Goodbye 2013…

In my drafts folder, I have a post I’d been working on that speaks about how much can change in a year. It really can. I’d written how in the last year and a bit, I’ve been in four different jobs and lived in four different places. I had felt a bit lost, but I was writing about how now, at the end of 2013, I am finally in a proper, grown-up, progressive job that I am (or at least will be) good at and how I am living in the city I love with the man I adore, after 18 months of long distance. (It was all a bit smug really.)

Then, just over a week before Christmas, the man I adore decided he is no longer happy in our home, and left. And now, comparing my life to 12 months ago seems frankly ridiculous, as the biggest change has happened almost immediately. A lot can change in a year, but then even more can in just one moment. There’s a lot I don’t know now, including where I’ll end up living.

I  thought I had 2014 all sorted and settled. As if life is that simple. Last year, I tried to set new goals at the start of every month, and review them as I went along, as I thought this ‘bite size’ approach was better than leaving the same unattainable targets hanging for a whole year. Well that didn’t work either. If these last few weeks have taught me anything it’s that as much as I want to be an organised, super planned control freak, a lot of the time you just have to roll with the punches. So that’s what I’m trying, and will continue to try, to do. Change can happen at anytime, someone just needs to inflict it.

So, here’s to a year full of uncertainty. A year of being strong no matter what happens.

Race report: Mo Running 5k Battersea Park

Just a super quick one for a super quick race (and also because I completely forgot to take any good photos)…

I only decided to run this race about a week before, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It was good as it meant to anticipation or expectations. I met Leah on the bus to Battersea Park – we got there super early, but just soaked up the atmosphere and decided to take it together at an ‘average’ pace. After admiring the many mo’s and costumes, we set off promptly at 10am.

For the first half of the race, I felt like I was being pulled along by Leah, but then I decided that maybe we were just going at her average pace. Half way through we sort of realised we were in fact going quite fast for a race we were supposed to be taking easily, but only slowed down for probably a couple of minutes. I’m convinced it was the smell of food at the beginning, I was so hungry…

After coming through half way round the second lap, I realised I could PB if we kept it up and so I even sped up a bit… (sorry Leah for the 8:31 third mile, definitely against the original plan!) We came in a second apart at 27:03 and 27:04 – a new 5k PB for me! Next time, we are gunning for Leah’s PB for sure!

Didn’t quite hit ‘start’ at the start…

A great little race, flawlessly organised, with a cracking medal. Perhaps a little on the pricey side at £17 for a 5k, but at least there was a free bacon sarnie at the end to soften the blow. Bring on the Mo Running 10k in Greenwich Park in just under two weeks…

Who else is Mo Running this year?

Keeping it interesting: November

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.)

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)?

The Om Yoga Show 2013

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.