It’s been a while….

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So, it turns out it has been quite some time since my last post.  I have been busy, but that is not really a reason, only an excuse.  I still believe that if you want something enough you’ll find a way to make it happen, so perhaps I have just changed my priorities a little.

Quick update on me – I’m still at my target weight, still eating like a nutritionist, still trying to be active and outdoors whenever I can…unfortunately an injury to my foot means that this is not nearly as active as I would like.

I have calcification of the ligament between my toes, and a ganglion cyst on the tendon that enables my middle toe to move.  I haven’t been able to cycle long distances since June 2016, and cycling stopped completely in September, due to the pain, numbness and cramping in my foot caused by this injury.  I miss it, very badly.

I am still walking everywhere I can, but can only walk for up to about 45 minutes at a time before my foot hurts.  However, somehow running is unaffected, and I have joined a running club following a formal beginners class in September/October.  I’m not running far or fast, but I am running regularly and I’ve met a great group of people who keep me motivated.

I’ve also taken a beginner’s archery course and subsequently joined a local club, but it’s a bit cold to be standing still without gloves at the moment so I haven’t done any archery for a couple of months.

I’ve found some super recipes which I will share if I ever get the time, and I also discovered this fantastic service called Plan to Eat which makes meal planning, shopping and recipe storage so easy for a tiny monthly fee.

Before my foot got bad enough to stop me cycling I took part in the Portsmouth Duathlon Series 2016 – well two out of three of the races, as I was abroad for the second race. You can see my  Race One results and Race Three results here. The pictures in this post were taken from that event, which I did with a colleague of mine, Diana (also pictured), and we raised money for Naomi House.

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With any luck, now I have a diagnosis, I will be able to get this problem with my foot resolved and be back on my bike soon. I’m not setting any specific dates for this to happen as there is no point rushing the healing process, and I know that when I do start cycling again, it will take me a good while before I regain the muscle and fitness I’ve lost since I was forced to stop, but for now I will be content to think that perhaps by the end of the year I might be able to consider doing another duathlon in 2018.

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One Year On – A Comparison

Although there is no specific anniversary at the moment – it’s not one year from any particular landmark achievement or victory – last weekend did mark approximately one year since the last Big Sky Ride in Southampton, an event I participated in for the first time last year, and which I participated in again this year, but in a different capacity. This difference caused me to reflect back on how all the small changes I have made in the last year have brought me to this place.

July last year – I had been on my ‘fitness journey’ for six months at this stage, and had lost two of the three stone I wanted to shift. I had been cycling for pleasure for only three months, mostly with Breeze Rides on short distances of up to 14 miles, and I was still slowly figuring things out with my diet.  I had re-discovered the joy cycling but wasn’t fit enough or confident enough to cycle further and I am pretty sure my nutrition at this time would not have supported more intense training.  I did the Race for Life 5 KM for Cancer Research UK but I walked it and would not have considered jogging that distance; it seemed insurmountable.

Race for Life 2014
Race for Life 2014

A typical weekend last July would have involved me doing the weekly food shop and some housework, binge-watching Netflix, then an hour of tennis on Sunday afternoon. On the Big Sky Ride weekend I cycled the six miles to Southampton with my husband, we did one loop (five miles) of the route, posed for an official photo, then had lunch before cycling home.  That made a total of approximately 17 miles cycled that day, and we were both pretty tired afterwards.

Sky Ride 2014
Sky Ride 2014 – Image Credit Sky Ride via Facebook

July this year – It is six months since I reached my target ‘healthy’ weight and decided I was happy with that weight. I have been on further Breeze Rides but I have also joined the Southampton CTC and most of my rides are now with them. A typical ride is 20-50 miles now, and I know I can go further if I want to.  I have become a qualified nutritionist and revel in my new-found knowledge as I make wiser food choices based on understanding what my body needs, whilst still enjoying every bite.  Although I did not enter the Race for Life this year, I can now run a sub-30 minute 5 KM if I want to. I also walked a marathon (26.2 miles) this year, and tomorrow I am cycling 62.3 miles (100 KM), for the Rapha Women’s 100. All for fun.

CTC Ride to East Tytherley
CTC Ride to East Tytherley – Image credit Ian McKay, Southampton CTC

I don’t have typical weekends any more.  Last weekend I woke up early on Saturday to attend a special event at my local gym in Romsey – I cycled the six miles there, participated in a 90 minute high-intensity studio class (followed by birthday cake), cycled home, ate lunch, cycled back to Romsey to join a 20 mile CTC ride then cycled home again from Romsey. On Sunday I cycled six miles to Southampton to help man the CTC stand at the Big Sky Ride which involved enthusing about cycling and handing out fliers, then cycled to Romsey from Southampton (nine miles) to play tennis for an hour, before cycling home (six miles).  I cycled a total of 44 miles on Saturday and 19 on Sunday.

Sky Ride 2015
Sky Ride 2015 – Image credit Ali Baker, Southampton CTC

So, I would say I am more than a little thinner, fitter and active this year compared to last year.  Not only that but my priorities have changed and my idea of fun has changed.  A year ago the weekends were for resting, (after all I’d worked hard all week and deserved a rest).  These days weekends are for being active, for getting outside wherever possible, for seeing new places and meeting new people (after all, I’m sat at work in an office all day, I need to take every opportunity to get moving outdoors at the weekend as I certainly don’t move enough at work).  It’s not my job that has changed, just my perception of how active I am during the week.

And now I understand what my body needs I am supporting it with the correct nutrition – knowing when it needs carbs for energy, when it needs protein for muscle repair and when it needs water for hydration have pushed my fitness into the next level.  As long as I eat right and train sensibly, I can get faster, fitter, stronger.

I wonder what I will write in next year’s comparison….

Back to Running

I’ll be the first to admit that at school I hated running. Not to say I wasn’t any good at any of it – I had one of the best times in our year for the 100 metre sprint for the first two years of secondary school, but running itself is a rather broad category, covering everything from the 100 metre sprint to the marathon, all 26.2 miles of it. And though I was quick at the sprint, I was sloooooow on the longer distances. Make me run anything that required pacing instead of sprinting and I would come in last. Every. Single. Time.

In hindsight, the problem was that no one ever taught me how to run. It sounds silly, I mean running is like walking, we just do it, right?  But there is more to it – pacing, breathing, correct form and so on, and like anything worth doing, it requires training and practice to do it well.  As a child I never had a cause to run one kilometre non-stop, and so I never learned how to do it. All my running was as part of other sports, or just playing, and tended to be in short, sharp, speedy bursts which of course trained me to be a sprinter, though I didn’t realise it at the time. As a result, by the time I reached adulthood I knew for certain that I wasn’t built to run, and avoided it whenever possible.

Fast forward 15 years or so, to Spring last year, when I discover that I love my body and the feeling that eating right and exercising well brings, and I decide to try running again.  Still overweight at this time, and realising that I haven’t run more than 100m to catch a bus since I was 14, I know this is going to be tough, but I am highly motivated by my new lifestyle and leap into the Couch25K interval-based running programme (with a handy app on my phone to tell me when to walk and when to run).  I make it to week three before I get distracted and forget about it.

Fast forward again to Autumn last year, now a healthy weight and the fittest I’ve ever been I decide I’m ready to try again; I am now wiser and stronger and take things more slowly, knowing when to push my body and when to rest.  I quickly get hooked on the endorphin buzz I get at the end of a run, and progress steadily through the training programme – not without tough patches mind, with shin splints from worn out shoes, and getting stuck on the same week of the programme for a month despite training three times a week.  I even went running in a thunderstorm and loved it!  I started planning to do a 5K race and then to progress on to 10K next.

Sadly, winter came too soon, and along with it came the various illnesses of the season, the dark evenings and the hectic social scene, so running once again fell by the wayside in preference for indoor based sports or home workouts. And although I tried to get back on the wagon – running home from work a few times for example, and running in my lunch break, it was clear that I am not a winter runner.

Thank goodness it’s Spring!  After the equinox yesterday I decided it was time to start again – the evenings are lighter and it’s warmer weather outside. So I  started off with a 1/2 mile jog with my husband, to see how I got on. After a break of three months I feared I’d find it pretty hard but was happy to find my first run was quite easy.

Emboldened by this, today I decided to just run and see what happened.  I use an app on my phone called Runtastic, which allows you to not only record your workout, but also set custom goals for it, such as distance, time, calories burned, or pace (loads of other features too but I’m sure I’ll come to those another time).  Knowing that in the past I’ve always tried to do too much too soon, and knowing also that this is the most common mistake new runners make, I set a goal pace of 13 min/mile, which is slower than my previous average pace of 12 min/mile, so I wouldn’t push myself too hard.  The app then notified me if my pace was too slow or too fast throughout the run, so I could modify accordingly.

Turns out taking three months off running makes you faster….no, I couldn’t figure that one out either, but I ran for 27 minutes today, only stopping because I found myself back at my doorstep. My average pace?  11.22 min/mile.

Run Details 21.03.2015

My First Bike

It seems right to start at the beginning – where it all started, with my first bike. I remember my first bike well: it was white with silver and red accents, and a dropped bar, and stabilisers and a chain guard, and it looked like freedom.

I remember my dad helping me learn to ride it; teaching me the things it is impossible to teach and you really have to learn by making mistakes – how to balance, how to lean into the direction you want to travel, how to coordinate pedalling and steering and balance and looking behind you for traffic and waving your arm when you want to turn or stop…

I kept the stabilisers on for quite a while, I seem to remember. I wasn’t ready to balance by myself just yet.  And it felt like when we took them off, I had to learn how to ride all over again. Nowadays it’s all the rage to give children balance bikes (without stabilisers or pedals) so they learn to balance first and add the pedalling later, which seems to make sense to me as balancing is the harder skill.

Apollo wooden balance bike from Halfords
Apollo wooden balance bike from Halfords

We started in the garden and then when there wasn’t enough space in the garden we would go out into the garage road behind the house and I would whiz up and down – it felt like I was going really fast! – and dad would be there running along beside me reminding me to pedal or sometimes to stop before I hit something.

But once I could ride I could explore!  My friends all had bikes too, and although I wasn’t allowed far from the house as I was only little, there was plenty to discover around our own quiet road, and we would cycle around feeling fast and free and powerful, and race our bikes down the hill slight incline of the road – especially fun after they resurfaced it and it was all smooth.

I didn’t realise it then, but those early days of riding my little white bike with stabilisers would start a long love of cycling, and a sense of freedom whenever I get on a bike.