Running for two

Are you still running?

Is it safe?

Are you sure?

Several times a week, this happens.

Running is fine. CrossFit is fine. Depending on your specific circumstances, almost everything is absolutely fine.

As I’m lucky enough to be healthy, I wanted to keep up my race commitments this year as much as I could. Mostly because entry fees are steep, & I’ve already lost out on two race entries in the last 12 months due to circumstances beyond my control. So I’ve still been completing races (but not racing) 😀

Edinburgh Marathon doesn’t really count because it was so early in the first trimester, but I am slightly pleased to know that my breathlessness, perceived effort & generally feeling ‘off’ was probably due to making a human from scratch rather than not training well enough. I look forward to telling my offspring that I ran a marathon with them when they were an embryo.

Run The Blades was already entered, & was never going to be a pb effort for the distance even if I was at full fitness: a hilly trail race on a midsummer Friday evening has enough factors making it difficult . Never at my best during evening races, it’s tough underfoot, has a lot of narrow sections and a selection of steep & long hills. I stayed very steady and kept an eye on my heart rate, dropping the speed if it got too high. Which it did, but I am sure a one off is fine. I am sure that hill is more than 30m elevation.

Great North Run was unexpectedly hot & as noted in the debrief, probably a bit too far. Had it not been a race I would have called it a day at 10 miles. The evening & the next day was quite like post-marathon stiffness, which worried me a bit, but with proper rest and stretching, I was back at the gym a few days later.

So far, running’s been consistently ok. Perceived effort is difficult to manage, mostly because working harder for a slower pace is messing with my brain a bit. I thought I would get frustrated with going slower – parkrun is the worst, as all my local ones are 3-4 laps and I am getting overtaken a lot – but it’s for the right reasons. In the couple of weeks when I felt very tired and nauseous, gentle running or training in the gym made me feel better, which was a great help once I’d actually managed to get out the door. Iced water also really helped, as my sense of smell was very heightened & the chemical scent of room temperature tap water was very unappealing.

My last race this year will be the Great Scottish Run 10km, tomorrow. It’s a race I’ve done every year since I started running properly, except 2018 when I failed to start due to not feeling well on race day, and I missed it a lot. Things can change on a weekly basis in terms of how I feel and what I can achieve, but for now it seems like a good way to end the season: seven races, over half of them pregnant. Back in December, when I was planning my marathons & everything else around them, I had no idea it would end up like this. But I’m grateful for every day I feel able to exercise, & much stronger & happier for doing so.

The new normal

So. With increased total blood volume & ligaments relaxing all over the place, how does exercise fit into all this?

Opinions vary. The traditional advice for expectant women to rest & take it easy is no longer chucked about with as much sincerity as it used to be, thank goodness. But there are plenty of people who say stuff like that to me anyway, when I was marathon training or even when just generally maintaining fitness. It’s easy to forget that exercise isn’t part of a lot of people’s routines at all. “Have a rest! Put your feet up! Just relax!” is the battle cry of people who have never racked their bodyweight across their shoulders & dropped 5×5 like a boss, or ran for two hours without stopping & unravelled all the problems in their mind.

The other side of the coin is aspirational social media/generic internet positivity. “You can do anything! Pregnancy is not an illness!” which must be a terribly grating thing to hear for people who are quite unwell during pregnancy. Although they’ll be stuck in the bathroom most of the time & won’t really care. It’s usually illustrated with pictures like this:

from a website advising no supine positions after 13 weeks (which is outdated anyway) clearly doing JUST THAT
I really hope that’s not been cleaned from the floor

& again, not illustrative of most people’s experiences. Exercise is hugely important for my mental & physical wellbeing, but I’m out of breath sometimes now if I walk up a few flights of stairs carrying a heavy bag. My body is changing already, & my diet is a little different, so my training will have to change too.

Sad face

The internet is fantastic & full of wonderful tips & tricks, but it’s also full of nonsense, & separating the good advice from the well-intentioned-but-terrible, as well as the genuinely bad, can be difficult. NHS, Mumsnet & similar recommend that exercise should be the usual triad of gentle walking, swimming & pregnancy yoga. I have actually been to pregnancy yoga and it was quite nice, although the hippie nonsense relaxation practice has never appealed to me & it’s even less appealing now the guided savasana involves bonding with the baby. At least no one can see my rolling my eyes because there’s an aromatherapy bag over my face. But still.

I love the NHS but they’re obviously terribly cautious with the advice and need to appeal to the mainstream, who tend not to exercise at all. So far I’ve found specific lifting/CrossFit advice for women to be the best, as sensible suggestions about listening to your own body is key. The importance of what a lighter weight means to you specifically is also mentioned in this type of advice, rather than the generic ‘light weight’ or just no heavy lifting at all.

The first few times I went to the gym after finding out about the pregnancy, I did my all usual sessions with no change to the weight on the bar, but then panicked a bit, went too light & wasn’t feeling the benefit. Right now, the intensity depends on the lift I’m doing. Cleans, snatches & deadlifts feel less comfortable already so my weights are lighter for these lifts, & I have modified some of the techniques for more support & less risk whilst still getting a benefit. Squats & overhead lifts all feel fine, so I’m sticking with weights only slightly lighter than my pre-pregnancy efforts.

Listening to my own body is a little bit more difficult than I expected because I’m half a stone heavier than 2 months ago & full of weird twinges. Ligaments hold your uterus in its normal place in your pelvis – in my head it’s like BB8’s retention cables when he’s rolling around on the Millennium Falcon

& when these stretch to accommodate the expanding uterus, it aches a bit. Mostly it’s when I stand up too fast (all the time), forget that I shouldn’t lie on my front (more often than expected) & earlier this week it was when I tried a set of hang cleans with a weight only 5kg lighter than my 1 rep max. I managed three reps before realising it was a bit of a dick move; I’ll try this exercise with lighter weights for the next couple of weeks, as I want to keep to my normal routine for as long as I can.

Luckily, I am surrounded by some incredible women who have been there and done it all. PTs/fitness instructors with pre & post natal specialisations or experience are definitely on my radar at the moment – please recommend resources, people and accounts to follow!

“Two marathons in a month?”

Yes. London was a bit of an anomaly in the plan.

Headed out this morning for my first ‘proper’ run since London, easing back into a training plan that had me taking a couple of rest days & a couple of recovery runs before hitting the proper miles again. Now LDN’s done & dusted, it’s all about EMF.

more like East Lothian marathon really but

Edinburgh is one of the nearest marathons to me, and despite it being a bit of a boring route and a bit late in the year for a spring marathon, it has a good medal, a good atmosphere & I can sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a joy. I’ve done the half marathon twice, spectated & supported on a few more, & always had a decent race.

I noticed a few dual or triple marathoners last year on Instagram using the Hal Higdon maintenance plan, as well as getting good feedback from club mates who use these plans. This is why I went for a Higdon plan in the first place, starting from the point of view of more than one marathon and working backwards. There are a range of plans available; four weeks between seems a long time, especially after seeing folk on Instagram running Manchester & Paris/Brighton, or one of these and then London too, but it is not overly regimented & advises intermediate & advanced runners to keep the speedwork up but pay attention to how they feel.

Four weeks between has the speed work kept up twice a week, plus a couple of easy longer distances to remind your body of the long run feels. Set off this morning with the plan to do 10 miles minimum, & 12 if it felt OK.

Ended up as 15.5 because I joined the GFR group catching the train to Balloch, & that’s how long it takes to get back to my house from there. Not ideal as recovery, but the pace was very steady & I was fully prepared to stop earlier if I felt it was needed. The rest of the team are legends & did the full 23 miles back to the city.

It was nice to run the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon route in slightly better weather than last time, & running with company is nice. It struck me that during London I didn’t speak to anyone after the starting pen until the final corner, unlike any other marathon where I have always had company. It maybe had an effect I didn’t realise at the time.

Currently feeling pretty good, but slightly sore after today’s miles. Same quad ache that I had following the marathon, and calf pain has moved into the Achilles’ tendon on one side which is actually quite painful to walk on too, so I will be cautious. This is quite a lot to put my body through & still stay injury-free. Nutrition and sleep remain as important as getting the miles in – & it’s not ideal, as work has been chaotic & I have been skipping lunch, eating doughnuts & staying up too late since London. Getting back on track with a long Sunday run has helped me focus, although I’m typing this with a glass of wine in hand…

Weekly round-up:

Monday: rest, except for a brief saunter to Tower Bridge for a post-marathon medal photo & a slow walk to my London workplace which has SO MANY STAIRS I never noticed this before today. 4 hours on the train home was better than I thought it would be for soreness.

Tuesday: more rest. Some foam rolling, which was sore. A very slow jog as part of coaching GFR, which didn’t feel good at all: probably less than 500m covered in an hour long session but it was always very slow. Legs were achy.

Wednesday: a steady 3 miles before dinner. It felt a bit weird – breathing hard but my heart rate stayed low & Garmin called it ‘unproductive’. Slightly tender calves & quads were not great but this was loosened by running in a way that stretching hadn’t helped with, so that was a nice bonus.

Showcasing some of the ££££ I spent at the expo

Thursday: in the midst of a very busy work day, I managed a 4 mile jaunt up and down the Clyde, at a much improved recovery speed.

Friday: rest day. Went to see Avengers: Endgame, finally. Cried a bit.

Saturday: an easy 5 miles was the plan. Pace was all over the place, my Achilles hurt during & my hip hurt once I stopped. Recovery is weird.

Sunday: 15.5 miles down the River Leven & Forth and Clyde Canal. Point to point is fun for motivation, although on balance I prefer running out & then heading back with a coffee (unless it’s rainy). The chatty group on the train got quieter & quieter as we sped away from Glasgow towards Loch Lomond, realising just how far it is. But weather conditions were perfect & everyone did well.

Total miles: 27.7. Good, with so many rest days. No lifting or cross-training at all.

Nutrition: a few days off track this week. Wasn’t overly hungry on Monday morning, so just snacked all day & then got a takeaway when I arrived home. Didn’t get to the supermarket properly until Wednesday, so this week has been a bit off course & there have been too many poor choices. Back on it by Saturday with roast veg pasta.

Feeling: fine enough. Not too sore on Monday/Tuesday & kept stretching & walking as much as I could. Running fine by Thursday, mildly achy after the long run. Baths & stretching & kino tape required to keep me together.

My left foot is a bit damaged looking. Toenails are useful, I think – the toes without them are struggling. Otherwise all is good.

Higher mileage & higher intensity next week: hopefully I am properly recovered.

Week 12

Ups and downs, physically & mentally, but this week has seen a mileage peak and some good speedy runs as part of that. Didn’t quite split the mileage as the plan specified, but it all evened out by the end of the week.

 

Monday: Cyclebox for the cross-training day. Legs felt strong & weren’t burning during the cycling, which was good as I was hitting the levels each track. Left shoulder is still a little sore when boxing, which has also happened when shoulder pressing/push pressing/anything involving arms over the head. This niggle moved down my back over the next couple of days & was mostly fine when easy running, but I could feel it a bit when going faster. It seems to have resolved itself but back injuries scare me so I am keeping a close eye on it and stretching a lot.

Tuesday: 10x400m sprints with 2ish minutes recovery in between and a 1 mile warm up and cool down. Did this on the skillmill as my recovery time can be really variable and I don’t always want to faff around with the treadmill settings. Skillmill solved that, but 45 minutes of me being VERY LOUD in the middle of the gym was probably not ideal for the morning crowd. Worked for me, though, and the sprints were at a good pace.

Wednesday: Working in London, & the intention had been to hit up London Frontrunners for their Regent’s Park loop, as it’s my favourite run of theirs & my favourite social afterwards. The last few times I’ve been it has been too dark to take in the Primrose Hill views, so I wanted that. But circumstances happened & work was very busy & I would have struggled to fit everything in, so I moved rest day & went for dinner with my dad instead.

Pumpkin & sage gnocchi: nice work

I did get stressed again about changing the plan at last minute, but managed my expectations/got over myself quite quickly. Also made sure to turbo-charge rest day by having a very early night. Spending time with my loved ones was awesome too.

Thursday: 6 miles steady, & the impromptu rest gave me the energy for a bit of fartlek to keep it interesting. Needed the company & good chat of GFR to keep a decent steady pace, & it worked.

Friday: lovely rest Not a proper rest day, but kept the should-have-been-Wednesday’s 8 miles very easy. Ran home from work, with daylight & podcasts all the way, and I made it home before the rain started AND dinner was ready when I got home.

enjoying the lighter evenings too

Saturday: 7 miles, split into 4 miles easy & 3 miles of parkrun at race pace. Pleased with the parkrun time of 25:49 – it felt nicely challenging but not flat out, which bodes well for a sub-25 soon when I am less tired.

Sunday: The second of three 20 milers in this plan. Last time I did this it was livened up with a race as well as a hailstorm, but I was happy for this effort to be a steady plod and not feel too exhausted by it. Time on the feet is more important.

Apprehension for this distance sets in quick but the run turned out excellent, mostly because of the company and a good route through the Southside. I’ve not been very adventurous with running routes for various reasons so exploring some different bits of the city is always nice.

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team thumbs up

Kept a pretty good pace, slightly slower than what I wanted but there was a lot of rain & headwind so I’m knocking off a few minutes for that. Cake at the end, obviously:

Total miles: 45.6. I definitely have the energy for a 400 yard jog…

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On Sundays we run far

Nutrition: very good, even when travelling. Made aneffort this week to stay off the trash snacks, & it’s been good – lots of pasta and lots of protein. As always, prep is key.

I had no resolve when invited to Stack & Still, though I did choose the protein pancakes.

Exceptional pancakes

Feeling: good enough. Achy calf, shoulder & back at various stages of pretty much every run, but I stretched lots, slept well (although not always enough hours) & work was so busy that getting out & running was always a relief. Rooted to the sofa binge-watching Fleabag for a couple of evenings was good for resting too.

I got really down for a while on Wednesday when I wasn’t able to go for my planned run because of travelling for work, but was able to get through it OK. Being away from routine and home in a high mileage week isn’t good, but things improved. Mood swings are a bit too frequent at the moment, & tiredness is probably compounding it.

With 5 weeks to go, I also got new trainers. A few easy treadmill runs will be necessary to settle these in, but I am fairly brand-loyal & have never had any problems with Brooks.

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These are the updated version of my current shoes which have done nearly 500 miles. I like the colour the way these feel so I’m sticking with them. Great service at Run4it, as usual.

Next week is more speedwork and less mileage again, and fitting in more strength sessions will be good too. Meticulous planning is required.

Week 11

With six weeks to go until the London Marathon, we’re well onto the third stage of the plan. It’s a light running week, but I’m still peaking. Eating ridiculous amounts of food but clothes I bought in January are getting looser. This is generally good, but I’m showing signs of being a bit run down – spotty, lethargic, often irritable, a cold sore that lasted for more than a week.

I am excited about what this training’s leading up to, but will also be happy when it’s over. I am tired & usually struggling to give enough time to work, leisure, friends, training, family and sleep.

Monday: strength workout, woohoo. Allan has given me a maintenance strength plan with two alternating full-body training sessions, keeping the weights light-ish and also keeping up core strength. Today’s session featured a lot of squat movements – not feeling particularly amazing after the long run the day before – but the gym was quiet for once and it was a good session.

Tuesday: 5 miles: 5 threshold intervals of 1km on a treadmill. Walk breaks of 3 mins in between because I was feeling lazy. Warm up & cool down at easy pace. Lots of stretching afterwards.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy-ish at lunchtime, and the gym for a strength workout in the evening. Wrong way round, but I had a 5:00am start for work so had to fit it all in somehow. The run was hillier than I had anticipated, but it was fantastic weather & the view is always, always worth the climb. I need to remember this.

Top of the 2km incline selfie: confused & sweaty

Thursday: 3 miles with GFR, very easy pace. Didn’t realise how nice it is to have a proper recovery run & not feel sore!

Quite possibly the happiest I have ever looked after a run

The plan said 5 miles, but 1) I am trying not to be obsessed with the plan and 2) being 2 miles short will make no difference and I NEED TO REMEMBER THIS. Slow, steady run with a group of C25km graduates was absolutely perfect.

Friday: As last night was meant to be 5 miles but I did not feel in the mood for any extra, Cyclebox at 7:30am more than made up for that laziness. Alternative cardio is a good way to keep the fitness up without any more damn running.

before/during/after

I spent the evening fretting about the weekend weather. I had 8 miles tempo and 13 miles steady to do, with no particular commitment for which day to do them on, so it was all weather dependent and a bit of a discipline test.

Saturday: As anticipated, snowing when I got up. I love snow but I also love not being injured. Went out for parkrun with the intention of potentially doing the 13 miles depending on underfoot conditions – once I’d run to the park, done a few loops to keep warm, and completed the parkrun, I’d done over 10km so decided to push on, slowly.

I’m glad I did, but it was one of those training runs that you talk about in hushed tones or hyperbole for years afterwards: it was freezing despite wearing three top layers, gloves and a hat; the underfoot conditions were awful; so many parts of the path were flooded I was in ankle-deep water several times; I kept swallowing snowflakes and coughing. 2 hours out did truly seem like years, and I would have preferred a faster pace, but I made sure to put a towel and dry clothes on the radiator before I left and it was so delicious to come home to. Also coffee.

The trainers are definitely fucked

Sunday was much better weather. 7 and a half miles was good, and a nice pace could be maintained on the canal towpath with no traffic lights or junctions to mess up the flow. Had a go at this later in the day because I needed a bit of extra sleep, & 7 miles is only an hour and a bit for me so it doesn’t need to be done particularly early. I alternated faster miles with easy paced miles, and it worked well enough although my legs felt quite heavy for the first couple of miles. The faster pace became easier as the miles clocked up, as always.

Total miles: dropped down to 33.3, slightly under the planned 36, but the speedwork days felt good this week. Wednesday’s easy run was veeeery slow in parts due to inclines, but I was happy with the pace of the 13 mile Saturday run given the conditions, and felt fine to push it out on the least slippery bits. Sunday’s 8 miles was quite well paced & a fantastic way to round off the week.

I have run 110 miles so far in March, which seems ridiculous.

Nutrition: good. Craving hummus & flatbreads, tea, anything spicy. Need to prep more to avoid snacking on toast or only eating yoghurt for dinner. Started the week well with kimchi, pork & egg rice at Bibimbap; finished it with home-made shepherd’s pie.

A good carby day of omelette, rice & pasta
Bibimbap deliciousness
Mint tea before training

Feeling: also good. These frequent mileage decrease weeks are good for managing fatigue. Most of the runs came up a little short on planned mileage this week, but Friday’s spin session was a good cardio substitute, and the weekend’s running was on point. Managing to avoid hypothermia on Saturday was grand too, as miserable as it felt at the time.

Random insomnia on Saturday night was odd, but hopefully not a regular thing. Getting hardly any sleep after the longest run of the week isn’t ideal, and I had been looking forward to a good night’s sleep because of not having to be up early on Sunday for it. Never mind. It didn’t affect my Sunday running too much, but I think I could have definitely pushed the pace a bit more if I’d had more than a couple of hours sleep.

Next week turns up the third phase of training, with two further high mileage weeks before tapering begins and it all gets very, very real. A lot of friends are running races in early or mid-April so I’ll be learning from and listening to them as they peak and taper earlier than me. I could really do with a bit of warmer weather too – I’ve had enough damp miserable long runs. Lighter nights are going to be good too.

CYCLEBOX

IT HAS TO BE IN CAPS YEAH

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representing

Spin is usually a winter thing for me, when I don’t get out on the bike as much. I was a regular spin rat years ago, and when I returned to the gym it was one of the only classes I enjoyed doing at PureGym, as I’d been cycling enough for transport and occasionally for leisure that it didn’t feel too bad. Running gradually took over as my main cardio and aside from commuting a couple of times a week and occasional long weekend rides, I cared less about cycling and spin fell out of favour, mainly because class times never fitted in with my schedule very well.

I can’t remember when I learned about Cyclebox. I’d read this, and this, and the Glasgow boxing scene has a lot of shared insta hashtags so I’d seen their sexy black & white photos floating about on social media for a while. But it wasn’t until a couple of friends went along & reported back (“Great” / “I nearly cried”) that I got the confidence to turn up for my first ride last summer. It did not disappoint.

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An average day of sitting at a desk followed by a 5pm class. ‘Help’ indeed.

Changing your routine is always good, and Cyclebox changes enough to keep you on your toes every time. Like regular spin classes you can control the resistance on the bike & tone it down if you’re not feeling powerful, although I always take the specified level/RPM as a personal challenge even if my legs are crying. The circuits/boxing half of the session is equally tough, but there’s enough upper & lower body focus variation to get a full body workout and get a bit of relief between rounds too. The different exercises are always explained well if you’re unfamiliar with good technique, & I have shared enough not-quite-defeated-yet glances with other equally sweaty, knackered people half way through to know that everyone is working as hard as they can, every time. You wouldn’t dare not.

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Mid class, brief respite.

It’s the only workout since Metafit where I have felt genuinely exhausted & ready for the end of the hour, which is proof of how awesome it is, but weird now I’ve been using it as an active recovery session following the hard running days. The energy & support in the classes is powerful & so motivating, so I still enjoy it even if my legs are sore.

As noted in Week 2, I won’t cope with classes when the running miles get heavy, and I’ll miss Cyclebox a lot. Fantastic trainers, friendly people, good tunes & one of the best workouts I’ve ever done. Check it out!

Glasgow FrontRunners

All of this running nonsense is down to Frontrunners, really. Every bit of it.

we run through this tunnel a lot

Before about 2013, I either ran as part of team sports, or just didn’t, except the occasional Race for Life. I found out about Frontrunners when I was working for Stonewall, & eventually got convinced to go along to try a 5km. I don’t really remember much about it – I couldn’t run further than about 50 metres without needing to stop and walk, & it was years before a C25K programme was established so I just had to go along with it. It wasn’t until several months later when I started attending more consistently, followed a training plan & saw a steady improvement.

The club has also changed over time – it’s much bigger now, & there are more varied session options than when I first started. Races like OUTRun & the annual Red Run & Rainbow Run are getting firmly established on the Scottish race calendar, & it’s nice to see the club evolving & growing. I did my Jog Leader training in 2016 and my CiRF training in 2018, & if a week goes by without going to a session, it feels a bit like something is missing.

We like pictures

FrontRunners is international. As well as Glasgow, I’ve run with FrontRunners in Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle, London, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I’ll be running with Chicago FrontRunners later this year, which I’m really excited about. There are clubs in loads of major cities, and the socialising is just as important as the running at all the ones I’ve been to, or partied with. It’s great to have local running knowledge & friendly folk in cities that you don’t know well; even in London and Edinburgh, it’s nice to not have to think about a route or worry about personal safety. Just turn up and go.

I have tried other running clubs & we are really spoilt for choice in Glasgow, but GFR suits me best at the moment. I enjoy running alone (you pretty much have to, for marathon training…) but running with a group is good for when you want to push yourself, or when you need someone to push you. I have met some amazing people & made great friends through GFR & I love the diversity of runners that it attracts.

OUTRun 2018

It feels a long way from that first run several years ago, when I couldn’t run 5km, to getting the opportunity to run the London Marathon courtesy of the club. Our official spring marathon is Edinburgh, which I was hugely in favour of until I had to move my own training plan forward by a few weeks because of London! Hopefully I will manage some long runs with the marathon training team, because 20 miles is much easier with good chat, varied routes, & a cycling supporter with a rucksack full of Lucozade & fruit pastilles.

we are proud

Glasgow Frontrunners: regular runs on Thursdays and Sundays, training sessions on Tuesdays. Website & Facebook has the details. Definitely worth a try.