A Fit Trip to Heppenheim

Ok, so let’s make this clear – I don’t go on holiday just to work out as much as I do at home. I feel like that would defeat the point somewhat. However, if there are chances to try out some new things as I visit my friends G & J and stuff my face with pretzels and Süsse Frühstück at Muse Chocolat (one of the FINEST breakfasts you will ever find), then obviously I’m going to try them out.

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Not the Süsse Frühstück, but the waffles from Muse Chocolat. Yes, we went there twice in three days. Don’t judge me.

For those of you who don’t know, Heppenheim is a small town near Heidelberg, which is a University city twinned with Cambridge. Heppenheim is also overlooked by Starkenburg Castle, which is a fun hike up the 295-metre-high Schlossberg Hill if you’re so inclined (we weren’t on this trip, but we’ve done it before and it’s a gorgeous walk). Heppenheim is also the birth town of Sebastian Vettel for the F1 fans among you.

My friends G & J moved to Heppenheim a couple of years ago, and they’ve been discovering the fitness opportunities it has to offer ever since. The newest addition to the town is the Venice Beach gym, which opened last year and is only a 5 minute walk from their house (the lucky blighters). This new gym is frankly gorgeous – it’s a huge open plan space with massive windows that offer views of the hilly landscape, a glass studio for classes off to one side, a women’s only gym space and the most opulent changing rooms you’ve ever seen. J and I did a total body workout class which included weight based exercises and an aerobic routine using a step. It was super easy to follow, and the instructor was the ideal balance of tough but pushing you with a smile on her face so you can’t really hate her.

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Yes, that’s a chandelier in the changing room.

At the other end of the age spectrum, something that has been going in Heppenheim for some time – since 1931 to be exact – is the glorious open air swimming pool. This is the sort of thing that I would kill for round here if only we had the weather to justify it. The set up has a 50-metre swimming pool, a non-swimmers’ pool with slide, teaching pool with a 25-metre slide and a paddling pool for children, and it opened for the first time for the season the weekend we visited. Admittedly getting in to the pool for the first time was like doing the ice bucket challenge all over again (hello 2014!) but once we were in it was just awesome. It’s made me want to think about trying some more outdoor swimming this summer, but whichever venue I make the effort to get to, it won’t quite be the same as a 6 or 7 minute drive around the corner.

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Not as warm as it might look…

Regular readers of this blog will know that for the last year I’ve been falling in love with bouldering, and G & J have not one but THREE bouldering centres within a half hour drive. Their favourite one is actually the closest, and that is Studio Bloc in Pfungstadt. This place is HUGE – around 3 or 4 times the size of Rainbow Rocket in Cambridge, and it is an absolute climber’s dream. This place is serious – it even has its own shop within the centre where you can get all of the climbing gear you need (including expert advice on your shoes) and all of the necessary accessories. We spent a happy 90 minutes here, and we still didn’t come anywhere near to trying all of the routes we were capable of. Sadly my hand gave out after one particularly ambitious reach tore a callus off my hand (TMI?) but I cannot wait to go back there next time I’m visiting.

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Well hai there…

We were only there for three days, and there were other things I would have liked to try including the Neckarau parkrun near Mannheim (a 30 minute drive away) and a visit to Heidelberg to take the 315 steps up to the Castle, something we’ve not done for a few years.

If you’re considering a trip to Germany I’d thoroughly recommend basing yourself in this area and visiting Heppenheim for the day. It’s well connected by train, has some great places to eat (we visited Back und Brauhaus in nearby Lorsch) and let’s face it – you’re not going to get bored! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to message G & J and see when they’re next up for some overly energetic visitors…

Was my Injury Actually a Good Thing?

Did I mention that I’ve been injured?

Megalolz. I’m only messing you with you. If you follow me on Twitter or you’ve been lucky enough to find yourself within earshot of me within the last four months you will have heard me banging on about my “posterior tibial tendonitis” (try saying that after a few drinks). This has been without doubt the most stubborn injury I’ve had in the last few years, and I’ve had some really low moments during the seemingly endless weeks of stretching, physio, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga, foam rolling and self medicating with cake.

But now that I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this happening was a good thing. Yes I may have missed some of my favourite races and my preferred running season (trust me to be fit and healthy in the summer when trying to run outdoors is akin to running in soup) but I’ve been forced to be more creative with my fitness and as a result have seen my perspective shift in some interesting ways.

First of all, there’s the bouldering. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’ve found a real affinity with clambering up walls (despite being sweaty of hand and afraid of heights – go figure). I’ve reconnected with friends over climbing, have seen my shoulders develop in a way that makes me want to flex like the hulk whenever I walk past a mirror, have spent time with my niece and nephew at the climbing centre and have enjoyed the encouraging vibe between other climbers. It gives me an adrenaline hit but in a more controlled way than the adrenaline I feel on a start line of a race in a sometimes unfamiliar environment. Having said all this though, being on the verge of tears, stuck at the top of a route with my feet on a hold that looked disturbingly like a large pair of testicles was not one of my finest moments. But the good of climbing massively outweighs the bad.

Look! I’m a GIF! Thanks Oli…

Secondly, when I was deciding how on earth to find something that would get my heart rate up as much as running and Zumba (another exercise form that seemed to be aggravating my injury), I decided to wander into Elyte Fitness and see if maybe they were the gym for me after feeling less than inspired by the other local facilities on offer. Within 10 minutes I was sold on the sheer passion of the owners Lewis and Dawn and I signed up on the spot. I’m so glad I made this decision, as they are full of ideas and plans for the gym, and they’ve built an amazing fitness community. Every time I go there I feel like I’m with old friends and I’ll be writing a separate post on my Elyte journey so far as there is so much I want to say about it.

Because I was finding myself feeling so down about the state of running, I also decided to fire up my Headspace app again.  I’ve flirted on and off with Headspace for some time, but never seemed to manage more than 5 days in a row. Even though they always say not to worry if you miss a day, I would always take that as a sign of failure (competitive, moi?) and end up walking away for another month or two. But I’m currently sitting at 21 days straight of at least 10 minutes of meditation a day, and I am feeling slightly calmer in a general kind of way. I’m not going to claim that I am in some kind of zen like chilled perfection of existence (no one would believe that), but I think the clearest sign that I’m more relaxed and able to see “the bigger picture”, is the fact that I decided to transfer my Cambridge Half place, and I felt completely ok about it. Even though missing races you love sucks, setting back a recovery that has taken 4 months for the sake of one medal is madness. I would have spent the next 6 weeks fretting about building up from 4 miles to 13 miles, constantly wondering if my tendon could take the strain and I would have become unpleasant to be around. So to me it just seemed like such an obvious thing to do.

Another positive to come out of all this is that I feel like I know my body better, and I have a new found respect for it. I’m still making time to stretch and foam roll, and I try and do a little yoga every day (I manage it about 80% of the time). And as a result of my injury I’ve been told by my physio and my osteo that my foot functionality and balance is the best they’ve ever seen (proof that putting the effort into your rehab works!). And really, I’m just so excited to be running again, and am looking forward to getting stronger and building up to my best again. I’ve done a parkrun and a track session and loved every minute as you can see my inane grinning face above. Feeling my lungs fill with that gorgeous icy air is the ultimate tonic to me, and I’m just so grateful to be out there again. It’s lovely to be back with my running family, and I’m going to take my time and build up my distance slowly, and maybe look to do an autumn half marathon. Then again – maybe not? Maybe I’ll just keep doing whatever I like whenever I like, with no pressure, and no expectations.

 

 

Dear Running – I Have a Confession to Make…

I’m not quite sure how to say this, but here goes. I’ve been having an affair.

Please don’t get upset. It’s not you. I still love you running. I know we’ve had our ups and downs. You’ve hurt me and made me cry, and sometimes I’ve had to take a break from us when it has hurt just a little too much. And that’s when it came along, when I was at my weakest.

Bouldering.

I don’t know if it was the bright colours, the – ahem – unique smell of chalk mixed with sweaty climbing shoes or the soft “thwump” of people landing on crash mats, but I was instantly dazzled.

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On that first climb I felt scared and made it halfway up before I scuttled back down like a reticent cat. But the second time I went straight up, and for the briefest of moments, I felt invincible. I felt like if I – someone who once nearly fainted climbing up Ely Cathedral – could conquer this climbing wall and look down without passing out, I could conquer anything.

Don’t get me wrong, bouldering and I have had our arguments. I’ve left with callused hands, scraped knees and a bruised ego when I claimed that I was too short for a route only for a 9 year old to race up it as their warm up. I’ve missed a hold and fallen from a height that although doesn’t look that high from the ground, feels immense when you’re up there. I’ve landed awkwardly. But you know what? I find that heart-racing moment when you know you’re going to fall kind of exciting.

I’ve always liked feeling strong, and when I look in the mirror now I can see how much my arms and shoulders have developed. That’s down to bouldering. I like the easy camaraderie of climbers and how when you’re struggling on a route you know there will be someone to offer advice or calm you down when your hands become slick with sweat and you think you can’t hold on. With running those conversations are just that little bit harder when your lungs are being pushed to their limits. And I love the progression. That’s the thing running – we’ve been together for so long that we’ve kind of flatlined, found a steady pace together that works for us. But with bouldering, I’ve gone from climbing 3s to climbing 5+s, and even attempting 6s with a wry smile. I know it’s not always about PBs and winning, but when you’re having a bad day, that feeling you get when you finally grab that difficult hold is up there with a 5k PB, something I’ve not had for two years now.

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But don’t worry running. I have time for both of you in my life. As much as bouldering has given me a new spark, I still need you. Bouldering requires focus and puzzle solving skills, but it takes you for my mind to truly be free to go wherever it needs to as my feet make that beautiful rhythm on the pavement. I need you.

You are my first and strongest love. I just hope you don’t mind if I have a cheeky bit on the side.