Posts Tagged With: cross training

Getting cross training at puregym

Digested read:  I’ve caved, I’ve joined a gym for cross training purposes and can confirm absolutely, that the experience is making me very cross and bad-tempered indeed.  I think that must be why it’s called cross training. Am really hoping gym-going is an acquired taste and I’ll learn to love it, meantime, I’m enjoying the teleport machine and the glitter balls. Well, you have to celebrate what joys in life you can.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I’m allegedly taking part in the London Marathon this year, but my efforts at preparatory training have been largely thwarted. I am trying, but my default activity level is inert, and ice and snow and hills (do you have any idea just how hilly it is in Sheffield) are making running quite literally impossible. Call me nesh and over-cautious by all means, but I maintain if you can’t stand upright on a road unaided, you shouldn’t try running down it, or more specifically up it.  We have had a lot of ice and snow.  Hence, I’ve been favouring long slow walks to get miles on legs, which is something, but not actual running.  The trouble is, even though I think it’s legitimate not to run in such ‘sub-optimal’ conditions, after all, I wont even start if I’m in plaster up to my neck from falling over and down hillsides – it doesn’t make London any further away.  I still have a finite number of weeks left in which to train, and those weeks  are depleting more rapidly than you’d credit.  I need to take positive action to up my game. Aaaargh.

Fortunately, or possibly not, depending on how things work out, I have a running buddy who is injured.  Well, shame about the injury for her etc, but obviously the important thing in this story is me.  I can just copy her initiative because she has done me the good service of acquiring a painful stress fracture in her heel, so I don’t have too.   Because she can’t run at the minute due to injury, but like an over-excited collie needs her exercise, she has taken the drastic step of joining a gym.  She also goes swimming to be fair, but I’m not yet desperate enough to do that. Swimming is such a faff, even if not in Cambodia. You have to get dressed and undressed, take loads of stuff with you, fret about your bikini line and body fat, and also get wet.  I’m brilliant at floating (body fat is not all bad) but hopeless at the making headway aspect of swimming, so it really isn’t for me, I’m just not that desperate just yet.  That time may come, but spare me now, please.

In the interim, it is to a gym I shall turn.  I shall embrace take on this cross training malarkey and see how it goes.  Weirdly, the last time I was in a gym was in Cambodia at Phnom Penh Sports Club no less. That was pretty horrific to be fair, but massively entertaining too, maybe this will be the same.  I may not get any fitter, but my what I fail to gain in muscle and dignity I will acquire by way of anecdotes. That is something I suppose.  I went nearly every day to the gym when I was in Phnom Penh, and it didn’t offer up the transformation I was hoping for to be honest:

post work out shot phnom penh

At the time, I told myself it’s because I’m just not good in the heat.  I inwardly resolved never again to complain about the cold.  But then I’d forgotten about ice, and snow, and how profoundly unpleasant it is when hail flies at you horizontally like shards of glass, and you can barely stand in the wind.  Short memory me.  Short in mind as well as stature.  Oh well.

The upshot of all this inclement weather and inadequate training and injured co-smiley, is that to the gym I would take.  With extreme reluctance and a heavy heart, but that’s where I was bound all the same. She recommended puregym, mainly on the basis of price, and no contract.  It keeps its prices low because it is the no-frills end of the fitness market, but a pin code access system allows them to be open 24/7. Thus, if and when insomnia strikes as it often does around 3.00 a.m. instead of listening to Radio 4 Extra for hours on end, I could head to the gym for a swift 5k on a treadmill.  Like that’s ever going to happen…  I wasn’t overly enamoured with the class choices on offer – they all looked booked up and too much spinning for my liking.  I tried spinning once, swore ‘never again’ then was persuaded AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT to give it another try, and I lasted about 2 minutes before abandoning my wheels.  It wasn’t even a fitness issue for me, it seems to be a fundamental incompatibility with those bikes.  It was like DIY female genital mutilation, absolutely not for me.   I’m not such a fool I’ll make that mistake again!  Try, try and try again is not a philosophy to be applied in ALL circumstances, sometimes way better to turn and walk away before you are in blood stepp’d so deep.  Look what happened to the Macbeths!  Well, quite.  I rest my case.  Sometimes it’s OK to stop, and best thing all round to do so.

Where was I, oh yes, contemplating gym membership.  I also looked at Virgin, because quite a few of my fellow Smilies go there, but I winced at the membership fees for that, I knew a gym was never going to be my natural habitat, plus I don’t like the water related facilities.  All that pee and chlorine is not for me, so I’d be paying a lot for things I wouldn’t use, even hypothetically.  Back to puregym it was.  Annoyingly, I missed the no-joining fee offer by 24 hours because I hesitated before signing up. Not even made it to the gym yet, and already I was burning money.  It did not bode well.

To be fair, it was easy to join on-line, though I wasn’t filled with enthusiasm for the whole endeavour.  You get an email/ text with a pin number to give you entry to the gym.  It’s a very long number, how am I supposed to remember that?  Maybe as my physical fitness improves, so will my capacity to remember long numbers, somehow I doubt it though.  I can’t even remember my own phone number so little hope there.  Also, I don’t have a smart phone, which is going to be a pain for booking classes etc. as that all has to be done online.  My puregym buddy assures me you can often get into classes at the last-minute even if they are ‘full’ because people cancel, but to do so really requires access to a smart phone.  I mean there is a turmoil, I mean terminal hub thingy in the gym where you can book on I suppose, but that defeated me.  I don’t have a smart phone, any more than I have a life.  This also does not bode well.

I’d only actually looked at the online photos of the gym, and I picked the Sheffield Millhouses one purely because it’s the nearest and has parking  – though I hope I’ll be enthused enough to run there, do a class and run back once I get in the swing of it all.  Yes, yes, hope over experience, but people can change.  Really, they can!

sheffieldmillhouse_201611_007 exterior

Not the most attractive of exteriors, but clean and functional I suppose.  With big windows. The big windows are a mixed blessing.  Point of information, I bought a new bed from bensons a few doors down, they have the same mammoth glass windows, but it is possible they have been incorrectly fitted, because instead of filtering out the glare, being in their was like being an ant kept under the focus of a sadistic child’s magnifying class.  Beyond hot, it was torture in there.  Surely that should be put right, hope it won’t be like that in the gym…


So, I joined, I booked a class.  Kept it simple with just a stretch class to begin with, chosen because it was the only class that wasn’t fully booked being held at a time I could attend.  Fortunately, my smiley friend who was grooming me to be a companion gym bunny was up for going too.  Prior to turning up I didn’t think I’d mind going on my own, I always do stuff on my own, but oh my, the gym was a scary place.

Start off, you have to get into the darned building.  I’d had the foresight to bring my phone with me with my pin number in it, but not my glasses.  A tiny little keypad taunted me at the entrance and I had to squint and scrutinise at length. It took several attempts to gain admission.  I say ‘gain admission’ but what I actually mean, is after you’ve passed the pin number test you get to step inside a claustrophobically sized Perspex cylinder which opens on one side.  Then it slowly closed behind you until you are completely encased.  Like you’ve been spun into a chrysalis or entered a teleport machine.  Actually, a teleport machine would have been super fun – especially if they piped in the sound effects from the star trek flight deck (original series) – more accurately, this felt like I’d been sucked up into a tube a la Augustus gloop

The tube is a snug fit, and you are completely trapped in there for slightly longer than is comfortable but not long enough for you to cave in to thrashing around inside and beating on the Perspex in panic.  Personally, I did find that once within, it was as if time stopped, and nothing happened for just long enough for me to become convinced I would be trapped within for all eternity – the only consolation being at least such imprisonment would spare me the indignity of being required to participate in any work out in the gym.  Maybe they use the opportunity to x-ray you as well, I don’t know, I can’t think of any other explanation for how long it takes some people like to be x-rayed though. like this woman, not me though, not me.


However, eventually the pod does mysteriously open.  The other half of the tube slides apart and you are disgorged into the souless abyss which constitutes the gym floor.  I’m not sure whether this was an improvement in my situation to be honest, more like frying pan into fire…

sheffieldmillhouse_201611_042 souless

My first impressions of the gym were not good.   It was like entering a black and white picture.   The light is weirdly artificial despite the huge panes of glass.  The void seemed sterile and desolate, despite large numbers using the equipment.  There was no smiling receptionist, no signs, no clue of where to start.  I found myself plotting to cancel my direct debit before I’d even stepped onto the atrium floor.  Still, however desolate, I’d already paid for my first month, so might as well follow through for now…

If in doubt, precautionary pee – so I headed to the ladies, where I was immediately alienated by a sign on the door advising ‘girls’ of it’s opening hours.  This is a pet hate of mind.  What is this obsession with calling adult women ‘girls’? I find it’s patronising, infantalising, downright insulting, and the fact that some women do choose to refer to themselves in this way (for reasons that entirely pass me by) doesn’t mean it’s OK for businesses to do so.  Makes me squirm.  This visit was not going well.

I then decided to go for a mooch about.  There are no signs, well no helpful ones anyway, and no identifiable staff members either.  There were a lot of people on the machines but each had a zombie like expression and was staring into the void there wasn’t much interaction going on.  There were a few large video screens about, but not loads, and many people were working out in their own headphones.  Not only wearing headphones, they were wearing gym kit as well.  I’ve never used headphones, but for the first time ever, I could see why you might want to do so here.  All the machines seemed to me to be fractionally too close to one another, infringing personal space.  I didn’t feel at all comfortable.  On the plus side, it was clean, and I didn’t feel watched or judged by anyone, it was the sort of crowded experience you have on a London tube train, when people are so rammed in together the only way to make the thing tolerable is to behave as if no-one else exists.

I’d wanted to use a rowing machine, but some were out of use as being serviced (fair enough) and the only free one was between two guys mid work out and I felt a bit self-conscious about using that one as I didn’t know how to use the equipment and I didn’t want to expose my vague cluelessness with quite such immediate effect.  Instead, I headed up the stairs for an aerial view of facilities, and peered into the spin room.  To be fair, that looked impressive, but not impressive enough for me to cave in and sign up to a spin class in a moment of weakness.  I did have an exploratory clamber onto a bike, but instantly feared being spliced and removed myself to a place of safety.

Eventually I espied my gym buddy teleporting into the void.  Rarely have I been so excited to see a fellow smiley, and I’m always pretty excited when I see a smiley, so that is really saying something!  She was also a few minutes early for the stretch class with ‘Em’.  We went and sat on adjacent bikes in a quieter area of the gym, and pedalled and chatted and that did calm my nerves a bit. She is a huge enthusiast for the gym, being in daily attendance since becoming injured.  She was positive about the classes, and the possibilities for getting into them even though seemingly full.  It seems many people block book to bagsy places and then drop out at the last minute. I can see why, when they are so over-subscribed it is tempting to do so.  Annoying though.

As the time for our class neared, we ventured upstairs and waited for the previous pump class to finish.  Hundreds and hundreds of people filed out, sweaty and smiling. My gym buddy recognised and/or was related to some of the attendees.  Get her and her sporty network.  In we went.

So the good news, which cheered me up hugely, was the prolific presence of glitter balls in the ceiling!  A rare bounty of them.  Sort of like the egg nursery in aliens, but more pleasing and on the ceiling instead of the floor.  Also, less uniform, all different sizes,  marvellous.  I do like a good glitter ball, and you just don’t encounter them enough in daily life these days.  I really wanted to get a glitter ball for my downstairs loo, but I’ve had to make do with a chandelier in the sale from Dunelm, (£4, absolute bargain), glitter balls are hard to source.  Mind you, hardly surprising when you think how many are needed to populate a workout room at puregym.  I really hope this is a uniform corporate policy, it would encourage me to try other gyms to check it out. This photo in no way does the vision of glitter balls justice, but it may give you the general idea:

sheffieldmillhouse_201611_147 glitterballs

In situ there were so many glitter balls, it was like a glitter ball nursery.  Indeed yes, it really was just like the alien egg nursery, going on and on for ever.  Bit less sinister, but just as numerous, and possibly without the ability to replicate themselves, but frankly who knows.  Lovely!

Now people had finished filing out, loads of new people piled in. Unlike me, they appeared to know what they were doing, wordlessly performing a mysterious drill of getting out mats and blocks and poles and weights.  I just felt confused, and sort of ineffectually copied, periodically my gym buddy and other users helped me out by passing bits of equipment to me, whilst I blinked with a mixture of fear and incomprehension.

Em turned out to be a guy who didn’t introduce himself or the class.  It was all very strange, there was no sign in sheet, and no music, no ‘any new people, any injuries’ question at the beginning – which I’d imagined might be standard gym class practice.  I presume he, whoever he was, must have had to step in at short notice.  It was all peculiar, not unpleasant, but, well I’m not sure what.  We just sort of copied.  The lack of any explanations as to what we were doing, combined with my inner cluelessness did however make the class a bit more interesting than it might otherwise have been, since it meant there was a constant element of surprise.

As always, the newness of it all, did add to the comedic value of the occasion, always a boon.  Thus I was extremely chuffed to find that amongst the equipment we had at our disposal was what appeared to be my very own giant Lego brick.   That was excellent, although I felt the colour options were rather muted, being just black and grey rather than proper primary colours.

At one point we had to sort of disassemble and reassemble this into a different configuration to get it to the correct height for use.  On the plus side, this made it even more like having actual Lego, on the down side, it meant we were required to stand on it, and everyone knows standing on Lego is really painful.  Why we don’t just scatter the floors of our homes with Lego bricks rather than getting guard dogs to protect where we live I have no idea – oh, unless it’s because most burglars don’t have bare feet I suppose.  Did you know that there is actually an endurance test that involves running barefoot on a tread mill whilst Lego bricks are poured onto it?  Who’d risk that apart from die-hard masochists, can’t lie though, I’d probably watch, albeit through chinks in my hands.  Like Cambodian kick boxing, a brutal sport, but you can’t quite look away.

The giant Lego brick turned out to be a step like in proper step aerobics.  Like these ones in fact, but I didn’t look like any of these people whilst using mine.


I am very wary of steps.  Someone I used to work with broke her ankle really badly falling off a step in a step aerobics class back in the eighties, and I’ve harboured a deep suspicion of them ever since.  She had to have an operation and everything.  If memory serves me right we may even have had to have a whip round for her whilst she was hospitalised, it was THAT bad.   We only had to sort of balance on the edge of them so we could lower our heels below our toes to stretch our calf muscles.  Then there was a deeper stretch, toe against a wall and pushing down on your heel to lengthen the stretch more.   That didn’t work for me, as all that happened is I could feel my arthritic toe bones splintering as I tried to lean in against the wall.  My feet are rubbish, they are the only feet I have, and I do try to look after them, but they weren’t helping.

We got the giggles when we were told to grab our poles.  I say ‘we’ but it was only me and my gym buddy so either we are really immature and pathetic or the others have become immune to such hilarity through familiarity with the terminology.  Much like some runners and the ease with which they will talk about fartlek.  A mystery.  Some open goals just have to be taken.

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The pole was silver and black and very much like a tap dancing cane.  Give me a top hat and a feather boa and I’ve broken into a routine.  Except I don’t know how to tap dance of course, but what with the glitter balls and everything the impulse was there.

And then the class ended really abruptly.

It wasn’t unpleasant, I liked the stretches, even though we didn’t hold any of them for very long and I had no idea what was going on.  It wasn’t a typical class I’m guessing, and if I’d not had my gym buddy along with me to be an ambassador for the gym I think it would not have inspired me to come back. As a gentle introduction to the concept of gym going it was sort of OK.  At least I made it through the door.  Wouldn’t recommend it as a first date, but I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be.

It was all very bizarre, and not really exercise either I finished it feeling a bit non-plussed.  I felt like I’d just experienced the briefest of alien abductions, now I was catapulted out of the weirdness of the parallel universe of dark and glitter balls, back where I’d started and I had no idea what had just happened. I’m not aware of having experienced an anal probe of having a microchip inserted, but often abductees don’t recall those details do they?  So my absence of memory proves nothing.


I’m actually quite an authority on the subject of alien abduction and amnesia now, as I’ve just been googling it.  There are websites devoted to ‘how to tell if you’ve been abducted by aliens‘ so that’s erm, something.  I’ve definitely got insomnia for a start.  The metro did an article covering 13 sure signs you have been abducted by aliens (but don’t realise it) and there is an International Center for Abduction Research plus didn’t Robbie Williams get really into UFOs etc so that near as dammit proves it must happen.  Shame the extra terrestials didn’t restore me to a near perfect physical shape whilst they were about whatever business it was they were about.  Oh well, there’s always next time.

I felt like best not overwhelm myself so didn’t linger after the class.  I  needed to do a big shop whilst I had the car anyway. I did plan to come back later for combat, but the class was full and as number 9 on the waiting list I didn’t make the cut.  Oh well.  I hate exercising at night anyway.

So my verdict.

I’m not remotely convinced by this whole gym malarkey.  It just doesn’t feel at all like my natural habitat, and I can’t see myself motivated enough to spontaneously use the equipment to any great effect.  Maybe I do need to book an induction to make the whole place seem less alien, but it did most definitely reinforce why I prefer to head out to the hills.   I think I can see myself using the rower though, and if I can suss out the classes maybe that will help me get that much needed cross training in.

It’s become obvious that cross-training is well named, because it is blooming infuriating and makes me very cross indeed.  Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t stick with it though.  So triumph for today was a modest one, at least I joined and  made it through the door.  Marginal gains people, marginal gains.

My gym bunny career is likely to be short lived.   On the other hand, this marathon isn’t going to run itself.  Maybe I will yet learn to love the place.  I used to shun mushrooms, avocado and even garlic in my youth, what was that about?  Now these are my three main food groups.  I suppose the garlic consumption might yet turn out to be an asset on future gym visits so that’s a cheery thought, as long as I work out hard enough to work up a sweat that’s my personal space issue sorted.   No wonder garlic is a super food!  Not only does it work as aphrodisiac, currency, food, medicine and vampire repellent but also it deters fellow humans from encroaching on your work out area.  I say currency, but I don’t think puregym or even local retailers in Nether Edge will take garlic bulbs in lieu of direct debit or cash payment.  Shame.


We shall see.  Failing that, I shall make enquiries about what one must do to get enrolled onto this:

fitness protection

So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for improved weather, but meantime, I’ll keep trying with this gym malarkey, though if I make it, it will be from being conscientious rather than keen.

Thanks running buddy for the tip off.  My jury of one is still out on the matter, but I’m glad you gave me the necessary nudge to make me join in the first place.   It’s not called cross training for nothing. It’s making me very grumpy indeed. But then again nothing ventured…  I suspect this sojourn to the dark side will be short lived though. But then again I daresay it could pay off on the long run, maybe. See what I did there, with long run – lawks a lordy I can be hilarious at times! 🙂 whether I’ll be laughing my way round the London marathon, well, let’s just say that’s rather doubtful right now.  Best get my laughs out of the way now, while I still can eh?

So, puregym see you there 🙂 gazing into the void.

PS for the record, I’m not knocking puregym per se, it’s clean, it does what it says, it has good equipment as far as I can tell and lots of it.   But it’s just gyms, to me they just suck all the joy out of exercise… unless I can find a body combat class where you get to live out your fantasies of punching people in a safe environment.  Now once I’ve sussed how to book onto those classes, well, that could turn out to be a game changer!



Categories: fitness class, gym, running | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Longshaw Revisited: Resolute Romping Round the Rear

Digested read: panicked by having inadvertently entering a 12 mile trail run, I finally made it back to Longshaw for the Trust 10k to try to get some miles on my legs.  Still there, still fabulous.  Nice chit chat romping round at the back.  Cross training insights too.  You’ve got to love the Longshaw Trust 10k. No honestly, you actually really have.

Loving Longshaw

It’s been a while since I had a good romp round Longshaw.  The monthly trail run which is part of the wondrous National Trust 10k running series.  In my defence I’d been away in Cambodia for a few months when I couldn’t run at all, so lost my running mojo/ confidence entirely.  Then when I got back to Sheffield those blooming hills had grown even higher and steeper in my absence, and seemed to thwart my feeble attempts to scramble up them at anything other than a breathless crawl.  Going back to do the Longshaw 10k seemed a bit over-ambitious when I could hardly walk to the shops without risk of asphyxiation due to over-exertion on local gradients.  Also I’ve been volunteering at Junior parkrun, that is a great way to spend a Sunday morning, and then there was the Round Sheffield Run, another Longshaw 10k weekend missed.  Before I knew it, months had passed. Time moves on.

Then, the other week I thought, hang on, I’m missing out here.   I do love Longshaw, it’s a shame to miss it. Besides, as experienced runners will tell you, the only way to improve at running round trails and up hills is to actually do some running round trails and up hills by way of practice (alongside your cross training – but more of that later).  Although my fitness levels remain lamentable, the Longshaw event is friendly and fun (think parkrun, only trails and twice as long) – why not go? Also, weighing on my mind is that I’ve committed now to completing the 12.12 later next month – the Dig Deep 12 mile off-road option.  Entering seemed like a good idea at the time, in a post-parkrun euphoria of misplaced optimism.  I’ve even written my pledge down for pity’s sake, that means I have to ‘make it so‘, or risk a public humiliation even greater than that I will experience from being witnessed puffing round it, whilst any passing walkers (and make no mistake, they will be passing me) mutter to each other ‘what was she thinking?’ as they stride on by.

pledge photos

You can see what’s happening can’t you.  My confidence and enthusiasm have somewhat waned. The idea seems even less inspired now I realise I can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag, let alone off Higger Tour… Oh well.  I’ve committed now, and I remain conscientious if not still keen.  Plus, the setting will be gorgeous with the heather out, less so if there is horizontal rain and you can’t see your hand in front of your face admittedly, but that might still qualify as type two fun (retrospective not contemporaneous fun), potentially generating an amusing anecdote to boot.   Always a boon on any running related endeavour, and everyone appreciates a good boon.  However, even in my most optimistic moments, you have to respect the (to me) longer route and uneven terrain, this isn’t an event you can just rock up to on the day and hope for the best.  Well you can, but it would definitely end in tears, I do feel a need to some training in advance.  It’s a good excuse to get out in some fantastic local landscapes, which brings me neatly (if not concisely) back to Longshaw.   Time to heave on my fell shoes and get back over to join the fell-based running fun, a 10k will be a great addition to my hypothetical training plan and show commitment when added to Strava…  When is the Longshaw Trust 10 again?

PANIC!  When I went to check the date the events list seemed to have vanished from the  relevant section of Longshaw website.  What horror was this?  Had the event been discontinued?  Have I been personally blacklisted from attending and my computer hacked to prevent me researching the event and reduce the likelihood of me turning up?  Nope.  IT improvements apparently.  Much as with sports bras, no sooner you find one that fits, (which takes more than a lifetime) manufacturers will ‘improve’ that particular line thereby effectively discontinuing the only bra that ever worked for you. Adding insult to injury by giving you a short-lived glimpse of what might have been before cruelly snatching it away.  Of course I’m bitter.  Running is hard enough without being subjected to an assault on your assets each time you head out.    Anyways, same with the Longshaw IT department. the site was down, because it is being ‘enhanced’, except, in this instance the interruption in service was indeed temporary. FYI, the plan is to update the ‘behind the scenes’ IT systems so eventually people attending Trust 10 events can sign up on-line and it will all be more streamlined etc by 2020 or whenever.  Personally I shall miss the slightly Heath-Robinsonesque quality of the current set up.  However, we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about all that right now, as recent experience suggests a lot can happen in that sort of time scale.  The sky will probably have fallen in at the very least.  Chicken Licken was right all along.  If you read the original story the world did end, they all did get eaten so no ridiculing the poor bird for being alarmist when she was right all along! Hard as it is to imagine, running Longshaw might not be a priority in that scenario.  Also, in fact the Trust 10 series are always on the fourth Sunday in the month, so you don’t need to check online each time, only to be able to refer to a calendar and count to four.  FACT.  Apart from when they are not, because of Christmas say, but you get the gist…

chicken licken

It is July.  I shall go.  So went my logic.  I was apprehensive as it’d been such a while, but I was looking forward to it too.  It could be part of my training plan, if I had a plan at all.  I would attend to the cross bits another time…. Which brings me onto some startling new insights about cross training, which recently came my way, and that I now I feel compelled to share.

The thing is, for a long time I thought cross-training was a purely descriptive term.  A variant on ‘no pain no gain’ perhaps.  That is, you improve at whatever you are doing if you are able to push through the stage when you are just really annoyed at how hard it is, hate running, hate the world, that kind of thing, basically ‘training when cross’ gets abbreviated to ‘cross training’ but put in the hours and voila!  Improvement follows.   Then, I came to realise it was a bit more sophisticated than this, runner’s world no less gave this plausible enough sounding definition:

In reference to running, crosstraining is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training, to supplement their running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilize.

So I started indulging in my own cross training, mostly courtesy of Thursday Accelerate woodrun sessions (thank you) involving wobbling about standing on one leg (balance), bunny hopping along woodland trails (strength, but also amuses run leader I think), and, most importantly of all, working on the upper body and arms whilst simultaneously attending to hydration, by slurping on a post-run latte on conclusion of the run.  It might not technically be cross-training in the purest sense, but it is a start.  Besides, it’s surely preferable to the fate of some poor souls who inevitably take the cross training a bit far, adding in cycling and swimming resulting in becoming inadvertent tri-athletes.  It happens. Before they know it, they’re off doing Ironman events just to improve their parkrun times.  I don’t think there’s too much risk of that happening to me.

Even so, I’m always open to a bit of running related advice, so I ambled down to my local running shop for some clues on tackling the Dig Deep. Specifically re kit requirements and navigation, and also as an alternative to actually having to go out and run.  It is a well-known fact, that visiting a running shop equates to an actual run in terms of training. You improve technique and running credentials just by breathing in the air of a specialist running shop.  Anyway, turns out, this particular visit was most enlightening.  Not only did I find out that there is no path off Higger Torr, you just jump off the edge and hope you fly basically; and that skip the running dog has his own instagram account, I also got a new insight into what motivates some individuals to embrace new sporting disciplines.  Injury basically.  Cross training at its source if you will.  So, of those in the shop at the time – and I won’t name names as that’s not my style – one only took up running after a climbing-related hand-garrotting / palm-slashing injury made further ascent of rock-faces impossible, so they accidentally entered a marathon for seven weeks later instead.  What could possibly…  and the other had ruptured something crucial in a leg (their own leg I think) so started swimming and one thing led to another and they’ll probably have to do an Ironman one day now, poor thing.  Ironman completion seems to lead to obligatory tattooing as well, which is another blog post altogether.  Marathon runners are compelled to talk about their marathon running achievements incessantly, and in perpetuity – a bit like the curse of the Ancient Mariner, only running related, and they won’t be limiting themselves to just stopping the ‘one of three’.  Ironman completers on the other hand, have to get their skin inked.  Them is the rules. To be fair, if and when I do complete a marathon I will tell everyone, a lot, and maybe even get an Ironman tattoo if in a parallel universe that happened.  Not on my stomach though, brave choice I think… at least I think that’s his stomach, but he must have detachable nipples and no tummy button, so I’m fearful it may be some other body part, and I don’t wish to scrutinise further. Surely not his back?  I did get my ‘O’ Level for Biology, but it’s not helping here over much to be honest, although I could probably still explain to you about worker bee dances if you’d like.  Do your own research dear reader, I can only take you so far along the journey of discovery.

The sport you end up using for cross training purposes depends on what body part you remove from use.  I understand a dislocated shoulder leads naturally to competitive one-handed knitting, but that’s subject to confirmation.  The knack is to secure one of the needles by grasping it between your thighs apparently, great for toning an all too often ignored body part, and such a strengthening technique would undoubtedly be a boon to both your knitting post recovery and your running. Or you could take up pole dancing, you need good thigh muscles for that too.  Good to know.  As far as cross training options are concerned, the only limit is your imagination, and human dignity.

Oh, and because you’ll be fretting, my kit is OK for a fell race apparently, as they only will check the seams are taped, not that I can fit into it.  So look out for me in something like this – you must have full waterproof body cover, but I reckon I’ll carry it off.  The guy on the right of the picture is risking disqualification heading out so ill-prepared.  His look out.

kit requirements

So where was I?  Oh yes, heading back to Longshaw.  It had been raining, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect weather wise on Sunday morning, but the inclement elements meant as I drove across to Longshaw the mist was rising from the dips in the hills, it looked really spectacular.  In my absence, the car park ticket machines have been updated for the new £1 coins, which caused a few problems for me and much bag rummaging as I feared I’d only got the old ones. I also think the cost has gone up, which I don’t begrudge as the run is free and I am happy to support he National Trust but is worth noting.  I keep meaning to get around and join them, but if I do, that will definitely make me a grown up, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do that.

In other news, they have put in a new woodland path to the cafe.  It was really lovely, lots of signs explaining what you were looking at and pointing out where owls have nested and woodpeckers pecked.  I was a bit disappointed to have it made plain that the hobbit house is actually the old ice house, some myths should be allowed to endure…

I arrived at the cafe, and saw the volunteer team were already hard at it, flags up, war conference in session, the big sail sign being carried to the start.  At least I think that was what they were up to.  Either that, or trying to find a surfing beach somewhere, in which case they must have given up, because it would have been a very long walk indeed.  We are a long way from the sea here.

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I already had my number – 999 – because I have saved it from a previous run because it is a rather marvelous number to have and to hold on to.  Plus it saves a bit of money for the Trust 10 and time for me if you bring your number with you.  The registration system has got a bit more organised. To protect confidentiality, everyone now signs up on a separate bit of pre-printed paper and has to agree to having results shared via email (you can opt out if you wish).  I can see why they have done this, before everyone could potentially see any other previous participants email and other contact details if they had good enough eyesight to squint through the lists of entrants as they signed up.

sign up form

Once I’d signed up, I stood around awkwardly, wondering whether or not anyone I’d know would turn up in between trying not to skid on the super-slippery slate stones adjacent to the cafe.  I don’t know why they’d become so treacherous.  Previously, I’d have stated with 100% confidence that the slipperiest substance known to humankind is goose shit, but now I’m not so sure, it really challenged my assumptions there as I struggled to remain upright on the flagstones.   Eventually, a friendly face!  Yay. The Runderwear ambassador putting in an appearance.  We negotiated that we would romp round together at the back, but as both of us have had negative experiences being compelled to run with others we each reserved the right to either abandon the other, or tell them to ‘go away’ using language which would leave little ambiguity as to the strength of feeling on the matter.   I mean, we obviously weren’t going to be quite as colourful as Anthony Scaramucci, but pretty direct communication all the same.  Yay, a running buddy!  I felt a bit less uncertain about rejoining the trail running fray.  Bring it on, there will be fun to be had!

running buddy

Pleasingly, other familiar faces started to materialise, and soon there was quite a jolly crowd assembled.  We ambled down to the start, I stood right at the back, and there was the usual briefing, thanks to the volunteers; watch out for tree roots and cows (the cows may move the tree roots won’t, unless they are magic trees, but not expected today); it’s a ‘long 10k’, so expect a slower than usual time, and then, almost suddenly, we were awf!  Hooray!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a run at talking pace with a buddy. In fact, on this occasion I got two buddies for the price of one as they were both Valley Hill Runners, and also romping round together. So I guess that makes me either the gate-crasher or the gooseberry, I’m not sure. Fortunately, I didn’t have the social skills to pick up on it if I was in the way, and it was really nice.  Hilariously, (I thought) there were not one, not two, but three tail runners.  One each!  It was like we were under close supervision whilst on day-release from borstal or something except we are a bit old for that and they probably don’t call them borstals any more.  Open prison then.   Initially, it was a bit unnerving being tailed at quite such close quarters, but I got used to it.    They do this so if say the slowest runner drops out after one lap, because they are significantly behind the next slowest participant, the tail runner doesn’t have to do a four-minute mile across bog to catch up with the new back mark.  Makes sense really.  (Edit:  update, I have a witness statement advising the tail runner in question subsequently described this experience as like doing a 5k warm up with a 4k sprint followed by a 1k cool down.  I think we can conclude that was challenging!  Type two fun for sure.)  Maybe in 2020, when they have the new IT booking system and it all goes very high-tech, runners romping at the rear will each have their own electronic tag.  For now, it’s low tech, each of us had our own personal detail to trail us on our heels throughouth. Maybe that’s why it’s called a trail run?

Important things were shared as we ran.  Most important of all, unanimous agreement as to which was our favourite marshal.  We might love her, but she isn’t altogether convinced by us.  I think I might actually bring dog biscuits with me next time (for the dog, not the volunteer) and bribe her into loving me back best of all the other runners.  Shallow to need that level of approval I know, but gratifying all the same to be on the receiving end of such canine adoration I would imagine.  Only time and forward planning will tell.

everyones favourite marshal

The volunteers are great, and also always in demand. If you don’t want to run but do want to be part of the fun (and get a bacon butty or veggie equivalent and a cup of coffee in return) then get in touch with the sports development officer and you will be welcomed.  I have volunteered once at Longshaw, when I first got back from my travels, and it was really fun, you get all the fabulousness of the scenery without the sweat of actually having to run up that really steep hill.  Plus you can high-five runners and cheer on those you know as well as those you don’t.  What’s not to like?

We tried to remember to look up and look around. Longshaw was truly beautiful.  Green, lush and emerging from the mists.  It did rain a bit, well drizzle really, but it was quite hot. There were a lot of insects.  I inadvertently swallowed a few, which might be a protein boost but did nothing for my vegetarian credentials.  Nevermind, plenty bit me back.  I was slathered in ‘Skin so soft’ which does work actually, but it is pretty over-powering stuff.  I used it to rid my flat of ants in Cambodia, which it did, and which is no mean feat!

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As well as admiring the view, and swallowing insects, we were able to chat quite a lot about bra fitting, which is my current topic of choice.  We did this to such an extent that the ‘top of the stone wall’ marshal, admonished us for our chit-chat, but rather regretted doing so as we filled him in our discussion themes, which moved from bra fit on lap one, to chafing remedies on lap two.

I also got to hear lots more about the Valley Hill running club, which was rather good.  I do love my Smiley Paces, but I struggle to keep up on group runs, so am open to running with other groups too. Smileys aren’t affiliated, so lots of members do pop up in more than one running group, for a variety of reasons.  They are in a slightly different part of Sheffield so have different run routes and also different club races that feature on their annual fixtures list.   A whole load of them are heading off to do some multi-lap ultra next weekend.  Sounds tough, endless 5k laps with a bangle on completion of each.  The Manvers Dusk to Dawn, it happened for the first time in 2014, and is very much a social event.  Food available, run when you like, with whoever you like.   That year the winner completed a staggering twenty-two laps (71.6 Miles).  Quite aside from the distance, I can’t imagine the tedium of doing that, but then again, having others about probably does motivate you, and the format is great in that you are only ever a short distance from assistance should you require it, which means you can be braver in going for ‘just one more lap.’  It was  interesting hearing about new to me races, and there is clearly some cheery camaraderie in action, disguised by a continuous line of mutually abusive banter.  I like that.  Also, they have a chip butty run.  Head turning stuff.

So it was we loped round, three tail markers (one a Smiley), a couple of Valley Hill Runners, me a Smiley and another fellow Smiley in ear shot ahead.  It wasn’t a fast romp round, but it was a fun and companionable one.  It was also really good haring downhill at the end on masse, our own sports day finish, into the arms of the waiting hi-viz team. Yay. Aren’t we all great.  Longshaw 10k is super friendly, it’s a great introduction to off-road running and a very supportive environment to join.  The views are outstanding and the running buddies awesome too.  I don’t know why I’d left it so long to get back to it.

There we go, that was it.  Run done.  One of the benefits of a slow finish is no queue at the cafe.  Fine latte and a cheese scone – which I’d swear has reduced in size since my last visit.  Like Wagon Wheel biscuits, you look at them, and just know, things are not as they once was.  Nevermind.  It’s not like I’m going to fade away.  Final chit-chat, and then farewells.   A grand morning out indeed.  Thank you volunteers.

So, in conclusion, I’m very happy to be back doing the Longshaw 10k.  It’s great in its own right, as well as hopefully helping me on my way to the 12.12.  For me that Dig Deep event will be a challenge enough I think.  Others have higher goals, check out the Masochists Marathon (only $1.60 to enter, but you might die); or there’s always the Bob Graham if you want to stay closer to home, don’t get that mixed up with the Billy Graham challenge though, might get awkward.  And try to remember it’s supposed to be fun, harder than you might think when you are six seconds outside the cut off of a one hundred mile, 120,000 feet, sixty hour ultra marathon.  Do your research people, pick your challenge wisely.  If you get it wrong you might end up broken like this at the end of your run of choice:


Whereas really you want to end up like this lot.   Some lovely Valley Hill Runners post the Longshaw 10k by way of illustration.  Not sure how many chip butties they have had between them over the years, but they’ve done a great deal of running.  Thanks for letting me tag along with you guys, much appreciated.

Valley Hill Runners

And that was it. We dispersed our separate ways into the mist, until next time.

Maybe see you there?  Fourth Sunday in the month at Longshaw.  Be there.  They put the flags out specially!

Happy running til next time.  🙂

flags out

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Olympians in the making?

So, this is the attempt at cross training. It wasn’t really exercise, but it was quite an experience. This is the alternative reality of early morning exercise in Phnom Penh. Enjoy. Oh, and Happy Christmas if you are tuning in today. Hope you got your Christmas parkrun is as is now the new festive tradition for parkrunners everywhere. Ho ho ho, bah humbug etc. Lx

Cambodia Calling

Almost definitely I’d say.  I mean, we went to the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, so that must count for something right?

As my regular reader will know, following my massively competent running performance and networking operations at Phnom Penh Sports Club, I had been given a tip-off by a local woman that if you want a fitness excursion, then the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh is the place to be.  There was the little matter of getting there for 5.00 a.m., but hey ho, you have to try these things.  From what I could gather there would be a smorgasboard of activity classes you could choose from, so arrival time wasn’t absolutely critical, but best to be there well before 6.00 a.m..  In the event, three of us committed to going along this morning, agreeing to a 5.30 a.m. rendezvous at my street corner, near the shop with…

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Running by osmosis – a marathon not a sprint…

So, it’s been a while. I’m on an adventure in Cambodia, you can check out my blog for that if you wish, that’s where this post went up originally. I’m finally settled in Phnom Penh where I’m to be based for the next three months, and just starting to try and work out how on earth I’m going to get my running training in. The runes so far are not looking good, but I’m still up for giving it my best shot. If you, dear reader have pearls of wisdom to share, please cast my way. All help needed, and heeded where possible. I thank you. Lx

Cambodia Calling

I expect you’ve been wondering how my marathon training is going eh?  Well, essentially like this:


That is a post workout photo not a pre workout one by the way, though frankly the differences in the before and after shots are relatively slight.  Who knew training for a marathon could be this hard?  Initially I figured that it wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for me to train for a marathon in the UK, so it would be way better for me to come and live in Phnom Penh for a few months and have the extra challenge of doing lots of running around where it is really hot instead.  Turns out, training for a marathon, or even doing any running at all in Cambodia’s capital city is nigh on impossible  Or at least it seems to me to be so anyway.  The only upside of being super-stressed about how…

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Categories: marathon, motivation, running | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hobbit bootcamp – getting into the swing of cross training.

SPOILER ALERT:  This is basically an early preview of the material that will be used for our forthcoming Hobbit Bootcamp DVD workout box set.  Look away if you’d rather wait to discover it for the first time when you are the lucky recipient of this sure-to-be ‘must have’ winterval/  Christmas gift.


It was not only that I watched the fat-shaming (which I don’t approve of) yet compelling obesity the post-mortem documentary on BBC3 the other day, that gave me renewed impetus to trot out for our hobbit boot camp rendezvous on Tuesday.  It was also that I have my new performance pants to experiment in.  Further, I am always conscientious if not keen.  Hobbit buddy and I had made a promise to one another, a commitment to work on our cores at the outdoor gym in Endcliffe Park.  We were dependent on one another to make it so, I would not be the weak link in that chain!

There was a minor detail that our morning rendezvous was the morning after the final Trunce of 2016 season, so I did have to stipulate that I’d be too knackered to do any actual running in any meaningful way.  However, we told ourselves that this was but a minor detail.  The whole point of cross training is that you use different muscles.  Today we would work on our core, we were sure to get in the swing of things pretty quickly, how hard could it be to design our own workout?   We met at our usual rendezvous point, and I was very relieved that whilst my hobbit buddy was most definitely focused, she was not wearing this top.  Had she been, that would have been the end of our training partnership.  I’m putting this on record here though just in case, she has been getting more hard-core recently, which is very impressive, inspirational even, but also a bit scary…


We began with a nice gentle run down Bingham Park toward Endcliffe.  This was a promising start as it was downhill and so gave us a bit of confidence that our cross training was yielding almost immediate effects.  We are so awesome, even thinking about improving our techniques brings results.  According to the Daily Mail (so it must be true) just thinking about exercise makes you fit, it can make pigs fly too, which is amazing, and explained our sudden surge of speed way better the influence of gravity and leaning forward a bit much when running down hill.  (Being top-heavy can speed you up and work in your favour in some situations it seems.  For example, should you trip whilst running down hill, gravity will compel you to move ever faster).

On arrival at the outdoor gym, we sort of eyed the equipment rather nervously.  I am after all the woman who managed to put on her runderwear back to front at the first attempt. That was bad enough, but at least it was in the privacy of my own home so no-one need ever know… well, anyway, bit different in the great outdoors.   Still, we were game.   The novelty of new toy things was hilarious.  We basically jumped on each bit of equipment in turn quite randomly, turning handles, swinging on bars and laughing a great deal.  This does mean that, irrespective of how effectively we used the outdoor gym, our stomach muscles got a good work out just from the general guffawing that was going on.  I was a bit fearful for hobbit buddy on the walkie, stretchy thing, as it seemed to set off in some sort of perpetual motion like Newton’s Cradle.  Lucky I was on hand to help stop it and move her to a place of safety.

It was only a matter of time before the appeal of posing in our active wear took precedence over any actual work out.  Some of the equipment did clearly work, those bars you pull down were tough.  We both liked the one where you just stand on a spinning drain cover and twist from side to side.  Nice stretch, not very strenuous and drain covers for up to three people.  That would be a very respectable coven say (‘when shall we three meet again‘ etc), but in the absence of any witches to avail themselves of this exercise opportunity, it was fine for two hobbits to twist and chat.  I popped back later to catch this health conscious trio making use of it later on at witching hour.  They are also doing some upper arm exercises too.  Holding your arms up like that is harder than it looks.  To begin with you think it’s going to be easy, but phew, it hurts soon enough.  Give it a go, you’ll find out for yourself.

There was one bit of equipment I really didn’t get at all.  It was a tai chi turning thingy, or something, but it seemed to me utterly pointless, plus hobbit buddy hasn’t done me any great favours with the camera angles either which may be a factor in how I feel about it all.  I would put this piece of kit in a category with those child play mats. You know the ones with textured bits you can stroke the ribbon, and feel the sheep’s wool or whatever, and push a button and – as in this case, turn a pointless wheel.  This may constitute a learning opportunity for a small child, even enrichment for a parrot, but it did nothing for me.  In fact, those play gyms look better, you get to lie down in comfort for starters, which would be better for meditation purposes, if that is partly what the tai chi label is about, which I don’t know to be fair, never tried it.  Maybe if I did I’d understand…

So after a bit, we decided to do some drills. This was mutually entertaining if of dubious value in respect of achieving physical transformations.  I found it was a lot harder to make myself and motivate hobbit buddy to go as far as we do with the drills when at woodrun.  Also, we were a bit self-conscious (I know surprising really given the kinds of things we have got up to in public places with Roger and Ginger) and there were families strolling by, and ‘proper’ athletes doing chin ups on the parkour area – here are some photos stolen from the interweb of the Endcliffe parkour area, of which I thoroughly approve by the way, what those free running guys and girls can do messes with my head!

After the drills, press-ups.  No we didn’t keep count – just did ‘loads’ (ahem) – what do you mean ‘full or half?’ what do you take us for?  Then we decided to mix it up a bit and jogged down to the kiddies play area.  We decided that it would be fun to go on actual swings, and probably it would be a lot easier than swinging on the bars which was fun but hard on the arms.  En route we speculated about whether or not it was OK to go into the children’s play area if we were not in possession of children.  Hobbit buddy is a parent and she said it would be OK as long as we didn’t push any children off any swings. As it happened, because schools are back, the children who were in there were too small to be using the swings so we had them all to ourselves.

It is ages since I’ve been on a swing, years probably.  It was harder than I expected to get going.  They have a back bar now, presumably for safety purposes, but it makes it hard to really lean back and get some momentum going.  I didn’t feel we could really ask anyone for a push.  It’s one thing getting someone to take your photo for you, but as a (reluctant) grown-up playing on the swings, even my ‘social inappropriateness’ warning indicator was sensitive to the fact I shouldn’t really be looking for help there.  I improvised, and got going.  Hobbit buddy was not impressed, it hurt her back, apparently.  Then again, she liked the twirling tai chi wheels, so I suppose we all have our individual strengths.  To begin with I felt a bit of motion sickness which was very odd, but actually, it was a lot of fun.  It must help your core, all that thrusting!  Surely?

So next up, jogged back to our start point and then, go us, we turned around and ran back, again!  I know.  And it wasn’t even a running day for me, we ended up doing about 5k in total, which isn’t much, but as an addition to our hardcore, intensive swinging about, shows real commitment!

To ring the changes a bit, we took a slight detour on our route home.  This also took us to a dilemma.  I think word is getting out about runderwear, and people everywhere are just dumping their pants at will so they can don runderwear instead.  Either that, or there is some sort of local Sheffield superhero, who’s just done some amazing heroic deed in Endcliffe Park, and inadvertently left his purple pants behind when he was doing his lightning swift change of outfits afterwards.  We examined the evidence, but only from a distance.

This actually presented me with a dilemma, we should ‘just say no‘ to littering the park with purple pants, as surely as Zammo should have just said no to heroin.  But then, what if the superhero realises he’s lost them and comes back looking for them?  I felt we ought to have picked them up and disposed of them, but  to be honest, I was a bit squeamish about doing so without gloves (well, you know, don’t know where they’ve been do you?).  It did feel a bit wrong to pose with photos with them and then walk away.  However, I am going out again with hobbit on Friday, and I promise to go and look for them, and to take a bag with me so I can dispose of them responsibly.

So finally, we were back where we started, feeling transformed as well as just a tad smug, but deservedly so.  We had tried something new, and whilst it may not be true to say our transformation is as yet complete, more work in progress, but we have achieved the goal of incorporating some spontaneous cross training into our training regimes.  This is how body make-overs begin.  That and Photoshop.  But I don’t know how to use that.


 So that’s it for now, keep in the swing of your training y’all – and remember, as Ella tells us ”Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) that’s what gets results’!

Categories: motivation, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Talk it up – top tips for improving running technique

How did you come to run like that?’ people sometimes ask me with a note of barely concealed incredulity in their voices.  It’s been brought to my attention that I’ve eased off my Top Tips in relation to developing running techniques lately.  This is not in the spirit or ethos of the running community, and this post is an attempt to address that by sharing some of the expertise I’ve gleaned during my almost a year on the run.  You can take notes if you like, but feel free to just bookmark this page and come back any time for a refresher.

Top Tip No. 1:  Incorporate Cross Training into your schedule

spontaneous cross training

It’s all too easy to get into a fitness rut and lope out running at the same old speed doing the same old things.  To help you really improve you need to be sure to include some strength training.  As Runner’s World reminds us

Cross-training … refers to combining exercises of other disciplines, different than that of the athlete in training. In reference to running, cross-training is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training, to supplement their running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilize. It prevents injury by correcting muscular imbalances. And the variety prevents boredom and burnout.

This can be achieved in a variety of ways, not just by enduring the tedium of the gym.  You might pause to do some squats during your run (not just the once because you need a pee); some Trunce runners or triathletes like to incorporate an open water swim somewhere en route.  My advice though is to use your imagination, why not plan a running route around bits of discarded sports equipment and just leap on for a bit of a workout before continuing on your way?


Top Tip No. 2: Set a personal goal – and share it!


I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to motivate myself to run at times.  If you find your enthusiasm flagging now and again it might help to have a specific target in mind.  The conventional wisdom is that this should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.) or even SMARTER for the more competitively minded ((Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound, Evaluate, and Re-Do). That is goals should be precise and clear, rather than overly broad or ambiguous, and also personally relevant.  For example, some elite runners might aim for, oh, I don’t know, being a European Standard Distance Duathlon AG Champion 2016 say, for me my goal is to secure a flattering photo of myself out running.  I was chatting about this with a qualified run trainer only today, and they were able to offer some really good advice.  Apparently you still do need to work on running form for this, as that is how to be snapped at your most gorgeous.  It seems that if I only work a bit on my technique, it is only a matter of time before those photos are utterly transformed.  Here you can see a photo of how I currently look whilst running, and a photo of how I’d like to look when framed by the lens in future.  I have in the past been depressed (as well as amused) by this pic, but now I look at it again with fresh eyes I see that we would be pretty much indistinguishable as runners if I’d just been a bit more upright in my stance.  Good to know!


Top Tip No. 3: Positive Self-talk

You know those voices in your head?  Not the ones that churn out stuck tapes about all the excruciating things you have either done or left undone from the age of three, but the assertive positive thinking ones.  Come up with a mantra that is meaningful to you and use it to your advantage.  It really does work apparently.  Some suggestions include ‘This is what I trained for‘, ‘I am strong‘ or, for me, ‘run now, carb later!’  Pluckier runners might even go for ‘I AM an elite runner, I CAN do this‘, personally I’d be a bit scared of the fall out in case I accidentally shouted this out loud, but you’d probably be OK yomping cross-country out in the peaks somewhere.

I can and I will

Top Tip No. 4: join a group!

There is nothing quite like the support and solidarity you can glean from other like-minded people.  You will be able to share expertise and buddy up for more challenging training sessions.  Ideally, this would be some sort of a running group, but this morning I joined up with this newt spotting one in Ecclesall Woods and honestly, the people were really lovely!  We even ended up going for a run together afterwards!  Who’d have thought it?

Top Tip No. 5: have some fun with Fartlek or Speed Play

So stop sniggering at the back.  Fartlek is not synonymous with flatulence (though to be fair there may be a correlation in some runners), and anyway you shouldn’t worry too much about spectacularly farting away when running, as hopefully you’ll be moving away from the evidence leaving any unwelcome odours in your wake and may even benefit from some helpful jet-propulsion as you do so.  However, this is not what I’m talking about here…

flatulence fun

Fartlek is also sometimes referred to as ‘speed play’, again, don’t get too excited, this is NOT an open invitation for experimentation with illegal drugs.  Rather, fartlek is a gloriously helpful way to improve the effectiveness of your work outs by incorporating a change of speed. The idea is that instead of just staying endlessly in your running comfort zone – to which your body will inevitably adapt and plateau, you mix it all up a bit.  Simply put, you mix up faster and slower periods of running, interval training really.  It’s a Swedish word originating from the experience of shoppers in IKEA.  A typical couple or group of friends navigating the store will have different priorities, but will have to follow the projected pathway dictated by the store layout.  To speed the passage through the store one half of the couple (or member of the group) will try to push on as fast as possible, the more enthusiastic shopper will continuously pause, leading to a stop/start or (more advanced) fast/slow progression through the maze of IKEA pathways.  Exactly the same principle can be applied to long runs.  If you like a spreadsheet, you could plan this and work out exactly where and when you will pick up your pace en route.  Alternatively, you could draw on your natural environment to help.  Running ‘as fast as you can’ to the next tree or suitable landmark for example and then slowing down a bit to the bench before picking up again.  I must be quite an intuitive runner, as turns out I’ve been doing this unknown for years. Basically I always run at my slow and steady preferred pace (walking) and then pick up speed if I:

  • spot a photographer at a race
  • see another runner coming towards me
  • stumble going downhill and gather a bit too much momentum
  • feel like someone is about to overtake me towards the end at parkrun (I don’t like to think of myself as competitive, but sometimes I am)

Anyway, that works for me – why not think about what works for you?


Top Tip No. 6: learn from others, don’t be afraid to ask for advice!

Now, obviously, you shouldn’t just believe any old nonsense you might pick up on a running blog say, but advice from trusted friends and experts is another thing altogether.  So for example, the other week I was discussing triathletes with some more experienced athletes (represented GB  that sort of thing) as you do.  I’m not currently considering this as although extremely buoyant I never seem to be able to propel myself through the water, just bob about cork like.  I’d never drown in open water (I don’t think) but unless towed wouldn’t make it to any particular end point either.  However, this isn’t what really puts me off, the main issue for me (apart from the exercise aspect) is how on earth could you get on a bike and run after swallowing all that sea water and pond weed?  Surely  you’d be all dehydrated and sodden and feeling a bit nauseous from all you had unwittingly imbibed.  Well, turns out (who knew), that experienced triathletes don’t really swallow water when they swim!  They are in fact confident enough, strong enough and sufficiently advanced with their technique that this isn’t an issue!  Well, respect.  These kind of insights are surely worth their weight in gold!  So this tip is about keeping an open mind and getting chatting with others, you might surprise yourself with what you pick up!



Top Tip No. 7: Think about your kit.

Having the correct running gear is really important.  You will get away with some clothing choices, but you do need to invest in appropriate running shoes; a decent sports bra (gender appropriate); lucky pants (optional – well the lucky bit is, but probably best to wear something that covers your nether regions unless you can run really, really fast).  These aspects of kit seem to be pretty obvious.  However, an often over-looked aspect of serious running is the necessity of auditioning any prospective running clubs in terms of their designated kit.  I love my running club I really do.  But the white vertical stripe which stretches across my sides emphasising my less than svelte form is not the most flattering.   Similarly the comic sans font splits opinion amongst my running friends. At this point I was going to upload a couple of deeply unflattering shots of me in my running vest to illustrate the point, but you know what, I’ve decided not to.  It’s my blog I’ll lie if I want to.  I’ll just go for the generic group shot of slim line runners if it’s all the same to you, and you can use your imagination as to how this seemingly innocuous enough vest looks on being relocated to a more rotund body shape.  Clue: not like this.

Smiley kit

Even so, I love my running club, go Smiley Paces, you do get great recognition and  support out running, so the advantages of sporting it definitely outweigh the disadvantages but the vest has been a wake up call.  If you have a choice of clubs to join do give this some thought.  There is a local fell running club with extraordinarily talented and awesome runners, but those brown horizontal stripes.  Well, it’s a shame, that’s all I’ll commit to…  If you are new to running, or indeed any other sport, maybe invest in a ‘colour me beautiful’ or similar colour consultation and choose a discipline and group which has a kit design that will flatter your skin tone.  It will make a massive difference to how you appear on digital photos that are ubiquitous on Facebook pages for events these days.

Top Tip No. 8: Focus on Nutrition

You can’t run without proper fuel.  Different elite athletes have different approaches to nutrition.  Nicky Spinks can pack away chips and curry sauce on her endurance runs apparently, and European Duathlon champ Kate Morris is on record as using gels for refuelling though after a bit she did adopt an alternative nutrition strategy which avoided some gel cons such as ‘stomach cramps…. sticky stuff smeared across my face, dribbled down my front and snail trails down my legs from where I’d stuffed the gel wrappers up my shorts‘.  Note, this is also another pertinent example of how much we can learn from the elite athletes who are generous enough to share their wisdom with us mere mortals.  I have learned from my Smiley Paces compatriots that when planning longer runs, it is of vital importance that you always conclude with a suitable cake-eating rendezvous, and for myself, no parkrun is complete without a breakfast club gathering afterwards.  Some sports events are wising up to this more than others.  Team AO have organised a pie themed event for a few years now, there is also a different events company offering a beerathon described as ‘a five mile slobstacle course, after each mile you have to neck a great British pint and chomp some great British fodder‘ addressing both nutrition and hydration in their logistical planning.  This also illustrates the importance of finding out what works for you.  However, if you want to avoid hitting the proverbial wall, then consider what you will do to refuel if running for any longer than around 90 minutes is the accepted wisdom.

Top Tip No. 9:  Think Big!

You can probably achieve more than you realise.  Nicky Spinks started her record-breaking running achievements with a 4 mile fell race, The Trunce.  Don’t limit yourself, if you don’t stretch yourself you’ll never know!  Surely it is better to fall from a great height than … oh hang on, maybe not the best analogy. I’m sure you know what I mean…


and finally…

Top Tip No. 10: Remember, it’s supposed to be fun!

Yes, yes, I know we run because we want to get fitter; or work through our mid-life crises.  We run to meditate; we run for ‘me‘ time; we run to socialise; we run ‘to be alone‘; we run to exorcise our inner demons as well as exercise our outer shell.  We all run for different reasons.  However, surely the unifying principle is that it is supposed to be fun (even if sometimes only in retrospect).  So whatever it is you are doing, don’t forget to feel the lurve.  It’s true, there will be days when ‘fun run’ is the ultimate oxymoron, but hey ho, they just help you appreciate the good runs even more. So heave on your trainers, slap on a smile and head out the door. That’s the hard bit done and dusted.  Have you honestly ever regretted a run?  Thought not, so get out there.. I’m right behind you.

This concludes my Top Tips and words of wisdom for today.

You’re welcome. 🙂

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pleasures by the pound…

british-2506_640 pound coin

I am a woman of modest tastes but even so, I am AMAZED at just how much fun you can have for a pound sometimes.  I’ve been on a bit of a winning streak regarding bargain purchases of late, but nevertheless, today I exceeded even my own expectations with how the day unfolded.

In case you have not been following my musings as avidly as you might, recent pleasure inducing pound purchases have included:

bat deely boppers

  1. Poundland sparkly, bat, deely-boppers – absolute bargain, and fun at the time, but ultimately the joy they brought was short lived.  Honestly, once the initial novelty had worn off, they lost some of their appeal after just a couple of days. I wore them on two consecutive occasions – Halloween (a hit), then at the Dovedale Dash (wavering enthusiasm), and today when I looked at them tossed aside on the floor of the hallway, it was  like happening upon a forgotten half drunk cup of tea that’s gone cold.  You could have a gulp, but you just know it wont be the same, and whatever ‘might have been’ in the moment, that moment has passed.
  2. Last night, for the modest outlay of just one pound, I bought an ENORMOUS bar of chocolate.   It was a Cadbury dairy milk daim bar to be specific, and I scoffed the lot.  It was sort of lovely at the time, but I did start feeling a bit queasy half way in and then felt horrible afterwards.  Not unmitigated joy therefore.  I was going to photograph the crumpled up wrapper to add interest to this blog post, but I couldn’t face rummaging through the kitchen bin, still, I’m guessing you’ve binge eaten a chocolate bar yourself at some point, so you can probably imagine

So today, was particularly brilliant, because it reminded me what else you can get for a pound that maintains the pleasure momentum and apparently does not diminish with familiarity either.  I give you (drum roll), the

3.  Women’s community exercise class in Heeley

We didn’t have a session last week, it being half term, so I was pleased to get back into it today.  Today was pretty tickety-boo from the outset to be honest.  The most amazing bright autumn sunshine lighting up the trees which have the sort of wonderful display of colours that makes you rejoice at being alive and want to skip through fallen leaves kicking them with scuffed shoes and scooping them up in your arms and throwing them above you with gay abandon, like a child in a fairy tale.  I’d have a stab of doing this in real life, but I’m too worried about scooping up dog poo and syringes along with the leaf litter to be honest, rather than being put off by the embarrassing possibility of being caught in the act of doing so, but you get the idea.

I left the house and pleasingly my car was neither blocked in, nor had the bonnet been used as an ash tray with stumped out fag ends scattered across the top which was the scene that greeted me when I left my flat yesterday morning.  Instead, the guy who maintains (very well) the communal areas of the house and gardens where my flat is, crossed the car park to come and speak to me.  He was all lit up, like he’d seen – hmm, well, I don’t know really, but something pretty amazing that he felt compelled to relate.  Apparently, he was coming through Walkley, Sheffield, when he saw the bin vehicles doing their weekly roadside collections.  He then became aware of this extraordinary singing voice, rich, deep, mature evocative –  giving a world class rendition of ‘what a wonderful world’.  The guy telling me this story was almost overcome, he’s a nice guy, but definitely more a ‘bloke’ than an obvious seeker out of other people’s inner poetry.  He said he doesn’t normally take much interest in music, but he just couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  The singer turned out to be a youngish (maybe 18-20 year old) white guy, who was singing away whilst emptying the wheelie bins. His mates were apparently oblivious to this talent that moved amongst them!  ‘I don’t know why I’m telling you, I just wanted to share it with someone, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!’  It really was like he’d seen a vision, he wondered off in an apparent daze, still shaking his head in disbelief.  I wish I’d heard it too.  I don’t think it’s the same bin men that cover our patch, so I might have to start stalking Walkley in search of him for myself.  It was a great start to the day, hearing about this awesome singer, greeting this glorious autumn day with a blast from his lungs that had this guy at least filled with wonder.

wonderful world

I was smiling therefore as I headed off in my little car, phutting it’s way to Heeley institute.  I love this session, it’s hilarious beyond your wildest imaginings.  This coming together of a motley crew of women at the appointed hour.  In our medley of body shapes, life experiences and fitness expectations.  And, the clincher is it’s just a pound a shot, it being a community health initiative of some sort, and an absolute bargain.

The week off for half term had taken its toll on our collective co-ordination, but not on the positivity and enthusiasm of our instructor.  She is terrific, and one day, I’d like to record her commentary on the class in full . It is the fitness class equivalent of those famous nursery school teacher monologues that Joyce Grenfell did ‘back in the day’.  So today it was something like this:

Hello everyone, I’m not with it at all today me.  What are we doing? Are you the same?  Isn’t it hot?  I’m not complaining mind, lovely.  Who’d have thought it.  November!  Phew, right, music, yes, that’s it, oooh, Brown Sugar, nice.  One two, one two.  How lovely was the weather yesterday?  Gorgeous, I was in the garden, sunbathing…  (Pause.) … not in my bikini though. Ooh, she’s opening the door at the back now, so don’t bang into it will you?  Grape vine, to easy walk, super, well done, perfect!  Can we do the arms as well now?  It’s supposed to be a diamond.  Can you tell?  This is the slower pace, we are going to do it faster (pulls a face) it’ll be fine.. here we go!  Well done!  Brilliant!  Super!  Ooh, did you two crash?  Oh dear, I think I’m going to have to separate you. Is everyone nice and warm now?  You should be.  I am, phwaw, really warm.  Are you OK in your cardigan?  Are you sure?  It is warm now?  Ok to carry on, does anyone need a drink, right that’s the first part done, crack on…

and so it continues.  There is so much knowing laughter in this class, it is a really positive sense of women coming together and being comfortable in each others company.  After the routine that might loosely be referred to as ‘dance’, we move into floor stretching and work on our core.  She tries to explain where we should be feeling the ‘burn’ in the stomach muscles for each type of crunch exercises   Eventually, after some discussion amongst the group, she takes on board the user feedback and agrees with our collective analysis that is ‘yes, well basically, that first spare tyre you’ve got, the one under your bust?  That’s the one we are working on here’  I LOVE her approach, this is the lived experience of our bodies engaging in perhaps unfamiliar exercise.  No pretentions, no inhibitions, we can just laugh our way through all this and do what we can.  I am very conscious that as I carry all my excess weight in my midriff I’ve  basically got tyres appropriate for a substantial off-roading four-wheel drive, but in this class right here and right now, I’m not self-conscious and I really don’t care.  Life is good.

NBC motivations

The class ended with some leg stretches, this included one where you basically sit on the floor,  legs in front of you, but instead of crossing them, you have the soles of your feet touching so your knees drop out sideways.  No idea what it is actually called.  It gives you a good stretch, and you can use your elbows to push down a bit on your knees if you want to make it deeper, but all of us have our knees sort of suspended quite a way off the floor.  This caused one of the class to suddenly rather randomly exclaim: ‘Do you remember that woman who came here once and bang.  Her knees went out sideways right down touching the floor.  It was amazing.  Whatever happened to her?’  A cluck of recognition went through the room as the more long standing participants of the group remembered the woman who performed this amazing feat of suppleness, but no-one recalled ever having seen her since!  It had us in stitches (though I appreciate maybe you had to be there to share the joke).  Our fitness guru did acknowledge with a wink, that there might have been a causal connection and said she’d try and track her down and give her a call to see whatever happened and check she was OK!

yoga poses

It was through a gale of giggles that we completed our upper arm stretches.  At that moment the community health champion co-coordinator, who established the class, poked her head around the corner to see how we were getting on.  She was seeking to promote a ”health in the city’ campaign, and wanted a couple of shots of us ‘ladies’ in our glorious yoga poses to use for the publicity (optional participation).  We were all up for it though, this class is great, women of all shapes, ages and sizes do take part in exercise and it would be wonderful if more did so.  Whether my positivity will survive the sight of my image on a billboard at Sheffield railway station, or on the back of a bus (I can already hear that joke in my head thank you for noticing) remains to be seen!  In fact, I know it will be more likely a few rushed fliers and a soft focus image of a group of us in which it is impossible to pick out any one individual, on a City Council website, and that would be fine and dandy.

After all, it is indeed a Wonderful World, and there is much pleasure to be had for a pound.  Start saving your pennies now!

Oh, and favourite outfit for today?  The older woman who wears really trendy T-shirts each session.  This week, her top is sporting a huge red padlock emblazoned with ‘love 4 ever’, with a roughly drawn background of wire mesh fencing and barbed wire onto which the lock is fastened lovelock style.  She is awesome.  We all are, what more to say?

Categories: fitness class, motivation | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Unleash your inner dancing queen…

Cross training is the way to go apparently.  It seems if I am ever to make any measurable progress with my running, or at least attempt to hold back the tide of decrepitude that comes with the relentless march of time, it is a good idea to try and find other forms of exercise.

I know my balance is rubbish, my core non-existent, in fact it’s amazing I can remain upright long enough to do the washing up some days.   Possibly as evidence of this, or alternatively as an amusing aside, I once told a spotty youth at an induction session for a gym that I had a genetic abnormality that meant I didn’t have any abdominal muscles and so couldn’t do any sit ups or crunches etc.  He eyed me up, and clearly this seemed all too plausible to him, ‘ok, just skip them’  he said.  It didn’t instil a great deal of confidence in me for his basic knowledge of human anatomy nor physical exercise.  Most importantly of all no rapport, no shared sense of humour, no progress to be made.  It maybe didn’t help that when introducing ourselves at the reception before our shared induction, my friend unzipped her fleece only for a ketchup soaked chip to fly out and land in the paper diary on the desk.  Never have I seen ketchup splatter so far and to such devastating effect.  She had been starving whilst waiting for me outside after a long day of work, grabbed some chips to chomp on for quick carbohydrate fix and obviously one had had dropped down her top in her haste to consume them. One way or another we never did go back…

Anyway, I digress, I have been seeking some sort of class to supplement my running.  I can’t motivate myself, and I don’t fancy any more outdoor sessions now winter is drawing in apace.  I want not too expensive, good humoured but knowledgeable leadership.  How fortuitous that the same fitness instructor who marshalled us for the Endurer Dash runs regular classes at a not to distant social club.  I like her positivity, it is almost pathological, and certainly infectious, or maybe contagious.  It might be contagious as she is quite tactile and huggy so could be spread either by physical touch or be airborne, not that it matters, the ability to pass on enthusiasm and positivity can only be a good thing.

The class is loosely based on dance moves, but that’s not entirely obvious to me.  I do find it much harder than I ought to, but it is definitely fun.  There is a lot of hip gyrating, and standing on one leg (or more accurately wobbling on one leg).  The main thing that will motivate me to stick with it is probably the wall of mirrors that we face throughout.  There is no way you can hide your physique from that reality check.  Normally I will only stand in front of a full length mirror for a very limited period of time, the tolerable maximum duration being however long I can hold my stomach in for on any one particular day.  I defy anyone to hold their stomach in for a whole 45 minute work out session, particularly one where you are standing on one leg for durations that even a self respecting flamingo might query.  Despite the difficultly of the balance exercises, and the torture of the mirrors, the exercise class itself is strangely compulsive.

The instructor (coach, leader – I don’t know what you call these people) anyway, she has super-human mobility and stretch.  She can do things with her body that I didn’t think were possible.  She will ‘simply fold’ over, legs outstretched in front of her, reaching out effortless to touch her toes whilst burying her head on her knees and flattening her prone back. I am still pretty much as a right angle.  I don’t even know  which bit of my body is preventing the move.  Is it because my stomach rolls get in the way, or is it because my ham strings are so tight they aren’t giving a millimetre in any circumstances, try as I may.  Same with sit ups.  She can do this amazing ‘impossible’ manoeuvre where she lies flat on her back, arms stretched above her and legs  outstretched and hard against the floor, then in one graceful movement  she slowly sits upright without using her arms to push her up or letting her legs lift from the floor, she arcs her arms round to touch her toes and folds her whole body against her legs, and then slowly and controlled with her steel abs uncurls and then repeats.  I don’t see how this is humanly possible.  It certainly isn’t humanely possible.  The only comfort I take is that whilst I flail around, not even able to get up to a sitting position without using my arms to help me, I can see in the mirrors that the rest of the class is similarly struggling like so many fish out of water.  Whilst the graceful instructor performs this miracle of muscular control, the rest of us flap about and sweat, thrashing around on the floor to little effect.  One day perhaps…

Despite these indignities, the class is fun, I sweat a lot, and I know I’ll ache afterwards.  It goes quickly, and you emerge into the sharp cold air of Autumn and the dark night almost in a state of shock.  What happened there?  How did I get myself into that?  It is glorious, this is exercise that is fun.

Our coach also has a good trick, after the session she always sends a  text saying how awesome we all are, and how proud she is of our ‘non stop energy’ or whatever.  The thing is, even though I know this is a motivational technique, and I know it is her job to be positive and even though I strongly suspect the contents may not be entirely true re our energy and enthusiasm levels (let’s agree it might be an appropriate use of a little white lie…) it still sort of works.  You get a warm glow of achievement.  Yes I am non-stop with my energy and enthusiasm yes I can do this.  Yes. We. Can!  It seems I am just as shallow as I thought, all it really takes to motivate me is a kind word and a broad smile.

Dance classes on a Friday, core work on a Tuesday night, bring it on.

Categories: fitness class, motivation | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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