Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Hot Pilates

I know what you're thinking...you've heard of hot yoga, but hot Pilates? Is that a thing? Turns out that's a resounding yes, and I love it!

You can read more about the benefits of hot Pilates here. The short version is that hot Pilates is an alternative treatment for back pain, and one of the main benefits is that the warmth of the room opens the body's connective tissues and allows you to get further into the exercises, much like hot yoga from what I understand. Simplyhealth are currently promoting their BackCare app and ran an event for bloggers earlier this month to showcase what hot Pilates can do.

You can find out more about their app here. For every download, £1 is donated to the BackCare charity, so give it a go! I've been experiencing a fair bit of stiffness in my neck and upper back recently and managed to find some handy exercises using the app, so I'd personally recommend it.

The hot Pilates event was held at the fab Yotopia studio in Covent Garden on one of the first warm days of the year, so I was nicely warmed up by the time I arrived. The class lasted an hour in a room heated to about 35oC and I was hot but fairly comfortable in a Sweaty Betty vest top and some running shorts. I absolutely loved the teacher, Amy, and she did a brilliant job of guiding us through a number of Pilates exercises, most of which were standing positions, and definitely with a yoga influence.

I went into the class with a stiff neck and upper back, as well as stiff hips from my long run that morning. I came out of the class feeling much more mobile and weirdly serene from the warmth. I already want to go back! I was worried that I wouldn't like the heat but I actually really enjoyed it - as someone who hates being cold but burns very easily in the sun, it was actually a really enjoyable way of being warm.
Thank goodness the photos were before the class!

Thanks so much to everyone involved in the event for putting on a great afternoon, and for providing photos of the event.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Berkhamsted Half Marathon 2014: Race Report

"I've been chasing you for two kilometres," he said while coming quietly up behind me. "Oh, haha," I grunted back eloquently, having used up all my conversation skills on the five total strangers I shared a taxi with at 2am earlier that morning. And so we entered the ninth mile of the 2014 Berkhamsted Half Marathon.

Spoiler alert: PB, yayyyyyyyyy!
Up until a week or so ago, my training was going pleasingly well. I was mostly hitting my target mileage each week and, even better, hitting the target paces during my interval and tempo runs. The FIRST marathon training plan of three 'hard' runs a week is a little scary at times but I was happy with how I was getting on.

Then some frustrating neck pain hit, probably due to bad posture/desk setup in the office. Many days of feeling pretty rough followed, and then the prescription of strong anti-inflammatories mostly stopped the pain but made me feel constantly woozy. Not to mention that my healthy living approach went somewhat downhill and I'm singlehandedly keeping Cadbury in business at this point.

Of course, when one of your best friends in the world invites you to London to celebrate her birthday with amazing dim sum and cocktails on a Saturday night, there's no question about going. (Seriously - go to Ping Pong and order the signature set menu and a kumquat mojito.) And, you know, sometimes it's nice to live on the edge and risk Euston station after midnight. The last two trains home were cancelled with no warning and a replacement bus service scheduled for 2am. I took the obvious alternative and shared a taxi up to Hertfordshire with five total strangers instead. By the time we'd compared notes and discovered that one of the guys was heading home from a night dressed in a Lycra cat outfit for a cabaret act and another was coming back from seeing his friends perform in Fame, I knew I'd made the right call. The replacement bus would have been filled with even more total strangers who would probably be rowdy, I told myself as I remembered my parents mentioning something about not getting in a car with strangers.

By 2.30 we'd dropped the last person off at the nearest station and the taxi driver agreed to take me the rest of the way home while I clutched a fistful of £10 notes. By 3am I'd snacked and was falling into a deep coma, trying not to think about how I was going to feel in the morning. Once morning came, I instantly regretted not preparing my kit the day before: with 50 minutes until the race started, I was hunting for the waist pack I'd planned to wear. With 45 minutes to go, I'd realised the chip was supposed to be attached to my laces and my elastic ones made that impossible. With 40 minutes to go I'd tied the chip to my laces with string.

The bizarre thing is that I was picturing telling this story as an explanation for why I got carted off halfway round the course this morning from sheer exhaustion. By the time I'd run to the start line (as planned) my shins and feet felt like they were seizing up. Note to self - wearing heels all week and the night before was stupid. I desperately stretched at the start line, only managing to spot one person I knew, and thankfully my muscles eased off. For the first few miles I fought very heavy legs and figured I'd be done for by the end of the first hill.

Gradually as the race went on my legs loosened up and I remembered how much I loved the long downhill stretches last year. Luckily, most of the race flew by once I'd got into the swing of things. With a mile and a half to go I caught up with the guy who'd spoken to me earlier and we chatted briefly about race times and our half marathon histories. With just over a mile to go I told him that it's all downhill to the finish and suggested we raced to the end. And race we did - I careered down the hill in 7:08 for the last mile and finished with a grimace and a shocked look at my watch. My Garmin time told me I ran a personal best in 1:55:36 and the chip time made it 1:55:46, so I was happy. I flung myself down after the finishing chute and shook my competition's hand a minute later. On comparing times it turns out he started behind me so actually finished a minute faster, but he assures me that bragging rights for the final race go to me. Very kind indeed.

I'd originally planned to run home from the race to make the day's mileage up to 17 miles, but the scary sight of alarmingly swollen and blistered little toes when I took my shoes off put paid to that. I panicked and spent a rather cold 20 minutes in the St John's Ambulance tent proffering my chipped pink nail polish to a very kind man who put me on some ice packs and eventually concluded that my toes weren't going to fall off so all I needed to do was go home, put my feet up, and ice some more. I felt a bit bad that I probably wasted his time, but it's the first time my toes have substantially grown while running!

A few days later I'm still a little stunned to have run a PB under the circumstances, and I'm slowly catching up on sleep and other people's race reports. Here's to a quieter weekend next time around...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Notes from a long run

When people comment that they can't imagine only having their own thoughts for company on a long run (I don't listen to music for the long ones) they sometimes act like I'm making a big intellectual protest when I say I don't get bored. I feel sheepish because it comes across like I'm having big debates with myself or figuring out the meaning of life or something. Truth is, in 15 miles yesterday I pretty much only covered the following:
Ooh some trees, they look nice. Oh and that patch of sunlight. 

This field looks cool too. Time for a photo.

OK it's kind of unnerving running along the towpath with the canal one side and fields under water the other.

I can't think of a word rude enough for drivers who edge close by my hip on a wide, straight, empty stretch of road.

Oh my word, I haven't driven on country roads yet, what if I have no perception when it comes to runners??

Ooh it's so nice that the sun's out...OK but it's quite windy...no wait I'm quite warm overall.

I wonder if that Purition shake I unearthed this morning will taste nice when I get home.

I think it's pistachio flavour. I'm not sure about that.

Oh yeah and I'm pretty sure that almond milk in the fridge has been open for too long now.
(Spoiler: it was actually very nice)

Must buy more almond milk.

And courgettes. It's weird that that carbonara last night made me wish I'd used courgette noodles instead of pasta.

Ooh what's for dinner later? I should really buy some more food.

Look, some sheep!

And some donkeys!

Maybe next week the back road to work will be less flooded and I'll be able to see if the alpacas are still in that field.

I wonder what I should ask the therapist to work on during my sports massage later. My calves I guess. Wait, no, my hamstrings. No, calves. OK maybe my shoulders as that's what prompted me to book the appointment. Wow I hope I don't fall asleep during it. Actually I'm worried it'll hurt.

Is it time for more Chomps yet? Yeahhhh look at that, another 5 miles done, let's dig those out.

And some water. How am I feeling? It was annoying needing a wee for the last few miles last weekend.
Must buy Running Blind: An Alternative View of the London Marathon later. I liked hearing Simon talk at Write This Run last year. I wonder if there'll be another one like it this year.

I think there's a Starbucks in Hemel. Let's go there after my massage later. Now what do I want...hmm, maybe a chai tea...there might be cake, how about cake...oh no, what about that muffin I always used to like there? Mmm, muffins.

Oh look, nearly at the end of my miles, just the hill left to run down. Wheeeeeeee! I wonder if the drivers going past know what I'm thinking. This is a long hill. Wheeeee!

Ahh, that was nice.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Janathon: Day 31

5 mile tempo this morning. Having finished my Whole30 yesterday, crashed back into real life with a Snickers, a creme egg and a couple of G&Ts. Welcome to the weekend! It's been an astonishingly long and tiring work so it's time for a takeaway with friends now.

When I walked into the work kitchen earlier it did feel a bit like the place was waiting for me to snack!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Janathon: Day 30

In which I nearly forget the midnight deadline, again. 

Today's exercise was a speedy 1.5 mile cycle to the hairdresser and then back again. It was raining heavily and I was running late, so I put a surprising amount of effort into such a short bike journey. I reckon that counts for Janathon, right? Let's just say that scheduling a driving lesson and a haircut in the same evening wasn't my greatest planning. Having made an effort to clean and tidy the house (sorry friends who are staying tomorrow - it's not as sparkling as I'd like!) it must be time for bed.

I don't think I explained that at boot camp on Monday we planked with our feet up on tyres and also did lots of squats while holding jerry cans, flipping tyres, and stuff like that. My arms still ache!

Today is also the last day of my Whole30 so I'll update more on that soon! I'd love to say I won't have consumed a creme egg by approximately 10am tomorrow but they've been sat on my desk calling out to me all week so it's unlikely.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Janathon: Day 29

Ahh, I do love the feeling from even just a short yoga session - my hamstrings feel gooood!

15 minutes done before sorting dinner and crawling into bed with a film. It's been a tiring week so far...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Janathon: Day 28

Today brought me 6 miles outside, running 800m intervals, followed by a really rather brilliant homemade burger. I followed that with a wildly unproductive evening, but what can you do. I eventually remembered to stretch and foam roll, hindered a little by a speedy helper:

Once I'd battled the foam roller I bonded with my nemesis, the tennis ball, and Sherlock literally ran rings around me while I did so. She seemed to have a more amusing time than I did, but hopefully my piriformis will thank me tomorrow when I sit back down at my desk.