Checking in

Over half way now: the spare room still has my weights & stuff in it (“you can’t keep calling it the spare room, Heather…”) & I am enjoying the space before it gets taken up by a cot & a pram & whatever else. Still not sure how to explain it all to the cats.

I have news for you, my friend

People keep asking if I am going to buy a running buggy. I am now an expert on prams* so the answer is yes, probably, when I have replaced the ££££ I have already shelled out on miscellaneous nonsense so far, & figured out how to run again. No point in splashing out until I know whether running will even be an option.

*up until a month ago, I thought a car seat was a carrycot, a carrycot was a pram, & a travel system was a separate thing

It’s also time to slow down a bit. A moderate workout gives serious DOMS, & a couple of days of work travel can ruin me for the rest of the week. I am yawning my head off at 9:30pm even after an average day.

I am enjoying the shopping, although my bank balance disagrees.

what else for a tiny marathoner

So what am I missing?

Fast (ish) running. Natural but frustrating, even though I’ve never been a particularly fast runner. Keeping an eye on my heart rate isn’t always working as it always goes high at a moderate effort (and then recovers really quickly). Running once or twice a week right now, and fitting in Cyclebox once a week or so if I need it. This is enough cardio.

Caffeine. So bad. I have a couple of filter coffees a week & those days are *chef’s kiss* even when they are usually saved for stressful work days.

Sleep. I know it’s a cliche but I didn’t expect the crap sleep to start so soon, it kicked in quite early & was mostly about anxiety & a racing mind. Now it’s more about discomfort, or for NO REASON AT ALL I AM JUST AWAKE AT 3AM. I am good at sleeping on my left side but I must be a thrashy sleeper most of the time: several hours of not moving much can wake me up with a killer ache in my hip & I have to get out of bed to alleviate it. I’m a 6am riser during the week & still quite early at weekends – a marathon training habit that refuses to die – so my sleep is quite diminished. It’s manageable for now because every 10 days or so I have a huge crash & go to bed at 8pm. I think I am now just permanently tired.

Tying my shoes easily. Enough said.

Cheeses. I have ordered & sent back blue cheese dressing several times, because I am stupid. I have also been merrily eating unpasteurised Parmesan until a few days ago because apparently I can’t read either. Christmas will be tough because cheese is a staple. I am going on a proper Brie binge in the new year.

Those are the big things for now, as I approach the six month mark & start to worry about fitting behind the steering wheel.

But yes: still running (slowly, not far), lifting (not heavy, no snatches), spinning (occasionally dropping a sprint) and going out (if I can be home by 10:30). It’s still good.

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!

Well.

With two marathons out of the way  by the first half of 2019, I’d always intended a rest & a change in training after the plan was over and done with. I had no idea what kind of change was coming.
Finishing the Edinburgh Marathon with a glance to the finish line & the beginnings of a smile. Stressing afterwards about my slow time, which I’m now firmly pinning on the new knowledge that I’m nearly six weeks pregnant in this photo. I had absolutely no idea. After a very strange couple of months, it’s quite easy to look back now & think how could I not know.
Well, tiredness, nausea and hunger are also pretty common in marathon training & the days following a race. When my period didn’t show up I thought that was due to stress. I didn’t fancy a glass of wine after finishing Edinburgh but I assumed that was tiredness and sunburn. (The more I write this, the more it seems like classic denial…)
But something clearly wasn’t right. Similarly to Kelly, my heart rate was up for quite a few days after the marathon, which isn’t normal. My resting heart rate is quite low, but was still 10bpm higher than usual over a week later. It’s remained around that ever since. I am more obsessed with my Garmin stats than ever.
My menstrual tracking app sent me a helpful notification to think about maybe doing a pregnancy test. I put it off for a few days until realising I had social events coming up that would involve drinking so it might be better to know beforehand.
I took three tests over two days, & reader, they were all positive within what seemed like seconds. Like any millennial with questions, I immediately began googling & figuring out what the hell had happened  & what my options might be. I’ve never been remotely broody or maternal, but since hitting my thirties I had been sliiiiiightly more curious about the potential of children, as well as facing up to the reality of ageing. And always envious of those who seemed so sure of what they wanted, whatever it was.
I’ve discussed these feelings so many times with friends of similar ages and stages who feel exactly the same way – happy as we are, but apprehensive about the future and continually fearful of making the wrong choice. That’s not the same as specifically wanting to have a child, though, which has never appealed strongly.

Nothing like having the choice made for you, then.  Once the initial shock had worn off, which took a good few days, I surprised myself when continuing the pregnancy seemed like the right thing to do. The status quo usually appeals to me, although this has the highest of all stakes attached to it.
A few things happened, then: I tentatively went for a 5km run at a very steady pace, & enjoyed it. I stopped drinking coffee & the crushing tiredness set in & I had to go to bed at 9pm most days. ‘Morning sickness’ was more ‘daytime nausea’ & only relieved by constant beige snacks – mostly salt & vinegar peanuts and Babybels – but was luckily quite mild compared to some horror stories I’ve heard.
I read some good books & started drinking small amounts of coffee again. Plenty of other irritating early pregnancy symptoms appeared, but I’ve never done this before & there was always a vague feeling that this was some sort of elaborate joke, or my body playing tricks on me.

Then, there it was.

going from ‘pregnant, apparently’ to THERE’S A BABY THERE

So, yeah. Truly the next level.

The whole summer so far has seemed like limbo, & punctuated with fleeting thoughts of “I wish I’d known that was the last time I would do x/y/z/whatever”. I’m pleased that 2018 was so good in so many ways. I know it seems a bit fatalistic to assume everything will be less good from now on, but as someone who’s never had any broodiness or soft-focus daydreams of parenthood, it’s difficult to change perspective, & I really like my life the way it is. I’m apprehensively happy about where I’m headed, but there’s no void to fill, no emptiness, no desire for change that women getting older are supposed to have.

Luckily, I do have good role models in real life and online. Those I’ve known for a while but didn’t think their situation and experience would ever be relevant to me; those who I’ve recently discovered following this change in trajectory; those who are in the same boat, or have been, but I didn’t pay attention at the time. Reading and listening is good, especially now life must slow down & I am taking more time to rest & relax rather than prioritising exercise & socialising. I’ll never not be honest about how unexpected and unplanned this has been, because I have no idea how things will progress & how I’ll feel further down the line.

Right now, 4 months in, I feel podgy, bloated and hungry. I can still lie on my back comfortably & it’s only then that I notice a bump. Happily, I can still do my usual training, although running is slower & the weights are lighter. I am being sensible, taking advice from the correct sources, & getting used to rest days & naps in a way that has never appealed before. This time it’s serious, though. We need the energy. It’s not just me any more.
Change can be good. Except the change to decaf coffee. Twenty five weeks to go!

Girls who lift

Still described by mainstream publications as the latest fitness trend, #strongwomen are all over gyms everywhere. It’s more and more common for women to focus their training on strength and weightlifting rather than cardio, which is mostly great. When I first started using commercial gyms, 14 or so years ago, the free weights sections were dominated by men & I would not have set foot in there. These days, I’m rarely the only woman in the free weights section & split training is my favourite kind.

I do neglect arm training

I say mostly great. There’s a lot of discussion about how strong not skinny can promote a body shape just as unattainable. A lot of women, especially on Instagram, seem to do a lot of lower body work & there’s still a cultural apprehension around looking too masculine. A PT friend of mine has lots of female clients who are worried about ‘big shoulders’.

baby got back

Despite the marathons, I am more of a lifter than a runner. I first got into BodyPump around 2006, then kettlebell classes around 2012 and proper functional weightlifting in 2015 or thereabouts. These are my favourite gym sessions. I love being strong, I love how a positive mindset and a roar of triumph can assist to get that extra 5kg on the bar for a new pb.

I love deadlifts because they are the heaviest. I love squats because they have made my legs what they are.

I love bench press because it makes me feel like an absolute bro.

Olympic weightlifting is more challenging – it’s dynamic movements, with lower weights (mostly) & you need a good sense of balance and perfect form, as well as getting used to grips that shred your palms way more than standard power lifts. I’ve been training these lifts for about a year now & my form is improving slowly. Before marathon training kicked in, I was raising some decent weight for a beginner – slightly over half my body weight for clean & jerk, slightly under that for snatch (least favourite…)

Right now, after maintenance training for 4-5 months to fit in with running, I can comfortably (5×5) deadlift my own bodyweight, squat 75 percent of my bodyweight & bench half my bodyweight. Olympic lifts are a bit less because my form needs work after so much time out, but I’m incorporating a few snatch & clean reps into training sessions & it’s improving.

Looking back at my training diary from the last few months of 2018, I was training well & consistently & lifting quite a bit heavier than this. I can get that back one day, & I can’t wait.

Lifting goals can stay in place for a long time, more so than running goals. Incremental gains are good, & the most important thing for me is the enjoyment – I always feel amazing after training. It’s a full body workout & even if I don’t get the full 5/8/10 reps, a 10 second pause is usually enough to get there. Running’s not the same. Marathon training was great, & I have learned so much about my strength & stamina, but now I’m fully back on board with a strength-focused training programme & it’s fantastic.

Week before race week…

& it’s amazing how much better I feel mentally. Physically, I am needing a bit of a rest or a change, & I can’t wait until it’s all over…

Monday: rest day. Not difficult in the lovely sunshine. Did some yoga stretches in the garden, listening to the relaxing sounds of my cat’s enraged howling that another cat had dared to come within 5 metres of the house.

CONSTANT VIGILANCE

Tuesday: still sunny, but headed to the air-conditioned gym for a speed session. Kept the speed a bit more tempo-style & managed 12 reps of 250m, with 60 seconds recovery time & a short warmup and cooldown of about 1km each. Finished off with a bit of strength training, mostly back and arms to give the legs a break.

Wednesday: skipped the easy run again & went for a sports massage, which was niiiiiiice & found all the knots in my right calf that have been slowly improving since London. My calves have usually been fairly reliable so soreness & stiffness mid-race was unusual.

Thursday: 4 miles of speed work, outside when it got a bit cooler. The plan was to run at lunchtime but I was too hungry to only have a light lunch & running by the river can be tough when it’s hot.

It went well, with defined fast & slow kms.

Friday: strength session in the form of pole. Managed to get upside down for a bit, & more gracefully than last time I practiced, but my grip & core strength has deteriorated a bit & shoulder mounts just feel like pain. I’ll get there.

Saturday: was planning Drumchapel parkrun, but with the weather being a bit damp & drizzly, a flatter option seemed better to save my hamstrings. Good solid time on a moderate effort, & a nice steady run there & back covered almost 8 miles.

Sunday: A steady couple of miles with Cyclebox, later in the day than my usual Sunday run. Topped up the miles with another 3 miles on the treadmill, a good tempo pace all the way.

Kelvingrove steps fear

Total miles: 19.5. I hadn’t appreciated how much mileage the easy runs added. Skipping the midweek 6-8 milers, mostly due to time pressures, really brings the total distance down. I’ve replaced with strength sessions, sports massages or general rest, so that’s OK – I see the benefit of miles in the bank during the bulk of the training, but right now is about preventing fatigue.

Nutrition: interesting this week. I’ve been mostly vegetarian (mostly = not checking labels strictly, but all meals have been meat free). No particular reason, but I feel good for it anyway. Had a couple of alcoholic drinks midweek too, something I have been avoiding for the vast majority of the plan except that time at the end of March.

halloumi fries solve everything

Feeling: good. A bit of pain in the right hip, not sure if it’s linked to running as I first started feeling it when sleeping on my right side, but now it aches after running too. Stretching sort of helps but it’s in the soft tissue around the hip bone, not the hip flexor itself, so it does feel a bit weird. Sore to the touch.

Friday’s pole session is still being felt all over my shoulders & triceps, but there’s less core stiffness than last week, so I must be re-learning how to use my core properly rather than relying on momentum & luck.

no fear of heights though

I’m working away for the first half of next week, so rather than trying to squeeze exercise sessions in, I will concentrate on good nutrition & sleep. It’s a shame because I am working in one of my favourite parts of London that has some awesome running routes, but I can’t fit in everything. The kit will come with me, of course, but if it doesn’t happen then I won’t stress.

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.

Week 14

I should now be counting in days, I think.

This week has not been a particularly photogenic one – it’s either been sweaty gym time or raining outside. The weather has been sunny & mild occasionally but I have mostly missed the good stuff, always running in the worst of it instead.

This made me smile on Wednesday, though. I like Star Wars & I am in awe of anyone who can run in any fancy dress, let alone in kit like this.

Maybe one day

It’s not been the best week for the most part. Bad, sad news & associated difficulties around that, alongside general work and life stress. But: keep on keeping on, etc. Running has been the light in the darkness, as it often is.

Monday: the drive to go to the gym was low after an 11 hour work day and ALL THE STRESS, but it was worth it in the end and actually a good way to wind down. Nice strength session, everything felt comfortable & I made time for proper stretching.

Tuesday: early gym for a threshold sesh: 5x1km, aiming for a consistent 4:50min/km & a gentle jog of a few minutes in between. 8km later, I began another 11-hour work day & I was glad to get this out of the way.

It was difficult by the last km, as it always seems to be at this stage. The best tip I’ve read about speed training says not to worry about getting out of breath – you’re supposed to breathe quickly to get enough oxygen – but the last repeat was tough & I had to do two 500m stints with 30 seconds off in between. Did it, though, & spent the evening in Edinburgh feeling smug.

still loving the light evenings even if I have to work

Wednesday: 8 miles easy to work: it rained, but the pace was excellent for an easy run & I was really pleased with how easy it felt.

Didn’t make it to the gym in the evening, despite intentions. I am really neglecting gym sessions the past couple of weeks & it is annoying. I miss it so much but running has to be prioritised & I can’t do everything.

Thursday: Had a sports massage at lunchtime so gave the planned 5 miles a miss & went for a light evening gym session instead. Good times, & I felt better than I would have done trying to cram this session into Wednesday evening.

This gym is still super busy all the time but no one likes the 10kg bars except me – I find snatch/clean reps easier with the thinner bar, but it messes up my weight plate calculations. Also it is slightly too short for the platform unless you’re dead centre, so I am usually that person dropping the bar onto the ground from height and making all the noise.

Massage was great. I am not a fan of heavy pressure sports massage but I have trained with / been massaged by Paul McArdle for several years now and I trust him to listen to me when I ask for less pressure; in return I listen when he tells me not to run after a massage.

This is my first sports massage of this training cycle due to lack of time, & it has hopefully made a difference. I’ve booked another one for a few days before the race just to freshen the legs up a bit.

Friday: 8x400m, 1.5km warm up and cool down, average 2 mins between reps but occasionally longer. It felt challenging but the sense of achievement was worth it.

Also: race number & final instructions came through! So now it is time to start a family/supporters WhatsApp group so they can all figure out where they need to be.

all quite real now

Saturday: 5 miles at a steady pace; back to Victoria parkrun & its wonderful lack of inclines. I was feeling a bit of Thursday gym DOMS but once I’d loosened up on the jog there, the actual parkrun was good & I was pleased with how easy it felt to run at that pace. Averaging 5:33/km but there were some faster kms within that.

Only 5 miles on the plan today though, so coffee & the bus home afterwards.

Sunday: third of the 20 miles! The actual 26 miles is gonna be a joy after these. Great company, as ever, and a good route round the southside/deep south suburbs that are definitely not Glasgow. I do enjoy crossing a few county boundaries for a real sense of achievement.

Never heard of it

Went for a toilet break in McDonalds about half way in, & thought about chicken McNuggets for the rest of the run. Guess what I am having tonight it was very tempting to stop for a coffee, but I managed to hang on until the end.

Thinking about pals running Manchester kept me going, too. Good results all round from what I can see but will need a full report later. Holly’s running it again, & I sent all the good vibes.

IT WON’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT ME BESIDE YOU

Total miles: 43. Not sure where I lost out on two miles, but meh.

Nutrition: OK. Less snacking this week, but some days have not been nutritious enough & I am obsessed with trying to fuel properly for the longer runs. 8 miles to work, arriving at breakfast time, remains a bit unpleasant & I absolutely demolished a Pret brioche sausage & egg roll & several coffees as soon as I had finished. On other days, I wondered why I was so grumpy & tired at 3pm before realising I’d only had 3 cups of coffee, a slice of toast and a tangerine since 6am. This may well have been the problem with Friday’s sprints, alongside not enough sleep.

Mostly good when I’ve made the effort though.

Feeling: good. Some stressful and busy work days again, & a couple of insomnia/busy work day/not enough food/straight to bed days, but it keeps me out of trouble. The end is in sight, and I can’t wait: I miss my life. Marathon training is tough. Edinburgh is barely even a focus right now – the maintenance plan looks reasonable from this side of marathon #1, but I’m sure I’ll feel differently when I’m in the thick of it.

Midweek shit news was not great, but long runs are good for thinking & remembering, & there was a lot of that.

Next week is going to be a bit different for training: I hope I can stick to the plan.

Game changer

As the early spring marathons start to come along and excited posts about race numbers and final instructions show up, I am getting nostalgic about this time last year. I remember the long runs and the post-training cupcakes and the stress of trying to fit all the running around work and life. It worked out in the end, though, and on 8 April 2018 I ran a brilliant marathon and knocked 26 minutes off my previous time.

so much cake

Things I have done in the past at the same time as training for a marathon:

  • Travelled to Florida, where I attempted to go for a run but managed about 400m because the air was like soup
  • Wrote a MSc dissertation
  • Went through a multi-stage application and interview process for a job
  • Tried to fit the long runs around party conferences, leading to terrible early morning running around random cities with politicians

This time,  I have got fewer distractions – work is good, life is good – and I am sticking to the plan very well and mostly hitting the mileage totals each week. I’m training with a slightly modified version of the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan, adding in two speedwork sessions a week. As I’ve noted in the weekly round-ups, it is a big mileage increase from previous plans and a massive jump from the last few months of 2018, when I was averaging about 35 miles a month. I’ve basically quadrupled that & I’m pleased with how good I feel, but I still need more sleep. It’s going to catch up with me at some point.

eyebags for days

I don’t often feel tired, but I don’t go to bed early enough and I usually wake earlier than I need to so the actual sleep hours are pretty low. I get concerned when I read well-meaning articles and advice about getting 8 hours’ sleep a night and genuinely I don’t know where people find the time for that in regular life, let alone alongside heavy training schedules. I got a bit obsessed with sleep last time and it was probably for the best as the night before the marathon is usually a bit restless. I will try for the same this time round.

At the moment, most of my running buddies are doing a different spring marathon – Manchester, Brighton and London are spread throughout April & we’re all slightly out of sync with each other. Chat often turns to tapering, which is no good if you’re still to do your peak weeks. My training plan is strong on maintaining intensity whilst dropping mileage, so the taper weeks will still involve speed work and five running days a week but it will take less time, which is ace. I am very excited.

I did look at mileage totals in the pre-planning stages and it seemed like a lot, but the actual weekly totals are still surprising me. I am running so much more than in my last training plans & I really hope the mileage pays off into a race pb, when I’m properly rested & have the race day adrenaline going. Long runs are feeling easier than they used to, & recovery times are a little faster. Overall the volume of running is more manageable.

I didn’t go over 100 miles in a month in 2018

I do worry that I’m not doing enough speedwork – hopefully I am, and I’m just panicking needlessly because THAT’S WHAT WE DO AT THIS STAGE. Self-coaching sounded like a great idea until the realisation that a coach is meant to provide positivity and moral support, which I am rubbish at doing for myself.

I have not always managed to keep up with the strength sessions, which is rubbish. I miss the gym, but running has to be prioritised.

If in doubt, tea & plan & Broad City

I’m still not sure whether to stick with a pacer for London. It won’t take my mind off doing the mental mathematics, & I will get a bit stressed if I start to struggle at any point. But it will be good company. I’ve had some great chats during marathons & people who are aiming for the same goal will be good to stick with.

30 days to go…

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.