in a gym. With so many online training resources and advice forums it's not essential to get advice from an instructor in the gym. Even if you factor in a new pair of shoes, membership to a running club and entrance fee for two races a year I reckon that's cheaper and more exciting than the gym. You would have the social aspect, advice and support from the club and the goals of races to train for. Makes sense to me. In a lot of cases paying as you go for classes like yoga or aerobics is cheaper too.

This week I am mostly eating yogurt with damson puree, beetroot in risotto and salads and copious amounts of marmite on toast. I don't pretend that this fulfills a nutritionally balanced diet.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Last week I have been mostly eating...

...porridge with maple syrup and sultanas. It's a really good breakfast to start the day off and one of the few that keeps me going until just about lunchtime. This week I have also been working out. My diary looked a bit like this:

Monday: Swissball and Awesome Abs classes - I know it worked because it hurt when I coughed the next day.
Tuesday: Skip & Tone - skipping really shouldn't be that difficult. I mean I'm sure I manged fine when I was at school. Definitely a good work out with room for improvement.
Thursday: Physio - sworn off running and long walks for at least a week. Scuppers weekend plans a bit.
Friday: Core Stability class - much like "Awesome Abs" but not as much fun.
Sunday: Mountain biking in Swinley Forest.

I've signed on for the Monday and Tuesday classes next week and hope to get into the gym before or after work one day too.

I've really enjoyed the classes but really wish I could run. I don't even mean "go for a run", just run in general. I need to keep my CV levels up in other ways and cycling seems the best bet. I've toyed with the idea of cycling to work on occasion but at 11 miles each way, felt it was a bit out of my reach as a novice. If I could fit my bike into my car I could do what this girl's doing and drive part of the way and cycle the rest, maybe once a week. That would be really cool but I doubt it's going to happen. I'll have to settle for gym work and cycling aimlessly around my village.

Cycling in the forest was really great fun. My ability to cycle up hills leaves much to be desired but I had a go at the "cutting" where all the cool kids go to do their jumps. I did it at a normal pace and didn't fall off so I might have the confidence to try that again sometime. We almost got caught up in some races that were going on. We stumbled across the track and later found the start point. It was fun to watch the starts of some races and marvel at the fitness of people. We whiled away a happy half hour chatting to the people at the Torq tent, trying samples and comparing brands.

My 100 press ups plan isn't going so well. I struggled a lot with week 4, so while technically I should be on week 5, I have re-done the progress test and am picking up week four again on a slightly easier level. Hopefully I won't have to re-do it again and will be on target for 100 pressups in 2 and a half weeks time.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hello, I'm Neil...

I’ve known Neil for about 10 minutes and he’s asking me to take my tights off. This is certainly not the direction I anticipated this encounter would take. Let me clarify something, Neil is my Physiotherapist and this is my first appointment with him. I’ve been referred to discuss my shin splints, knee problem, the possible cause and cure.

We spend a bit of time when I first get there talking about my hobbies and exercise habits, how the different injuries felt, when they occur(ed) and what I do as a day job. He’s a very personable chap and I start to feel less like a hypochondriac as the session goes on. He starts by getting me to walk up and down the office, first in shoes and then without. I feel as though everything I do is somehow wrong. It’s at this point that he asks me to take off my tights (he does leave the room) and I spend the rest of the session trying to remember when I last shaved my legs, wondering if I should have worn trousers and feeling very glad that I wore shorts-style pants rather than a thong.

We do some mobility and flexibility tests, a few stretches that cause all sorts of different muscles to hurt and make me feel rather inadequate. I start to wish I’d kept doing yoga. I think we establish that there’s a tender spot to the lower right side of my right knee but in general there aren’t any aches or pains except for those from the exercises. Now we get to the sciencey bit. Neil starts explaining what causes me to get shin splints and knee pain with the aid of a wall chart showing all the muscles in the human body and lots of proper names for them that I immediately forget. My walk is like that of a supermodel, but regrettably this is not a Good Thing. My muscles are all far too tight, I underpronate and my glutes have no strength. He asks me to bring in my walking boots and running shoes next time.

I shall now give my wholly unscientific and badly remembered explanation of the cause of my leg problems. Because of the above, and “possible” (which I know to be certain) twisting of the hips the muscles down the fronts of the legs have to work harder to keep the leg and foot stable and as they work harder and expand there’s not enough space for them inside the “stocking” that keeps them all in place and so it causes pressure which is what I feel as shin splints. The twisting is worse on the right side, which is what brings the knee into play. He thinks the muscle on the outside of the knee moves around, which would explain the sort of clicking feeling I get when this gets bad.

By this point I’m mildly concerned although none of it really surprises me. I’ve known for a long time that my hips are a bit twisted, it’s been that way since birth as far as I’m aware and has been cited as the reason I sometimes get shoulder pains when carrying bags. So what to do? My biggest fear is that he’ll tell me I can’t run for months. I tell him I’ve got a 10km at the beginning of June. He hums and haws a bit and says that he doesn’t recommend running or walking long distances for another couple of weeks but I should be able to ease it back in after that. I may have to do the race on a months training but he doesn’t rule it out. Phew. I think I’ve done the right thing in not running for a few weeks. Cycling is fine provided it doesn’t bring on any pain and the gym classes should be ok too. He talks me through four stretching exercises that I need to do, three of which need to be done 10 times a day, but only one rep each. This habit will need to be formed quickly.

The session is ended by Neil “mobilising” my legs, which is kind of like a massage followed by some intensely painful leg extensions, which do seem to have an effect on how well I can do some of the stretches I was made to do earlier, and some ultrasound on my knee. I have reservations about ultrasound, mainly because I can’t see or feel any benefit yet. We agree to meet again same time next week to see how I progress. I’m allowed to put on my tights and shoes again, I shake his hand and I leave, possibly trying to walk more like Clint Eastwood than Cindy Crawford.

I keep thinking of questions to ask next time, such as how permanent the treatment will be. Is there anything extra I can do for my glutes? I really hope this helps and that I don’t have to stay off the running and walking for too long. Maybe Skip and Tone classes are the way forward!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sticky Parkour

This is what's floating my boat today. This guy is totally cool and more than a little bit nuts. In three days time he starts a 1000 mile Parkour challenge, using the discipline of freerunning/Parkour to travel from John O'Groats to Paris. And to start it all off he's going to try and cover 100 miles in one go.

I shall be following his blog here and watching his YouTube videos here (some of the training ones are just phenominal).

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Marmalade Granola + Chocolate Chips = Win!

It's a beautiful day today. I was on site at work early to go through a gym plan review with the instructor who's far too attractive for his own good. After having booked this rather spur-of-the-moment I had to have a bit of a think about what I wanted to achieve with gym work. Now the weather's nicer I'll want to be outdoors running or cycling or whatever, rather than spending vast amounts of time in the gym so I decided that I'll use the gym mostly to work on my core in terms of strength, stability and aesthetics. Alongside that I'll do some CV work like bike intervals and more measured running or cross training, probably amounting to no more than 2 one hour sessions a week plus the odd lunch time class.

Even in the 45 minutes we spent going through various exercises I managed to feel as though I'd worked a few dormant muscles. Getting onsite early was rather pleasant. I felt quite revived and was organised enough to bring in a tupperware container of cereal to eat at my desk afterwards. A little forethought goes a long way.

Shruti came over last night for tea and talk. I think she's still on track to attempt Kili in the summer months and a trip to Snowdon on May bank holiday is now on the cards. We'll do a different route to that which I did before and it'll give me a chance to start breaking in the new boots. It was really great to catch up with my partner-in-crazy-crime. She makes me feel sane! We had the usual conversation about what we'd love to be doing instead of sitting in our respective offices. Amongst talk of starting up airlines, tennis acadamies and travel agencies and ponderings about money and time she suggested that I might consider writing for (sport) magazines. I've done all sorts of writing in the past, some of which has made its way into print. It is something I enjoy and I'm led to believe that I'm not bad at it. So perhaps you would care to offer your opinion?

I'll probably draft a few speculative letters.

On a related note, I'm always interested in articles relating to finding what you love to do; Howies, Do Lectures, Alastair Humphreys, Zen Habits, are all websites I enjoy reading because they often touch on this. Today I found this article which is one of the more sensible and comprehensive takes on this that I've read. It's quite lengthy but is worth the read if you're interested in this sort of thing as well.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Enter the Sandman

Today in The Times there's an article about James Cracknell. This time he's effectively offering up his body for scientific research whilst running the Marathon Des Sables, to see what the effects this sort of epic activity has on the body. There's going to be a programme on the Discovery Channel about it later in the year which I await with anticipation (and the hope that someone can record it for me).

In a nice link to my post last week about exercise addiction, I'm feeling ready to start easing myself back in to a more active lifestyle. I've been doing very little, compared to prior to Kilimanjaro, and have started to get restless. I sort of planned not to do anything until after my first physiotherapy session but I'm not sure I can wait that long. The extent of my exercise has been a trip to Go Ape, "swimming" with my friend's son and numbers of press ups I didn't think I was capable of.

There isn't any real incentive to do mega amounts of exercise, given that my next planned race isn't until June, so I'm hoping to keep it all fun and ad hoc for now. I've taken a look at the classes at the gym at work and figure that core, abs and skipping look fun, and have booked myself in to review my workout plan on Thursday morning. They're also holding a Triathlon Challenge whereby you record your fastest time for rowing, cycling and running over one of four Tri distances so I might give that a go too.

I've organised enough evenings with friends this week to stop myself from diving straight back in. I think my aim now is to work on my core and flexibility whilst keeping up with my running and improve my swimming and cycling slowly. More generally the aim is to keep fit, whilst having fun and occasionally being social at the same time (mountain biking and running club look probable).

Thursday, 1 April 2010

In the mood for doing nothing

Last weekend was fabulously indulgent. Mum and I had our spa weekend in the New Forest which consisted of sitting in a variety of wet or humid environments, often with bubbles, eating huge and delicious meals, being massaged and going shopping. Unfortunately an hour in the office undid a lot of the good work.

This week I won a set of these Calf and Achilles protectors which will probably be at the mail depot awaiting collection. I'm not sure what to do with them as I'm not about to take up football or hockey. I may gift them or sell them.

I managed to get a place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon after many error messages and much frustrated reloading of pages. I'm runner 8505 and aiming for a sub 2 hour PB :) Donna, one of the girls I climbed Kili with, is also signed up. The new design t-shirts look fab don't you think?

I'm considering the Cardiff half as well but seeing as it's only a week later that might be a little ambitious. Shame though because I'd like the excuse to go back and I could make a weekend of it.

There was a wonderful article in The Times about exercise junkies and people who repeatedly enter endurance events. Quite intrigued by the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon... They mention that it takes 2 years to build up an exercise dependancy and that those who enter challenge events frequently are often searching for a purpose and increased self-esteem. I'd not dispute that with any ferocity. I think that even though I like the physical improvements that have come with training for specific events, more than that, I like the sense of achievement, of ability, of having found something I can do. It's something measurable and those who know me well will vouch for the fact that I'm constantly questioning what I should be doing with my life and whether I'm "good enough" at whatever today's focus is. If sports help me feel better then that's fine by me. I'm not yet at the stage where I'm covering my tracks by pretending to go to the pub.

This weekend is going to be another fairly relaxed one. I'm going to catch up on my press ups plan as I missed yesterday's session due to leaving drinks with Cardiff Colleagues (I'm hoping I burnt off at least some of the calories on the dance floor). I'm going to Go Ape with my friend Jo on Saturday and I think I'm taking her lad swimming on Sunday afternoon so the rest of the time's my own. I'll probably end up doing something like going for a bike ride but I also intend to loaf quite a bit after I've washed the car and pottered about at the allotment. I shall attempt to eat healthily, catch up on some sleep and generally make the most of having very few plans. I won't be going running yet, I'm going to wait until I've had my first physio session which is in 2 weeks time, just to be on the safe side.