Monday, 29 February 2016

Leap Year

I'd decided to have two days rest after my run on Saturday last. But then yesterday afternoon I realised that February 29th was coming around tomorrow and it wouldn't be here again for another 4 years. That year I will be 70 years old. So I couldn't let this 29th February go by without going for a run to mark it and hopefully next 29th February to see if I'm even still running!!

I chose to run a 5k in celebration of the day and I thought I'd rather like to have a medal to mark it. Virtual Runner UK's Leap Year medals had all gone. So I signed up for POW Virtual Running's POW! 2016 medal, which is an any time, any distance medal for the whole of the year.

With this in mind I set out this morning on The Virtual Running Co. 5k route I have, but doing it
according to the Level Up 13.1 training plan Level 7 run which is -  Run 15 Jog 3 Run 15 Jog 3. I thought that should help me cover it in a decent time and at the same time to do this next step of half marathon training.

As it turned out, I beat my Personal Best for this route by a good 1min. 30 secs fairly steaming along the first 15 minutes and not losing very much at all in the following jog. I'd finished the run before I got to the second 'jog' stage.

So I was very pleased with my effort this morning and I'll have a medal soon to mark it as well. I definitely feel I'm getting fitter and stronger as the weeks go by. I just have to watch I don't overdo it as I've done so much in the past, and get the rest days in.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Eating, Weight Loss and Running. The Truth!?

I think many of us get very stressed about losing weight, dieting, eating right and running and keeping our energy level up. And it's been my experience that the advice we hear and read is very often contradictory or too generic; especially when it comes to weight loss.

It's been my personal experience that you have to find the right balance for yourself, what works and what doesn't work. You have to treat yourself as a living laboratory and keep on experimenting until you find what works for you.

Each one of us is different and our bodies function differently one from another so that, like training plans that are generic and don't take account of age and weight and general fitness, any 'general' advice is only that and you have to tailor it quite subtly so that it works for you.

What works and What doesn't work for Me

So, I can't tell you what you should do. I can only tell you what worked and what didn't work for me. And then you can try some of it if you like.

I tried for a whole year to lose weight by running, staying in the 'fat burning zone' and controlling the calories. And I didn't lose a single pound!

Then I came across a book which told me why - Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. It's a revealing, although detailed, read. Basically Gary Taubes sums up over a century's worth of findings in nutritional experiments and surveys and comes at the problem of why we get fat and don't lose weight just about every which way. It boils down to WHAT we eat rather than how much we eat, or whether or not we take exercise. At the time I read the book I didn't run for a fortnight or three weeks yet as I took the book's findings and applied them to my own eating regime, my weight began to fall off almost right away. I've since applied it to myself with a 'light touch' and my weight has continued to fall very slowly. But you've got to keep going! And you've got to keep the discipline going.

It seems that for the majority of people, most of the time what causes our weight gain or inhibits our weight loss above everything else is consumption of concentrated carbohydrates - sugar, cakes, bread, potatoes, pasta for example. Linked to that, it has to do with the production of glucose in the blood and the way hormones like insulin and cortisol affect the retention of fat in the body's cells and what promotes and inhibits their production. And as I said, every body is different so for some even what Gary Taubes reveals through his book might not work. And he says as much. But it applies to most people.

A lot of fuss is made nowadays about getting a good amount of sleep if we want to achieve our weight-loss goals. The reason is a simple as this: Not enough sleep = tiredness/lack of energy = over eating because we feel the lack of energy. I know that this applies to me.

A high level of stress is a major factor in all of this too. Stress hormones play havoc with those that help to release fat for fat burning. Added to which a response to stress in many people is to eat. I'm one of those.

It's about CHANGE

Most successful weight loss I think is about bringing significant change to your way of life. And you have to apply change principles to the exercise. It's not only to do with changing your own habitual way of life but about changing your environment and the perceptions of the people around you too, to what you are trying to achieve. It takes a much greater amount of discipline to lose weight if you surround yourself with chocolate and cakes and everything sugary. Much better to remove them almost completely from your fridge and larder. And it's not good practice to go food shopping when you are hungry.

You've got to change your enemies into friends too. The people who criticize your efforts and try to force chocolate and cakes onto you or that extra sandwich or pie, you need to either turn into allies to your cause, or remove them as far from your personal space as possible.

You might want to do something about changing your rest and sleep patterns to give you more energy, and bringing in some discipline around relaxation, mindfulness or meditation to help reduce anxiety and stress.

These are just a couple of the change strategies you need to put in place if you are to be successful. And you need to apply all the strategies all the time. You can't just use one and expect it to work for the whole job.

All of this about change I learned from another book, one which is about any sort of change but can be applied directly to weight loss and there are lots of weight loss examples in it. The book is Change Anything by Kerry Patterson. It's very well worth a read and then taking the time to apply all the strategies outlined.

As for Me

I'm still working on me! I retired in September 2014, exhausted in every way, over weight, with higher than good for me blood pressure and a heart that kept missing beats due to years of excessive stress and anxiety. And all this despite knowing all the above and running regularly. Yes, I'd tried these things from time to time but had all sorts of excuses for giving up on them. KNOWING IT IS ONE THING, PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IS ANOTHER! But if there is a secret to all this it's just that.

Now I have no excuses. I've just about rid my life of most of what stressed me, and my heart beats more regularly than for ages. I'm enjoying running in a way that seemed to elude me before I retired, mainly because I'm doing it to enjoy it rather than for any other reason. It's all going very slowly, but it's going, and so is the fat. And that's the point. Even at my age, I'm trying to develop this new way of life which will give me a far healthier weight, a better feeling of well-being and who knows, faster times in my running.

It's never too late to start again and see results - even, and especially, at my age!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

If You Don't Go - You Won't Know

This morning was another beautiful morning. No cloud today and -4C. Lovely! I'd intended just doing 5k to keep the ks on target to 1,000, but I'd been intrigued by a footpath sign by the canal for a while, wondering where the trail led. I'd looked on Google Earth and seen where the footpath went so this morning I decided to follow. So I was a bit off piste.

But, 'if you don't go you won't know'. I've got lost more than once on my runs but you've got to give it a go. It helps to keep the motivation fresh. And this route worked out to exactly 5 miles which would be helpful in the future.

There's very often a downside and this route's was a bit of a longish stretch of road through an industrial estate to get back to the canal. But it was not too busy with motor vehicles at that time in the morning so worth the sacrifice.

I tried the path across the field to begin with, part of my regular route but the frozen mud was just impossible even to walk on without twisting an ankle, so I'll have to wait until more people have travelled over it and eroded it into something of a path again.

On the way back up from Crooke, had it not been so cold it would have been like Summer as I could hear birdsong overhead, way up, as I remember it lying in a field on my back as a boy and gazing up into the clear blue sky at birds hovering and singing their hearts out. Wonderful!

Good photos from the path this morning though:

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

You Can't Beat Sunrise

This morning's run was early - on purpose. I had to get up early anyway so I thought I'd catch the best of the sun coming up. And it was really frosty too! So much the better:

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Another 10K

I hadn't really planned to run it today, I was intending leaving it until next Thursday but I was feeling ok this morning so set out to see if I could run a 10k. I did it and submitted it for the POW Virtual Running Kryptonite Dash 10k.

The hardest part was along the canal bank. It's a long stretch of almost flat, just a gentle rise from Appley Bridge to Crooke. It felt hard because it was just one step after another, so hard on the hips. I changed my pace a bit to relieve it but when I got the final hill stretch before home I felt really
powered up.

I think that comes from using my muscles in a different way. It's more undulating, less monotonous. Anyway, this last part of the run was one of my quickest.

My time was just about 30 seconds slower than my 10k earlier in the month so I was pleased.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

When icicles hang by the wall.....What's Good about Winter Running

Essential - Beanie & Buff
Well it's not been so much that sort of Winter this year, immortalised in the first line of the poem by William Shakespeare, more like one signalled in the first line of the second verse - 'When all aloud the wind doth blow'!

But however winter shows up, as a runner I love it and the colder and wetter the better! As long as my head, neck, hands and arms are well covered it can throw at me what it likes; rain, wind, snow, ice, hail, floods, mud, more mud, glorious oozing mud!

Frosty morning - REALLY cold!
And you can only really appreciate all that nature stuff in depth if you are a trail runner. For me, there's only one reason for running on the road and that's to get to the trail as soon as possible. You can keep your tarmac, concrete and exhaust fume; they just cripple and poison the body and undo what you are trying so hard to achieve - health and fitness and above all enjoyment. Give me fresh air and the human body's natural environment every time! Oh, sorry, back to winter....which is what this post is supposed to be about.

The ever changing elements give winter running its particular charm - and challenge. Those long glorious spells of summer are wonderful in their own right when we get them, but there's more variety and challenge over the same trails in winter because the days change so much. So I use the same few trails most of the time, unless I get in the car and drive further afield. Field paths, woodland tracks, canal banks all bring their own delights and more so in the winter when it's frosty and icy or windy and rainy. Brilliant and beautiful January frosty sunrise or gale lashed downpours are both a heaven to me.

Winter Sunrise
It's only knee-deep!

And if you add night running to what winter brings, it creates a completely different atmosphere and especially when animal eyes are glowing at you in the dark, reflected from your head lamp! A night race such as the Petzl Nightrunner Delamere Forest Festive 10k I entered in 2014 was a real treat. I've never seen such a river of vibrant

Result! - Mince Pie and Medal
fluorescent colour from reflective clothing on a dark night streaming into the forest from the start. And the view from the top of a hill through the frosty clear air across the Cheshire Plain, with millions of streetlights glowing as far as the eye can see was dreamlike. Then plunging down to the finish through pools and puddles and mud and more mud and yet more mud, feet like blocks of ice yet I'm feeling exhilarated by the spectacle - and the exhaustion.

Yes, winter running has its charm and its challenge, and simply adds to the glory of the whole experience that only runners know.

(A blog post for Virtual Running UK)

Thursday's 10k Day

One of the MANY benefits of being retired (and there's lots!)is that I get to go running more or less whenever I want to. I don't have to fit a run in between other things. So I can take advantage of better conditions when they come along.

This morning's weather was wet and cold but there was no wind. Add to that, I'd tied up my shoe laces properly this time, so I didn't have to stop to retie them as I did during my last 10k run You'd think I was a novice :(

These more favourable conditions meant that I knocked about 5 mins. off my previous time! Which was even better because I wasn't trying to beat it. I just wanted to finish today. It would have been enough. Mind you, I think fuelling up at 7.00 a.m. on Linda's carrot cake might have had something to do with it too!!

Linda's Carrot Cake!

Anyhow, not only will I have February's Virtual Running Co. 10k medal coming soon, I've eaten a little bit further into the 2016 Virtual Runner UK 1,000 Challenge. 12% done now. (Evidence above)

Altogether, a good morning's work!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Goals for 2016

Last night I decided what my running goals for 2016 would be. I've listed them in the sidebar. There's just three. It's enough. There's plenty running in there. I have a short term goal each month and two long term goals.

To do 1,000k by the end of the year I'll have to average 20k a week which is not much more than I'm doing at present. So it's achievable if I can keep going and sticking to my present arrangement of 3 runs a week with two rest days together. I'll just have to think carefully about how I space out the different runs as I follow the Run The Edge 13.1 plan.

The monthy 5k and 10k runs will sort of take care of themselves as I go along as they'll be automatically notched up before long as I get further into the 13.1 plan.

I'm quite excited about the goals now I've settled them. I can do them but they are more about
keeping going rather than over reaching myself too much.

This morning I did my Level 7 Day 3 of the 13.1 plan which was simply to run for 15 mins. So I added another 31/2 miles to notch it up to 5 giving me 20k for this week. So I'm under way already. With what I ran in January I've completed 10% of my goal. You can see it here. And click on 'My Activity Totals' at the top. Or on the photo on this post.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Run The Edge 13.1 Level 7 Day 2

I did Level 7 Day 1 of Run The Edge 13.1 Training plan on Monday and today I did Day 2 which comprised of 10 mins run; 1 min walk repeated 3 times. I did race pace and added a few metres of run after the third walking minute to complete 5k. I used the Virtual Running Co. 5k route and was quicker than I ran it last time with similar conditions - wet and windy but running all the time. So I was pleased about that.

My next session will have to be a lot less intense so I'll be doing just 15 minutes running. The rest of
the session can be jog and walk. And then on Monday, all being well, I'll do the final session which is a straight 35 min run. These Levels 7, 8 and 9 are to get you used to varying your speed.

I might then leave starting Level 8 until the following week and just do a couple of recovery runs with a couple of days rest in between. I've followed the plan before and done too much, trying to complete each level in a week. That approach is no good for me now. I need much more rest and recovery time between runs.

But, as always, being sensible, I'll get there.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Half Marathon?

Well....... I was thinking about getting a Run The Edge training plan for a 10k, even though I've done a few. I thought it would be good to follow a new plan to train up to do a stronger, quicker 10k if possible.

Instead, I've dug out my Run The Edge 13.1 training plan again and I'll use that first of all to train to run a stronger 10k and leave myself with the option of continuing it up to readiness for a half marathon.

I know, I know, I know! I tried it once before in 2014 with the Lancaster Castle Half Marathon in mind, but it didn't come off because, well, it just didn't work out because I worked too hard at it. In the end I just did the 10k and got a decent time of a few minutes just over the hour.

So, if the plan works out that I can get a better 10k out of the plan, it will set me up nicely at the same time to go on to a half marathon. Like a springboard, if you see what I mean.

Anyway, with that in mind I picked up at Level 7 this morning and did 5 run 3 jog; 10 run 3 jog; 5 run 3 jog (minutes that is) It went ok.

Oh, and I've started to eat more before I go for my runs. I feel better during and after if I do.

Monday, 1 February 2016

More Medals

My January 5k and 10k Virtual Running Co. medals arrived today. I'm tempted now to sign up right away for February. It would be great if I could get 5k and 10k for every month of this year; the whole year's worth. I could sign up for 2 or 3 months in advance but I can't work like that these days as I
can't guarantee my physical and mental state more than a few days in advance. It would be a nice goal to work towards though. So we'll see how it goes month by month.

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Eating, Weight Loss and Running. The Truth!?

I think many of us get very stressed about losing weight, dieting, eating right and running and keeping our energy level up. And it's b...