Category Archives: training

Training Diary and Running’s Not All Plain Sailing.

My training diary for last week isn’t actually that impressive. I haven’t managed to build on the previous week so I’m feeling a bit lost and a bit well yeah, lost is the best way to describe it.

The week had started relatively well with a 45 minute run that was nearly 5 and a half miles. I’m still plodding, I’m still not getting anywhere fast but I’m taking the approach that it’s better to get the miles in rather than worry about how quick. I suppose you’d say I’m trying to build a solid base again and regain my engine. I felt positive and I felt keen for running.

Tuesday was a bit of a disaster. Massive mood swing, plus forgetting things on the school run, plus not making it to an appointment plus a bunch of other stuff had meant that I wasn’t feeling Tuesday much. Tuesday was being a dick. So that evening when my husband came home from work I made what I thought was a positive decision: I would go to a running club. I jumped into the car and drove in the monsoon that was pouring from the sky, playing some funky tunes to get me in the mood. And then I hit all the traffic. On the motorway and on the duel carriageway. My mood dipped again, I was too late for the running club and I drove home cursing the universe. When I got home I decided to write Tuesday off and go to bed.

Wednesday was slightly more positive. I went out for a run, went out a little bit too hard at the beginning but kept going and ended up doing the longest run I’ve done in months. 56 minutes and over 6 and a half miles. It was slow, I made hard work of it but I was buzzing with my effort. Thursday is a no for running in the day with a 3 year old with me so I ventured out to CrossFit and ended up bagging myself some PB’s in the floor press and on double unders (that would be fancy skipping).

Friday I didn’t manage to get any running done but I was hoping to have a decent weekend of running. Saturday afternoon it was warm and I felt happy after a bike ride with my eldest boy so threw on my brightest shorts and headed out into the sunshine. And then I ran into some trouble. After 2 miles my feet were killing me. I felt aware of my left foot being really uncomfortable and I was sure it was rolling around in the shoe. My heel started to play up which frustrated me as my heel had been pain free. Then my right foot became sore and my right calf tightened. I tried to carry on as I was hoping to run for an hour. But no, I made the decision to turn back. My feet were so cramped I almost stopped and walked. When I arrived home I thought I’d feel really pissed off. Another run attempt shot down in flames. Buggeration! But I was strangely calm and reflective.  I identified what I thought was the issue (my footwear), accepted that what had happened was pretty much out of my control, reflected that actually the rest of me had been feeling pretty good and the result was that I was positive even though it had been a crap run. Who was this person? That doesn’t usually sound like me!

So that was my running week that was. Lots of ups and downs and little challenges to face but all in all I think I’m ok. I felt a bit of the self made pressure of not running drop off as I await my new trainers to arrive. Circumstances being out of my hands means that I feel like I have a ‘Do Not Run Right Now’ pass so I don’t have runner’s guilt. (And the footwear issue does make sense as my symptoms only occur after running in these trainers, which are actually over 9 months old. Oops). I know that there are other things I can do to maintain my fitness: CrossFit, circuits, cycling, swimming, aqua jogging. So I shall try my best to do other things this week and aim to enjoy them. Hopefully, imaginary Running Gods permitting, I will be back out plodding the pavements next week.

Training Summary for week beginning 13 May:

Mon: 45 minute run, 5.37 miles covered.

Tues: Nothing, don’t ask, don’t go there, I’m not speaking to Tuesday.

Weds: 56 minute run, 6.56 miles covered.

Thurs: CrossFit class. Double unders plus floor press (25kg for 5 reps PB). WOD 7 rounds of 1 minute on 1 minutes rest of 200m sprint plus max reps shoulder to overhead for remainder of minute (20kg on bar).

Fri: Rest and fun stuff. Sat: 3.91 miles hobbled. Sun: A little bit on the turbo trainer on the turbo trainer which has taken up the boys play room. HA!



Operation 20/40 AKA: Madness!

Goshity gosh, what have I let myself in for? Operation 20/40 you may ask? Well Operation 20/40 refers to a challenge that I have got myself involved with. Cat over at Marathon Widow Diaries had mentioned it when we were at Write This Run and I made the rookie error of saying ‘yeah go on then, I’ll have a go’. So the challenge is that over the rest of the year (because I think I’ll need that long) I am going to try to break the 20 minute mark for 5k and the 40 minute mark for 10k. It is a massive feat but one that I honestly think I could be capable of.

Currently my PB’s for both distances are as follows:

  • 5k = 21.30 from Cardiff Parkrun 25 February 2012
  • 10k = 42.10 from Shock Absorber Women’s Only Run 22 October 2011

Leading up to the Edinburgh marathon last year the shorter distances had taken a back seat as I had wanted to concentrate on being able to finish a 26.2 mile course. However after the marathon I had been keen to work on speedier distances at the track and I had been really enjoying some hard interval sessions. But then I got injured, was ill, got injured more severely and spent 6 months not able to do much of anything *sob*. So now that I am back running I needed something to motivate my running. I don’t see myself entering any half marathons or marathons just yet so this challenge seemed like a good place to start.

So with any challenge or goal I need to identify potential barriers:

  • I have zero training volume at the moment. Right now I am only just back up to an hour of running. There are no miles in these legs so endurance is at an all time low.
  • Confidence is low too. Nothing like being injured to suck all the self belief you had out of you.
  • Time can be limited sometimes due to looking after the children and running them around but I need to find a way round this to enable me to train.

However I need to acknowledge the good points I have going for me in this quest:

  • I’m a tenacious little bugger and I will try my best to make this happen.
  • When I’m fit and well I am a really good runner. Honest!
  • When it’s hard I can dig deeper than most. I don’t mind feeling a bit sick or feeling my legs burn. I’ve thrown up at track sessions before so it really doesn’t bother me.
  • I’ve got a turn of speed on me from my middle distance days. I just need to build the endurance back up so that I can get my ‘kick’ back.

For the next few weeks I think my main aim will be to build up the regular runs and mileage again so that I have a solid base of fitness to work on. Once I feel that I can run comfortably on an almost daily basis I think I’ll start throwing in some different sessions: speed, intervals, hills etc. I’m going to continue with my sessions at Dragon CrossFit in Cardiff as a source of strength and conditioning and I might also go and join the athletics club. I don’t know why but being ‘affiliated’ would feel so much better than being ‘unaffiliated’. It might make me feel more of an ‘athlete’ for this challenge.

So I’m up for it now. I’m gonna’ get On It Like A Car Bonnet. Operation 20/40 Madness is ON!


Mega Keen Bean

I have been well up for it lately. Running and training that is. I’ve been feeling good, feeling fine, feeling fruity. I’ve been all over running. On it like a car bonnet. Again that would be running. (If you were thinking I was referring to something else on a running blog then I really don’t know what to say). On one day I trained twice: a run in the morning and a CrossFit class in the evening. I managed to run four times last week. I was buzzing. I was training again.

Pain has been significantly less. I have felt more comfortable and most importantly I have been enjoying running. I’m still not tracking my runs because at the moment I don’t want to. I’ve been using my stopwatch instead to gradually build up the length of time I can run for. This is something that was backed up by Arwyn, the coach at Cardiff who’s group I joined prior to getting injured. And so I’ve been building myself up bit by bit. Slowly slowy, catchy monkey. Or something. There are a few niggles but I’m calling them my ‘getting used to running again’ niggles. I’m listening to my body and I know when to stop and when I need a rest day.

Being an injured runner in these times of social media has been frustrating. Twitter and Facebook is awash with people declaring their fitness achievements and their latest personal bests. I won’t lie, when I’ve been fit I’ve let my GPS watch let the world know how far I’ve run and how quickly but to be a spectator has been heart wrenching. However there is another reason why I need to be careful regarding social media and my return to running. In my mega keen state I think it’s making me want to do too much to quickly. It’s making me want to prove to others that I can run and that I can be competitive too. Social media is making me compare myself to others too much so I really need to reign myself in.

At the weekend I was forced to rest due to illness. I got over that and I’ve managed to run a few times this week. I’m on enforced rest right now as I won’t have childcare for a few days but I think I’m ok with it. I need to be sensible. I’m still recovering and I’m not even fit enough to ‘train’ as such yet. It should be enough that it’s a pleasure to run again because that’s what is important right now. I am being a mega keen bean and while that is a positive thing I need to make sure I stay injury free at the same time. So here’s to gradual increments of running time, some hills and some more aqua jogging and thinking about myself and my own goals rather than comparing myself to others. At the moment I am running for the love of running and nothing else.

Hills: Get Over ‘Em.

Hills are a nemesis for many. It can be the undoing of so many runners and you can learn to fear them and seek to avoid them. The thing is that the only way to get better at hills is to train on them and run them regularly. After a while hills become no big deal. Yes, they are tough but I think I’ve learnt that the key is to show the hill no fear. Once you show the hill the slightest bit of weakness it will consume you and spit you out crying at the top.

Living in South Wales means that I can’t run very far without finding a hill in my run. They can vary from the obvious steep inclines that feel like you’re walking up a mountain or they can be creepers, the sort that gradually increase their incline without you really realising. Or they can be crafty hills, where you think you’ve reached the top and you’re on the flat and yet you turn a corner to discover you’re still going up.


We are all bound to have a particular hill that we have on our regular routes that challenges us. You’ve just got to reconcile that as a runner you’ve got to deal with them. The more hills you learn to conquer the better and fitter you become. And then when you come to a race that has a hill you can be like ‘A hill? You call that a hill? That is a mere bump in the road. I laugh at your ‘hill’.  Or you can just run up it without stopping and keep going when you get to the top.

I came across this tee by Thoosa that sums up how I feel about hills. Get up ’em and Get over it!

The Second Run Back

I went for my second run since I was given the all clear from the physio. The first run had felt fantastic probably because of the pure exhilaration and adrenaline at being about to run again. Going out for the second run I think I expected too much in terms of fitness and the niggles I was going to feel. I had probably picked the wrong time to go to, having been to the physio earlier that day for a treatment which often flares my back up slightly.

I headed out for my small loop which is 2.5 miles. I had felt fairly good during the day so I was sure that I could manage 2 loops. I really don’t know who I was kidding. Firstly I had more niggles around my hip and buttock which seemed to get tighter as I ran. My legs felt heavy. I felt weak as a kitten, with the legs of a newborn foal as I hit the pavement. I had no bounce. My bounce was gone. My usual light running style felt laboured.

I totally misjudged how I felt and my optimism fell away. How on earth did I think I could manage a second loop? I’ve done nothing, NOTHING, for almost three months. It’s not going to be over night. Last nights run was definitely a case of mind over matter and in this case the mind was a bit more willing than the body, which amused me because it’s usually the other way round. I should be grateful though. I am back running and the niggles and heaviness I feel right now will gradually wear off the more I do. I’ve just got to listen to my body, try not to get over excited and ahead of myself mentally. I’ve only just started back. I don’t want to aggravate things and set myself back for another few months.


Diving into Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is something that I’ve recommended to many of my patient’s who run or are involved in impact exercise. I did it when I was a teenage athlete following a sprained ankle and I know it’s been a great rehabilitation pool for elite athletes such as Mo Farah. And so with my back starting to improve enough for me to swim I decided the time had come for me to dive in and give it a go again myself.

I consulted some physiotherapy colleagues and fellow runners on Twitter and I was recommended the Kiefer Aquafitness belt. After a quick internet search I found it at which is an online swimming specialist. I opted for the belt in my size which you select via your weight. I popped it into my online basket and was rather chuffed to get an online discount and free delivery. Aqua jogging was already making me smile. My aqua belt was with me by the end of the week and I was itching to give it a go.


The time for me to try out my funky new toy came yesterday after my physio appointment. My back  and leg pain hadn’t been great over the weekend but she gave me the go ahead to try it. We agreed that swimming hadn’t made anything worse and that physical activity would be of benefit. No running just yet.

At the pool I fiddled about and adjusted the belt a bit and managed 25 minutes of aqua jogging. I was the only person in the pool with 3 lifeguards watching. That’s a lot of attention for someone moving very very slowly in a swimming pool. It must have been dull to watch.

I attempted a running action but as it was my first time kept it to a steady pace. I felt like I was working my body but I didn’t feel particularly exerted. My back was ok during the session and I didn’t really suffer for it afterwards. I was pleased with the fit of the belt too and found that unlike belts I’ve used before, this one didn’t come up round my upper body and chafe the skin.

At home I had a quick look at my articles and came across a review paper which looked at Deep Water Running. It suggested that you may need a ‘proper’ state of mind for aqua running so that movement patterns are relaxed and fluid rather than tense. Increased tension might compromise the aqua running gait which could compromise the kinematics and overall benefits.

Another point the review mentions is that picking the right belt or buoyancy device is important to avoid altered movements such as forward leaning . Once the movement is incorrect it will link back to dissatisfaction in the runner i.e. you won’t feel like running is being replicated and become despondent. The upshot is find the right belt for you and try to make sure that it acts around the centre of buoyancy which is close to the lungs during deep water running.

The paper also makes some suggestions of the style you should adopt for deep water running:

  • water should be level with your shoulders with head facing forwards.
  • a very slight lean forward of the body, which according to the review is similar to ‘running up a slight incline or into a head wind’. It recommends not just bending at the trunk but leaning towards the way you are travelling. The review suggests that this position will engage the hamstrings and gluts with less emphasis on the hip flexors.
  • Arms and shoulders should be relaxed in the same way as land running.
  • Legs should follow more of an interval speed pattern. Maintain some knee flexion throughout so you avoid hyperextension and increased drag.

Of course it was never going to reproduce land based running for me but it felt good to just be ‘doing’ a running action in the water. I’m hoping that psychologically that will be a boost for me in my recover from this injury. The review paper suggested that it can be comparable to treadmill running but I’m not entirely sure. More research is probably needed but as an individual I know it didn’t feel like actual running. Hopefully by deep water running I can maintain my cardiovascular fitness and stimulate the muscle patterns used for running to try and avoid further atrophy, because I am feeling weak as a kitten these days. Nothing like the runner I was a few months ago. But you know onwards and upwards. Every little step forward in rehab is a step closer to running and racing.

My aqua belt is from

The review paper is ‘Deep water running: a practical review of the literature with an emphasis on biomechanics’. Garry Killgore in The Physician and Sports Medicine, 2012.


Oregon Circuits (or The last time training almost made me vomit)

I have been wallowing WALLOWING, in injury and self pity. This blog is meant to be about running and although injury is unfortunately part of that journey I wanted to remember some happy running memories. I am aware that the title includes the word vomit and that the word happy shouldn’t necessarily sit alongside that but bear with me.

The other evening I was chatting to a patient about training and ways to improve strength, speed and endurance in a short space of time. My patient was talking about different types of circuits and interval training and I was trying to remember sessions that I had done to share with him. We were talking about fartleks and 800m reps when I recalled the Oregon Circuit session. Oregon Circuits you ask? Imagine having trained so hard that your legs feel like they might fall off. Your jaw is aching from the way you gritted your teeth, you have a headache from the mental effort and you feel nauseous and on the point of hurling. I know what I describe sounds horrible but this training session blew me away and made me think ‘Hell yeah, that will definitely make me a better runner’.

So what is an Oregon Circuit? The Oxford University Cross Country club have a word document  on it with the words ‘Be afraid, be very afraid’ next to it. The Run Britain site has great advice if you want to try Oregon Circuits. Apparently they are named after the University in the US where they were invented (makes sense). Basically it is a session where you combine fast running with various circuit exercises and drills e.g. press ups, burpees, squats. I think the length of the run can be anything you want but the session I did went something like this:

A 400m run followed by about 10 circuit exercises, such as 20 burpees, 20 press ups, 30 squats, 40 squat thrusts and so on. Repeat this pattern 4 times. Rest for 10 minutes and then repeat 3 more times.

I’m not lying when I tell you I did feel like I was going to be ill during the 400m reps, after the 400m reps, during some of the exercises and for a little while afterwards.

The first time I did this session I was quite conservative with my 400m reps as I wasn’t sure how I would handle it and my aim was to finish the session. It’s always the unknown that makes me nervous with these things so second time round I felt more mentally prepared and my 400m rep times were much faster. I think I managed a 71s rep at one point. I haven’t been able to run that quickly over 400m for years!

The hugely experienced coach I have trained with recommends Oregon Circuits for improving your overall fitness in a short space of time. Plus the literature I’ve read points to Oregon Circuits as being a great way to build speed endurance and on improving your general conditioning. You don’t need any equipment for this session so you could literally go to your local park and use a football or rugby pitch as your fast run and select the circuit exercises to focus on the areas you want to work i.e. a mixture of core and legs or just legs.

So that’s the session that almost made me ill, known more readily as Oregon Circuits. Give them a go because doing these was the last time this injured runner felt amazing and like she was getting somewhere (goes back to grumbling about being injured).

Here’s a video I found online of a group doing a variation of Oregon Circuits: