Monday, 14 July 2014

I should do this more often

For some reason, when I woke up this morning, I was randomly reminded that I told my friend Heather I'd run the Great Scottish Run half marathon with her in October. Well, not with her. She's super super speedy and I get overtaken by walkers when I run. But in the same race as her.

Having told her this on Facebook several weeks ago (while still on a high from the Great Edinburgh Run) I immediately forgot about it until this morning, when I suddenly realised that the 5th of October is a whole lot closer than it sounds, and I counted the weeks in my calendar…twelve. The exact number of weeks in most half marathon training plans. Better get started then.

So I chose a training plan (I'm using the Bupa intermediate half marathon plan - I thought the Bupa beginner 10-mile plan worked brilliantly for the GER) and got out there. 30 minutes later I'm back, pretty proud of having managed 2.8 miles in 29 minutes when I've only run once since the beginning of May. Obviously, I'd be prouder if I'd managed to keep my running up even though I didn't have an event to train for, but I can't do anything about that now. And, considering my legs weren't all that happy with suddenly being made to run for half an hour after 2 months off, I really enjoyed it..I should definitely do this more often!

I'm not sure the intermediate plan is going to be right for me - it involves four runs a week, and will supposedly take me from 3 miles to 6 within the first 3 weeks…eek. However, I've mistrusted training plans before and they've always worked, so I'll see how this one goes, and drop down to the beginner one (or mix-and-match a bit) if I'm struggling.

In other news, my resolve not to spend money on things I don't need was severely tested yesterday when I saw these:

These and loads more utterly brilliant book-related slogan tops are sold by Activate Apparel and I really, really want them all! I'm a big fan of slogan Ts to work out in. Yesterday I played a tennis match in a top that said "It's a pleasure to beat you." Sadly, the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that I lost.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A few random thoughts out of the blue

So, it turns out that when I don't run much, I don't blog much either. Or maybe it's that when I don't blog, I don't run. Either way, very little of either has occured in the last 2 months - no blog posts and only one short run. Oops.

There's been a little bit of tennis though. A few lovely league matches out in the evening sun, for instance. Evening matches at the end of long summer days are basically what tennis was invented for, as far as I'm concerned. There's just nothing more lovely in the world.

Admittedly, it becomes slightly less fun when the matches are unfriendly - we've encountered some blatant cheating this season, including playing against a doubles pair who kept putting the same player in to serve, game after game. The weaker player of the two had only served once by halfway through the second set, but sadly when we confronted them, they just told us we were wrong. In un-umpired, un-refereed matches there's not much you can do about that. We still won, anyway. As usual, we've also come across our fair share of dodgy line calls, which usually make me laugh, to be honest. I mean, it's hardly Wimbledon - is there really any need to cheat?

Speaking of Wimbledon, this is the fortnight of the year when I pretty much never get anything done. Why would I want to do anything productive or useful when I could be sitting on my sofa watching white-clad warriors giving absolutely everything of themselves on the beautiful green lawn of Centre Court? As it happens, I've been too busy this week to see any tennis at all, but I'm making up for it today and I'm writing this while letting Serena Williams and Alize Cornet inspire me with an amazing 3-setter in the third round. I keep shouting at the TV - I'm not sure Lovely Husband is too impressed.

In other news, I'm really, really trying to eat more like an adult and a keen tennis player/runner and less like a student. After a long day at work it is just so easy to order a pizza or pour a huge pile of pasta into a pan, but it's become abundantly clear lately that, although I still eat like I'm in my early twenties, I don't have the metabolism I had then! I played doubles with a 13-year-old this week, who thought it was hilarious that I kept calling myself "old and slow" but next to her, I really felt it!

So I'm trying to introduce more fruit and veg and dismiss some of the junk from my diet. I've also noticed how little protein I eat so I'm working on that too - maybe, just maybe, living on carbs is why I'm always so tired…? I'm finding Pinterest and health and fitness blogs incredibly useful in finding new ideas for quick and easy recipes  - I've recently developed something of an obsession with sweet potato wedges, and this afternoon when I was suddenly really tired, I made a smoothie instead of a coffee. Well, the smoothie did have a shot of espresso in it…I guess it's all about baby steps.


Monday, 5 May 2014

Liverpool Spring 10k

Ingredients for a perfect Bank Holiday weekend morning: hot cross buns for breakfast, a 10k run through a beautiful park and a friend to chat with the whole way round. The Liverpool Spring 10k is aimed at "joggers, plodders and club runners" and I was really looking forward to experiencing a proper Liverpool welcome at this friendly race around Sefton Park.

I spent Saturday at work basically dreaming about the pasta bake Helen had promised to have ready when I got to her flat, where I was spending the night. After a long day at work, dinner did not disappoint, and nor did the gossip! After an early(ish) night we breakfasted on tea and hot cross buns and crossed the road to Sefton Park, where the start area was already filling up with a combination of highly experienced-looking club runners, fun runners, charity runners and their supporters.

We weren't planning on getting round very fast. Helen's currently doing the busiest job in the world, so her training hadn't been very consistent, and I was still on a high from my 10-miler last week and was happy just to get out and enjoy an easy-paced run, so we positioned ourselves towards the back of the pack and amused ourselves taking start line selfies until the start of the race.

It turned out to be a lovely race. There were plenty of supporters, cheerful marshals, a samba band and lots of gorgeous scenery in and around Sefton Park. Helen and I chatted all the way round, which made the miles fly by. It was the first race I've ever run with someone else and, although it drops a race's PB potential somewhat, it's a lovely way to spend a morning!

To be honest, I'm not sure whether this race would ever be likely to hold much PB potential, even if you don't amble around taking the odd walk break, as we did. There are quite a few narrow areas on the course and, even at our speed, we spent a fair amount of time weaving around other runners - my Map My Run app thought I ran nearly 11km overall. Having said that, it's a beautifully flat course, and if you start near the front it might be possible to get around quite smoothly. 

We picked up the pace a little bit in the last few kilometres and started picking off plenty of runners in front of us. As we approached the finish line the route became absolutely packed with supporters, and to make myself heard I had to shout at Helen to sprint for the finish line! We crossed the line together in 1:11:39 and picked up our medals, technical T-shirts (huge because all the small ones had already been taken) and goody bags. While the medal is always a brilliant thing to pick up, my favourite thing was the sherbet dip dab in the goody bag - nice touch!

All in all, it was a fantastic race - well organised, really friendly, and genuinely aimed at all abilities - the winner (who went whizzing past us just before we reached the 6km mark - he was already at 9km) finished in 31 minutes, and there were still people being cheered across the finish line when we were walking home half an hour after finishing. Definitely a race to add to my diary next year!

Thanks to Helen for providing most of the photos in this post - I am a rubbish blogger who cannot take a selfie and only managed to take about 3 photos the entire day!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

10 miles - done!

Woohoo! I'm so chuffed - I not only ran the full 10 miles of the Great Edinburgh Run on Sunday, but I loved every second of it!

We got to Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon, checked into our hotel and went for what was supposed to be a little stroll down to the start/finish area to make sure I wouldn't get lost the next morning. The "short" stroll actually turned into a mammoth hike up and down most of Edinburgh's many hills (it turns out I'm rubbish at booking hotels that are close to start lines - it looked close on the map!) but we eventually made it to Holyrood Park and checked out the lie of the land before wandering back up the Royal Mile to carb-load on pasta at Bella Italia. Then we caught a cab back to the hotel, and chatted to the driver about his experience running the Edinburgh marathon in 1982. His advice - don't go off too fast!

After a restless night my alarm woke me at the distinctly un-Sunday-ish time of 6:45. I left Lovely Husband sleeping and took myself down for breakfast, where I failed magnificently in my bid to force some porridge down. Normally my favourite breakfast, I just didn't fancy it that morning. I managed a bit of yoghurt and half a cup of tea and then woke Lovely Husband up, pinned on my race number and we headed off!

Trying to make up for my lack of breakfast I nibbled on half a Cliff bar on the way to the start, and made it there in time for a quick portaloo stop before nipping into the back of the white wave pen just in time for the start of the wave. As I crossed the start line, the only thing I could think about was the taxi driver's advice, so I slowed right down and let the entire wave pass me - I was literally right at the back. We set off around Holyrood Park and up the first hill - a nice gentle one to lull us into a false sense of security. I knew Lovely Husband was going to be waiting around the 2-mile mark and, sure enough, there he was, camera poised, just before the mile marker. I posed for photos as best I could while running, and then headed off towards one of the two really steep hills, up Cannongate. I was so happy to be able to keep my speed going up the hill, even though runners from the wave behind me were starting to catch me up and overtake me by this point.

My favourite part of the course came next - past the Scott Memorial and the National Art Gallery before heading to Greyfriars to meet Greyfriar's Bobby. A man running alongside me, who must have been in his 70s at least, made a quick detour to give Bobby a pat as we ran past - I didn't need to as I had already made sure of my own luck by visiting him the evening before.

I walked through the water station at 3.5 miles to give myself time to get a Shot Blok and some fluid down, and then picked up my pace again. Lovely Husband had clearly studied the course map, because he was waiting at mile 5 to shout encouragement as I ran past. I was still feeling brilliant at this point, and was starting to overtake a few people on the hills, although I was still being overtaken by far more people from the wave behind me. There were a couple more steep hills in the second half of the course and I started to become a bit more tempted to walk up them - but was stopped every time by the realisation that if I kept running I could overtake some of the increasing number of people who were walking the hills! In the end, with the exception of the three water stations, I ran the whole course.

Between miles 6 and 7 we got to run past some of the faster runners heading for the finish in the opposite direction, including a couple dressed as a bride and groom (who are getting married next weekend - how cute is that?!) and a rock band.

I had really expected everything to fall apart somewhere around the 7-9 mile mark. I knew there was one last climb along the side of Arthur's Seat at 8 miles, which I had really been dreading, but in the end I barely noticed it - the hills in the town were far worse! And the absolute best bit of the course was still to come - a completely downhill final mile which ended up being my fastest of the race! I absolutely flew down the finishing straight and crossed the finish line (where LH was, of course, waiting) with a fist pump and the biggest smile on my face! My chip time was 1:45:26 - a real surprise given my uneven training and very exciting given all the hills.

I've run a few 10ks before, but I have never been so happy to put my medal around my neck as I was after my first 10-miler - I wish I could wear it to work! I'm already thinking about how much quicker I might be able to run the same race next year, and I'm busy planning bigger and better things in the future - I think my first half marathon is on the cards!

Big thanks to my Lovely Husband for driving me to Edinburgh, keeping me company all weekend and being Official Photographer.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

4 days to go!

4 days until my longest race ever! I know it's only 10 miles, which counts as a short midweek run to most of the people whose blogs I read on a regular basis, but it feels pretty scary to me. Exciting scary, though. And fun scary. But still scary.

Running hasn't really happened in the last week, which probably hasn't helped my nerves much. I was so tired after 3 long days at work over the Easter weekend that getting out of the door in running shoes this week has felt about as easy as climbing Everest. I finally got out (to the gym because it was too late and dark to run on the roads) tonight and ran a bit over 3 miles, which felt pretty easy, so hopefully the miles I've already banked are going to pay dividends this weekend. I'd like to get one more 5-ish miler in before the race, but I've got tennis training tomorrow night and a match on Friday so it's only going to happen if I feel fresh enough that the extra miles will help build my confidence, rather than just tire me out.

In the meantime, I'm getting prepared for the weekend. In a moment of wondrous, completely out of character organisation, I laid my race kit out on the spare bed this afternoon - all the bits I won't need before then, anyway. I'm currently living in fear of forgetting something really important (shoes seems to be the most likely candidate) so the more I get packed before Saturday, the better. 

I'm also trying to remember to hydrate, eat sensibly (which mainly involves avoiding looking at my massive stash of Easter eggs) and get plenty of sleep. My somewhat haphazard training will only get me round so fast, so if living like a nun for the next four days will buy me a few extra seconds/minutes (or just make my legs scream less on the hills) it'll be worth it!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Good things that have happened this week

1) We won our first tennis match of the season! In fact, we pretty much demolished the second team 10 sets to 2. We were obviously terribly sporting about it afterwards, but we're all pretty chuffed about it, to be honest. One of my worst tennis memories ever is being decisively beaten by the second team three years ago. It hasn't happened again since, but they're a very good team so the possibility is always there, and it's great to have avoided disaster for another year. It was a great match actually. My partner and I had sooo much fun - we laughed pretty much right the way through it, which is the way I like to play doubles! I also fell over and accidentally did the splits.


I did not look like Kim Clijsters. I wasn't even as elegant as Jelena Jankovic. I got laughed at quite a lot.


2. I ran 9 miles this morning! 9 miles! And it wasn't even that hard! Only one more long run to go before the race, and I'm finally beginning to believe that I'm going to do this. I might even manage a respectable time. Whoop! Also, it was a beautiful day for a run, which makes me believe that summer's finally coming. Weeks and weeks of long days and light evenings, just made for tennis matches, barbecues and long walks and runs…am I getting too excited?

3. I've booked our hotel for the Great Edinburgh Run. We're staying near the castle, which means there'll only be a short walk to the start, and we'll be perfectly situated to do some exploring before and after the race. I can't wait!


4. I've entered another race. My friend and I will be doing the Liverpool Spring 10k in Sefton Park on 4th May a week after the GER. I'm really excited about running with my friend, and Sefton Park is a lovely place to run so it'll be a fantastic day!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

It's not just the race that's hilly

Training for a race entails some serious emotional highs and lows that I really wasn't expecting. In the weeks leading up to my last post I was getting increasingly depressed about how little running I was fitting in. On the day of my last run I was seriously down about how difficult and tiring it was to run 4.7 miles. Today, I ran my furthest distance ever  - and loved it!

I don't know what made such a difference. I was practising fuelling, so maybe it was the Shot Blok and water I was taking every 30 minutes or so. Maybe it was the fact that I stopped to walk every time I fuelled. Maybe it was the fact that, after a spa day and a lovely catch up with the girls yesterday, I was just less stressed about everything. Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above. All I know is that I covered 7.7 miles and, even though I stopped to eat and drink twice (and for a loo stop!), my average pace was still the same as my last few runs because my actual running pace was about 15-20 seconds per kilometre faster than usual. Amazing. I'm so happy and I'm finally feeling positive about not only getting round the Great Edinburgh Run, but finishing with a smile on my face!

In other news, the summer tennis season starts this week. Trying to captain a tennis team made up of a mix of super-experienced club players and super-talented juniors (plus me) has been one of the biggest challenges of the last few years for me, and the team hasn't really done better than medium-well for the last few seasons. However, this year we've got a fantastic team and an enthusiastic new coach so I'm optimistic about our chances! This week's match is the "local derby" against the club's other ladies team, so we start the season with the Big One…the honour of our team is at stake!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Re-thinking my goals

Darn it. It was all going so well, and then…work happened. A rubbish week of night shifts followed by a couple of really, really tough weeks at work have utterly scuppered my training schedule, and on the couple of nights last week that I got home with enough time for a short run I was just too tired. Normally I'd make myself run anyway but in retrospect I'm pretty glad I went easy on myself last week as there's probably only so much a body can take!


So in the last three weeks I've only managed a 5.5, a 3 and a 6.5-miler, and the last time I ran was 10 days ago - not good. I headed out this evening without high hopes and I suppose I'm actually quite pleased to have managed a bit over 4.5 miles without my legs completely dying.

Obviously I need to re-evaluate my goals now. I was secretly hoping to complete the 10 miles of the (hilly) Great Edinburgh Run in under 1 hour 50, and I'm pretty sure that's not realistic anymore, so I need to re-think. 1:55 might be do-able - I think I need to see how this weekend's long run goes and take it from there. It's pretty frustrating to realise, four weeks out from the race, that I won't be able to meet my original goal but I'm really, really trying not to beat myself up about it. Exercise is supposed to be something I do for fun, as a distraction from work - it's supposed to help me deal with stress, not add to it! My perfectionism and 100% type A personality come in very useful most of the time, but at times like this I really need to learn to give myself a break.

There will be times in my life when things other than running and tennis have to take priority, and the last few weeks have been one of those times. I can either whinge about all the runs I haven't done, or I can re-focus on what I can do to get me to the start line in shape to run the best race I'm capable of. Whatever happens, it's my first 10-miler so it's going to be a PB!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A high-tech treasure hunt

Wow - what a gorgeous day! At some point during the wash-out of the last few weeks I think I'd given up hope of spring ever arriving, but suddenly I'm waking up to clear skies and sunny days!

We (Lovely Husband and I) took advantage of the early evening sun and popped out for a walk and a bit of geocaching on Alderley Edge today.

For the uninitiated, geocaching is essentially a geek's treasure hunt. Inventive people hide a "cache" (a container that's usually sandwich box-sized, but can be as small as a fingernail or as big as a pirates' treasure chest, and is usually filled with a few small trinkets) and post its co-ordinates on the geocaching website. Geocachers use a GPS device or smartphone to find the cache, sign the log-book inside and log their find on the website. Sometimes they might take one of the trinkets inside and replace it with something else of more-or-less equal value. Then they hide the cache again for the next person to find.

For a necessarily fairly secretive hobby, it's got quite a following. According to the official website, there are currently 2,330,214 geocaches hidden around the world, with 6 million geocachers looking for them. It's basically a way of making a walk a lot more fun (or, if you're really unlucky, getting a police caution), and has already helped us discover new and fascinating places to visit near our home. Sadly, I'm pretty rubbish at actually finding them once we get to the right co-ordinates (my mum always said I couldn't find a needle in a haystack) but fortunately Lovely Husband is pretty damn good at that bit.

Tonight we went out looking for two caches. We spent ages scrabbling around under a hollow tree looking for the first one without success, but we found the second one ingeniously hidden in another tree, and had a lovely walk around the National Trust site at Alderley Edge at the same time.

Signing the logbook

A great thing about the geocaching website is that it rates the terrain that the cache is hidden in. We stuck to pretty straightforward and flat terrain for our gentle evening walk, but if you want a workout you can find caches hidden on the top of mountains and those that require long off-trail hikes or rock-climbing, sailing or even scuba-diving skills to get to. As a recovery walk following last night's tough interval treadmill workout, our stroll tonight suited me just fine…and we even met some friendly sheep for a chat before we came home!

I'm still pretty chuffed about Saturday's 5 mile run. I was ridiculously nervous before it (I have no idea what I thought was going to happen - surely the worst was that I'd get tired and have to walk home) and I had some mental battles with a couple of tough hills (and nearly a physical battle with a speeding car - I definitely would not have won that one). However the last mile felt brilliant and I'm still really happy to have covered half the race distance with nearly 7 weeks to go before the race. I've got another 5 miler planned for tomorrow and, given the weather forecast, I'm pretty excited about it!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Today I...

1) Got dive-bombed by a homicidal wood-pigeon as I ran past his tree

2) Made a decision never again to run along the road with a steep hill, on a blind corner, with no pavement, where cars always drive too fast.

3) Got beeped by a white van man who's probably never run a step in his life

4) Got beeped by a very hot man who'd taken a detour on his way home from work to see if he could spot me (thank you Lovely Husband)

5) Ate these for my post-run snack

6) Ran 5 miles :)))

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Think training's hard? Try losing.

I am such a sore loser. Not outwardly anymore, fortunately. Outwardly I smile and congratulate my opponent and say all the right things. Inwardly, I seethe. I played a pretty important tennis match last weekend (important in my world, that is, not important in relation to Wimbledon or anything) and I lost in two pretty closely-fought sets. I was actually ahead in the first set but it all fell apart fairly quickly and by the end, even though I was putting up a good fight, I just wasn't match-tight or fit enough to pose much of a threat.

I was really grumpy for a while. Really grumpy. Over the last few days, though, I've started to appreciate the match for what it was - a good marker of my current level of play and fitness. I know where I'm at now, so I can make a plan for how to get to where I want to be. And the plan basically involves working harder.

The fact is that if you don't play matches, you won't be match-ready. If you don't get in the gym, you won't be fit enough. If you don't do the baseline drills, you won't make that forehand-down-the-line when you really need it. If it matters enough, you put in the work and the sweat and the time - and if you don't put that time in then it doesn't make any sense to be disappointed at the outcome. I've ditched disappointment and replaced it with determination to do better next time - which means training better now.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Sore feet and new socks

I am sooo excited about my running today. I'm always a bit suspicious about training plans - I look ahead to the preposterous number of miles I'll supposedly be able to run by week 8 or 10 or 12 of the programme and I just can't see how the weeks in between are supposed to get me there. Never mind that the one time I followed a generic training plan to completion (a Runner's World half marathon plan - I did all the training but not the race, ridiculously) it clearly worked.

Same thing this time - I'm following the Bupa beginner's 10 mile training programme, and I absolutely could not see how I was supposed to be able to run 10 miles by the end of it. Or even 5 miles by halfway through it. I just don't think I have any faith in the fact that the more you run, the better you get at it.

Big surprise, though - I'm actually getting better. I went out for a 40 minute run today, aiming to cover about 3.5 miles, and it turned into a exhilarating 4.4 miles in about 46 minutes. Once I got into my stride, I just didn't want to stop, and could definitely have run further if I hadn't had plans I needed to get home for.

I did manage to take half the skin of my left foot by wearing ridiculous socks, though. I've only got three pairs of proper running socks, and I almost never seem to have both halves of one pair washed at the same time (don't ask. I don't understand that either) which leads to me wearing random combinations of running and non-running socks:

The Nike one on the left, good as it is (with it's matching pair) for tennis, did not want to go for a run today, and made its point by injuring my heel maliciously. I mentioned this to my lovely mum this afternoon, and she promptly marched me down to Sweaty Betty and bought me two pairs of Blister Resist socks. Not only are they padded and double-layered, they're also purple. I love them very much :)

In other news, I am really, really tempted to take part in Caitlin's Ironman March. The challenge is to cover the full ironman triathlon distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) over the month of March. The running bit will be easy, as I should cover that distance and more with my 10 mile training, but I'm not a great swimmer and biker at the best of times. Obviously, getting better at them is the main motivation for taking part in the challenge, but I think I might struggle to complete it alongside my running training, especially since I'll be on night shifts for a full week in the middle of the month, which means seven days of probably no exercise whatsoever.

However, I guess the whole point of a challenge is that it should be, well, challenging, so I'm going to give it a go. Even if I don't cover the full distance, I'll definitely be fitter by the end of the month than the beginning, which is reason enough to go for it!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A breath of fresh air

I saw something yesterday that made me really happy. An old friend of mine on Facebook (you know the type: used to live next door to her in University Halls, so we knew everything about each other for a year, but since then communication is sadly limited to the occasional “like” on a Facebook wall) posted something I rarely ever see from anyone: a positive statement about her body.

How great is that? How often does a woman ever think such positive things about herself, let alone make her thoughts so public? I have to say, she looked gorgeous ten years ago when we lived together, so I doubt she’s ever had a good reason for not liking her body, but how often does having a great (or, at least, acceptable) figure stop us from whinging about how we look?

And even if we do think we look gorgeous, it takes real guts to tell the rest of the world about it. I’m so proud of my friend, not for getting fit and losing weight (although that’s great too) but for reminding the rest of us that it’s OK to shout about the things we love about ourselves, rather than moaning about everything we don’t like.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Countdown to Edinburgh

It's absolutely ages since I entered a race, and even longer than that since I actually trained for one. In fact, strike that, I've never trained properly for a race. I used to enter the Great Manchester Run every year and my training would consist of going for a few 4-6km runs in the two or three weeks running up to the race, and then dragging my screaming body around the course in a horribly slow time before spending the next six months not running at all.

I think the problem might be that it is actually possible to get round a 10k without putting in any training (even though, in my case at least, it hurts A LOT), which seems to remove any motivation on my part to train. So, in an effort to remedy the lack of motivation thing, I've entered the Great Edinburgh Run, which will be 10 miles around the city centre, Royal Mile and Arthur's Seat on April 27th. I'm sure to a seasoned runner, 10 miles feels like nothing, but I can assure you it scares the pants off me. Especially since I mapped the route on Map My Run and saw the elevation profile of this supposedly "flat" course:

Um, hello? Flat? I suppose hills mean a different thing in a city like Edinburgh that is essentially built on a huge hill, but still, that profile doesn't look "flat" to me in anyone's language.

Anyhoo, the aim of scaring myself into training properly seems to have paid off, and I've started running again. Slowly, I admit. This was one of my 100HappyDays photos last week:

Hardly world-beating (although it did include a looong cool-down, which lowered the average pace somewhat). But a start is a start. Just need to get in some hill runs now.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Keep Alert and Drink More Water

Do you drink enough water? I can say without hesitation that until January 1st, I definitely did not. In fact, most days I drank a cup of coffee and a cup of tea and that was about it. Then I made a new year's resolution to drink 1600 mL of water every day, and my life changed. Literally.

Honestly, so many things in my life are better now that I keep myself hydrated. The best is that I need loads less sleep. I honestly believed that I needed 8-9 hours sleep a night (which I usually didn't get and was consequently tired and grumpy all day). Now I'm happy with 7 hours, and when I get up in the morning I drink a mug of hot water rather than necking two cups of coffee.

Other changes? I have more energy, I'm more on-the-ball at work, my workouts are better, I snack less often (turns out it's true that we tend to mistake thirst for hunger) and my skin already looks clearer. This morning, after possibly having one too many pear and apple martinis last night, I stumbled into the kitchen looking for water rather than coffee. I seriously cannot believe that such a small and simple habit has changed my life so fundamentally.

If, like me, you could do with drinking more water, I can heartily recommend the Waterlogged app. Free on iTunes, the app helps you keep track of your intake over the day, as well as giving you your numbers for the preceding week in handy graph form. If you pay for an upgrade (I haven't) the app will  keep track of all your data since you first started logging. You can also set reminders throughout the day to encourage you to keep drinking.

As a slightly (my husband would say very) anal person who believes that everything is better when in list or table form, I adore this app. I am so much more motivated to drink my daily water quota when I know I can enter it on Waterlogged, and I still smile every evening when I get to click the "I am successful" button the app developers have kindly programmed to pop up when you reach your daily goal. You know what they say about simple things and simple minds...

Monday, 20 January 2014

100 Happy Days

Do you have time to be happy? According to the people running the #100HappyDays challenge, 71% of people who committed to the challenge gave up because they didn't have enough time.

The challenge is really simple: for 100 days in a row, take a photo of something that makes you happy and post it on the social media site of your choice. says that people who commit to the challenge feel happier, luckier, more optimistic and can even fall in love during the 100 days. Sounds like maximum gain for minimum effort, I'd say. So why do over 70% of people not have enough time to commit to it?

Obviously not having "enough" time to post a photo every day is a different thing from not having time to be happy, so I would dispute their claim that the people who "fail" the challenge are too busy to find even a moment of happiness in their day. And you definitely don't need to take part in this challenge in order to be happy, or to realise how lucky you really are. But it does sound like a lovely way of reminding yourself every day that the tiny things count just as much as the big ones when it comes to happiness.

One of my new year's resolutions this year was to be content with what I already have - mainly in an effort to stop spending money on stuff I really don't need. As part of it, I've been keeping a gratitude journal, and it's mainly full of the little things in life - looking back over our wedding photos, a lie-in on an unexpected day off work, a hug from my husband, an invitation to lunch... I think the #100HappyDays challenge sounds like a lovely addition to what I've already committed to doing this year, so I'll be starting tomorrow, and I'll post some of my favourite photos here.

You can join the challenge at any time by signing up at

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Finally, after 31 years of making them, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany about New Year’s Resolutions. The fact is that every January for about the last fifteen years, as the old year morphs into the new so promisingly, I’ve made about twelve really exciting resolutions.

Two of these I’ve disregarded the minute I’ve woken up on New Year’s Day (boring, pointless, or Too Much Like Hard Work). Nine of the remaining ten I have thrown myself at enthusiastically for somewhere between one and three days before either forgetting all about them or finding really good excuses not to worry about them any more. The final resolution often gets kept for anything up to a couple of weeks, but eventually that falls by the wayside too.

This year I suddenly remembered the resolutions I made as a child. Unlike those of recent years, usually created in an excited haze on a New Year’s Eve fuelled by bubbly and the collective enthusiasm of the assembled group for the promise of the new year, my childhood resolutions were different in three ways:

      1. They were actually important to me – I’d thought about them for weeks
      2. I only ever made one at a time
      3.  I actually kept them

Until I was about twelve, the concept of making more than one New Year’s Resolution wouldn’t even have occurred to me. Then I read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ (a genius book – run out and buy/borrow/steal it if you haven’t already read it) and noticed that Adrian made about ten resolutions every year. Suddenly I realised that I could too – so I did. In more recent years, Bridget Jones’ list of resolutions that fills two pages at the beginning of her Diary has probably encouraged thousands of us to make as many resolutions as we can think of in the hope that we might actually end up keeping one of them.


Finally I’ve seen the error of my ways. I can’t even remember any of the resolutions I made last year, although I know I made several. So this year, it’s all different. I’ve made two resolutions, both of which I’ve been thinking about for ages, both of which are really important to me, and both of which will make a real difference to my life if I keep them. Which, so far, I am doing.

I’ve already got an enormous sense of achievement for having managed (easily!) to keep my two resolutions for a week. If I get to the end of the year having turned my resolutions into habits then it won’t matter that I “only” made two – my life will be immeasurably better for having kept two than it would have been had I simply forgotten about another twelve.

Bring on 2014!