Tag Archives: running tips

How to Get Started as a Runner at Runner’s World

23 May

A great little article for anyone new to running and considering it – How to Get Started as a Runner at Runner’s World.

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Running while away? No excuse here!

27 Oct

I’m drawing to the end of a week away from home due to a work trip. Its been an interesting  week, with busy days and early nights, but at least my running – or to be more accurate – at least my keeping fit hasn’t suffered.

Living in a hotel for any length of time can be a challenge, when it’s not a holiday trip. The first day or so can be a little exciting with the change of scenery, pace, people and getting to know your surroundings. However, this can quickly wear thin and you are left counting the days until you return home again.

I don’t go away all that often, but I’ve found that my attitude has totally changed from a few years ago when I was totally unfit. What do I mean? OK here are some examples:

Food: You can easily eat a lot more than usual whilst away, and the food tends to be a lot richer than you might normally eat. Theres also the temptation of spending as much of that daily allowance as you can, which again, can result in taking in far too many calories, much more than your body needs.

For me the real killer used to breakfast! A few years ago I’d go mad on the cooked breakfast pretty much everyday. And we’re not talking small portions here. When I finally got fit I suddenly realised that eating loads of food wasn’t making me any happier, in fact it did the opposite, when I realised how much weight I’d put on. Nowadays my hotel breakfast will be a glass of OJ, fruit and yoghurt and a cup of coffee/tea. I enjoy this much more than eating the fatty slop alternative and you feel like you’ve accomplished something by looking after yourself. ‘Good stuff in, good stuff out and all that!’.

Exercise: Even in my fatty days I used to get quite a lot of exercise in whilst I was away simply by walking everywhere. Quite a few trips were to London and walking was a great way to see the sites and explore in the evenings after work. Nowadays I carry on that tradition and always make sure I book a hotel that’s far enough away from my trips work destination to give me a good walk. For this trip, for example, I have a car with me, that I used to travel to the hotel from home. However, the car has stayed firmly in the hotel car park and I have walked from the hotel to work instead of driving, which is about a 6 mile round trip. See my ‘Why drive when you can walk to work‘ post.

Would driving be quicker – Hell yes! If I drove would I get a sleep in – Yes, about an extra hour a day!

So why walk? Simple, I enjoy it, it gets me out, it keeps me fit, it clears your head and sets you up for the day. The return walk is also a great way to unwind and I often look forward to it. A lot better than sitting in a car! There also the obvious environmental benefits to leaving the car behind also. We all need to do our bit don’t we!

I’ve also learned that when booking a hotel to always try and find one with a gym. As some of ScribsBlog regular visitors know I normally hate gym’s and much prefer the great out doors, but they do have there uses on occasion. Its also a bonus if you can get a hotel with a gym and swimming pool.

I’ve said before, in previous posts, I always take my running kit with me when going away (work, holiday, etc), and this is also the case on this trip. But due to a potential oncoming knee injury I’ve purposely reduced my running this week and mixed up my exercise between walking (daily), running (back from work to hotel) and using the hotel gym and swimming pool (daily). This has been a good mix and has worked out well to help sort out my knee. Don’t get me wrong, I would have much preferred to do more running and explore the area, but I also don’t want to exacerbate the knee. So this week has been a sort of rest from running and more walking, elliptical equipment in the gym and swimming.

So remember, just because you are away from home doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself in shape. Eat sensibly and use the time to your advantage. Try and get a hotel a few miles away from your destination and walk or use the hotel gym and/or swimming pool.

The only person stopping you is you!

Scrib.

Running baby steps – Part 2.

8 Oct

Baby Harry running

I did a brief blog post a while back about ‘Running Baby steps‘ and after talking to someone in the Runnersworld forums, who had just taken up running to loose weight, I wanted to add some more meat to the subject, based on my own experiences from when I started out a few years ago.

I won’t go over my weight loss and get fit story again (but if you’re interested read my story via the Runkeeper blog, who did my story, or read the older posts in ScribsBlog) but I took up running to loose weight and it worked as I went from 14 stone to 11. The one thing I remember, and it brought the memories flooding back after talking to the newby runner, was what it was like to start running!

O MY GOD! I look back now at my early running attempts and I can still see myself running (or perhaps to be fair ‘wobbling’) down the street, reaching the end (it wasn’t far, perhaps less than quarter of a mile) and having to sit down, exhausted! If you’d told me then that I could run a half marathon or a 40 mile event I’d have politely told you to stop taking the mickie as that was impossible for someone of my physical stature!

But I did it, and I did do those things but, and there’s a lesson coming, it took time, patience and work!

We are ‘lucky’ enough to live in a society where we’re used to things being done for us with little input on our parts – the ‘instant society’ as I call it. Can you imagine life without your car, washing machine, dish washer, etc and having to perform the functions those items do ‘manually’. It might take a little longer to do the laundry and lets face it, all we have to do today is load the machine, put in the detergent and press the ‘ON’ button. Can you imagine washing each item of clothing by hand?! Unfortunately getting fit has no short cuts and that is what puts people off.

The future instant Fitness Pod?

The machine doesn’t exist – yet – where we can walk in, select our fitness level, press ‘GO’ and we’re instantly transformed into the selected body configuration. To be honest would you want such a machine? Yes it sounds like a great idea but such a device would miss one important side effect of doing it the ‘old fashioned way’ and that is the sense of achievement when you’ve completed your chosen fitness session and you think ‘YES!’.

Getting fit takes work, patience and determination (sweat, blood, tears!). Obviously the more unfit you are the more work will be involved but the sense of achievement can be a driving force for your motivation. I gave up a number of times, but looking back I know why:

  1. I tried to do too much, and expected to become fit almost over night:  There’s the ‘instant society’ attitude for you. There was zero chance of running 10 miles on my first trip out and I expected too much to soon.
  2. I then gave up too quickly & didn’t give it a chance: As soon as it became hard, with no instant results, I gave up.
  3. Self doubt: I thought I couldn’t get fit because it was just too hard! “Being fit just isn’t for me”, “I can’t do it!”, “I’m not built for it!”.

The above three ‘failure’ points are interesting in the fact that they feed and lead into each other. One leads to two, leads to three and BANG you’ve failed. Fix point one and two becomes less of a threat, which in turn annihilates point three! Do this and you’ve got a much better chance to achieve your goal.

We’ve all know someone (or done it ourselves) who has bought a load of new fitness kit only to give up a few sessions later – I talk more about this in my ‘Running Kit‘ blog post. I’ve done exactly the same thing myself, I remember buying a weight bench and dumbbells some years ago. The bench came flat packed so I spend a few hours one Sunday afternoon putting it together. Once finished I stood back and admired my hand work. That was the last time I ever touched the bench or dumbbells, until I sold them. Just because you have the kit, or an expensive pair of running shoes it doesn’t make you an instant runner, muscle man, super fit person, etc (‘instant society’ again).

So how do we fix this? How did I fix it and pushed through to loose the weight and more importantly keep it off? Easy, although hindsight is a great thing!

B A B Y   S T E P S !

What the heck are “Baby steps?”.

A baby does not learn to walk straight away, it takes time and patient (sound familiar?). One step leads to another, to another, to another and before you know it little junior is walking. Its the same with getting fit. What would happen if you tried to get a baby to walk across a room before they were ready? They would fall, fail, possibly with tears.

Instead of trying to go for long runs I set myself goals of short runs and built them up slowly. Try it!

Remember, before taking any exercise, if you are not used to it, if you feel you might have medical difficulties talk to your doctor BEFORE hand!

Start off with a small five – ten minute walk. Do this three to seven times a week, perhaps do it instead of taking the car to the shop down the street? After a couple of weeks increase the speed and time of the walk. As you get used to it keep increasing the speed/time/distant. Try to throw in some hills and different terrain to your route. After four to six weeks of doing this try breaking out into a slow jog. Perhaps mix in a burst of jogging with your walking. One good idea is to walk for 10 minutes and run for 1 minute and keep repeating. Over time increase the jogging time and you’ll soon find you can jog for longer as your body becomes stronger and fitter. Keep this up until you can run for 100% of your activity. Don’t forget to mix up your route so you don’t get board of the same surroundings.

Notice that I didn’t suggest you start running straight away. That’s one of the key lessons I learnt. I started by walking to work, which was about a 6 mile round trip. I did this two-three times a week and increased my walking speed, over time, as I got fitter. I then extended the route on the way home to increase the mileage. After doing this for a few months I started to run in the evenings and found the transition a LOT easier than if I’d tried to run from day one.

Build it up, take baby steps. Yes we can all be impatient at times, but do you want to fail or achieve? You’ve not super man and you need to build up your body and to do that you’ve got to take baby steps. I did and it worked out for me after numerous failures.

Good luck,

Scrib.

BUPA Great North run 2011 – Run report.

25 Sep

2011 BUPA Great North run - Scrib happy to have finished in front of charity Village

WOW! Its done! And it took me 1:43:45!

My first, and not last, half MarathonThe BUPA Great North run is completed! It certainly was an ‘experience’ and one I’d hope to do again.

Its been a full week since the event so its been a good time to reflect. Last week the original plan was to travel up to Newcastle on the Sunday morning. This would have meant at least a 05:30 get up, followed by a 2 to 3+ hour drive, depending of traffic. Rumour had it that traffic was a nightmare, like it is at most large events I guess.

The Friday before we decided that this was ‘doable’, but a bit crazy when considering we were travelling home after the event, and not forgetting that being rested before a 13.2 mile run is always a good start. So we managed to make a last minute booking into a hotel just off the M6 at Carlise, about a 70 minute drive away  from Newcastle upon Tyne and the start line. This knocked a good 80 minutes off the journey and allowed a ‘sleep in’ until at least 6am. As it turned out we could have slept in longer!

We left the hotel bang on 7am, after getting up, eating a large bowl cold porridge (first mistake) with honey, raisins, milk and OJ, and then heading east to Newcastle. The weather looked promising, with little cloud, and the sun coming up. It was certainly better than the past few days of torrential rain and strong winds. My wife was driving and I remember looking at what I was wearing (running vest, shorts, sock & trainers) and then glancing at the external temperature readout on the dashboard, 5 °C!

The road was clear and we had been told by many, many people of the extreme traffic jams leading up the the Great North run start line, and also when leaving at the end of the run at South Shields. At the moment the road was clear and, on a normal day, it would take us 70 minutes from the hotel at Carlise to Newcastle.

The previous night I had calculated we’d be hitting heavy traffic, all trying to get to the start line, at about 7:50am. Assuming the worst case scenario, an hour delay stuck in traffic (again, going from what I had read and been told) I figured I’d be dropped off at around 9:30 – 9:45am (worst case) which gave me plenty of time to get to my starting zone ready for the 10:40 start.

‘Should be a little warmer by 09:30’ I though, so I didn’t get too worried about the temperature outside. As sods law would have it we’d (OK, I’d) drastically over estimated the travel time and traffic conditions. We hit ZERO traffic and before we knew it we were at a red traffic light right beside the start area. I was hurriedly ejected from the car, between traffic light changes, and dumped at the side of the road at a chilling 8:15am! It was still cold!

A had a plastic bag with me, containing a bag of nuts, water, energy drink and a poncho. I quickly put the poncho on to try and retain some heat and wondered off towards the starting zones.

2011 BUPA Great North run - Waiting at start zone. Over an hour to go.

The zones run from ‘A’ through ‘K’, ‘A’ being the Elite Athletes. My zone was ‘C’,so I found a nice spot on the grass verge, beside the road,  and settled down for a 2+ hour wait. As soon as I had sat down the sun came out from behind a cloud and things started to warm up nicely. I sat there  listening to the DJ interviewing runners who were taking part. There were some really heart clenching stories of runners who were running for depart loved ones. It really puts things in perspective!

Its often said ‘its a small world’, and on that day I had to agree. After being dropped off, whilst walking to the zones area, I bumped into a neighbour. We had no idea that the other was taking part. We wished each other luck and went our separate ways.

Then whilst sitting on the grass verge, warming myself in the morning sun, I saw fitlesley, a friend of mine from Runkeeper. I’d never actually met Lesley before and we’d only spoken over Runkeeper, our blogs and Facebook, so it was great to meet at last! We joked at the fact that Lesley spotted me in a crowd of 50,000 people. Small world indeed, or just good eyesight!

Eventually, around 10:15am, I made my way into my starting Zone, dumped my plastic bag in the central reservation along with thousands of other bags, clothes, ponchos, thermal blankets, etc and started my warm up. It was a little cramped and it felt a bit awkward doing lunges and stretches in such closer quarters. Everyone seems to have their own warm up routine and I picked up a few new ideas to add to my own. It was interesting to watch what routines people had and how they differed.

10:30: Warm up complete. The zone gate is now closed, meaning anyone not in their allocated zone would have to go right to the back behind zone ‘K’.

10:35: Poncho now joins plastic bag in central reservation.

10:38: Runkeeper started on my iPhone, iPhone put in zip lock bag (in case of showers later on), finger ready on ‘Start Activity’ button.

10:40: The starting gun fires! We start walking forward, and I can see from the mass of bobbing heads in front that we’ll be speeding up to a slow jog within a minute or so as we cross the start line. ‘Start Activity’ pressed and Runkeeper announces ‘Activity Started’. iPhone screen lock pressed and iPhone put into armband, just as the crowd breaks into a run. And we’re off!

As you’d expect there was a LOT of noise, what with air horns going off, music playing, the DJ shouting out encouragement – pretty awesome! Within a few minutes the speed had increased, but was still at a slower pace than felt comfortable, so I joined with some of the other runners in weaving through the slower competitors. A trick I leaned on the Keswick to Barrow was to find a runner who is ploughing through the crowd and stay on their heals. They’ll do all the hard work for you and clear the way. A few minutes into the run and we go though a tunnel. Suddenly the noise levels increase from the runners as they take advantage of the echo’s from the tunnel walls. A few ‘Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!’ chants start up, and you can’t help with the reply of ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’. Everyone is excited and full of adrenalin!

1 Mile: Runkeeper announces the first mile and there is a bit of relief that I managed to start the activity recording successfully, considering everything that was going on at the start.

2 Miles: We’re now well into our stride. The crowd has thinned out slightly, but only slightly, and its still shoulder to shoulder. We make our way across the famous Tyne bridge and soon hit the 2 mile mark, its about that time that I release something is not right.

Scrib running acorss the Tyne bridge on the BUPA Great North run

Yes I am in this picture.

If you don’t want to play ‘wheres Scrib’ then I’m on the left hand side, about seven people from the left, about eight people back.

I’m not relaxing into the run as I normally would at the two mile mark. I’ve been running for a few years now and I’ve also noticed (for me) that it takes a couple of miles for my body to kick into life and go into ‘running mode’. This wasn’t happening and I didn’t feel ‘right’. Was it nerves? Had I eaten too much? Was it that cold porridge? Did I drink too much energy drink, What was wrong?

I knew from doing other events that nerves wasn’t really a problem and I had a sneaking suspicion that I had too much swilling around in my stomach, which was making my uncomfortable and stopping me entering my ‘zone’. I’d had my breakfast, at the hotel, some 3 -4 hours eariler, but I had also been snacking on nuts, water and half a bottle of isotonic drink (that I don’t usually touch). Nothing I can do about it now, grit teach and keep going!

4 Miles: I was in trouble. My mind was not on my run at all and I was starting to panic. I did the classic mistake of worrying about when the next mile marker was, how far it was, ‘surly it can’t be this far to the next marker!’. A classic mistake and I knew it! I kept getting bottles of water at the water stations and making sure I kept hydrated and cool, but also ensuring I wasn’t taking too much in.

Was it the hills? Normally, when I run at home there are a lot of steep hills. You can’t go far without running (pardon the pun) into one. But I have also noticed that if I run, on the flat, for any distance I struggle more than if I throw in a couple of hills into the route. I’m not sure why this is and I always surmised that the hills kick your body into a higher gear so the straights are less of a challenge. The Great North run has hills, but they are very slight gradients. Perhaps this was the problem?

7 Miles: I started to finally relax! I got into my stride and stared to finally enjoy the run. Th crowd had thinned out a little more and I remember how impressed I was at the people who had dressed up in fancy dress. I was hot running in my running gear, god knows how they felt!

10 Miles: Watching the 10 mile marker go by was great. I  knew the worst was behind and I tried to pick up my speed. The road was getting fairly steep so I pushed on trying to maintain my pace. At this point the heavens opened and it started to rain. One of my favourite things about running is running in the elements and the rain was a welcomed cool off.

12 Miles: What goes up, must come down! The road has already plateaued and now there was a steep drop to the coast road and the final stretch. I had something left in the tank so I picked up the pace down the hill, remembering to keep light on my feet.

Scribs crossing the finish line at the 2011 BUPA Great North run

Final stretch: The final stretch was very flat as the road meets the ‘Coast road’ which, as its name implies, runs along the coast. I can’t see the finish because of the crowds, but its close.

I push forward figuring I’d try and burn up the last of my reserves in a final burst. It wasn’t that easy as there was still a large amount of people on the road, but I managed to do a fair job of reaching the finish line in a good time.

Once across the line I stopped Runkeeper and made my way to the Charity village to meet my wife. The rain was falling still but it didn’t matter!

Scribs Runkeeper activity for the 2011 BUPA Great North run

I completed the BUPA Great North run in 1:43:45, which you can see here.

Am I pleased with that time? Yes of course! When signed up for the event and gave my expected time (they use this to figure out your starting zone) of 1:40, which I didn’t actually expect to achieve and would have been happy with 1:50 – 2:00. So 1:43:45 was a great result!

But to be honest I’m wondering if I would have done better if I hadn’t had a sloppy first half. Its funny when you do an event, sometimes afterwards you think of things you did wrong or things you could have improved upon. With experience you get better and this is certainly true for running.

Maybe that’s just me? But in every event I’ve finished I’m always thinking ‘I could have done better than that!’ or ‘I should have done this’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done that!’.

Its a good way of driving yourself on. Accepting you did an OK job, but then trying to improve on it, never accepting you did your best and there is room for improvement, always thinking you can do better. But now and again giving yourself a pat on the back and a well done! All the training paid off, you did it!

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