Fitness

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…

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.

 

 

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.

Couch Potato Running Birmingham Half Marathon Tomorrow

The story so far…

Let’s get something straight here, I am no athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but just a guy who suddenly found himself overweight and unfit after years of good times and contentment caught up with me. With the big 40 on the horizon and after hearing many a tale about the risks of entering “heart Attack alley” I figured maybe I should do something about it.

Back in March I downloaded the Get Running (Couch to 5K) App on my phone which promised to take me from being a couch potato to running for 5k in 9 weeks which was just the nice steady approach that I was looking for.

Gym memberships or direct debits as I prefer to call them are not my thing, so I armed myself with the following.

  • Old pair of trainers
  • Get Running C25K App
  • Run Keeper App (to map where I am and save stats etc to view on website later)
  • Spotify App with a running Playlist

The first week was really tough and was shocked that even running for 1 minute was bloody hard work but it just reinforced my opinion that I was doing the right thing. Each week I was presented with a longer run and began with me thinking “how the hell am I going to do this?” but although they were tough goals they were equally realistic and achievable.

In 9 weeks I went from being unable to run across the road without getting out of breath to running for 30 minutes without stopping.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Once I had completed the program, I needed something to aim for before I got bored and drifted back into old habits, so decided to enter the Birmingham half marathon because it was in October and will give me something to aim for.

After working away from home for much of the summer at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, suddenly I found myself in September and a need to increase mileage sooner rather than later.

Although, I have left it a little late, I have been able to get six 8-10 mile runs under my belt and I have seen a few nice sights along the way so hoping this will be enough to get me across the finish line tomorrow morning.

Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a fitness bore, to be honest all this pointless willy waving of bragging rights about being faster than anyone else is just one big ‘who can piss higher than the other’ and something which is quite uninteresting to me. You just got to run your own race for your own reasons and to hell with everything else.

On the eve of my big run, a quick browse through some running magazines tells me to eat almonds, pasta, bananas, oatmeal porridge, rice, fish, fruit, vegetables and fish but I am not foolish enough to class myself as an athlete so decided to treat myself a JD and coke with some fajitas.

For me this whole running thing is not about competing with everyone else but about getting out in the great outdoors listening to great tunes and taking your surroundings so more than happy to stop my run and take a few impromptu photos to record the moment.

A recent 8am run from Croyde Bay to Baggy Point and back again.

This is what makes running interesting to me, but I think the secret to making this work, is to find what interests and motivates you as an individual. This is why so many diet and keep fit plans fail because we are all individuals and unique, so a one size fits all solution simply does not exist.

Sorry I went a little deep there, but you know what I’m trying to say so I guess it’s time to ease of the Jack Daniels and coke and get some rest ready for the big race tomorrow. I won’t get the best time, but I am determined to enjoy every second and will be sure to take a few photos along the way.

I will be running for the Help the Heroes charity and feel free to drop by the sponsorship page.

Couch Potato Enters the Birmingham Half Marathon

In the week, I have been able to get through two 8 mile runs, so figure it was time to throw caution to the wind and enter myself into the Birmingham Half Marathon in October. It will be just what I need to keep me motivated. Although I have gone from being unable to run for a minute without stopping to 8 miles in 5 months, you can rest assured that I have not turned into some crazed self obsessed health freak.

For many people joining a gym involves setting up a direct debit and then seldom leaving the house to use the service they are paying for, so my membership consists of Spotify Premium and a pair of running shoes. Although this would not be for everyone, I love the simplicity of going for a run listening to music that I love and it actually feels really good.

We are all different, so my only advice to anyone reading this would be to find what you love and use it to your advantage. I still pretty much eat and drink what I want, but I have a simple philosophy of eat less and move more and although a massive multi billion diet industry will try to convince you that there is some other secret formula I’m afraid that’s about the size of it.

To Run A Half Marathon or Not To Run A Half Marathon…

So the Olympics is over, and I get a little rest before returning to London for the Paralympics, there is a certain amount of irony in working at the biggest sporting events in the world because they have actually slowed down my running.

Despite working 15 hour days, I have always made sure that I got one run a week under my belt and despite looking like one big sweaty mess at the end of my runs, I can now run for 10k  (6.2 mile) again without too many aches and pains the following few days.

The good news is that because I was walking 8-10 miles a day on the Olympic Park, my weight has stabilised under 14 stone, to be honest I had no idea how overweight I actually was until I saw a video entitled “Neil eats a cake” which was filmed back in January. This video alone gave me one of those infamous Gok Wan moments.

Seriously though, I feel so much better now and the fact that I actually enjoy going out for a run, is something that still baffles me to this day. Maybe it’s because I can combine my love of listening to music, iPhoneongraphy and being in the great outdoors. To be able do what you actually love and enjoy is a special gift in my eyes.

I ponder which of the 8,000 Olympic Torches this is…

My original goal when this self confessed gaming, geek loving couch potato started this malarkey way back in March, was to enter the Birmingham Half Marathon in October. Have I given myself an unrealistic target? Is a question that I have asked myself a few times, especially considering the huge chunk of my time that has been taken up by working away.

However, I can be quite stubborn and determined when I want to be, so my plan is to try and push myself to 7-8 mile over the next 10 days before committing to pulling  this off, but I predict there will be an entry to the half marathon with my name on it.

I am not interested in being the best of the best or getting a better time than anyone else that I know, this is something that I want to prove to myself and if an overweight geek with zero fitness that sits at a desk at work or an armchair at home can do it, then anyone can. The fact it has not eaten into any of my personal time and doesn’t require any expensive gym memberships either, really leaves no room for any excuses.

My first challenge came this week, when my 6 month free Spotify Premium trial from Virgin Media came to an end, but as my running playlist is my best friend, it was a very easy decision to make. I even dabbled with a playlist containing songs from the Olympic Opening Ceremony and A Message To You Rudy by The Specials set the scene perfectly for a summer run.

Neil’s Final Thoughts

For me the Olympics inspired so many and gave the nation something to be proud of again, for a moment this celebrity obsessed country forgot about The Only Way Is Essex, Geordie Shore, Big Brother, Kardashians and the X-Factor.

You cannot help but think that if the media promoted role models like Jessica Ennis and less of your Jordan’s or Big Brother contestants, maybe our children would grow up with more positive role models.

If everyone stopped watching inane, self-inflated people on that box in the corner of the room and realised that being famous for 15 minutes is actually quite a miserable and empty existence compared to the rewards gained by dedicating ourselves to good old fashioned hard work to achieve what we once never thought possible, then maybe just maybe this world would be a much better place.

Suddenly I hear myself talking like my Dad, so maybe its time to sign off, until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

The Running Man – The Next Chapter

Another wet week here in the UK, which wasn’t made any easier by my legs aching like hell. When I first started my new running regime, I was running about two and a half miles 5 times a week (Mon-Fri) but as I am now running for longer distances, I have learned my lesson the hard way that I need to think about running for only 3 days a week and make sure my body gets time to recover.

Although notching up over 20 miles this week, my legs have been feeling the strain, this made a few of the runs very hard and sluggish, which required me to dig deep to finish. There was also an incident that had me enjoying a lunch which involved enough spaghetti and meatballs to slow down an elephant which is probably explains my slowest ever run.

I developed a nasty pain between my calf and ankle that left me walking like John Wayne, so I persuaded Kerry to bring out the healing Mr. Miyagi hands one more time and although I squealed like a Ned Beatty in Deliverance, to my amazement it made a massive difference so think I might have to marry that girl.

To avoid getting bored, I often just pick a direction and start running and on two occasions this week I got lost again, but its all part of the adventure and appeal of running. The first incident involved a 5 mile run along the canal only for it two fork off into two separate directions,  I took a punt and panicked after about 20 minutes when I found myself in the middle of nowhere, but luckily a quick look on Google maps informed me that I was heading in the right way after all.

On Friday, I was heading down my usual route and saw a gap in a fence so decided to explore but I ended up on a dual carriageway, luckily curiosity didn’t kill the cat on this occasion but drivers must have thought who is this nutter running through the pouring rain in a t-shirt trying to cross a very busy road.

On a brighter note, maybe all this madness is worthwhile because for the first time in five years, I am saying goodbye to a 36 inch waist and a welcome return to my old friend the 34 inch waist which may have something to do with me running down the mysterious Slim Avenue every night. All this makes my aching legs worth while, but there is still much work to do to remove this beer belly, before I can join the hipsters in skinny jeans and no socks.

Wolverhampton is this way…

Another lesson learned this week was the power of music and especially the fact that tunes you would never usually listen to given the choice, will suddenly inspire you to keep running for one more song. This can especially be said of songs by people such as Pitbull and FloRida which would never normally frequent my play list but suddenly make me want to run a little faster.

However nothing beats the power of a movie montage and there was a moment when I was going to stop and walk for a minute when Rocky Balboa said “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” followed by Gonna Fly Now and for a brief moment I had my own montage. The funny thing is later on my play list, “You’re The Best” from the Karate Kid made an appearance too which made me feel invincible. Unfortunately though, “Montage” from the Team America soundtrack failed to appear.

Throw a little Bombay Bicycle Club, Black Keys, Maccabees and Arcade Fire and my mind is tricked into thinking I could run forever. The fact my body shuts down and I can be seen walking like an 80 year old man a few hours later though is another story.

Good tunes, a little urban exploration whilst taking some photos along the way is ensuring that this running malarkey is actually really enjoyable.