Training Continues – Weather Be Damned

I first started running in November last year when the days were short and wet.

It wasn’t easy but, I found myself forced forever forward, somehow compelled to get myself on the road and keep moving.

The human mind is a fascinating thing. Capable of stagnating for months, weeks, years even – with the body necessarily suffering the effects of the stasis. That’s how some people live their lives. Their daily rituals and routines, comforting and safe, become their prisons and eventually their death sentences. Unless there’s something or someone to shake them out of their stupor, they can live like this interminably. As if in a dream – the days fall off the calendar. As each day follows the same pattern, the memories of them converge until retrospective and prospective thinking become one and the same.

In such a way one can truly lose a grip on their time on this Earth. This was how I lived for half a decade. With the absence of any clear structure to my life (my University course hardly featured in my mind), from late afternoon start to passing out, inebriated and breathless, in the early hours of the morning, I could feel the precious years of my youth slipping away but I had not intention of taking control of them. In truth, it was easier to slide into obesity and deterioration.

I’m now over 6 months into my new life.

The old habits that I’d spent so long forming: excessive eating of chocolate bars and hours spent glued to my sofa, have been replaced by new healthier addictions.

It might sound strange but that’s what they feel like. Most people like to believe that their day-to-day lives aren’t ruled by tiny compulsions and habits, but I believe that is how we are all programmed. Every little action that brings you pleasure, no matter how big or small, has the capacity of becoming addictive. That’s how the chocolate bars felt to me. Everything from the act of purchasing them to the final bite of consumption was an experience that had become compulsively enjoyable. I simply couldn’t imagine feeling satisfied without them; happy would never be the right word.

It’s only once you try and overwrite these dopamine inducing highs that you realise how transient they are.

Whilst you’re in the midst of the addiction, you cannot envision living life in their absence. But I can safely say, after taking the first steps to reducing my weight and regaining my fitness, that no lifestyle is set in stone, nor should it be. Human beings may well gravitate towards habitual modes of behaviour, but to our credit we’re also capable of adaptation. To my surprise, I now experience a familiar rush of endorphins around halfway through my daily run, similar to the same high that I would get from my regular bar of chocolate.

For the last few months, that release of feel-good chemicals has started to disseminate throughout the entire run and even bleed into the rest of my day, on either sides. Who would’ve thought that simply going for a run every day would bring me such a feeling of elation.

With 5 months left to go before the Valencia Marathon, I can only hope that these positive vibes stay with me for the rest of the year.

First Ever Marathon Booked…In Spain!

The countdown to race day has begun!

After a successful period of training, with the help of my new friends in the running club, I’ve plucked up the courage to book my first ever marathon.

Although all common sense told me to find an event that was as close to home as possible, I’ve somehow managed to sign myself up for my first race well over a thousand miles away from my comforting home of the Cotswolds.

How did I come to making such a rash decision? It was all a matter of chance and coincidence really.

I’ve made plenty of new friends through the running club and Francisco is one of these people.

Hailing from Barcelona, he’d spent the last 8 years living and working in England. In 2008, Spain was trapped in the midst of the Financial Crisis. Thousands of students every year graduated into a country that simply had no jobs for them. Francisco was one of these students, looking for a job that would make his 5 years of Architectural studies worthwhile. Thankfully he found gainful employment in England, in a town not too far away from mine.

After gaining the valuable experience that he desperately needed for his career, Spain is finally clawing it’s way back to financial stability. With one eye always on the sunnier climes of home, Francisco successfully applied for a role back in his native country. However, after nearly a decade of living in the UK, he’s found that he’s in need of a little more capacity than his rucksack can afford him. Fortunately for Francisco, he’s found a company that can help him make the big move home.

Contacting a removals company specialising in big moves to and from Spain, Francisco booked his passage back in November. I was sad to hear that my running comrade was leaving, but perked up when I found out that it would not be until the end of the year. When he mentioned the Valencia Marathon that takes place every November, in near-perfect, mild running conditions, I knew that it had to be my first race.

The Valencia Marathon takes place on the 20th November and plays host to around 17,000 participants each year. During this time of year the average temperature is a balmy 13 degrees, with the skies mostly clear and sunny. What’s more, the course is almost entirely flat, therefore making it perfect for beginners. Ranked as the best marathon in the country by the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation, there will be markers at each kilometre (no mile markers for us English though!) in addition to gorgeous beach side views.

I’ve got just under 10 months to get myself race-ready; that means increasing the amount of distance I need to run, as well as nailing my new fitness plan.

With the support of my friends at the running club, as well as my other friends and family, I have no doubt that come November I’ll be raring to go with the rest of the runners in Valencia.

One Month Down!

Where has January gone?!

As ever, the first few weeks of the year have flown by with little or no regard for the people living in it.

January is always a strange time of year; most people are keen to make their own mark on the year and keep to their resolutions, it can always be tempting to slip back into comforting old habits.

It’s been three weeks since the New Year has begun and I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress so far. Since the holidays have ended, I’ve eased my way back into work life and pretty much continued with the same running schedule that I’d been doing before the New Year.

However, despite the slightly pessimistic stance I appear to have taken to the start of 2017 – I have still learned something since my last post.

Preparation Is Key When It Comes To Eating

You can lay out a detailed plan of action and write up a menu with a serious amount of nutritional know-how on it, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually go through with your plan. As with everything, preparation is absolutely critical in sticking to a plan – especially when it involves food. Although my menu is relatively flexible, I still found myself deviating from it in a big way as soon as the ingredients weren’t to hand.

Lesson: I’ve learnt to buy all my food (plus more) for each week before it starts. I also prepare meals the night before to cement my plan for the next day. 

It’s Important To Stay Wrapped Up

We might well be coming off the back of one of the warmest Decembers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s shorts and sandals weather out there. For the first couple of runs this year I was majorly caught out by the dropping temperatures. I tend to get very hot and sweaty when I run, so I always assume that I’ll be able to brave the initial cold and warm up regardless. However, this January I got well and truly stitched up by the sudden frosts.

Lesson: Don’t be a muppet – wrap up warm. Bought a pom pom hat from Amelia Jane, looked girly but felt so warm and toasty it didn’t matter.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Although I was perfectly content with running the same circuits throughout the whole of last year, there was something strangely monotonous about starting on the same route again this year. Having a regular running routine can either be a really useful way of tracking your progress or it can be an albatross around your neck, making every single run a chore. I live in a relatively rural area, so there are plenty of places to choose from and there’s no excuse for me to not find a new route.

Lesson: Keep running routes mixed up in order to avoid the onset of ennui. The internet, Google Maps and Strava are your friends! 

Never Stop Trying

There have been times already this January when I’ve felt like skipping a day and just vegging out on the sofa. It can be really difficult to motivate yourself, especially when we’re in the midst of this cold, dark winter – but if you’re similarly struggling with motivation, then find strength in yourself and get going.

Lesson: Don’t let the dark nights get to you. Man up and pull on your trainers – you’ll be grateful in the long run.

The 2017 Marathon Running Plan

2017 is going to be the year for me.

Although I’m fully aware that this is perhaps the most dangerous time of the year to engage in foolishly optimistic portents – there still remains in me a ludicrously upbeat sense that this will be ‘my year.’

I finished last year on a high, I’d spent the year slowly building up my running speed and distance, until I felt ready to start tackling much bigger distances this year. It is my aim to complete a marathon by the end of the year – I’ve spent nearly a decade burning off the fat that I had accumulated in just as much time, now it’s time to put my new fangled fitness to the test!

With every New Year Resolution, it’s doomed to failure unless you can ensure that your targets are achievable and measurable.

So that I’m fully prepared to run my marathon this year, I’m going to have a small list of mini-goals that will help me reach the finish line:

Start Strength Training In The Gym

I’ve read in forums all over the internet, that a big part of completing a marathon is ensuring that you have the strength and endurance to complete the run.

Simply going on a few leisurely jogs each week won’t quite cut it when it comes to preparation. In order to raise my base level of strength, I’m going to be heading in to the gym 3 days a week to work on some strength training. Easy to do activities, such as dumbbell lifts, pull-ups and squats should be enough to get me competition ready.

Increase Intake Of Protein To Build Mass

Although the overweight man inside of me inwardly shrinks away from the idea of ‘gaining’, I’ve got to the point now where I would actually benefit from gaining some mass.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll be running to the chippy every night to invest in some fatty products – but it does mean that I’ll be eating a lot more protein, in a bid to gain some significant muscle before my first ever race. I’m going to be doing this by investing in a lot of chicken and beef, but I’m also hoping to get it through vegetables and pulses too.

Keep A Record Of My Progress

What’s the use of making a plan if you can’t tell how far through it you are?

In addition to recording down my times and distances, I’m also hoping to keep a consistent record of how I’m doing with all my aims here on this blog. There’s a great deal to be said about accountability and the effect that this has on performance. When it comes to how I’m planning to stick to my targets, I’m hoping that keeping up a consistent, honest record of my progress will help me stick to my guns this year.

Find A Running Club

Lastly, this will probably be the toughest of all my targets.

Logistically it’s a piece of cake. All I need to do is a quick Google search for local running clubs and find one that fits my level of ability. The hard bit of this will be actually meeting the rest of the club members. For a long time I’ve lived a relatively reclusive lifestyle. I have friends at work, but that’s how they stay. My time spent outside of work is mostly spent alone – so that needs to change. By joining a running club I can meet some like-minded individuals and hopefully find some new running partners!