Week whatever

Seriously, I don’t know where I am right now. Two weeks post marathon & two weeks pre marathon. Tired, mostly. This week started off meh & ended much better – the nice weather has had an awesome effect on my mood, for sure. I almost forgot about the double marathon thing.

Monday: ‘rest day’, if rest is a 12 hour work day. Bank holidays are great unless you work for an essential service, retail, or in comms for critical infrastructure.

Realised I missed going to pole, so went for a lesson to make sure I could reliably hang upside down without failure. It turns out I have retained a bit of strength, but have lost some skill. Will keep practising.

Haven’t missed the palm callouses

Tuesday: back on the speed work. After running on an achy Achilles’ tendon, I realised I am not particularly capable of knowing my limits. This session felt difficult, & I kept thinking I was incapable before realising that I was only a few days post marathon. The intention was 3 fast km sandwiched between a warm up and cool down at a slower pace – by the end of the second fast km I was unhappy, so kept the rest of it steady. Had a good stretch & a good dinner though.

Wednesday: the plan was an easy six miles. As is usual for working-at-Parliament days, though, I didn’t have time for lunch & ended up going home straight from Edinburgh and having an early dinner. I’d read this great post from Jordan earlier in the day & having had similar feelings during my own speed work the evening before (as well as a similar, if much slower, London Marathon experience) I decided to give running a miss. It was miserable weather & I had stuff to bring home from work, so it all worked out well really.

Thursday: gym time tonight: it’s still super busy at peak times but it was good to just lift & not think about running. 3 miles was on the training plan, but cleans, deadlifts, split squats & planks substituted.

Indoors is better

Friday: didn’t fancy resting, so Cyclebox it was. 45 minutes of hardcore spinning, working my legs without too much impact. Still incredibly tough though – early class means no breakfast, & it’s difficult to last the distance on the sprints. Need more coffee next time, or the 0930 rather than the 0730.

I get to keep an eye on the trains when I’m here too

Saturday: went for a faster parkrun, & happy to see gains on this distance; 26:06 felt quite relaxed. 7 miles in total.

Sunday: a longer but steadier run around Glasgow: 5 miles on my own with podcasts, 6 miles with Frontrunners, and a final couple of miles with the Cyclebox inaugural run club.

lovely colours

Cyclebox’s promise of “just a bit of HIIT” turned out to be repeats of the Kelvingrove steps & some Monument Hill sprints. I will not do this at the end of a long run ever again, but I have ideas for my Tuesday coaching sessions.

After today, I disagree

Total miles: 25. Lowest weekly mileage for some time, but I think the rest & change did me good. Serious shoulder & back DOMS from cleans & deadlifts means it’s been too long away from that sort of workout.

Nutrition: good, apart from a couple of busy days. Plenty of protein, good lunches, less coffee, frequently vegetarian. I am trying to eat less meat & dairy & it’s a challenge.

Feeling: OK. Mood up & down, and despite lots of good sessions I have fallen out of love with running. Work has been very busy & I get stuck in a cycle of getting stressed about being too busy, then annoyed when the run does not go well or eating nonsense. Usually managed to keep off that, & the week ended much more positively than it began. The nice weather definitely helped.

I am not really feeling positive about Edinburgh though, & I cannot be bothered at all with the Great North Run which suddenly seems a lot closer. The dawning realisation, not helped by blog post archives, that I have spent all of 2019 either running, thinking about running, or doing laundry loads made up of sweaty gym clothes, is not good. I am bad at responding to texts & emails. I have forgotten to send birthday cards or even birthday messages & I spent a good chunk of a nice holiday thinking about running, or how I wasn’t running enough or eating too much. I am in a fairly good place, & it’s been a good exercise in discipline & dedication, but marathon training is tough on life. I miss my other hobbies, & sleeping.

But with only two weeks to go, I might as well run the thing. I hope the excitement returns soon. Speedwork will need to be up to standard next week; hopefully I am fully recovered now & can get the most out of the next few sessions.

lift lift lift

This week sees a cut in mileage and an extra day’s rest, which has let me pick up the lifting sessions again & cemented my feelings that, on average, strength training is better than running.

  • takes place entirely indoors
  • doesn’t really matter if you aren’t feeling 100%
  • can still lift if you forget to pack your trainers/sports bra/socks/hair ties
  • Can drink coffee during the session if you want
  • muscles are good

Seriously, I love weight training. I am much better at it than running, although I still sulk if I’m not having a good session.

peaking a few months ago, currently struggling to lift less than this

My body type is much more ‘powerlifter’ than ‘runner’, so no real surprise how much I love it. I have been following specific strength programmes for a few years now. Initially following a split strength push/pull/leg programme, I’ve got more into Olympic lifting recently so my programme is more focused on improving the snatch, clean and jerk movements and each training day involves a combination legs, back and upper body in some way. I prefer this to the split session, as the full-body DOMS is still relatively light. I used to do leg days where running afterwards was nearly impossible, which wasn’t always great but has given me quads & calves that are sometimes a bit of a talking point:

QUADS

There is still a bit of a divide between strength & cardio amongst the committed ones, although more and more people are seeing the benefits of complementary training types, & HIIT, CrossFit & other mixed method workouts are popular. The level of strength training that I do when I am not marathon training is difficult to maintain alongside this much running – I am looking forward to the strength goals I’m going to focus on after the marathons. But strength training is so good for running form – improved core, less fatigue, stronger leg muscles, & lifting is still good for your cardio fitness. It’s good to see so many runners incorporating strength sessions into their training plans, & occasionally too when weightlifters see the benefit of an easy 5km every now & then.

#juststrongteam

I do like being strong, & I am thrilled that more & more women are getting into serious lifting. It’s really important for long term health, as well as functional strength & looking awesome.

I’ve been wearing Just Strong clothing for a few months now & am really pleased with how comfortable it is & how good it looks – & best of all it’s a women-run business. If you fancy some new gym gear, treat yourself here!

Achieving goals makes me feel good & powerful, & running goals are awesome, but picking up nearly double your own body weight is a thrill like no other. I hope I keep getting stronger & those gains keep coming.

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!

Intervals

In order to run faster you have to practice running faster. Logic. I’ve done a couple of marathons and many more half marathons, so I’m pretty confident about overcoming fatigue. Long runs train you to get past that fatigue, but speed work helps you with a lot more – particularly form.

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mood

In the past I have found intervals and sprints much easier to do on a treadmill, although there is a lot of chat about how it makes it more difficult to find your ideal pace when running outside, the need to set the incline to 1-2% to recreate wind resistance, generally how it’s a bit of a cop-out, etc. The treadmill does have to be set up well for me to enjoy this kind of training – my current gym has the cardio machines all lined up facing a mirror, which isn’t ideal. Previous gyms where you could see out of the window, or at least face towards other people, is more entertaining.

I got obsessed with this specific treadmill last year when I trained at Sweat Union, because you could see all around the gym

I have developed a few intervals and hill sprint sessions to use with Frontrunners, so I need to make use of them myself. For this training cycle I am making an effort to do more outdoor interval training. I do feel a bit stupid doing these on my own but I see a lot of people posting their plans and splits on Instagram, & there are a selection of decent inclines & straight bits of road near my house that I could certainly make use of. I have run on an actual athletics track precisely once, when I was doing my coaching assessment last year, & whilst I can see the benefit of having a measured distance and a nice springy track, the one nearest to me is always really busy. My Garmin has a lap function & can have training plans loaded onto it, so that will be a help with outdoor intervals.

I will aim for my Tuesday runs to be intervals/hills and my Thursday or Saturday runs to be tempo runs, depending on how I’m feeling. This Tuesday’s 3 miler should have been repeats of a 400m steady incline near my house, but I had to treadmill it this week. 6x400m was enough for a tired day, and I’ll work up to more repeats of that distance. I’ve also seen some interesting pyramid-style interval sessions being done by marathon runners, which I’ve saved for reference…

As the evenings get lighter, there are a lot more options, of course, & I can explore further afield. Kelvingrove Park is always a favourite, as it has a good selection of different gradients.

Yes, even this one. Pic courtesy of Manchester Frontrunners

For now, I’ll work up to more treadmill repeats & probably dig out some stats from a few years back to see if I can beat them now. I hope I can.