Category Archives: Lifestyle

The Truth about Running in Pregnancy

As I mentioned a few months ago, running during pregnancy is a completely new thing to me.  And so, like most things, I’ve just done what felt right.  There have been the people who’ve thought I was crazy for keeping running.  There have been the people who run half marathons at 7 months pregnant faster than I could normally.  But I’m not any of those people, I’m me.

But there are some truths about running that I think are as universal as anything can be when it comes to pregnancy.

It’s tiring
This is kind of obvious in a way, because everything is more tiring when you’re pregnant.  But the difference has been really noticeable to me.  Not just how I’ve felt when running either.  Afternoon naps after parkrun became pretty much essential to function normally.

You need more support
This is both moral and physical support.  Moral support from friends and family in your decision to keep running.  Physical support in the form of a decent sports bra (even more important than normal) and some form of bump band.

Your pelvic floor is your friend
It’s hard to overplay quite how wrecked your pelvic floor is after pregnancy.  One of the biggest struggles women have in post-natal exercise is re-strengthening this crucial muscle so that high impact activities like running are even an option.  And running during a second pregnancy made it very noticeable if I’d been skimping on my exercises.  So do the exercises.

Running photos are even more attractive than normal

It’s important to know when to stop
Sure, the dream is to keep going as long as you can.  Lose as few weeks of fitness as possible.  But given every runner is different and every pregnancy is different, it’s not much of a stretch to realise that there is no ‘normal’ time to call it a day.  What’s important is to keep listening to your body and recognise when you need to stop, before you push things too far.

For me, the time to stop appeared a week earlier than I’d hoped.  Like most parkrun tourists, we had plans to see in the New Year with a parkrun double.  That seemed like the perfect way to sign off for running maternity leave.  My body had different ideas though, and my recovery time after parkrun on Christmas Eve told me it was time to call it a day.

To me, running in pregnancy mostly consisted of running a slow parkrun every week that I could.  I would have loved to have done more, but it’s a break from running not a retirement.  And until then, there’s plenty of volunteering and spectating to be done.

Being a parkrun tourist

In some ways it’s really easy to define parkrun tourism – running a parkrun other than your home event.  In some ways it’s a bit more complicated, and (sadly) divisive, than that.

There are several types of tourism:

  1. While on holiday, looking up and attending a nearby event.
  2. Attending a neighbouring event because they’re doing something special or your home one is cancelled.
  3. Travelling further for no other reason than to attend a different event.
  4. Planning an entire trip away to attend a different event.

It’s pretty safe to call ourselves tourists – completing 25 different events when you live in the heart of the South West region and have a toddler is not something that happens by accident.  With a short-term goal for the year of making the Most Events table (20 events) and a long-term goal of becoming South West regionnaires (completing the whole region), 2016 saw us shift up a gear in our tourism efforts.

Making a day of it

So what does being a parkun tourist mean for us?

Early starts
We’re fortunate that during the week our alarm is set for 6:45.  We’ve (just) managed to make it to our home parkrun getting up at 8:25.  For some of our tourism trips the alarm has been set for 6:00, and even then it’s been a push to get out the house on time to allow for toilet stops en-route (because, toddler and pregnant woman).

Barcode paranoia
The golden rule of parkrun: don’t forget your barcode.  And if you’ve travelled specifically to tick off another event it would kind of suck to not get a result.  We have the plastic barcode tags, and keep one stored in as many running kit pockets as we can (they go through the wash, it’s brilliant).  Even still, we check that we’ve got them approximately every 5 minutes while getting ready to leave.  And for trips away barcodes are second on our packing list (a friendly local might print a barcode for us at a push, they can’t print a toddler’s much-loved toy).

Choosing different events to attend means getting to experience a variety of courses.  While I enjoy Longrun Meadow (particularly with puddles), it’s sometimes nice to run a fast tarmac course, or completely off-road.  To see countryside or the sea.  Or even get some hills in.  Every event is different.

Getting to know the locals

Spending more time together
Saturday mornings at the end of a long week can be wash-out zones, and it’s easy to spend the time relaxing separately.  Travelling for parkrun changes that.  For starters, there’s the entire journey there and back where there’s nothing to do but (gasp) talk to each other and compare thoughts on radio features.  But, strangely, with parkrun then taking up most of the morning we’re also more likely to visit a playpark or head to a cafe together as well.

A massive community
A common accusation pointed at parkrun tourists is that we have missed one of the main points of parkrun: community-building.  For me it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, I have gained a lot from my home parkrun’s community and really appreciate seeing familiar faces any time I’m there.  But travelling around makes you realise quite how big the parkrun community is, and you get to meet new people to share your mutual love of parkrun with.  Whether it’s talking to volunteers, meeting up with fellow tourists, or just chatting to the person you happen to run next to, it really doesn’t matter which parkrun you’re at.

As for those types of tourism I mentioned, perhaps unsurprisingly we’ve done all 4.  We haven’t gone to the extreme of flying somewhere just to visit a different event.  Yet.  There’s still time.

Lack-of-Training Update

I haven’t been posting enough recently.  I’ve been trying to persuade myself that it’s ok, because Ben has had a lot more running to write about than normal.  But then looking at the last 10 blog posts only 1 has been from me.  Oops.

In part, this has been because there’s been little to write about.  My running lately has consisted of parkrun.  Even then, other commitments have meant I haven’t managed every week.  My times have been less than stellar:  36:29, 37:15, 37:07, 35:46 and (today) 38:52.  It hasn’t bothered me too much though.

My packed-out training schedule

My packed-out training schedule

So to re-cap:  I’ve got no races planned for the rest of the year, my training is virtually non-existent, and I’ve been taking the few runs I have been doing as easy as possible.

Kind of screams “surviving first trimester of pregnancy” right?

Actually, I’m pretty proud of myself for the little running I’ve managed.  Last time round I ran precisely zero miles during the whole 9 months, so every time I set off it sort of feels like a new PB.  And now that I’m through with the “feeling crappy” months I can get moving a little bit more for a while.  You know, until the “exhausted” months arrive.

My life revolves around running

For the past couple of months it feels like everything I do is about running.  Timetable.  Meal planning.  Laundry schedule.  Everything.  But here’s the kicker – I’m not running.

My latest run on Strava was optimistically called “Trying to start a habit”.  Given that was a month ago, it clearly wasn’t much of a success.  Truth is, there’s been a lot of other stuff going on.  I’m at the end of a college course, and so assignments have had to take priority in the evenings and at weekends.  Add the normal tiring elements of work and a toddler, and there wasn’t a lot left.

2016-07-29 15.46.22

Does he even own any normal clothes?

But still, the alarm is set early enough for long runs – inevitably causing aforementioned toddler to decide it’s time to get up.  The requirement for me to be on toddler duty is based on a running plan.  Meals are meticulously selected so that spice does not precede a long run.  Each day the laundry basket must be checked for favoured running kit, and the dirty dishes pile checked for recovery shake bottles.  And weekends?  They’re for researching race routes to decide if there are toddler-friendly cheering points.

In short, I am currently a running widow.

It will change.  My college course is almost done.  Home life is adjusting to the idea of Ben running so much during the week.  And everyone knows that attack is the best form of defence.  Time to dust off the trainers then…

Before I’m 30…

A few years ago (okay, quite a few years ago), I wrote a list of “Things I want to do before I’m 30”. At the time, I imagine that the idea of being 30 was something akin to old age. Those episodes of Friends demonising the age probably didn’t help. I’ve lost that list, though I can remember a few of the things on it. From what I recall, many of them were expensive, and I’ve completed very few of them. But I’m not really worried. For one thing, turning 30 isn’t going to be the end of my life: I’m pretty confident that won’t happen until I’m at least 40(!). For another thing, I’ve still got a bit of time left before I turn 30; just under eleven months in fact.

Have child, tick. Get child obsessed with Lego, tick.

Have child, tick. Get child obsessed with Lego, tick.

Here’s a few of the things I do remember from the list:

  • Get married, buy a house, have kids

Yes, yes, and mostly. I have one child, so I think I can call that a pass, right? Despite being a list that was mostly full of expensive adventure type things, I was pretty certain that I wanted to settle down and have a family. I probably didn’t fully realise that this wouldn’t help with the rest of the goals, as I was probably still in the heady stage of thinking that university graduates earnt gazillions. This was before the economy crashed after all. (And before I got my university results!!)

  • Complete a marathon and a triathlon

I ran a bit while I was at university (I had a three mile loop that I’d run about three times in one week and then not again for two months, but it was running, dammit!) So obviously, I wanted to run a marathon. Since I’ve started running “seriously” I’ve shunned running a marathon in the short-term, choosing instead to focus on improving my speeds over shorter distances. Now that I’m not barely old enough to legally drink, I’ve realised that I’ve got a while yet to build up to marathon distance if I want.

  • Climb a mountain, skydive

There were definitely more along these lines; pretty standard “once in a lifetime” sort of stuff I seem to recall. The main issue with all this sort of thing is the cost. I don’t really like spending money; I’m more of a hoarder I have to admit! I’m one of these sad people that will probably die with thousands of pounds in a savings account because I was too cheap to spend it. So maybe, just maybe, I need to start admitting that if I’m sensible, sometimes spending that money might be worth it for some life experiences. I also need to stop being so prideful. When we were on honeymoon in Hawaii, I knew that it would be an ideal opportunity to take a few surf lessons: who doesn’t want to say that they’ve surfed in Hawaii?? But… I didn’t, I was too worried about sucking.

So what am I going to do? Obviously it would be impractical, and stupid, to try and get all of this done before my 30th birthday next July. In addition, it would be completely pointless, as life doesn’t end at 30. However, I am going to make an effort to do more, and to move out of my comfort zone. It would be nice to get a couple of “bucket list” experiences squeezed in before my next birthday, and then maybe I can fully assess what I might want on my “lifetime goals” list.

Snowdon, credit: Chris Dixon

Snowdon, credit: Chris Dixon

Trip to Snowdon anyone???

The off-season: 11 top tips for things to do during enforced rest

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.

After the Great West Run in October, I always planned to let my body have a bit of a rest. In fact, I was basically prepared to give it the rest of October and all of November. Now, admittedly, this wasn’t complete rest. Just dropping down to a comfortable three runs a week, totalling about 12-15 miles. Apparently though, my body didn’t appreciate the efforts I was going to, and took matters into its own hands. Or more accurately, lungs.

Which left me with more time on my hands than I expected to have. So here are my 11 top tips for things to do during the off-season.*

  1) Book races
Okay, so I might be ill now, but that’s no reason not to book out the whole of January, February and March with races right? I joked to a friend yesterday that my “long-term planner” is actually just my race diary. It wasn’t actually a joke. I don’t race as regularly as many, but I’ve got three races definitely booked, and another four pencilled in. Just in the first three months of next year. Oops.

  2) Buy winter kit
That first day that you step out the door and think “by jove, it’s cold” (or however your mental voice would phrase it) is the time to stock up on winter running gear. I’ve been pretty good this year, and only picked up a couple of things so far: an extra hi-viz t-shirt, and a compression top that matches my running club vest. Because, you know, I don’t want to clash.

  3) Sort running kit drawer
While we’re on the topic of the kit, is it really still necessary to have four different vests in the drawer? Now that it’s cold I’m surely going to do clothes washing often enough to only need a couple of those right? And where did I hide those gloves away? And what is that?

Okay. I haven’t actually sorted it yet. I keep looking at it
and then finding something else to do. Can’t think why.

  4) Watch a box-set / complete a video game / read a trilogy
Remember that box-set you got for Christmas, but never managed to watch because you were out running? Now you can watch all 24 episodes! Or that video game you started, but then just sort of… forgot about. Or that trilogy that looks really good, but you’re worried that if you don’t read them quickly, you’ll forget who all the characters are. Seriously, I’ve completed about 25% of Grand Theft Auto during this “rest”, and that isn’t a small game.

  5) Volunteer at parkrun
If you can’t run… volunteer! I don’t think that slogan will catch on. Also, it turns out that if you go and volunteer on a cold day with horizontal driving rain, and a chest infection, you then develop a fever to go with it. I don’t recommend the pair, individually or paired up. So, if you’re resting due to illness, maybe skip this idea.

6) Read everybody else’s blogs and get jealous
Actually, now that I think about it, this one isn’t ideal. I mean, it’s great to be able to catch up with what you’re all doing and stuff. But seriously people, why don’t you all take a couple of weeks off too, just to make sure that I don’t get jealous. Thank you.

  7) Write a training plan
New season: new plan. In my case, the new plan is basically the same as the old plan, but with two extra runs added in, and a longer long run. I’m hoping that nobody notices that both of the extra runs have been added on the same day. I’m sure mentioning it won’t make it any more obvious. Ho hum.

On the back of an envelope, obviously.
  8) Write your Christmas list
This probably only works if you’re reading this roughly when it is published. If you’re catching up, or randomly found this on Google and it’s February, maybe give it a miss. But otherwise, start scribbling that list down: new trainers, new Garmin, that swanky Nike top with the thumb-holes in the sleeves…

  9) Eat
Because it’s a proven fact that the next best thing to running is eating. Try out some new recipes: plenty of those that took too long to consider when you had to factor a run in are now perfectly do-able. Of course, you might need to think about going for slightly less calorific options, but that just adds another challenge into the cooking, and might expand your repertoire! Me – I’m thinking Chocolate Fondant and a couple of new curries. Not together. Probably.

Sadly, this is not one I’ve made. Hopefully mine will
look this ace though. (credit: RobinCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

  10) Polish and sort medals
So, they’ve been hung up on the wall for a while now. They could probably do with a dust and polish. Now that I look at them, the display is a little imbalanced too: all the long ones are on one side, which looks a bit odd. But if I move that one over, the colours will clash. This could take a while.

  11) Rest
Oh yeah, I sort of forgot about this one, but I think it’s pretty important. Rest. Whether enforced or not, let the body have a bit of a break so that any ongoing niggles can sort themselves out and you’ll be fit and raring to go for the next season .. next week .. tomorrow.

So there you go, 11 things to keep you going when you’re not running. I’m sure I’ve missed some important things out though, what do you do to stay occupied and reasonably sane during some down-time from running? Do you just go crazy?

* By “top” I mean, the first ones I thought of. And by “tips” I don’t mean suggestions. Actually, they’re just “things”.