FitBits: February 2014

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Friday, 28 February 2014

Climbing at Westway Sports Centre

I've got a bit of a thing for stepping outside my comfort zone. I think it's important to do things that scare and challenge us; things that get our hearts pumping and require a healthy dose of adrenalin to get through. It's good for the soul.

I don't know about you, but I'm scared of a few obvious things. Spiders, dentists, being under water and heights. I have various coping strategies: spiders - I find blind panic and crying often gets someone else to deal with them; dentists - I have diazepam; being under water - I'm working on it. But heights I've never really dealt with.

Goodbye comfort zone 


A couple of weeks ago I was invited to try out rock climbing and bouldering at Westway Sports Centre by an organisation called spogo. For those of you not in the know, spogo is a great website that hooks people up with a range of sports and physical activities in their local area. It's basically one massive database of over 121,000 sports venues, clubs, leisure centres, personal trainers, events and other activities across the country.

So, being petrified of heights but a sucker for a challenge, I thought I'd give it a go.


Westway Climbing Centre - spogo bloggers day


Tess v climbing


Firstly, have you ever been to Westway? It's IMMENSE. It's a massive multi-purpose sports centre that's got just about everything you'd ever want - football pitches, cricket nets, swimming pool, gym, tennis courts, climbing walls, bouldering - it's just huge. I met up with bloggers Charlotte, Dannii, Becca and Lorna from spogo and we got kitted up (harness and weird pinchy climbing shoes) and made our way to the bouldering practice wall.

Becca striking a pose as we practice bouldering 

After being shown how to 'climb' across the practice wall without touching the floor we were taken round to one of the beginner walls. I took a look around and saw we were surrounded by kids who were flying to the top - like little rats up drainpipes they were, squirrelling up without a care in the world. There were also a fair few adult pro climbers hanging by their finger tips as they mastered the higher inverted walls.

Climbing at Westway Sports Centre spogo
Pro climbers mastering the tough inversions

I decided to go first to get it out of the way - the less time I spent faffing the better. We got into pairs and our instructor talked us through how to support each other with the ropes - as the climber went up the partner on the ground had to tighten the rope so if they fell they'd not have far to go and be supported by the other's weight. We were also talked through the different types of handles and footholes - some were easy and some hard - so just a case of checking them out before making a move.

Westway Climbing Centre - spogo bloggers day
Weighing up the task in hand... 


My first climb was really scary. I haven't been on a climbing wall since crying at the top of the PGL one when I was in primary school. I got about half way up and froze, couldn't make a decision about where to go and had to ask everyone to help me find a way up. It's really weird when you're up there, having to suss out what you can reach to find a route to the top. It looks really different from the ground but I swear when I was up there I was on top of a mountain and had nowhere to go.

With a bit of guidance I nearly made it to the top before having to come back down to solid ground. It doesn't even look that high when you look at the below photo, but trust me, when you're up there it's high enough! Coming down was scary too - I had to let go and lean back into my rope as Charlotte and the instructor lowered me down. You have to really trust your partner to bear your weight.

Westway Climbing Centre - spogo bloggers day

When I got to the ground I was so relieved but totally buzzing - adrenalin does funny things to me. Behold my 'oh my Christ that's scary' face:

Westway Climbing Centre - spogo bloggers day
Thanking God for solid ground

Once everyone had a go we moved on to a slightly harder one. I didn't get as far up this time as there just didn't seem to be enough things to hold on to. I tried to use the excuse that I'm short but I think it's more that I didn't trust myself to jump or push my body up and over to the next bit. That and I found it difficult to see where I could go.

Tess v bouldering 


After the climbing walls and lunch we moved onto the bouldering area. I thought bouldering was just going from side to side along the wall, I had no idea how difficult it was with the inversions and hanging upside down etc.

Bouldering at Westway Sports CentreThere are no ropes or harnesses with bouldering, and even though it's not as high there's still risk of injury if you fall awkwardly. There are routes marked by coloured footholes and you have to start from being sat on the ground, not from standing - harder than it sounds! We tried a couple of routes - one of which was mega hard, and involved swinging upside down to get to the next part - it required great upper body strength and agility, which none of us really had.

I watched other climbers as they nimbly worked their way round like monkeys, and knew I had to come back and give it another go. I'm marrying a tree surgeon so no excuses not to practice!

Coming back for more


It was a fantastic day, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it even though I was really scared for the climbing. Once the marathon's over I'm definitely gonna look into doing it more often so I can get better. It's great for upper body strength as well as whole body flexibility and agility, and is also great for mental problem solving so good brain training.

Big thanks to spogo and Westway Sports Centre for inviting us along to the day.

If you want to give climbing or bouldering a go at Westway they have instructors available to show you the ropes and get you started. More information on prices, membership and other facilities available on the website.

spogo was developed by ukactive using a Sport England lottery grant, it was created as part of the digital legacy of the 2012 Olympics to inspire people to get active more often. Visit the website to sign up and get involved.


Have you tried climbing or bouldering? If you're as scared of heights as me I urge you to give it a go, it's a great rush and brilliant strength workout!

More photos on my Facebook page 

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

When the going gets tough... keep running


This morning's long run was tough.

Actually, let me rephrase that. This morning's long run was hell on earth. I don't think I enjoyed any of it. Not like I enjoyed last week's half marathon - that was epic, and such a confidence boost. There really is nothing like the feeling you get when you're running strong.

Or when all you want to do is stop. 

I knew when I got the RunBrighton email with the route that it was gonna be a tough one - another stint up to Devil's Dyke and across the Downs - up hill all of the way before the hour turn point, then mostly downhill on the way back, with a few long ass inclines and massive sloping cambers thrown in for good measure.

The 10:30min/mi group - before the wheels fell off

I don't know whether it was still being tired from the half or a culmination of the most manic week's overtime at work and shitty sleep patterns that's to 'blame' but I can tell you, it wasn't pretty. It did get done though, so I'm happy about that.

It's getting better, man


Something I've realised lately is that it's not just boshing out the miles and doing the actual running that's important in marathon training - it's the gains I'm getting in mental strength, stamina (or stubbornness, you decide), and endurance from these hard sessions that's really pulling me through.

Laura over at Lazy Girl Running wrote a great post a few weeks ago about how being a better runner isn't just about getting faster or running further, but also about the 'less sexy' indicators of progression such as finding it easier and getting stronger. Going for a run and feeling alright afterwards rather than wanting to die.

The thing is, today I wanted to die. Everything hurt, especially my soul. After about five miles my hamstrings were screaming, my right knee wasn't happy and I just wanted to stop and walk. I did, a few times, when my 'run' was barely a power walk anyway.


What doesn't kill you…


While I was digging deep and trying not to cry I realised that not every run is gonna be an effing-glorious-meet-Jesus-and-nail-a-PB kinda run. Marathon training is hard work. Running in general hard work. If it's easy, what's the point?

It's these hard sessions - the ones that drag you kicking and screaming out of your comfort zone - that make you stronger, fitter and ready for race day. I've been worrying that we've not been hitting big miles on these long Sunday runs but last week's half marathon proved to me that the training's working and I'm stronger than ever before. Everything's slowly coming together and with only six weeks to go, this shit's getting serious.



So if you're looking at your training plan and can't be assed with today's hill session or are thinking about turning back and going home when out on a tough  interval/threshold run - don't give up.

Stick it out. It's a tiny proportion of your day - get it done and I promise (she says, foam rolling her calves and hamstrings into oblivion), it'll all be worth it in the end.*



* It better bloody be worth it in the end or me and my legs are gonna have a serious falling out!



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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Brighton Half Marathon - the one with the 12 minute PB!!


You know those runs where everything's perfect? When nothing can stop you and you feel like you could run forever and ever without breaking your form, a massive grin plastered from ear to ear?

That, boys and girls, is called a state of flow, and that is why I love running.

Brighton Half Marathon 2014  PB


I live for those runs - and this year's Brighton Half Marathon was one of them.

Just a perfect day


As I locked up my bike by the big wheel and looked out at the beautiful blue skies and sunshine glistening on the sea I knew this was gonna be a good race. I've been looking forward to it for ages and was always gunning for a PB, even if I wasn't meant to be 'racing' it but treating it as a long training run for the full marathon in April.

Brighton Half Marathon 2014 - Steve Ovett statue
Just a perfect, perfect day


Loads of fellow RunBrightoners, bfitters and Twitter friends were doing it too, so it felt like a real team effort, we were all in it together. We'd spent the week before bracing ourselves for a hurricane but were treated to a blissfully perfect winter's day. Like it was ordered by the Running Gods, specially for one day - it literally couldn't have been better.

One year on: a different story


There were so many differences in myself this time round compared to last year. I ran the half marathon in 2013 with no fuelling strategy or pace plan; no real warm up and basically no idea.  I went out way too fast and dragged my reluctant under-trained and poorly-fuelled body to the finish line in lots of pain and didn't enjoy the race much at all, mostly endured it.

This time I was *so* excited and had been for weeks. I knew my hard work in marathon training over the past few months would serve me well, and with the *perfect* weather, tried and tested fuelling strategy and great support both in the crowd and on Twitter,  nothing could go wrong. Apart from anything else, I was just excited to finally get a medal for one of these epic Long Sunday Runs that I'd been doing lately!

It's all in the colour co-ordination... 

I bumped into Leah and Lissy before the race who were just as excited as me and wished them well before warming up (like a good runner!) and joining the front of the purple pen. I didn't mean to join the front but my plan was to run with Running Morph, aka Matt from Studio57/RunBrighton ambassador who was pacing a 2hr15 finish (sorry to totally blow your cover Matt!). I found him at the front and stuck with him and another bfitter for most of the race.

Strong to the finish


I wanted to see if I could maintain a 10min/mile pace as a potential marathon pace for April, so when I looked down at my watch and saw I was running around 9:30-9:45 for most of the miles (the last two being under nine!) I was well chuffed. I felt comfortable and strong (bar a bit of a hamstring ache at miles 9-10) right through to the finish and lapped up the atmosphere like a kid at Disney Land. I smiled pretty much the whole way through and can honestly say it was my most favourite run and best race of all time EVER.

Brighton Half Marathon 2014
Mile 1 far too excited!             Mile 11 - head down and focus

My wonderful other half followed me round on his bike taking photos and cheering me on, and it was great to 'bump into' lots of other RunBrightoners and bfitters along the route - a big Sunday social with all my new running friends!

Brighton Half Marathon 2014 PB
Behold, the excitable, grinning midget!

Where last year at mile 10 I fell apart and hauled myself in agony to the finish line, this time I got a massive boost of energy and picked it up to threshold pace and flew to the finish - the last three miles in glorious, epic negative splits!

Brighton Half Marathon 2014 PB
Garmin won't let me embed it - click here if you're a stats-whore like me 

PBs ahoy!


I crossed the line in 2:09, which was a massive 12 minutes faster than last year - I thought it was 11 but having checked my previous time it's an even better PB than I thought. >happy face<

It's absolutely the BEST feeling in the world to have a good run. Even better when that run is 13.1 miles and you get a medal afterwards. The endorphins from this one are gonna stick around a while I reckon - thank you Brighton, you were beautiful.

Bring on those extra 13 miles in April!

Some more photos from the day on my Facebook page.

Did you run Brighton Half Marathon? Tell me all about it, I can't be the only one who absolutely LOVED it! :) 





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Monday, 10 February 2014

Brighton Marathon training - weeks 7 & 8 --> believing I can actually do this!


I know I keep saying this but I really am loving marathon training :) As the weeks go on I'm getting more and more excited - realising that I might actually be able to do this is such an amazing feeling! Just goes to show that even if you have 'dodgy knees' like me, with the right approach to training/recovery and regular physio appointments/strength and conditioning work it's not so out of reach as you might think. 


Marathon training - Brighton
Getting it right: fuelling, rest & recovery

I've got a lot to thank Tom for at The Physio Rooms, Brighton in getting me back on my feet, stronger than ever before. Over the past few weeks I've changed/improved my running gait, improved my strength and have learnt so much about how to train, fuel and recover properly, as well as learning a lot about myself. There's still a long way to go and I'm by no means the perfect athlete but I think I can say at this point that I know I can do it, whereas before it was always up for question. 


Changing running gait - Brighton physio
December                                              January
A work in progress: changing my running gait from a wonky waddle to an even stride width

The marathon is only 58 days away - that's only 7 more long runs. SEVEN. And lots more training to do in between them to get me ready for race day. 


The week in training 

Week 7


A recovery week. That doesn't mean I got to lay on the sofa all week with the cat (although a fair amount of this happened). I still had to get out for runs and do my strength work, but it was at a relaxed, easy pace. No threshold running, no hills, even the long run was cut short. Most marathon training plans incorporate a couple of recovery weeks after each 3-4 weeks of progression to allow your body to adapt to the new training load and repair before entering the next phase of training. 

*As ever, each week day included cycling to/from work (apart from Wednesday when I ran)


Monday: Physio exercises + rest  
Tuesday: Kayaking (first attempt at rolling with a paddle rather than a float did not go well!)
Wednesday: Run commute to/from work. 
Thursday: Rest 
Friday: Rest + physio exercises
Saturday: A very windy 10k along the seafront 
Sunday: Kind of long run - 7miles in 1hr15 - felt strong at finish :) 


Marathon training recovery week


Total miles: 18


Week 8

I've had an unintentional quiet week run-wise this week, only made it out for a shitfest of a threshold run and yesterday's epic long run, because I didn't pull my finger out on Friday or Saturday to get another one in. *Bad Tess*. With only 7 weeks to go though I'm gonna have to make sure I hit these sessions, whether I run them or substitute them with cross training or I might find myself in a sticky situation. 

Talking of cross training, this week in particular has been a wicked one for new experiences! As I've mentioned, I'm currently doing a kayak course to learn to eskimo roll and this week it finally clicked how to do it with a paddle after 4 weeks of gradually building up to it! I'm scared of being under water so this was a massive deal for me. 


Another amazing fear I faced this week was to go climbing/bouldering at Westway Climbing Centre with Becca, Charlotte and Dannii. We were invited to a blogger day by Spogo UK, and had a BRILLIANT time - more on that later! 


Climbing at Westway Climbing Centre

Week 8 went a bit like this:

*As ever, each week day below included cycling to/from work


Monday: Physio exercises 
Tuesday: My first sports massage (OUCH). Kayaking - 1st paddle roll! :)  
Wednesday: 40min shit-fest of a threshold run  
Thursday: Rest 
Friday: Rest + physio exercises
Saturday: Climbing/bouldering day at Westway Climbing Centre (more on this later)
Sunday: Topped the week off with a 12.5miles long run - felt strong throughout so mega, mega chuffed! Thank you knees/legs/brain :) So looking forward to Brighton Half next week!


Brighton Marathon training - RunBrighton long run



Total miles: 16-and-a-bit
Total smiles: infinite. 

I would totally recommend facing your fears and challenging yourself, the endorphins are EPIC!!





Have you tried rock climbing or kayaking? What cross training are you complementing your running with?


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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

How to fail at threshold running

I have a love-hate relationship with threshold running and speed work in general.

Post-threshold selfie - Red face ahoy...
Sometimes I nail it, get the pace bang on and bowl it home feeling like Jesus, and others, I spend the whole run arguing with my legs/feet/brain, wondering why it's just not happening.

This morning, me and my legs had a fight, and I lost. It was meant to be a 50min run with 3x (8mins threshold effort / 2mins jog recovery) included. It was actually a 40min run with 1x (8min OKish effort), 1x (7min meh) and 1x (5min shit). You can see the stats on Garmin connect here as it won't let me embed the bloody thing...

So, in light of my shit threshold run, here's how you can stuff up your own, like a boss:

1) Get up late 

Hit snooze on your alarm repeatedly until even the cat's had enough and starts pawing at your face. Everyone knows the 6am alarm means get up at 7. Make sure that by the time you finally haul yourself out of your pit the run has to be turned into a run commute as there's no time to do the session and get back/showered before going to work. (This only works if you have a shower at work, like me).


2) Eat a heavy breakfast 

Fuel your shit run by eating something really stodgy about half an hour before setting off - preferably peanut butter on toast, or porridge. The later you leave it the better; welcome those stomach cramps and stitches with open arms.



3) Overpack your rucksack

Of course, you'll also need to overload yourself with lots of unnecessary weight if you're looking for the best results. Clothes, shower stuff, a towel, make up, shoes. Oh, and a flask of soup for lunch, just to make it more interesting.

4) Dress for arctic conditions

Bearing in mind the relatively mild temperatures we've been having this winter, make sure you put your thickest thermal base layer, running tee and waterproof jacket on for your fastest run of the week, in case you get cold. You wouldn't want to be comfortable now, would you?

winter running marathon training


5) Don't warm up

Who needs warm muscles, anyway?! A few token lunges should do it.

6) Put your iPod on shuffle 


Make sure you forget to sort your playlist out and then leave your iPod on shuffle so you have to try and run fast to the soothing sounds of Alt J and Elbow. Even better if you successfully manage to tangle your earphones around your body so you have to keep faffing and adjusting while you try to run.

7) Pick a sensible route

Speedwork is best done against the wind, along the windiest seafront you can find. The kind of wind that brings down piers. On your way to the seafront, change your mind a few times so you look lost and always stop to faff/stretch/cry when it's not going to plan or when your late peanut butter breakfast is repeating on you.


West Pier Brighton damaged by storm
Brighton's iconic West Pier this morning - broken in two from recent storms

8) Cut it short 


To really drive home how great your run's going, hit lap on your Garmin prematurely when you've had enough, and skip to the rest lap. Then, stop half way through the next threshold interval and have a wee internal cry at how hard it is, cut that one even shorter and give up.

Oh, and don't forget to stop the Garmin *just* before hitting the next mile marker, to top it all off.




Not my finest hour, boys and girls. Was still a bloody good workout though, I arrived at work sweaty, red faced and glad it was over!

Do you ever have bad runs? (Interpret that question however you like)... 


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