FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: November 2013


Friday, 22 November 2013

My first winter of marathon training...

OK so I've gone on about it enough here and on Twitter, Facebook, at work, home and basically anywhere and everywhere I go. If you've been following my blog or social media profiles you'll no doubt have heard me banging on about this winter being my first one of training for next April's Brighton Marathon.

marathon training meme
This is probably how my friends and family feel right now...

Getting through it alive...

I've never ran a marathon before; the furthest I've ever ran is 13.1 miles; a distance that I've dragged myself through somewhat painfully twice before, but now I'm getting better at running I want to do it well. (When I say 'well', I mean I want to come out the other side alive and under five hours, still able to walk the next day). That's realistic, right?

Asics Gel Cumulus 15 womens
Look how pretty they are!!! 
Anyway, I'm really good at talking about it, and reading about it, and buying new trainers for it, and thinking about it, but not very good, it seems, at pulling my finger out and training for it. Yet.

I've had a couple of 10k's to run this month (last week's Brooks Brighton 10k and this Sunday's Running Show 10k as part of the Write This Run conference), so have been telling myself that I'll get down to it properly once these are out of the way.

I've been to physio to get my knees/ankles looked at, and have targeted exercises to be getting on with for the next few months to improve my balance, control and strength in my muscles to support my knees. At the moment I'm running 2-3 times a week (to be increased Monday after this last 10k) during the lead-in period to proper training, which starts on 16th December.

Getting stuck in

I'm really excited to get stuck in to proper training, but need to make sure my base running-fitness is at a good level before plunging into the deep end. I've got the Women's Running Marathon Training Guide and there's a beginner's marathon plan in there but it doesn't quite work for me so I'll adapt it alongside another more time-focused plan that Sian tweeted me. (I'm keeping the time goal of this one under my hat for the moment as I'm not sure if it's realistic yet).

winter marathon training
Gimme what you got, winter... 

I'm signed up to the Run Brighton long training runs on Sundays which is meant to start this Sunday but I'm running the 10k with the WTR crew so will miss the first one. I'm really glad I've signed up to these though as it means I don't have to either plan my long runs or do them on my own, and also as they're at a set time (8.30am!!) I have no excuse to not be bothered and bail out. I always run better with a group and push myself harder than I would alone so I'm hoping to continue improving as I have been this past few months.

The Garmin is ready, the running playlist is updated, and Christmas wishlist features essentials such as a foam roller, running socks and winter running gear. I've even bought myself a really cute little diary for 2014 which I'm gonna write all my runs and fuelling down in to see what works and what doesn't.

So, boys and girls, the groundwork is all laid out and prepared, all I've gotta do now is start training. I'll do it just as soon as I've had a WICKED WEEKEND at the Write This Run conference and Running Show. (If you're going and have previously ran a marathon, be prepared for lots of harassment and repeated questions on training, nutrition etc.)

Are you training for a marathon, and if so which one? First time or second/third/1000th?? (Looking at Cat there...) Send me your marathon tips!! 

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Brighton Brooks 10k - how I learned to run faster

I'm on such a high right now, it's ridiculous. When I started this blog a few months ago I kept writing about wanting to get faster and improve my pace and technique in time for the Brooks 10k. I'd just started adding intervals and hills into my training and was aiming to break the hour for the race.

Today was that race. I came in at 54:54. To say I'm chuffed would be an understatement - I pity anyone who talks to me over the next few days 'cause I'm gonna be a nightmare.

Hard work pays off

I've been working really hard on my running this past few months - focussing on shorter, faster runs to try and give it some welly in the pace department and improve my stamina and endurance. Parkruns, Sweatshop intervals and hill sessions, weekly seafront 10ks and a few runs to work/around the track seem to have done the trick in getting me faster. 

Brooks Brighton 10k

The past few 10k training runs have been around the 57 minute mark so I set myself a top goal of 55 minutes for the race, with a secondary goal of 56 minutes if I couldn't quite do it. This is the first race I've ever actually sat down and worked out the pace I needed to run at to reach a goal - normally I just go for it and see what happens.

I think having a Garmin has a lot to do with it - it's much easier to keep track of pace and distance when it's on my wrist rather than using a phone app in a pouch on my arm. I wrote my two goals on my hand to remind me - something I've seen lots of fellow runners do on Twitter and thought I'd give it a go.

Target race pace

Keeping one eye on my Garmin I could see throughout the race that my pace was fluctuating between 5:25 and 5:40 for most of it, although looking at my splits it seems I started off really fast and then slowed in the middle, before picking it back up again for the finish line glory. To come in just under 55 minutes has made my day and proved to me that all it takes is a bit of commitment and hard work to reach my goals.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned since May if you're trying to be a better/faster runner.

How to run faster 

1) Run faster

Sometimes things really are that simple. If you want to run faster, you're gonna have to occasionally run faster. Add speed sessions into your training. Pyramid intervals and fartleks are a good way to get the blood pumping and wake the old lungs up. It needs to hurt, but a comfortable hurt, if that makes sense. 

2) Step outside of your comfort zone

It took me a long time to realise that I was never gonna get better if all I did was plod around the park or along the seafront in training. I spent the whole time training for both of my half marathons sticking to the same pace, same routes, same times, all that changed was the mileage. Yes I was able to run further, but not faster, and not better. 

It was only when I stepped outside of this comfort zone that I started to see improvements. Hill training, speed sessions, shorter and faster runs, cross training. It'll hurt, but it works. 

Mind over matter - running meme

3) Run more often 

In order to get better at running, you need to run more often. Two ploddy runs a week alongside other sessions/classes aren't gonna make you a stronger, fitter or faster runner, they'll just maintain the level you're at right now. I thought doing 3-4 bootcamp sessions and running twice a week was enough training for a half marathon. Yes, I was fit, but not running fit. I got through it, but it wasn't easy, and hurt more than you'll ever know. (I'm looking at you, last 5 miles of Brighton Half Marathon).

It's only since I've started running more often, well outside of my comfort zone, that I've seen improvements. 

4) Run with others 

I don't know about you, but I run much better when I'm with others - whether that's in a group training run, my local Parkrun, Sweatshop run or a race - I hate being last and will always try and keep up with whoever I'm with. Even if you can't keep up with the group keep trying - you'll soon edge closer and in time will be able to maintain a faster pace for longer. 

Picking off people in front of you to overtake is always a good game to play too, I learnt this from Sarah on Twitter a few months back, and do a fair bit of it myself now to pass the time in races. 

Running meme

By the way, I'm not pretending to be an elite runner here, I'm a very far way off being the best I can be, but what I do know is that hard work pays off. I'm a sucker for finish line glory and it's only the latter part of this year that I've actually enjoyed getting to the finish line rather than enduring it. 

It takes a lot of sweat and effort to be a better runner - 
but get out there and get it done and you'll reap the rewards! 

Sign up for the Brooks 10k 

Are you running faster than you were a few months ago? Any exciting PBs or tips I've missed to learn to run faster?

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Monday, 11 November 2013

Running, I love you.

Dear Running,

I just wanted to say, I love you.

Thank you for our 10k date yesterday, it was lovely. My favourite route - Brighton's undercliff path. The sun was shining, the air brisk, sea calm, and Etherwood's new album playing on my iPod - it was beautiful.

Remnants of the weekend's gin still sloshing around in my belly but there was no hangover at all, Running, because you made me drink water in between jaeger bombs and gin at the family wedding, didn't you?

Just so I could run the next day.

*You did that.* 

From now on, it's just me and you.

Me, you and Physio

146 days until the three of us get together with Brighton and do the M word.

I know Physio will sort us out, he's a top bloke. We'll listen to him this time.

I flirted with you for a long time, spending most of my time with Bootcamp and Zumba, but they just didn't give me what you can.

I mean it this time, it's not a fling. I'm ready to commit. It's time for the M word.

I've even bought running socks and How-To books to learn more about you.

Running, I love you.

Please don't hurt me before 6th April!

Forever yours with endorphins,

Tess xxx


Do you sometimes find yourself ridiculously in love with putting one foot in front of the other, or is it just me?

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Saturday, 2 November 2013

How to fuel a marathon - pre, during & post-race

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you'll probably have heard me banging on about starting training in November for Brighton Marathon next April. Well, November's here and I'm officially shitting it. But in a good way. 

I've been battling equal measures of pure terror and over-excitement at the prospect of getting stuck into some serious training - it's just SUCH A LONG WAY to run, and I honestly don't know if I can do it. But, I've ran two half marathons before, and never thought I'd ever be able to do that, so a full 26.2 *might* just be doable if I sort my knees out, put the work in and fuel efficiently, right? (Say yes Tess). 

Speaking of fuel, I've been sorting my nutrition out recently and am trying to eat clean, but have no idea where to start in terms of fuelling for the marathon distance. Step in the lovely people at the Supplement Centre, who have sent me over some tips for how to fuel efficiently before, during and after the marathon.

I'm especially excited about the three days of carb loading! 


How to fuel a marathon

how to fuel a marathon

With determination and consistent, safe training it’s true that many people can acclimatise their bodies to running the 26.2 miles of a marathon. However, it’s not all about what we do with our bodies; what we put into our bodies is also a huge contributing factor.

It can feel unnatural to change lifelong eating habits, but if you want to make your marathon as fast and fun as possible then it’s worth considering how you fuel your body.

Marathon nutrition can be broken down into three main time spans:

  1. Pre-marathon
  2. During the race
  3. Post-marathon


It used to be recommended that the pre-marathon phase should begin approximately one week prior to the big day. This school of thought has been replaced with a more short-term approach of just 2-3 of days, otherwise known as ‘carb loading’.

Carb loading marathon training
True story...

When we exercise our bodies draw fuel from either glycogen in the muscles (which is a product of carbohydrates) or fat. Fat however is a far less efficient fuel, it burns slower. This means that when our bodies run out of glycogen and switch to fat burning we ‘hit the wall’. Our legs slow down, fatigue sets in and that elegant trot turns into a treacle-footed slog. To delay hitting the wall as long as possible, savvy marathon runners ‘carb load’ to ensure they have as much glycogen stored in their muscles as they possibly can.

Follow their wisdom by eating plenty of carbohydrates for 2-3 days before your marathon - rice, pasta, oats - anything with a high carb content should be packed in. As a rule of thumb 85-95% of your calories should come from carbs during this phase.

During the race

When you get to race day, your muscles should be stocked up to the max with energy-giving glycogen. However, unless you’re superhuman, that ‘wall’ will come at some stage during your race. This is why sensible marathon runners carry some high-energy fuel with them to top up the glycogen tank on race day.

Energy gel is a great option - it’s far more compact than a drink and doesn’t disrupt your breathing pattern like chewy energy bars or supplements might. Start taking in small amounts after only 30 minutes of running, and then continue to steadily consume this fuel throughout the race. Remember to keep taking in water to aid the replenishment of glycogen into your muscles.


If you cross the finish line, first thing’s first - give yourself a colossal pat on the back! Completing a marathon is a fantastic achievement. However, your work is not yet done. If you want to be able to walk properly within a few days, you’d better start feeding those work-weary muscles.

Get a couple of energy gel sachets into your system immediately. Follow them with a non-carbonated sports drink and then get your hands on some carbs again! Keep stocking up your system as you did before the race until you feel like a fully functioning person again - keep going for at least a few days!

Overall, you might be a finely tuned athletic machine, but you’re useless without the right fuel.

This is a guest post from the Supplement Centre.

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