FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: May 2013


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Part 2 - Plodding my way round two half marathons

After my epic plodding for the South Coast Run last August, (the latter stages of which involved some first-class dodging of mothers with prams and overweight balding men wondering aimlessly across the course), I decided I wanted to run/plod a proper half marathon, with a mapped-out course on blocked roads with cheering crowds.

So I signed up to the Brighton Half Marathon. I didn't start training until just after Christmas, which in hindsight was much too late. Although I'm reasonably fit (or a bit fit, hence FitBits) and do bootcamp/boxercise/Zumba 4-5 times a week, I don't run enough and should've done more than two runs a week to train for this half.

A typical week's training in the lead up to the race went a bit like this:

Monday: Early morning bootcamp or rest day
Tuesday: Boxercise class
Wednesday: HIIT class
Thursday: Run to work (either 2.5 or 4 miles depending on the route)
Friday: Early morning bootcamp
Saturday: Zumba
Sunday: Long run (anything from 8-10 miles)

That might look like a lot of activity for one week, and I guess it is, but it's definitely not enough running when training for a half marathon. I know this now. Not only did I not do enough running, but I didn't do any interval or hill training to improve my pace or strength.

Slow pace

Although this 10-miler training run was a really enjoyable one, on a really sunny day along the undercliff path on Brighton seafront, it was a slow pace and I could've picked it up a bit.

Undercliff run 

The race 

I was much less nervous the night before and on the morning of the race than my first half - mainly because I knew I'd done the distance before so it wasn't such a daunting prospect, but also because the crowds and atmosphere were electric and really boosted my confidence. 

Maybe a little too much though. After 2 emergency wees and lots of faffing about with my playlist and earphones I set off way too fast and as a result by mile 5 was already struggling. I remember running up to Rottingdean and after the first turning point (mile 4) I realised that this was gonna be a painful one. The view was beautiful running back down into Brighton along the top of the cliffs, so I sucked it up and kept plodding on, ignoring everyone else who was lapping me.

By mile 9 I was going steady but when I saw my friends and realised that someone I wanted there hadn't made it to cheer me on it suddenly became hard again and when I reached the turning point down by Hove Lagoon (which was a LOT further than I thought it was), I had to stop momentarily to stretch out my calves and back. This really pissed me off as I didn't want to stop or walk any of it, I'd promised myself I'd run the whole way, no matter how much it hurt, so to stop and have to stretch was a real bummer. 

Once I got going again I just powered on for the last stretch - the wind was against us so that last stretch was bloody hard work, but the crowds were amazing and I just kept counting down in my head how long it was until the finish line. "Just another 15 minutes and I'll be there"... "10 minutes left". "Just keep going, don't stop". 

When I saw the first marker for the last km I was so relieved and excited so tried to pick my pace up a bit and finish on a high. Those markers make such a difference, and the cheers from either side really helped too. 
Brighton half marathon
Crossing the finish in 2:21:20

I think the race photo speaks for itself in terms of how relieved I was to have finished - that is pure joy etched on my pain-ridden, long-suffering face. 

Notes for next time:

  2. Do interval training/hill running/speed work to improve pace/technique.
  3. Don't set off too fast - people will always lap me, I need to get over it. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

HIIT is the S-HIIT! And yoga isn't bollocks, it's lovely

I don't like to do things by halves. I'm not one of those pristine-perfect people who waltzes into the gym in full make-up, magazine in-hand, and props it up delicately on the cross trainer only to faff about at less than walking pace for an hour. If I'm gonna work out I do it hard; I like to earn my dinner, thank you very much. Same goes for when I relax. If I'm gonna chill out I'm gonna do it properly, like a pro, horizontal style.

Go hard or go home image graphic
Case in point: Last night's escapades. HIIT followed by yoga. Two polar opposites, but actually quite similar in terms of intensity.  For those of you not in the know, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it's not for the feint hearted! It's only a short session, lasting just 30 minutes with a warmup and stretching either side - but it's always the hardest 30 minutes of my week, and it doesn't ever get any easier.

The idea is that 15 minutes of high intensity interval training is more effective and has the same benefits as an hour of steady running, or any other steady cardio. I can definitely see why. There are various timeframes and class structures but our class is for 30-minutes and each exercise is 50-seconds long with a 10-second break in between.

Jumpy bastards

You have to perform each exercise at maximum effort - there's no faffing about with half-hearted attempts. Nice and easy, right? I can hear you now... "Man up Tess, it's only 50-seconds". Well I'll tell you one thing, it's the longest 50-seconds in the world on some of the exercises, especially the beasty tuck jumps, star jumps or squat jumps, and especially after you've already done 10-minutes of continuous press ups, mountain climbers, squat thrusts and burpees.

bfit Brighton HIIT bootcamp class
Just having a lie down, obviously

I *STILL* can't do every one of the exercises all the way through without stopping, it's the jumpy ones that get me every time. Just when you think you have nothing left to give James throws in a jumpy bastard and you have to summon up some energy from nowhere to get through the next 50-seconds of hell.

bfit Brighton HIIT bootcamp class
My face melting mid jumpy-bastard
In short, HIIT hurts. But that's why I love it. It's the best workout I do every week. I always come away from it looking absolutely stunning: drenched in sweat, puffy and red, with disturbed eyes staring out vacantly in search of food.

It's not bollocks, it's lovely

Or yoga. Vacantly searching for yoga. Follow HIIT with an hour of deep relaxation and concentrated meditative stretching and I'm wound right back down again, in love with the world and ready to take on anything. It's a really strange thing, yoga. I never thought I'd be into it, I always thought it was a bit too hippy-ish, all that release-your-energy and feel-your-body bollocks.

Except it's not bollocks, it's LOVELY. And that's a fact.

I'm not the most flexible person - I'm short, still a little fat and have zero balance. But I'll give it a good go. Some of the stretches are really hard, but in a good way. You don't hurt like you do in HIIT, you just ache through the stretch and absorb it all up. I come out of some of the poses feeling like I'm Jesus or something, it's pretty special.

Haven't tried turning water to wine yet, I'm hoping that'll come once I can finally sit my arse flat on the floor when sat on my knees without feeling like someone's trying to split me in half.

The boy came with me tonight - my newest bfit convert. :) I'm hoping he'll come again and then we can try and be Jesus together. After all, two heads are better than one, with this water to wine business...

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Plodding my way round two half marathons (Part 1)

Running doesn't come naturally to me. I'm not blessed with the longest of limbs: at 4ft9, I'm shorter than most 10 year olds and have short, stumpy legs. Personally, I'm blaming the parents, it's obviously *nothing* to do with the fact that I started smoking at 14 and did so for 10 years.

tess langley
I'm battling some serious height issues 
This combined with not enough training to improve technique and pace has meant that I'm more of a plodder for the half marathon distance. I surprised myself yesterday with my first parkrun, coming in at an average pace of 9:45min/mi, so I can run faster, but then this is 5k and I was pushing harder than normal to try and keep up and not be the last one in.

My first half marathon

What:   South Coast Run
Where: Seaford seafront
When:  August 2012
Finishing time: 2:27:45

The South Coast Run is a fast lapped course along the promenade of Seaford; the distance you run depends on how many laps you do. I chose to do the half marathon (4 laps), as I was up for a challenge and wanted to see if I could actually do it. I ran with my fiance and his family in memory of someone very special for Cancer Research.

Seaford South Coast Run half marathon tess langley
Team Aggies x

We were in the middle of a heatwave (remember those?) and race day fell on one of the hottest days of the year, (around 27C). A week before the race I drove over to suss out the course and do my last long training run, but only managed four miles before having to bail out and buy a Nobbly Bobbly from the ice cream van, it was that hot. (Note to self: Do NOT attempt to run 11miles in the blazing midday summer sun).

Because of this failure I spent the next few days cacking it that I'd dehydrate and collapse in a heap after mile one, never to run again. I set off nice and slow, maintaining my comfortable training pace and made sure I kept hydrated throughout. The crowds were great at the beginning, but because I was so slow they began to filter off once the runners they were watching came in and it was like just another seafront training run. This is the danger of multiple-distance races - not everyone is in for the long run so the crowds don't stick around.

Seaford South Coast Run half marathon tess langley
Sharing the course with the public

Once all the 5 and 10k runners had finished it was just us lonely half marathoners plodding along, and I was pretty much on my own as most of them were much faster than me. The crowds disappeared and people kept just walking across the path to get to the beach or to wait in line for an ice cream - meaning the last straggling runners had to duck and dive between members of the public who were oblivious to the fact that the race was still going on.

It was pretty tempting to give up on the ducking and diving and just plough straight on through them whilst barking various profanities, but I was too tired to do that.

The only thing that kept me going was the fact that at the end of each lap I got a cheer from the rest of my team (only three of us were doing the half marathon distance, the rest had finished and were waiting at the finish line). For the last lap I suddenly got a second wind of energy, so sped up massively to come in and finish on a sprint. It surprised me that I had this in me; I wasn't sure where it had come from, but it definitely felt good and I cannot describe the feeling of anticipation and elation I had when I was on that last home straight, I couldn't wait to finish.

Seaford South Coast Run half marathon tess langley
My sprint to the finish 
Not having done this before I made the mistake of just stopping dead once I did finish, which meant that my legs buckled beneath me and I spent the next few hours waddling around like an old woman.

My legs didn't work properly for days afterwards. But I didn't care, I'd finished. I ran the whole way, didn't walk a single step, and that's all that mattered to me (and the post-race celebratory bubbles & pub lunch!)

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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Parkrun Diaries - #1 The Hungover Pace Setter.

I signed up to Parkrun ages ago, when I first started running, but (wait for it...) never got round to doing it until now. I love the idea of a free weekly timed 5k run - what a great way to train for a bigger event in an almost-race environment. A training race, if you will.

Sometimes when I'm running at a comfortable pace and have eaten a good breakfast, got enough sleep the night before and have the right beats pumping through my earphones (any dnb, trance or progressive/hard house will do nicely, thank you), I feel like I can run forever.

I've run two half marathons before, and have lots of double-figure miler training runs under my belt, so in theory a 5k should be [pun alert]... a walk in the park.

There are a number of reasons why today, this was far from the case:

1) Too much alcohol consumed the night before. (It's May, there's too much going on in Brighton in May to not go out).

2) A knock on effect of the above = not enough sleep. A pissed up 2am bedtime is not conducive to an energised ready-to-run wake up, I can tell you that much.

3) Knock on effect of not having enough sleep: I didn't get up in time to have a proper breakfast.

4) Because I got up late, I had to rush, which means I forgot to set up my GPS tracker on my phone and didn't have time to sort my earphones and playlist out so had to run without music. Not that I didn't try to sort this out - the first 200m were spent frantically trying to untangle aforementioned earphones, but in the end I gave up and dumped them by my bootcamp buddies as I passed them doing their session.

So, didn't get off to the best start, and as I haven't ran for a few weeks due to lots of bootcamp and Zumba sessions, it was a lot harder than it should've been, and took a good chunk of the course to get comfortable.

But, despite the shitty start, I tried to run a little faster than I normally do - made much easier when you're being lapped by the world and his wife - and got round in under 30 mins, which was my initial goal.

Now that I've set my pace, I'm gonna try and get faster or at least maintain it - if I can maintain a 9:45min/mi for longer I might be able to shave a few more mins off my Half Marathon PB, which is 2:21:27. Would love to bag a sub2hour half before the full Brighton Marathon next year.

Another incentive to do it faster is that I could run over to the other end of the park afterwards and join in with more of the bfit Saturday bootcamp session. This morning I made half of it.

Next time I'm gonna try and make more.

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21 things about an ex-smoker/junk-food-eating fattie-turned-health-freak

They say you have to do something 21 times to make it a habit. I've changed a lot of things in my life and have made being healthy my favourite habit, so, to properly introduce myself, here are 21 facts about me (in no particular order):

1) I love keeping fit and it really pains me that I often have trouble fitting in everything I want to do into each week. I'm currently trying to find a way to cram running, swimming, cycling, weight training, boxing, yoga and climbing into seven days and it's just not working so I'm having to prioritise for upcoming goals!

2) I live in Brighton with my fiance husband and cat Dobby Scabbers. (RIP Dobby xx). Can you tell we have a thing about Harry Potter named cats?

A video posted by @fitbits_tess on

3) I'm a Search and Social Media Marketer and Copywriter for a digital agency in Hove (actually).

4) I'm scared of spiders, dentists and heights, but I'm learning to face my fears. (Spiders can do one, however).

5) I'm addicted to the Internet.

6) I'm scatty but organised - my life is organised into tidy(ish) piles.

7) I have 23 piercings, all in my face.

8) One of my failed stop-smoking attempts prompted me to learn crochet to keep my hands busy. I soon picked up the bacci tin again but never put down the crochet hook. I eventually quit smoking though, haven't had a fag for four years.

9) My favourite place in the whole world is Glastonbury.

Glasonbury festival

10) I love Zumba but don't have time to go any more - Sherryn Watkin does the BEST classes in Brighton.

11) My first ever race was Seaford's South Coast Half Marathon. I ran with Chris and his family for Cancer Research. I ran the whole way so was pretty chuffed, even though I couldn't move the next day and had no idea what I was doing with fuelling.

South Coast Run - Half Marathon Seaford
South Coast Run Half Marathon 2012

12) My second half marathon was Brighton, in February 2013. I shaved six minutes off my time and came in at 2:21:20 which I was mega chuffed about but it was MUCH harder than I thought it'd be, mainly because again, I had no idea what I was doing with fuelling.

Brighton Half Marathon 2013
Brighton Half Marathon 2013

13) My third half marathon was Brighton again, February 2014. I absolutely smashed it, ran strong to the end, bagged a 12 minute PB, found Jesus at the finish, etc.

Brighton Half Marathon 2014
Brighton Half Marathon 2014

14) I still suck my thumb.

15) My favourite book is Junk by Melvin Burgess.

16) I'm half Greek Cypriot, but have never been to Cyprus, or Greece, and the only Greek I know is to tell you to close the door and a few profanities, both of which could come in handy if in the right situation I'm sure.

17) I cycle everywhere and LOVE a good hill.

18) I play guitar (badly). My wonderful other half bought me a beautiful Fender acoustic for Christmas, which I'm totally and utterly in love with.

19) My favourite band of all time is Oasis.

20) I get daily inspiration from Angry Jogger and  Gus the Fox.

21) I like writing lists.

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