This year and next

So this morning I blasted my way through my last PT session of the century, feeling strong and fit and trying out my new Christmas kettlebell.

My fitness goals for 2010 are:

– Sprint tri (pool swim) – which one and when I don’t know yet.
– Sub 50 10k – targeting my ‘home’ race in April for this one
– Sub 2 hour half marathon – depends on whether or not I manage to get a place in the Great North Run again. If not then I need to find another one.
– Beat my Blaydon Race time and enjoy it as much as last time.
– Stay fit, strong and injury free.

2009 will stay with me as the year I fell in love with running.

Running was my refuge and release when I was threatened with redundancy. It gave me strength physically and mentally to take whatever got thrown at me. And yes, there were times when I couldn’t quite block everything out and my running suffered, but I battled through those too. Because it’s that important.

Running isn’t something I have always done, but it feels like it. It’s part of how I define myself, how I introduce myself now. It’s taught me new language – orthotics, tib band, and intervals for example.

It’s brought me new friends, true friends both in real life and through this strange interconnected world of the web. And it’s given me the confidence and passion to write for me again.

So I can say that 2009 has been a pretty good year, and that gives me the confidence to look forward to 2010 and smile at all the possibilities it brings.

Snow's gone

The ice has pretty much melted. The pathways are clear. The sun is shining and although it’s cold, there’s no wind. In other words, it’s a perfect day for a run.

But my dry throat has turned to a tickly, chesty cough that’s leaving me far shorter on energy than I should be. So I’m shutting the blinds, making a dent in the Christmas leftovers and snuggling up with David Tennant as the Danish prince this afternoon.

Please let this be a temporary blip. I want to be out there and running…

Snow’s gone

The ice has pretty much melted. The pathways are clear. The sun is shining and although it’s cold, there’s no wind. In other words, it’s a perfect day for a run.

But my dry throat has turned to a tickly, chesty cough that’s leaving me far shorter on energy than I should be. So I’m shutting the blinds, making a dent in the Christmas leftovers and snuggling up with David Tennant as the Danish prince this afternoon.

Please let this be a temporary blip. I want to be out there and running…

Festive round up

So that’s the Christmas festivities over for another year. Now I have a fridge full of leftovers, a huge pile of washing and endless things to watch on TV .

I think my favourite day was Christmas Eve. I do love my Thursdays starting with a tough training session on the beach and this was the toughest one ever. We slithered down the slope onto sands that looked like gingerbread topped with icing sugar and Ian really put me through my paces with the 12k kettlebell and some brutal accumulator circuits. But I felt fantastic, so strong and energised. And I got to try out my warm base layer – so I was lovely and toasty.

I love working with Ian. He’s so good at just pushing me a bit harder than I would myself, but not expecting too much. An ‘excellent’ from him is well earned. It makes me fill up with pride and want to try even harder next time. We slithered back up the slope for a post work out stretch and exchanged cards and Christmas wishes.

After that it was full on mission tidy-up at home. Kitchen, front room, bathroom, bedroom. Hoovering, dusting, putting things away. Changing the sheets was especially taxing after some killer tricep exercises. And then before I had chance to catch my breath I was running up and down stairs helping our first set of guests bring their luggage and presents in.

Pretty soon the front room was packed with people and presents and everyone talking ten to the dozen. Quite different from just the quiet old two of us.

First festive meal was a big success. Everyone squeezed round the new table and tucked into some champion steaks that Gary had butchered last week, with fresh organic veggies from the farm. We hadn’t thought about pudding, but luckily my mum had brought a chocolate cake. Fab – can’t remember the last time I had cake I haven’t made myself.

I felt pretty special on Christmas Day. A couple of unexpected text messages and phone calls from my dad and sister on Christmas morning made me feel that even though we weren’t all together, the people that matter most to me were all thinking of each other.

Six of us opening presents was pretty noisy, especially when some of the jokey books were opened. I loved all of the surprises and the fact that, like my birthday there was a running theme to many of my gifts. I got some gorgeous new training kit and shoes, as well as books and DVDs. Can’t be anything left on my Amazon wishlist! Thankfully my choices went down well too. Even though Gary was convinced that the bottle of Dandelion and Burdock was going to be a nice bottle of port!

Then onto Christmas dinner, which seemed to take forever to prepare. I thought cooking the turkey for three hours would give us plenty of time to get everything else ready and have a bit of a chill out, but it seemed we never stopped peeling, chopping, boiling and prepping until everything was ready to put on the table.

No one had anywhere else they had to go, so dinner was ready when it was ready and everyone enjoyed it. Especially my mum who has done it herself for so many years. It’s nice to be able to let her enjoy it without all the work. I really hope I told her how much I appreciated it when she was cooking for me.

Suitably stuffed, everyone cleared out of the kitchen and got the Scrabble board out and left us to get on with the tidying up. Thank goodness for dishwashers! Though Christmas dinner for six took two loads – so there go my green credentials.

I was meant to run on Boxing Day, but the icy conditions meant the race was cancelled. I felt really guilty as everyone had chivvied themselves out of bed and were coming to watch me in the cold. I still had all my pre-race adrenaline swirling around when we all got back to the flat. So I’m afraid I left them to it and went for a quick run along the beach, figuring that would be the safest place underfoot.

It was Boxing Day last year that I first went for a run because I wanted to. That was really the first day I knew it had clicked and it was no longer about ‘doing the cardio’ – it was something that I enjoyed in and of itself. So it was important to me to mark that anniversary. And now I feel like I’ve created my own tradition.

I love running on the beach next to the waves. There’s something so free about it. Despite it being busy with people walking their dogs or just getting some fresh air after a day’s indoor indulgences, I felt like I was in my own space, just enjoying the way I was feeling in my own skin. No time, no target distance, just a nice wee run. Here’s to many more in 2010.

Snow run

Snow topped trees
Snow pretty
White sugar crystals sparkle under an ice blue sky. Feet crunch through the firm softness. We fall into step so easily. Pick up the pace to a canter.

Logic calls out ‘cold, cold…beware’. Heart, lungs and legs steam out animal warmth. Bewildering senses are sharpened by sunlight.

Through the black and white collage of branches, along the river of spun glass we run. Blanked out pathways and grassways. Familiar landmarks made new.

Drawn back into memories of sledging and snow fights. Forgotten freedoms renewed. Running into the blank canvas. A wide road opens, full of possibilities.

A first time for everything

Well that’s another first for me, in a year of many running firsts. I decided not to chance racing at the Saltwell 10k.

The weather’s taken a festive turn, with a pretty sprinkling of snow settling on the pavements. Last night when I was out with the gang from the work’s gym, the consensus was that the race would be cancelled because of the weather. And when it’s slippery underfoot at the coast, you have to concede it’s likely to be even worse inland. So, given my generally clumsy nature, I decided that, this time, discretion would be the better part of valour. (Call me a wuss and I’ll challenge you to a session with the kettlebells…).

So I won’t be running – booo! But equally, I won’t be risking a break, sprain or twist that could seriously mess up my festive plans. I’d have liked to have run this race as it’s one of the country’s oldest road races. But there will be lots more races. And lots more chances to run.

Good luck to everyone who braves it today. May your feet be fleet and sure.

Feeling the benefit

I love my Thursday morning training sessions with my PT, Ian. I’ve been doing them for over a year now and not once have I thought, “I can’t be bothered”. They’ve never been boring and have always been challenging, pushing my fitness to new levels.

In the early days I’d sometimes get frustrated at some perceived weakness, at something I couldn’t manage, or some routine that wouldn’t stick in my head. But Ian was always there, coaching, encouraging and finding something to put me back on a positive track again. Now I go for everything he throws at me. Very rarely does something beat me, and if it does I get it next time. And I’m always rewarded with that good honest feeling of satisfaction that comes from a physical work out.

Ian’s been away on holiday for the past few weeks. I’ve kept up all the other things like running and classes and substituted a session in the gym, but it’s that PT session that’s still the highlight of my week and I really missed it.

So that was me this morning, back in the old routine of getting up, layering the kit on and jogging down to the beach, hoping it would soon be light enough to start.

We began with a bleep test, something I’ve heard about but never tried before. Shuttle running over 20 metres, gradually increasing the pace. It’s a good test of aerobic capacity and one that’s used as a quality measure for certain active professions. Different tests measure at different levels, but let’s just say I’d be fit enough to join the police force, and now I want to work up to army status!

Next we moved down to the beach for a series of exercises using a 12k kettleball. Ian puts these together into complexes, so it’s one exercise after another, working the whole body. I tend to lose track of what I’ve done, as I’m just listening to him explain and demo the next set each time, but here’s what I remember:

Pushup, burpee, clean, lift – 12 reps each side x3.
Swing, clean, squat, lift – 12 reps each side x3.
Travelling swings to the sea and back.
Travelling lift alternate arms to the sea and back.
Rows, pull ups 12 reps each side x3.
Abs: med ball side to side, sit up and throw 12reps x3.
Med ball slams against a wall then straight down.
Finish with a good routine of stretches and we’re done.

As well as the physical benefits, of burning fat, toning muscle and giving me a real cardio workout, these sessions really set me well for the rest of the day. I bounce home to a shower and scamper off to work knowing that I’ve already achieved something with my day.

In the swim again

I often do an aqua aerobics session on a Monday night, so this week I got to the pool early to get some front crawl practice in.

I warmed up with a length or two of breast stroke and then just went for it with the crawl, straight into 100m. Which made my little heart glad, as I have been stopping after 60 or 80m the last couple of times.

I’ve been checking out a few websites and watching some swimming technique videos, so there were a few things I wanted to practise. There are definitely a few things starting to fall into place now, such as the breathing out and swimming slowly to get the technique right.

I still stuff it up now and again and end up gasping for air, but I feel like I’m doing it less often and on one length I actually managed to get my breathing rhythm back – something I’ve not managed before. I managed another 100m set just to prove I hadn’t fluked it the first time and a few more 40, 60 and 80m sets.

I know it’s not a startling swim by any means, but I want to start measuring and comparing how I’m getting on so I can measure that progress. So I timed myself for a couple of lengths of front crawl versus the same distance breast stroke and at the moment they’re about the same. But even that’s not bad, as it shows I’m swimming crawl slowly to get things right, and I’m sure the speed will come when I don’t have to think about what I’m doing so much.

I think next time I want to build on the distance I can swim continuously without having to take a little breather. But all in all, it felt a lot better, a lot more relaxed.

And given that I managed about 30 mins swimming and another 45 mins aqua class, I don’t think stamina’s going to be too much of a problem 😉