Category Archives: Fitness

Blipping Marvellous


Well, three weeks have gone by since my last post and I’m going to have to coin a new word to mean “blip, only longer”. I’ve been describing it as a hiatus. That doesn’t sound too serious, does it? Suffice to say, those three weeks went by in a bit of a blur, but with no running. I went swimming with a friend once, but exercise-wise the last three weeks were somewhat lacking.

Until this Monday, when I managed to get back on the horse (not literally, obviously; that would be a whole other sport). The single biggest factor in getting me back on my metaphorical horse was that my friend Louise ran 100 miles this weekend just gone. Here’s the event that she ran, and here’s a post about how she did. If she can get out of bed and run for 25 hours, it really does put 3 minutes into perspective.

I decided to press on and start Week Three of the programme (a few weeks late, but moving fast), although I kept in the back of my mind that I might need to repeat the week, as three weeks without running was bound to have a deleterious (I know, I’ve been mining the thesaurus) effect.

Monday’s run was difficult, probably the hardest to date. Not surprising when you consider the circumstances. Not only did it follow a three week plus break (given that it took me more than a week to do Week Two), but the jump from Week Two to Three seemed quite steep. Week Two runs involve 6 intervals of running for 1.5 minutes (with walking in between), whereas Week Three is running for 1.5 minutes, 3 minutes, 1.5 minutes and 3 minutes (with walking in between). I know it is the same number of minutes running, but 3 minutes all at once feels significantly more! The first 3 minute run I did involved a lot of mental narrative along the lines of “it must be 3 minutes by now, surely!”. But don’t get me wrong, it was still doable; I was just very pleased when the invisible lady said it was time to walk.

Knowing myself, as I do, it was quite important to run again on Tuesday. I know I’m supposed to leave rest days in between – and I will when I’m doing runs that are a bit longer – but it was important for me to go and run again to break any mounting belief that Monday’s run was too hard. Plus I was looking at the weather forecasts for the rest of the week, and it seemed a shame not to make the most of the dry bits before the heavens opened. Do you know, running for three minutes was easier on the second outing.

I decided to have a proper rest day on Wednesday and did absolutely nothing energetic at all. Yesterday, I thought I might try a bit of yoga and discovered that what I had thought was a bit of hand ache from too much time spent with puzzle books was actually a hand/wrist that could not support my weight in Downward Dog. So Thursday became a rest day as well.

I had planned to go for a run this morning, and that plan came and went, but I managed to persuade myself to run this afternoon. And so you find me, following my official first rainy run, feeling quite proud of completing Week Three. Hurrah!

So what have I learned?

  1. There are no rules. Just because you would like, in an ideal world, to run first thing in the morning, does not mean you are forbidden to run at other times of the day.
  2. You will feel better, after a run, than you did before it.
  3. The second time you run a distance/time, it will generally be easier than the first time.
  4. Running in the rain is not unpleasant, except for (as a glasses wearer) being unable to see much beyond general impressions as your glasses mist up/get drenched.
  5. While running with Toby is fun, running occasionally without him does allow for fewer distractions. Given that he hates the rain with a fiery passion, trying to take him with me today would have involved a degree of resistance training (i.e. pulling a dog along behind me while he tries his best to go home) that I didn’t fancy.
  6. Remember to turn your phone off silent, or you won’t hear the invisible lady tell you when to run and when to walk. Today, I didn’t notice that was the problem until the first 1.5 minute run was almost over (and I was still doing my warm-up run). My solution? Insert the missing 1.5 minute run into the 3 minute walk (so I did 3 minutes, 1.5 minutes, 1.5 minutes then 3 minutes, with less walking in between). Probably not the best solution, but I am quite pleased I could do it without problems. But next time I’ll check my phone volume first!

Now Week Four beckons. That’s running for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes and 5 minutes (with running in between). Strangely, I’m looking forward to it.



Blips and Other News


The second week started really well, but ended with a bit of a blip. I did my first run on Saturday, my second run on Monday, and then it all went a little awry.

Somehow it just seemed too difficult to go for another run last week, and I was in danger of continuing that trend this week. But this afternoon, somehow, I got my mojo back. And went for a run. It was harder than the previous two runs, but it was still achievable.

I also began the next phase of Toby training, in that I kept him on the lead and had him running next to me for most of my six 90-second running intervals. He was very good and didn’t barge in front of me, or refuse to run. That was quite surprising, given that he had already been for his long walk today. The plan is that – assuming I can stick with the programme – when I start running for longer periods of time, I can run in places other than around my (quite small) nearest park, and Toby can run with me.

I don’t know what tomorrow’s run will bring. I’m thinking I might have a go at doing week three. But it is quite daunting, including running for three whole minutes in one go. With no running for a whole week before today, that might be a bit much. But I figure there’s no harm in trying; I can always shift back to a week two run if I need to.

Other News

I have always shied away from bold colour on my fingernails, because I am an inveterate nail-picker (less so, biter). Which means that bold colour magnifies how short my nails really are, plus I struggle to leave them looking perfect for more than about five minutes.

But, high on the success of my run, and after a lovely relaxing bath, I thought I’d be brave and try out a colour usually reserved for my toes.


What do you think? It’s Richmond Terrace by Nails Inc (currently a free gift with purchase of Nails Inc products from Feel Unique, but usually £11), and I’m very pleased with it. We’ll see if it helps break the habit.



So Far, So Good


I’m a week into the Couch to 5K programme (which is 9 weeks long, minimum) and it is going really well, so far. I actually did 4 runs this week, rather than the 3 recommended, for a couple of reasons. First, as I explained in my last post, I wasn’t following quite the same programme for my first run (and didn’t strictly follow even the one I was using), so I didn’t feel like the first run counted. As luck would have it, the second run also went a little nuts as I failed to switch my mobile off silent, so couldn’t hear the verbal prompts. It’s amazing how ready you are to think your phone is vibrating (the only other prompt), when you expect it to vibrate in the near future.

One of the fantastic things about the modern world is relatively simple things like the C25K app. With the app (provided you use it properly!), all you have to do is follow the instructions. You start it up and then run when it tells you to run and walk when it tells you to walk. You have no idea what a relief it is not to have to look at your watch and see the seconds count down. Knowing you will be told when it’s time to start walking is so much better.

The second reason for four runs, rather than three, was that I know myself. I was worried that, if I left a rest day between my first run and my second, it would be too big a hurdle to jump. Now I’ve done a few runs, I shouldn’t need to repeat it, but I needed to prove to myself that the first experience was not a fluke. I might run both Saturday and Sunday for a couple more times, but my guess is that – the further into the programme I get – the less I’ll feel like doing it two days in a row.

So I’m looking forward to tomorrow, with reservations. Next week is three runs of “90 seconds running, followed by 2 minutes walking” for 20 minutes – which is 9 minutes running total compared to 8 minutes last week. But it isn’t the extra minute that’s daunting; it’s the “half as much again” running each time. So we’ll see.

The best improvement over the week has actually been Toby’s attitude. You may recall that he spent most of my first run, standing by the park gate. I have no idea how much of that was:

  • The presence of the scary dog;
  • The imminent need for breakfast; and
  • The strangeness of Cath moving around at speed.


By Thursday’s run, however, he joined in for the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a significant amount of standing by the gate, and even more of standing at one end of the park, trying to figure out what version of nonsense his owner was up to now. But he did keep joining me, with what I’m choosing to call Toby’s interval running – either stop to sniff something interesting or stand still to see if Cath is coming back soon, then running like mad to catch up. Those of you who have dogs will know that watching your dog run towards you, ears aflapping, is one of the best experiences there is in life.

I’m hoping that, if I manage to stick with this, I’ll be able to persuade Toby to run alongside me on shorter runs. Yesterday made me think it might be doable. It would be a shame not to be able to combine my exercise with Toby’s. It would be particularly helpful when it stops being summer. The only person I know who hates the rain more than I do is Toby. What that means is that I get a strange schadenfreude from making Toby go out when it’s raining. When he was a puppy, we had to walk for half an hour before he stopped fixating on going home and realised how much he needed to pee. Running with him in the rain (when we’re running away from, rather than towards, home) will be his penance for making me walk unnecessarily in the rain.

Exercise Ahoy!

I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about exercise. My complete lack of skill at any type of team sports, combined with a strong preference for curling up with a book, meant it took until I was thirty to find something physically active I could actually say I enjoy. I started out with a yoga class in 2005 and revelation hit.

At the time, I was commuting from London to Brighton daily for work, which – as a result of the vagaries of public transport – meant I left home before 6am and got home about 7pm. This just about allowed enough time for making and eating dinner, before collapsing into bed, and not much else. On the day of my weekly yoga class, however, I came out of class at 7.30pm and was ready to skip home, with enough energy to do another day’s work then and there. This had never been my experience of exercise before. Exhausted? Yes! Exhilarated? Never!

Doing one weekly yoga class had other benefits as well. I actually found myself craving yoga, and would often do more at home. My posture (I am slouch queen extraordinaire) improved and, when hungry, craved healthy things rather than my standard chocolate and cheese. I also had less of an urge to drink alcohol.

Reading this, you would be entitled to wonder why I am not still attending weekly yoga classes. It’s a question I regularly ask myself. I moved to Brighton in November 2005 and have tried, several times, to re-establish the class-going habit. It just hasn’t quite taken. I don’t know why. I have, however, continued my yoga practice, albeit haphazardly, by going on yoga holidays for every holiday I have taken over the last ten years. I might do another post about those. I have also, on and off, continued with a home practice – although this is mainly in the “off” setting than the “on”. I certainly have ALL the books necessary to support a home practice (i.e. several shelves’ worth).

By the end of 2011, my exercise regime was non-existent. This was one of the key factors in my decision to get Toby at the beginning of 2012. I was, at that point, the proud owner of two cats – Dorothy and Oscar. But cats are not conducive to physical exercise, as they have a knack of coming to sit on your lap at exactly the point you intend getting up to do something. One could argue that Oscar’s tendency of curling up underneath me on the (rare) occasions I get out the yoga mat and get into Downward Dog is supportive, but I think it’s more likely to be orneriness.

(For readers unfamiliar with yoga, this is Downward Dog. Having a cat sit underneath you in this pose might be seen as an incentive to maintain the pose. Or not.)





Having Toby has been a joy, and I cannot now imagine my life without him. He has certainly got me off the sofa, as was my intention, and I now leave the flat many times more per day than I would if there weren’t big brown eyes begging for a walk. Particularly when you considers that dogs have to be walked in all weathers. At least, they do, if you don’t have a garden to bundle them out into so they can *ahem* perform, and I don’t. But it would not be honest of me if I let you believe those walks are anything other than a gentle stroll. For me, at least. When we get to the park, Toby might do some running around. But not me.

Over the last eighteen months, Toby’s walks have got shorter, my weight has crept up again, and I have been trying to think how I am going to get back on top of my physical health again. A few things over the last few months have put running into my head:

  • I read, and thereby felt a modicum of inspiration, Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
  • A friend on Facebook has embarked on a healthier lifestyle, including taking up running using the Couch to 5k programme (aka C25k)
  • Last week I read a post by one of my regular beauty blog reads about her fitness regime

Those things, combined with the indignity of having to buy a pair of jeans in size 16 (when I consider myself a size 12), just so that I could wear jeans and breathe at the same time, planted the seed. Yesterday, I took my normal approach to starting a new project; read everything I can find about the subject (when I decided to get Toby, I read ALL the books about dog behaviour – go ahead, you can ask me anything!). I concluded that C25k sounded like it might actually be achievable.

All of that is leading up to the fact that, if you had been in a certain Brighton park this morning, you would have witnessed a very red-faced woman alternate jogging and walking backwards and forwards, followed by a very confused dog. I have completed my first ever run!



How did it go? Very well, all things considered. I had taken Toby to the Sorting Office to pick up a parcel in lieu of a warm up and almost bottled out when I had to stop and drink some water before even embarking on the run (in my defence, the park is significantly uphill from the Sorting Office). There were also quite a few people in the park with their dogs, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that many witnesses to my first go at this running lark. What finally got me going was, having bought an entire “fitness” outfit (including new headphones and a sports bra), I would have felt really silly walking home from the park without even trying.

If you are unfamiliar with C25k (as I was until yesterday), it consists of 3 workouts each week for 9 weeks, building up very gradually to being able to run for 30 minutes (which is likely to be roughly the right amount of time for 5 kilometres or just over 3 miles). The first workout, you jog for 1 minute, then walk for 1.5 minutes, over and over for 20 minutes. I had actually gone to the park with the intention of doing a slightly different workout (which I found in an ebook), but with the same basic approach, but it went a bit awry. One of the USPs for C25k is that you can download a mobile app which tells you exactly what to do and when, during your workout, thus removing the need for clockwatching or counting. I had attempted a do-it-yourself version of this app (thinking it only worked on newer versions of the iPhone than the one I have – which turns out to be wrong), which did not work at all; I couldn’t hear the announcements, so ended up running for 2.5 minutes in the first session, and only approximating the remainder, as I had to keep looking at my phone to check whether I was supposed to be walking or running.

By the way, I have been using “jogging” and “running” interchangeably so far. I shall be talking about running hereafter, but I want to acknowledge that this description of my activity is aspirational rather than accurate. The one clear message I took away from all the reading I did yesterday was that most beginners try to run too far and too fast at the beginning. I was moving forward during the “running” parts of my first go, but it felt snail-like compared to even a brisk walk.

The other slight issue was that Toby was thoroughly bemused by this new approach to park life (do you all have Blur in your head now?). He ran along behind me for the first circuit (by which I mean he did his usual “stop to sniff something interesting, sprint to catch up” rather than actually toddling along beside me). On the second circuit, the only dog he is actually scared of turned up at the far end of the park, so he cut that corner off. On the third, he had clearly decided I had gone mad and went to stand by the park gate for the remainder of the time. I am petrified that, one of these days, someone is just going to pick him up and have off with him when he isn’t in sight at the park, so the rest of my running/walking was backwards and forwards in an arc, keeping the gate in sight. Which must have bemused any onlookers greatly. Lesson learned. Next time, Toby gets his breakfast before the run.

The running itself was fine. It confirmed for me just how beneficial the regular walking actually is, as I could certainly do a whole minute without collapsing in a heap. The programme I was using (or rather attempting to use) actually had two minutes’ walking after each run, and I didn’t need all of that to recover sufficiently – so I’m definitely switching to the proper C25k 90 second walk for the next one. Towards the end of the twenty minutes, my face was sweaty enough to make my glasses annoying, and I was taking a mouthful of water when I passed the place I had left my bag.

On the way home, I bumped into a couple of friends and felt sufficiently proud of my performance to announce that I had just done “my first ever” run. They both confirmed that I looked “quite red” and were very supportive. So we shall see how the rest of this week goes. As C25k only requires 3 runs a week (and strongly suggests you space them out), I’m half-hoping all this enthusiasm might reinvigorate my yoga practice to complement the running. We shall see how it goes!