Recovering and reviewing plans

I’m happy to say that after a couple of days of treating my ankle with ice and wearing a compression bandage, the swelling has almost gone and I’ve been able to walk around on it quite easily, although I’ve done my best to keep of it as much as I can.

But managing to get from my car to my desk and from my desk to where I need to be at work without too much of a limp is a long way from the kind of active lifestyle I normally enjoy. So it’s been a bit of a week off from training.

And that’s been hard at times, particularly on Thursday morning when I had to cancel my regular PT session. It’s been part of my life for so long and I so enjoy doing it, that I felt a bit bereft without my usual dose of exercise induced endorphins and encouragement from Ian. I’m afraid I was a bit sulky and low that day.

I am trying to be sensible and not make the mistake of rushing back into my usual activities too quickly and risking compounding an injury that I hope will clear up in a couple of weeks. But it feels like a waste of these splendid autumn days, and so I’m looking at things I can do.

I tried walking on the treadmill at the gym and a short swim on Wednesday night, not really enough effort to raise my heart rate, but I felt the effect enough to know that I shouldn’t push it to do any more.

Even swimming put a bit of a pull on my ankle, so when I went back to the pool on Friday morning, I took my pull buoy with me so I could eliminate my legs and swim mainly with my arms. A pull buoy is just a kind of float. In this case I stuck it sort of between my knees to keep my legs up without the need to kick with them. It’s a good tool to use to help you concentrate on parts of your swim technique, so I used it to focus on my head position in the water.

As I can’t run so much at the moment, it will be good to work on my swimming for the next triathlon season. A very good swimmer on Fetch Everyone has sent me some ideas for exercises I can practise in the pool to improve my stroke.

It may sound strange, but I am missing the hot sweaty buzz that I get from a good cardio session such as a fast paced interval run. Particularly as before I hurt my ankle I was just starting a new programme with a lot of this kind of activity in it. And if I want to keep my fitness up, I need to do something that will get my heart rate up. So I’m going to go back to doing some sessions on the indoor rowing machine and bike. They should also fit in well with next year’s triathlon plans.

Today I volunteered at parkrun and enjoyed meeting up with my friends, shouting encouragement and taking photos of the runners on Newcastle’s Town Moor. It’s such a friendly and social event and today was simply a lovely day to be outdoors.

I also picked up an exercise that I haven’t done since the beginning of the year, trying out a pilates class at my gym. It was a good test of my flexibility and core strength, so I’ll try to make time to continue some of those exercises at home too.

I’ve been making progress with my Level 2 gym qualification too. I’ve now worked my way through all the anatomy and physiology sections and am starting to learn about working with clients. It’s really interesting stuff. Luckily I’ve had such great experience with my PT, Ian from Inspire Fitness that a lot of it seems like second nature or common sense to me and it would just be the way I’d do things. But I want to take my time to take it all in and not take anything for granted.

I need to do a bit of revising, but I hope to take my first assessment in anatomy and physiology in the next few weeks.

All this is helping me keep a positive note on my injury as it’s really not the end of the world and people have far worse to deal with. But when you love what you do, like I do, you miss it when things change. Reading the notes on changing behaviours and setting goals for clients as part of my studying today made me realise I need to do a few of these things myself . And actually changing the way I do things could be good in the long term, as working on my cycling and swimming skills will really help me improve my performance during next year’s triathlon season.

Summer calling?

I’ve trained through the winter, fighting the darkness, sneaking early morning time before work to hit the beach with my PT. Dragging tyres across the sand, running with a weighted bag, throwing kettlebells around with abandon, layered up in hoodies, hats and gloves.

Now I rise and it’s daylight, bright and fresh. The sea’s refreshed the sand, wiped the slate clean, ready for a new start. We still get the place to ourselves, although there are more and more curious dogs now who bound over to come and see what the strange lady is doing. This week it’s a circuit, using the kettlebell for dynamic exercises and as a weight for others. Legs, arms, cardio, core. It’s tough but not impossible. I finish aglow and jog home, ready for whatever else the day throws at me.

Friday, I feel the healthy ache of a job well done and I pace myself through the day. At lunchtime I sing with the choir and it’s like another physical workout. The breathing and concentration sets my blood flowing and adrenaline pumping. Once again there are a couple of moments when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. The community, togetherness and joy is palpable. And we’ve improved so much in these few weeks’ of rehearsals.

As the working day draws to a close, I head out for a walk, realising that I’ve been stuck inside this glass and steel cage all day. I’m calmed and cooled, revived and ready for a long night ahead.

For this was no ordinary Friday. This was Sports Relief night. And as many of you sat down to watch the telly, I was set up for my first ever stint in a call centre, taking donations. As promised, it was great fun. A team of buddies kept us supplied with sweets, cakes, drinks, food and quizzes for the times when the phones were quiet. And when the calls came in there was a real excitement, cheers at large donations and just an appreciation of those giving what they could.

It was really nice talking to the people on the phone. I think I deserved a prize for the most regional accents though. I started with a Brummie, then progressed through Glasgow, Essex, Sunderland, and Northern Ireland. I’d been worried that I’d find the midnight finish tiring, but I was having too much fun, or too high on sweeties, chocolate and pizza to mind.

So I stirred without too much trouble on Saturday, ready for a stint volunteering at parkrun. Despite the mild weather there was a thick fog that showed no signs of lifting and shortly after 9am the stream of brightly coloured running shirts disappeared into the drifting grey.

Catching up with parkrun regulars, the first runner soon appeared at the top of the final straight, powering through the line in a very speedy time. And one by one, then in clumps and groups they began to arrive with barcodes and finish tokens to be scanned. Around 260 in all.

There’s a good team of volunteers  at Newcastle parkrun and this week everything went very smoothly. We were cleared and packed away quickly and the moor left to the silence of the fog.

Once home, with a few chores out of the way, the fog was still present as a cool sea fret out along the coast, so I took my chance to get out for a long run. I’ve built back up slowly by increments, keeping my pace steady and my running relaxed. But I wanted one run of 40 minutes or more under my belt to give me confidence and reassurance that I can tackle 5 miles next Saturday when I’ll be exploring the Olympic park.

It was odd being out in the sea fret. Happy travellers from sunnier inland were heading out to the sea and wondering what was going on. The sun was out and the air was warm, but the water droplets rolled in like smoke and hid the beach and sea from view. The odd voice travelled up through the dim.

I warmed up with my usual drills and then set my watch and started to pace out a steady beat. Familiar signs and landmarks hidden, it was just me and my run. Breathing and effort felt easy, almost as though every step was softened by the fog.

A simple out and back route, I stuck to my plan and although there were times when I felt I wanted to pick the pace up, I opted for the long run and clocked up the minutes, allowing myself a minute or so of tempo pace as I approached the finish point after 45 minutes running. An active cool down and some stretches and I was done.

It felt so good to be out running, no pressure, not too many worries about my injury, just taking it easy. And I’ve reassessed what an easy run is now. Aerobically it’s relaxed, but it’s still working my legs and lungs. And I have to watch I don’t fall into heavy footed plodding, but keep my feet light.

I still hanker for the speed that greater effort will allow, but for now I’m just enjoying running.  The pace will increase as I get the confidence of having banished this injury.

My foot largely behaved after my long run. I just felt a couple of twinges later that evening and by the next morning, there was just a small tight spot in my heel that I could not shift. But I’d done what I set out to do at the weekend and anything else was a bonus.

On Sunday I got out on my road bike again, exploring some of the many off road cycle paths and lanes and linking up a route to the Hadrian’s cycle way. We really are incredibly lucky to have so many cycle paths around North Tyneside. They sometimes take a bit of finding, and often take me on a longer route, but I’m starting to find lots of ways I can get around on the bike. It’s amazing to find yourself on pleasant paths winding along by the river and spotting landmarks from the areas Roman and industrial history.

I was out for an hour and a half and congratulated myself on managing a nice controlled descent and getting my chain back on when it slipped following a sudden stop for a rabbit darting across my path. I felt like I could have done more, but I had a half formed plan to surprise Penny and Sue who were out for a long run at the coast.

So after a quick stop at home for supplies, I set off again on my mountain bike this time to track them back round a familiar route. Penny was out doing a 20 miler as part of her marathon training and Sue was joining her for the last 8. I met up with them rather sooner than expected, coming down the waggonways and cycled on slowly ahead.

They were in great form despite the morning heat, just keeping going at a steady pace, and we enjoyed a bit of chat as we rounded back towards the coast and a finish at the Rendezvous cafe. It’s a heck of an achievement to have managed so much training and to have got that long run done before many people would be thinking of going out on a Sunday morning, so I just know Penny’s going to have a great race.

As for me, it was just good to be out and about, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and catching up with two good friends who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t started running.