17 February 2015

I love running!

A few years ago I never thought I would say that!

My first ever experience of running was at primary school. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to join the running club. It was taught be my favourite teacher and anyone who was anyone was in the running club. But I was slow, very slow. I have distinct memories of when picking relay teams I was taken away from my friends and put with the fast boys to er 'slow them down' to even out the groups! Yeah I was certainly popular! I didn't try running again!

So cut to around 2008 and I'm living in London, working right in central London with the beautiful Green and Hyde parks on the doorstep. My work friends and I decide to take up running probably after some new years resolutions to stay healthy. I didn't have high hopes. We began by vaguely following a Couch to 5k idea, with small bursts of timed runs mixed with walking, so run for 30 seconds, walk 30, build up etc. I was amazed at how quickly these lunch time frustrating, painful first few attempts turned into hour long runs all the way through Green and up and around Hype park too. My friend was in charge of the timing and I have her to thank for pushing me. It turns out when I thought it had been a loooong 30 seconds it was more like 60 seconds! But this worked, and pushed me beyond what my brain thought I was capable of.

Soon I was enjoying running at a whole new level, going most evenings on my own round the streets near where I lived. By the time I left London in summer 2009 I was a good few dress sizes smaller and the fittest and healthiest I had ever felt and I could run for as long as I wanted.

Since then I have had an on/off relationship with running, never completely giving up but not pushing myself much either. With frustrating leg injuries, lack of motivation and decrease in fitness.  I'm determined this year to give it a good go and really push myself further. My new years resolution is to have completed 350 miles by the end of the year which averages about 2 short runs per week, easy right? My current running distance is 5 miles and I can complete this in about 45 minutes with one tiny little walk for 1 minute in the middle and I'm averaging 3 runs of around 4 miles per week currently.

So why running?

I don't just like running, I LOVE it! I may have started because friends were and it seemed all the rage but I continue out of a genuine love. Most evenings in the freezing cold and pouring rain trust me I'm not out there because I think I'm cool, I'm out there for the love and passion.

The confidence boost it gives me is indescribable! I feel strong, I feel fit, I feel incredibly happy when I run and the buzz from a good run after is just awesome! Beats any drugs, alcohol or anti depressants! Just me, the road, a good pair of trainers and my tunes up LOUD!

You know when you are on a good night out, maybe a little drunk, with your best girl friends and dancing the night away to top tunes? You just want to dance and dance forever! It feels so good? Well that's what running means to me! It feels like dancing, its sort of similar, I'm bobbing along to my fave songs and I just feel so good. Dance like no one is watching right? Yep that's me when running. I don't have a care in the world, couldn't give a s**t what I look like or who is watching me I'm just going for it, pushing myself and getting a kick out of going faster and further each time and what my body is capable of.
Had a bad day, feeling stressed, feeling down, just put on your trainers and go. Your head sorts through your troubles as you go, it's amazing what you can work through and think about on a good run, you just drift away. Songs up loud and just going faster faster faster and you will come home a new woman! Nothing beats it! Truly!
The sense of accomplishment that you get when you smash your personal best times and distances is just amazing. That's you that did that, your determination, your body, your fitness improving, it's all you!
Obviously the health benefits are pretty incredible too. Running has to be the best exercise. Gets the heart pumping, you can see the improvement in your fitness instantly. Great for weight loss, good for mental health. If you don't come home with a bright red beetroot face and literally dripping in sweat you haven't done it right, get back out!!!

 It's really cheap and you can do it anywhere! Can't afford expensive gym memberships? Those exercise classes at odd times you can never get to? No excuses with running, get up and go wherever you are, wherever you want and really your clothes don't matter that much.

Top tips

Have I convinced you yet? If you are thinking of giving running a go, then here are my tips...
I'm certainly no expert, have never had proper training, but I just have a genuine love for the sport and these are the things I have learnt along the way...

1. Couch to 5k is good, to a certain point... 
The Couch to 5k type programmes are a great way to get started but don't follow them religiously. I started off with a programme like this. You don't need the book or the app, just make it up. Run for 30 seconds, walk 1 minute, next time, run for 1 minute, walk 30 seconds, slowly building up your length of runs and reducing your breaks. I did find I was not achieving fast enough with this programme. I got too used to the breaks and mentally could not run without them.  When I finally pushed myself and ditched the strict timings and just went for it to see how far I could go, I could run a lot longer than the programme was allowing for. So when ready ditch the app and drop to walk when your body tells you you are ready to.

2. Get over how you look
My favourite time to go running is winter evenings, because well its dark isn't it. Some might say it isn't safe but wear something fluorescent, be careful crossing roads etc and you'll be fine. But who cares what you look like really. You are out there doing something good for your health, good for your body and good for your mind. What other people think about your running style, your outfit doesn't matter a bit. Do it for you, not anyone else.

3. Ramp up the tunes
Get Spotify on your phone (subscription only tenner a month for unlimited anywhere anytime music) and make some fabulous upbeat playlists.  Personally I prefer some pop tunes, bit of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Britney! Yeah.  I also throw in a few pumping rock and metal classics to give me a boost.  But whatever your thing, get it upbeat, get it loud, whatever will motivate you.  Turn off your thoughts, listen to the music, sing along in your head, or out loud on those quiet country roads! Music will make those early runs a lot less painful.

4. Get the right trainers
No I'm not talking about those fancy £200 ones that essentially are like wearing nothing! I've never been measured or had my gait tested in a fancy running shop.  Just wear what's comfortable to you.  I'm not saying that fancy trainers are useless but there's just no need to invest in expensive footwear on your first runs out.  You can only asses what your running style is like, you can only assess how your feet feel.  Try a few out and stick to what is comfortable.  I've been through a few different brands now but my last few pairs have been Asics Patriot, costing about £50 they are probably an entry level shoe, really light and flexible and they work for me.

5. Consider your clothes
When I first started running, I was in old joggers and a band T-shirt, nothing wrong with that at all! If you wish to stick to that it's fine but should you progress your running you may wish to invest in some more technical fabrics.  Running in a normal T-shirt, you are going to get sweaty, T-shirts get heavy! Joggers get heavy and I just get annoyed with anything loose around my legs when they twist up etc.  I buy a lot of my running kit from Sports Direct where you can pick up a breathable technical style T-shirt usually for about a fiver!

The best tights I have found are Nike Filament, maybe a little bit pricey for leggings, at £30 ish but they are good quality and last. They are a great material, thick and not shiny and not see through like some cheaper brands. ALWAYS go for a pair of tights with a tie draw cord, hitching your pants up every two seconds makes for a very frustrating run! 

6. Let's talk boobs!
I am 'blessed' with a larger cleavage which sometimes is not conducive to effective running! So my super top tip in this area is to rather randomly wear 2 sports bras, sometimes three! What, are you insane? Well yes probably, but let me tell you it works! Bouncy boobs when running is not comfortable not at all, and frankly not good for your boobs, want saggy old lady boobs, then run in a crap old bra!  I love Berli Shock Absorber bras and I have many, from quite soft ones to structured run ones, under wired and none under wired.  I tend to wear a softer one and then a more structured one on top.  Might be super odd at first and feel a bit uncomfortable, but it SO works! I don't 'bounce' at all and that's way more uncomfortable than wearing 2 bras! Just try it.

7. Push yourself
Up until quite recently the furthest I have ever run is 5k (just over 3 miles) in the last few weeks I have doubled it! Just like that, quite easily just by giving it a try.  I was overjoyed at being able to run 6 miles, it felt amazing.  If you are regularly running 5ks and don't need to take breaks then just go one extra mile, see how it feels, then add on an extra mile the following week.  Once you get past a certain point with running it is mostly mental, you will be surprised what you are capable of.

7. Plan your routes
Nike Plus app is my new best friend! You programme in how far you want to run and an American lady tells you how far you have done after every quarter of a mile, its so good and really pushes me.  If I am beginning to think to myself, ugh I need to stop or I need to walk, I often instead think well it's only 1 mile to go, I can cope with that! It also logs all your runs and keeps a running total of miles, so good to see the miles clocking up. Another fab tool is Map my Run. Plot a good route online before you set off, so you will know how long it is.

8. Get a running buddy
If I am completely honest I do prefer running on my own.  Its my 'me time', I can go when suits me, where suits me and I get to listen to my music.  But every now and again a running buddy is not a bad thing.  My new running buddy is Mark! He is marathon training (crazy person!) and I have been joining him on some of his earlier training runs.  It is with Mark that I have pushed myself to the 6 mile point.  It is great to get a buddy who is a bit better than you, you don't want to feel too pressured to keep up but if someone can push you just that little bit further than normal, great.  None of your friends into running, there is bound to be a local running club, or maybe your gym runs one?

9. Set some goals
I think small goals really help to motivate me.  I've set my big goal of 350 miles this year but I also have mini goals of how much I want to run in a week or how far I want to go each time. I have found that now I set these goals for myself I push myself further. I also never go backwards (or try not to).  Reached a new record with number of miles or conquered a new route? Then set that as your minimum, you can do it, you proved that, so repeat it and build from there.

10. Don't run in a sweaty room full of people on a machine to nowhere!
Yes ok the gym has advantages and when the pavements resemble ice rinks, like they have lately it may be your only option.  But I don't think you will learn to run properly and more crucially you will not learn to LOVE running on a treadmill. It sucks, it's boring as hell and you will clock watch it's impossible not to.  Get outside, get some fresh air, plan a scenic route (circular not laps, they mess with my head!) it is infinitely more enjoyable, it may be a little harder running outside but you won't get bored!

Right I'm going to stop waffling now! Are you a runner? What are your top tips? Thinking of giving it a go? Whats worrying you most?

12 February 2015

Cumbria: A Visitor's Guide

There is no prettier place on earth than the county of Cumbria, now that is a FACT! Cumbria has been my home for 34 years (with a few de-tours to Manchester for uni and London because clearly I lost my mind!) but there is just something about this county of mine that snaps people back like a boomerang! 
When we were young and straight out of school, yes, we maybe couldn't wait to get out of the place. We wizzed off in new directions to the bright lights and big cities but slowly over the years each of my good school friends have made their way back home.  And er, as these blog posts over the years prove, its a no brainer as to why!
So what should I do if I visit Cumbria???

Camp in Borrowdale - my favourite place in the Lake District

Get a big gang together and stay in a camping barn

Get on your bike and discover the trails

Spend a weekend doing some pot (at Potfest of course, a festival of pottery)

Visit the mysterious and notorious old ruin of Kirklinton Hall
Take a trip to Aira Force

Walk along the beautiful Keswick railway footpath

Visit Carlisle Castle

Gaze at the beautiful gardens at Dalemain stately home

Loose yourself to a weekend of hard partying at local festival Solfest

Stroll through the beautiful Armathwaite woods

Visit the magnificent Lowther Castle

Go wild swimming at Black Moss Pot

Visit the beautiful little castle at Brougham (we locals say 'Broom')

Enjoy an utterly blissful morning visiting Lanercost priory (and the adjoining tearooms, no better cakes in all of Cumbria!

Celebrate all things woolly, when the annual Woolfest comes to town in the summer

Visit the most stunning of all the Cumbria stately homes, Hutton in the Forest

Go bothying in the Lakes!

Visit the seaside at Silloth

Take a beautiful walk along the path from Carlisle to the little village of Grinsdale
Climb a huge mountain and be rewarded with the view (well ok a small fell) but views none the less at Latrigg, Keswick

Stroll through the Historic Quater in the city of Carlisle
Well I never realised how many blog posts I had penned on my fair county of Cumbria. Turns out when put together they make a rather fabulous visitors guide! 
Have you visited any on my list? What have I missed? What is your favourite thing to do in this fair county?
You can keep up to date with all my Cumbrian blog posts with this link here!
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6 February 2015

This Month... January

Stuff that made me smile...

« Glasgow trip away with Mark « seeing Slipknot and Korn « running further than ever before « dinner parties with friends « planning a little get away for Mark's bday « planning summer holidays « walking with Kara now she is all healed and better « spinning « seeing friends happy « long chats with my sister « feeling organised « discovering new 'old' friends again « trips to Walby Farm park with little people « feeling fitter and healthier « Mark, always Mark. 

Stuff I snapped...

« It snowed! « Looking rather pretty at work! « Did I mention that it snowed!!!! « My Nephew has rockets on his shoes! « A spotty nail week « Aw Meg Puss « trying to break in new running shoes « building Peg some cosy nests to keep her warm « Mini Irn Bru in Glasgow « Casual Friday work attire (we don't have a casual Friday policy at work but I do!  Lol!) « It snowed! « Aw Meg! « Some new animal pals at local farm park. 

Blog posts loved...

Zoe London - Instagram Tips and Tricks
Loved this helpful post by Zoe all about how to take better Instagram pics and to improve your instagram followers.  Some really useful advice here.

Elise and Life - Blogs I love
Really fab series from Elise of all the blogs she loves in categories, such as old faves, can't get enough and latest finds.  I really enjoy finding out what other fave bloggers like to read, chances are if you like their blog you will like their fave blogs too.  Great way to find new blogs for your reading list.  Elise was super sweet to include me on her recent finds list and her blog is firmly on my blog love list too.

Polkadot Pink - What I thrifted #2: The Polkadot shirt dress
I really love Donna's style, bright colours, quirky cuts and polka dots! She is super inspirational in her efforts to find new ways to wear old faves from her wardrobe and how to dress up recent finds from charity shops.  I wish I had her creative flair for dressing!

Rach Elizzabeth - Two Wheeled Two Year Anniversary
Rach is a uni friend, we met whilst studying for our PGCE (teaching qualifications) together. Rach is my mountain biking hero and inspiration! She's only been riding her bike for 2 years and look at what she has achieved.  I've been riding my bike for too many years to count now but there are still bits that scare me.  Wish I had a teeny bit of Rach's courage. Just wow!

A Beautiful Mess - 15 Easy and Healthy Recipes for the New Year
We all still on the healthy eating bandwagon now we reached the end of Jan, right? Well I am trying my best to be anyway. These recipes do what they say on the tin, easy and healthy, wuhu! I've tried the cauliflower pizza, erm, easy? well not entirely, (but i'm not the most confident cook) but tasty, sure was!

Goals for the Month

So back in my post here I set out my goals for 2015.  I thought rather than set myself new and different smaller goals every month on top I would just use this space to chat about my progress on my overall goals.

So in January I...

... Blogged more! I posted 9 times! Compared with December's 1 post, I think I'm winning!

... Ran more! I ran 22.9 miles! Compared with Decembers measly 15.7 miles! wuhu. I've also smashed a few more time and distance records too! Winning!

... Cycled erm once! Boo. Not doing too great on this one.  But its been rather snowy and rainy and horrible of late.  Where I don't mind running in the dark, cycling in the dark is frankly dangerous and most of the roads have been thick ice and snow this past month.  Once it gets a bit lighter and nicer out I will concentrate on this goal more.

... saved more! Wuhu, have some good pennies in the bank for my hols!

Overall happy with goal progress this month, let's see if I can keep it up!

How are you getting on with your New Year resolutions, still just as determined or have they slipped a little now we are into the second month of the year?