Tag Archives: fitness

Getting fit in Lent

7 Mar

Despite the fact that I noticed a while ago that there are Easter egg and chocolate rabbits in the shops, I hadn’t realised that this meant we were also fast approaching Lent. In fact I only remembered that it was Pancake Tuesday when everyone I knew on Facebook was posting pictures of pancakes that evening.

It has been a while since I have given up (or taken up) something for Lent and I thought I had missed the boat. It was getting short notice to decide exactly what I should do –  after all you don’t want to commit yourself to something that after a few days you realise is going to be impossible to achieve.

Rather than give up something, I have decided to take on something. For me this is slightly easier psychologically because I don’t feel like I am denying myself, rather that I am making positive steps towards something.

For that reason I have decided to get fit for Lent. Every day I will try to do some sporting activity that gets my heart rate elevated. Over the course of Lent, I hope that I will see a noticeable difference in my fitness levels and I will weigh less than I do now. This doesn’t mean that I will be running 12 miles a day, every day until the middle of April. Firstly, I am no where need fit enough to do that and, secondly, it is important to do a range of different activities and not the same ones all of the time.

I hope that I will be able to getting more running done but also some strength exercises, like sit-ups, press-ups and planks, to help with stamina and endurance. I plan to make a log of all of the exercises that I do and I will share this at the end of Lent so you can see how I have done.

I’m quite excited about this mini-challenge. The weather is getting nicer outside which means it is the perfect time to be getting active again.

Have you decided to give up or take something on for Lent? If you have I wish you all the best and hope that you can resist temptation until April 18th!

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Old School Sports

21 Feb

Like most people, I started the year with the intention of being more active and getting fit again. For most of 2018 I was on the treatment table at the local physiotherapist because of a knee injury. This made the year frustrating in terms of health and fitness.

Healed and healthy, I now have no excuses. 2019 has had a great start sport-wise. I decided to rekindle my passion for two sports that I haven’t played for the past 10 years or more, as well as get back into running.

As January and the beginning of February have been very cold, I decided that the best thing to do was stay inside and get in a pool. If I am honest, some of my motivation has come from seeing my niece at her swimming lessons. She loves being in the water so much and enjoys her lessons. I remember going to swimming as a kid and having as much fun as she does. These were simpler times where I would just do the sports that I enjoyed and not because I wanted to maintain my weight.

At first it was hard. It felt a bit boring going back and forth. But I have noticed that I am finding it easier and I feel a lot stronger than I did a few weeks ago. I remember getting out of the pool in the first week in January and having to steady myself on the side because my legs felt like jelly. Now, I am swimming further and pushing myself to do a little bit further than last time and I am enjoying it a lot. I have also found that it gives me time to think about things. Once I get into a rhythm, it’s like my body is on auto pilot and my brain has the freedom to think. Having time to think about things is something that I think we forget about doing these days.

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The second sport I have tried is netball. Netball isn’t so well-known in Switzerland and most of the players are expats from UK, Australia and New Zealand. I felt really welcomed by the team and it wasn’t too hard to get back into the swing of things. I was wondering if I would have forgotten how to catch a ball but it turns out that netball is like riding a bike!

I didn’t feel like I was putting much effort into all of the running around (I was playing GS after all). But when I looked at the mirrors in the toilets afterwards, I realised that I bore a striking resemblance to a boiled beetroot. I used to be embarrassed about how red my face got during sport but it is a good indicator that I have been working hard. No one can accuse me of not putting effort in to something when I have changed colour quicker than a chameleon. Having said that, I know that as I get fitter that my redness will reduce – which is also good motivation!

As the weather has improved, I even decided to go running. My knee is better and there is no reason why I shouldn’t when there is no snow and ice on the ground waiting to trip me up. Oh wait, there is a reason. An old nemesis of mine, also from my school days has decided to rear its ugly head. Asthma.

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I was diagnosed with asthma when I was a teenager. After cross country running, my classmates told me that I sounded like the laughing dog, Muttley, from The Wacky Races TV series. So, I decided it would be a good idea to get checked out because the symptoms seemed to point to asthma. I was given an inhaler to relieve the symptoms and then I sort of forgot about it.

I ran 10ks, half marathons and even a marathon and I didn’t need my medication to relieve any symptoms but they weren’t there. I thought I had managed to outgrow a childhood illness (which is completely possible). I realised last week that I was wrong. My asthma is particularly affected by cold temperatures, which is why this hadn’t become apparent when I have been swimming and playing netball inside where the temperature is warmer.

After a short run I sounded like Wheezy the Penguin from Toy Story 2 when he has lost his squeak: my chest was tight and I felt like I was suffocating. I admitted defeat, called the doctor and asked for an appointment.

Armed with my inhaler, I feel like a different person. Two runs powered by medication and I can breathe easily, I’m not wheezing and I am actually enjoying running again. If I keep going like this, I think that I will be able to hit my fitness goals for 2019. However, even if I don’t, even if my 10k personal best eludes me, I know that I am on the right track for a happier and healthier me.

Hockey, Hiking and Homework

16 Oct

This weekend my life seemed to be dominated by the letter H.

On Friday evening, I went to hockey training for the Swiss senior hockey national team for the first time. As I have been living here for more than 5 years, I am now eligible to play for the national team.

The training itself was great. I know most of the players anyway – which isn’t hard bearing in mind how few field hockey players there are in Switzerland. The goal was to enter a tournament next years but there is some debate about if we will have enough players to enter. I hope we do. I quite fancy playing hockey in Spain for 10 days.

On Saturday, still tired from hockey the night before, I went hiking with a work colleague. Uetliberg is Zurich’s very own mountain. It’s about 800m, which in Switzerland is more like a bump in the road than a mountain. We walked up a very steep path, which starts near our office to the top.

When we started walking, it was so cloudy and misty that I was convinced that we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the top and our efforts to climb the mountain would not be rewarded.

I shouldn’t have worried. This was the view from the top:

Just beautiful and in the middle of October as well! The hike took us about 2.5 hours and the lunch of pulled pork and crusty bread that my friend had prepared for us at her house was the perfect way to refuel.

In the evening, I spent some time doing some ‘homework’. I spent a few hours working on some writing projects that I have been working on and made some good progress.

I really should have done some German homework but we have half term this week so I won’t be going to class this week on Tuesday and Thursday evening. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I will miss the lessons the following week because I will be in Singapore and then at the Basel indoor tennis quarter finals. Both were booked well in advance of me enrolling for my classes.

I actually think it will be good to have a bit of an extended break from lessons. I hope it means that when I will return I will have a new sense of purpose and renewed motivation.

It was already Sunday and time for a hockey match against Basel. It was an early start to get to the pitch for 9.30am. Normally games are after lunchtime. I woke up at the same time that I wake up for work. So much for a lie in.

The station was pretty spooky. I was the only one there and the fog made it feel like Victorian London. I was half expecting Jack the Ripper to make an appearance.

The day turned out to be really warm, far to warm to play hockey. I much prefer playing sport in the rain, rather than 20 plus degrees.

I normally write the match report for the team; it’s one of the reasons that I restarted my blog about a year ago. One of the girl, after reading the report, said that I should be a writer or a journalist. The dream from my childhood might be inching closer…

40 Before 40: Challenge #10

14 Oct

After the Cardiff Half Marathon, I was surprised when I realised I had actually completed Challenge #10 of my 40 Before 40 list (‘Beat at least one of my running PBs for 10k, 10 miles, half marathon or marathon’). It was definitely not my intention to do that!

Somehow, I managed to beat my 10 mile (16km) personal best by a whole 9 seconds. Doesn’t sound so impressive, does it? If a professional runner takes 9 seconds off their time, it is a big deal. It doesn’t really work the same with amateurs, like me, who don’t have a great time to begin with.

Because it wasn’t my intention to aim to beat my best on this occasion, I have decided to say that this challenge is complete, because I have done it, but the tick is only marked in pencil. I know that I can do a lot better than this. However, if after 4.5 years when we are getting to the end of the challenge and I haven’t managed to do this in a more convincing manner, I will change the pencil mark to indelible ink.

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Since the Half Marathon, life has been a bit hectic. I haven’t been on any longer runs since then. I have decided to try and improve my times of some shorter running distances and then over time to increase the distance, while still trying to keep the faster pace. In addition to that, I will be focusing on eating healthier and losing some weight.

I have started off modestly with the running, by starting with 3km. I will try to get my time down to around 16 to 17 minutes and, once I have achieved that, try to run for 5km at the same pace. Let’s see how that goes. It may or may not work as I plan it to, but it is worth a try. This also means that I can focus a bit on core strength exercises which I have been too lazy to do over the past year. These exercises can be a bit boring and it is easy to overlook how important they are but they definitely help to improve fitness and performance.

Having said that, because the weather is still nice, I have planned to go for an 11km run on Monday evening after work. I know that 11km seems like a very specific amount. There is good reason for that.

While I was training for the Half, I had to scout out suitable routes. One of the routes is a nice route along the side of the golf course, along some farm land and past a field where there is a stable with horses and donkeys. Just past that field there is a bench, where I would sit for a rest when I had only just started my training. According to my running app, this bench is exactly 5.5km from my door. So, there and back makes 11km.

For some reason, 11km seems like so much more than 10km. That means that on Monday evening, I might have earned myself a well-deserved piece of chocolate.

Survivor

4 Oct

Along with 25,000 other people, I survived the half marathon on Sunday in Cardiff. From 9am on Sunday morning, the place was packed with runners ready to make their way around the 13.1 mile course. The 0.1 is very important. It’s this last little bit that will kill you off, if you’re not careful.

Of course, I could have trained more, lost a bit more weight but it was too late to think of what could’ve beens. Armed with a Cardiff City bin bag to keep me warm before the gun went off, it was only going to be my mind that would hold me back.

The start of the race was ok. There were so many people that it was impossible to start off too fast. We had already walked along part of the course two days before so I knew after we went through Penarth Marina and over the Barrage to Mermaid Bay that I was half way there.

I had a couple of bad patches, especially between mile 8 and 9 and then again after 10 miles, but with the help of the Rocky theme tune and some more classic hits, I managed to power through.

Overall, I was disappointed with my time but I did manage to run a 10 mile personal best. I only managed to beat it by 9 seconds, and I am sure that I can run better than that.

The weather stayed reasonably dry and I fully deserved my beer and fish and chips in the pub afterwards. I was glad that I didn’t have to get on a plane back to Switzerland on Sunday night. The legs were a touch sore.

On to the next race…

Training done!

17 Sep

Today marked the end of my long training runs for the Cardiff Half Marathon in two weeks. I could not be happier if I tried. When the alarm went off early this morning, I tried hard to think of an excuse not to go. If I chose not to go this morning, then it would be much harder to compete the 13.1 miles in two weeks.

The prospect of a 19 km (roughly 11.5 miles) run is not something than most sane people would relish but I was glad that the morning was cool, but not raining, and overcast. Last weekend, I had measured out the distance that I wanted to do on my bike. Today I didn’t have to think, just run the pre-planned distance. That didn’t stop me from looking at my app to check how far I had gone about every 200 meters. It’s funny how when you know in which direction you are running that you brain tricks you into thinking that you have run a further distance that you actually have. At one point, I thought to myself that I just need to go round this corner and I am at this specific point. I turned the corner and then I realised I was nowhere need to where I thought I was. Demotivating does not even cover it.

I ran slower than I hope to do on the day but the main thing was that I completed. On the days, with a combination of nerves, adrenaline and people lining the streets to watch, I should go faster. I have a time in mind that I would like to achieve. Unfortunately, it won’t be a personal best time. I still have some weight to lose, which will help a lot, and, although I have managed to put in a shift and get the long runs ticked off, I can still improve my speed (by quite a bit) and core strength. These things needs months before you can see improvements. It was just impossible to incorporate these as well into my training schedule. My basic fitness and endurance was the priority for this half marathon.

I have been given the advice: Train hard, win easy. I agree with this motto. I am not sure that I have trained so hard for this race, so I am anticipating that the win will not be so easy. But I am ready to surprise myself.

One of the things that slowed me down today which won’t on the actual day is dogs and dog owners. The stretch that I do is popular with dog walkers and I am always a bit nervous when a dog is not on the lead. Most of the time, I slow down, just in case the dog is spooked by my running. A month ago, a dog wasn’t under control and came for me. I almost fell into a ditch while trying to get out of its way. Generally though, people here are very responsible with their dogs and make sure that they are on the lead when they see you or, at least, take hold of them.

Almost every person that I ran past today said “Good Morning” to me. It takes some effort for me to say it back because I am concentrating on breathing in and out, not on speaking. I definitely won’t have this problem during the race in Cardiff. Although, when I ran the Liverpool 10 Mile race in 2016, there was a runner in the race who was running with her dog attached by its lead to a belt around her waist. I have no idea if she stopped to scoop the poop for the benefit of other runners behind her.

I have completed my long run a week early because I have a hockey match next weekend. There is no way that I could play our Swiss cup game on Saturday and then run 19 km on the Sunday. For the next two weeks, I will be just keep going steadily with some short distances and resting well. The two words any long distance runner loves to hear: resting well. I will be making sure that my knee is okay and doing all the stretches that I need to make sure that I have no pain on the day, getting plenty of sleep and keeping my diet in check.

My diet is the main thing that lets me down. I love eating and cooking. I have been having salad for lunch for the past 6 weeks or so and trying not to snack on unhealthy things. I have by and large succeeded. My worry is that I land in Bristol on the Wednesday before the race. I have been promised fish and chips and burgers from the other half, who is also running and will be waiting for quite a while for me to crawl over the finish line. How can a girl possibly resist? I can’t remember the last time I had fish and chips. My will power will have to be strong. I am definitely looking forward to that first pint after crossing the finishing line because then the need for will power will definitely be over.

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Perfect running weather for a Brit!

One month to go…

2 Sep

It’s come around faster than I thought it would but it is now only one month until I run the Cardiff Half Marathon. I felt like I had to enter a competition in order to get seriously running again. Without a goal, I don’t feel motivated to do anything.

In 2012, I had just finished my accountancy qualification and I was relatively fit from playing hockey and some light running. So I decided to run a marathon. I did it. I was crawling at the end but I did it. Since then I have struggled to get into a regular running pattern. Back then I would go to a 2 hour hockey training session and then run a 10km after, so that my training plan was on schedule.

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Lot of people say that completing a marathon is the pinnacle of anyone’s sporting life. Perhaps since then I have not seen the point of training to that extent again. And if you don’t train to that extent, I would argue, then why bother at all?

Over the past few weeks I have begun to re-find my love of running. It’s not so much of a chore any more. It’s therapeutic in a sense. It gives me a chance to be outside and in nature. I can completely switch off and I find it a good chance to think about all sorts of things. Once you get into the routine of going running for 3 times a week, it soon becomes the norm, a bit like brushing your teeth twice a day.

A lot harder is the nutrition that goes along with training. It makes no difference what so ever if you run for an hour, if you then come home and decide to eat everything in the cupboard, which, I admit, I have done on more than one occasion. There is a fitness quote that says: You can’t out-train a bad diet. In terms of health and fitness, I don’t think that anything is truer.

I have noticed that I eat a lot better on the weekends when I am at home. Because I intentionally don’t buy chocolate, crisps etc, I am less likely to eat them. I have a “buffer”. If I think that I want to have chocolate, I have to walk to the shops. By the time it takes me to put on my shoes and get ready to go out, I have asked myself what the hell I am doing and I quickly decide not to go out and buy junk food. However, if I am at work, it is too easy to eat junk. There are vending machines conveniently dotted around the building. The moral of the story is that I shouldn’t go to work!

So, justfour weeks to go. Just two more long training runs and then I start to taper, which in layman’s terms means that I start to steadily decrease my running distances in order to allow my body to recover and relax before the big race day.

I have a time in mind that I would like to get but, unfortunately, it won’t be a personal best this time. Not unless I find divine Inspiration somewhere between the start and finish line.