Everyday Moments: Water

St. Austell Cornwall

Our Everyday Moments group has taken a bit of a break over the summer as we’ve all enjoyed holiday time with family. We’re back this month with the theme water and I didn’t struggle to find some suitable snaps as we had plenty of summer splash time.

The little man has been in a pool almost weekly since he was about 3 months old and he’s now growing into a confident swimmer. And while on holiday in Cornwall I couldn’t tear the little man away from the pool.

St. Austell Cornwall

Cornwall Pool

St. Austell Cornwall

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Please check out my friend Laura’s post to see where she’s been in the water this summer.

Berlin Marathon Training: Strength and Flexibility

4 Weeks Until Berlin Marathon

Four more weeks!

This week in my countdown to Berlin, I’ll share a little about how I add some strength and flexibility work to my Circle of Running. And let me preface this by saying that it’s not much. These are both areas on which I could spend more time and focus and, if I did, it would probably make me a better runner. But there is only so much time in the day and when it comes to making time for exercise, running is the priority now.

That said, there are a few activities I include in my routine to work on strength and flexibility, because they are important. I’ll also add that I’m not a personal trainer or other professional who really knows what they’re doing. These are just a few little things that I can fit into my schedule and that I feel make a difference to me.

Strength

I’m not a gym person. I hate the gym. Been there, done that. My days of having a gym membership are over. This is why I love running, it gives me the freedom to exercise on my terms, on my schedule. And, thankfully, as I’ve experimented with many different exercise routines over the years, I’ve learned that you don’t need lots of fancy machines at the gym to work on the kind of strength you need for running.

Instead, my strength training routine has been heavily influenced by Eric Orton and The Cool Impossible.  I read this book a few months ago and completely buy in to his concept of equilibrium.

Strength training is about muscle equilibrium – about making sure that the big, prime-mover muscles in the body don’t overwhelm the smaller supporting muscles, pulling the entire system out of balance and compromising efficiency.  It’s more important how well we move and how efficient we are in using our strength than how much weight we can toss around…..Equilibrium promotes movement, stability, endurance, and power.

So I work on building both the big and small muscles in my legs and especially my feet.  At least twice a week my workout routine includes dynamic strength exercises like strides (sometimes barefoot), uphill sprints, squats, skipping, high knees, or jumping in place.

And then there is the “storking.”   My family thinks I’m a little crazy as they see me randomly standing on one foot throughout the day.  “What the hell are you doing?” they ask.  “Building my foot strength,” I say!  These days pretty much any time I find myself standing around, I take it as an opportunity to stork.  In the shower, the queue at the grocery store, cooking, pretty much anywhere.  When working from home, I rarely sit and instead have my laptop at my standing desk (aka kitchen counter) allowing me to stork while I work.

In addition to my leg and foot work, about 2-3 times a week I also do stability ball exercises and planks to work on my core. After three abdominal surgeries, my core strength is basically non-existent.  Realistically, I should probably do some core work every day as the gap between strong core muscles and mine is about the size of the Grand Canyon.

Flexibility

Even in my youth I was never really flexible. I remember trying out for the cheerleading squad at age 16, strategically using my skirt to fake the successful execution of the splits just long enough to tick the required box.  (And hoping I’d never have to put this in practice if I made the squad.) Twenty plus years of a desk job have not improved this situation. So even if I weren’t running, this ageing, sitting at a desk, or commuting body could benefit from some regular stretching.

With regular running though, it’s even more important to incorporate flexibility work into my routine.  Running is a repetitive exercise and the same muscles are constantly contracting, shortening, and prone to overuse and injury.  How do I bring my muscles back into equilibrium?  Simply, yoga.

My yoga practice is still in what I’d consider very early days, I’ve only been practicing for about six months.  Like many runners, I started yoga in response to injury, I was trying to fix things that were wrong.  But now I believe this is the most important activity that I’ve added to my routine.  After a hard run (or a long commute) my muscles ache for some time on the mat, stretching and breathing the stress away.  Yoga is key to improving my longevity not just as a runner but as a human.

As Christine Felstead writes in Yoga for Runners (highly recommended):

Yoga restores the balance and symmetry to the body, making it the perfect complement to running.  Runners are often drawn to yoga to deal with specific issues, such as improving flexibility or helping with an injury.  Yet many are shocked at the world it opens up for them, specifically the strengthening capacity and the use of muscles they never knew they had.

Yes, that’s me.

I now have a 15-20 minute yoga routine that I complete religiously after every run.  This routine is focused on flexibility and stretching out those running muscles like tight hamstrings and hips.  In addition, at least once a week I have a longer more balanced session that includes not just flexibility but also poses that work on strength and balance. (Really, yoga is part of my strength training regimen as well.)

A couple of things that have helped start my yoga practice:

Yoga for Runners workshop with Emma Spencer-Goodier - I attended one of Emma’s workshops earlier in the year and it was fantastic.  It helped me understand the fundamentals of a good yoga practice as well as key poses important for runners.

Yoga Studio App – Love this app.  It gives me the freedom to practice my yoga routine anytime, anywhere.  It’s also infinitely flexible and the quality of the videos and instruction is superb, best yoga app I’ve tried.  And I love how at the end of every class it reminds me to “Bring that lovely after yoga feeling into the rest of your day.”

Next week, the hardest part of my routine, trying to eat right.

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Shantaram Countdown: 18 hours 14 minutes

The Snake and the Poppies

Oxfordshire Poppies

Summertime in England means poppy fields blooming across the countryside, one of my favorite scenes to photograph.  As always, they’re never in the same place each summer so finding them takes a keen observant eye as you travel around the area. (And a friend with an equally keen observant eye.)

This year, I arranged to meet my friend for a photo shoot in the field she’d spied.  We met in the afternoon after the little man and I attended a friend’s birthday party.  Which had face painting.  And you can’t tell your child that no, he can’t get his face painted because mummy wants to take some pretty pictures.  Or I can’t and didn’t.

So here he is, my little snake in the grass.

Oxfordshire Poppies Oxfordshire Poppies Oxfordshire PoppiesOxfordshire Poppies Oxfordshire PoppiesOxfordshire Poppies Oxfordshire Poppies

Berlin Marathon Training: The Hierophant

5 Weeks to Berlin Marathon

Five more weeks!

On the night last October when I found out I won a lottery place in the Berlin Marathon, asked my tarot deck a simple question. (Yes, I confess that find tarot infinitely fascinating but that’s for another time.)

Will I successfully complete the Berlin Marathon?

The card I drew representing my present, my focus, was the Hierophant, a mentor and trusted guide. This was, in fact, an answer that I already knew.

So I reached out to Coach Julia. I knew that there was no freaking way I could get around Berlin without her help and guidance.  Julia and the community of women who make Up and Running have been instrumental in keeping me motivated and running since I first found them and joined the 10K course almost two years ago.  Julia’s plan helped me complete the Reading Half and so I knew I could trust her to get me around Berlin.

Julia started by collecting details around my current level of fitness, my previous race times, and my marathon goals.  She then put together a personalized training plan and since June I’ve followed her plan to build out the solid core of running at the center of my Circle of Running,

For the first half of my training schedule, Julia sent my workouts a month at a time.  At the end of the first month, I reported back on my progress along with some of my times so that she could make any adjustments to my scheduled workouts for the next 4 weeks.

And then I got to week 9, half-way, test week. During week nine Julia had me head out to a track to complete both a 1km and 3km timed run, basically running that distance as fast as I could (not on the same day!) The goal of this was to test both my pure speed and then test my endurance at speed. After reporting both times back to Julia, she then sent me the remainder of my training schedule all the way through to Berlin.

(As an aside, I’m a geek, clearly, and am all about my running gadgets and data.  And the beauty of capturing loads of data about your running is when you see results.  When I first ran a timed 1km in the 10K course almost 18 months ago, I ran it in 5:13.  Two weeks ago I ran 1km in 4:36, over a 30 second improvement.  Now I know that’s not super fast, but the me of 2014 is faster than the me of 2013 and that’s all that matters.)

What does my running routine look like?

I run four days a week and am thankful that I’m training for an Autumn marathon as this means I can train over the summer and there are more hours of daylight in which to fit this in.  This makes a massive difference when trying to juggle marathon training with work and family.

The first 8 weeks of my plan were largely about building up my base, gradually increasing the amount of time and the distance that I ran.  My week typically included a mix of both endurance and speed work.  I ran long steady runs, runs in progression, and lots and lots of sprints, including hill work.  All of this at no specific pace.

Now, after test week, most of my workouts include intervals at a specific pace prescribed by Julia and based on my 1km and 3km times. I’m also still doing plenty of speed and strength work like hill repeats, squats, skipping, and high knees.

The toughest part of my routine has actually been mixing up my running routes.  I’ve quickly found myself at bored.com running many of the same routes over and over.  While there are loads of great local countryside footpaths and bridleways on which to run, these are over rough terrain on which I struggle to run at pace, an important aspect of my current training. As a result, I’ve stuck with the same paved routes.  But recently, to mix things up, I’ve found myself driving to other local areas for a run so that I can take in some different scenery.  And this helps my running mojo immensely!

So five more weeks of training.  Also, I will likely sign up for a half marathon in early September as a practice race.  I’m well aware that race days are a lot different from regular training days and I can only benefit from a practice run of all the logistics involved.

Tune in next week when I add strength and flexibility.

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(I mentioned last week that I was listening to the Shantaram audiobook during many of my runs and challenging my self to finish it before Berlin.  So I’m adding a little countdown.)

Shantaram Countdown: 24 hours 5 minutes

Not sure this is the best listening for building the running mojo as this week’s Shantaram runs have included a cholera outbreak in an Indian slum as well as some horrifying descriptions of the sanitary conditions in an Indian prison.

Lately: Our Holiday Trip to Cornwall

Cornwall 2014

This is my first summer figuring out how to juggle the summer holiday school break and a full-time job.  Thankfully, we’ve been able to manage the two month break by combining family support, summer camps, and holiday time.  And one of the things we’ve quickly learned is that sometimes we’ll need to split the holidays up, each of us taking holiday with the little man on our own instead of all together as a family.  It’s the only way the math works out.

So this summer, I took a week off and the little man and I went on a road trip to Cornwall, taking advantage of what has so far been a warm and sunny English summer.

No comment on why the little man sports a Brasil shirt during the World Cup instead of England.  But he said the yellow and green team was his favorite.

Cornwall 2014

The first thing he wanted to do when we arrived was jump in the pool.  Which we did.  And then I had a hard time getting him out again.

Cornwall 2014

This East Coast girl is still fascinated by the long steep walks down to the beach from the top of the cliffs in England.  I think about all the coolers and beach chairs that I would lug across the Virginia sand and there is just no freaking way.  Getting to these beaches is all about travelling light.

Cornwall 2014

And then my dinner date wore his napkin as a crown.

Cornwall 2014

I’d long wanted to visit the Minack Theatre set into the cliffs at the southern edge of Cornwall.  It’s a stunning place to see and I suspect one of the most unique places in the world to watch live theatre.

Cornwall 2014

Cornwall 2014

We drove down first thing in the morning to catch the Squashbox Theatre show.  A morning spent laughing at dinosaurs, giants, and volcanos as we looked out across the sea was brilliant.  And the BBC was there filming a series about the Minack so keep an eye out for us in the audience when it airs.

Cornwall 2014

We spent the rest of the afternoon at nearby Porthcurno Beach digging in the sand and playing at the edge of the water.  I’m not going to lie, the water is beautiful but it’s cold and I was a coward without a wetsuit.

Cornwall 2014

Cornwall 2014

We enjoyed lots of sunshine and time by the pool and I’m grateful to have been able to spend a week enjoying the company of my favorite little person.

Cornwall 2014