GNR training: week one

Monday this week signalled the start of the 12 week countdown to this year’s Great North Run. And 12 weeks to go means the start of the training plan proper. So I thought throughout the course of my training I’d do a quick Sunday weekly round up to track my (probable lack of) progress.

I posted my training plan here a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to mix it up quite a lot from my Berlin training plan, but this has meant that my cross training is lumped together at the beginning of week, with a heavy running-focussed end of the week.

Last weekend was filled with fitness and friends. I did the Clapham Common NTC class on Saturday with my uni friends Charlie and Lou. Then on Sunday, it was a Berlin roomie reunion and a run with Maja, Soph & Jackie along the canal from Angel to Victoria Park, with a post-run brunch at Broadway Market. Loveliness.

But that was last week. I did just write a two whole paragraphs about the seven days that followed my weekend of loveliness – filled with no running and lots of excuses – but I’ll spare you. Excuses are not good enough (or interesting to read about). In summary, this week = one 3 mile run and one gym class. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Wrists slapped. Panic slightly more heightened. Week two can only get better.

Glutes of steel

Image source

When I first decided I wanted to run half marathons, I told my boyfriend I wanted ‘calves of steel’. I was a little bit jealous of his, I wanted rid of the slight wobble and the legs of a proper runner. There were two problems with this. Firstly, getting calves of steel meant becoming very well acquainted with a foam roller (mmm the glorious yet puke-inducing muscle crunching). Secondly, I decided to focus on completely the wrong area – it was not my calves that needed to be awesome to be a runner – it was my butt.

In the run up to the Berlin half, I was having problems with my left knee. Not pain as such, just something not feeling quite right. I sensibly visited Carly at Advance Physio on a recommendation (and due to them being the only practice in Nottingham – and London – who actually answered their damn phone) who told me that the problem was in fact my glutes, rather than my knees.

Naturally, there is tonnes of information on the internet detailing the importance of glute strength for distance runners. And naturally a lot of it I don’t understand. Thank goodness for Runner’s World (in this case the US edition), for summing it up in a way that makes sense:

When we run, the glutes hold our pelvis level and steady, extend our hip, propel us forward, and keep our legs, pelvis, and torso aligned. So when our glutes are faulty, our entire kinetic chain gets disrupted. Studies link glute weakness to Achilles tendinitis, shinsplints, runner’s knee, and iliotibial-band syndrome. Indeed, many injured runners I treat come to physical therapy with strong abdominals and backs but weak glutes.

Part of the problem is that glutes aren’t as active as other running muscles during routine activities, which can make your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves disproportionately stronger. Another issue is that most strength-training routines don’t isolate the glutes. If an exercise requires several muscles to perform the movement, the majority of the work will be done by the strongest of those muscles. Also, tight muscles, specifically the hip flexors, can inhibit the glutes and prevent their muscle fibers from firing.

Without wanting to get all the technical stuff wrong, I will summarise: my hip flexors are too tight, my glutes aren’t strong enough, my ITB suffers. Hence the knee pain.

                                           My taped up leg during the final week of Berlin half training

As pretty as the tape is, I’m in no rush to have it back. So, this time round I’m going the exercises given to me by the physio for my glutes and hip flexors. And it’s ALL ABOUT SQUATS. I’m going to the Glute Blast class at my gym every week, which is awesome and now now one of my favourite classes. Tonnes of squats and lunges with the bar on your back, lots of very unflattering floor work on all fours and finishing off with the whole class in a line against the wall doing t h e  l o n g e s t  s q u a t  e v e r. It’s ace.

I love squats… how about you?

Sweat is good

At my gym there is a lady I see quite a lot. She’s often using a nearby treadmill, and she does a lot of the same classes as me. She wears a brilliant array of brightly coloured sportswear, including some great neon and floral leggings. She also is usually glowing with the shine of a hard work out – she knows how to get her sweat on. Sounds awesome, right?! I know.

Well, the other day, I overheard a few things (said person I overheard these things from may well be reading, in which case – I’m sorry, this isn’t a personal attack, just my opinion on what I think is an interesting subject). Anyway, such overheard things included comments on how much she was sweating (and where from), how obvious it was due to her choice of bright pink workout attire and just generally how visually displeasing this was to all subjected.

When I see this girl I am jealous. I am in no way hardcore when it comes to training. I float around the edge of what most would call training. I aspire for fitness to be a much bigger part of my lifestyle and to just generally be a bit less nerdy, and a bit more badass. This girl is badass. She sprints, she lifts weights twice as heavy as me and she rocks some awesome outfits whilst doing so.

I found it really bizarre that other people could be so derogatory about someone just because they’re sweating. I wish I sweated more. It was a perfect example in action of all the stuff we’ve seen so much of in the press lately about girls not wanting to participate in sport because it’s not feminine. But these weren’t school girls, these were adults in their mid twenties, surely we should have grown out of this by now?

But then I realised that I myself don’t fully embrace the sweat. I prefer training in the winter – because it’s dark. At weekends I prefer running as early as possible – there are less people around. Even in my gym, full of guys and girls sweating, I usually work out in the ‘power zone’ (the disco style cardio area) because it’s dark (no one can see me panting) and loud (no one can hear me panting). What is that about?

And as a first step to embracing sweatiness, here’s a lovely picture of me that I took just after I came back from a run. Look at the colour of my face compared to the rest of my body… it’s ridiculous. It is muggy out!

Excuse the picture, but you get the idea

Also… see here for what I’m talking about – I shall be doing this. 

Time to get training

Despite my best attempts to keep running regularly since the Berlin half, it hasn’t really happened. What with not running, and having just had a cat to stay in my flat for two weeks (which I was allergic to, and it played havoc with my asthma), I’m not feeling too fit at all right now.

I could have made training for the Great North Run in September really easy for myself if I’d have kept going to running club sessions, but I haven’t been for about six weeks now. With only a couple of gym sessions a week under my belt for the last month or so, it is definitely time to get training to a proper plan.

About two months ago, I drew up a 16 week long half marathon plan, which was really hard and really ambitious. In hindsight it was a little too hard, and I just ignored it. It also followed roughly the same pattern as my Berlin training plan, so just wasn’t remotely exciting. Last week, I removed it from the wall and started from scratch.

Here is attempt two at my GNR training plan.

Twelve weeks long. Running four times a week, with gym classes twice a week, and on the weekends I’m in London, an NTC class too. Bit worried as some weeks I’ll be running three days in a row, but one it’s a mix of easy, tempo and speed work, so should be oky. Although it’s not on the plan, I also need to incorporate some core work and the glute strengthening exercises I was given by the physio to avoid any knee troubles.

It’s pretty full-on compared to the amount of activity I’m doing now. But I’ve tailored it around plans I know I already have in place – weekends away, my birthday, holidays, which means there should be less reason to veer off course. Plus it’s colour coded. PLUS I have coloured stars as rewards. LET’S DO THIS… sub 2:15 here I come.


I’m the laziest runner I know

Seriously. Not only am I one of the laziest runners I know, but possibly one of the laziest people full stop.

I’ve had nine days away from work, and whilst I’ve managed to accomplish much of my holiday to do list (Hoover, clean, bond with the cat I’m looking after, dye hair, list many, many things on eBay…), this means I’ve barely left my flat.

So no GNR training happened this week, apart from one trip to the gym, where the boyfriend demonstrated his slightly wonky handstand…


Now there’s someone who knows how to go hard. He’s not lazy, damn him.