Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: running dad (page 2 of 3)

The Running Dad – fitting it all in

All of us have to make choices about where we allocate the minutes and hours of our days. Work and family clearly consume a good chunk of that time leaving relatively small opportunities to do hobbies or other activities. For me blogging obviously takes up another part of the day (and can consume every evening if you let it), there’s a bit of gardening and home maintenance in there, dog walking every day and maybe even some time to actually talk to the lady of the manor occasionally.

Which means for this running obsessed dad I have to work hard to get my daily fix in. I love running, I really do, but can I justify going for a run instead of spending time with my children for example? Difficult to justify that to yourself long term unless if you want to be any sort of real parent.

Barbury castle trailThis leads me to, what is for me, the only real conclusion. Exercise early in the morning before anyone else gets up. It’s perfect, I take the dog so he gets exercised too, the children never really notice that I’ve gone and I get a quality run in while most people are still tucked up in their beds.

It’s definitely not easy dragging yourself out of bed at 5.40am every day come rain or shine, putting a head torch on in the dark winter mornings so you can see where you are going. But on days like today it’s just fabulous. Mother nature puts on one hell of a show as the sun rises and the mist slowly clears from fields. We see deer, rabbits, hares, pheasants and cows most of which Bracken will attempt to chase.

Best of all you have this all to yourself, your own private country estate.

While I’m not obsessed with running particular distances or times, I do like to use Runkeeper to keep track of the exercise I’m doing. It appeals to the finance person in me who likes a nice graph and also to see whether I’m doing enough total mileage as I train for the Scotland coast to coast in September. I’m now doing close to 30 miles a week and having built my fitness up will start adding in some longer runs at the weekend that should push me over that.

Runkeeper graph

I’ve set a goal of running 1000 miles this year, something which helps motivate me to consistently train and not loss momentum as the year progresses. I’ve done 400 miles so far so well on track and feeling really good for it, not sure what 1000 miles really signifies but it’s a nice round number isn’t it?  When I started running regularly again at the start of this year losing weight wasn’t a prime objective. However it is a nice side effect, so far I’ve lost over 16lbs which is really satisfying. But more importantly I feel good, I feel strong and fit. All those back problems from the last 18 months seem like a distant memory and I know full well that mentally running is really good for me too.

So what are you waiting for? Think you don’t have enough time to exercise then you’re wrong. But you do need to be motivated and imaginative in how you fit running into a busy day. Getting up early is my solution but I’d love to hear how you’ve managed it. Do you literally do the school run? Or fit it into your lunch times perhaps?

So you want to be a runner?

So you want to be a runner do you? The sun has started shining and you want to get that bikini body ready or you watched the London marathon and felt inspired? Well let me warn you right now, once you start you won’t stop. Once you experience the endorphin high of a good run you’ll be longing for the next opportunity to slip on those running shoes and head out.

Still with me? Then read on.

A few people have asked me recently how to start running so  thought I’d share my top tips for getting those legs moving. Nothing revolutionary or new here but it can be a daunting thing to begin an exercise regime for the first time so hopefully this might just help you take the plunge.

  1. Just do it; if you want to be a runner then put on some trainers and go for a run. Seriously. Forget needing to buy all the gear etc, if you go out and run you are a runner. That truly is the great thing about running, it’s such a simple thing. You pop on your trainers and away you go. Of course some comfortable clothing and shoes will help things but don’t let that be an excuse for not starting.
  2. Shiny new trail shoesInvest in some good trainers; yes you can run in any shoes, barefoot even, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of actually enjoying and sticking with running then a good pair of trainers will really help. Find your local running shop and spend some time getting advice and trying a few pairs on. Most likely you’ll be spending at least £60 so make sure you’re serious about sticking with it.
  3. Use the couch to 5k program; if you’re just starting out this is a great way to learn how to build up your running. It’s a program offered by the NHS in the form of free podcasts that in 9 weeks will get anyone running 5k. It means you haven’t got to think about how far to run etc and perhaps more importantly ensures you don’t do too much too soon. You can find all the details here.
  4. Ben running in snowDo a Park run; the idea of this is very simple, ever Saturday in parks up and down the country there are 5k runs. There is no entry fee, you just turn up and run. It’s not a race but it does give you motivation every week to get out for a run and challenge yourself. It also gives you a nice record of how your fitness improves and a chance to meet other local runners. There are now thousands of them being organised so unless you live in the middle of nowhere there is probably one down the road. The Parkrun website has all the details
  5. Enter a race; there is nothing quite like the looming presence of a race approaching to keep you motivated with running. I know for me having a race is often the difference between getting out for a run or not. Getting up every morning to run has been tough in the cold mornings we’ve had so far, but knowing I have my race in September to aim for has meant that I’ve been braving the weather. Oh and tell lots of people that you’ve entered the race, that added threat of embarrassment is also a great motivator! If you want to find a race then the imaginatively named Find a Race website is as good a place to start or find your local running club who may stage their own races.

There you have it, would love to know if anyone has any other tips that helped them. I’d also love to hear about the races you’ve entered, always looking for inspiration.

The running dad – Arctic 10k

photo 1Today was the latest outing for this running dad and I say with no exaggeration that it was just like running a 10k in the Arctic. No really, the newspapers said so and everything.

My not so little brother and I donned our running gear, our hats and gloves and we laughed in the face of the weather. We may live in the south but we are no southern softies. Although you should have heard my brother whining about how one of his balls hurt.

I of course was the supportive brother and fellow runner….yes that’s right I laughed at him and mocked him all day.

But it was a whole lot of fun, which may sound a bit odd given that it was -2 and there was a few inches of snow underfoot. But you don’t become a runner without a little bit of crazy and it would seem that there are over 100 other people also crazy enough to head out on a Sunday to race.

photo 2This was a very cool race in every sense, fun conditions to run in and with the course perched on the hills above Bath some spectacular views to be seen also. It also had the added bonus of being only 20 minutes from home which given the roads was very useful.

The race went well, I can certainly feel the benefit of all the miles I have done recently and managed to finish feeling strong. Pushed my little brother all the way as well which is always satisfying when he’s 11 years younger and in theory a damn sight fitter. I may have gone for a final sprint for the finish quite early purely to beat the Bath athletic club guy in front of me.

Not competitive at all me.

Definitely need to start doing some hill training as that was where I really suffered, but all in all some good progress. Plus we managed to spend an evening last night planning out more races over the next few months as we continue our training for the big challenge in September.

Slightly disconcerting that today’s run will be just the first stage of that challenge with another 98 miles of cycling and running ahead of us. But we won’t think about that will we?

photo 3

The running dad – The big challenge 2013

The plan was always that 2012 would be the year I got back running properly after hurting my back and then 2013 would be an opportunity to target a race on my bucket list.

Well best laid plans and all that, 2012 turned out to be a lot tougher with my back still causing problems until the middle of the year and then with Henry being born it was tough to get out running regularly. However from mid August I did start to make progress and now as the year closes feel strong, toned and best of all pain free in my back.

Having completed my first trail race in a long time in November my little brother and I have started making plans for 2013. He’s also interested in taking on some new challenges and as a decent runner is the ideal partner to run with. Besides these things are always more fun when you have someone to share the experience with aren’t they?

Our target race for 2013 and what we will be building up to for most of the year is the Scotland coast to coast, a 102 mile race from Nairn beach to Glencoe. It involves cycling on road and off road, some kayaking and running a marathon over a few stages part of which goes up Ben Nevis. It is a race I’ve wanted to do for a while but have never either been healthy enough or had the time to train. I’m hoping 2013 is the year to change that.

I know many people won’t understand but sitting here writing this I’m getting excited at the thought of attempting this race, of pushing myself and seeing what I can do. It’ll be the toughest thing I’ve ever done by a long shot, but I’m motivated and I know that I need a race to target to keep me going each week.

To give you a bit more of a taste for the race I’ve included a video below which is well worth a watch. Perhaps it might even tempt you to sign up?!

Scotland Coast to Coast – Rat Race Event from on Vimeo.

So that’s the big challenge for the year, between now and then we plan to do a few more trail races and in particular the Endurance life series on the coastal paths. These races are great because they are tough, but done in stunning scenery which does help numb the pain a little bit. So far we’ve only done 10k’s but plan to up that to a half marathon at some point between now and September.

There you have my running plans for 2013, anyone else have a challenge planned big or small?

The Gallery – Fitness

Anyone that follows me on twitter will know how much of a running addict I am and how generally I am out most mornings at 6am running with the hound. The first step out of a cosy warm bed is tough, more so when it’s dark and cold, but with every step you take away from the house you become more relaxed and excited to be out in the silent town or city.

That hour before the place really wakes up is just great, I love hearing just the sound of my feet hitting the ground and my panting for breath. I very rarely run with any music preferring to drink in the environment instead and just have some thinking time. If you are ever training for a long race I can thoroughly recommend imagining what you would spend a lottery win on, it can keep you busy for ages and the run flies past!

I do of course always have my trusty training partner with me, who ever so easily trots past me when I think I’m running at a decent pace and never seems to tire. He is a handsome chap though so I don’t mind too much.

But running for me is not just about keeping fit it’s the enjoyment of being outside and seeing things you just don’t notice from a car. That’s why if you look at my Instagram feed many of the photos are from runs, trying to capture those moments where the morning light is just perfect. Below are a few of my favourite shots from the past few months, all taken with a couple of miles of home.

Running like Mo

The Olympics were inspiring in many ways and you can only hope that there are many small children out there riding their bikes like Bradley Wiggins or trying to sprint faster than Usain Bolt. But for me the inspiration was Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis who both have something in common; that is the reason they gave for their success. Mo’s put his success down to “hard work and graft”. Simple isn’t it? No fancy equipment, mystical training regime or scientific diet. Sure diet and training regime have a part to play but there is no shortcut.

This is something I’ve taken to heart, too often I can be a dreamer, wanting to read all the magazines and buy the gear rather than just getting out there and running. Not any more, now I’m getting out there and doing it. Trying to build up the mileage, getting my legs and lungs stronger so that I can do the races that I want to. I can realise some of those dreams.

Watching Mo run also taught me something else, if you watch him run he looks like he is floating, those strides look effortless. This is pretty much the opposite to no doubt how I look, when you’re trying to get back into running you end up being a plodder, one foot after the other, having to fight to just keep going. It’s hard to break this habit when all you can think about is your lungs about to explode.

So I’ve started quite literally running like Mo, trying to land my feet with less impact and take longer strides. The effect is quite incredible, it forces you not to drop down into your hips and engage your core more. It takes some of the pressure off your lower back which for me is a godsend.

It takes some getting used to though and you definitely have to build strength in your legs and core, but I would highly recommend you trying it. If it’s good enough for Mo then it’s good enough for me.

All of this means I am now running at least 3 times a week, mostly with Bracken as there really isn’t enough time for a run and a dog walk each day. In a typical week I try to get the following in, as I’ve said before I don’t really take a formal approach to training but do try to keep some variety. I’ve been doing this for about 6 weeks now and am thankfully starting to feel the benefit and actually feel strong on a run.

  • 2-3 runs of around 5 miles, normally with Bracken at 6am (with preferably 1 off road)
  • A core workout in the gym during lunch time; 5 exercises for 40 seconds each and 20 seconds rest between exercises. Repeat 3 times
  • 30 minutes pilates
  • A speed session; sets of sprints (up hill if possible), it’s a pretty quick session and really helps build up strength in your legs for getting up hills.

It might sound quite a bit but apart from the 5 mile runs the rest can be done in 30-40mins which is easy enough to fit in either before work or during a lunch time. I plan to try and start doing a longer run once a week if possible and then if I get my London marathon place will need to up the training a whole lot  more!

The Running Dad Returns

Almost exactly a year ago I was lying on the lounge floor crippled by the pain in my lower back, my mind full of worry about how serious it was, would I walk let alone run again? Am I going to need surgery? How they hell am I going to help with a 2 month old baby feeling like this? I’d been making great plans about the running I was going to do once I could start getting some more training in as Matilda got older. Those plans went very quickly out of the window.

Yet here I am a year later after a very long road of recovery that quite honestly still hasn’t finished, but it’s time to re-discover the running dad again. I’ve been running fairly regularly for most of this year and while still have some aches and pains on the whole feel ok. So now I’m starting to think ahead to the running challenges I want to complete in next 12-18 months. I need these goals and targets in my life to keep the motivation going.

I also finally realised last week that part of the frustration that has been building is because I haven’t been running. A self enforced break for the weeks following Henry’s birth where there just wasn’t time. But I started to feel the fog descend, the cloudy brain, the getting stroppy and angry, this isn’t me and running is the medicine I need.

So what about the challenges? Well my philosophy about running is that the adventure in completing is what excites me and motivates me. I don’t run for particular times or results and that reflects in my training. Sure I try and mix it up with different speeds and distances and I do throw in some speed training, but I don’t have an itemised training plan. I run for the enjoyment of running, that’s it. Just look at the photo to the right, 6.15am this morning on the canal towpath, an amazing morning so peaceful and quiet. That’s why I run, for moments like that.

But I do like to have a challenge, one that when you tell people what you are doing they look at you like you’re a little crazy. I take a sadistic satisfaction from knowing that most people wouldn’t even attempt let alone finish the event. So here’s the plan so far:

  • Autumn/Winter 2012 – my favourite trail series kicks off again. Great races in breathtaking scenery and a choice of distances. I think I’ll start with a few 10k’s as I build my training, conscious of having 2 little children at home which restricts time to train. Then maybe attempt a half marathon. I doubt I’ll do every race in the series but hopefully 4 or 5.
  • Spring 2013 – with luck I’ll get my entry in the London Marathon through the ballot. I think it’s time I attempted a marathon and where better than London? If this fails I may look for a smaller event elsewhere in the country.
  • September 2013 – an event I have been dreaming of doing for a while and hopefully next year will have the time to train for it with the babies that bit older. It’s called the Scotland coast to coastand is a non stop 102 mile race from Nairn on the North sea down to the Isle of Glencoe. A mixture of cycling on and off road plus some trail running and kayaking. Looks truly incredible.

No doubt you are now thinking ‘I know why he’s called a fool now’! But what’s life without an adventure eh? Any events that you want to do? Seen something that might interest me? Or even better do you want to join me on one of these adventures? Then leave a comment why don’t you?

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