Keeping it interesting: June and July

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post like this (November, in fact), which just goes to show how little cross training and how much running I’ve done this year.

But as it’s a time where I’m not really in full on training plan mode, plus I’ve got a tight hip niggle that won’t go away, I’m enjoying much more than just running at the moment. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Cycling

I bought a bike in April last year. I then rode it twice, folded it up under a desk for 8 months, moved house and then kept it in the garage for another 5 months. But last weekend I took the bold move and wheeled it – with pancake flat tyres – over to Evans Cycles at Fenchurch Street and asked for it to be made roadworthy again. Turns out, all that meant was pumping up the tyres and oiling the chain. Embarrassed at my incompetence, I rode off into the rain and off on an adventure.

Down by Regent’s Canal at Mile End Park

That weekend, I rode a few miles around Limehouse and Mile End, 6 miles up to North London, then all the way along the canal the next day from Angel to Wapping.

Since then, I’ve sorted out bike parking at work and rode to work most of last week. It’s ace! It’s less than 25 minutes from my front door to my desk and for where I am in East London, cycling is always the quickest way to get to where I need to go. I am LOVING cycling at the moment.

Limehouse Basin

Bootcamp Pilates

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to try out HIIP (high intensity interval Pilates) by Bootcamp Pilates at their City studio, which is nestled right behind Old Street station, only a 20 minute walk over from my office. It was a really humid evening and the mix of floor based cardio and strength exercises, interspersed with body conditioning sections on the reformer got me really quite sweaty in their basement studio.

I’ve really enjoyed the couple of reformer classes I’ve done in the past, but this class I found that little bit more engaging. We did exercises like squats, burpees, push ups and lunges, as well as some moves using dumbbells, on a mat placed to the side of the reformer. These were typically sets of two exercises done three times, before switching to work on the reformer, which was more stretching focussed, along with moves like planks and bridges.

I liked that we switched between on and off the reformer regularly, it meant I wasn’t hating being worked up into a sweat doing endless burpees, but also wasn’t getting too bored just lying on the reformer for an hour.

As you can see from the photos, I had the pink, shiny face of concentration on throughout the class! It was challenging but moves were adapted up or down based on ability. I know that this kind of workout would do wonders for my running, so I’ll definitely be back.

Classes are £19 off peak, £27 peak – so pricy! But Bootcamp Pilates do an intro offer of 2 for £12 on off peak classes (which only excludes weekday evening classes).

Lifting

My brilliantly fit and constantly active friend Charlie makes a great gym buddy. Over the last few weeks, we have managed to fit in four trips to my gym (Virgin Active Barbican) together. I really hate running before work, but I love going to the gym. She comes up with the workouts, shouts at me when my weights aren’t heavy enough and I just go along with it and feel great afterwards.

I only have the rest of July left on my membership, but then I am probably just going to pay as I go at other gyms and take advantage of the fact you can train for free on Fridays at Fitness First if you’re running Royal Parks (which I think is a fantastic link up!)

This week, it was an upper body session for me, and a legs session for Charlie. One day I will feel confident enough to step up to the squat rack alone…

Marathon training is a go

It’s here. The start of 18 weeks of running, stretching, eating and a lot more running. Marathon training starts today.

I’m scared, excited, apprehensive and interested to see what is going to happen. I haven’t come across a single person who says they regret training for and running a marathon (and if there is someone, I don’t want to know about it now thanks), so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s ahead.

For the last 8 weeks, I’ve been ‘building a base’ – which was supposed to be practice in running four times every single week, but in actual fact has seen me managing an average of only 11 miles a week. I’m looking forward to looking back and laughing in the face at 11 miles a week.

I don’t think I’m starting from a bad place though; I ran 3 races in November, all in times I’m pretty pleased with. Nonetheless, it’s going to be a massive step up in frequency and mileage. I also need to fit in regular yoga sessions (for my own sanity as well as for the physical benefits), so from now until April 6th I expect my life to be a constant cycle of run, work, yoga, eat, sleep, repeat. Sometimes gym. Sometimes Pilates. A heck of a lot of running.

This will also be an interesting few months to see how I cope with marathon training mentally. I overthink EVERYTHING and plan things to the smallest detail. I haven’t even started doing it yet, but I’ve spent so long staring at my training plan, I’m pretty sure I could recite it from memory. Last night, I looked at it for so long, I actually felt a little sick. I’ve even had a marathon race panic dream. It is four months away.

Wish me luck…!

Five ways running changes your life (other than the obvious)

You develop a weird hybrid dress sense

Whether it’s wearing your trainers to the office so you don’t have to carry them around or popping to the shops after yoga still clad in leggings, incorporating fitness into your life also means incorporating the clothes you need to wear. I’ve got to the point now where I actually prefer and feel more comfortable in sportswear, so even on days I’m not working out, I usually end up in a combo of normal clothes and Lycra.

You become a permanent packhorse

Much like the above, you will find yourself in a constant cycle of either being on your way from or to a class/yoga practice/the gym. This requires stuff. I wish I could rock up to the office in my runners but until that becomes acceptable, a change of clothes (along with post-workout beautifying tools) is a necessity. I’m still working on the most efficient, least annoying way to cart my stuff around – I recently bought this purple number by Nike, but nothing helps the weight of feeling like I’m lugging half my possessions around the Tube network. Sigh.

Your attitude to food and drink changes

Well I found it did anyway. I’ve not become a calorie counting, macro measuring athlete by any stretch (I will happily admit I don’t have the self control or determination for that), but I’ve found I do pay more attention to the ingredients in things. I try to avoid eating too much bad stuff, and have really tried to be better at taking my own lunch and snacks into the office. Thanks to my dessert loving boyfriend, I eat something for pudding after pretty much every evening meal, but it’s more about being aware of the balance between how much you move and how much you eat.

You become more of a planner

I always have and always will be a planner, but now I’ve committed to training for the Paris marathon, this seems to ramped up a notch. I’ve made a mega training plan that’s 8 pieces of A4 stuck together (!) and it’s already kind of turned into the main calendar we’re using in the flat for planning anything up until May 2014. I’ve already got every fitness class and gym trip I’m doing for the next two weeks planned out as I’m trying out a few new places. If you’re training for a particular race, it becomes a bit of necessity to plan out when you’re going to fit it all in. If only I could work part time.

You always have a conversation starter

Naturally any other runner will be able to natter on about running for quite a long time (possibly even hours), but I’ve found being a runner can also help when chatting with normal (or should that be non-normal?!) people. In the office, I’m known as the girl that runs, and although it can get annoying when you have the same conversation fifteen times over about that race you ran over two months ago, sometimes that’s preferable to the awkward silence/tea making shuffle around each other/queue for the microwave in the kitchen.

How else has running changed your life (other than the obvious)?

I don’t want to run

I really don’t want to run at the moment, I just don’t feel like it.

It’s not that I’m being completely lazy, I just want to do everything apart from running. I don’t know what it is about yoga at the moment (it might be seeing progress in the form of a millisecond long headstand last weekend), but I am LOVING practising yoga at the moment. I got my very own yoga mat (no more lying on the feety/sweaty/smelly borrowed ones at the studio!) and Sweaty Betty yoga gear for my birthday which I want to break out at every opportunity. It makes me feel strong and wobbly and sweaty and relaxed all at the same time. I want to get really good at it (and I now really want to go to this Greek yoga retreat next year – I best get saving).

Also distracting me from running is the gym. I completely caved into, well I’m not quite sure what pressure as I wasn’t really under any, other than the fact I can see the Virgin Active sign from my desk, so it seemed ‘stupid’ not to join a gym literally a stones throw from my office. Not necessarily sound logic, but I’ve done it now, so I need to make use of my (verging on the edge of ridiculous) monthly fee. This morning I tried spin for the first time in YEARS. Urgh, it was hard. But now I’ve no excuse not to fit in classes/swimming/stretching/strengthening on my lunch break or before or after work.

Whilst all this other stuff is lovely and all, it doesn’t really help the fact that I am running the Copenhagen half marathon in THIRTY DAYS.  The furthest I’ve run in preparation for this is 7 miles. EEK. So, as much as I’ve got classes to try out and yoga to practice, they’ll still be there in a month’s time. For now, I need get my weekend long run on, get some miles in and run. Even though I really don’t want to.

Bokwa Fitness

Last week I noticed a few posters going up in my gym for a trial session of a new class called Bokwa Fitness. I’d never heard of it before, and the poster looked a bit Zumba-esque. Even so, I did a quick search and found Bokwa described as:

an intense cardiovascular workout combined with South African war dance, Capoeira, Kickboxing and Steps. It has been proven to burn a great amount of calories making it easier for weight loss goals. Through the use of fast paced extreme movement, a fun, challenging, and energizing total body workout was created

I had no interest in doing the class for weight loss, but the combination of dance, Capoeira (something that I’ve never dared to try) and Kickboxing sounded good. Plus I’m becoming more up for trying new ways of getting a cardio workout.

I’ve never done Zumba, but the fact the instructors of this class also teach it, makes me think they are perhaps similar. A quick flick through YouTube and I think they do look quite similar, but I’d say Bokwa is a bit more ‘steppy’ and a bit less ‘hip shaky’ than Zumba.

Here’s a clip of the Bokwa Fitness DVD to give you an idea:

I actually quite enjoyed this class – it basically used different variations of stepping forwards, backwards and side to side with jumping and kicking thrown in between. The videos I’d seen on YouTube all used quite generic music, but this was done to the gym classic of chart remixes. I can see how it’s a good cardio workout – my feet did not stop moving for the whole sixty minutes, in fact the balls of my feet were starting to feel it by the end thanks to all the bouncing. As it was a taster session I’m sure it could definitely be ramped up more to give even more of a workout.

There was a little bit of whopping (definitely not for everyone) and a small amount of booty shaking, for which my skinny little white girl ass was definitely not up to the job! The class moves at quite a pace and follows a routine which is built up to the end when all the movements were repeated together. Having danced a lot when I was younger, I was comfortable following all the sequences – but this is definitely a class that requires coordination and an ability to follow a basic routine. I’m definitely going to give the class another go and see how I get on, I’d say it’s one of those classes that you just have to give your all and not be shy to get the most of out it. As there’s some dance moves in it, you just have to go for it – you’ll get more enjoyment and more of a workout that way anyway.