Cardio Vs. Strength

Strength Vs. Cardio

Let me start by saying that I love both. It is my opinion that they both have their part to play in overall health, fitness and weight management.

The problem I’m having is finding the right balance between the two.

Now that the weather has (at least temporarily for the UK!) brightened up, I’m more and more inclined to go for a run outside in the fresh air rather than head to a sweaty, dark gym.

For me, running is the easiest way to fit a work out in. All I need is my iPhone with music and the MapMyRun app and I can head out the door. (Alright, that’s a lie. I also need my favourite running tights, a good sports bra, a bottle of water, headphones, an arm-band to hold said iPhone, a pair of 1000 mile socks to stop the blisters, trainers and my door key – but you know what I mean!) There’s little planning required and it fits into my daily routine easily – if I don’t have long then I can go for a fast paced short distance run, if I have plenty of time then I can do 10 miles at a leisurely pace. I don’t need to book a week in advance to make sure I have a place secured (like some of my favourite group exercise classes) and I don’t have to fight for space to swing kettle bells like I sometimes do during peak time in the gym.

18 months ago I never would have thought I would say this, but here goes… I love running.

All sounds rosy,  so you’d think that I’d be happy. But no. This morning, when I revisited an old strength circuit that I used to do during the winter, I discovered that I could no longer manage the 25 full press ups that I used to be able to. In fact, I couldn’t even manage 12.  Sob!

There is nothing more frustrating than going backwards.

I love the feeling of being strong and the muscle definition that comes with that strength. Sadly, it turns out that I need to work hard at it week after week, just to maintain it, otherwise that feeling soon fades away and instead I am an angry mess lying on the mats relegated back to doing girly press ups. Well I’m not having that. Not after all that hard work to get there in the first place.

So it’s time to reset the balance. From now on, every Tuesday and Friday I am going to resist the urge to run and instead hit the gym for some strength training. Paying particular attention to my stubborn, needy, selfish, upper body.

Let’s hope that muscle memory isn’t a myth!!

How do you find the balance between Cardio and Strength?

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Me Vs. The R Word

Yesterday was my first running event of the season. Notice how I don’t use the R word. The reason for that is that I am actually not the least bit competitive.

I’ve always enjoyed participating in various sports and activities but have always crumbled under the slightest bit of pressure to compete. I’ll give you some examples from my childhood…

Trampolining

Loved it! I couldn’t get enough of the training. I practiced my routines til I could do them in my sleep.

The day of the competition arrived and gone was the energetic, confident Me, and in her place was a tearful, shaking mess who could barely climb up onto the trampoline let alone complete my routine. I sobbed the whole way home.

The next day at training I completed my routine perfectly – much to the great annoyance of my coach.

The Flute

(Geek Alert!!)

Playing the flute came naturally to me and I really enjoyed practicing and playing with the school orchestra.

One teacher insisted that if I wanted to continue playing, I had to do the grades. Cue more shaking and tears. I don’t think I managed to get more than 5 notes out of the flute come assessment day and even those were wrong ones. I sobbed the whole way home again.

The next day in my lesson, I breezed through the scales – much to the great annoyance of my teacher.

 

I could go on with examples, but I think you see the pattern emerging here. Too much pressure to perform on the day = failure & tears.

Maybe it comes down to the fact that I know that I will never be the best and that actually, I’m not that bothered about it.

I tend to be middle of the road in most things I do. I  start off pretty well, picking up the basic skills with ease, but then it comes to a certain point and I just stop progressing. I was a member of many teams and clubs – swimming, netball, drama,  athletics and of course trampolining. But I was never the star player.

I am Jack of all trades and Master of none.

Luckily for me, I am also a firm believer that it’s the taking part that counts.

So back to my point, yesterday’s running event.

Several weeks back, Gym Buddy asked me if I wanted to join her and another guy she knows on an organised 10k run in our local town. I of course agreed.

Gym buddy and I began training together. The guy, who is a member of a running club, did not train with us. For some reason, Gym Buddy was under the impression that the The Guy was about the same pace as us. One week before the event, Gym Buddy and The Guy went for a run together and very quickly found out that that wasn’t the case. We shall now rename The Guy  as Slow Man. (Sorry, Slow Man!)

Nevertheless, we promised to stay together. Since I wasn’t expecting a world record, winners medal or even a PB  – I wasn’t bothered  in the slightest about taking it slowly. Instead, Gym Buddy and I were planning to use it as a workout, a bit of fun and a good start to the season.

With that in mind, we hit the gym for a 40 minute upper body circuit before we met Slow Man to head towards the start line. The weather was perfect, seriously perfect. Bright sunshine, around 18 degrees, with a delightful breeze. The route took us through the country side down lanes, tow paths and bridleways. We saw fields, ponies and even a Llama would you believe it. Gym buddy and I chatted and laughed the whole way (whilst Slow Man puffed a few paces behind us). It was probably the most enjoyable run I have even been on. We made up for the slow pace by adding in some  sprints, then jogging back to join Slow Man.

We reached the finish line after 1 hour 11mins (about 20 minutes slower than our usual pace) but it didn’t matter a bit. We had a fantastic time and felt like winners. So much so that Gym Buddy and I have already signed up for our next event, a 10mile run at the beginning of June.

Slow man on the other hand probably never wants to do another event with such hyperactive and noisy companions. Perhaps we did overdo the Lucozade a little…

 

Me Vs. The RAF Fitness Test

Over the weekend I caught up with my 17 year old cousin who is currently going through screening to enter the RAF as a Mechanic. He’d recently passed the Fitness Test and I was intrigued to hear what it consisted of.

The thing that stood out to me was the running test:

  • Complete 2.4km in 11 minutes and 11 seconds or less (on a treadmill)

I like to think of myself as quite fit, but that sounded pretty fast!

Despite having absolutely no intention of attempting to join the armed forces (sorry – the title of this blog is probably a bit misleading!) I decided I needed to know whether I could do it.

This morning I hit the gym to give it a go. I calculated that I would need to set the speed to 13 kmph – yikes! Despite having pretty long legs, I usually consider 14 kmph to be a sprint for me – I accepted long ago that I am definitely built for endurance not speed!

After 5 minutes I was blowing pretty hard. I turned the speed down to catch my breath, then cranked it back up again. Towards the end I had to speed up to 14.5 kmph to try make up some ground. But damnit, I didn’t quite make it!!!!!!

2.4km in 11mins 45seconds.

2.4km in 11 mins 45 seconds.

A quick google when I arrived home and I discovered that as a woman I’d in fact only need to do it in 13 minutes and 23 seconds.

Still, I am not satisfied. I am absolutely determined to do it in less that 11 minutes and 11 seconds, so watch this space…

In fact, consider it a challenge to any fellow runners/gym goers out there reading this…I hope to see some shakey pics of sweaty treadmills soon!

Me Vs. Hills

I admit it, I plan my running routes to avoid hills.

All well and good if the upcoming race you are training for avoids hills too…

Alas, mine doesn’t. In fact, there is a pretty mammoth hill to climb to get to the finish line. Bummer!

It’s not like I totally avoid hills altogether – actually I’d go as far as to say that I enjoy doing Tabata hill sprints on the treadmill (is that weird?!). Deep down though, I know that it isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, Tabata hill sprints make for an extremely sweaty workout and I will definitely continue to do them. But it’s just not the same as having to climb a ‘never ending’ hill in the middle of a 10k race.

With only 10 days til Race Day, this morning Gym Buddy and I figured it might be a good idea to pull our heads out of the sand and drag ourselves up some hills.

The changing of clocks has made the mornings dark again so getting up has been a struggle. To make matters worse, it is still bitterly cold and windy out. Had I had sensed even the teeniest tiniest droplet of rain, I think I would have been back under the duvet in a flash!

With our brains still in bed (it was 06:50AM !) we couldn’t come up with a decent 10k route which incorporated some hills, so instead we did a couple of loops around a shorter route. The main hill is a particularly long and nasty one. The sort where the peak seems to be an ever moving target, like trying to find the end of a rainbow. The gradient eases but never seems to level off entirely. And worst of all, when you do finally get to the top it doesn’t offer the relief of an instant downhill.

We conquered it twice despite a bit of resistance from my usually patient left knee. However, I can’t exactly say that we had as much fun as usual. Instead of constant chatter and laughter along the way, all I could hear was some poor soul gasping for breath…Oh, that was me.

Chocolate & Raspberry Porridge

Chocolate & Raspberry Porridge

When I arrived home , my skin was stinging an attractive shade of red from the cold. So I warmed up with a tasty bowl of Chocolate & Raspberry porridge. Note to self, next time – add more chocolate!

Enough moaning, it’s time to man up. Next week the aim is to complete 3 loops.

Runners out there – do hills ever get any easier?

Me Vs. Post Workout Hunger

My appetite after running is incredible.

Take this morning for instance.

Before leaving the house, I drank a pint of water and ate one of the homemade Hot Cross Buns I had made the night before (another post to come on those!) I knew as I was eating it that it was a bit of a mistake and that I should only eat half, but I don’t really do the whole ‘save half for later’ thing – I salute those who can manage this, but I am more of a ‘have one now…and then have another one later too’  kind of girl. That my friends is why I will never be a skinny minny.

Anyway, I then ran 6.5 miles as scheduled with Gym Buddy. It was a windy run again (no, still not that sort of wind, even after the hot cross bun) which made it tough, but the sun was shining so we kept our chins up.

On returning from my run, I then had my real breakfast which was a banana, oats, yoghurt and berries (the hot cross bun was more of an accidental breakfast, so doesn’t count alright?) and some more water. Pretty substantial right? A good blend of carbs, protein and fruit – just what my body needs post run.

By 10:00AM, despite 2 cups of coffee, my stomach was rumbling! What is that all about??

Fortunately for my belly, one kind soul at the office had brought in some homemade Tiffin. Which as it happens, tastes suspiciously like Rocky Road. Anyone know the difference?! Either way, it was yummy.

So belly was satisfied for a little longer. But it came at a price. Before 10:30AM I had almost certainly consumed more calories than I burnt running this morning.

There’s still a lot of hours left in the day to eat my way through!

I’m not suggesting for a second that I would have been better off staying in bed this morning and therefore having a slightly smaller appetite. I’d rather gain all the fantastic health benefits of exercise and eat like a horse any day.

I just can’t help but think it’s all a little bit unfair that my appetite seems to totally overestimate my calorific needs! I’ve been exercising regularly now for nearly 12 months, you’d think my body would have realised that I am definitely NOT going to let it starve.

So come on appetite, relax, chill out, I will continue to feed you cake – I promise!

Me Vs. Wind

Nope, not that sort.

Sorry to disappoint all the fans of toilet humour out there (I’m definitely one of them) – this post has absolutely nothing to do with flatulence (I thought I’d at least give you something there!)

Here in Blighty the weather at the moment is pants. Think snow, ice, grey skies, cold and arctic wind and you are almost there. Spring has definitely not sprung. Unfortunately, with only just over 2 weeks until I will be taking part in a 10k race, the training must go on.

Morning runs the past few weeks have taught me that even at -2 you will soon warm up after the initial ‘AAAHHHHHHHHH It’s FREEEEEEZING!!!!!!!’ panic. So, when I woke up feeling quite sprightly this morning (AMAZING for a Tuesday!)  I decided to brave the weather once more and go for a quick 5k run before my regular Circuit Training class  at 7:30AM.

What I was not prepared for, was the wind.

It felt like I was trying to run through a force field. A force field which  steals your breath with it’s icy fingers. A force field which whips through your leggings and makes your skin sting.

I battled on, clinging to the hope that when I turned around, I’d be able to comfortably ride the wind all the way back. Why then, when I changed direction to head back towards the gym, did the wind decide to change direction too?!!!

The only thing that kept me going was the realisation that if I stopped running, I would be colder still AND it would take me even longer to get back. So I carried on, as fast as my stinging legs would carry me.

So I guess what I’m getting at here is that, wind is a bitch. No doubt about it. But, on the bright side, once you are out there it is also one hell of a motivator to run home as hard as you can!

Yoga Time?

After a particularly painful run last week, I pledged to start doing what everyone has been telling me to do for ages…stretch after a workout. (Yes, I know, I’m a bit late catching on with this one.)

It’s only been two days but so far, so good!

So did it work?

I can’t exactly claim I carried out a fair test, but, this morning my legs felt champion throughout the whole 10k. That’s more than I can say for last week!

When I returned home, I kept up the good work by using the foam roller and then having a good stretch.

On the downside, I very much doubt that I am doing anywhere near enough to improve my flexibility…

So what next?

A couple of blogs I love to read (But Can I Still Drink Wine? and No More Lettuce) have recently been posting about their new found love for Yoga.

Many, many years ago I went to a yoga class. Far from finding inner peace, I found it all a bit…well weird. The instructor was probably the most stereotypical yoga instructor you could possibly imagine. Think skinny, lentil eating male with ponytail and patterned baggy trousers. This guy ‘lived’ yoga. I just couldn’t relate at all and found myself hopelessly trying to complete the moves without collapsing in a fit of childish giggles.

Ever since, I’ve avoided yoga like the plague, always believing it just wasn’t for me.

Part of me still believes this is true…I’m not exactly a quiet, thoughtful kind of person. I’m a talking machine who lives life a 100 miles an hour. I’m always doing at least 3 things at a time (right now I’m drinking tea, eating a cupcake, watching CSI and typing this – no seriously!) I’m pretty sure that just being quiet for an entire class would be a struggle for me, let alone the fact that I am not only a total beginner but also ridiculously inflexible!

The other part of me thinks that all of the reasons above are exactly why I should be doing Yoga.

I just don’t know where to start?

Me Vs. Stretching

I hate stretching.

I also hate how terribly inflexible I am.

Yep, I can see the correlation there.

There are only two occasions when I actually stretch:

  1. When I am forced to ie. in a group exercise class.
  2. When it is already too late. ie. when I wake up the day after a tough workout and discover that I can’t sit on the toilet without wincing.

I’ve always envied the yoga babe / dancer types who can bend their slender limbs every which way with grace and ease. I on the other hand, can barely touch my toes. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it’s not. Not only that, any attempts at deep stretches usually leave me not so gracefully grunting and grimacing.

I’m sure that my flexibility, like any other area of fitness, could be improved if I were just to put the training in. So why don’t I?

Well, there are a few reasons:

  1. I’m bad at it (I realise this is a stupid reason, but I’m sure some of you will be able to relate to the fact that doing things you are no good at is not fun!)
  2. It hurts.
  3. It’s boring.
  4. It takes too long (30 seconds for each stretch, psshhhhh!)
  5. I just don’t like it, alright?!

So why do I suddenly feel like this needs to change?

Last week, after I completed the workout mentioned here, my gym buddy warned me that I should stretch afterwards. Do you know what I said?

“Pah, stretching is for wimps. I never stretch, I’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t fine. Turns out, 100 dead lifts in one session really gets those hamstrings screaming.

Thursday morning when we met for our 10k run, I was struggling, whilst she smiled the whole way.

It wasn’t just the hamstrings in the end either, other little niggles were beginning to appear here and there.  Running 6 miles in the rain at 07:00 is bad enough already without tight hamstrings, a dodgy ankle and a twinge in your knee. After 53 minutes of listening to me moaning, Gym Buddy informed me that all the little aches and pains I was experiencing were probably connected to the fact that my leg muscles are too tight. Makes sense really!

I hate the thought of  getting an injury, especially as we all know that on the days when you can’t run, the sun shines brightly and there is a gentle breeze in the air (also known as my PERFECT running conditions!)

All of this got me thinking, maybe stretching isn’t just for wimps after all…

So here is my pledge:

  1. I will make time to stretch thoroughly after every workout.
  2. I will use the evil foam roller after every run.
  3. I will never say that stretching is just for wimps ever again. Promise.

I won’t blame you if you don’t believe me, taking into account my most recent promise and subsequent failure. But trying and failing is better than never trying at all!

Me Vs. Chilli

Chilli con carne, basmati rice, guacamole, coriander and a wedge of lime.

Chilli con carne, basmati rice, guacamole, coriander and a wedge of lime.

I loooooove chilli. I add it to pretty much anything. In fact, when we were back packing a couple of years ago, I kept a pack of dried red chilli flakes in my bag so I could sprinkle away on every continent.

Last week, I wrote about my troubles with choosing recipes and making substitutions within recipes when baking (see here) When it comes cooking dinners however, it is a totally different story for me. Sure, I like to take inspiration from recipes, but generally I have a much more laid back approach. When cooking dinners that I regularly make (ie. Chilli Con Carne, Bolognese, Curries, Kedgeree etc.) I tend to use the same ingredients but I rarely measure them and instead I just keep tasting as I go. It usually works out!

Tonight I made Chilli Con Carne with home-made guacamole. I won’t bore you with the entire recipe, but I will tell you a few of my essential ingredients – ground cumin, chilli powder, coriander, paprika, cinnamon and cocoa powder. I also don’t mind telling you that it was delicious, even if I do say so myself. Winner!

On the exercise front, my gym buddy and I went for our first run together this morning in preparation for our upcoming 10k race on 14th April 2013. We completed 5.5 miles whilst nattering the entire time, which meant the miles flew by despite the miserable weather. If Spring ever arrives then I’m sure the morning runs will be even more enjoyable in the weeks to come!

It’s The Mans birthday this weekend, so what better excuse to try out all of the recipes I have been eyeing up for a while now. The plan is to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Icing from The Hummingbird Bakery and Melting Moments from the Great British Bake Off.

The tricky part though, is deciding on the  perfect Birthday Cake recipe.  I’m thinking something super chocolatey with salted caramel (drool!) would be right up my his street. So tonight I am going to gather my recipe books on the sofa for a couple of hours of food porn research…

What are your Chilli Con Carne essential ingredients? 

Have you found the perfect Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake Recipe? 

How do you decide on the perfect recipe for a special occasion?

Me Vs. Running

After many years of begrudgingly commuting around 90 minutes (morning and night) to work each day, last April, my prayers were finally answered when I was offered a job 5 minutes drive away from my home. Hallelujah!!!

I’d always promised that if only it could be arranged for me to work closer to home, I’d use the extra time wisely, by going to the gym. Cross my heart and all of that! Once I started my new job, I desperately feared that if I didn’t stay true to my word, some higher force might seek vengeance and I would be once again be forced to commute…I thought it best to keep my promise just in case! So instead of spending an extra 90 minutes curled under the duvet hitting the snooze button (tempting though it is!) I began a regular exercise regime.

Back when I was a fit and lively teenager I dabbled with what at the time seemed like “long distance running” (ahem, 800m and 1500m) so running seemed like a good place to start now that I was serious about getting fit again.

I signed up for a 5k race and once I had completed that, went on to sign up for a 10k and a half marathon. As a pretty uncompetitive newbie, I didn’t set myself any serious time aims, but merely aimed to complete the distance and was chuffed when I succeeded.

I hung up my running shoes for the winter, in favour of workouts somewhere warm and dry. Having never been a fan of the treadmill (boring!!!) I instead spent most of my gym time in group classes such as Circuit Training, X-Biking, Body Pump and Zumba.

In fact, aside from running the half a mile or so each way to the gym every session, the only running I have completed since November 2012 is in the form of sprint intervals. On Saturday’s I usually hit the treadmill for 10-15 mins of short but intense sprint intervals using the Tabata method. (20seconds on, 10 seconds rest – you can read more about that here)

Last week, my gym buddy and I signed up for a 10k Race on the 14th April 2013. Since the days are now much longer and the weather seems to have brightened slightly, I figured I should probably start training!

I laced up my shoes and headed out the door, fully expecting to struggle my way through 3 miles and come home totally disheartened that I was back to stage one again. You can’t imagine my  shock when I arrived home to discover that I had beaten last years PB. In fact, I hadn’t just beaten it, I had smashed it!

Thinking it too good to be true, I began wondering whether my MapMyRun App had miscalculated. I headed out hesitantly this morning to give it another go. This time I comfortably completed 4 miles in my best ever time!

So I think it’s safe to say, that a combination of strength training and sprint training has greatly improve my running!

Now we get to the important part… what to do with all those extra calories (yes, I love to over-estimate my calorie burn) on a Sunday?! Well, since you ask, a delicious Beef Roast with yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, cabbage, carrots, gravy (and enough horseradish sauce to clear my sinuses for the week!) courtesy of The Man’s parents.

I’m sure you have already guessed that I gleefully indulged in pudding too, and not that it needs an excuse…but it’s just not Sunday without pudding. End of. So what better way to finish to off than with a bowl of homemade apple and berry crumble with ice cream. Yum!