Gym Life – No More Running!

Oh hey everyone! How are you all? That break was longer than I intended!!

 

In the UK, we find ourselves in the middle of ‘Summer’ gearing up for the next batch of races. My Facebook feed tells me it’s one month till the Great North Run, with none other than Mo Farah, and I have friends training for marathons such as Berlin (Sept 27). On the other side of the world, my Dad has just run the City2Surf in Sydney and smashed his fundraising goal, and Gilly is all about owning Melbourne once more.

Good luck to all GNR runners. It's the best race.

Good luck to all GNR runners. It’s the best race.

And here am I – right now, sat in bed with a coffee and a belly. So how does a pregnant runner cope in this most exciting time of the year?

 

The answer is…. by not getting jealous. It sounds so so simple, but when it’s a gorgeous Summer’s evening and perfect for a run, it’s not! And when your imagination starts to run wild, and you picture yourself running the GNR, and bumping into Mo at the end, and becoming friends and training buddies and this would all totally happen if only I was able to run… you get the idea. #FOMO in the worst way (that’s ‘fear of missing out’ – I learned it from one of our graduates at work. I can still kick it with the youth).

 

This is what COULD have been. See how fast I am? ;)

This is what COULD have been. Best Buds. And see how fast I am? ;)

5th June marked the last outdoors run that I’ve done. It wasn’t meant to be the last run, but since then every time I thought about running, it just made me feel uncomfortable. It’s the bouncing mainly: Baby B got to a size where it would take a long time for it to settle down, and it didn’t feel great.

 

So I joined a gym! It’s less than 10 minutes walk from my house, and I’m in love with it. They have a gym, an indoor pool, outdoor pool, a creche/nursery, and a hair and beauty salon. It’s been a long time since I had a gym membership – Sex & the City was still a current show back in those days.

It's socially acceptable to take a gym selfie, right?

It’s socially acceptable to take a gym selfie, right?

 

 

The best thing about the gym is the variation. It’s like a buffet dinner! You can do classes, you can do weights, cardio, swimming, whatever your little heart desires. And you can mix and match. These days I’m partial to a bit of weights plus cardio, and then I jump in the outdoor pool for about ten minutes and pretend that I actually know what I’m doing. Here is my current workout of choice:

  • 25 minutes on the cross trainer on a random setting, level 8 (covers about 4.5kms apparently)
  • 3 sets leg extension – 12.5kgs
  • 3 sets leg press – 12.5kgs
  • 3x arm… weights…. Ok. Not sure of the real name for this machine, but you pull weights towards you to work out one side of your arm, and then sit down and push them out to work out your chest

 

None of the weights are very heavy, but it’s designed to keep some kind of fitness and strength level whilst also being a gentle workout of my core. My legs haven’t had any serious workout since November, and believe me, these weights are more than enough to start getting them back on track!

 

I have also taken up Aqua aerobics, as recommended for pregnant women by every. single. person. in. the. world. I was surprised at the resistance the water provides: my arms get pretty tired throughout it. I’m not sure of the cardio benefits, but it is really really nice to be in the water and jumping around. Even if it’s not the same as 25 mins on the cross trainer, it gets me moving and keeps me mobile.

 

So we’re in the home stretch, Baby B and I: it will be making an appearance in the very near future. And then I have six weeks to recover and get my life back in order, and then the training for London shall begin. Starting with making sure everything still works after what’s about to happen!

 

In other news, we went away for our last weekend sans-enfant. It was a golf weekend, so…. I was thrilled. Nah, it was fun: we went with three of SB’s friends and their wives/girlfriends. While the boys played golf, we went in the pool, had spa treatments, afternoon tea, drank wine (or diet coke) on the terrace… And then tore up the putting green, much to the chagrin of the boys.

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Ellie B

Half Marathons: why they are the best.

This week I heard that a friend of mine is doing a half marathon in March at short notice. When I read her text, I had to sit on my hands so I didn’t sign up, immediately grab my keys, and drive 3.5 hours to her house 2 months before the race actually takes place. And then wonder what the hell I had done getting over excited like that.

 

You see, the half marathon is my favourite distance. If it were a drink, the half marathon would be a Dom Perrignon White Gold. If it were an album, it would be the Beatles’ White Album. If it were human, it would be Helen of Troy. No, it’d be George Clooney.

Yup. This is on here.

Yup. This is on here.

So why is the half marathon such a hot ticket? Well, here are my reasons:

 

  • It is a killer distance. 13.1 miles/21kms is nothing to turn your nose up at. Use Google maps to see how far 13.1 miles actually is – normal people would travel that distance by car rather than run. It’s a distance to be proud of
  • You can’t just wake up and run a half marathon: it takes commitment, training and determination
  • It’s manageable. It’s not easy, but it’s also not a full marathon. It’s unlikely that your training will see you running for three hours straight, so you can still have some kind of lie-in on the weekends (lazy Saturday mornings and full marathon training don’t really go hand-in-hand). And you can still enjoy Friday night drinks.
  • You benefit from the Whole Running Experience in that you need to build your mental strength as well as your physical strength.  The race is long enough for the initial adrenaline to wear off, and you need to have a mind of steel to keep your pace up. This is one of the best/worst parts in a race: it’s the hardest part, but once you push through it and get your rhythm back, you feel like you’re the champion of the world. Mile 9 was my stumbling bloc in my first half, and by mile 11 I was flying high – only 2 miles to go and feeling good! So long, Mile 9!!

Holy Shit

  • There are some really great half marathon routes you can choose. My favourite is the Great North Run. And there are often multiple half marathons in the larger cities. If you wanted to race in London, you’re not limited to only the London Marathon – there are loads of halves to choose from as well.
  • At the end, you know you have completed a half marathon. You have just covered 13.1 miles on your own two legs! And when people ask you the question they always ask when they find out you run – have you run a marathon? – you can reply: ‘no, I prefer halves, because they’re definitely really hard work, but I can still enjoy my social life, HAHAHA!’.

 

So basically, the half marathon = training, adrenaline, toughness, awesomeness, finish, medal, food. Repeat.

Getting ready for Run to the Beat with a pair of Wallies.

Getting ready for Run to the Beat with a pair of Wallies.

The half marathon was a major milestone in my running career. It was the first time I run a ‘serious distance’, and the first time I thought that perhaps I was ok at this running thing. Until then, my 10k races and 14k City2Surfs were good, but the half required an actual proper training program with intervals and everything. Rather than try my luck, I had a game plan. Because of that, I started running a lot more frequently, and before I knew it, regular (and long) runs were woven into the fabric of my weeks.

 

I would definitely recommend the half marathon to anyone interested in giving themselves a challenge, for alllllll of the reasons above. At the end, you feel elated, tired, hungry –  for more races as well as for food!

13.1 addict

And that concludes my Ode to the Half Marathon. I am now going to eat quite a lot of Indian food and watch The Wizard of Oz.

 

Ellie B

 

 

Charity Running & Fundraising: My New Approach

 

And here we have Charity Post Number Two!! Last week I found out that the majority of our fund-raising cashola goes back into projects, which was great to hear, and made for a very positive and happy post. :) This post will look at a more contentious side to charity fund-raising via running. :(

 

Often, when a runner signs up to run for a charity, there is a minimum amount they agree to raise for their spot in the race. The amount depends on the race – I had to raise £300 when I ran for Breast Cancer Care in the Great North Run in 2012, but I’ve had friends who have run the London Marathon, and had targets of approximately £2000.

 

When I was speaking with my running group, one member pointed me to this article, which claimed that charities are holding runners personally liable if they can’t raise the agreed targets. One organisation also revealed that one spot in the London marathon can cost them £400. A quick look at some of the charity listings on the VLM website showed the following fundraising targets:

  • MIND: £1750
  • Oxfam: £2000
  • Asthma UK: £1800
  • MacMillan: £2000

 

And here is the unfortunate darker side of the subject. I personally am torn between the idea that an individual should be held personally liable for that much money when they are essentially doing something voluntarily to raise money. However, on the other side of the coin, charities rely on these events to meaningfully contribute to their overall fundraising, and so they need individuals to take their targets seriously, and encourage minimum dropouts.

 donation

 

I remember one of my friends ran the London marathon a couple of years ago. Not only did he run the 26.2 miles in an inflatable Pamela Anderson outfit (which SB then wore o his stag do – ripe!!), but he also had to hold a series of pub quizzes to make sure that he hit the fundraising target: running the marathon wasn’t enough on its own to hit his sponsorship targets, which doesn’t seem quite right. When people need to resort to additional fundraising activities, I can’t help feeling that the targets are perhaps higher than they need to be.

 

I have done two charity runs: the Great North Run in 2012, and I did the Newcastle Stampede for the British Heart Foundation in 2013 (the target was £25 for that, which I paid myself for the pleasure of doing the event!). As I said, my GNR target was £300. Reasonably, I thought if I can get 30 people to donate £10, I’ll be ok.

 

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But this was much harder than I thought. I advertised on Facebook, I sent emails to colleagues, family and friends, but there’s a fine line between begging, being over-demanding, and simply asking for donations. I had messages from people telling me why they couldn’t sponsor me: they had already sponsored their friends, or they were having a hard month. So then I felt bad for making my friends feel bad that they couldn’t sponsor me!

 

Fundraising

 

So. This all leads to the difficult decision: when you see all these Just Giving pages on Facebook, just who do you sponsor? Everyone has a great cause to support, and a great reason for their choice. And now we know that some targets are ambitiously high. Should you look at the event the individual has chosen, and how challenging it would be? Should you look at who is doing the event, and how challenging it will be for them personally? Should you look at the charity, and base your decision on that?

 

I don’t have the answer to these questions. Except I do recognise that there’s a difference between someone who has never run before wanting sponsorship for the Race for Life, and someone like myself, who runs 10+ miles regularly for fun, asking money for a half marathon. On some level I do think there should be a personal challenge involved if you are asking for money. One of my running friends summed it up well: they are more likely to sponsor someone if the event is ‘a real and perhaps transformative change’ (as discussed in last week’s post) as opposed to ‘just a way of gaining entry to an event’.

Personal-Challenges2

There are many events on my running bucket list,  but I’ve resisted doing too much for charity for the simple reason that I love running. I love it the way that Homer Simpson loves donuts, or Kim Kardashian loves selfies. And it doesn’t seem right to ask for sponsorship for something that I want to do for fun – even if the money is going to a good cause. I’d want to set a time goal, or run further than I’ve ever run before.

 

There’s also something intimate about running for a charity, and if the connection to the charity isn’t mine, then it feels a little voyeuristic. It has to be the right circumstance: I have friends who are going through some personal challenges, but if I chose to run for a related charity, I’d feel like I was shining a light on an area of their life that is very personal.

 

I think it’s time for a big, fat HOWEVER, because this post become more negative than intended! Remember my friend George Nicholson, torch bearer, park-runner extraordinary and all round top bloke?

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He weighed into my runner’s group debate to say that the Great North Run charge charities the same as a typical runner for their places. He is also a very loyal supporter of Acorns Children’s Hospice for deeply personal reasons, and is grateful for all the support our fellow runners have shown when they run for Acorns. The hospice is not in the same league as Oxfam and The Children’s Society in terms of profile, but they raised £42k from the Great Birmingham Run and £26k from the London Marathon last year, and Josh’s story is a powerful reminder of how we can all make a small but positive difference to people’s lives. So keep this in mind too when you’re considering fundraising: don’t lose sight of all the positive you can do!

 

This is a big topic, and I thought about this subject for about six weeks before writing these posts. I feel I should do more for charity since I do run so much, but I’m not 100% convinced that signing up for huge financial targets and asking my friends and family all the time to sponsor me is the way forward. Plus, I’d want to consider which organisation to support to make sure it was right to ask for money. So, behold my own personal answer to this conundrum!!

 

When I ran my first marathon in May, I ran for myself and not for a charity. However, I dedicated the run to my former sports teacher, who had died of a brain tumour the year before, and donated to a relevant charity. When I was running the race, I thought about the charity, and the teacher who has influenced who I am now.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

So this will be my approach going forward: I will consider the event that I’m running, and a charity to dedicate it to, and make my own, personal donation – the amount of which will be determined by the nature of the event, my personal goals and interest, and my personal finances!  I’ll let y’all know here who I’m dedicating the run to, so you too can donate should you wish.

 

It won’t raise as much money as it would through a standard charity place. But it means that I can support different organisations in a way that’s comfortable for me. And should I ever want to run in a formal charity place, I won’t have used up all the goodwill of everyone I know! I imagine that there may come a time when something happens in my life where I very keenly want to raise money and awareness through my running, and I don’t want to squander that.

 

I hope it doesn’t sound like the coward’s way out. It’s not intended to – it’s my own sustainable way to bring something constructive out of a hobby of mine. And in the spirit of my new system, I am going to dedicate Saturday’s  5k Neon Run to Oxfam’s Ebola Crisis Appeal, because they were kind enough to help me with information for these posts, and because I admire the way they drop everything to support the most immediate of crises. They are currently working in Sierra Leone and Liberia to prevent the spread of the disease.

 

What do you think on the whole subject? I am very interested.

 

Ellie B

Post Great North Run: Half Marathon Recovery

So, here we are two days on from the Great North Run. By all accounts it was a fantastic day, and they were even able to identify the millionth finisher. If you did finish the run, then you’re probably in a world of pain right now! Following on from last post, here are some hints to help you get those legs back to normal so you can climb the stairs at a normal speed again:

 

  1. Stay hydrated. Don’t forget to keep drinking now that the race is over – it’s important to replenish your fluid intake, and focus on drinks that will replace your electrolytes too. And by all means have a post-run beer because, well, why the heck not? You’ve just run 13.1 miles. But don’t forget the water too.
  2. Over the next few days, make sure you rest to give your muscles a chance to recover. Don’t immediately jump back into your exercise routine, but enjoy being able to catch up on your TV. If you’re looking for something, I can recommend Orange is the New Black as the perfect companion for your post-run muscle rest.
  3. Eat Smart. Before the race, you probably stressed about getting the right amount of carbs: post-race, you should still focus on carbs, but also consider getting the right amount of protein.  Ideally, a protein shake just after you finish will help your muscle repair, but you can continue this for the days following the race too.
  4. Foam roll. I am not so good practicing what I preach with this one, but rolling your legs will give you a DIY sports massage. You can use the roller all over your body, but I personally focus on my calves, IT band and quads. Roll slowly over the area you’re focusing on, and when you feel a twinge, hold the roller there for a little bit. Beware that it is NOT fun, but it IS valuable. I promise.
  5. Start introducing light exercise into your routine. If you can manage it, going for a short walk will keep your legs loose and stop them from stiffening up.

Marathon recovery meal

On the day itself, I find that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink: it’s hydrating, and has a good combo of carbs and protein. I also try to sit in a cold bath for 10 mins. I’m not tough enough for an ice bath, but a cold bath seems to do the trick!

 

I’ve collected these over the years from different sources, and they seem to work for me. However, you may need to vary them slightly to make sure they work for you – and if you’re in a lot of pain, then go see a doctor.

 

And now here are some tangents for this Tuesday post:

 

I learned this week that if you annoy the universe, it will come to get you. Karma, man, it exists. Something happened at the end of last week, and then when SB and I went to Lisbon for the weekend, we lost our luggage.

photo 2-13

In case you didn’t know, Lisbon is gorgeous, but our city break was punctuated with a desperate trip to H&M followed by the Chemist (because losing your luggage and sprinting to make tight plane connections is sweaty work it turns out).

 

Here is our best 'lost suitcase' look.

Here we are spotting the latest trends in ‘I lost my suitcase and I all have are the clothes on my back’.

 

SB got his bag earlier than I did, and went for a run. I didn’t go for a run, but I did get to a rooftop bar, plus we both ate lots of great seafood, so everyone’s a winner. My bag arrived just in time for me to pick it up on the way back to the airport on Sunday.

 

photo 1-14

photo-137

 

And on Facebook I was nominated to share 10 books that have stayed with me over the years, so I thought I’d share here too:

 

1) 1984, George Orwell
2) The Baby Sitters Club, Ann M Martin – saw me from ages 7-12!!
3) The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
4) Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
5) A Doll’s House, Ibsen
6) Ariel, Sylvia Plath
7) Jamie’s Ministry of Food, Jamie Oliver – this book has literally kept us alive
8) Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy
9) Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
10) Empire Falls, Richard Russo

 

Ellie B

Great North Run: My Top Tips….

 

RIGHT NOW, thousands of people are attending the Opening Ceremony of Bupa’s Great North Run not sixteen miles from where I type these words. This year, the Great North Run will celebrate it’s one millionth finisher, and to mark the occasion, Sting has come up North to entertain us all. Except me, cos I’m here and not there.

 

It’s two years since I first ran the Great North Run, and it was a landmark race for me: it was my first race in my new home, and my first half marathon. In the days leading up to the race, I started to get those exam butterflies: have I done enough training? What will the weather do? What should I wear? Will I finish? What’s a good time? HOW WILL IT GO????

 

The Tyne Bridge, Great North Run 2013

The Tyne Bridge, Great North Run 2013

I know a few people who are running the Great North Run for the first time this year, and who are probably starting to feel the same anxiety and excitement that I had two years ago. 13.1 miles is not a stroll in the park, but there are some things that you can do to make life easier on the day. So here are my top tips to help you prepare for your first Great North Run, or even your first half marathon:

 

Before Race Day:

  • Two days before, start increasing your carb intake, but there’s no need to go carbo-crazy. Just make sure there’s a good portion of carbs with your meals, which can come from unexpected sources like yoghurt rather than just scoffing bread (which is admittedly my favourite way to carb load). This article has some good advice for carb loading.
  • Buy a jumper from your local charity shop to wear before hand. On race day, your bag will travel by double decker bus to the finish line about 45 minutes before the race starts, and you’ll need to keep warm. Usually all the clothes left by runners at the starting line are collected, and give them to charity shops, so it’s a nice karmic circle.
  • The day before the race, make sure you hydrate well. Again, no need to go overboard, but make sure you’re drinking regularly. Downing three pints of water the morning of the race won’t help as much as keeping steadily hydrated the day before.
  • The night before, pack your bag. My suggestions include a change of warm clothes, comfy shoes, clean socks, deodorant, face wipes, safety pins, your number, snacks, water, plasters, hair ties, ibuprofen, a waterproof, a plastic bag (for your dirty shoes/clothes) and bin liners. Put your race day clothes out so you don’t have to worry when you get up.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t sleep well the night before! Excitement may keep you tossing and turning, but it won’t impact you too much.
  • Optional extras: paint your nails to match your shirt (my fave thing to do), write your name on your running top so people can cheer you on – and they will!

 

On Race Day!!

  • If you drink coffee, drink a cup when you get up. It will help … digestion. Trust me on this.
  • Leave loads of time to get there. The trains are notoriously crowded for this event, and so make sure you have plenty of time to get to the starting line without stressing.
  • Wear your charity shop jumper with pride. If you don’t get to a charity shop, bring a bin liner or two to wear. It’s my favourite pre-race look, I have to say.
Rocking the bin liner look

Rocking the bin liner

  • Bring bananas and a sports drink to the starting line! You’ll be waiting until the race starts, and once the gun has gone, it might be another 15 minutes until you’re crossing the starting line. You’ll need to quell that hunger in the meantime!
  • When it gets to the final hour before the race starts, sip your drink slowly. Resist the urge to drink a lot, because you’ll need the loo 5 minutes after you start running!
  • Start slow, warm up, and then work out your pace. Don’t let the adrenaline carry you off faster than you want!
  • Don’t sweat the small things: there is a bin literally full of millions of safety pins. There is a help desk if you lose your number. There is a group warm up for when you’re in your starting pen and feeling nervous. There are so many volunteers to help with whatever you need, so don’t stress.
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Starting pen for Great North Run 2013

  • Don’t be intimidated. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of runners on the day, you’ll see club vests, you’ll see different coloured number tags, you’ll see people who look like they will glide all the way to the finish line. But they, like you, are just as nervous and excited, and wondering how their race will go. No matter what speed you go at, you’re all completing a 13.1 mile run, and that puts you in a team of winners in my opinion.

 

And don’t forget to enjoy it!! I love seeing a whole street of double decker buses filled with runner’s bags, and looking down to see all the runners congregating in their pens. I love the cheesy warm ups projected over the big screen, and walking past the BBC tent to see who they’re speaking to.

 

And on the route itself, the public are amazing. They cheer you on, they call your name, they give you food and they do it whether come rain or shine. I love this race, and it was the best introduction to the North East and the North East running community that I could have hoped for.

 

Smiles a-plenty at the end of Great North Run 2012, my first :)

Smiles a-plenty posing with my medal at the end of Great North Run 2012, my first :)

When you finish, you’ll be by the sea. Which is amazing considering you were in the centre of Newcastle a short while ago.  Volunteers will hand you a goody bag with a snack or two, a t-shirt, water, and most importantly, your medal. I advise you to put the medal on immediately and don’t take it off until you go to sleep. Maybe not even then. And then hang it somewhere that you can see it every day to make you smile.

 

My running wall in my office…

Keeps me smiling when I’m at work…it was kind of dark when I took this…

So whatever your goal – to finish without stopping, to get a particular time, to finish at all, or to walk and get all the free food that’s handed out – I wish you the best of luck! I am feeling all nervous and excited for you, and more than a little jealous. And if you’re not running the Great North Run this year, I would definitely recommend it goes in your diary next year. I heart it.

 

In other news, my sister-in-law and I went to dinner last night at the Chiltern Firehouse in London, and saw Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Gary Lineker. I mean, I know some of you don’t care about this, but for me, it was a Very Important Evening. It made up for the wine that we couldn’t afford: celebrity hang outs are expensive.

 

Spur of the moment fun this week.

Spur of the moment fun this week.

Run well!!!!!!!

 

Ellie B