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.

The Olympic torch relay reaches Nottingham

On Thursday (28th June), the Olympic Torch Relay finally passed through Nottingham. I was, rather geekily, way too excited about this. In fact, a month ago on the 29th May I had a moment of madness and thought I’d missed it. Then I remembered it wasn’t arriving until June.

Last week, the usual panic stricken emails flew around the office warning everyone of travel chaos. Everyone just seemed bothered about their journeys to and from work. I was the only one subject to Olympics fever.

I do a kind of reverse commute – I live in the middle of Nottingham and commute three miles out of the city centre to get to work, so to get to the torch meant heading towards home. Anticipating grid lock later in the day, I left work just after 3pm. On my home I passed through the Old Market Square (the scene of the evening’s main evening’s celebrations), all the TV crews were setting up in preparation.

There were plenty of stalls set up, mostly run by the Torch Relay’s three main sponsors, but also this union jack cart.

In the Market Square, there was an awesome atmosphere, I couldn’t believe how many people were out. Loud music, big screens and road closures all added up to a festival atmosphere. I was in the same place to see the Queen on her Jubilee visit a few weeks ago, but there were more people out for the flame. I decided to head up to the Lace Market area for the relay as the route was a lot sparser.

The first police bike to come through stopped for a high five.

The thing that struck me most is the sheer amount of sponsorship surrounding the relay. I’ve been listening to all the coverage on the Chris Moyles show on Radio 1 and have even had a few quick views of the live webcam on the BBC website. Obviously none of this shows or mentions the mass sponsorship convoy that precedes the actual torch relay – we had three huge floats packed with promo guys and gals from the three sponsors pass by us about 10 minutes before the flame. There were promo people walking the route, and it became evident that their main job was to try and get in as many camera shots as possible. I know that none of the relay would be possible without the sponsorship, but it did seem to divert a little away from the real point of it all.

Just before the torchbearer came through the union jack lined route was the biggest police bike convoy.

Finally the torch came through our stretch. A quick look on the extensive BBC torch relay website and I found out that this was 64 year old Barry O’Dowd who set up and runs Bulwell Hall Boxing Club in Nottingham. All his friends and family were stood just to the left of me being interviewed for BBC Radio Nottingham – cheering very loudly, they were clearly very proud.

The flame heads off into the sun towards Old Market Square, where it then got handed over to Torvill and Dean who lit the cauldron which marked the end of day 41.

New kicks #1

Not running shoes, but I got some new sneakers today that I’m just so excited about I had to post a quick picture.

I’ve never really been into trainers, in fact I don’t think I own any that I don’t run in (which is only two pairs). But for some reason recently I’ve been obsessed with checking out other people’s footwear, especially when down in London and have got to the point that I’m starting to covert so many pairs I’ve dedicated a whole Pinterest board.

So, the first pair of what I fear will now be a growing trainer collection are these Superga House of Holland collaboration lilac leopard plimsolls. In a massive day-after-payday cliche, a huge asos delivery arrived at work for me today, but these are by far my favourites.

Now I just need to keep me and my start of the month bank balance out of Niketown this weekend.

I bought my new kicks here

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?