C25K

Martin Lewis Run Challenge Quarter 1 – Running Stretches

Way back in January, I signed up to the Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis 2014 Run Challenge and made a pledge to run 700 km in 2014. Here we are at the end of the first quarter and I have currently run 97 miles (156k) which is 22% towards my target for the year.

Although I’m slightly off the pace due to a niggling pain just below my left calf, hopefully as the nice weather arrives, I can catchup over the next few months. It seems that this pain below my calf is going to be caused by foolishly ignoring the 2 golden rules by increasing my mileage too soon and by neglecting stretching.

If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I have ever stretched properly so after picking up a slight injury, it’s probably about time that I started to take things a little more seriously and anything that can help improve your flexibility and prevent injury can’t be all bad.

So for anyone who is looking for what stretches to perform after a run and help keep yourself injury free, have a look at the images below.

stretches (more…)

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Zombies, Run! How To Motivate Yourself Past The Running Slump

As a self-confessed lazy male that would much sooner spend my spare time sat in my living room in a pair of shorts with the heating turned up whilst I play on my games console, the motivation for going out for a run will always be somewhat of a struggle in a cold dark January.

You wake up its dark, you finish work its dark and the weather seems t consist of being cold, wet and windy and you already know every lyric to every song on your running playlist so without any races booked, what could possibly motivate this ageing gamer to keep on running?

We all know the old clichés that you need to eat less and move more and that running is 99% mental/1% physical so how can we fool the mind into running in a horrible grim British winter?

Step forward the app smartphone app called Zombies, Run!  Which allows you to enter the post-apocalyptic world of Zombies and start running for your life! The story plays out through your headphones, with characters talking directly to you and directing you on your missions. Collect supplies for the other survivors as you run and use them to upgrade your base when you’re back home.

Run through your local high street from Zombies!

You simply attach your running playlist, and then start up the app on your phone as you go for a run, this is where things get interesting because you will hear at intervals in your earphones that zombies are getting closer and the only way to evade them is to run faster. Despite the fact you are running in a busy street, you are bloody running from zombies so somehow find yourself lost in the moment and look like you are running for your life!

The good news is that you are now running faster than your average pace and enjoying it, but the bad news is that to the outside world you look like an absolute nutter.

Being labelled a nutter doesn’t bother me too much and after setting myself a 700K running target for 2014, I need all the help I can get. The fact it has helped me reach 14 runs in January where I usually only manage a handful speaks volumes.

So if you are struggling for motivation after muttering the infamous words “new year, new me” don’t give up, simply try running away from zombies…

Run 700km in 2014 Challenge 2% complete

After feeling slow and sluggish after Christmas, it seemed a great idea to sign up to the Martin Lewis 2014 run challenge.

Its no secret that I am not and never will be an athlete of any form, but if I can put on a pair of trainers and listen to some music whilst having a run in the great outdoors after being couped up in an office with no windows all day then I’m a happy man.

I joined the Money Saving Expert with a 434 mile (700km) target for the year and hoped it would be the kick up the are I need to keep me running.

However Martin Lewis ended up with a ankle in plaster followed by gout so has fallen at the first hurdle, which had left me thinking, what have I signed up to?

A quick breakdown revealed its only 1.2 miles a day, which is only 8.2 miles a week. So as long as I remain consistent with a steady 8-10 miles a week, it should be much easier than I first thought.

Although some simple maths was enough to trick my mind into thinking this will be a walk in the park, a quick look on my goal in run keeper makes very grim reading.

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The road is long….

Despite being on target, seeing 2℅ completed is somewhat depressing and shows just how much I have to do but I’m confident that being able to look back on this journey will make it all worth while.

If I can keep this up then I won’t feel too bad about eating too many biscuits and sat in my chair playing on my Xbox

Martin Lewis Running Challenge 2014 – Target Distance 700km

Back in March 2012, I stepped on to the bathroom scales and discovered that after a lifetime of being the “skinny guy” it seemed I was now 15.5 stone and more like the fat guy and realised it was time to do something about my predicament.

Sure my biggest weaknesses in life are beer, chocolate, biscuits and cakes, but more worryingly I couldn’t even run for a bus, so what could I do and where do I start? Especially as I have a distinct hatred for gym culture.

However after reading about a new iPhone app called “Get Running” that promised to turn you from a couch potato to running 5k in 8 weeks, I thought what the hell of I got to lose? At the start of this new regime I could not run for longer than 30 seconds but by the end, I was running over 5k comfortably so no matter how unfit you are, I am living proof that it works.

For me the beauty of running, is it allows me to listen to combine my main interests of music and photography and best of all, all you need is a pair of trainers, no expensive hippy bullshit, just good old fashioned eat less and move more.

Nearly two years on and I am still amazed that I have completed two half marathons and my biggest issue now is staying motivated, so I have signed up to the Martin Lewis How Far Can You Run in 2014 challenge hoping this will keep me running

My first ever pair of running shoes were a pair of Saucony Pro Grid Ignition 2 for £25, and these will always have a special place in my heart but after 500 miles on the road they have seen better days so have purchased a new pair of Saucony Power Grid Triumph 9 that were £99 on the high street but found for £55 online.

Designed with a 8mm heel-to-toe offset that maximizes muscle power by allowing for a more efficient stride and apparently ideal for the heavier neutral runner, they will take a little getting used to but I will let you know how I get on.

I still find it hard to believe that this self confessed couch potato has now notched up 674 miles or over 1,000 kilometres since I first started this running malarkey nearly 2 years ago but hopefully I can add to these miles in 2014.

2012 Running Total 2013 Running Total
296.5 Miles (476km) 378 Miles (608km)
SAUCONY Power Grid Triumph 9 Men's Running Shoes

I will be running in the lower heeled SAUCONY Power Grid Triumph 9 for 2014…

It’s going to be tough but I will also aim for the Martin Lewis target of running a total of 434 miles (700km) in 2014. I am hoping that signing up to this challenge will be just what I need to keep me motivated for another 12 months.

So after nearly 2 years of this running malarkey, I have once again done the easy part by talking the talk and saying “I will will run for over 400 miles in 2014” but I guess its time to stop talking about it and do some running, so I’m off to do just that.

The Road Ahead…

After spending months waiting for the snow to disappear, so I could sneak in a cheeky 3 mile run to maintain my fitness, I’m happy to say that the never ending winter is finally just a distant memory and it’s time to start building up a few miles on the road again.

It’s hard to believe that it’s just over a year since my first run but the Ronhill Tracksters that I have become quite attached to are showing some wear and tear, in fact two holes have appeared on the errm under carriage so maybe it’s time I reinvested in some new kit.

My faithful he Saucony Pro Grid Ignition 2 Running Trainers are also in need of being retired to gardening and dog walking duty but to be honest, this is what I love about running. The fact you can throw on some old clothes and just hit the road, there is something quite poetic and therapeutic about it all.

The last two months has seen me gradually get back up to 9-10 runs a month with an approximate monthly mile count of around 30-35 miles. With the old motto of “Running is 90% mental, the rest is physical” in my head, I realise that I need something to aim for again to keep me running and on the healthier path.
I simply don’t have the discipline or time to commit to a full marathon, a four hour training run several times a week scares the hell out of me, so intend to keep things real by aiming for the Birmingham Half Marathon again in October.

running

Over 56,000 calories bite the dust…

So I have set myself a realistic target of running 40 miles a month for May/June and if this goes to plan, then I will sign up the half marathon and maybe even the Black Country Half Marathon too but there’s a fair amount of work to do until I commit to anything like that.

A healthy runner beats an injured runner every time they say, and the sound advice over at Runners World “To avoid injury when upping your mileage, you need to take it slow and allow your body time to adapt to the increased workload. In general, you can add a mile for every run you do per week, provided you then run at least two weeks at the new level before advancing again. If you run six times a week, for example, you can up your weekly mileage by six miles. Then stay at that higher level for two weeks before adding another six.”

With this in mind, I will be slowly building the miles over the next few months and try to avoid any injuries to stop my over enthusiastic self from doing too much too soon which is ultimately the cause of most problems. This is one lesson I learned the hard way last year.

Who would have thought that one mobile app called “Get Running” could have had such an impact on this beer swilling, junk food eating gamer. Enough of my ramblings, I’m just going out for a run…

Get Running: Couch to 5K – One Year Later

Where does the time go? Exactly 12 months ago, I was measured for my wedding suit only to be told I was a 38” waist which was just the kick up the arse I needed to take immediate action. Luckily I was able to combine my love of the great outdoors and listening to music to try and get to grips with running.

I quite literally started out with an old pair of trainers, a Spotify running play list and the Get Running C25K App. It was bloody hard work and was horrified to discover that I couldn’t run for more than a couple of minutes without gasping for breath. However the app gradually builds you up with a combination of walking and running until it finally installs the running bug deep into your soul and within 2 months I was running for 3 miles without any problems at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no athlete and never will be, but by making a few adjustments I was able to lose 2 stone, squeeze back into a 34” waist and even completed the Birmingham Half Marathon but the craziest part of all of this and I can’t believe that I am writing this down but I actually love it!

It is very easy to see why they call it the running bug because if I am stressed out after a bad day at work, had a heavy night on the beer or over indulged on food, a quick 30 minute run makes me feel me so much better and clears my head. The weird thing is when the snow settles, I’m actually gutted about not being able to get out there and I am the least likely person to ever say that.

#c25k

So a year on and my biggest battle is motivation but looking at my runkeeper, I have enjoyed over 100 runs, ran for over 370 miles and burnt a whopping 56,000 calories. So if you are reading this thinking of starting out, if a self confessed gaming couch potato like me can do it then anyone can.

You don’t need fancy clothes, £100 trainers or expensive gym memberships; it’s just you and the open road. My best advice to you all is ALWAYS remember the old adage of “Running is 90 percent mental and the rest is physical.” Despite this advice, people tend to spend much more time preparing physically than they do mentally. It really is that simple.

As for myself, its time to look at booking a race on the horizon to keep me motivated and something to aim and push for, although I completed the half marathon in October it seems a lifetime ago and running for more than 5 miles fills me with dread, but once again its all about the very powerful contraption in your head. The mind is a very powerful tool that just requires a few Jedi mind tricks to trick it into getting your arse in gear.

Enough of my ramblings, spring is officially here, so if you were thinking of starting to run, now is the perfect time to start.

 

 

Gait Assessment – The Search For New Running Shoes

gaitDespite my previous post being a little cynical towards gait analysis, I was given a little push by fate to maybe reconsider my preconceptions. After a 4 mile run, I was suddenly crippled with a pain on the outside of my left knee, which left me hobbling for a few days.

As I shuffled past the Up & Running shop in Birmingham, there was a poster advertising “Free Gait Assessment and Physio Advice” so after nearly a year of running, it seemed like I was experiencing a push in the direction of some good old fashioned professional advice.

After my old school wet feet test revealed that I am a “normal pronator”, I was interested to see what the latest technology would say about my running style and confirm exactly what shoes I should be running in.

I hopped onto the treadmill for the first time in my life, and it felt quite strange as I have only ever run in the great outdoors. After only a few minutes I was shown my running style on camera and it appears that I am a “neutral runner” which should make life quite easy when choosing new shoes.

Typically the store would charge for the use of the gait analysis service if you do not purchase a pair of shoes from them, so I was glad that I visited on their open day because £115 for a pair is a little out of my price range.

There is a balance to be made here and I think it is important to use a little common sense, it’s sensible to get your gait checked to determine how you run and what shoes you should run in. (more…)

Running: Take the Wet Feet Test and Learn Your Foot Type

Just under a year ago, I purchased my first ever pair of running shoes that were reduced from £65 down to a very modest £20. The Saucony Pro Grid Ignition 2 Running Trainers have now notched up over 400 miles of running and many miles of walking over the Olympic Park in the summer of 2012 so maybe the time has come for them to be relegated for walks or very wet days

In a weird sort of way, I have become quite attached to these trainers, but after displaying a few signs of wear and tear and I have picked up a few little twinges so maybe it is time to look for my next pair of shoes that will be hitting the streets for my next 500 miles.

Maybe its time to visit a local running shop for some gait analysis to see exactly what kind of running shoes I need, but I have a cynical side that thinks running on a treadmill in a shop, which is completely different to running in the street is not really analysis at all but it’s actually an opportunity for a sales pitch for an overpriced running shoe that you will be tempted to Google when you get home only to find it was £30 cheaper on-line or along. (more…)

First Half Marathon Completed…So What’s Next?

Nearly two weeks after I completed my first ever race which also happened to be a half marathon and I must admit that my motivation has been on the decline since my goal was achieved. One of the biggest lessons I have learned since I started running is the power of your mind and how it will do it’s best to fool you into what you can and cannot do

For example during training for the half marathon, I found myself stopping for a 30 second walk every 3-4 miles but suddenly on race day I ran for 10 miles before taking a cheeky quick walk but someone much wiser than myself probably put it best with the quote “running is 90% mental and 10% physical”.

Since finishing the race, I have had a few issues with my left heal hurting when any weight was put onto it, which could be caused by me increasingly my mileage to quickly or time to look for some new running shoes as my first pair have now knocked up over 300 miles.

Maybe this could also be a good opportunity to have my running gait checked which involves the following.

Gait analysis is the study of human movement and locomotion. Certain types of foot motion have the potential to cause symptoms in the lower back, hips, knees, lower legs and of course feet.
There is a normal posture for the feet, knees and hips at any point during walking or running. Video gait analysis enables us to evaluate normal and abnormal movements of the joints of the lower limbs as the body moves.

Video gait analysis is an important part of the assessment; by filming you walking and/or running the practitioner is able to observe any misalignments or unusual movements during the gait cycle.
Video gait analysis is used to capture your walking/running motion to aid diagnosis and treatment of any problems, and to formulate a treatment plan.

Video gait analysis is also a great way to demonstrate what happens when you walk/run, which helps to provide you with a greater understanding as to why you are getting injured, and how to prevent it from happening.

Enough me rambling on about my ageing aching limbs, my biggest problem is tricking my mind into running again.

In the last 2 weeks my mind has conveniently offered me the following excuses.

  • Think I have early stages of Plantar fasciitis (Since the marathon, my left heal hurts if any weight placed on it)
  • Its dark when I wake up and dark when I come home.
  • Too busy with work.
  • It’s raining, cold, and windy or even all three.
  • You deserve a rest after completing the half marathon.
  • All of the above.

However my mind finally offered a helpful and timely kick up the arse in the form of making me aware that if I don’t get back on the road, the fitness that I have worked so hard to achieve will start to deteriorate, so early Saturday morning I hit the cold wet road and enjoyed a 5 mile run.

I’m not going to lie, this 5 mile run was bloody hard work and in many ways tougher than the half marathon itself, but again I think this is probably more a mental issue than anything else because there is currently no goal to aim for so I guess , it might be time to book another race to keep my interest.

A nice steady 5 mile race called the “Turkey Trot” in December seems quite appealing, anything that has a tag line of “A Turkey presentation pack for all finishers of the 5 mile race.” Not only captures my imagination but is also quite intriguing with a hint of randomness thrown in, which it the perfect recipe as far as I’m concerned.

This might be just what I need to keep me running for a few short runs a week during the crappy November weather so this might be just what I need but I will keep you posted.

First of all, I guess I need to concentrate on getting at least two small runs a week completed, so enough talk for now and lets get running again.

Birmingham Half Marathon – Race Day

Everyone told me not to change my normal routine, so I ensured I still enjoyed a few Jack Daniels and Coke on Saturday night and woke up this morning ready for action, but will admit to feeling  a little daunted at the prospect of running over 13 miles.

This was my first ever race and what overwhelmed me whilst we were waiting, was the sheer amount of people who were wearing tops containing photo’s, names, or quotes about loved ones that have been lost. The fact that so many people were clearly dealing with the pain of losing somebody but were trying their hardest to turn a negative into a positive and to make a difference.

We often hear about how bad people can be, but right here in from of me was living proof of the beautiful side of the human race and how people can triumph through tragedy.  Elsewhere the streets were lined by people and whole families who had got up early on a Sunday morning to cheer these strangers running through the streets and you really are left thinking maybe this world isn’t such a bad place after all, where whole communities were joined together to motivate people running.

I had to check in the early stages when I heard a few people from the crowd shouting “Good luck Neil, keep at it” etc. I finally realised that my name was displayed on my chest but what a lovely gesture and it really did keep me running and not have a cheeky rest.

As I approached the 12 mile mark, my body was starting to feel the pressure and I stopped for a little walk, but two men tapped me on my shoulder and said “Come on mate, we are nearly there, you can do it.” Again a fantastic feeling that someone takes the time to keep you motivated and it was just the kick up the arse that I needed.

I ran until I could see the finish line on the horizon and suddenly there was a huge crowd on each side cheering all the runners onto the final stage and suddenly it was all over, sure my legs hurt like hell but I just completed my first ever race and it was a bloody half marathon in 2 hours 17 minutes.

Birmingham Half Marathon, got the t-shirt and a medal too.

Soaking up the whole atmosphere around this event, and enjoying every second is what this race is all about for me, and much more important than chasing after a super quick time, but I am not a numbers kind of person, maybe Johnny Cash put it best when he sang “I went out there in search of experience, to taste and to touch and to feel’s as much as a man can before he repents

Possibly my biggest motivation was my Spotify Running Playlist which kept me going with an endless selection of great tunes to me smiling and singing the whole way.

To be greeted by my beautiful wife and step daughter at the finish line, was the perfect icing on the cake, making it a day that I will never forget. My Run Keeper app tells me I have just burned 2,000 calories, which I think gives me a license to eat whatever the hell I like for the rest of the day.

All in all, I ticked a half marathon off my bucket list, but I loved the whole experience and would highly recommend it to anyone. I can now be seen walking like John Wayne with sore nipples but before anybody else says it, there is nothing new there.