End of Month 1

13 Feb 2017

Here we are at the start of Week 6 of running. Blimey! Way back, I thought I was agreeing to a maximum of 10 weeks of hellish jogging to accompany my determined friend, Mrs Persuasive. Instead, we’re now both as keen as mustard and have been keeping up our 3 running sessions a week: we run twice a week at night with other absolute beginners in a JogScotland group; the other weekly session is in the morning either alone or with my partner in crime. I prefer those early runs: although they’re hilly, they’re out in the countryside and away from town. Fresh air, birdsong, empty roads, a precise 6km circuit and views of snowy mountains – just heavenly! Mrs P is a bit faster than me, we’ve got similar stamina levels, and obviously I love being able to chat with her or comfortably stay quiet as we run around. The quiet countryside has another advantage – no-one else can hear you f and blind your way round that first 15 minute warm-up (it coincides with a loooong hill). Some people power up hills with pumping arms; others drop their hands and take tiny steps; me and Mrs P turn the air blue. Hey, it works for us…

One of the things that’s been motivating me out the door each time is seeing clear, obvious improvements every single run. To be fair, when you start at the rock bottom of Extreme Sport Biffdom, you’re always going to see an improvement at first! First it was accomplishing moving for any sustained length of time. Then it was seeing ourselves get faster and jog for longer. Finally being able to complete 6km at a jog/walk faster than I can fast-walk it was a big milestone for me! As was running in the rain and a few degrees below 0degC for the first time. On our last run together, we blasted through all of our fastest times for everything with each km run. Tonight, I’m determined to run the entire way up a particular nemesis hill without stopping again, to show it wasn’t a fluke last week.

So how are those stats looking? (Oh come on, you know by now I’m a total stats geek!)

Over 5 weeks and 72km total run, my time for moving over 5km is now 40 mins 31 seconds. My fastest time over a km is now 7m 25; fastest over a mile has been 12m 12.

Not wonderful times I know, but I’m very proud of this progress, and I’m looking forward to the next month. I still can’t believe that I actually feel this way!

menuThe warm-ups are still difficult for me. If I’m in public and can’t swear, then I generally motivate myself over those still-horrible first 15 – 20 minutes by thinking and chatting about what’s for my dinner later. So of course I persuaded Mrs P that we’d reward ourselves for completing a whole month of running with a great big huge Chinese Takeaway. I brought big bowls, napkins and forks with us that night, and we ordered before we ran. I tell you, we absolutely raced that last km back to the start! Then we sat giggling in the car like a pair of schoolgirls playing truant, troughing half our takeaways greedily (kung po chicken and egg-fried rice. Huge chunks of fresh vegetables and enough chilli to make my mouth feel as alive as the rest of me. But the less said about the crispy seaweed the better – I spat it out. Sugary!) Well, we’d figured they’d be freezing by the time we’d driven home. Honest…

This leads me to something that puzzled us briefly this past month. My friend is also doing MuTu to help her strengthen her core, so we frequently compare notes on how our bodies are getting stronger (or not: those sore legs from my idiotic session hurt for 5 days). My friend mentioned she’d put on 2lb. We agreed that it was unlikely to be muscle gain this early on. I guessed that it could be down to all the additional water that she was drinking. I’d also read some articles describing how new exercisers can put on a little weight for the first week or so as their muscles hold on to fluid to help themselves repair. It’s only a little and it soon goes as your muscles get stronger. That all sounded sensible to us. I stood on the scales to see whether I’d similarly gained a couple of pounds.

Ohhhh yes. And some! I’d gained 6lb.

Now, I rarely gain or lose more than a lb. Even over Christmas or summer. It just stays static. So a gain of nearly half a stone over 2 weeks is very significant. The cause? When I come home after a run at around 8pm and I haven’t eaten since midday, you need to lock up the fridge and hide slow-moving animals or I’ll hoover it all up. I’m so, so hungry! Yeah, I must have been eating 4000 calories to replace the 400 I’d burned off on my gentle little jogs. My appetite and exertion are not exactly balanced…

Meh. Uber eejit.

I stopped eating extra, made sure I ate lunch much later, and luckily the extra chub has sorted itself out. I didn’t cut down or (rinse your mouth out after saying it) diet. So as of today, weight-wise I’m back to where I started (11st 2. And whilst I’m recording stats, my waist is an unhealthy 33” but I’m not panicking because surely running will do something about that).

More importantly than weight gain or loss, though, I’m feeling a bit stronger in my legs (regaining muscle and stamina are my main goals), and my general mood has definitely improved. I’m less likely to spiral into a hard to shift gloom. Can’t say my temper’s calmed down any, though, as The Boss can attribute (from inside his fallout shelter). The minxes have stopped giggling at me in my running clothes and take it as read that on Monday and Wednesday nights, Mummy goes out to have fun running. They actually paid attention when I explained why warm-ups take so long and feel so horrible, and why I want them to persevere on their Daily Mile at school.

And actually, that’s the thing that my mind has really been chewing over this past week especially – what effect my running is having on the minxes. I thought going out 2 nights a week to run would be a bit of a general ‘good influence’ on the girls, and dismissed it as not being anything important. Now, though, as well as them quizzing me on how I could possibly be enjoying it so much, they’re offering up observations. Maxi said that I still shout as much, but the lead-up to the shouting is much longer. She asked whether running was making me more patient, or was it from me sleeping better? All 3 girls know I was the worst runner in my school (if not entire district) and are genuinely intrigued as to why I’m doing it, what I’m actually enjoying and how I’m managing to improve. They sat open-mouthed like baby birds when I described how I feel like I’m hurtling through space when I sprint, now (I know! Me! Sprint! Hahahahaha! It’s just when we did a little introduction to fartlek training and I discovered that I could run an awful lot faster than I thought I could. It was only over maybe 20m, so don’t get all excited…).

There’s that Nike advert and hashtag, #thisgirlcan. I’d always huffed and thought, aye, not me! despite telling my 3 girls that of course they and all girls certainly could do anything they wanted. Well, between us, Mrs P and I are showing 5 impressionable little girls that even us old birds can! It’s never to late to give it a try and just do it (to use another hackneyed advertising phrase. Sorry).

So: lots of introspective analysis going on in my little bubble this month, but it’s all good.

Lastly, to keep us going and on track, Mrs P talked me into signing up for a 10k mud obstacle race in the autumn. I’m easily led. I’m also so frightened by the prospect that Endomondo has recorded my running pace pick up every time either of us spoke the words ‘Banchory’, ‘beast’ or ‘September’.

I’m scared but also have a cunning plan. I’ll tell you about our plan to actually achieve this race without killing ourselves in the process in my next accountability post.

It Doesn’t Hurt

20 Jan 2017

It’s now 2 weeks since I started jogging with JogScotland, and I thought I’d start to write reasonably regular howgozit accountability posts.

So, how’s it been going?

Well, I’ve now been out jogging 5 times and (whisper) I’m really enjoying it. Remember I thought I’d hate it and be in bits? Well, I also thought each running session would only last around 20 minutes or so. I was wrong on all counts. The first session was just over an hour of walking / gentle jogging. Although I was a bit stiff the next day (hey, I’m 45, unfit and overweight!), nothing actually hurt. Subsequent sessions have been just under an hour.

This week I felt that there was a big jump in difficulty in terms of walking less and jogging for longer in one chunk. The first 3 sessions I felt a bit torn: on the one hand it was marvellous that I could keep up with all the other absolute beginners (a first for me), and that we were actively encouraged to keep on chatting and use the difficulty in maintaining a conversation as a guide to getting the effort right. Not a problem, I can do that! The group leader kept our speed slow and steady. But on the other hand, I felt a bit frustrated that I can walk our usual 5.5km route faster than we jog/walk it. Still, I trust the group leader. It’s a new and different way of doing things. And the old way I’ve always done things hasn’t worked up till now (go full tilt. If no success, beast self harder. If still no success, increase beasting until physical breakdown. If still no success, sulk and give up).

I worried a lot about my feet: despite being a beginner runner, I’ve chosen to run in barefoot-style shoes. I’ve been walking in them for 8 or 9 years to (successfully) strengthen very weak ankles that used to suffer sprains and twists every few months. I tried on a very old pair of old-fashioned wedge-heeled trainers I found at the back of the wardrobe (about 15 years old, but worn only twice). They felt awful, like I was wearing tight platform boots. But I’ve had to run often enough in the past to know that as well as running like an egg-whisk (think flappy knock-knees), I also have a very, very heavy heel strike. Bash-heel-then-flap-sole-down-splat. I can’t afford to splash out on new running shoes just now, even though I know that these and a good sports bra are the only running essentials all newbies need. Well, I got the sports bra in the M&S half-price sale (hooray!) and decided to wear my comfiest Vivobarefoots and just concentrate on placing my feet a bit more softly than usual.

breathosI was very bemused to discover that I must have got a free upgrade to ‘normal feet’ at some point in the past decade without me noticing: it feels that l pretty much land on the ball of my foot and push off on my toes. I don’t get sore feet (though sometimes the back of my toes ache a little). I certainly don’t get backache from jarring my heels on the pavement. This is amazing!

So how are the old stats? Well, after 5 sessions I can jog/walk 5.5km in 55 minutes. It’s maybe 50/50 jogging and walking. The first 20 minutes feel horrible, then after 30 minutes I start to feel quite normal and even happy. The warm-down feels fantastic – I can’t get enough of the bend over and stretch your lower back stretch.

It’s very early days yet, and the minxes are still giggling at the sight of their old ma heading out the door encased in tight leggings with a smile on her face, but so far so good.