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).

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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.

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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).

enCORE by Sweaty Betty and Getting a Glow with Madeleine Shaw and Origins

I was a lucky girl last week. Not only did I snag a place on the first class of Sweaty Betty’s latest #GetFit4Free class enCORE, but I also managed to get a ticket to Origins’ book signing with wellness blogger Madeleine Shaw.

So, first up on Tuesday evening was the enCORE class, a ballet bootcamp class with a focus on – you got it – the core. This class was being taught by Jo Hopkins, one of my favourite local instructors and an SB Ambassador. I first met Jo when she taught the Fly, Flex, Flow class in January 2015, which is still my favourite #GetFit4Free class to date. She is one of those people who seems to be like Energiser Bunny hocked up on caffeine and sugar – pretty much a walking advert for the power of exercise induced endorphins. So I knew that if nothing else, this class was going to be a laugh.

At 39 minutes long (Jo was VERY precise!) the class is ideal if you don’t have bags of time (take a look at the video here). You  also don’t need loads of room so it’s perfect for trying out at home (or in a small store!). This workout is demanding on your core yes, but it also requires balance. Generally I consider my balance to be pretty good, but my coordination was severely lacking as I continued to go left as the rest of the class went right and then wondered why I was consistently on the wrong leg. I also found out that under pressure to attempt elegance I squeak like an irate mouse whose cheese has just been stolen, and I have hands like melted spatulas. Not pretty. Good to know those ballet classes when I was a kid weren’t wasted. Watch your back Darcy.

For me, it was when we got on to the mats that this class really came into its own. A glute bridge sequence had my legs seriously burning, and this alone would be enough to make me do this video regularly at home, as I’m always looking to find ways to strengthen my glutes. If I could I would go to all four of the classes at the SB store, but Tuesday night is my regular night with Ely Runners. However, if you fancy giving the class a go, bookings for next week will open at midnight tonight. As the name suggests it’s totally free. You’ll just need to set up an SB account if you don’t already have one and then book here. Oh, and top tip – it doesn’t hurt to give Jo a homemade cinnamon bun. The Energiser Bunny needs fuel you know.

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Photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty Cambridge

After my butt and quads had recovered from this class, I got up bright and early (for me anyway) on Saturday to head into Cambridge to the recently opened Origins store on Rose Crescent to meet Madeleine Shaw, get some healthy treats courtesy of Novi Cambridge and generally try lots of lovely products. I had actually changed my booking to the earlier time slot so that I could meet up with fellow Cambridge blogger Sophiekateblogs and I’m so glad I did – she’s an awesome bundle of enthusiastic energy with a gorgeous blog to boot. Go check her out (and watch her vlog of the event too).

Now I’ve been an Origins customer for some time, dipping into their serums and staying pretty loyal to the Vita Zing Energy Boosting Moisturiser, which is like a tinted moisturiser which gives every skin type a really lovely glow. So I was super pleased when I heard that they were opening a store in my favourite shopping area in the city (Rose Crescent and Trinity Street – SB is about a 5 second walk away). The store itself is stunning – really light and airy with a massive spa like sink in the middle to test their scrubs and masks and gorgeous views of the University buildings from the windows at the back of the store. It was a lovely place for a book signing with the company’s 2016 Glow Girl.

For those of you who don’t know much about Madeleine, she’s a a nutritional health coach, yoga instructor and bestselling cookery author, with a social media following of 55.5k followers on Twitter and 254k on Instagram. If I’m being honest, I didn’t know a huge amount about her before the event, other than that she has a really attractive Instagram profile. A look at her website tells me that she is currently studying Naturopathic Nutrition at CNM, but from what I could see the majority of her knowledge comes from her own personal experience of IBS and other health issues that forced her to take a look at her diet and to make lifestyle changes.

A lot of what Madeleine writes about is good old common sense and sensible eating (although despite what she says about beige food I’m still going to eat pizza and cake when I feel like it, but I may try this cake recipe of hers to mix things up a bit!). If nothing else she’s giving people attractive, healthy meal ideas without a plethora of insane ingredients (and if I’m honest I know I could do with adding some more vegetables into my diet). I also liked that she pressed home the point of how she chooses to have meat in her diet for the iron it gives her (18% of women between 16 and 64 years are iron deficient), and she also extolled the virtues of eggs. Like I said – sensible, but there will be people with more nutritional qualifications out there who don’t have the pull of a huge social media following who would also be worth listening to.It’s always a good idea to keep that in mind and to do your research if you’re looking to make changes to your diet.

In person, Madeleine was incredibly friendly and smiley, and seemed genuinely interested in everyone who had turned out, asking questions in return and getting stuck into the conversation. She’s a good fit for the Origins brand, and talked about her favourite products including the Super Spot Remover (which her boyfriend also uses) and the GinZing Eye Cream. Her skin did look really good, and I especially noticed how the staff member who I spoke with, Jiayan, had the most amazing skin I have ever seen on a real human being, something she fully credited to Origins products. She was also extremely knowledgeable on the product range, despite having only worked for the company for 3 weeks, so it showed me how passionate she was about the brand. She was able to answer all of my questions and give advice, and I left with a RitualiTea Comforting Cleansing Body Mask with Rooibos Tea and Rose, and the much talked about GinZing Peel Off Mask (because I’m a sucker for anything that you can peel off!) plus a couple of samples. I’ve already tried both of them and they’re as good as I hoped, although each will need a few more uses before I get the full benefits.

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I like the Goldfinger vibe

So two thumbs up for Cambridge, continuing to provide loads of fitness and beauty opportunities out there to keep me busy! I love my city.