Monday, 1 June 2015

A Lot Can Happen in a Year

I've signed up to #Juneathon again, which means I have to exercise every day - and blog about it. I'm up for that, on condition that "A gentle Sunday stroll" constitutes exercise.

So, what has happened since last year? Did I lose lots of weight? No. Still trying there. Did I get fitter? Well, yes - I'm fitter now than I've been in years.

This time last year I'd just signed up to Couch 2 5K. I've now completed it. It's a nine-week programme and took me the best part of a year because I kept failing weeks and having to re-do them. In particular the first 20-minute run (I think it comes at the end of week 6) was a killer. It took me a long time to build up to that. Then I had a problem with my foot and couldn't run for all of December which put me right back to square 1. (Turns out the problem was with my trainers. You have to buy new ones occasionally. Who knew?)

Next month I am running an honest-to-goodness 5k, and I am determined that I really will run it all. At the moment I can run for 30 minutes, but that doesn't actually equate to five kilometres. Probably not even 4, in fact. So lots of training to do this month. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Having the Right Equipment

I haven't blogged for several days, but I have exercised. Not sure whether I have failed at Juneathon or not.

On Saturday I went to Primark and bought a new running outfit. When you're exercising every day it's quite tricky if you've only got one set of running clothes to wear. I've yet to try out my new gear as it's best suited to very hot days, and we've not had any of those since I bought it.

It did get me thinking about three new but surprisingly vital pieces of new kit I have invested in for my running, and how important it is to have the right equipment.

1. Sports Bra
These are fab! Who knew? Not being terrifically well endowed, I hadn't thought it could make any difference, but having bought one on Saturday I am now finding running a much more comfortable experience.

2. App
I downloaded a Couch25K app and used it for week 1. It was fine, with beeps and brief instructions at the right intervals, but I then found that I had to buy the full app for week 2. Blow that for a game of toy soldiers, I downloaded a new one - the NHS Choices app, which is free. It's much better. The voice is reassuring, gives encouragement and tips, and it's much quicker and easier to use. I'm actually looking forward to going out with it today. And of course it does all the usual stuff you'd expect it to do, like posting to Facebook and playing my music.

3. Belt
My iphone holder thingy which straps round my arm broke, so I dug out a belt version instead (pictured). I like it better because it's roomy enough to hold my door key, my inhaler and my phone, but still small enough to tuck out of sight under my t-shirt. It's comfortable to wear and fully adjustable for when I (hopefully) get thinner.

So now I'm wondering what other equipment I need to make my running easier. Particularly trainers. I run in Reeboks which cost about £30, but I'm open to suggestions of better footwear.

Friday, 13 June 2014


I haven't noticed my times getting faster, or the distances feeling easier, but I think I am getting better at this running lark.

What makes me think that? I'm recovering more quickly after a run.

Don't get me wrong - I still arrive back at the house beetroot red, gasping for breath and sweating so much I leave a trail of slime across the kitchen floor, but these days it's only a couple of minutes before I'm feeling normal again. When I started out I had to sit down for five to ten minutes with a large glass of iced water before I could get my breath back and hobble into another room. My legs generally ached for several hours afterwards, and I stayed a fetching crimson colour for at least an hour.

Today I ran 3.75km, grabbed a quick drink and headed back out again to pick up my daughter. I felt pretty much normal just two minutes after finishing my run, and my legs no longer hurt after running.

It may not be slashing minutes off my time, but 'll take every sign of improvement I can get.

Just for the fun of it, here's how I look immediately before and immediately after a run. (Not pretty. Sorry.)

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Running with Oscar

Today was an enforced rest day. My Couch to 5k app insists that I don't run every day, so I chose instead to go for a very long walk with my sweet little standard Schnauzer, Oscar. We strolled around Thundersley, enjoyed the sunshine, probably walked about three miles in total and hopefully that counts as enough exercise for the purposes of Juneathon.

When I first started running, I tried taking Oscar with me. Inspired by pictures like this one, I thought it would be fun to have him trotting along at my heels.

Big mistake. I had to stop every time he wanted a wee (he's a male dog, so every couple of minutes) or a poop (at least twice each outing). Add to that stopping suddenly every time we passed any sort of discarded edible, or interesting smell. He's a stocky and strong dog, so he would comically pull me up short as he threw all his weight into standing still. And when he saw a squirrel...well, put it this way, I may have to learn to run up trees.

But the most fun I have ever had running (and I don't enjoy running at all, yet) is when I run with Oscar. It's generally in the morning, on the way back from the school run. I wear my running gear to save time later (I only get one hour free a day) and we walk the first part while Oscar is on the lead, then I unclip his lead, and we run home. It's about ¾ mile on a wide, flat and level path, well away from the road, so it's perfect.

Oscar loves running alongside me, his little ears flapping in the breeze, his tongue lolling out. He veers off course several times, but when I call him he sprints to catch up with me. Sometimes he wanders across my path and I almost fall over him, but I just yell at him and he moves eventually. Off the lead he's a great little running buddy, and it's still the only time I enjoy running.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

And breathe...

Last night I took a deep breath. And another one. It was heaven.

Let me explain. I've suffered from asthma since I was a child. I take the usual blue reliever inhaler, plus inhaled steroids twice a day to prevent an attack. When I'm going through a bad patch, I have to sit on the bed for a couple of minutes to recover from the exertion of going upstairs. I always have the sensation of never quite being able to get enough air into my lungs. You know how you feel when you get a chest cold, or a lung infection? That, but all the time.

Until last night when I found, for the first time in many years, that I could breathe in to the point where I actually felt that my lungs were full. Even typing this now I'm revelling in drawing in that wonderful delicious oxygen. My lungs currently aren't as clear as they were last night, but it's undeniable that my asthma has improved.

I'm putting this down to the exercise. I've been running for around two months now, and swimming for over a year. I'm losing weight and getting fitter, and the health benefits are starting to show.

I may not enjoy running (yet), but I really, really enjoy breathing, and I'm so happy that I can do a lot more of it now.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Ten Reasons I Love Swimming

It's a swimming day today. I like swimming much more than running, and here's why:

  1. I don't sweat and go beetroot red when I swim
  2. I don't have bugs fly into my mouth
  3. It's extremely easy
  4. I'm much better at it than I am at running (In other words, there are often many people in the pool who are slower swimmers than me, but I've yet to meet a slower runner.)
  5. I can do it whatever the weather
  6. Sometimes (today!) I get to have a lovely few minutes in the spa afterwards, and I always get to have a really nice shower (using someone else's hot water)
  7. I don't ache afterwards, or get injured (apart from having "swimmer's shoulder"--tendonitis in the rotator cuff--a couple of weeks ago)
  8. It still burns around 400 calories in 30 minutes
  9. After years of trial and error, I finally found the perfect swimming attire - an M&S tankini. Covers plenty, holds in my fat bits, but still convenient to wear under clothes before my 2pm mad dash to the pool.
  10. I just downright love being in the water, and under it is magical, even in a pool.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Why Not Just Walk?

One thing I'm enjoying about Couch to 5k is that it insists on a five minute walk before I start running. I enjoy walking, especially in this sunny weather.

I read the other day that running a mile burns the same number of calories as walking a mile. In other words, I could get the same results without half killing myself. In even more other words, what's the point of trying to run 5km when I can already walk it? 

Well, here are the answers:

  1. Time. I can run a mile in ten minutes, but it takes me twenty minutes to walk it. In other words, I burn those calories in less time. When I run back from the morning school run I get home with a good five minutes to relax before I am due to start work (I work from home, 9-2). When I walk back I often open the front door to the sound of the office phone ringing. I'm usually pretty short on time, so being able to run buys me more.
  2. Afterburn. Running raises the heartrate considerably, and that can burn an additional fifty or more calories in the half-hour after my run is over. I don't get that with walking.
  3. It might not be true anyway. More recent research suggests that, in fact, running burns around 26% more calories for the same distance as walking. Studies are ongoing, so I shouldn't throw in the running towel just because the urban myth is that it doesn't make a difference which I choose.
  4. I may claim to be running just for weight loss, but in fact the underlying reason I want to lose weight is because I want to be healthy. I want to lose weight so that I reduce my risk of heart attack, stoke and diabetes, so that I can be active without getting out of breath and so that I can improve my asthma and my general quality of life. Well, running gets me to those goals too. I am not running for weight loss, I am running and losing weight in order to be healthy.