Friday, 7 September 2012

Race calendar update: new training schedule!

For over a month now I've been swithering about training for the Liverpool Marathon. After running Edinburgh I don't want to lose my newfound abilities for distance running! But my main concern was that it might interfere with my college course - or rather, my college course might interfere with my training. I didn't want to be pushing myself hard in the gym at college and finding nothing left for training.

Well as it happens, it turns out that an HND in Fitness Health & Exercise should not be expected to be remotely physically arduous (so we were told today by the course leader). But that's not really what swayed me against running Liverpool. It's only five weeks away now, and in two weeks time I'm competing at Shimmy in the City, a bellydance festival in London. This has involved months of training by my troupe, the Peacock Project. What's the point in putting in months of work to turn up at the competition tired from running, and thinking about having to get my 20 mile run in that weekend too? I've decided, with a heavy heart, that I won't be running another marathon this year.

Instead I'm aiming for a PB at the Hawick Half Marathon on 28th October.

The Glasgow Half was so tough, tougher that the full marathon. Perhaps the difference was following a real training programme for Edinburgh. So I'm going to follow a programme for Hawick. This has given me the same excitment and motivation that I expected to get from deciding to run another marathon, so I'm feeling pretty good.

Training day 1 was Thursday, starting with a 40-minute tempo run. Three jelly babies before I started and I felt set up! Now, I've never bothered about speed before, apart from the occasional set of intervals, so this was a departure. Thumbing through a copy of Runner World I found in the loo, I read this:
"On good form: Your trailing leg should bend swiftly. A long lazy trailing leg tilts the upper body forward."
The phrase "long lazy trailing leg" kept running in my head as I warmed up. "Lazy"! So pejorative, so motivating. I know that I don't bend my trailing leg swiftly, I've seen pictures of myself running. So for this run I worked my hamstrings like a beeatch and lifted my heels. It was effective - running "comfortably hard" in that style for me turned out to be about 8.5min/mile, which was faster than I thought it'd be.

I ran 5.39 miles in 45min18s, average pace was 8.24/mile.

Tomorrow's 8 miles, shorter than my usual Saturday run, but with renewed motivation I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Going to College: the first week and a half

Last week I started an HND Course in Fitness, Health and Exercise at Telford College. Yes I'm a student again, fifteen years after my last experience of full-time education (or at least, I will be once the college are happy that I'm not a danger to vulnerable groups and let me pay my fees!)

Until a fortnight ago I was expecting to study at Jewel & Esk College - both are in the north of Edinburgh and both teach an HND Fitness course. I'd originally applied to Telford who told me they had no spaces, and after interview I was offered the J&E place. But a week before the start of term, Telford rang me up to say they had space and would I like to come to interview? Telford is significantly easier to get to (25 minutes by public transport as opposed to 55 to get to J&E, which is crazy because Telford is 4 miles away and J&E is 3 miles away!) and the campus had a nice feel to it, so I chose Telford.

Although the colleges are merging, along with Stevenson College, in November, so either way I will be a student at the new Edinburgh College, just at a different campus!

Now, I was prepared to be oldest on the course. I wasn't really prepared to be in another minority though - women! It's been a loooong time since I've moved in male-dominated circles; trust me, bellydance clases, toddler groups, and the school playground at 9am are all largely populated by women! And of course, these aren't any men - they're young lads with great skin, good hair and upper bodies shaped like inverted triangles. This is NOT an enviroment I'm used to!

While the teaching staff in the Sports Programming deparment seems to be about 50% women, there are just six females on the course of 20 students. I can't deny I'm much more comfortable talking to the girls. Working with the boys is beyond my comfort zone, but I'd better get used to it!

After two days of interminable sitting around, icebreakers and teambuilding challenges (press-ups, joke-telling, chain relays, treasure hunts...) we finally got some proper classes at the end of the first week. Nutrition, and Anatomy and Physiology. A lot of my classmates have completed access courses to get onto the HND course and have covered a lot of the material before. For me it's mostly new and is going to involve a lot of memory work. Although yesterday I got 15/16 on a mini test so I guess I'm doing okay (safe to say I won't be forgetting the clavicle again!)

Our course leader missed our first week due to a broken cheekbone (sporting injuries must be par for the course in this department I suppose) so we missed our first two practical gym-based sessions. I've already blogged about our first session in the gym which was brilliant!

There's also a First Aid course - again, I seem to be one of the few who hasn't done a first aid course before, I've always meant to but never managed it, so I'm really pleased to be studying that.

There is Personal Development Planning, and our first assignment for that is to submit a graph plotting significant events in our life and career from the last decade against quality of the experience, good to bad. Yes, a decade - significantly easier for me that for the 16-year-old in the class who, I think, is rating her experience in primary 3 of doing a project on The Victorians as 'quite good'...It's a class which is supposed to help us focus on careers, outcomes and where the course is taking us. Hopefully it'll be useful.

We also study Health Screening and Principles of Fitness, which are very useful - already we're designing questionnaires for potential clients, and learning to use calipers for body fat measurement. 

Now that the work has properly begun I'm much happier. I can't wait to get it all under my belt and start working (steady, Elspeth - two years and plenty of assessments before that happens!)

On my first day, I bumped into another mum from our school who had also enrolled on a course. When she asked how mine was, I mentioned that I was the oldest and how I felt a bit uncomfortable. When I saw her again at school on Thursday, she told me she'd quit her course. "It was like you said", she explained, "it was full of kids having a laugh, and I thought, I don't belong here, so I just left."

I'm not doing that. I am guessing that she didn't want her qualification as much as I want mine, because I am prepared to withstand plenty of kids having a laugh if it means I get to be a personal trainer. Frankly, if there's any question of anybody being in the wrong place, it won't be me - it would be the kids having a laugh! I'm here to stay and I'm not going to quit. Just like that four-minute plank, baby!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Hooping at Hula Honeys

I love hula hooping. Running can be quite boring, rather solitary. Bellydance is my career and although I've usually got company, the music is challenging. But hooping is the best of both worlds! You can listen to whatever you like - cheesy pop or the latest rubbish on MTV - and you don't have to interpret it much when you're hooping. And while it gives a reasonable cardio hit, with plenty of opportunities to flex and sweat, it also has the luxury of usually being done in a group atmosphere. For me, it doesn't feel like work or a workout, it's no pressure and just fun!

Last week I went to the first of a new hooping class, in Portobello Community Centre, called Hula Honeys. The instructor was a personal trainer so the class was fitness-orientated, but mostly it was fun-orientated! The trainer was Kim Sibbald, recently hitched up in Edinburgh from Brighton. She was fan-tastic! The phrase 'bubbly personality' must have been coined to describe Kim. She obviously knew her stuff, and was excellent at hooping, but additionally she was so charismatic, energetic, and such a good mover! I grinned for the entire length of the class!

Kim got us - there were 15 in the class, some who'd hooped before but most hadn't - to some retro pop, eighties and nineties so right up my street! Once she broke down the basics of hooping, she taught us a barrel-load of tricks - leaning forwards, leaning back, overhead with the hoop on one hand, then bringing it down to your waist and back up again, hooping with your hand as you bend forwards (for me, an opportunity to gain some spectacular shin bruises), and my very favourite - the wedgie, which perhaps one day I'll get the hang of!

If you want to know more about these moves I recommend you get in touch with Kim!

Half way through the class, Kim gave us each a jelly baby and a fitness challenge. Wall squat for as long as possible, with a bottle of wine for the one who could hold it longest! After about 2 minutes, there were still 6 of us in the squat! I must have had the bit between my teeth because my legs were screaming but I wasn't stopping. Then four of us proceeded to the second round - walking plank for as long as possible. When none of us dropped out, Kim brough on the nuclear option - hooping with TWO hoops for as long as possible. I'd never done that before but - hey presto! - I won! And got to go home with a nice bottle of white wine and an even bigger grin on my face.

I really hope Hula Honeys takes off in Portobello. It's a great place where a fun class like this with an exhuberant instructor really should be successful. Sadly I can't go back (it's on a Thursday night when I'm working during term-time) but I would LOVE to!


It was our first practial gym-based session of term at college today. Our tutor is off sick with a broken cheekbone, and our stand-in teacher didn't try to teach us anything, instead he gave us a team fitness challenge. Teams of four, we had 4 minute sessions on 6 challenges, trying to max reps.
  • powerbag renegades (2 push ups, 2 upright rows, 2 shoulder presses with a 7.5kg powerbag)
  • kettlebell squats (two kettlebells, maybe 5kg each?)
  • leg press on a machine (our results were multiplied by the weight we pressed, we did 145lb)
  • push-ups (knees or toes)
  • rowing machine
  • and the final plank challenge, how long out of the 4 minutes could you hold full plank.
I was in a kick-ass team - Stuart the rugby player (sturdy and tough), Charlie the sprinter (tall and muscly) and Martin (former pro arm wrestler and power lifter). Great blokes who didn't at all make me feel like a weak link because I was (a) female, (b) a decade older than the oldest of them - although they were pretty cautious and asked me if I was okay doing the challenges!

It's not entirely comfortable doing a gym challenge in those conditions. I am working beyond my comfort zone in a way I've never done before, not physically but mentally. But I wasn't intimidated, which actually impressed me. I was especially impressed when I held the plank for THE FULL FOUR MINUTES with no breaks. Oh yeah. I have no idea how long I've held plank for before today, but now I have a personal best (which yes, left me panting and cramping and sweating, digging deep and feeling jubilant!)!!

Yeah, feeling pretty good!

And... yes, our team won the challenge! Woot!!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Race Recap: Great Scottish Run, 2 September 2012

Seriously, if anybody can tell me how to get pictures from my ipod touch onto my blog, I'd be so grateful!!
Today I finished the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon in 1 hour 55 minutes. It's not my best time but not my worst either. I usually finish a half marathon in between 1.50 and 1.55. I think the Meadows Marathon this year I managed in a shade under 1.50, but it was a bit confusing because the course was short and I ended up measuring my run on my Garmin instead of the course... anyway, so today wasn't great, but wasn't dreadful either.

Last year when I ran 7 half marathons, the GSR was my favourite. Glasgow has a great atmosphere, the crowds in Glasgow Green at the finish are great and the chance to run across the Kingston Bridge - which is a motorway - is pretty cool too. Often the course includes a street where all the families come out with water, hoses, jelly babies and oranges, as well as lots of cheers.

This week I had a cold and started the day with lots of green snot, which wasn't really a good sign. I hadn't followed a training schedule - although I had run 14 miles a week ago - but I was pretty cocky - now that I can run a marathon, the half marathon had a new perspective, not easy but should be within my comfort zone.

By the end of this race, I can't believe I ever did a marathon at all! It was hard, really hard. The crowds were still good, the course was varied and interesting, the organisation was fine, there was plenty of water, but good grief I felt rough. My legs ached, my feet were burning, I was constantly overtaken - usually I'm the overtaker, but that's usually because I start further back in the field and climb, but not this time. I don't know what was wrong  - I'm going to ruminate further on that, and get back to you.

I'd also switched to caffinated energy gels for the race. I kind of overdid it, taking on more fuel that I'm used to - I don't think it helped my mood at all.

At mile 10 I ditched my usual podcasts and went for an invigoration playlist - The Flaming Lips' Race For The Prize cheered me up, Muse's Uprising did the trick too, but Primal Scream's Country Girl *really* did the business. Suddenly I couldn't feel my body and I wanted to run as fast as I could, sing and dance! Thank goodness something made the difference - although the final few miles were still tough, they were sooo much better than 4-8!

I didn't hang about at the finish line and made it back to Edinburgh for 3pm (having left my house at 0810 for the 0900 train for an 1100 race start). I had a brilliant family dinner in Holyrood 9A and feel that the piri piri fries more than made up for my very salty sweating. 

Beer, foam roller and Doctor Who on CatchUp beckon.