A Runner’s Homework and Information Overload

I am not a happy bunny.

I have half a dozen blog post ideas rattling around in my head, but have I had time to write them? Have I hell. Someone has gone and done a runner with my last two weeks of November and now here I am on December 3rd – for crying out loud – wondering whether my blog should be taken out into a field and put out of its misery.

But fear not fair reader – I enjoy wanging on about my running far too much to give up that easily. I will just put aside watching Stranger Things until these thoughts have found their way onto the page (screen).

So, I am now three appointments in to my time as the sponsored athlete for the Cambridge Half Marathon in collaboration with Saucony, Progress and OSB Events. And boy oh boy have I been set some homework (you can see my first interview with Progress where I look about 60 with a double chin here).

homework

Gif from Giphy

So on my first appointment with Lauren over at Progress, she had me doing all kinds of squats, planks, intervals on the treadmill and lunges, all to get an indication of what she’s got to work with. The answer? Someone who is more than a bit wonky. Turns out that my left side is significantly weaker than my right, which goes some way to explaining why about 90% of my injuries have occurred on my left (except for the current weird grumbly foot). My calf strength is also at about 50% of what Lauren would expect to see in a runner. It’s a miracle that I manage to stay upright to be honest.

So I came away with a handful of exercises to do, including calf raises on each leg where I have to do them on a step, going right up on to the toes, and lowering my heel below the step as far as I can go, keeping my leg locked out the whole time. I should be able to do 30 on each leg, but I’m managing 16/17 max. I also have to do planks whilst lifting alternate legs off the ground for as long as possible, side planks and dorsiflexion lunge tests. And these are just the exercises Lauren has set me.

I then made an appointment to see Hannah for my first sports massage last week. While part of me wondered if perhaps I should save all of my appointments with her until closer to the race, I rationalised that I have a problem now that is impacting on my training, so I may as well take advantage of her expertise. Now I know Hannah socially as she’s the partner of my colleague Matt (the fitness industry is a small world in Cambridge) and she is one of life’s thoroughly lovely people, as well as being – like Lauren – exceptionally knowledgeable. After she gave my foot a thorough looking over she didn’t find anything to concern her, gave the inside of my right ankle a real hammering (my fascia there was “sticky”), told me to lay off the running for a week and ease myself back in with a steady flat run and then uttered the immortal words “ask Matt about some glute strengthening exercises”.

Now, anyone who knows Matt knows that his training is BRUTAL. His classes at the sports centre are legendary in their toughness and his MetCon class is the only one that I’ve come close to vomiting in (if that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is). So when I told him that Hannah wanted him to come up with some exercises for me, his little face lit up, and a few days later I found myself in the Team Training Room with him, wondering what the hell I had let myself in for as he showed me my new S&C programme. It’s a crazy mix of a mini circuit of 5 exercises repeated 3 times round, 3 pairs of strength exercises again repeated 3 times round, and another mini circuit of 5 exercises repeated 3 times round. Confused? You bet your (weak) arse I was confused. I’ve got val slide leg curls, banded kettlebell swings, Romanian deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, pull ups, 20kg suitcase carries and a plethora of other exercises that I can only assume he extracted from the bowels of hell. FYI, I’ll be doing this twice a week. So far I’ve done the programme all the way through once, and I must have muttered “I’m going to bleeping kill him” more than a dozen times. Had I had enough strength left in my arms I might have managed it.

img_20160621_140752

Notice the evil in his eyes and the cry for help in mine.

I then saw Hannah again two days ago to report back on how my foot had coped after a slow steady 4 mile run and a 9 x 150m sprint session at the track. The answer is pretty well, but I’m now wondering whether the tweaks I’m feeling in my foot are “real” or whether I’m obsessing over the injury and creating a pain that doesn’t actually exist. When I explained this to Hannah I thought she might think I was mad, but she totally got it and started telling me about how the brain interprets pain, and is going to give me some reading recommendations on the subject. She then made me hold a squat for about half an hour (aka 60 seconds ish), watched me run on the treadmill and showed me a routine of foot/ankle strengthening exercises that she’d like me to do every day. Turns out my squat would be the envy of many, and my right foot is hyper mobile which although it not a bad thing, could go some way to explaining the current grumble (hence the need for foot and ankle strengthening).

Flipping heck. As I’ve been typing this I’ve been feeling myself getting slightly overwhelmed by how much information has been thrown at  me and the sheer volume of work I have to do. A daily foot and ankle routine, twice weekly S&C sessions and thrice weekly planks and calf raises, not to mention day to day foam rolling and actually getting out and, you know, running.

During my last appointment with Hannah I think she could tell that I was in the middle of information  overload and she said to me “there will come a point where you’ll want to tell us all to bugger off for a week, and that’s totally fine” and I could have kissed her. Not that I’m at that stage – far from it. But it’s nice to know when I really can’t face my homework I can just run off into the distance for a while (grumpy foot permitting).

Getting Ready to Rumble with Sweaty Betty

Any regular readers of this blog will know I’m a huge Sweaty Betty fan. It’s not unusual for me to basically be a walking billboard for the brand and I dread to think what percentage of my salary I’ve spent on their gear in the last 12 months.

So when Grazia magazine ran a competition to win a place at the launch of their latest #GetFit4Free campaign “Rumble” in London, of course I jumped at it. The spec for the class promised that “the 45-minute high-intensity calorie-burning workout combines shadow-boxing techniques, adrenaline-pumping cardio and core-sculpting conditioning”, which sounded like a pretty winning combination to me! I mean, just check out Sweaty Betty’s official video:

When I received the email saying I had won a place I was utterly giddy. That is until I realised that for a second weekend running there was a bus replacement service for the trains between Ely and Cambridge and engineering work happening on the London Liverpool Street line, which meant my relatively straightforward hop on the train had become a bus-train-tube scenario. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not I could face the hassle of the journey and decided it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

The journey was not without its stresses. An accident in Ely (where thankfully it seems everyone was ok) meant that we got stuck in the city and had to take a long detour to make our way to Cambridge. As the minutes ticked away it was looking less and less likely that I’d make my connecting train. The bus arrived with 90 seconds until the train was due to leave so I sprinted to the platform (NOT easy after an 8.2 mile half marathon training run that morning), and made it with about 5 seconds to go until they closed the doors. When I finally made it to London Liverpool St I used Google Maps on my phone to find my way to 1Rebel, triumphantly texting my other half to let him know I’d made it. Imagine my frustration when it turned out that there were TWO 1Rebel gyms about half a mile from each other, and of course I had gone to the wrong one. I then managed to get fantastically lost trying to find the other gym, meeting a sea of blank faces whenever I asked for directions and stressing out that I was going to fail to make the class at the last minute after a shocker of a journey. Finally a security guard in an office pointed me in the right direction and I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, out of breath and red-faced (a sign of things to come).

img_20160117_211709.jpg

The wrong 1Rebel

The words I would use to describe my first impression of 1Rebel are “urban hipster”. It was all exposed pipework and bricks, with glossy concrete floors and copper accents everywhere. However, it wasn’t remotely pretentious – just effortlessly cool and functional. I wish I could have had more time to look around, but I had to quickly get changed, get help with the lockers(!) and haul arse into their amazing boxing studio, filled with slimline boxing bags, nightclub lighting and an incredible sound system. And standing in the middle of it all, was our instructor for the next 45 minutes, Mila.

After jogging around the studio to warm up, Mila explained the structure of the class – we’d do a boxing section followed by a cardio section, repeated 3 times. We were taught a range of boxing combinations, including jabs, hooks and kicks, and other than the odd opportunity where I mis-timed my kicks and battered my shin, it was brilliant! The cardio sections involved star jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, press ups (why oh why did I decide to do an arms session the day before?!) and a killer abs section. My absolute favourite move was when we did side planks and kicked the bag with the top leg, although that may have been because I was just so grateful that I didn’t have to use my arms in that moment. Mila (the Machine) was a seriously hard task master, ploughing through the class with no breaks although I had to pause occasionally to use my sweat towel and have sips of water, neither of which were easy to do when wearing boxing gloves!

The 45 minutes absolutely flew by, and I had worked so incredibly hard. The endorphin rush was huge and at the end Mila talked about the mental health benefits of the class, discussing how good boxing is for relieving stress. I’m always so happy when people talk about that side of exercise, as all too often the focus is just on the physical benefits.

SweatyBettyGoodieBag

Goody bag photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty’s Twitter account

After the class we were given an awesome goody bag, and I got to use 1Rebel’s great showers, all of which had fantastic quality shampoo, shower gels, cleansers and conditioners. They even had deodorants, hair straighteners and feminine hygiene products in the changing rooms, which made me think that 1Rebel have really thought about the whole customer experience when creating their gyms. They even had a flipping Smeg fridge for cold towels! Seriously, I need that in my life. How utterly BRILLIANT! On top of all of that their staff were really lovely and friendly too. If you’re lucky enough to live near a 1Rebel gym and are looking for a new place to work out they should be seriously considered.

20160116_155713.jpg

The right 1Rebel

I had such a brilliant time and if you get the opportunity to try this new class at your local Sweaty Betty boutique you should definitely sign up. The classes will be running every Tuesday from the 26th January to the 16th February. And best of all? They’re free of course!

Sweaty Betty – the epitome of fitness awesomeness. A huge thank you to them, Grazia and 1Rebel for making my 2 1/2 hour journey each way totally worth it.