training

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.

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Couch Potato to 5K – What Happens Next?

As my time with the Couch Potato to 5k “Get Running” app has now come to an end, I found myself at a bit of a loss as to how I can build up to my next goal of running for 10k.  Do I need another app? Should I look for a guide on the internet were the first thoughts to cross my mind but I got a gentle nudge in the right direction from fate, which made me realise sometimes you really don’t need a guide.

On the Bank Holiday Monday, I went out for a run on a different route and ended up getting a little lost. Suddenly I found myself in an industrial estate with nothing but a dual-carriageway for company but rather than panic, it was time to put into action, lessons learned by Bear Grylls and Andy McNab by looking for the canal and then followed it home, in what turned out to be an adventure rather than a run.

When I finally made it home my Run Keeper app, told me I had actually run for 6.2 miles or should I say 10K! No guides, no tips, I simply ended up running 10k by accident and it was much easier than I expected in a respectable 1 hour 6 minutes. Dare I say it actually felt pretty good too, especially considering 10 weeks ago running for a minute had me panting like an over excited dog so maybe I can call myself a runner now after all.

My small victory was short lived because when I awoke on Tuesday there was a sharp pain between my ankle and calf on my left leg when I walked, which left me thinking maybe I had overdone things and ended up pulling something. The pain continued for the rest of the week and with a combination of wet weather, working late, wedding plans, a trip to the pub along with many other excuses that my body was happy to accept and use as a reason to grab a few days rest.

So after Mondays 10K run, I now found myself doing nothing for the next four days and although a rest was needed, I was beating myself up over not doing enough but Saturday morning it was time to “pay it back” so off I went on a gentle run and promised myself that I would take it easy.

After a 4 day rest, I found that everything felt so much easier and even the twinge in my left leg went away allowing me to thoroughly enjoy the run with some good tunes and a top up of Vitamin D, thanks to the return of the sunshine. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up running another 10k in 1 hour and 2 minutes making me very happy.

Since my first run on March 12th, I have now notched up 108 miles in total distance whilst burning 17,309 calories along the way which proves that replacing a few bad habits with some good ones, makes anything possible.

Just like in Mork & Mindy, what lessons have I learned this week?

There have been a few occasions where I have been desperate to stop and a have a slow walk for a quick rest during a run, but if I see someone walking towards me, I make sure that I run past and don’t stop until they are in the distance. Your mind is the most powerful weapon of all, and if you convince yourself you can so something, you really will carry it through and accomplish what you aim for, no matter how tired you are.

My final lesson is to always listen to your body, if it is telling you to have a few rest days, then make sure you listen because a lengthy injury could stop you running for weeks or even months. With a little patience you will be back on the road in no time and you will feel fitter, faster, stronger and smarter.

 

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 9

By day I work in a busy IT team at the NEC, which basically means I am deskbound  for at least 8 hours a day and by night I help run a gaming website called This is my Joystick which involves either sat in front of a laptop or in my throne with an Xbox controller in my hands. All of this is great for this self confessed geek but add a lethal combination of alcohol and a love of chocolate and it is no surprise that I found myself weighing 15.5 stone and feeling breathless when climbing stairs or running for my train home.

I also hate the whole gym culture and the many self obsessed characters with heavy hints of narcissism that frequent them, but maybe most of that is in my over-active imagination. Whichever way you look at it, I was out of shape, overweight and heading into the infamous heart attack alley which is never a good thing. However, I found salvation in the Get Running App (couch potato to 5k in 9 weeks) which enabled me to combine my love of technology, photography and music whilst also making me get a little fitter, with the added bonus of also losing a little weight in the process in a cunning move that was very similar to a Jedi mind trick.

I started out 9 weeks ago weighing 15 Stone 5lb struggling to run for sessions that consisted of one minute runs and I’m quite proud to say that as I leave the couch potato to 5k in 9 weeks program, I’m now 14 stone 7lbs and I have finally reached my first target of running 5k in just under 30 minutes.

Slow and steady wins the race...

Slow and steady wins the race…

As my first goal has now been reached, it also time to say goodbye to the Get Running app that made it all possible. I will definitely miss the words of encouragement from Claire telling me to keep going because there are only 30 seconds left but I guess this is the time where I leave the camp and go on a walkabout to fend for myself on a voyage of self discovery or should I say aim for my goal of entering a 10k run.

Before I do though, I thought I would have a little fun with my running and find myself very tempted by the Zombie Running App where you are told to tie your shoes, put on your headphones, and take your first steps outside. You’ve barely covered 100 yards when you hear them. They must be close. You can hear every guttural breath, every rattling groan – they’re everywhere. Zombies. There’s only one thing you can do: Run! It sounds like the perfect antidote to this apocalyptic weather that we are having here in the UK.

The running in the rain novelty is wearing off a little now, and this weeks runs were quite tough which is not made any easier by me carrying a coat along with my work clothes in my rucksack but still managed around 12 miles this week.

With a Bank Holiday weekend upon us, I will try and get out without the handicap of my bag and get some miles under my belt armed only with my trusty Runkeeper app and Spotify running playlist as I begin heading for my next goal of running in a 10k race. Only when this milestone is reached will I refer to myself as a runner, so until then a massive thank you to everyone who made the Get Running App and a fond farewell to the encouraging voice of Claire as I head out for another run.

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 8

Daily Mail readers might be fooled into thinking that England is going through a terrible drought at the moment where arid landscapes are common place but don’t go looking for the tumbleweed just yet because this week I have seen nothing but rain whilst on my travels.

As I consider myself an old school male, I would never let a little rain stop me from running or in fact anything at all. I must confess to getting frustrated with people who moan and complain about the weather and say things like “You can’t do anything in this weather”. You can do anything you want and as a man much wiser than me once said “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.

Despite the weather, I have managed to notch up a respectable 15 miles running this week, in fact the only negative aspect to report is that I only have one week left of the Get Running App that has proved that you really can go from being a couch potato to 5K if you want to.

I am somewhat surprised but pleased to announce that I am now managing a 5k run in around 31 minutes, so although it’s not under thirty minutes which is my ideal target, it is still a hell of a lot better than the guy that struggled to run for a couple of minutes a few weeks ago.

As for running in the rain, am I on my own in thinking that it actually feels pretty good?

Follow the light at the end of the tunnel...

Follow the light at the end of the tunnel...

I ended up on an unintentional adventure on Wednesday which consisted of a very wet and muddy 5 mile run along a canal path in the rain but the highlight was running through Coseley tunnel which is 329 metres long and the only light is what you can see at each end of the tunnel making it quite atmospheric

Now for the historical bit of my story, the approaches to the tunnel were cut by 1829 and the underground construction carried out during 1835. In 1837 the 360 yards long (329 metres) tunnel, with a tow-path each side, opened. Now both the north portal, in Ivyhouse Lane, and the south portal, in School Street, are Grade ll listed and industrial traffic has given way to leisure transport on the Birmingham Canal Wolverhampton Level.

Once inside its much darker than this photo suggests.

Like at the end of any Mork and Mindy episode, I have learned a few lessons this week, such as don’t let bad weather stop you from doing anything that you want to do and always head for the light at the end of a tunnel. However the most important lesson is to forget about times and distances and enjoy your surroundings because its the overall experience that makes you feel alive.

Once I finally achieve 5k in under 30 minutes and enter a 10k run then maybe, just maybe I will call myself a runner but until then, I will keep hitting the streets and earn my stripes on the treadmill of life.

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 7

My motivation for running is being able to get out in the great outdoors after being cooped up in an office with no windows all day and do it all on my way home from work without it eating into my personal time. Life is too short to finish your day by setting out to the gym and finally getting home at 8pm for a few hours before going to bed and doing it all again. For me that would be like being caught in a hamster wheel, so I have replaced a 25 minute tram ride with a 25 minute run home and so far its doing me the world of good.

On March 12th I started out with the Get Running Mobile Application and their Couch Potato to 5K running plan. The plan started with me struggling to complete eight 1 minute runs due a life of self confessed slacking that left me with the lung capacity of a mouse and the belly of a whale. However after only 7 weeks I am now running for 30 minutes at a time proving just how well this plan works but also how quickly your body can adapt, no matter how out of shape you are.

This has been a week of distractions, after going for a run on both Monday and Tuesday, suddenly I found myself working from 2pm on Wednesday until 6am on Thursday morning after a software move took a little longer than expected. This wiped out two days running, but I still have Friday right?

My good friend was celebrating his birthday and brought in a Smörgåsbord of cakes and treats into work. One month ago I would have demolished this fine selection but suddenly I equate cakes to having to run 30 minutes just to burn the calories off, so I just sneaked a few flapjacks due to their slow releasing energy qualities of course and realised the former couch potato is now talking like a big girl.

This was not the biggest temptation of the day though, everyone finished work to share a beer with the birthday boy and I found myself saying out loud “but I need to go for a run”. What the hell has happened to me? Anyway despite fierce peer pressure I made my excuses and left the pub on a Friday night with no beer!

After a 2 day rest, I was raring to go and felt inclined to “Payback” what I had missed and ended up going for a longer run, in fact I actually ran for 6k which is actually the first time that I have broke the 5k mark, which makes me living proof that you really can go from couch potato to 5k with some good old fashioned dogged determination.

The House of Birds on the Black Country Route.

Whilst running along the Black Country Route, I thought I would stop and take a photo of the House of Birds by Jamie McCullough which is a 12 metre high sculpture designed to celebrate the birds that once nested in the area. I think its important to enjoy your surroundings whilst out and about rather than concentrating on times and personal bests etc besides it gives me a chance to rest my ageing bones and get my breath back.

It will be quite sad to say goodbye to the app and lose the encouragement from the mysterious Claire in my ears but will I be forever grateful for how it has given this fatboy a kick up the arse in the right direction. The main lessons I have learned are that you simply need to eat less and move more whilst replacing a few bad habits with good ones.

Just when you might think that I am getting a little preachy, rest assured that I am writing this on my third double Jack Daniels and Coke (zero hehe) on a Friday night, after all some bad habits are worth keeping around, otherwise you could end up being quite a dull character and although I love a good run, I also like a cheeky JD and a late night session on my Xbox.

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 6

This has been a tough week, which involved having a nice 5 days off work, so my normal regime of running home has been interrupted leaving me to gather some motivation. Throw in a sprinkle of crappy wet  British weather and the added temptation of many chocolate Easter Eggs at my disposal and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster.

However, Kerry has decided she wants to start the app during our bank holiday break after feeling both excited and eager to get cracking, which was just the kick up the backside that I needed. After 25 minutes with Kerry doing week 2 though, I was left wanting a little more so ended up doing my Week 6 run immediatley afterwards, meaning I have been notching up 4.5 miles a day.

I think this has actually done me some good in building stamina because today I completed Week 6 and Run 3 of the app which consists of a 25 minute run with no breaks, which is a massive achievement for me considering I am a self confessed couch potato who could not run for 1 minute without stopping for a breather just over a month ago. I guess this is where the app says “no more mr nice guy”  because every run from now on has no breaks, and will consist of 25, 28 and 30 minute runs.

All this is quite strange for me because this is everything that I have always been against, but it was more than amusing to see the hilarious Charlie Brooker go through a very similar experience after being bitten by the Get Running App and how he has now become a runner. You can read the article here.

One of my biggest weaknesses is warming up and down correctly, I feel quite self concious about stretching in public so although I always warm up with a 5 minute walk and warm down with a 5 minute walk, I think its time for me to take the art of stretching a little more seriously. Although these are quite easy to get online, quite a few people reccomend the iPhone app Stretch Guru: Run, so I might give this a run out (see what I did there).

The main reason for my sudden attention on stretching is because I picked up an annoying and frustrating strain/injury in the most unlikely of places. My legs are feeling great and I pace myself, so gasping for breath is not a problem. Just when I think all bases are covered and I have everything sussed, I am struck down with troublesome upper back pain just below my right shoulder blade.

Kerry offered her healing hands and just like Mr Miyagi she found straight away that my backs was full of knots. A few quick excercises on the area and my back was sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies. So as I begin to take stretching more seriously to avoid rolling around the floor on a few tennis balls in the future. Luckily Kerry ‘Miyagi’ has been able to sort out the knots but I consider this a very valuable lesson learned.

My main calling points at the moment to get me through each day and keep me running are:

There are no more easy rests between runs now, as the next few weeks consist of longer runs with no breaks, so things will start to get interesting as my time with the C25K app reaches its final stages. I will refrain from calling myself a runner until I have mastered 5k in under 30 minutes without stopping and entered a 10k race, so this acidental athelete still has lots of work to do.

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 5

Just when I was all settled into my new healthy routine, I was sent a tough week of tests which could quite easily send me back to where I started. Saturday was my Grandparents Diamond Anniversary meal, On Sunday it was the wedding day of my good friend Sam which involved enough delicious food to rival an episode of Man vs Food, Tuesday I found myself in hospital for the day and finally my friend Keith generously decided to bring in £50 worth of big cream cakes into the office for his birthday on Thursday.

There was a fair amount of fun to be had though, and at Sam and Lin’s wedding we even attempted to recreate the album cover of Ocean Colour Scene’s Moseley Shoals at The Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa.

New Ocean Colour Scene tribute band launched in Leamington Spa.

On top of this, my usual 5 nights of running after work will be interrupted, which means I will require extra motivation because I am on annual leave for 5 days. Even with all of these temptations aside, I also noticed that week 5 of the app suddenly jumps from several 8 minute runs with a few minutes rest in between to one 20 minute run with no breaks.

My biggest challenge of the week though was the British weather, I have been somewhat spoilt over the last few weeks with running in the sunshine. I have been leaving my work feeling like a battery hen in an office with artificial lighting, air conditioning and no windows, only to be set free by running in the great outdoors with the euphoric feeling of being alive. By contrast this week was a little different as the hot sunshine was replaced with cold winds, cold temperatures, rain, sleet and even snow!

So all in all quite a tough week if you are trying be a little more healthy and that’s before I even mention the words Chocolate Easter Eggs or deals of 6 Cadbury Cream Eggs for £1.00.

Enough of me moaning like a big girl, I started Week 5 on the Get Running Couch Potato to 5K this week which started nice enough with several 5 minute runs, the following day increased to several 8 minute runs but then on Thursday went up to 20 minutes! I must admit to being a little apprehensive about the 20 minute run with no rest but guess what? I only bloody did it, and it was easier than I thought.

Some of you reading this, you may think that’s nothing to get excited about, but on March 17th this self confessed couch potato struggled to run for 1 minute without gasping for breath and sweating like John Prescott in a pie shop. So it just goes to show how quickly your body can adapt and how good this app actually is. My only complaint was that the friendly voice of Claire seemed to leave me to my own devices during the 20 minute run, but I she must have her reasons eh.

For anyone that is nervous about the upcoming 20 minute run, my best advice is to arm yourself with some good tunes, and remember these words “Throttle…Throttle…Throttle”. If you suddenly find yourself gasping for breath, you are running too fast. Simply slower your pace and I guarantee that your heart rate will slowdown, your breathing will become easier and you will feel like you can run much longer than you think. I figure that speed will come later, but right now you just have to concentrate on building stamina.

Another tip is to aim for 5 minutes, then when you reach that 5 minute part of the run, say to yourself another 5 minutes etc. I think much of what we are doing is controlled by your very powerful mind, so if you can trick it, just a little bit you will be fine.

To be honest what carried me through this run was AC/DC singing Highway to Hell very loudly in my ears, you don’t need to worry about sore legs when you have the power of rock on your side.

All in all it has been an eventful but fun week or dare I even say an adventure and I’m loving every second of it.

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 3

Don’t worry there won’t be any pictures of me holding out a baggy pair of trousers away from belly like Barry Bethnal with a caption like “I’m Barry Bethnal & I lost shit-loads of weight” but I just wanted to show anyone that is thinking about starting the C25K that if a self confessed couch potato that couldn’t run for 1 minute 3 weeks ago can do this then anyone can.

You may recall I mentioned in the previous post, that the “Get Running App” has 3 runs to perform each week , so because I am running 5 days a week I get to dip my toes in the following weeks run.

When I first tried the week 4 run, I felt gutted that I failed on the first occasion, but rather than feel sorry for myself I always made sure I paid it back by doing an additional short run at the end. By the end of this week though, I’m proud to say that week 4 of the app has now been mastered and over the moon that I am now running for 16 minutes of a 28 minute run.

As I progress on the Couch Potato to 5k program, I do wonder how I will cope with the longer runs, but one lesson that is quickly learned, is just how fast the human body adapts to your new regime. The highlight of this weeks runs was when Claire said with perfect timing during the intro of Bitter Sweet Symphony “you have ten seconds until your next run” I needed no further encouragement than that song, the five minutes whizzed by and I loved every second.

This was a massive turning point as I completed the run, I was actually enjoying what I was doing and it felt great. Never underestimate the power of your mind or music for that matter and if me rambling away isn’t enough to inspire you then spare a few minutes to watch this video.

When I have to run for a train now, it feels fantastic that I don’t spend the next 5 minutes coughing and trying to catch my breath, but most importantly I enjoy it and actually feel better, which can only be a great thing. Eat less but but move more is all that you need to remember and don’t let a massive failing diet industry tell you any different.

No more kit has been purchased this week, I have a pair of running shoes and a great running playlist, what more could I possibly need? Sometimes it is hard to believe in this media fueled 24 hour society, that life really is that simple but you know what? it really is.

Have no fear though, I still enjoy a good old fashioned Cadburys Cream Egg and a few JD and Coke’s over the weekend, so there is no chance of me ending up “boring” just yet, after all the secret is everything in moderation and that includes moderation 🙂

For those of you that are considering giving the Couch to 5k app a run-out, I believe that it is now available on both Android and iPhone, so if you can squeeze 30 minutes out of your day, why not give it a try. You will feel more alive than slouching in your chair watching the One Show, I can guarantee you that much.

Get Running: Couch to 5K – Week 2

One week ago, I am ashamed to say that running for 1 minute without stopping was somewhat of struggle but it was made much easier, thanks to the mystery voice of Claire coming through my earphones telling me to keep going. For those of you new to the app “Get Running – Couch Potato to 5k” Each week contains 3 runs that alternates between walking and running for the first six weeks, to ease you into running. As I have decided to do this 5 times a week, this means I sometimes dip into the following weeks exercise routine if I feel ready.

So by the end of my second week of dragging myself out of my armchair, I have just started week 3 on the app (hope this makes sense) and my small baby steps have led to an early mini milestone of being able to run for three minutes several times during each run. This might sound quite amusing to some of you reading this but Claire was quick to motivate me by saying “this is three times more than you were able to do last week“. Since you put it like that Claire, maybe I’m slowly getting the hand of this malarkey.

As my lung capacity slowly increases, my shins and thighs ache a little less I thought it was time to drop by Boots to see if my new walking/running combination has resulted in any weight loss.

I lost 5 pounds and somehow gained .4cm in height...

I wasn’t expecting any great results this early on but I have lost 5 pounds and somehow gained .4cm in height but I suspect the latter was caused by me looking down rather than ahead during the first weight check, either that or I was sneakily wearing a pair of Cuban heels.

Although I have only been doing running for only for two weeks, I am seeing definite improvement which just makes me want to do this even more and dare I say that I am actually enjoying this which makes it even better. It is quite interesting how it makes you evaluate what you are eating too. When you discover that there are 284 calories in a Twix Bar, suddenly that equates to a 25 minute run, is one Twix really worth a 25 minute run?

Don’t worry, I have never been the kind of guy to count calories and I’m not going to start now, but its just a case of being sensible and no matter what anybody tells you it really does boil down to moving more and eating a little less but everyone did that then a billion dollar diet industry wouldn’t exist would it?

Enough rants from me, if I’m going to run 5 nights a week, I’m going to need more than a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths to progress without niggling injuries. So I turned to the internet and the vast running forums to get some advice on some reasonable running shoes without breaking the bank. I somehow ended up on a Daily Mail article that basically suggested running shoes are bad and we should run bare footed but I think running barefoot in the Black Country would bring more risks than wearing shoes. As I will be running straight from work, I am not brave enough to get on a busy commuter train wearing five fingered shoes.

Pro Grid Ignition 2 Running Trainers

After seeing several fantastic reviews on running forums for the Saucony running shoes and the fact I could get them for £20 despite an RRP of £59.99 it was an easy decision to make. My first impressions were a massive step up from the crappy old pair I had been attempting to run in. The two massive differences I notice are the fact they are incredibly light and the independent heel crash pad for increased cushioning makes a massive difference.

My final purchase of the week was a pair of classic Ron Hill Tracksters, sure as we head for summer, shorts would be more appropriate but once again my nightly run is straight from work and I don’t fancy being sat on a train during rush hour looking a cross between Alan Partridge and a member of the 1982 England World Cup squad.

Next week I expect to be running for 5 minute intervals, as the pace slowly picks up but I am genuinely still excited about it all and very optimistic that my 10k race target by the end of the year could be a reality.

My current kit consists of

  • New pair of Saucony Pro Grid Ignition 2 Running Trainers
  • Ron Hill Tracksters
  • X-Cellerate Stamina Mens Full Zip Hooded Running Top
  • 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
I will forget about my non existent speed for now and continue to do what the app tells me, but rest assured I will return next week to update you on my progress.