Saturday, 31 January 2015

Parkrun despair

Jon Barron celebrates his hundredth Parkrun, so Adele bakes in his honour
Day 292
Huge fatigue this morning, despite no running yesterday. Achey hips now. Parkrun (5km, hills) with a mile warm up/down either side, then a walk to get the dog, Colby, from Greenwich (x2) about 8 miles walking in total, I think.

Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #130. Your time was 00:24:01. 

The day I beat my Hillyfields Parkrun result, I'll put the wording in red. Pretty disappointed with that time, if I'm honest. It was heavy going this morning. The day dawned iron grey and bone chillingly  bitter, with flurries of snow. In tough Kent AC style, I removed both jacket and fleece and ran bare armed, but the legs proved unequal to the muddy hills. What's fascinating is watching the people overtaking me, they seem to be strolling. Noone seems to use the full potential capacity of their legs. That must mean that my legs look even more ineffectual. The mantra I fixed for myself (with the help of Martin Yelling in Men's Running)' loose, low shoulders, high, aligned hips' did not stop me looking like Mrs Overall when I ran the hill for the third time. I tried my 'Carly Arms' I coughed and breathed out while contracting pelvic floor, but the body was not a sub-23 body today. Back to oft-visited drawing board. Jon, the guy in the picture, about 7 years my senior, continues to improve. His PB stands at 21:38.  Meanwhile the likes of Ros Tabor, Claire Elms and Angie at Dulwich Runners post 5K times I can only dream of, and two of them are older than me.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Be more bootcamp!

An enlightening day at the office
Day 291

A freezing cycle ride to Greenwich Park following 20 minutes yoga/pilates indoors (being nice to myself - and everyone else - today) and a very large, leisurely breakfast. In a sweet and motherly mindset for Buggy Runners, Greenwich, where I coached seven women – dynamic drills, a few gentle hills, a little bit of body weight training and a stretch to warm down.

Learning new skills is important, especially in midlife. Yes, I could be earning enough to pay the mortgage by subediting and wishing I could re-write other people's inept copy, (I am not a natural born subeditor) but I've chosen a more vigorous way to earn enough to pay for groceries. However, I fear I am not a natural born PT, either. My mentor, the ebullient Ellie Brown feeds back gently, when the session I have been leading, and she has been observing, is over.  For the third week in a row, the message is be more assertive.
'You have a kind, empathetic, motherly manner, and you love the babies, but sometimes the women just need to be told what to do....'
Ellie illustrates:
"Right, we're going to jog to Lover's Lane, then do three circuits of uphills and squats! Everybody clear? Let's go!"
My approach, the sub text reads, is a little bit Jon le Mesurier in Dads' Army.
'I say, would mind awfully performing 10 squats after your jog downhill? Oh I say that's an awfully sweet baby, may I cuddle him while you get into a plank position on the mat here?'
So I must be more Boot Camp, or the women will just drift through their session in a haze of maternal pride.
Before my clients turned up (I was keenly early) I talked to another PT friend of mine, a younger woman but as experienced as Ellie, whose BootCamp ways have earned her a devoted clientele in south east London, she goes by the name of Suzinator and she is indeed a force of nature. However, I can't help thinking that I'm a little long in the tooth to mimic her, and it would be lame to try to do so. I am sure there must be a gap in the crowded fitness market for the more maternal approach? A little more comfy slipper picnic than bootcamp....

Thursday, 29 January 2015

What do women want?

Mamas on their toes
Day 290

Thursday morning session with Erik. It was freestyle: elastic hockey stick stretch, hickey shuffle, low hurdle fast feet, medicine ball thrust and squat, shoulder stretchy thing. Basically alternating upper back work (and mine is sore; I feel out of sorts) and fast feet work.

Then to Southwark Park, where I had three women participating in Buggy Runners today. 

My intention is to go to the running track for my own dynamics and tempo running session this evening at 7.15pm, which will be a massive effort, since fatigue combined with fresh insomnia has left me low and achey.  

Now my coach profile is up on the Greenwich Pilates/Runners website I feel I need to develop my own coaching style, so am preoccupied about how others see me. Do these young mums like a woman with a weathered face, of clearly mature years, advising on baby/post partum matters? Do they find it interesting, or alarming that their coach is soon to be  grandmother?
Perhaps people can't see past the 'certain age' thing and would prefer their teacher to be more of a physical role model, a slim, sexy, fitness buff who represents the 'after' picture they dream about during the campaign to lose baby weight and claim their body back.
Talking to them, I'm aware of no reticence, no outward distaste for the evident generation gap, but my pride in the fitness of my body in its 53rd year will clearly not resonate with a young woman in her 20s, as my newest client appears to be (just checked, she's safely into her thirties).
The fact remains, though , that I need to establish authority and display efficiency, somehow proving the 'All Ages' vibe that I want this running group to adhere to. This does not mean that I am any less committed to strength, vitality and looking good, but just on my own terms.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

All that junk

Pause to admire the aconites

Day 289

Although the plan on the fridge has Wednesday as a rest day, I'm still out of synch with it, because of nights and dog duties out over the coming weekend. I predict Sunday may be not such a valuable Long Slow Run. So today I ran easy (very easy, hate the word jog, though) four miles over to Hillyfields before breakfast.

Either the punishing green smoothie, or the punishing 5x1000m on the track, or the ill-advised inhaling of food not very mindfully, disrupted my sleep last night. My stomach hurt, it was all distended and bloated. A positive gale under the bedclothes. Poor husband.
After such insomnia and related ignominy, I resolved to run it all out this morning, then sit down to a 'mindful' breakfast.
'Before you take your first bite, enjoy the fragrance and look of your food'
....hmmm porridge does not look so nice
'Eat slowly, chew 40 times'
Yuck, that is revolting with a dish that's pretty pappy anyway.
Hunger trounces mindfulness and I've moved on to the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes before you can say FOFBOC (that stands for Feet On Floor, Bottom On Chair). Yes. all those parts of the body are on the surfaces prescribed, but I'm not being mindful, just shovelling cereal, once again. Ho hum. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Muscle memory

A cold, raw morning, training and yawning
Day 288

Training with Erik-Lee of Team 6. Rode bike up there, stomach muscles complaining from enforced planking, jacknife and bridging, hurried Shredded Wheat eating, then a Hillyfields Team-6 circuit of hickey shuffles, bicep curls, squats, resistance waves with a stick thing on elastic, boxing. 
This evening, Kent AC, stomach complaining even more from ill advised smoothie making and macaroni cheese eating. Session (I missed warm up through faffing) was 5x1000m and warm down of 1 mile).

It was one of those days. All meals were hurried and gulped, food choices absurd, too much yawning over laptop, too much activity after eating, too much eating. I appear to have an eating disorder. Or rather I am lapsing into disordered eating. No real meals, just insane standing up snacks. The most ridiculous of these was a green smoothie made of processed raw kale, celery, cucumber, apple and pear. It sits in my intestines and is causing distress. Also bugging me is that this evening I witnessed how quickly a friend of 37 or so has come back from her last baby and is already overtaking me on the track. It's called muscle memory, when your body remembers how swift and  athletic it is even after an enforced two-year lay off. Proof that athleticism is in your blood, and the likes of me cannot create it through daft smoothie making and plank regimes.
 Meanwhile, I bloat, look pregnant from intestinal turbulence and cannot recover adequately. And eat too much chocolate.

Monday, 26 January 2015

How to feel really well

Hit a purple patch with greens
Day 287

Monday recovery day, not a rest day because a non-running (but actively Thriving) Saturday took care of that. So today I ran 5 recovery miles easy and stretched slow and carefully. I also fulfilled an ambition to eat 10-plus portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit. Why? Read on.

There was plenty of food for thought, not to mention food to eat, at Saturday's Thrive Alive event, co-hosted by two inspirational women Lorraine Nicolle and Ellie Brown
Aimed at women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, the day-long package of lectures, workshops – and eating - challenged the popular negativity about these midlife decades. The Thrive Alive experts dared to suggest - and indeed prove - that you can feel fantastic in peri- and post- menopausal years.
Kicking off in the spirit of the invigorating aphorism 'Knowledge is Power', Lorraine Nicolle posited an illuminating theory about the reasons for hormonal turbulence often triggered by perimenopause, in her presentation "why am I feeling like this?"
She explained how adrenal fatigue can be caused by unremittingly stressful situations - we know them too well - overwork, child care, money worries, relationship issues - that we're all too likely to respond to in the only way that feels comfortable: comfort eating, comfort drinking, comfort internet surfing from the comfort of our bed.....
With adrenal fatigue comes a whole package of health issues: weight gain, especially round the middle, sleep disruption, inflammation, headache and its inevitable companion 'snappiness' and a general feeling of misery.
Once we know the enemy we can set about treating it. The best way to alleviate adrenal fatigue is to deal with the stress that lies at its root, as well as to kick the sugar habit.  Trying to make ourselves feel better with a glass or two of wine, constant dipping into the biscuit tin, a latte and muffin habit....grazing on crisps, chocolate, doughnuts, is only feeding the sugar frenzy wreaking havoc in the body.
So feeding ourselves well, on proper food, not processed, sugar laden 'food like products' is the answer. Lorraine promised that our lunch would be just that, but first, it was time to move....cue Ellie's set.
Ellie Brown embodies physical health and fitness. Bright eyed, clean limbed and evidently younger than her years, this Pilates teacher and fitness coach promised to let us in on the secrets of her vitality. She explained how, over the decade or so she has been coaching women, she has noted the similarities in the needs of clients attending exercise classes at time of hormonal upheaval. Her pre- and post-natal clients seemed strikingly alike. The good news that all women - at opposite sides of the fertility window, as it were, responded well to training.
Using light weights, an exercise mat and a resistance band, with a little amuse yeux offered by video footage of Jane Fonda's notorious, but effective 'Feel the Burn' exercise classes from the 1980s, Ellie led us through a hugely enjoyable stretch and strengthen session, ensuring a good appetite for a buffet lunch devised by Lorraine. It involved about 20 different dishes, prepared, in the main, from fresh vegetables, with lean chicken and salmon, free-range eggs, nuts and organic dairy providing the protein. The rainbow feast we loaded on to our plates effortlessly incorporated our 10 daily portions of vegetables (plus two of fruit), as recommended by Lorraine, in one meal. Even the chocolate mousse fulfilled this remit, being made of avocado, lime and cacao.
After lunch, it was time to engage our minds. A lot is said about fuzzy thinking in relation to menopause, so Kelly Robson, a mindfulness instructor, was there to clarify.
Mindfulness, she said, helps us to 'create a pause, or gap, in the mental storyline that's constantly going on in our mind.'
The whir of pressured thoughts and 'must do, should do, haven't time to' duties pulsing through our head as we go through life on automatic pilot can ramp up stress levels and contribute to the fatigue, fuzziness and fever we may experience as our hormone levels re-adjust to the end of one phase and the beginning of another.
Remembering to pause, breathe, focus and engage with every day activities helps you to slow down and be calm.
The last session of the day was back to Lorraine, who suggested practical and achievable ways to adjust diet and lifestyle for optimal nutrition. Spoiler alert: it wasn't all juicing and detox, but a balanced, sensible route to clean eating and enjoyment of food.
The whole day was about understanding why – at a time in our lives when we may feel guilty for putting ourselves first, ahead of family, workload, duty – we should be doing just that. In midlife, when received opinion has it that women are invisible and past their usefulness, we're tacitly brainwashed into thinking we're not worth it, but middle age can be vigorous, strong, clearheaded, as long as we nurture ourselves. Whole, unadulterated foods, plenty of fresh air and exercise, space to think ...these aren't luxuries but essentials. So how come modern life has somehow contrived to cheat us out of these necessities by having us evolve into deskbound drones, fuelled by processed products instead of real food and driven to sacrifice sleep at the altar of blue-lit screens and to-do lists?  
Our fortieth birthday being a distant memory does not have to mean that youthful vim and vigour is, too. We owe it to ourselves - and those we love - to prioritise thriving, not just surviving. Ellie, Lorraine and Kelly showed us how.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Mindful on the long run

Check out @ronnie_haydon's Tweet:

Day 286
The Long Sunday Run was 11 miles, starting at Greenwich Park, necessitating a very chilly bike ride either side. Managed to stick on the 8.30-8.45m/m spectrum, which is too fast for the time I am supposed to be training for.

We're a fast group, which may pay dividends when I come to run inside my comfort zone as these Sunday runs become longer. It's a fine line between running comfortably and feeling confident abut achieving the 3:45 (an impossible dream?) and being more textbook/training plan, and keeping the LSR pace conservative. There's a lot of talk, in my marathon training group, about specific plans, so I must compose mine and commit to it....mindfully. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Thriving, not just surviving,as you face the menopause

Another Greenwich morning
Day 285

Walked to Greenwich to spend the day discovering how enhancing one's diet, activity levels and thinking practices can help one 'power through the menopause'.  Undemanding exercise routine and plenty of wholesome food eaten.

Thrive Alive took place today. It was all about how good eating, exercise and mindfulness can help us achieve balance when our midlife hormones threaten to  topple us. Food for thought, as well as vat amounts of food to eat. If there was one message I took away from the day it was that by this stage of my life, I deserve to put my health at the top of my prorities. Life is getting longer for all of us, but to spend all those extra years not feeling great, when we could be feeling fantastic, is a tragic waste. Menopause does not mean the end of vim and vigour; it is simply the end of menstruation. Ellie presented Kate, Caroline and I as women whose perimenopausal years have seen us running faster and stronger than when we were in our supposed prime. That is something to celebrate.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Time on your feet

Looks summery, doesn't it? It was taken this cold frosty day in Greenwich Park
Day 284

A run out with Kent AC buddy, about 7 miles, and One Tree Hill and Vicar's Hill both involving steeps and steps, then led the Greenwich Buggy Runners class, and walked back (another couple of miles, all told)

Is it time on your feet, or quality miles run, that makes all the difference to your marathon PB? Recent domestic and professional (and, it must be admitted, social/drinking) events have meant my eye has been taken off the prize, with the consequence that the Training Seriously aspect of this blog has a hollow ring to it. However, if every day could be like today (and if I ruled the world, etc) I'd definitely have the Time On My Feet nailed. At monster month I would like to be running more than 20 miles for Long, Slow Sunday, and (about) double that in the other five days. So a high mileage week might be 66 miles. That is a great many more than the training achieved for Mallorca (which was disappointingly slow), I need to make that 8.30 tempo easy and relaxing, not a huge effort.
It is do-able, if I brazen it out, ignore husband's raised eyebrows and 'not another run!' comments, decide to give up drinking and carousing, and continue 'working from home' (or working as little as possible).
Self indulgent? Yes but there are only 12 weeks to go, and three of them are taper. I can hold it together until then....

Thursday, 22 January 2015

'.....which made me feel better, as honest toil alway does'

Ronnie does the hickey shuffle
Day 283
Training with Erik-Lee, involving, hickey shuffle, low hurdles, battle rope, bicep curls and chest stretching
Cycle to Southwark Park to lead a Buggy Runner session (two women), then cycled to Waterloo, to spend some time in Earlsfield on family visit.

On waking with a hangover and a head full of regrets, with fatigue pounding away at temples and mild dehydration symptoms, the  temptation is to swerve away from training in favour of gloomily nursing cups of coffee before the working day. You rise, however, and you pedal wearily through the ringingly cold air to a chilly Hillyfields, where your trainer and co-trainees are already stuck inot the session. Three circuits in, you're warmed up, you're wisecracking merrily, panting effectively and feeling much, much better. Self loathing forgotten as the heart pumps. Endorphins are not a myth peddled by exercise evangelists.  I don't believe it's just sportive exercise, either. Sometimes digging energetically in the garden, polishing a window determinedly can make life feel worthwhile (I once made myself feel less weepy by deciding the smudgy window view from my desk wa getting me down as much as the rejection I'd been dealt, and scrubbing it to a sparkle) . I can usually find a Jill Crewe (Ruby Ferguson's jodhpur-wearing hero from the 1950s) quote to fit most bills, and here is one that springs to mind. Having beem crossed in some way, Jill 'has a good howl', then sets to and cleans the cottage and makes tea for herself and her mum, which...(title quote supplied). A wise girl, indeed.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Natural light

Get out of the front door, if only to sniff the sarcococca
Day 282

No run today, much to my chagrin. Just walking and stretching. My timetable says Wednesday is recovery run day, but I left it too late

My little running library has quite a few 'vintage' tomes. One I dip into for inspiration and self improvement is John Douillard's Body, Mind & Sport. It's quite ayurvedic, which may or may not appeal. It's great on natural rhythms, and I like the idea of trying to run with Nature's cycles, which means being up and doing with the light, eating most during the day and putting oneself to bed as near 8pm as possible. Suffice to say, I have never lived it. I just like the wholesomeness of the plan.
I missed my recovery run today because my clock's all out of sync, and I am out carousing and drinking tonight. So when does marathon schedule actually start? And why do so many people have parties in January?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Brass monkeys

Frosted Mayow Park
It was a very cold day
Day 281
An extremely chilled cycle ride to Sydenham on a few domestic errands and to use the TGOGC apparatus in the park there, in the absence of an Erik training session. The others said it was too cold, the wusses. This evening, Kent AC training, which was 1 mile warm up, 1 mile at 5km pace, then to Ladywell Fields for the 12 lampost run. Then a mile warm down.

As the winter chill seeped into my bones while trying to work here in the draughty study, the inclination to get back into running tights and jog to the track for 7pm, in dark and cold, seeped out of me. I was indeed the wuss, or in danger of being. It was a question of launching autopilot and getting out there. Yet, as usual, catching up (or not, in the case of the faster ones), with clubrunning friends was a positive pleasure. The group is so huge now, we're like a huge party in the park. New faces pop up every week. It is the best way to combat the winter blues, although morning running, at this time of year, helps with SAD.
This evening I set the timer for 10 minutes and stretched, properly, for that time. I hope that will make a difference to what I fear is tendonitis.
Oh, and look at this
Our team's Kenty County champs cup. I am the first to look after it

Monday, 19 January 2015

Vertical Rush - get ready!

There was a photo shoot
disconcertingly the cafe at the top has a mirror wall all the way round
view from the top
Day 280

Cycle to Old Broad Street, Tower 42, for a training day for Vertical Rush
I did this race up 932 stairs last year, and on March 3 I am to be part of  a Women's Running Magazine team, We had a photoshoot, a lecture, some hints about dynamic exercises to do as training from Anne-Marie Lategan, then practised running up 20 flights. I was much slower than the guys from Men's Running Magazine (except the celebrated 83-year old Gordon) and much slower than Fiona Bugler, my team-mate and fellow Women' Running writer. Overtook the women readers though.

It may not be too late to set my mind to training seriously for this event, given there's about six weeks to go. It's a question of finding the stairs. If time allows, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel will be a useful training ground. The training is good for the glutes, and will be a worthwhile addition to the training plan I am supposed to be undertaking for the marathon.
Last year I was advised by a bloke who'd done it before, to start conservatively, two steps at a time, so that my legs didn't turn to wobbling jellies at level 21. It was good advice, but I fear I could have really pushed myself harder. This year there's a bit more of a game plan. David Castle, Editor of Men's Running, gave an advisory talk, some of which I disagreed with. He's a single step guy, fast feet, one step at a time, whereas I can't imagine not taking the stairs two at a time. He talked of becoming travel sick, which was not a problem I'd encountered. He made sure we all knew he's done it in six minutes, though (I fear I was nearer 9) so what do I know? my two-by-two strategy would be better performed at running pace, but I never really get out of powerwalking speed, so perhaps one-by-one running will be quicker.
The exercises advocated by Anne Marie were interesting. She gave us plyometric bunny hops with left turns (the stairs have all left turns your left hand grasps the handrail, that give left handers, like me, something of an advantage). One legged squats from seated position, burpees, calf stretches, all useful stuff.
Trying the stair run, I was depressed to see how lightly and bouncily Fiona bounded up the ten flights, finishing way ahead of me. Next to her I felt lumpen and somewhat rotund. She's a 3.08 marathon runner and all round success story. I cycled away feeling rather defeated by the prospect of all of this. I have to admit I'm rather dreading the spread in the magazine.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Shifting sands

Shifting shades of grey

unveil a cold but sunny day


Day 279

Sunday long run, from Poole Park and down to Sandbanks, including four miles on sand (slow, but harder) and a fast finish that I wanted to do at 8.30m/miling, but fatigue kicked in. 12.5 miles in total

How lovely to be down by the sea to ring the changes. It's good to make the most of tougher terrain, where possible, and sand running is hard. Still, it's a bit gutting to see how much slower the miles are when there are no buddies to push you. Last week, with 17 other VLM hopefuls, we were pushing the pace and I had to admit defeat at 8miles. Today I clocked 12 miles, many of them, however, over 9 minutes. I have to remind myself that the long slow run is supposed to be just that, one minute slower per mile than your hoped-for marathon pace (8.40m/m?)
It's dispiriting to be aching so much at this stage in the game, though. It is to be hoped that more hours spent sleeping/resting, and more calories consumed as protein will help to build up the legs and glutes sufficiently to cope with the 60mile weeks I'd really like to build up to before the taper. The sands of time....I'm running out of training weeks already. I think I need to aim for 35miles this week, by hook or by crook.


Birthday cake is wonderful at 14 months or 95 years old
The Haydon clan, from Devonshire dumplings to Kiwi glamour  
Day 278

Rest day on a Saturday this week, as I travelled down to Sherbourne for the jolliest of pub lunches to celebrate aunt's 95th birthday. Just a few dynamic stretches and yoga moves, followed by a mile's walk run to catch the train.

What I talk about when I talk about running. The desire to travel to New Zealand for the ultimate trail run was stoked by meeting a long lost cousin, who was born and brought up there. She's currently working in an impressively high powered job in the NZ diplomatic service. Melissa was self deprecating about her running, explaining that the demands of her job and the newness of her home in Kensington combined to prcclude any other training than post-work trips to the gym. Yet we talked about tramping and hiking and running mountain trails and coastal paths in the spectacular scenery of south island. I was mesemerised by the images she conjured. The savings that I already refer to as my New Zealand fund, prompted by my best school friend who lives out there, must needs double before I can make my 2016, post 'A' level results Bid for Freedom.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Inspiration? Moi?

Back to Greenwich Park, in rather less happy circumstances
Day 277

Back to Gazelles after several weeks away, for hills and steps in dark, cold Greenwich Park. Home for breakfast feeling depleted. Cycle back up to Greenwich Park, lighter now, but colder, to 'coach' new mothers. Nervous exhaustion sets in. Cycle home, mentally and physically defeated

To be called 'an inspiration' many times on social media can go to one's head. The proud afterglow following yesterday's  Guardian blog posting faded away when faced with the hectic reality of a busy Buggy Runners exercise class. Unlike at Southwark Park - where I coach three women, if I'm lucky, whose babies are either tiddlers or just very well behaved - this class comprised about 12 women of varying levels of fitness, toting babies of wildly varying ages. One baby started yelling very early on in the proceedings, setting off many of the others. The women didn't all stick together, they chatted, some sprinted off, others lagged behind looking pained, others stopped to breastfeed. I didn't seem to have authority, and was left on many occasions, just staring and wondering what they should do next. Luckily the coach's coach, Ellie Brown, was there to rescue me. She debriefed me kindly when all the women and their babies had gone away. 
It was like herding cats. Far from being the  'inspirational' running role model I wrote myself into, the reality of my modelling was less than inspiring. So now I must practise what I preach. That's as much of a challenge as the prospect of running 26 sub 8:30 miles. I can do it. I will do it.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Preaching what I practise

Buggy Runners, Southwark Park
Day 276
A session with Erik at last. Accompanied by Hyacinth and Alana. The happy crew back again to bash tyres, perform squats, stretch out biceps and shoulder blades and upper back work. Easing back into the Team 6 training. Then back on the bike to my Buggy Runners session: two women, Paula and Teagan.

The office of Erik-lee is waterlogged, whipped by icy winds, forever at the mercy of the elements. This is traing en plein air. The Personal trainer's life is not a happy one at this time of year, unless, like Rob Blair, he has his own gym. Erik's and Rob's styles could not be more different, but I respect both men, and from both I have learned a lot. Going to coach new mums straight from having trained with Erik, I have his words of wisdom pulsing around in my head. Today we did some resistance band work, side stepping with the elastic tied around your thighs, then ankles. It really is quite hard after a minute's rep. I cannot have my clients working too hard for sustained periods. The limit on planking, for example, is 10 seconds. This is quite bothersome because you have to think up more and more to do, to avoid too many reps.
The plan for these hour-long coaching sessions is for 15minutes of warm up jogging/power walking, followed by dynamic stretching. The meat of the session is 30mins of drills, with water breaks and limb looseners, then 15 minutes warm down and stretch. An hour is a long time to kill. I need to find more drills.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Second nature

Perfect winter weather for recovery miles
Day 275

On a mission to increase weekly mileage, I rang my running buddy and arranged to meet at Hillyfields. We did the Deptford/Greenwich/Blackheath  circular, depositing me back at home just under an hour later, 7 miles completed. I also cycled up the steep hill to the care home, where godmother is ensconced.

Today I read some of Danny Dreyer's Chi Running  book. I did a course on the subject and blogged/wrote a feature about it back in 2011. What is most attractive about running the Chi way is that it's supposed to be relaxed and effortless. I like the warming up exercises and the mindset that goes with it. I'm hoping to be able to familiarise myself with some of the exercises and incorporate them into my coaching. These coaches in NorthAmerica are always lucky enough to live in beautiful places and combine trail running, philosophising and making money. It would be good to be so happy in ones running skin. Still, I did feel a certain joie de vivre, running along the wide Thames, reflecting blue under the clear winter sky.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Greenwich Park will be my office on Friday mornings
Day 274
A cheeky extra run to replace a cancelled Erik session, to Greenwich Park to check out the terrain for Friday's Buggy Runner gig. This evening's track session was a hard one 1m warm up, 4x1000m with 45seconds recoveries, then 400m recovery followed by 4x400m with 30seconds recovery, then warm down 1mile round park. Killing.

That warm down at the end of the session is always so joyous. You're pleased with yourself that you stayed the pace (although I confess I lost Sarah on the fourth 1000) and the fatigue in your core and bones calls for protein and rest, and good quality sleep.
Aye, there's the rub. A hard evening session, though it may end at 8pm, and  sleep not attempted until 11.30pm, still stays in the legs. The adrenaline seems to course through you, and worries, that seemed so surmountable while feeling powerful on the track, come back to cavort inside the head.
Last night's sleep was fitful, I fear tonight won't be much better. Financial worries, guilt about not having work, guilt about other things, low self esteem, seem to grow in stature and loom menacingly over the Pollyanna thoughts of day. The endorphins of the warm down peter out and turn to hard, grey 3am self loathing. So, to bed. The morning will soon be here.

Monday, 12 January 2015

This girl can, and this woman does

This woman, and this woman, and this woman
Day 273
Monday rest day. Well slept and yoga mat morning. Then I sat at my desk and wrote a blog piece about menopause and exercise, here it is.

Running through change
Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, launched this week, is a worthy attempt to encourage more women into sport. It’s born out of research revealing that two million fewer women than men aged 14 to 40 play sport regularly.
Many women cite embarrassment about they way they look – the old ‘sweaty isn’t feminine’ chestnut – as a reason for avoiding exercise. While Sport England’s campaign concentrates on addressing this attitude among the youngsters, there’s a pressing need to sell sport to the over 40s, too.
As we enter our fifth decade and beyond, getting red-faced and sweaty might not be a question of lifestyle choice, but hormonal turbulence. Menopause, and its warm up act, perimenopause, are often characterised by hot flushes, which can be anything from mildly disconcerting to totally gruelling. These power surges are just one of about 50 non-specific ‘symptoms’ that are generally attributed to menopause. Who knew that periods petering out, and finally disappearing for good, could cause such misery?
 Practically every study published on the subject asserts that exercise can help women feel better in menopause. Books on the subject may have tasteful images of well-preserved women strolling on beaches or lying serenely on yoga mats. 
There’s no doubt that a brisk 30 minute daily walk and regular yoga sessions are hugely beneficial to women’s health. Yet, as passionate club runner, 
I can’t help feeling a bit depressed that the exercise recommended is so very gentle. It’s inconceivable to me, having turned 52, to consider that during vigorous and vital years leading up to the cessation of menstrual periods, women should be any less sporty than when we were regular Tampax users.

The word menopause, is of course, freighted with negative connotations. Menopausal women are all too often the butt of jokes, or seen as pitiful creatures that need medical and psychiatric help to get the through this cruel disintegration of our sexual attractiveness and general usefulness.
In reality, we need to cut through all the chatter about mood swings, inevitable weight gain and ‘brain fuzz’ and refocus on the fact that our bodies are as strong and capable as they ever were and that we’ re not going to let ourselves be beaten by feeling a little hot sometimes while our ovaries re adjust themselves.
Numerous studies, including one undertaken by the Royal College of Obstetric and Gynaecology, have found that regular, sustained aerobic exercise can help relieve menopausal symptoms.
Ellie Brown agrees. A running coach and teacher trainer for Body Control Pilates students, she incorporates yoga and strength training into her own fitness regime and has designed an exercise programme for women in the menopause stage of their lives.
‘We need, as perimenopausal/menopausal women a mix of strength, flexibility and aerobic exercise. It is not enough to pop to a yoga class once a week; we need to run, swim, cycle, jump about and move…’
Quite often, though, the first steps to jumping about and moving seem like giant leaps. Women, bogged down by domestics and career demands, may regard exercise as a luxury they cannot afford, involving gym memberships and unforgiving Lycra. Some may have gained a bit of weight while sitting at desks, eating children’s leftovers, or being driven to drink for whatever reason.
The weight, we’re told, is a natural by- product of midlife, but we feel too self conscious to jiggle about in our PE kit. The spare tyre becomes a fact of life and we feel defeated before we’ve even started.
So we need help to overcome the psychological barriers to exercise, by discovering useful information and positive messages about menopause – most importantly that it’s not an illness, but a perfectly natural life stage.
Ellie Brown has decided to provide that help, by organising Thrive Alive, a day-long series of workshops, talks and exercise classes designed to help women in their 40s and beyond to ‘power through the menopause’.
She, along with nutritionist Lorraine Nicolle and mindfulness instructor Kelly Robson, will host the event, which centres on 20 tried and tested tactics, using diet, exercise and mindfulness, to improve mid-life hormonal balance, health and happiness.
Part of the package is Ellie’s exercise programme for menopause, which incorporates the weight training, cardio-vascular and flexibility sessions we all need to stay well and remain vigorous.
Keeping your body moving in myriad ways is not about looks, or size 8 jeans or looking 10 years younger. It’s about enjoying the age you are, Ellie says, firmly.
‘This event is as much about the camaraderie and connecting with like-minded women who want to make these middle years the best of their lives.’  
She’s right about the camaraderie. When I joined a running club at the age of 44 to ward off incipient midlife low spirits I was delighted to puff around the same running track as women of my age, who ran at speeds I could only dream of. They were great role models, and they became loyal friends. The same women, now over 50, are still winning trophies. I’ll never be as fast as them, but I follow in their trainer tracks.
Proud to be part of a team of six to win a major county cross country championship a couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to see that three of us had celebrated our 50th birthdays.
‘Now that’s a headline I’d like to see’, chuckled Ellie when I told her this
‘ “Three perimenopausal women win Kent County Championship.” ‘

Thrive Alive takes place Saturday 24 January at
Devonport House Hotel King William Walk, Greenwich
London SE10 9JW. More information:

Sunday, 11 January 2015

My legs

Big ole bunch of us pre-Sunday long run
Day 272

Sundy long run, but, for me, truncated as I had places to be, things to do. I managed 8 miles averaging 8.30m/m. But that is marathon place, so will need to slow the long runs, when they get longer, to 9m/m throwing in a few 8m/ms to show fatigue who's boss along the way.

Leg pains and waves of self pity: a fairly typical and familiar symptom of too much running, walking considerable distances late at night, shivering with cold and in unsuitable shoes and insubstantial tights, and the old problem -  not enough sleep. Going out late, fuelled only by wine and peanut butter on toast, running on legs that ache from yesterday's race, I was never going to have a positive experience today. None of the above is the recipe for marathon success. For a while I ran with a woman called Nicky, who looks to be a similar age to me. She's gunning for a 3:30, having achieved 3:40 in the past. It is clear that an ambition to knock 13 minutes off my PB is a vaulting one, and today's low spirits make it seem impossible. It doesn't help that following a lunch in town, and an afternoon sitting listening to samples of poets shortlisted for tis year's TS Eliot poetry prize, my legs feel like they should be on the body of an 80-year-old woman. The aching does not bode well for future high mileage.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

My stomach

Day 271

Surrey Cross Country league race at Wimbledon Common, five miles on extremely waterlogged trails. Spikes receive another mud caking and I run my hardest, but am easily overtaken by a woman I beat easily last weekend, in much tougher conditions. I am taking this defeat as proof that working full time in office is bad for me.

One of the books I am reading for menopause research is Dr Marilyn Glenville's Fat Around the Middle. I like it because she makes ample references to vegetarianism, and the stuff she says about stress and cortisol makes great sense. She also doesn't subscribe to the idea that being podgy round the middle is a natural, even healthy, side product of middle age. Being especially apple shaped post Christmas, I think, has slowed me down. However that does not tally with my performance last week. The difference today, though, was that I forgot my flask of Organo coffee. Can that blend really make such a difference? I took the fungal remedy in tablet form, but perhaps the coffee has a certain something extra.
Most alarming, Dr Marilyn publishes in the abovenamed book a multiple-question stress level l test, in which you gain points for every one of the listed stressful events you've endured I the past year or so. I had experience about 8 biggies - high scorers - so tallied a whopping 390 odd. Dr G advised I neede do take determined steps to reduce stress. My vow yesterday went some way toward that, but if I have no work, I worry about money. That's another dose of stress.
One step I have vowed to take today is to stop rushing my food, and snacking brainlessly on peanut butter from the jar while standing up. You read it here.

Friday, 9 January 2015

My head

Lunch hour: a walk in Epping Forest

Day 270

Having gone to bed just three hours before I got up this morning, this day was never going to be a good one. It's auspicious because I vowed, in the depths f my despair, I will never work on tedious homes magazines, in unfriendly offices, far away, again. So I put my aching head to work, hatching plans to keep it above water.

To be at your fittest you need to look after your mood. This week has been a low point, because working days were spent squinting at layouts and trying to conform to office world. Hunched at a desk, trying to keep myself awake with instant coffee and sweet treats to make the day go faster, the vices inside my head kept asking what part of training seriously I was fulfilling today. A whole day written off to depression, low self esteem and brain grinding fatigue. My poor, poor head. It throbs. I would rather be even poorer than go back to work here again.


A walk from Barnes Bridge to Hammersmith at 1am
Day 269

An awful lot of night walking, night, thanks to missed trains and a book club that takes place in Barnes. It cleared the drink from m system, but I did not get into my beduntil 3am, then had to rise from it three hours later for work.

So here I am, having missed the last train, waiting for a night bus to take me into town after  convivial evening. Walking along the placid  river Thames in the stilly watches of the night, looking at the huge houses of Barnes riverside and wondering what it would be like to live there was therapeutic, but sleep deprivation is the very worst thing that can happen in training, because every part of you is affected. Most worryingly for the hormonal woman, the metabolic system sustains the biggest hit, but your judgement, your mood, your muscles, your appetite and your perception of the world around you, it all suffers when you deny yourself sleep.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Perimenopausal sisters are doing it for themselves

Three of these women are perimenopausal
Day 268

Walking and early morning mat work after a reasonable night's sleep. Another deskbound day, fuelled by chocolate. It's not good for anyone, especially not the hormonally challenged. But I'm looking forward to another weekend of running, and thinking fondly of the last one.

This picture of me with my fellow Kent AC winners, from Saturday's Championship board sweep gives me (meno)pause for thought. Our team of six was the fastest in a very muddy, hilly, tough cross country race. The third woman in the team is 50 years old. Fifth and sixth were Ellie (turns 50 next year) and I, all 52 years of me.
We three are approaching what used be described euphemistically as 'the change'. The two words were often mouthed conspiratorally by women when talking about the trials of midlife...shaming subject, taboo subject, much too intimate to be uttered out loud. We do ourselves a disservice.
We three have shared experiences of being on the borders of menopause. We sometimes feel a bit hot. Periods are a bit irregular...but, hey, it's natural. We'll keep running and whatever changes happen to us we'll weather. As long as we can run, we'll be ok.
This is the attitude it's wisest to take. There is evidence out there that vigorous exercise helps with the documented 'symptoms' of menopause. I'm inclined to think these symptoms have been self perpetuating. If we're told often enough that menopause means  weight gain, depression, foggy thinking and all the rest, we'll ascribe ever me vague disorders to this hormonal event. It is already garlanded with a whole mass of non-specific complaints that we can convince ourselves we have. The best way to deal with them is to deny that menopause is anything other than a cessation of menstruation.
We were lively and active before periods started, we'll be lively and active again. Do not cuddle into the menopause blanket and prepare for old age. Shrug it off and keep active and outdoors. Here endeth the sermon.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The first step is the hardest

There they all go, will I have the strength to join them?
Day 267

Track training night after a hard day at work. Sleep deprived courtesy of coughing husband and mysteriously chiming 5am alarm. I am clearly going nuts. The session 2xmile warm up and warm down, in between these, 8x500m

Walking through the winter evening from the DLR station to the athletics track as layer of hoar frost begins to show itself on cars and kerbs, I could not be more disinclined to warm up and run the session. My stomach is still tender from whatever digestive/hormonal upset has bloated and stirred it, my body is cold and shivery and I am peepy eyed from nodding off over a particularly boring section of my Book Club book  on the warm DLR train.
Yet I knew that running, even in this perceived delicate state, would make me feel better. I was right, after the warmup and the first couple of reps, trying to chase down my new Scouse friend who has a marathon PB of 3:20 (oh, how I wish), I was enjoying the craic, and the effort, and the feeling of being warm and breathless. It's why I love running, and a message I want to get out there in a piece I'm writing about Thrive Alive

Monday, 5 January 2015

Jantastic? Not me. Not today

Back to work


Day 266

Rest day, which the fatigued old body took far too seriously, snoozing heavily through the alarm and necessitating an unseemly rush to the current awful workplace. Post Christmas sluggishness manfesting itself in painful inigestion and bloating. Overweight and overwrought.

This, I think, is the first day of the phenomenon called Jantastic. Parkrun buddies are all signed up. I have refrained, because I'm in two minds about announcing mileage and personal goals on social media. The stuff I do announce - the triumphs of Kent AC - seems less focused on me. Yes, I know this blog is all ME ME ME but noone reads it but Me, so it serves as a training diary. Warts and all. Yet I'm easing into a more public declaration of athletic activity, aging and menopausal health. It's frightening. Do I dare?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Blowing my own trumpet

Run to the Barrier
for the obligatory selfie

Day 265

An eight-mile, occasionally marathon-paced long run, our leader picks up the pace, as his target is a sub-3:30 marathon. It's a bit too fast for me, who'd be happy with a sub 3:50

There's a lot to do on the coaching front. Today I wrote my profile for the Buggy Runners website. It may be a bit too wordy:

My eight-year love affair with running started with a revelatory Race for Life and grows ever stronger. I am so besotted that my husband accuses me of loving running more than him.
Running has given me such joy over the years that I decided I wanted to spread the love, so trained with UK Athletics to become a coaching assistant and a leader in running fitness, which means I’m qualified to lead my own group of runners.
Joining the inspirational Ellie Brown Buggy Runner Initiative means I can combine my two loves: fitness and babies. Having raised three children, and with my first grandchild due in April, I am confident around babies and am also very aware of the demands pregnancy and breastfeeding makes on the body. It’s all about baby steps! It’s wonderful, though, to see how quickly women can train to peak fitness after having children. Many say they feel faster and fitter having had children – and Paula Radcliffe and Jo Pavey are living, running proof of this.
At my Buggy Runner classes in Southwark, Dulwich and Greenwich parks, you can expect  a combination of aerobic exercise, from dynamic stretches through powerwalking to jogging to steady-state running, as well as strength training using your own body weight and resistance bands. Such tailor-made exercises can help you regain your fitness while your baby snoozes and enjoys the fresh air.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mud, mud, inglorious mud

We won!

Day 264

Cross country day: an 8km race shortened to 6km following a casualty (broken leg - junior women) and a course poached to shin-deep mud. some cycling either side. 

The Kent County Championships at Hythe, in driving rain for the second year running.  The course was shortened, but incredibly heavy going.  No really steep hills, but swampy, with sucking mud at every point. In some areas you struggled to pull your feet out of the thick, slidy mud. Fifteen centimetre spikes, for once, seemed a great idea. High hopes for improved endurance following a pre race snack of ganoderma coffee and three capsules of same taken after breakfast were rather dashed as I lost power. Despite leading my similarly paced teammate for the majority of the course, she nipped past me halfway round the final lap and I chased her down to the finishing funnel. That was a huge disappontment, as I beat her in training. Still, it was six to score, so I was in the medals.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Change is in the air

Dulwich Park. My new office
Day 263
Rest after yesterday's exertions and alarms. Mat core strength, planks. Bit of cycling and walking for meetings and messages. Feeling festively plump; the belly is unpleasantly jelly.

It's back to work for many, including me, after a fashion. No proper office work until Monday, but I need to sort out some future gainful employment. There's much in the Twittersphere about exercise-related New Year's resolutions. My resolution is already made, of course, 262 days ago, but now the year has turned, the weekly mileage has to go up, and the core and stretch work become more serious. The first priority, this week, must be catching up on sleep. The meeting I had today was about more coaching work, more Buggy Runner classes in Greenwich and Dulwich parks.This will help with this particular marathon campaign, as well as my writing for Women's Running magazine and others, as I will have to be more picky about sub-editing bookings. As the training schedule proceeds, I'll be spending more time outside with yummy mummies. All grist to the mill.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Fragile thread

First there was Peckham Parkrun

Then there was Hillyfields Parkrun
1 January 2015
Day 262

Running a double Parkrun, with cycling either end and in between. The first, a fast and flat job in Peckham, took 23.27 (slow for that course). The second, my regular Hillyfields run, also slower than usual, at 24mins. Still, I'm underslept, have been drinking and eating too much. Anyway, it didn't really matter in the real world, as I soon learned.

It was at the second finishers' funnel that the holiday atmosphere came to an abrupt end. One of the runners, a man in his late 30s or early 40s, collapsed with a cardiac arrest. Two medics in the group started CPR, we called an ambulance, but the man was not breathing, his face went purple and his eyes glazed. Crouching beside him, we all willed him to breathe, to stop dying. That's what he looked to be doing. An ambulance came, but it was a long time before they could stabilised him sufficiently to get him on a stretcher. The most recent news is that he was breathing unassisted, but it took so long, what damage could have been done? It was so shocking to see a man in his prime so cut down, so close to death. We runners think we are invincible. we blog about our fitness, we take pride in our vitality. Then something like this happens, and we see we'll never outpace the inevitable. He is alive though, focus on that, he is alive, and we hope he'll run another day.