Uphill Struggles

This morning reminded my a little bit of my first couple of weeks of C25K. Perhaps it was the rain and drizzle, or the fact that I was running Saturday and Sunday again, or maybe it’s because I’ve just started a new training plan, but for the first time in months I felt excited about my run without the pressure of feeling that I had to push myself to run in order to keep making progress.

After yesterday’s Parkrun, my plan for this morning was to head to the park for some hill practice. While I’m getting pretty good at maintaining a steady pace on the flat, I do struggle with the inclines. I know that I could maintain my pace running uphill, but my worry is that I’ll use up so much energy that I won’t have anything left for the last couple of kilometres.

So, I headed out just before 8am in the cold and drizzle, feeling surprisingly ache free after yesterday’s run. The park itself was fairly quiet, so I took my time to do some stretches and set off on my run at a good pace.

As expected, I struggled a bit with the inclines so I tried taking shorter strides, landing more towards the balls of my feet than the middle. Although I couldn’t maintain this for the entire incline, I found that it made me feel a lot lighter and enabled me to pick up a bit of speed for the steeper sections.

I have read a little bit about running uphill, but now that I’m doing it, I should probably look into it some more.

All in all, I didn’t improve my pace by much on this morning’s run, even though it was only 3K. However, I am learning new lessons with each run which will hopefully help me to run more efficiently in the long run.

What are your thoughts on running uphill? How do you adapt your running style for different terrains? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

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A New PB!

I woke up early this morning. It was cold, damp and miserable outside, but that didn’t stop me from tying on my trainers and heading down to the park.

Today was going to be my second Parkrun. I ran my first one last Saturday and have started working on a new training program to try to bring my 5K time to under 30 minutes, so I was keen to see what (if any) progress I had made over the last seven days. I was hoping for something around 32:30, but would have been happy with anything under 33:00.

I decided not to start right at the back this week so that I could find my pace a bit sooner. That definitely helped. The walking and shuffling soon turned into a nice steady jog as the crowd thinned out and I found my rhythm.

Last week’s slower training runs seemed to have helped as I found I was able to keep my pace fairly constant throughout the whole 5K. The main exception to this was the steeper parts of the inclines, where I slowed down to make sure that I didn’t tire myself out too much before the final kilometre.

As I headed down the final slope, I felt pretty confident that I was going to beat my time from last week so I picked up my pace for the final stretch.

Towards the finish line, I was overtaken by two other parkrunners who were sprinting to the finish, but I resisted the temptation to race them and just focussed my own running. I didn’t want to overdo it as I knew I wanted to get to the park tomorrow for some hill training.

So, in the end, my time came out as 32:25. That’s 40 seconds faster than last week and a new PB!

Next week, I’d like to get below 32:00, but we’ll see how the training goes. For now, I’m happy with 32:25.

PB Badge

Easy 5K

This is something that I never thought I would ever say, but here goes… tonight’s 5K run was easy.

I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I ran a whole 5K along Hove seafront and, by the end of it, could easily have run some more. But of course I didn’t.

The reason for this is that I have decided to do some base training to get used to running the 5K distance before I try to improve my speed. This means running at a slow comfortable pace a few times a week, rather than pushing myself to run faster or longer each time.

There’s a lot of science behind this type of training, most which I don’t really understand yet, but part of it is to do with increasing your aerobic capacity.

Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilize during any form of exercise. As a newer runner, you may not be able to run for a very long period of time before your heart rate increases and you become winded. As you progress or if you are an experienced runner this time is extended by your increased aerobic capacity.

Easy running enables your lungs and cardiovascular system to more efficiently deliver oxygen and for your heart to deliver more blood which by consequence means more oxygen can be carried.

If you are looking to run longer distances at a given pace, easy running specifically trains the aerobic systems that make this possible.

(Why Easy Runs Are Critical To Your Success)

Basically, what this means is that you will eventually be able to run for longer without getting out of breath.

So, for tonight’s run, I made a point of trying to run at a reduced pace. Recently, my pace has been around 6:40 per km when I try to push myself, so I tried to keep it around 7:00. This wasn’t easy as I like trying to improve on my time for each run, so I had to resist the temptation of speeding up and trying to keep up with or overtake other runners. But somehow I managed it and I actually enjoyed it.

Completing a run without having to wrench out every last drop of energy for the last km, finishing the run without coughing and wheezing and gasping for breath, and walking home with a spring in my step rather than stumbling and dragging myself through the streets to my flat all felt kind of good.

I still feel that I’ve had a good workout, but I am also pleased that I won’t feel as sore tomorrow as I usually do. Or at least I’m hoping that I won’t.

What will be interesting though, is how I’ll feel on Saturday when I do my next Parkrun. Hopefully I’ll be feeling fit and ready to run and, who knows, maybe that in itself will help me improve my time from last week.

How often do you do ‘easy’ runs? What effect do they have on your overall performance? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Easy Exercises To Relieve Hip Pain

For the past year or so, I have been experiencing pains in my right hip on a fairly regular basis. Apparently this is quite common in runners but, since I’ve only been running for a few months, I can’t really put it down to that. I can’t really put it down to anything, other than ageing perhaps, but I have noticed that running does have an effect on it.

Surprisingly, during the first few weeks of C25K, I noticed that whenever I was running, I didn’t experience much pain in my hip at all. In fact, strange as it might sound, exercise seemed to be helping it. However, as the program continued, I began to notice that my hip hurt quite a lot after running – usually the next day.  And by the end of the program, I was really starting to suffer with the post run hip pain.

Not being a huge fan of any kind of drugs (other than caffeine, nicotine and the occasional alcoholic beverage), I needed to find a way to relieve the pain so that I could still continue to train. So I trawled the internet in search of a solution and stumbled across this video.

 

The exercises themselves are very easy to do and, even though I only do about ten repetitions of each one before (and sometimes after) a run, it seems to be making a big difference. I still get the odd twinge after a hard run, but it’s nothing like before, which makes the recovery between runs a lot easier.

I have taken ibuprofen occasionally when it has been really bad, but if it doesn’t hurt when I’m actually running , then it kind of makes sense that light exercise might actually help.

Have you experienced hip pain after running? How did you deal with it? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Building A Base

Now that my first Parkrun is done, it’s time to focus on my next goal – running a sub 30 5K.

I’ve been spending the last week or so researching different training techniques for building pace and endurance and have realised that before I do any of that, I really need to do two things. The first thing, is to get used to running the 5K distance, and the second is to get used to running on an incline rather than my usual flat route along Hove seafront. So, I have come up with a plan.

One of the toughest things about the C25K program was that I found I was pushing myself harder and harder for (almost) every run. This was great in terms of making the progress that I needed from week to week, but it also left me feeling pretty exhausted. Elated and inspired, but exhausted nonetheless.

Having a few days of holiday from work, I realise that I’ve probably been overdoing things a little bit, so I’ve decided to get used to running 5K before pushing myself to go faster or to do longer distances. The plan is to run a couple of easy 5Ks during the week, maintaining a steady but comfortable pace. Then, on Saturdays, I will push myself to improve my time on the Parkrun.

As my midweek runs are in the evenings, I prefer to do them on the seafront rather than in the park as there are always plenty of people around. I’m not sure how safe I would feel running in the park at night, so my plan is to do one and a half laps of the park on Sunday mornings as practice for running uphill.

Today though, having the luxury of a day off work, I was able to run the whole 5K route of the park. My aim was to run at a comfortable pace and resist the temptation to push myself harder. This was not as easy as you might think, as my RunKeeper app kept informing about me how slowly I was going. Still, I kept it slow and steady and (mostly) comfortable, easing off when I felt myself getting too out of breath.

The best part about it though, was that I’m already finding the inclines easier. I think that this is because, rather than pushing myself harder when running uphill, I tried to keep the pace as even and as comfortable as possible. I didn’t always get it right, and I was still pretty tired by the end of the run. But, when I finished, I also felt that I could have done a bit more, so hopefully that’s a good sign.

This Week’s Training Plan:

Monday: 5K Hove Park (comfortable pace)
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 5K Hove Seafront (comfortable pace)
Thursday: Rest (maybe some Yoga)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5K Parkrun (timed run)
Sunday: 1.5 Laps Hove Park (comfortable pace)

ParkRun!

parkrunThe day has finally come! It’s a week later than planned and a month or so later than originally planned, but all good things come to those who wait and today was no exception. Today all that waiting was finally over as I crossed the finish line and completed my first Parkrun.

To be honest, I was feeling a little bit nervous about the whole thing. I’m not sure why. I knew I could run 5K (even if it was going to be pretty slow) and I wasn’t bothered about my time. Of course it would be nice to run faster than before, but my main job was just to get round the park with all its hills and slopes (ok, inclines) without keeling over or leaving a trail of destruction behind me.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up early to make sure I had enough time for a coffee and a slice of toast – enough to give me some energy without making me throw up after the first mile. Then, at 8:30 I headed for the park, making sure that I had my keys, iPhone and the all important bar code.

Now, I know I only live less than ten minutes from the park and I realised that it didn’t start until 9:00, but I wanted to give myself enough time to do whatever had to be done before things got under way.

There weren’t too many people around when I got there, so I hung out on the grass for a while to do a bit of stretching and warming up. I don’t usually bother with stretching before a run, but it gave me something to do while I waited and it helped me relax and enjoy just being out in the fresh air.

Soon, a small crowd began to gather so I headed towards the rear to avoid getting in anyone’s way. I found out later that there were no less than 410 of us – a pretty decent turn out for a run in the park!

There was a nice vibe to the whole thing. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed and, even though I couldn’t hear any of the announcements, I clapped along with everyone else at whatever was being said.

Then, just after 9:00, I heard a rumble from the front and everyone started moving. We were off!

I realised very quickly that I probably shouldn’t have started right at the very back as I had to pass a few people to find my pace. But I soon found myself some space and settled into a comfortable rhythm.

The inclines came quickly, so I knew not to go out too hard or I might not be able to go the distance. My plan was to just take my time and do my own thing.

One of the nice things about running with so many people was that it helped to both distract and focus me at different points. Keeping pace with the people around me when I was feeling tired, pushing to overtake someone in front when I was feeling inspired, or enjoying watching the elite runners whiz past as I reminded myself that no-one gets that good without hard work and training.

So, I kept going and, as I hit the 30 minute mark on the final downward slope, I knew that I was doing ok and that I had enough in me to finish. Not enough for a final sprint, but enough to pick up the pace and cross the finish line feeling that I’d done a good job.

Of course, I didn’t get my time right away as you have to wait until the results go up on the website. But my RunKeeper app recorded my distance as 4.97 and my time as 33:25. As it turned out, the GPS on the app isn’t that accurate and I forgot to stop the workout when I crossed the finish line, but I wasn’t too bothered about my exact time. 33:25 was pretty good by my standards, so I left the park on a high with a real sense of achievement at having completed my first Parkrun.

Of course, I did end up spending most of the afternoon refreshing the results page on the Parkrun website, before eventually giving up and going for a nap.

At about 5:30, however, I was woken up with an email from Parkrun. It was time to check out my result…

As it turned out, I had done much better than I thought I had. My official time was 33:05, making me 357th out of 410 runners, 109th out of 140 women, 17th out of 24 in my age category and, this is the bit that really shocked me, my best 5K time ever!

Oh, and it’s also ParkRun’s 9th Birthday. So, Happy Birthday Parkrun and thank you for an awesome day!

Playtime

With only three days to go until my first 5K Parkrun (rescheduled after last Friday’s post work beverages), I have taken some long overdue holiday time from work to give myself some time to rest up and get ready for the race.

Well, when I say ‘rest up’, what I really mean is have time to relax and train at my leisure instead of rushing out the door after a hard day’s work to get my run in.

So, this morning, I woke up early and headed to the park for my morning run. I had planned to run the 5K Parkrun route again, but once I got going I realised that I was still feeling pretty tired after last night’s farltlek experiment.

Needless to say, after about eighteen minutes and 2.69 km of running, I decided to stop running and try out some of the gym equipment in the park. This was a lot of fun and I spent about 15 minutes playing on something that looks like this:

Walker

Even though I was swinging my legs at a good pace, I didn’t really feel it… until I got off that is. My legs didn’t hurt, but they did feel a bit wobbly afterwards and weren’t good for any more running. So I headed home, slightly disappointed that I hadn’t done a longer run, but happy in the knowledge that I still had a good half hour workout to start the day off.

And, with no more work until next Tuesday, I’m almost certain that I’ll be heading back down to the park for some more playtime on the outdoor gym.