Swimathon: Keeping Myself Motivated

DCIM100GOPRO

Do you know who I admire? Those people who can just swim length after length, for well over an hour, without feeling the need to deviate and do something else. I love swimming, really I do; I wouldn’t have signed up for Swimathon 2017 if I didn’t. But my gosh, I grow bored of lane swimming. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m an open water kind of girl…put me in the sea and I’ll keep myself swimming for hours. But put me in the pool and I won’t last longer than an hour.

And that is precisely why I need structured training sessions – I’m currently using one of the training plans on the Swimathon website for one of my swims each week. I work well when I have my swim broken down into sections and love having drills to do before my main set (in fact, drills are my favourite part of swimming which can probably be attributed to the fact that I’m a perfectionist)…plus following a session like this keeps me motivated and focussed when in a lane with others. For my other session each week I work with my coach who really keeps my technique in check and pushes me hard when I start coming up with excuses as to why I’m low on energy (you should hear some of my excuses…luckily she doesn’t listen to any of them and makes me do exactly what she wants me to do anyway).

So yes, I’m not one of those types who can swim up and down a lane for hours on end whilst enjoying every second. Instead I’m the type of swimmer who loses focus and grows irritable, I’m also not a graceful swimmer who makes the sport look beautiful and easy – I’m all limbs which is terrible when sharing a lane with other people, though great for reaching things in inconvenient places. But despite the struggles I have with staying focussed when in the pool, I can guarantee that after every swim I feel exhilarated and happy because a good swim really does make you feel better.

So what type of swimmer does that make me? A very normal one, actually (and also one who may have skipped a session this week…mais, c’est la vie).

 

Advertisements

Swimathon 2017

DCIM105GOPRO

After a few months of secrecy, I can finally announce that I am part of the #BlogSquad for Swimathon 2017. Swimathon is an event I really love to champion as I think it is so vital that people have the necessary skill set to be able to keep themselves as safe as possible when in or near water, and well…swimming is FUN. So I really am delighted to be on the blogsquad for the second year running.

My swimming technique has come on leaps and bounds since this time last year and I occasionally swim with my coach who keeps me on track. That being said, I still fatigue really quickly when I’m in the pool as I tend to go off too fast in my warm up (quelle surprise) leaving little energy left for when I get to my main set and drills. And, I still really struggle with getting my nutrition right for swimming. Aside from those minor problems which can all be worked on, training is going relatively well for me at the moment.

I took the autumn off from swimming whilst recovering from a busy summer of triathlon and wanting to focus more on getting out on my bike whilst the weather was still fine, and then rejoined my favourite pool in January of this year and have aimed for at least one, but sometimes two, swim sessions per week. I know that with Swimathon being only 7 weeks away I have to start getting serious about my training again so that will mean waking up at silly o’clock and being a bit more regimented with my routine…and of course, not letting silly excuses get in the way of me getting to the pool.

I’m actually looking forward to stepping up my training because I know that when I have a swim event to train for, I do put in the effort and I see improvement quite quickly. Also, my first triathlon of the year is in May so this works out really well in terms of getting me race fit.

The whole point of Swimathon is to get the nation swimming – there are pools all around the country involved in hosting Swimathon from 7th-9th April 2017, it is also a great way of raising a bit of money for a good cause by fundraising for Marie Curie simultaneously. I’ve decided to swim at the London Aquatics Centre on the Sunday of Swimathon weekend to complete my challenge so hopefully I will bump into a few of you there.

If you’re interested in taking part in Swimathon this year, visit the website to find your nearest participating pool and then just commit to it – you won’t regret it and it will give you a great spring goal to work towards!

 

 

My Non-Training Plan

IMG_2272I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I’m going to train for my races this year and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to throw all conventional ideas of training plans out of the window and just trust my intuition and do whatever I feel like. Reckless, perhaps. But I suspect more exciting.

Last year I was very lucky to work with a coach and have my weekly training plans provided to me, knowing that I didn’t have to think too much and just had to follow the instructions written down. In theory, that sounds lovely and the most straight-forward way of training…you know, trusting the professionals. However I’m stubborn and difficult and whenever someone tells me to do something (even when it’s in my best interest), I tend to take great delight in doing the complete opposite. So you can see that being coached wasn’t necessarily a good match for my personality as I tend to trust myself more than I trust others, and I definitely know my limits better than anyone else. I also started really intense training at the beginning of February which left me feeling burnt out by the time my A race arrived and I found myself keeping injuries from my coach because I didn’t want her to adjust my training. I really am a nightmare. Then add to that the fact that I had 6 training sessions per week (this turned into 7 usually because I always wanted to run on my rest day) which I felt like I had to always complete, even if it meant cancelling plans with friends because I prioritised my training over them. Bad friend, I know. Although I also put off my yearly dental checkup for an entire 8 months because I couldn’t fit it in to my training schedule, so I guess I also prioritised my training over my own wellbeing too.

This year though, it makes sense to do things my way. After a bit of a setback with some health issues which has affected the quality of what I’m currently doing, I feel comfortable in trusting my gut instinct with what I should be doing and when. Of course I’ll push myself to train when I probably should be listening to my body and sitting out, but luckily I have plenty of people around me who are more than happy to give me a lecture on that when needed. And despite tears and tantrums, they usually win.

But why else will my non-training approach work better for me? Because having fun will be the number one priority.

IMG_2654

Cycling probably became my one true love during last year’s training and whilst I always made sure I took my bike out after work on a Friday evening, it meant that I also had to do an indoor cycle once a week too – and I hate turbo-ing because, for me, my love of triathlon stems from the fact that I love to be outdoors. Slaving away in a gym? Not for me. But getting to the top of an almighty hill, taking a breath in and knowing you’ve cycled up it faster than usual? That feeling is exhilarating and makes me feel alive. I have big and heavy legs which have a lot of cycling potential, but I didn’t get to exploit them enough last year. So this year I want to be cycling more. As soon as the evenings are light enough I plan to cycle to and from work a few times each week – for my mental wellbeing as much as anything else as I know that will help me to feel calm, but is also a nice challenging route which I can extend on the way home and turn into a proper training ride. Why couldn’t I do that last year? Because I’d be cycling to work on days when I would be running or swimming too and then I’d get caught up in how many calories I would need to be consuming in order to sustain that volume of activity, and as someone who still struggles to fuel properly it just created more problems than it solved. Therefore I could only really cycle and run together on days when I actually had a brick session planned. And so I had to hold back on my cycling which made me a bit unhappy at times.

Swimming was also one of those activities that I absolutely loved but had the fun sucked out of it at various points during the year. For the most part, I was swimming before work which meant being in the pool at about 6.30am, saying a quick hello to the people in my lane, and then getting on with my sets. It was quite lonely. Now I tend to spend the majority of my swim sessions swimming with friends or people from my club, and whilst I’m not an overly social creature, the people I swim with are full of personality and we always have a fabulous time and are full of giggles (we do work hard too, I promise). Whilst I may not be working on my drills so much anymore, the work I am doing in the pool is benefiting me enormously and fits in with my ‘non-training’ perfectly. I also plan on doing more sea swimming this year because, again, that is something I really love and as I live at the beach it would be silly not to seize this opportunity.

Running was the area I struggled with the most whilst being coached last year though – I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember and I don’t really know who I am without running (cue the violins, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and tears have been shed). Unfortunately my feet really started to deteriorate during the summer which meant I wasn’t hitting the times I was supposed to be hitting in my training sessions, and in one of my triathlons I even had to walk part of the run route because I was in so much pain (to be fair the night before that race my husband did have to dislocate my feet for me so I could ‘put them back together again’ so the walking was understandable…but it left me feeling like a bit of a fraud). So my feet aren’t getting any better, and I know surgery is on the horizon which means again my running will be slow this year and it’ll make me tremendously sad, but trusting my instinct and running the distances I know I can manage whilst trying to worry less about times will hopefully help to keep the fun alive and will keep me running for the entirety of the season. But you know, running whilst managing chronic pain is really not easy so I need to cut myself a bit of slack here if things don’t go to plan.

And of course, I have my new found love of Barre and am attending three classes a week. Last year I simply could not fit any exercise classes into my training plan because it was already too full. Whereas this year I know I can tailor one of my runs to run commute to Barre on a Wednesday evening, which will involve hill work on my run home too and will be great for my run fitness. I’m considering Barre to be the strength training element of my ‘non-training’ because I really do have to work hard in those classes and instantly feel the benefits, but Barre is also really useful for me to tune into my body and figure out what isn’t working in the way it should be and what needs to be stronger, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to the swim, bike and run.

IMG_2682

Of course, even though I’m calling this a ‘non-training plan’ I do have an idea of what days I will be doing what, and actually with all of the above my entire week is taken up with training once again. However, in my head I feel a bit more comfortable with what I have come up with because I know that now it is only me who is in control of what I’m doing; I can be flexible if I want to be and in theory I will be able to prioritise other more important things over training if I need to…because, you know, missing a swim session won’t kill me. I know I will still struggle to deviate away from the routine I have in my head, but I suspect I’ll be able to figure it out and have a very happy season.

So, here’s to 2017 and the year of non-training!

Training in Winter

img_20161218_131626

I am a child of the Mediterranean. I like warmth. I like sea swimming. And I like to spend most of my days wandering beaches barefoot in nothing more than a bikini.

I also really like sport, and as much as I would love to hibernate in the winter months and re-emerge late spring looking tanned and lovely and ready to run my races, that approach unfortunately does not bode well for a good race performance. And so, in the depths of winter, I have to continue with my training.

But here’s the thing, have you actually tried running or cycling in winter before? Because it’s fun. Really fun. Don’t get me wrong, it takes me a good 15 minutes huddled by the radiator after getting changed into my kit before I can motivate myself to brave the icy weather. But once I’m out there I have the best time. It’s just easier training in the colder months, you don’t overheat quite so much, you see the world with fresh eyes and you get to experience the magic of twilight.

Here are a few fairly standard tips to make winter training easier:

  1. Get Google Nest (or one of its competitors). My husband is a big fan of anything Google…to the extent where the majority of our home is powered by by the brand (and I’m not allowed an iPhone, sob). Nest is ingenious – at about 4pm from the comfort of my office or a meeting I reach for my phone and turn my heating on via the Nest app. This means that when I arrive home my kit is already warmed through which makes heading straight out for a run or bike ride marginally easier (and no, this post isn’t sponsored by Nest – I’m just a huge fan of anything that keeps me warm).
  2. Invest in good kit. I think top layers are extremely important to get right in the winter and if you don’t already have a running jacket, buy one immediately. I also think you can’t underestimate the power of a good pair of gloves – I tend to use the same gloves for cycling and running and they always take the chill off during the first part of my workout. Midway through gloves are a really easy layer to take off and tuck away in your pocket too. Oh, and make sure you have a decent hat to wear.
  3. Hydrate properly. Don’t think that because it’s winter you can get away with drinking less water. Training when you’re dehydrated is horrible and will have a severe impact on your performance. I also like to make sure I have a cup of tea as soon as I get back from a winter training session as I need something to warm myself up with (a sweet treat helps, too).
  4. Stay visible; see and be seen. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate reflective kit to keep you out of harm’s way, but also make sure you have a head torch or some other light so that you can clearly see the path ahead. Being visible also means you’ll receive a few more friendly greetings when you cross paths with someone – I find the people I come across whilst out on cold and dark evenings are much friendlier than those I come across in summer.
  5. Ensure you warm up and warm down properly. I’m not keen on stretching before a run but I do make sure I take the first mile at an easier pace than the subsequent miles. I also have a stretching routine that I do once I’m back home and never ever skip it.
  6. Sign up to an event! Nothing is more motivating than having something to work towards. My first event is early January which is a coastal trail run along the White Cliffs of Dover. It’ll be a challenge but hopefully a lot of fun too. There’s nothing more motivating than having a goal to work towards.

It probably won’t be easy mustering up the motivation to get outdoors, but once that work out is done and you’re safely tucked back up in the warm you will feel so much better for it.

Advent Running 2016

12303930_10207140385220639_93777445548216390_o-2

For those who have been following this blog for a while now, and indeed those that know me in real life, you will know that I cannot have a conversation about running without mentioning Advent Running. Last year, Advent Running was quite possibly the running highlight of my entire year – sure, it was challenging and exhausting, but it was also incredibly rewarding and made the lead up to Christmas all the more fun.

The aim of Advent Running is to get as many people as possible running, or doing some kind of activity, for 30 minutes a day for 25 days from 1st December. Last year I ran every day of Advent Running and made a whole new group of friends along the way. This year, I have already decided that I don’t have to run on the days that I swim, as activity is all about enjoying yourself rather than pushing yourself to fit in as much as possible, but I will run on those days I do barre or body pump. That being said, I know I get caught up in the Advent Running hysteria so who knows if I will actually be able to resist on swim days.

But the best thing about Advent Running (aside from super inspiring founders Claudia and James), is the online community that goes with it. If you want to give Advent Running a go this year make sure you join their Facebook group, and make sure you post photos along the way. Thirty minutes of activity is not a huge burden to fit in each day, although during the festive season it becomes a lot more challenging than other times of the year (we were fitting in our runs at 11pm some nights last year!), but come Christmas Day when you complete that final run you will feel incredibly proud of yourself…and you’ll probably find that you want to continue your run streak into the New Year.

Happy running!

Triathlon: Team SFQ

img_3161

On Friday evening I received quite possibly the best email ever…I have been selected to race for Team SFQ in 2017. For anyone who doesn’t know Smashfest Queen, it’s the US brand behind the really fabulous kit I spent 2016 racing in. As I am sure you can imagine, I feel incredibly privileged that this somewhat mediocre (but enthusiastic) triathlete will be training and racing in their kit as part of their team. Not to mention upholding the positive energy of the team. It really does feel like a huge honour and one that I am already ridiculously excited about.

What makes it even more special is the fact that towards the end of 2017 I will be having surgery on my feet to fuse some bones together, which means 2018 can probably be written off right now as I will be facing a 6 month recovery. So 2017 has to count, and has to be fantastic.

Let’s smash this!

The Off-Season

14589753_10209635436435360_2833593285791972036_o

The past few weeks have been deliciously relaxing; I really slowed down and forgot about having a proper training routine for a while. I cycled a handful of times, ran a few times more and forgot about swimming completely. I also started going to a barre class which I really love and has inspired me to incorporate a bit more strength training and pilates-based exercises into my training.

But the lazy times have to come to an end. My first race of 2017 is a coastal endurance trail race at the beginning of January, and although they call it a 10K it’s actually 7.7 miles and is a race that requires a decent amount of training. I had intended to start my new training plan last week but unfortunately succumbed to freshers’ flu (from the university my lovely husband works at, thanks for that…I had successfully managed to avoid the freshers’ flu from my university rather well until he brought the germs home!) so other than a barre class and a bike ride, I was pretty much wiped out for the week.

And so I shall restart my training plan this week, which won’t be easy as I’m working a few long days in Brussels during the first part of this week and then working in Rome in a fortnight, but once those commitments are out of the way there should be few interruptions to my training leading me into the new year.

So, what’s my plan? Well, running will be my main focus and will involve three sessions per week (short, tempo and long). My Bianchi will be on the turbo and I’ll aim to fit in two sessions, although will allow myself to drop down to one if I’m having a ‘can’t be bothered’ moment – if I head outdoors for cycling it’ll most likely be on my MTB. I will aim to swim once a fortnight, and will have two strength training sessions per week – one of which will be my barre class and the other will be a home workout with weights.

That’s seven decent sessions a week which is more than enough to keep my base fitness levels up throughout the winter with the intention of starting my focussed triathlon training at the beginning of April. I also want to make sure that I’m not sacrificing my social life and other opportunities in favour of my training though so will hopefully be able to drop a session here and there without feeling guilty as and when the need arises.  This year I started my triathlon training at the beginning of February which was just far too early considering my last race (which was also my A race) was at the end of September, so April feels like it will be a better time for me especially as I will have completed all of the shorter running races that I’m signed up to during the first part of the year by then.

I have to admit though, I really have enjoyed being lazy recently and know I will have lost a lot of fitness that I now need to regain which won’t be particularly easy. But everyone needs a bit of indulgence after such a busy season (oh, and I also used that ‘lazy time’ productively at work which resulted in a new position as Faculty Director of Recruitment…so it’s not like I completely dropped the ball).

14753900_10209667702041980_5115666436956884937_o