Friday, March 28, 2014

Can you Hear me?

 (not the gym in question)
It seems I have been labouring under the misconception that I am an articulate woman. I always thought my communication was straightforward and direct. It seems this is not the case.

It seems that when I approach a staff member at a university gym and ask for a fitness assessment, I am actually asking for a Personal Training session. When I say I am smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve for weight/BMI/body fat percentage and am not interested in advice on nutrition, it means I really need to talk to their PT who specialises in nutrition advice. And it's okay, she's a woman, she'll totally get my specific needs. He kindly offered me a blow-by-blow tour of all the great cardio machines. I told him I was interested in strength training and he tried to show me the cardio machines some more. He was then slightly put out when I said I really wasn't interested and lead me past the weights to show me pictures of all of the PTs with their qualifications and big smiles. I stopped listening and nodded and smiled and fumed.

Everything I've ever hated in a gym rolled up into one neat package. 

(also not the gym in question)
Rows of neatly laid out machines, facing the big glass windows and the outside world. Slim gym bunnies bouncing on stair machines, the guys lifting weights over there. All very clean, attractive and so, not me.

I go to the Sportspark to swim. I could be tempted by the circuit training, except that only happens at lunchtimes and I'm in another part of the city. Everything else they can keep.

All I wanted was a proper, scientific assessment of my fitness. I want to have accurate data so when I start the next part of my training I'll have solid base measurements as a guide. I know, I know I'm odd. But you would think that the university gym, where all of these shiny PTs were trained, would be totally up for the odd. 

The PT I met on Tuesday evening, who might have been confused by my request on the phone was straight up about it. He might have thought I was odd, but he was up for the challenge. I'm meeting him for my first session at 7 am Monday and I'm now confident I made the right decision; about the gym and about him.

All I've committed to is three sessions next week. I haven't signed up at the gym or agreed to sign up. I can pay as I go. If I hate it, I will bail PDQ. I see myself doing two weeks with him and then fly solo, with occasional sessions to check my form and progression. Or at least, that's the Plan*.

Tomorrow, I'm off for a Yoga Day. I'm really looking forward to it. I know I'm in safe hands and the thought of spending a day stretching out and meditating is absolute bliss.

* we all know how well my Plans can work out

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

There is no Finish Line...

After my run yesterday, I could have crawled into my bed and cried. Talk about going backwards and painful: I was so slow and my shins, my word they hurt. Instead, I slapped on some Tiger Balm and made a phone call. I've got to the point where I need advice. But again, whose can I trust?

There's so much information out there and so much of it is conflicting. Like many other industries, the fitness industry seems to have fallen into different camps that really don't talk to each other and spend a lot of time slagging everyone else off. They want you to spend your money with them exclusively. Throw diet into the equation and Oh My Goodness, welcome to hysteria. 

I picked up and called a gym wanting a proper fitness assessment. When I picked up the phone I thought having a proper assessment of my heart rate and VO2 max would be useful to me as a bench mark. Instead, I got a consultation. I think it was a good outcome. I went down there to have a chat and a look around last night.

The gym itself is small, shabby and smells of sweat and testosterone. Boy knows it's reputation as a body builders gym and was immediately concerned. When you go in, you immediately see the weights. Lots of space to lift. There are a few machines and the obligatory mirrors. The cardio machines are out back. I didn't bother to go there. It always seems to be a surprise to some. I'm stroppy enough that I enjoy the surprise.

My consult was with a young, strapping, dreadlocked, dude. He listened as I told him what I wanted. 

Apparently, what I want requires a bit of adjustment on his end of things. Because I want strength and speed and flexibility. Apparently, it's more normal to want one thing and to focus on that thing. I think that's just mainstream blinkers and laziness from their programme design end. From my own tiny bit of experience, I know I got on much better on the bike, after I did my exercise DVDs. Yes, in order to be a better runner I do need to pound the miles on the pave. However, if my legs, core and arms are stronger and work more efficiently, I will be able to bring power to my running. Something, I don't have a lot of right now. There are some who say more muscle mass means slower. If it means better endurance and an ease in the aching in my shins, I'm totally cool with making the trade off. But something tells me that won't be the case.

I don't think I will be ready for the Norwich Half Marathon this year.

This realisation irks me no end. I would have loved to have been able to run it this year. It would have given me great pleasure to have done it. To be able to run against the regular runners at work. But there you go. That's about ego.

The goals I've set aren't about this year, or even next. I haven't given myself a time limit. I will do those 13.1 miles and when I run them I'm going to do it from a position of strength, not a position of ego and desperation to prove myself. The miles aren't going to go anywhere. But if injure myself or knacker myself in the training I won't be able to do it; I'll get pissed off and stop.

Fitness for body beautiful doesn't interest me at all. If I was that bothered about my general appearance, I suppose I'd have lived my life a lot more differently. I'm not also particularly interested in fitness for fitness' sake either. I don't want to turn it into doing a DVD, running on a treadmill reading a magazine. I tried that and could never make it stick. I'm not doing it for the weight-loss. I'm smack bang within the bell curves of weight for age and BMI. Yes, I'd love to drop half a stone (that's 7 lbs for you over the water), I'd love to be size 8. But realistically, I'm probably going to gain a half a stone with the strength training. My body shape has already started to change, even with the light and gentle start. 

By the way, lifting weights is unlikely to turn me into Arnold Schwarzenegger. Women tend not to build muscles like men, unless they are dropping steroids. Not enough testosterone. 

I'm doing this so Dave and I can go biking in the summer. When the weather is good, we can take off on our bikes and go have afternoon tea in a small village tea room a couple of villages over. Dave also fancies walking the coast of Norfolk and I'd like to be strong enough to do it and carry my share of equipment. There may be camping involved. But we'll see how that goes.

The running...well the running is for me. I bloody love it and I want to see how fast I can go, how far I can run. I belt out of here and the pleasure of running in the early morning, before the World is up and at 'em, it's all mine.

There's a race around Fritton Lake in May that looks interesting. It's a 5k, perfect. I'm also going to look for a 10k later in the year. Dave and I have laughingly started talking about triathlons and I confess, I'm more than a little bit curious. I'm not sure I'm brave enough to race on a bike, nor is my swimming good enough for that level of competition. Hell, I can barely stop myself drowning. But it's a nice fantasy. 

I've booked 3 PT sessions next week, stupid o'clock in the morning before work. I had a think about things and I'm going to have to hold off on the running for the next few weeks. I'm going to be asking a lot from my body and I've also got to be sharp enough for work. Gently, gently is the pace right now. Get my strength routine bedded in and then back to the running. It feels like the right thing to do. That's the plan at any rate. I'm sure Life has a stack of spanners to throw at me.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Run Roses, Run!

I'm struggling to believe that nearly a month has past since I last blogged. My days settled into a routine which went along these lines:

Wake up early (like at 6am, sometimes even before the alarm went off)
Go running/Exercise
Go to work
Work like a dawg
Come home
Collapse in bed by 9.30

Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

Dave has been concerned that I've been training by myself. He believes that running with others is more motivating. I loathe exercising with other people and have resisted his suggestions vigourously. I've been getting up, pretty much every other day and getting my backside out the door, with my Zombies! Run 5k training. He did suggest I sign up for the Sports Relief mile, which I duly did. It helped having a nearby goal. November's Half Marathon is still quite a way away. 

I've been steadily noting my improvements: running to every third tree, to running down the length of the park, to running all way around the park. Still not a mile without stopping though.

I made the mistake of asking advice from one of the guys at work who runs marathons regularly. As we chatted, he asked about my heart rate and as I'm a keen keeper of biometric stats, I was able to answer. At which point he fell about laughing. Apparently, 183 bpm is still ridiculously high. Like I didn't already know. There was much hilarity at my expense and I crept away. 

You see, I am still the girl who got picked second to last for team sports at school. I am still the girl who finished last at pretty much every awful sports day throughout my school life. I am the girl who people laughed and laughed at because I was slow and uncoordinated. 

When I thought about the Norwich Half Marathon in November, it was something I was curious about doing. I was interested to see how I would do setting a goal and working towards it. I wanted to challenge myself. I never expected to fall in love with running.

I have fallen in love with running.

It's quite scary. I am usually awake before my alarm goes off. I bounce out of bed on my running days and get into my running gear as quickly as possible. I'm out the house and pounding the pave with my headphones blaring my running tracks, interspersed with the Zombies! Run 5k story and instructions: and a massive grin on my face. 

Today, I ran my first race in my adult life. Dave teased me good naturedley about having to beat the girl in 4c and not to feel bad when a bunch of 7 year olds over-took me. He wasn't far wrong actually. The race was full of primary school children with their parents. There were also people in fancy dress, Sports Relief onesies and miscellaneous adults (of which I was one).

I was crapping myself. What kind of a fraud was I? Wearing this running gear and thinking I could do this?

Dave suggested I aim to finish 11 mins 20 secs. For a beginner, he said it was a good start. Frankly, as I hadn't run a complete mile yet, I was just looking forward to finishing the race in one piece. I wasn't confident, but I was going to go for it.

We arrived on time and it was great to see everyone in such good spirits. The waiting around for the start was a bit nerve-wracking. When we were called to The Start, I was really nervous. Dave was there, I could see him out of the way to one side. And then, one of my Facebook friends and members of a fitness group found me and gave me the most massive hug. Her husband just finished his 10k run and she stayed on long enough to wish me luck.

The group warm-up was a pain. I got boxed in by kids and parents who were confused by the instructions and in all honesty, there was no stretching included (although, there is some debate as to whether stretching before a race keeps injuries down) and I got impatient.

The air horn going off was a complete relief! There was a downhill stretch and I started to create some space. I started weaving around the slower people running. It was a bit disconcerting to see small kids running past me, but as the race progressed, I learnt not to care too much.

Going up Opie Street was great. I like the uphill, felt good on my calves. Unfortunately, I ran out of puff going along Castle Meadow, I slowed right down and most of the people who I overtook early then got their own back. Karma really is a bitch. 

Once I got to the bottom of Theatre Street and that steady climb, I was really puffing hard. I focused on my breathing and keeping my running form. I ended up having a small walk, but got frustrated with myself when I realised I was on the home stretch. Chapelfield Park is where I train. Going through the entrance was such an emotional lift. I knew that path. Physically, I hurt. Not so much my shins but my breath and chest, I was pushing it. As I ran along the length of the park, I got over taken by two women. Suddenly, my competitiveness kicked in.

That is a totally weird feeling, let me tell you. I became Aggressive Bitch from Hell. I refused to have it. I picked up my pace and passed the first one and when I got the second one in my sights, just before the Finish Line, oh my goodness, I increased the length in my stride and fucking went for it!

I over took her and got to Finish Line.

It took me a few minutes to get my breath back, but I had my medal! I did it! And then Dave told me my time. He timed me exactly from Start to Finish.

I did it in 9 mins 44 secs!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am trying to describe the feeling and failing miserably. Elation? Pleasure? Exhaustion? Exultation?

I have been dancing around the flat. I have been on social media crowing about my achievement. I fucking did it! For a beginner 9 mins 44 secs is perfectly acceptable. This is a start, a great start. The fact of the matter is, I'm in this for the long-haul. I may not be good enough for the Half-Marathon this year, I've got a helluva lot of work to do between now and then. But I will sure as hell be good enough for it next year. 

And this is my soundtrack since I crossed the Finish Line.