A couple of weeks ago, I had a week off work in between jobs. I looked forward to it for ages, and had planned that it was going to be the most productive, running filled, cultural weeks I’ve had since moving to London. Clearly, my expectations were set a little too high, but I did manage to get to a few fitness things that I hadn’t tried before. I’m making the most of the ‘building a base’ phase I’m in this month, before marathon training kicks off proper in the first week of December.

Vibe class at Frame Shoreditch

image from Frame

Frame is not near where I live. At all. However, thanks to new City-based job it is now not a completely unrealistic pre- or post-work option (woo!) And thanks to a free class code from PT Mollie, I went along to an 8am Vibe class, which she turned out to be teaching. I hadn’t been to a Vibe or Power Plate class before – it was so odd feeling my brain rattle as I adjusted to how I should be placing my weight. Elle recently did a great post on the benefits of this type of class, which you can read here. A quick blast at only 30 minutes, it was fast and furious and I loved it. I’ll be doing a class like this again, and maybe even venturing to that corner of the gym on my own.

Blue Cow Big Stretch at Blue Cow Yoga

image from Blue Cow Yoga

Along with a few other Team Naturally ladies, I took advantage of Blue Cow Yoga’s introductory week of free yoga offer and went along to a Friday evening Yin yoga session. Yin is SO different to the kind of yoga I normally do – it’s all mat based, it was by candlelight with a lot of time spent with our eyes closed. You hold restorative poses for a long, long time (3 minutes does feel like a long time in this context) to get the deepest and most comfortable stretch. I’m pretty sure I dozed off for a minute or so, but that’s kinda the point. To relaaaaax.

However, as much as I do like relaxing, to me this sort of felt like ‘wasted’ workout time. I’m sure Yin fans would argue the opposite and it’s benefits, but at the moment, something this slow paced isn’t really for me on a regular basis.

Reformer Pilates at Ten Pilates

image from Ten Pilates

Before I went along to the class at Ten Pilates (thanks Charlie and Leah!), I had only ever been on a reformer for about two minutes at the end of my last physio session. It still made me think this looked like a class on a machine of TORTURE (albeit surrounded by a studio of loveliness). All of the springs and pulleys and the straps and the ‘carriage’… baffling. Thankfully, our instructor Matt was awesome (I feel I must emphasise this – he was really good) and explained the whole reformer and all the exercises clearly. My physio has been on and on at me to get some Pilates into my training, and now I can totally see why. This kind of strength training would definitely benefit runners, as was demonstrated by the audible moans as we worked through the glute section. I mean, they were on fire. I really loved this class, and again it is super convenient for me now (the Hatton Garden studio we visited is a stone’s throw from my new desk) however the cost will be too prohibitive to do on a regular basis. A single class is £27, however they also do an intro offer and block class prices which make it more affordable. Plus I might put the gift card on my Xmas list and see what happens… Oh, it’s also good to know there’s a physio and sports massage place right by work too.

So tell me, what other classes should I squeeze in before I’m running all. the. time?

(Apologies for being so utterly crap at taking snaps of late! Lots on the websites that are referenced though.)

After winning my entry into the Whole Foods Market WomenOnly Run (still in contention for the longest race name ever), I then entered a Twitter competition and won my entry into the Om Yoga Show at Olympia last weekend. What’s that about luck coming along in threes?! *runs off to buy EuroMillions ticket*…

Okay, wish me luck. Now, having only started practising yoga earlier this year, my obsession is developing at a fairly rapid rate. I’m still an absolute novice, but am already starting to see improvements in postures and benefits from regular practice. I really love it.

For me, being in the exhibition hall and walking around all the stalls was about as un-Zen experience as you can get (lots of noisy, bustling shoppers), but before the day I booked onto a couple of workshops. However, in the short time I had for lunch and shopping, I still managed to pick up the world’s most expensive sandwich (that’ll teach me for relying on exhibition centre catering), a yoga mat and bag, a few tubes of Nuun and I even got talked into a subscription to Om Yoga magazine.

Then it was time for some actual yoga…

Hips, hips, hips workshop with Leah Kim

Back in the summer of last year, I did Leah’s yoga session at the NTC Live Festival. At that time, I had zero yoga knowledge and I remember really struggling with the class. I think this goes to show that having even a little base knowledge (through a level 1 class or similar) goes a long way to help the enjoyment of a lot of yoga classes, as this time I thought it was awesome. As the name suggests, it was a hip focussed class (great for runners), with loads of lunges, floor based hip openers and a hell of a lot of time (yes, three minutes did seem like eternity) spent in pigeon.

It was flow based, but we also spent a lot more time holding poses than I would do normally to really work the hips. My favourite (funniest) part was laying on the floor, attempting to move my big toe somewhere in the region of my ear and Leah saying ‘this is great if you’re working towards ankle behind head’… whilst my foot was about half a metre from my head. Something to work up to, perhaps.

Boxing Yoga open class with Kazja Ekberg

There were tonnes of open classes throughout the weekend, which were filled on a first come, first served basis. Some looked fun (like Bollywood dancing), some looked a bit odd (like face yoga) and there were plenty of other more ‘normal’ classes like ‘Yoga for Daily Energy’ which I unfortunately didn’t make it to in time. One class that I did manage to take part in (and which there was a bit of a rush to get a mat for after some non-existent queue management) was Boxing Yoga. I was really intrigued as to how these two (seemingly fairly opposite) things could be combined into one workout.

The class was quite NTC/bootcamp-esque in the moves we did – lots of lunges, squats and planks, interspersed with some down dogs and all whilst holding our arms in boxing ‘guard’ or throwing slow punches. For me, this was the toughest session of the day. It was only a half hour taster, but I got seriously hot and by the end, a lot of the class were struggling to do the moves without collapsing in a sweaty heap. I’m not sure this would add anything new to my training at the moment, but for those who are interested in the benefits of yoga, but are less keen on the ommm-ing, I can see this would be a good alternative.

An interesting chanting wavey type class

Look there’s my head in the bottom corner! (Image from Boxing Yoga’s Twitter)

Vinyasa Flow for Athletes with Karen Breneman

Another good option for those who find they can live without the more ‘spiritual’ side of yoga (side note: personally, I really like that part and find it adds to my overall enjoyment of the experience of yoga, but I can see that it wouldn’t be some people’s cup of tea), is to find a class or workshop specifically aimed at runners or athletes, as they tend to dive straight into the more ‘physical’ stuff. This workshop was no different. At only 45 minutes long, Karen was keen for us all to get the most out of the workshop. This was one of the last sessions of the day, and looking around the room, a lot of very fit looking people had stayed around specifically for it. This was more the kind of yoga that I am used to, so less of a different experience, but a really enjoyable practice nonetheless. Karen spoke throughout about why the poses we moving through were beneficial to athletes and took us through some great stretching at the end. Some internet research (typing her name in Google) has uncovered that Karen is based in Edinburgh, so I would recommend her to anyone in that neck of the woods.

The yoga show was only a tenner to get into if you bought your ticket in advance, and I definitely would pay to go again. My tip would be to get the programme in advance, plan which day has the most interesting classes to you and plan your day around these, ensuring you turn up in plenty of time before the start to bag a mat – that’s the best way to get the most value of the ticket.

Last year, I wrote about a race that I ran with my boyfriend, Stu. (Although when I say we ran together, I mean we turned up and went home together as he’s a just a teeny bit faster than me. ) Unfortunately, this was our first and last race we took part in together, because at the beginning of this year, Stu got injured. As a runner, I’m used to worrying about pains and niggles and am always in fear of getting injured, missing races or being sidelined for prolonged periods of time. But everyday I am thankful for the fact that I can still run, and I thought I’d get the guy himself to explain why…

Crunch! AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH! A blinding, excruciating pain searing down my left leg. As I hit the floor my piercing scream had curled the blood of my fellow practitioners ceasing all activity in the gym. At that moment I genuinely thought that my leg was snapped clean in two and the bone had ruptured my hamstring muscle… later I found out I was not so lucky.

My name is Stuart Prior, I am a keen sportsman and I have tried my hand at more or less everything. I hold a semi-professional mixed martial arts (MMA) record of 2-1-0, a blue belt in Brazilian Ju Jitsu (BJJ) under Cesar Lima, my 10km personal best is 41:20 and in my childhood I swam at a county level. These are relevant to show I’m not a greatest sportsman by any means but in the words of Mark Wahlberg “I believe in fitness”.

Running the BHF 10k race in March 2012

Late January during a BJJ training session I suffered an injury in a freak accident. I was taken to hospital in an ambulance and subsequently, in a number of visits to the surgeon, diagnosed with having snapped my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) as well as tearing my hamstring from just above the back of my knee and damaging my femur. This injury isn’t completely new to me as I’d previously torn my ACL on both legs through other sporting activities. Having said that, I was fully aware of the seriousness and significance of this injury.

In the ambulance immediately following the ARRRHHHHH moment

Immediately after I was on crutches with a knee brace but I was able to return to walking once the swelling had subsided. In the following weeks I would prepare for the forth coming surgery by using weights machines, balancing drills and various other exercises which made it look like I was attempting to swim on dry land. I was assured that this conditioning would help considerably in the recuperation and recovery following the operation. Prior to surgery the surgeon, sat me down and went through the options very clearly. It was decided he would cut open my right leg, extract some hamstring muscle and use this to repair my left leg. The additional fixtures and fittings required for the procedure would be plastic and rubber and metal and would bring my knee back to working order. There would be soreness and pain but in time it would work again.

Following my operation I felt awful. Just horrendous, like I was drunk, but not fun drunk, sleepy drunk where you can’t see straight but also was weirdly sober. During this state I was advised that actually I didn’t have the hamstring they were looking for in my right leg as it seems to have been used previously and so they used a ligament taken from a cadaver. Therefore the whole operating on both legs was not necessary but “now we know”.

I stayed in hospital for a night and after the calamity of failures in communication I was able to leave and return home. The next few weeks were a heat wave, I however, was confined to the living room and 5 seasons of ‘The Wire’. In the later weeks I was able to make a trip to the shop at the end of the road, then the park and then eventually one stop on the tube to Wimbledon. It was agonisingly slow but not unexpected.

The various scars and stitches from surgery

Four weeks following the operation I returned to see the surgeon so he could admire his good work, gauge my recovery and deem the operation a success. He also had more news, this more sobering than any before. Due to previous injury there was substantial scar tissue on my cartilage which they had to cut away. This has meant that through the operations and erosion I had lost 40% of my cartilage in my left knee. The cartilage is important, it stops your bones bashing together when you run and jump. This news was probably the most painful to hear.

The surgeon explained that due to the limited cartilage I had two options. Option one was to stop all impact exercises… forever. That means no running, no jumping, nothing impact at all, ever. Option two was to carry on doing what I wanted exercise-wise and I’ll see him again, in five years, but that discussion would be about whether I would be able to walk without pain, let alone anything else.

So the decision was made, no more impact exercises. No running in any shape or form, except in time, maybe a quick dash for the tube, but nothing more. Sport was no longer my escape but my envy and I was pretty miserable. This ‘adolescent martyrdom’ stage was short lived and a pragmatic approach was assumed.

While my recovery is slow and on-going I would have really struggled without my girlfriend to aid me in the simplest tasks and so thanks to her. Also my surgeon Mr Oussedik, he’s pretty blunt when I comes down to it but his confidence is comforting and I could not speak more highly of him.

These days, around 11 weeks following the operation, I am without crutches. I’m now at the gym (Nuffield health centre) lifting weights and slowly recovering. I can’t walk very far or very fast but in the words of John Travolta “if you’re important, people will wait”.