Showing posts sorted by relevance for query running. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query running. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Secret to Running (at any age!)

I'll let you in to a secret about running.....there is no secret. No-one is better, or mentally stronger, or has a magic ingredient that you couldn't possibly hope to have. They've just trained themselves to do it. (But there are a few things that you can do to make it easier). 

I've been asked by lots of people recently to write a blog post about running, specifically whether I'm a life long runner, or whether running is a recent thing for me, plus how to go about getting fit in "middle age".  So here it is. 

Now I can't pretend that I'm a serious runner in the club sense of the word, or that I'm ever even remotely interested in my times, unless I'm racing. And compared to lots of people I haven't run that much at all - 5 half marathons and one marathon, with my second planned for Sunday.

But running is as big a part of my life as it can be, next to being a wife, Mum, sister, daughter (in no particular order), friend, running a home and working. In fact sometimes it bumps one or two others off the top of the list - particularly running the home. The dust will always be there for a rainy day.

So this is my story.....

I ran on and off sporadically for many years. Occasionally I would go before school in the morning, then I ran fairly consistently at University and at Law School, plus when I trained in London - although the taxi fumes used to make me wheeze a bit after running around Green Park at lunchtime. Then when I was 25 I moved to Birmingham and I think that work got in the way, so I pretty much stopped my sporadic running.

After I came out of the fog of having had our first two, so when I was about 32 or 33, I remember going to see an osteopath because my back was bad and I was horrified to hear that my muscles were like jelly and that my tone was poor. I was slim and I had time on my side but my muscles were rubbish. I was indignant. So indignant!

So I started doing some exercise again - mainly dancing and pilates. Then, having decided that I would never be a runner, I progressed to power walking in the early mornings with our son in a pushchair, and then at work at lunchtime. I also cycled to and from work.

I never really thought that I would get into running properly (and I know it's not for everyone). I'd always found more than half an hour - well even up to half an hour - pretty miserable. I remember reading an article about a girl who started running with her Dad to get fit and after a few weeks she realised that she really started to look forward to her running sessions. I thought that she was bonkers. Totally mad. How could anyone look forward to THAT? 

Then just before I got pregnant with our third (so when I was about 37) I started running again with a girl who lived locally. I can't even remember what prompted it now but I do remember our first run. She was good. I was not. After our first run, which was about 4/5 miles in total, I was puce and shaking. Seriously, I think that my body was in shock. Shortly afterwards I was pleased to find out that I was pregnant and that I couldn't run any more! (Arguably it's a slightly drastic approach but it bought me a good few years!) 

After number 3, I spent three or four mornings a week swimming, with Matilda sitting in her car seat on the side of the pool. And then one day I noticed that I had arm muscles.  That was quite a nice feeling. And that all coincided with meeting new people who I really liked and they ran so I joined them in it. By this stage I was probably 39 or 40. I felt self conscious in a group though - I was the weakest link and occasionally I dropped out but I got to like the chatting, the freedom and the brain space that it gave me. Oh and I discovered that I liked running in the dark. You can't see the hills in the dark or the road stretching out into the distance. See, I still had a slight aversion to it even then. 

Five years ago my usual running buddy was away over the summer and another friend said that she was training for the Birmingham half marathon. I was happy to go out and train with her but never did I imagine, for one minute, that someone like me would run it. I just didn't think that I was good enough, or fast enough....or anything "enough" really. And then having done the training I thought that I may as well run the race. So I did and it was fabulous. I loved the whole thing and still couldn't believe that someone like me could do something like THAT.

And then as I've got older, I've done more running and I love it. I love being out in the fresh air, the brain space that I get and I love chatting to my friends, I honestly think that the older you get, the more stamina you get. And if you've had babies - well nothing compares to the slog of giving birth!

So that's where I am with it now. I run probably five times a week and I can tell within a few steps whether I'm going to find it an easy run or a hard run. I often get hot and sweaty, or freezing cold and wet in the rain. I've run in snow, hail, wind and heat. And still I love it. Well sometimes I hate it but never if I'm with my friends and if I'm on my own and hate it well, I just go home. 


I remember my friend and I listening with interest when Paul Radcliffe was being interviewed on the radio. We listened with baited breath as to how she answered the questions "How do you start running?" What would she answer? What was the magic formula? How do you do this weird and wonderful thing that so many people do for hours on end? 

"you just put your trainers on and you go out of the door and start running". WHAT? Was that it? Was that all that she could offer us? In one sense she's right but I think that I may be able to offer a bit more insight. So this is what I would suggest:

Apps for beginners...

I know of two people close to me who have found apps really useful. I've witnessed my husband literally going from not being able to run for more than a minute and a half at the start of May, to doing 8km now without any problem. The great thing is that the Apps take the mystery out of running and the worry of whether you're going too slow or too fast and running for too short a distance or too long a distance. Follow them and your body will adapt so that you can make the distance. There are apps to follow for lots of distances so once you've finished the first one, you can always go on to the next one. 

For those who want to increase their distance/pace...mix it up! 

If you have been running for a while and you've reached the half an hour mark but want to break through that, I think that a slightly different approach helps.

Rather than slogging around the same route three times a week and hoping that it gets easier (often it doesn't) mix it up a little. Maybe try doing one "long" run at a slower pace than you would normally run. If you go with a friend and can maintain a chat, even a slightly panting one, that's a good sign.

The aim of this run is to increase your stamina. So maybe rather than thinking about the distance you want to cover during this run, think of the time that you want to be on your feet. Maybe aim for an extra ten or fifteen minutes. In training for this marathon, on our long runs my friend and I regularly stop - sometimes for a good fifteen minutes at Costa for a cherry bakewell, some ice cold water and a loo trip. Does it matter? Maybe, who knows? But it makes those three to four hours much more bearable and it gets the miles in the legs, which is the aim of the long run.

Alongside that do a hill session each week. This could be shorter - so perhaps about 20 minutes or so. Either choose a route with a few hills and work your way up those, or choose one hill and run to the top, walk down and run up again. The aim of this run is to increase your fitness. You will get out of breath and it might not be comfortable - but it will definitely help. 

And then if you can work in a speed session, this will help too. My husband is currently following an app to increase his speed. Essentially you run at your normal pace for a few minutes and then do a couple of minutes at an increased pace - not a sprint pace as you need to do it five or six times and not collapse in a heap after the first round. But just a bit faster, to the point that you probably couldn't hold a conversation with a friend. 

Once you have worked on your stamina, your fitness and your pace, you will find that you can run for longer. It's a bit like making a cake really - lots of different ingredients need to come together for it to be a good one!

Join a running Club

I've never really felt that running clubs are for me. It's more the rigidity of the timing of the sessions that puts me off - it's another thing to factor into a timetable that's already busy but I know many who love their running clubs and for sure, they will get you on the straight and narrow. But personally I prefer to be a bit wiggly! 


There are some fab books out there to read. One of my favourites is "Running Like a Girl" by Alexandra Heminsley. I would encourage any female runners out there to read this. Before any race I dip back into it and take a look at my favourite paragraphs. This is one of them:

"What I didn't know on those very early first runs - the ones where even my face seemed to hurt when I got home - was that I wasn't lily-livered or week-willed. Nor was I biomechanically unable to run. I was in fact "going lactic". I had no idea that for at regular pace it takes about ten minutes for the body to start taking on oxygen as fast as it needs it, for one's breathing to regular or for one's body to be properly warmed up. In fact I had not idea what pace I should be going at all.  My goal was simply not to die before the end. For weeks I suspected I was only able to run for ten minutes.......I want to weep when I think of the number of women who head round the block, only to return twelve minutes later, broken and tearful.....if only someone had told me sooner." 

And it's so true. Mile 2 of a run can honestly feel as bad as mile 20. Or put another way, you don't necessarily feel any worse at mile 20, than you do at mile 2.

Running Like a Girl (£5.94) Amazon

 One of my other favourite books "Don't stop me now" is by Vassos Alexander. Entitled "26.2 tales of a runner's obsession", he charts his running escapades and intersperses it with accounts of how others first started running, from Paula Radcliffe to Steve Cram the Brownlees and Nell McAndrew. If like me you people really interest you, this is a great read and easy to pick up and put down.

Take the pressure off..

But most of all remember, this is meant to be fun! Few of us are going to win any serious medals so see it as an opportunity to do something for yourself, to get out, to see your friends and to enjoy being outside and watching the seasons change. Life is made up of so many things that we have to do and this isn't one of them. So if it's not for you, don't do it. There are plenty of other things out there to do instead.

I should just add that of course this is only my view and everyone will have a different view and a different approach. Plus I haven't covered stretching, foam rolling and all the other bits and bobs - they may be for another post. As to running in middle age - well so long as you've not already caused yourself a nasty injury through something else, there's no reason why you can't be as good as the next person. Running is one of those things that we can actually get better with as we age. And as awful as the idea sounds, entering a race really gives you the feeling of what it's all about - the training, the preparation, the crowd, the feeling afterwards - it's nerve wracking but exciting.

Oh and if any of you ever fancy a run, you know where to find me. I'm always up for a run (and a cherry bakewell en route.)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Running gear for when the temperature drops...

It was suggested to me by some readers that it might be a good idea to write a post about what to wear when running in the cold winter months, so I rose to the challenge and asked some running friends of mine for their tips and, together with my own tips, hopefully we have come up with some useful suggestions.

Between us we must have run thousands and thousands of mile. The friends that I spoke to have run marathons which include London, New York and soon to be Florence, along with half marathons which include Birmingham, the Great Parks, Stratford, Bath, Long Marston and no doubt several others.

Aside from what clothes to wear I would say that good trainers are a must. Generally trainers come up small so it's good to try them on before buying them. Running clothing can be picked up for a snip at Primark and until you get into longer distances, really great wicking fabrics aren't that important but from day one (I would say) that everyone needs decent trainers - not of the standards of Olympic athletes, but decent.

So what was the advice and what were the suggestions?

One friend always runs in compression clothing and in winter, that includes thermal compression clothing. She sometimes wears the leggings the day after a long run too. Her favourite brand is Skins. Beware, apparently the clothes can be tricky to get off though, particularly the tops!  Having never tried them I can't really comment but if I decided to train for a marathon I would definitely give them a go. With longer distances and colder weather, everything helps.
I wear capri length running bottoms all year round and I have a couple of GAP pairs that I really like. Something like these from GAP (£15.99) work fine for me, although I do like a splash of colour on them somewhere if possible.

Another friend said that she felt that the winter was all about layering. She has a thermal Nike Dri fit top which she loves as it's really soft.

I always start off with a very fitted running vest top, just to keep everything in place and snug - maybe something like this from GAP (£22.95)

On top of that I wear a long sleeved lightweight running top - maybe something like this from H&M (£24.99) or the Helly Hansen range of base layers is really good.

On top of that I wear a waterproof/windproof jacket, maybe something like this Gore windstopper jacket (£112.49) which one of my friends absolutely swears by. I have a Reebok one bought from an outlet in Brighton about 9 years ago now for £10 and it's brilliant. Another friend loves a jacket with detachable sleeves so that she can turn it into a gilet for those days when only core warmth is needed.

For less expensive options, H&M and as I mentioned earlier Primark, have a good selection of running gear as does Decathlon. Sports Direct has a huge choice of Karrimor running gear, which not surprisingly is made of great fabric.

As to hats, most of the girls find that they make them too hot when running but the neoprene or fleece bands are useful for adding some warmth and keeping unruly, curly, hair under control.

Lightweight gloves were suggested for looking after hands. When it's really cold I run in leather gloves. The pain on a cold day when the feeling comes back to your fingers can be excruciating so anything that can prevent that level of cold in the first place is a must.

Oddly none of us seemed to have different socks for summer or winter running but there again the most comfortable ones are padded and quite thick anyway. One of the girls preferred the double layered ones as they prevent blisters. I picked up four pairs of running socks in GAP when they were reduced to £1.99 each and they have been just as good as some running socks which have cost me £12. After wearing proper running socks there's no way that I could run in anything else. They are one piece of kit that, for relatively little investment, can make a huge difference. 

We didn't seem to chat about bras. I think it very much comes down to the level of support required. Some vest tops have a built in bra which will be sufficient for some.  I always wear a bra too, although not a sports bra which I know I should. However I've never found one that I'm comfortable with. I must investigate them again but frankly I'm not sure that they're going to rescue anything anymore! Here's a link to technical running socks and bras for those interested.

I have one friend who is a real ninja in the Sweaty Betty sale and she picks up some great running pieces. They are really stylish and look great. I haven't quite made it to the lofty height of SB yet, only having bought my first set of "matching" running gear last year, despite having been running on and off since the age of 15.

And one friend swears by leaving layers on her route and collecting them on her way back. Apparently no one ever steals anything from allotments!

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Birmingham half marathon - it's all done and dusted (with photos as evidence!) Thank you to you all for your support!

Yesterday it was the day of the Birmingham half marathon and to those who wished me well, who made a donation to Edward's Trust, who gave up their precious time and came out to cheer, who watched it on TV in the vain hope of spotting me (thanks Mum), who made banners, who ran with me for the last half mile, through the tunnel, through the crowds along Broad Street and up to the finish line shouting encouragement at the top of his voice (thanks Freddie) a HUGE THANK YOU!

This was where I saw the family, plus friends, just after mile 12. Clearly sunglasses were not required for the sun but they have a "rose tinted" effect on my surroundings. And they help me to channel my inner Paula. Something needs to!

Before every race I skim through my favourite book - Running Like A Girl" (£6.79) taking comfort and inspiration from some of the quotes in it, such as:

"The moments of anger or desolation that runners experience at desperate points of a lengthy race are basic physiological reactions to the situation. But once you have accepted what they are then you have learned to conquer them, and you will begin to believe that anything is possible" i.e. It's normal to feel really, really terrible at times. It's all part of the process. You've just get to get on with it and things will get better. And it's true, they do.

This is another of my favourite quotes: "[Running] is an honour, a privilege and a gift." And it truly is. When the going gets tough - and it does get tough, especially when slogging up a hill at mile 11 - I remind myself how lucky I am that I am able to do this and that I mustn't ever, ever, take it for granted.  

And this is the reason why I really like this book, especially for those women who think that running really isn't for them - even though they may secretly want it to be:

"This book is the one I didn't have but would have liked to have read before I went on my first (disastrous) run. Something for those people who think they can't run for whatever reason. For the women who think they aren't slim enough to wear running kit or that it's not worth it if they don't want to compete an entire marathon, for the women who think that running around in circles is an idiotic way to spend the best part of an hour. For those women who don't yet trust that it really is a source of immeasurable pleasure, self-belief and unexpected companionship, rather  than a necessary purgatory - that they might, just might, enjoy the confidence, the physical ease or the mental clarity that running brings."

Mr SG did a fab job of taking photos, especially given that I whizzed past at such a cracking pace (!!)

I think that I've yet to find a running outfit that is actually flattering but I do have favourite brands and one day I may do a post on them. One thing I do really like though are my Saucony Guide trainers (£110). These are about my 5th or 6th pair now. Earlier in the summer I went off grid and bought some Asics, really because I found the colours of the Saucony ones boring (hello, Mrs Shallow alert here) but I paid the price in more ways than one and I won't be making that mistake again. Although I should add that some people love Asics. It's just what works for you as an individual really.

I realise that the time has sort of passed but if anyone would still like to make a donation via my Just Giving page, it will be open for a while longer. I am so, so grateful to everyone who donated. Some of you know me only through here so once again, thank you! (And special thanks to Libby, my running pal who made every step so much more fun.)

I am hoping that next year I will be accompanied by a group of friends who will either be running a half marathon for the first time, or who will be running again having had a couple of years off. So, if anyone wants to join in, you know where to find me! In the meantime, London beckons....

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Mum on the Run - Buying running gear (through gritted teeth)!

Recently it came to my attention that my running gear was in serious need of a re-vamp. It wasn't so much the style, as the hole which I had worn on the inside thigh of my running shorts. The seams had also been caught with Velcro from my running jacket so many times that they were now furry on the outside - and that's really not a good look by anyone's standards. Having said that they have served me well and the cost per wear over the years is now negligible.
For anyone unsure, and/or possibly too polite to ask, the below shot is the after shot - after I had bought the new clothes and after I had been running, hence the red face!
So where to start? Well the first thing is that I don't really like buying running gear. Not only would I rather spend the money on something else (preferably other clothes) but I don't like trying it on. I like my old stuff - it fits, it's comfortable and I don't have to worry about it. It's not particularly flattering but then I'm not sure that any running gear is really - and anyway, it's just functional clothing. Nonetheless, it is falling apart.
As a lot of my friends run, I decided to do a little survey to see where they went for their running clothes. The first friend I spoke to said that she bought a lot of her things from GAP active, which I hadn't really contemplated before as an option. With a couple of hours to spare yesterday (two out of the three children were making ukuleles which we now have at home - lucky us) I headed to GAP where I bought the Gap capris (£19.99) in charcoal and neon sunshine.
Having already owned black bottoms, I thought that the grey and yellow combination would make a nice change. I wore them last night and really liked them. The waist is fairly generous compared to the rest of the proportions but they didn't fall down, which was good for myself and particularly for fellow runners. They have a pocket on the waist band at the back for "stuff" and they also come in grey and pink. I've included a link to GAP active for the full range available.

Another friend buys her running things from Sports Direct, so (after taking a deep breath) I then went there and found this Puma tank for £19 instead of £27.99. It also has a built in bra but what I really liked about it was the fact that it didn't have a racing back to it, which makes the whole bra situation so much easier. I also like my vests to be quite thick and tight fitting - substantial rather than flimsy - so that nothing moves!

I also visited our local Tennis Centre where last week I noticed that they sold Pure Lime. It's a Scandanavian brand and one which I hadn't come across before. I picked up this top for  (£20 instead of £28) - yet to be tried on. The best selection of Pure Lime that I have found online is at Simply Sweat. They do a good range of underwear plus tennis and leisurewear too.

Sweaty Betty is the brand of choice for another friend and she's had some cracking pieces from them in their sale. She usually orders in bulk, on the basis that fitness gear can be tricky in terms of size - and then returns a lot of it. She recently bought this dance vest, reduced from £50 to £25 and it looks great with really short, shorts. I think it's quite "Flashdance" and as it's long, it's great for bottom coverage - and also for anyone who is taller. I've included a link to the sale vests and bottoms and there are some great savings on Stella McCartney pieces for Adidas, as well as really high tech performance gear which is more affordable in the sale.

I also bought these USA Pro  leggings from Sports Direct, just because of the hole issue in my existing ones and at £12.99 instead of £24.99, they were a great price. Whilst I really liked the fit and feel of them, they turned out to be too long so will be going back. However it's definitely a range I will investigate closer.

I shouldn't say this but I've never been a fan of sports bras, always preferring to wear my usual bras, which seemed to offer much better support and a better shape than the sports bras I had tried. However Sports Direct had this USA Pro sports bra (£10.99 instead of £19.99) which is not only slightly padded but is also underwired. I think that we will get on fairly well together, although perhaps not with the tops with the built in bras too as then it all gets a bit much!

Finally, when in JD Sports yesterday, I fell in love with these Nike Flex trainers (£65). I really like the look and colour of them - but that's not really a good enough reason to buy them. When I need new trainers I always go to a proper running shop and pretty much let them tell me what I should be wearing (Saucony, generally) after they have watched me flailing around on the treadmill.

I'm sure that many of you will have your own ideas on the best places for sports wear, together with the best styles and fit but for those who are a little less sure, or who are perhaps just starting out, I hope that this helps.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

New Balance Vazee Rush Trainers - oh boy, they're good!

New Balance Vazee Rush (on sale for £55) 

"Built for athletes who seek the ultimate in cushioning and flexibility for their workouts, these running shoes deliver a comfortable ride mile after mile."

Recently I was lucky enough to be gifted* a pair of New Balance trainers. When it comes to trainers I tend to have two "active" pairs. One pair for running, which are filthy because we do a lot of running along the canals which can be really muddy. And then I have a pair that I wear indoors for the other workouts that I do. 

Having two pairs of trainers on the go at the same time sounds a little indulgent but it only really came about by accident when I bought a pair of Asics for running in but I couldn't get on with them so I "relegated" them to my indoor workout trainers. And you know, we get along quite nicely like that. The house doesn't get all muddy, the Asics look pristine plus they get worn rather than being abandoned and it's probably good for me to swap between the two pairs. 

And then the New Balance came along and they've well and truly upset the apple cart, to the point that I fear that the Asics may well be abandoned after all. But first a little by way of background...

Although I'm generally a size 6, because trainers always come up small, I opted for a size 7. I wasn't sure whether they might be too big but I could tell as soon as I put them on that they fit perfectly. 

And then I walked around in them. Oh boy are they light? (181g or 6.4oz to be precise). I don't think that I've ever worn trainers as light as these. But at the same time they are really substantial around the heel so they feel really snug and supportive, which I like. 

I haven't yet worn them outside for running in but I think that I may give them a whirl around the block tomorrow when I do some hill work. Frankly I need all the help that I can get and a lighter pair of trainers may just give me a little something. Plus, much as I love my usual running brand, they are a bit boring on the looks front (shallow comment alert) and it would be nice to see something a bit more interesting at the end of my legs when I'm plodding the streets. 

And this is what they look like at the end of my legs. I always think that it's funny seeing things from someone else's perspectives. You get so used to seeing how you look and I bet right now, people are thinking "Oooh she's got short legs" or "Oooh she's got long legs" or "Oooh she's got chunky thighs" or "Oooh she's got skinny thighs" because these things are all relative aren't they?


So there we go. It's always risky reviewing an item but trainers must be one of the trickiest because it's so important they are not only right but more than right. And these are. In fact given the choice tonight (for HIIT training) and last night (for resistance training) between the Asics and the NB, I chose the NB, which pretty much says it all.

In addition to neutral running trainers, NB also make trainers for those who pronate and trail trainers too. I have to say that I'm new to NB so I would love to hear whether anyone else out there wears them and if so, what do you think? 

*For disclosure purposes, I realised that I was going to receive a sample pair of trainers but I assumed that this meant that I had to return them after I'd worn them briefly (indoors). However when I enquired about how best I should return them, I found out that I was able to keep them - which I am delighted about as they are rather lovely. 

Monday, 22 January 2018

What to wear when running? It's the eternal question!

One of the subjects that I'm most frequently asked about is running: what to wear, what to eat and how to get out there and do it in the first place!

Well luckily, the issue of how to get out there in the first place (and hopefully quite a few other things besides) is addressed in this post here which I wrote back in October. I've written several running posts over the years, which you can also read here and here (there may be a little overlap. Sorry!)

But as to what to wear? Well that seems to be something that causes much discussion if not a little distress. So I'm going to identify some of the things that you might want to think about and then have a chat about them. Oooh but first, I should just say that I'm not able to include images from GAP and M&S for some reason. I've tried for hours but I'm just going to have to get on and post, or else abandon the whole thing!

So here goes....
  1. Layers
  2. Underwear 
  3. Socks 
  4. Leggings
  5. Tops  
  6. Jackets
  7. Hat and gloves

Layers are, if you like, the holy grail of getting it bang on temperature wise. Layers of fairly well fitting pieces made from sporting fabrics that are of similar thickness and which can be taken off and on again as needed, are essential. Anything heavy, such as a sweatshirt (non breathable) or with feathers in it such as a puffa (too hot) will leave you feeling uncomfortable and heading for home before you've finished your first km.

And the point of the layers being fitted as opposed to baggy is that they will fit underneath each other without getting ruched up and becoming uncomfortable.  

Even on the coldest of days, such as today when it was snowing, I'm only in 3 layers - and I'm an utter wimp. I always wear a fitted no sleeved vest as a basic. Then when it gets colder I'll add a long sleeved top and from about mid October onwards, a jacket. The only thing that changes during the winter is the weight of my jacket. I have one heavier one that I wear when it's really cold and rest of the time (if a jacket is needed at all) it's a lighter weight one.  And apart from your first layer of a vest top, in my humble opinion, all of them should have long sleeves so that they can be tied around your waist.


Irrespective of your bust size, I would absolutely say that a sports bra or cropped sports top is necessary. They are made for comfort and offer the best support possible. They can be padded or not, underwired or not. They can have racer backs, wide straps, narrow straps - anything that you like really but I would say that the right underwear is key. We've all seen those women running in the wrong bras and I'm not sure that any of us wants to go there.

Personally I love the M&S ones but I think that I'm inherently lazy and I just can't be bothered to try other brands. Plus I guess if they work, there's no need to look anywhere else. They have great prints, colours and styles, all of which you can take a look at here

There are special pants that you can buy to run in but I've never ventured into those. My everyday pants have always served me just fine but if they're your thing by all means give them a try (and let me know what you think.)


This sounds dramatic but the thought of running in "normal" socks fills me with horror. I don't know why - maybe it's a security thing. I like nice, soft, well padded, sports socks. Some of the best are, for my money, in Primark. I like them cut quite low too - they're just more flattering around the ankles, especially if you're wearing capri leggings. 


Oooh now there's a subject with legs. Capri or full length? Low rise or high rise? Fabric composition? Thermal or not and how about compression? 

I would say that I've probably tried most of them and my favourites are high rise capris. Full length thermal tights are great for when it's really cold and compression tights do feel lovely on a very long run but both of those are pricey. So on the whole, if you're just starting out and don't plan on over investing in them, capris seem to do the trick 90% of the time.

Some of my favourite capris are the high rise sculp capris from GAP (£62.95)  I have to say that I've never paid anywhere near anything like that for a pair of Gap capris. Usually I pay no more than £25 in the sale or with a 40% friends and family discount. But see the high rise and the wide waistband? That's what I really like about them.

Or for a legging, there's the high rise Winterbrush print leggings from GAP (£59.95).

There's even a 7/8th legging which is longer than a capri but shorter than a full length legging. There's so much choice, so I've linked to them all here

I've also had great leggings from Victoria's Secret as well as these Body Glove Active Wear leggings (£69.99) that were gifted to me by Cocobay this time last year. 

Oh and on a really, really cold day, full length tights with shorts over the top can stop you from getting a chilly bum on a long run. 


I've already mentioned vest tops. This is the kind of fitted vest top that I like but it all comes down to personal preference. If it's a really hot day I might wear a slightly looser vest as I won't be putting another layer over the top. Otherwise it's fitted all the way. 

H&M sports vest top (£8.99)

This top is fab. It comes in 8 colours and whilst they're not necessarily very "shouty" that's fine if you don't want to stand out too much. If you do, then there are brighter ones at H&M or Primark again is good for running vests. 

As to long sleeved tops, again I prefer them to be fitted but it's all a question of taste and what works for you. I also like them to have a thumb hole in them so that I can cover my hands on colder days. 

Seamless sports top H&M (£17.99)

This is a great top in four different colours. I love that there are bright printed pieces out there at places like Sweaty Betty and Lululemon but I think that it can be too easy to get sucked into the mindset of thinking that it all has to look super cool. If you're trying to impress in a central London yoga class then maybe - if you're running along the canals in the urban hinterland of Birmingham - not so much! 


This is my absolute favourite lighterweight jacket. It's the Seafolly Flower Festival windbreaker jacket from Cocobay and it's now in the sale, reduced from £82 to £49.20.

The best thing about this jacket is that it's cropped, so it offers all of the warmth that I need over my arms and upper torso but there's not too much flapping around, should I need to take it off and tie it around my waist. I love the print too and the fact that I can put my keys in my pocket. 

Hat and gloves and bits and bobs

Hats can be a real love, or a real hate item. One of my friends goes a bit woozy if ever she wears a hat, however cold it is. Others get earache - in which case a hat can be essential. A head band (not Bjorn Borg style I hasten to add) can be a great idea and if you've got long hair and they can also look fab. 

One of my favourite places for those extra bits and bobs is Sports Direct. They have all manner of things from the obvious hats and gloves, to reflective strips, head torches, and armbands for your phone. I've gone through many armbands over the years and this neoprene Karrimor X-lite reflect armband, which comes in four colours, is my favourite by far. 

Karrimor armband (£8.75 instead of £19.99)

It's great because first, it doesn't come undone, secondly there's room for a key and some money in it and thirdly, unlike the plastic ones, it doesn't chaff if it's against bare skin in the summer.

And I still think that this is a great place to start if you want to know the ins and outs about running. I get it out every time I'm about to run a race, returning to my favourite pages for the hints and tips. 

I hope that this post helps but if you have any questions or queries, you know where to find me! 

Monday, 4 January 2016

The Fitbit - what is it, how does it work and do I need one in my life?

For Christmas, my husband gave me a Fit Bit. Now some might be ever so slightly insulted by this but he knows that I like running type gadgets and I already have a Garmin running watch (which is now about 10 years old and the size of a small TV but it's still fully functioning. In fact people ask whether it's a new, cool, retro style. No, it's an old uncool large style). So, being a slight geek, I was well chuffed. He bought me the FitBit Charge HR which is discreet and which looks like this..... (I'm not going to include the price because being a present that wouldn't feel right.)

I've also recently had a reader contact me to see what I think of Fitbits (or similar gadgets) and whilst I know I'm only in the first flush of geekiness with it, I really love it. 

I didn't really appreciate what these little watch sized things could do until I had a good play around with mine so I'll give you a quick whizz through.

This is the first screen. I've set mine up to show the information detailed below but there is more to add if you wish. We did a really long run yesterday so I wanted to set it as against my running watch to check the stats. It actually came up short on the distance so I'm not quite sure of its accuracy in that sense. I've nothing to measure the other stats by so I wouldn't rely on them too heavily but they offer a really good indicator of what I'm up to. 

Each of the above can be broken down further by clicking on the arrow next to them. So for example you can see from the above screen that I burned 2,982 calories and the screen below shows you how that's broken down. See that plateau mid afternoon where not much happened? That's when I went to the cinema to see Joy and sat on my butt for two hours.

I guess it's a bit scary really - I'm sure that the police could use this type of information as evidence somehow in the future. (No it wasn't me who was seen running away from the crime scene, I was sitting at home watching TV. Really? Your heart rate/step rate/calorie burn from you Fit Bit would seem to suggest otherwise.) OK, maybe not.

This is the more detailed information available relating to the "Steps" screen. I did a lot of pottering around the house today, plus some low intensity exercise which doesn't show up hugely, but then it shows that I took quite a few steps tonight when running - and I seem to have created an image of the Empire State Building.

Then it's possible to get down to the whole heart rate business. This graph shows beats per minute and how long you spend in each of the heart rate "zones". Oddly I only seem to be able to get my heart rate into the optimum zone when running, although the HIIT workouts that I do feel far more challenging. I measure this in the most scientific of ways ie whether I'm still able to chat to my friends or not at the same time as undertaking the particular type of exercise in question.

And, it's also possible to get stats relating to your sleep. I haven't quite worked out how I'm restless for so many minutes as I'm never aware of even moving in the night, let alone being awake but that gives me something else to investigate *geek alert*.

So, there you go! That's what a Fit Bit is all about. For those starting out on an exercise journey, I think that they could act as a great motivator. Getting to 10,000 steps a day with a sedentary job probably wouldn't be that easy but it might just encourage someone to take extra steps wherever possible to reach their goal. Or they could just hate the bloody thing, chuck it out of the window and open the nearest packet of biscuits. I guess it all just depends on how you're wired.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

A school run outfit of Nike, Boden, Gap and All Saints to help with sore toes!

You may remember that I mentioned that I had somehow inadvertently ended up training for the Birmingham half marathon. Well last night saw us run 14 miles in preparation for it - just to be on the safe side. The reason that I tell you this is because it directly impacted on today's outfit.
My purple Nike trainers were the softest thing to wear against my slightly sore toes for the walk to school this morning. Feeling the need for warmth, comfort and the clothing equivalent of a hot stew, I also wore my Boden cashmere striped jumper together with skinny jeans and an All Saints mac. The thought of a clutch also appealed more than a handbag, so I used my snake print Marc Jacobs neon clutch instead. I have to admit that I am coming perilously close to buying a onesie to wear after the event (but don't tell anyone).  

Having done only a few long distance runs, I can't pretend to be an authority on them but through trial and error, and taking on board what others have said, I have found a few things that help in preparation. So for anyone interested, here goes:
  • An hour's nap in the afternoon is a good plan (sneaky I know but I did our last 13 mile run after a six hour shopping day and that was really, really, hard);
  • Carb loading on fresh white home baked rolls and butter an hour and half before running seems to work and it is also slightly indulgent;
  • Jelly babies are good to nibble after about 10 miles and are a good distraction (but they make you really thirsty and your teeth feel horrible);
  • Chatting on and off makes the time go much quicker (we tried to convince ourselves that we were in our local pub, which worked to an extent but certain things were missing ie alcohol);
  • The Endomondo app is good for providing information of your speed for each km run, which oddly acts as a good motivator. It also enables you to see your speed as you are running. Naturally we concluded that it wasn't entirely accurate and that the signal failed somewhere along our tree dense route so that we were, in fact, actually faster than it gave us credit for;
  • Running in trainers which don't have holes in the bottom of them is probably a good idea (well, how often are you meant to check the bottom of your trainers) and good running socks are worth their weight in gold.
If anyone else would like to share their tips I would love to hear them. Anything and everything is welcome! I would particularly like to know how to convince yourself that you are running at night time (which I much prefer) even though you are running in the morning. I'm thinking about wearing sunglasses but I'm not sure that it will work.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

A triple bill - something to wear, something to eat and something to do!

By way of a change, I thought that I would bring you three different items in this post - something to wear, something to eat and a little exercise thought or two.

You all know how much I love anything pink - particularly a pink top or jumper (or front door) and so when I was shopping for some outfits for an upcoming event, this Sun, Sea, Sand Hush top (£40) might just have found its way into my basket. I haven't tried it on yet but it made me instantly cheery - and there would be something slightly ironic about wearing it when we're so far from the sea.

One of the main observations in the "comments" section about this top on the Hush site, is that it is much brighter in real life than shown on the site - which is a fair comment when you compare the two photos above. Anyway, if you're on the look out for a pink pick me up for your wardrobe, this could be it.

And if you're looking for a snack time pick me up, these could be them! True, I know that they don't look the most appetising ever but I love them and the recipe makes loads, so you can pop a few in the freezer and always have a healthy snack at the ready. They are the raw vegan flapjack from Jamie's "Everyday Superfoods" but without the oil or the maple syrup. I find that if I soak the dates and dried fruit in warm water for a few minutes, they get nice and soft and absorb enough liquid so that the oil isn't necessary.

I make these in the nutri-bullet in two separate batches or else it can't cope with all of the ingredients. Essentially I chuck in 200g oats, 100g hazelnuts, 50/100g other mixed nuts, 20g sunflower seeds, 100g dried fruit and 180g dates, whizz it up, roll it into humungous sized rabbit droppings and there we have about 22 power balls. They can be flavoured with cacao powder, or ginger, or other bits and bobs but I prefer them just as they come. And they're great to take out running with you...which leads me to my next part of this post.

Running. In all its sweaty, heart-pumping, achingly painful (at times) but totally mind clearing and wonderful glory. For some crazy reason, I've entered the ballot for the London Marathon again. Now it's just a waiting game until the beginning of October to see whether I have a place. And in the meantime, I shall be training for the Birmingham Marathon, which is towards the end of October. It's the first time that we've had a Marathon in Birmingham and whilst I didn't think that I had another one in me, I did a few 20 odd milers with a friend in preparation for the Boston Marathon and it was OK - so what the hec?

But at the same time as marathon training, I'm doing the "Couch to 5k" app with my husband. A more unlikely runner you couldn't find - only through lack of interest I should hasten to add. It's taken me 20 years to get him to come out with me! But he's done three runs now, he hasn't complained once and I reckon that he will be pretty nippy once he gets into the swing of it. It was his new resolution on reaching 50. So for anyone tempted, the app could be perfect - the worst thing is heading out, blasting around the streets for 400m and then collapsing in a heap never to go out again. This is a gentle, structured introduction that includes lots of walking as well.  

Oh, and the "Mind over Marathon" TV programme was brilliant. I loved seeing how running transformed the lives of those involved in such a moving and positive way. I would imagine that if you weren't sure whether you could get out there and do it (and I know that it's not for everyone) this might just be the thing to get someone to put on their trainers and give it a go.

And of course non of us ever likes how we look in skin tight lycra but again, a splash of pink or coral - or some flowers and a few layers always helps. I'm still loving the way that my Prism Leggings and Seafolly Festival Hoodie (both available at Cocobay) feel when I'm running in them. These are my running staples but I also have a good splash of pieces from GAP, H&M and Primark for running in too - so it's really not necessary to spend a lot to get going.

I hope that you all have something fab planned for the weekend, or if not, that you can just sit back and relax for a while. x

Sunday, 20 March 2016

So how do you run 24 miles? (If I couldn't do it with a friend, I wouldn't do it at all!)

But before I start.....

I didn't manage to get a place in the ballot for the London Marathon, which means that I am fundraising for Coram, who do amazing work with vulnerable and underprivileged children. I feel really uncomfortable asking for donations from people, so instead I will shortly be posting about a fabulous competition that I am going to run on here to help reach my target. Do keep your eyes open! 

Twenty four miles is the most that my friend and I have run whilst training for the London Marathon. "How do you do it?" is a question that I've been asked a lot recently.  Compared to some, I've run very little. Many others have run much further than this and much more frequently too.  But the one thing that I do remember is being in the position, not so long ago, where I would look at others and think "How on earth do you do that? How is it physically possible?"

On reading this I really DID ask myself "how is that physically possible?" The author is an ultra-marathon runner. 50 miles, 100 miles - it's no problem to him!

The answer is you build up to it slowly. It's not as if you just wake up one day and think to yourself "Oh I know, today I'll go and run 24 miles." Having completed the Birmingham half marathon last October, my friend and I ran the half marathon distance possibly once a month until Christmas. The day after Boxing Day we did 13 miles, the week later 16 miles, then 18 miles, 20 miles, 22 miles and then 24 miles. So like anything, if you build up little by little, it's not so much of a shock to the body.

The day before, and the day of, a long run preparation is key. We do our long runs on a Friday afternoon and we do shorter sessions, and hill and sprint work, either together, or alone, or with other super lovely friends who run, during the week.

I don't do too much exercise the day before. On a Friday morning I eat a lightish breakfast, have a mid-morning nutri-bullet and an early lunch. Then, when the running watch starts charging, together with the FitBit, and the phone - when the bum bag gets loaded up, when the key and cash get stashed in the phone holder that I wear on my arm - that's when the adrenaline kicks in.

Unlocking the key to the success of the Kenyans in distance running. 

I wouldn't want anyone to be under the illusion that we run 24 miles non-stop. After five or so miles we'll have a quick stop. Out comes the M&S chocolate flapjack, the elderflower water, the Love Hearts, Twix - you name it, we've got it. In fact, if we're honest we probably spend most of our run working out when we can next stop to eat something delicious and sweet.  We could do with a Mrs Overall style trolley for our three course meal that we take with us. And thereafter we'll stop every 40 minutes or so to top up as once you've gone past the point of no return, you really know about it.

And as for passing the time? Well we go in phases. Mostly we chat - a lot. In fact a friend of mine said the other day that she heard us coming before she saw us, which was impressive as we were wearing huge amounts of pink lycra.

We talk about our children, work, schools, things we've read and how we're going to run on the day. What if one is faster than the other? What if one needs a loo stop? What techniques are we going to use to motivate ourselves through the tricky spots? And most importantly, how are we going to communicate given that, for once, we won't actually be talking? We un-pack things that need unpacking and when the going gets tough, which is does, we try to re-set one another's brains by the use of distraction, or pretending that we've only just started and that we're full of beans, whereas really we're at mile 18 and just want to go home.

Occasionally we'll just plod along in silence - but that's usually only when we're going up hill and we're breathing too hard to talk. Then one of us will say "I'll talk at the top" and on we plod until we've made it and normal chatting is resumed.

We have run in all weathers and sometimes the harshest weather makes it more fun. Blizzards, hail, snow, rain, wind (my least favourite) - it all helps with the stamina. I think that our greatest difficulty will be if it's too warm as that is something that we're not used to at all.

And crikey sometimes we're laughing so much that we have to stop running. We've been known to balance precariously over canal locks when the tow paths have been closed. We've clambered over, under, through and around barriers of no-go areas. We've run through the industrial backwaters of Birmingham, under the M5 bridges and under railway bridges with their huge concrete supports, expecting (in my case) to find a dead body at any moment.

And then, when we run up one of the hills to get us home, sometimes we get that fourth, fifth or sixth wind and it no longer hurts. It feels as though we're flying. Not out of breath, not aching just powering up towards the traffic lights that signal home. And then we stop. And then we can't move again because everything hurts and those seconds of pure joy have passed. But still we keep on chatting...

So my tips - none of which are revolutionary or revelatory because if you're training for a distance this will have all be covered in a training plan/manual somewhere:

  • If I couldn't do it with a friend I wouldn't do it at all. Of that I'm sure!
  • Whilst some people love them, I'm suspicious of the gels and would rather eat proper food, even if on the day I carry little bits and nibble it slowly - so flapjack, Naked bars - it's all good stuff. And sweets really do give you that sugar kick just when you need it;
  • On a long run avoid looking your watch too often. It's like going on a long plane journey - you just have to switch off and let the hours wash over you;
  • The long runs for us are to get used to the miles and to build stamina - not really for the speed, although we do wear running watches so that we know how we're doing. It's the other training - the hills and the sprint work that will help with the speed and a bit like baking a cake, hopefully it will come together on the day;
  • I find that core and leg work also help with strength, although it may just be psychological;
  • I love reading books about runners - Running with the Kenyans, Eat and Run, Running Like a Girl, books about Ultra Marathon runners - all of them have the page corners turned down at places where I find something helpful or inspiring;
  • Running is as much psychological as it is physical. Next on my reading list is "the Runner's Brain". If you can accept that it's normal to want to stop, then you're half way to keeping on going! 
  • What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. You may prefer to run alone, to listen to music or listen to podcasts, to re-fuel with gels - it's all just trial and error really. But the one thing that I am sure of is that never once have felt worse after a run than before.