Training for the Speed Project - week five

All training cycles have their ups and downs. Week five feels very much like a down. Between my period arriving (it likes to make itself known, cramps for days) and some creeping anxiety which led to a day in bed everything has felt like more of a struggle than I’d like. Every run has been a huge effort, hauling myself on to a treadmill, sticking my headphones in and getting through it. When my mind isn’t in a good place it’s so much more of a challenge to motivate myself, runs I would’ve looked forward to turn into a chore and the idea of leaving the house to train has literally no appeal. It’s frustrating. It’s a big difference to last week, when I felt strong and happy with how things were going. I guess you can never get too complacent.

Training for The Speed Project - week five - A Pretty Place to Play, London running and fitness blog

Monday - 30 minute recovery run - such a surprising run, although my legs were heavy and I didn’t feel like I was running particularly fast it turned out I was totally smashing it. Really happy with this run.

Tuesday - my period starts and I am in an insane amount of pain. Spent the day in bed hooked up to a TENS machine. No runs for me, I could hardly walk.

Wednesday - double day - really easy 30 minutes (not feeling amazing after yesterday) followed by 10x10s hill sprints on the treadmill. Generally felt pretty good, but the hill sprints were tricky on a treadmill (there’s no down hill setting!). Second session - 30 minute progression run, totally unmemorable.

Thursday - crazy busy day with work, and a uni seminar just for fun so ditched my run and did 20 minutes strength training with a resistance band. My butt hurt afterwards.

Friday - I’d intended to do two sessions today, but woke up so flat and disengaged I ended up sleeping most of the day. Anxiety is a bitch.

Saturday - hill sprints that made me question whether my coaches actually like me - 8x75s hard efforts followed by 8x30s hard efforts. Nearly fell off the treadmill.

Sunday - two 45 minute runs, both on the treadmill, both serious mind over matter because they were so dull. Treadmill runs are tough, I always feel like my pace is so much slower than it is on the road which is so frustrating.

Training for The Speed Project week five - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness blog

So how do you get out of this situation? How do you get back to feeling like yourself and getting your training mojo back? This is a place I’ve been in before, and these are the things I’ve learnt work for me at one time or another:

talk about it

When you bury problems they become so much worse. Talk to someone you trust about where you’re at, share your experience on social media (trust me, you’re not alone in this one and people will make sure you know it). Write things down. Just get the thoughts out there, it helps you to process what’s going on and work through it.

switch things up

Really not feeling the run love? Switch things up. Go to a class with a friend (accountability, will make sure you leave the house). Quit the treadmill for a WattBike. Change your running route. Hell, have a dance! Just do something different.

don’t sweat it

It can be easy to worry about missing a session or your pace not being where you think it should be. This is going to sound flippant, but one or two missed sessions because you’re struggling in other ways won’t be a game changer when it comes to your performance, but it might make all the difference to where your head is at.

change the tempo

Got a training plan full of intense sessions? These sessions increase cortisol - the stress hormone - so while some movement can be really good when you’re feeling down, really pushing the tempo with high intensity workouts could backfire. Think about switching out runs for walks, vinyasa yoga for restorative yoga and HIIT for LISS until everything has calmed down.

Training for The Speed Project week five - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

This last week has been tough, but that’s ok. This tricky period will pass and I’ll be back on form, after all things can get better as quickly as they decline, and for now I’m going to be gentle with myself, move in ways that feel natural, rest and get myself back together with support from my family, friends and coaches. This blip isn’t going to change anything, I’m still going to be there for my team mates to take on the desert, we’re still going to own those miles and bring our A games.


Are you curious about how I’m training for the Speed Project? Is there anything you’d like to know? Let me know in the comments and I will see what I can do! In the meantime, you can read all my posts about this adventure here.

Training for the Speed Project - week four

This post is in collaboration with RealBuzz

Training for the Speed Project - week four - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Two months today the Artemis Arrows will be somewhere on the outskirts of LA running towards the desert to take on The Speed Project. 60 days to go and we’re on the upward climb towards race day(s). Training is ramping up with more double days, more hill sessions (killer hill sessions), more mind over matter, more of everything. It’s intense, but it’s also wonderful. It constantly amazes me how much progress I’m making. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve tracked any stats and it’s nice to see my pace quicken, even if traffic lights keep getting in my way (must plan routes with fewer roads!). My body feels strong and I’m really excited to see how much more progress I make before we arrive in LA at the end of March.


Monday - a 90 minute Classic class at Fierce Grace. I always forget how many standing poses there are in this sequence and after Sunday’s long run this class was tough, but so good!

Tuesday - first double day - a 30 minute run plus 10 x 10s hill sprints in the morning followed by a 30 minute easy run in the evening. I wasn’t particularly feeling my straight runs, not sure why but I think I found them a bit dull, but the hill sprints were everything. Plus it was pretty nice that my legs felt fresh in the evening!

Wednesday - an hour of yin in a warm room to ease out my muscles

Thursday - the heaviest day of the week. I set out to do three sessions, I ended up doing two and some stretches - a boxing session at 12x3 and time on a Watt Bike at The Altitude Centre. It was intense, it felt good, but I probably should’ve done the two interval sessions I had on my training plan.

Friday - REST DAY

Saturday - killer 60s hill repeats that nearly killed me. Felt ace afterwards though, totally invincible, which was just as well because we went to Ikea.

Sunday - 12 miles that never seemed to end through the pouring rain and brutal winds. Nasty. Necessary. Rewarded with Yoga Nidra at Fierce Grace.

Training for the Speed Project - week four - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I’ve mentioned before that nutrition is something that’s been playing on my mind. I know nothing about nutrition, and in the context of such an intense training load that really scares me. I need to have the energy to train hard, avoid injury and do all the other things that life demands from me. Although my diet day to day is ok (thanks to Mike who masterminds what we eat) I really lack confidence when it comes to knowing that I’m making the right choices when it comes to my nutrition. It’s not really a surprise given the amount of conflicting information out there, and honestly if I wasn’t training for such a big challenge I don’t know if I’d even bother trying to get my head around it. But I am training for a big challenge, and understanding how to use food to keep myself going is going to be vital. Thankfully the experts at RealBuzz (as always) have my back, and over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing all the simple tips they’ve given me about how to fuel my running adventures. First up snacks, because there’s nothing I like more than a snack! Here are some ideas for easy, accessible and tasty snacks that’ll give you the get up and go. Or just to power you to mess around as much as Corey and I do.

5 Pre Training Snacks

Ideally you should eat a meal around 2 or 3 hours before training and then refuel with a smaller meal or snack in the hour preceding a workout, to ensure substantial nutrients available. However busy schedules do not always allow for such plans, and so it is important to ensure the food eaten before a workout, whether first thing in the morning or later in the evening, are a rich source of energy and nutrition, ideally around 30 minutes before a workout.

Fruit (in every form)

Whether by itself, dried in a smoothie, with spreads and yogurts or even in a bar (I’m currently loving banana choc chip Larabars), I used one to fuel my run last night and I swear it made all the difference!), fruit is a useful pre-workout snack, easily available on the go or as a more substantial snack, holding abundant energy and nutrient value. Bananas particularly are considered nature’s energy bar, filled with complex carbohydrates, ideal for energy whilst working out, and packed with potassium which aids muscle and nervous system function. This potassium can prevent any potential damages to the muscle and prevents cramps during exercise.

If you are struggling for time before a workout, you should replace any protein with carbs, as proteins take a longer time to digest and could lead to indigestion or cramps. Fruits are simple carbs, digested in the small intestine rather than the stomach, they offer an immediate source of glucose, delivering an instant but sustained energy boost. The brighter the berry the better, providing more sugar for energy and more nitric oxide to expand the blood vessels, providing a better workout.

Oats

I often start my day with oats, especially when I’m working an early shift and I always find they give me the energy I need to get through the day. Oats (particularly if they are steel-cut) have a low glycemic index, releasing energy at a slower rate, enabling you to exercise for longer time. They also contain a high amount of vitamin B which assists the conversion of carbs into energy, proving useful for the access of energy.

Oats also contain high amounts of fibre, and while high fibre foods can make you sluggish and bloated, the fibre oats provide can further assist the release of carbohydrates.

Wholegrain Bread

Packed with carbs, bread is an important food when lacking in energy and in need of something quick and easy to eat and prepare - I should know, left to my own devices I’d eat pretty much only toast!

Sticking to sourdough, whole wheat and grain breads will ensure a steady production of energy, keeping energy levels high for a more sustainable length of time. Sticking to sourdough, whole wheat and grain breads will ensure a steady production of energy, keeping energy levels high for a more sustainable length of time.

Eggs

I eat eggs nearly every day and genuinely believe they’re one of the best fast foods out there. Eggs and egg whites are ideal for those trying to build muscle particularly, but the benefits of eggs before workout can be felt by anyone. Eggs have the highest bioavailable proteins and so used more quickly by the body than any other protein products. Egg whites from a single egg can provide around 4g of protein and no fat, when trying to lean up or lose weight, eggs are helpful in utilising the benefits of exercise, particularly weight training.  Ideal as a morning or afternoon snack, by itself. 

Yogurt And Spreads

Greek yogurt, peanut butter, almond butter, honeys and jams all provide a rich source of natural sugars and proteins, key for any workout and recovery. Greek yogurt contains double the protein but half the sugar as regular yogurt, providing the needed source of nutrients for energy and muscle repair used through the course of exercise. Spreads like almond and peanut butter not only provide the ‘good’ fats commonly associated with them, but also serve as a rich source of protein. Spreads like almond and peanut butter not only provide the ‘good’ fats but also serve as a rich source of protein. Perfect combined with oats, fruit, bread…the world is your oyster!

What to avoid?

It’s probably no surprise, but high fat foods such as fast foods, will also impact your workout, taking up to four hours to digest, high fat foods will sit like a stubborn block in your stomach. The blood rushes to your stomach to encourage digestion, decreasing the flow to muscles, affecting your movement and efficiency during your workout.

Working out on an empty stomach can also affect your exercise capability as glycogen stores are exhausted making exercise harder and slower, it is important to always grab a small bite before working out, even if only some fruit or yogurt, it’s better than nothing.


Are you curious about how I’m training for the Speed Project? Is there anything you’d like to know? Let me know in the comments and I will see what I can do! In the meantime, you can read all my posts about this adventure here.


* This post is in collaboration with RealBuzz who I have an ongoing relationship with and I receive benefits in kind from them from time to time.

**I am a friend of Fierce Grace Brixton and they give me free access to their classes.

***images: Anna Rachel Photography

How to Run Faster (and do other hard things)

Since I started training for The Speed Project I’ve noticed that I’ve gradually become a faster runner. It was a bit of a surprise, because for the last year or so I’d been gradually becoming a slower runner. In part this was because I’d been focused on really nailing my form, but a lot of the problem in my head. I knew I was capable of running faster, but for some reason there was something stopping me. That something was fear.

I can’t remember when it dawned on me that I was afraid, but when I did it was a light bulb moment. You see fear is the biggest thing that holds us back when it comes to running faster. Yes, fitness plays a role, but however fit you are your’e not going to reach your potential if you’re afraid. You have to push yourself if you want to run fast. You have to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself. It hurts. It is hard. It requires work. Lots of work. If you are scared you are in no place to handle those mental and physical challenges, so speed just isn’t going to happen. And that’s the hole I got stuck in.

How to Run Faster - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Getting out of the hole

Realising that being afraid was holding me back was the motivation I needed to change my mindset around training. This was not quick or easy, but there were a few strategies that I found worked really well for me.

Positive Self-Talk

I don’t know about you, but I can be extremely hard on myself. I like to talk myself down and doubt my abilities a lot, especially when it comes to doing really hard things like pushing myself as a runner. All this negative chat was really holding me back as each time fear crept into my mind I’d big it up and turn it into a massive deal in a spiral that only amplified my fear.

Once you’re in this spiral it can be tough to find your way out (negativity is pervasive like that), but it is possible. The trick is to change how you talk to yourself. It’s funny, we’re much harder on ourselves than we’d ever be on anyone else and this translates in how we talk to ourselves. I know I tell myself some pretty awful things and that this nearly always has a negative effect, but if you can create a negative effect you also have the power to create a positive one. One of the earliest things I did to tackle my fear was to change how I talk to myself. Simply reminding myself not to be afraid was all it took - each time an unhelpful thought crept in in relation to running I just told myself ‘i can’ and ‘I am not afraid’.

I make it sound easy. It’s not. It’s hard to fight your instinct to undermine yourself, it’s hard to really believe what you’re telling yourself. It takes practice and you need to be stubborn, but it will work.

The Big Picture

Being part of a team is a beautiful thing. Before The Speed Project I’d never really been in a team, but now I get it. Having teammates holds you accountable. When things feel hard I think of my girls. These days my biggest fear is letting them down, and that drives me to push harder.

When you’re training it’s easy to get into the grind of each workout and forget why the hell you’re heading out to run up hills in the rain in the first place. When things get tough try to remember your ‘why’. Why are you doing this? It’s actually a good test, if ask yourself this question and you can’t answer it then maybe you’re not training for the right event? There’s no shame in revising your goals if it turns out you’re really not into something.

Get it Over With

I swear every workout is hardest before I do it. The build up to getting your ass outside and getting those sprints done is agony. But you know what, once I’m out there I generally feel pretty good, and afterwards I feel bloody awesome! Yes, not every training session is going to be the best. I definitely have sessions that hurt, that leave me exhausted or that are just plain boring, but I’m still happy when they’re done. The trick is not to dwell too much on what needs to be done and to focus on getting it done. Having coaches is really handy for this one, they tell me what to do and I have no choice but to do it!

How to Run Faster - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I’m sure you were expecting me to tell you to do more sprints or run up more hills. These sessions all play a part in running faster, and I love my vomit inducing speed sessions, but it’s never really going to be your legs holding you back, your mind needs to get with the programme and give you the freedom to really achieve your potential.

What are your tricks for running faster (or doing anything that’s hard)? Let me know in the comments.

*images: Alex Dixon Photography