Monday, 28 February 2011

Round up

After the write-off that was January, I have had a much better February. I was aiming for regular gym visits and cycling, and I've been working out 3-4 times a week, on average.

Last week I managed 2 trips to the gym. On Friday I forgot my headphones, and I was really annoyed as it meant I couldn't watch morning tv while training. But I learnt something interesting - while I was on the cross-trainer, I found myself more focused, and soon realised I could go faster than I usually do. I ended up completing 5km in under 23 minutes, when it's normally more like 26-27 minutes. If only I could run it in that time! So in future trips to the gym, I'm going to have to decide whether I want the enjoyment factor of zoning out and watching tv, or slight boredom mixed with better training. Tough choice.

I also had a sneaky run - 10 minutes on the treadmill. It was hard work, and so slow, it made me realise that if/when I get back to running properly, it might take a long time to get back to where I was before the injury. Anyway, my foot felt fine, but I'm not ready to up the miles yet. It's far from recovered, but seeing as it's not improving anyway, I thought I may as well get the benefits of a little run as well.

I only cycled twice last week - one ride of 7 miles and one of 8 miles. Both times I followed a similar route, but there was a huge difference in the weather. The sun has finally reappeared, and it was fantastic to go out in sunshine yesterday. I have missed it so much! In the last couple of days, we have suddenly gone from this:


to this:


What a relief!

So in February I cycled 67 miles in total, and went to the gym 8 times. Not bad considering I had to build up gradually after 'illness-January'. Long may the sunny days, bike rides and fun in the gym continue!

Thursday, 24 February 2011


I have never been a good sleeper. Since I was a teenager, I've suffered from occasional insomnia. I tend to have a few weeks when I sleep ok, and then I'll have nights of lying awake staring into the darkness.

Having children has done nothing to improve this. As babies they were both bad sleepers, and we had some terrible nights of whole family wakefulness which I have luckily blanked from my memory (almost).

One of my problems is that if I wake up in the night, I can never go straight back to sleep. I usually stay awake for about 2 hours before I drop off again, which often seems to mean that as I finally nod happily into slumber, an alarm goes off.

Another problem is that I am a light sleeper, and the slightest noise will wake me up. If Pete is out late, I generally find it's better to wait until he gets home before I go to bed, otherwise I'll just swear at him when he wakes me up. He, of course, is a deep sleeper, so it's always me that gets up with the kids if they are out of bed.

I haven't really found any solutions to this. I only drink 1 coffee a day; only decaff tea after lunch; not much alcohol; fresh air and exercise during the day etc etc... I've read all the enlightening magazine articles on this topic, but to no avail.

So it was no surprise when I went to bed on Monday night with my alarm set for 5.40am, and found I couldn't sleep. Just the thought that I had an early start meant I was anxious and kept waking up thinking it was morning. At about 2am, Emma came in seeking a cuddle. She had one, then went back to bed. Half an hour later she came in again, and I took her back to bed again. True to form, I was just falling asleep 2 hours later, when I heard more little footsteps in the hall. This time it was Robbie going to the loo.

Honestly! Emma doesn't get up more than about once a week, and Robbie rarely gets out of bed before morning, so it was just sod's law that they chose that night to keep me disturbed. Anyway, I did get up, I did go to the gym, I did enjoy it, and I have been tired all week since then. Now I'm off to bed. Zzzzzzzz...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Half Term

With the kids off from school and playgroup last week, I was glad to fit in a few bike rides, although as always, I would have liked to have done a bit more.

Tuesday was an odd day, as Pete had the week off work too, but I had to go to work in the afternoon. It seemed very unfair, but meant that I could go to the gym in the morning while he looked after the kids. I went at about 8am, and did my longest session on the cross trainer yet - 45 minutes. God, it was boring, even while watching tv. I keep getting pins and needles in my toes while I'm on this machine - does anyone else find this? It'a a bit off-putting.

After that I got on the recumbent bike for 15 mins then had a wander round the weight machines. I don't really know what I'm doing with those, so I need to decide some sort of routine. Then I rolled my achey legs on the foam roller just for fun (if pain = fun).

On Wednesday I was busy in the morning, and Pete's parents were due after lunch, so I just put in a quick bike ride at about 8am. I only had time for 30 mins, but I'm finding that going for shorter, faster cycles is reviving my enjoyment a bit - I was getting fed up on a lot of longer rides, especially as they all seem to culminate in long uphills.

Then on Thursday it was time for an appointment with Ms Physio, so I cycled there and back, which was about 6 miles altogether. I had been feeling quite positive about my heel, until Weds evening, when I had a lot of pain, almost enough to make me limp. I think that was caused by a lot of standing, as I spent a long time cooking and cleaning up (see in-laws' visit). It doesn't bode well for the chances of me running any time soon... sigh...

On Friday I didn't manage to fit in any exercise, other than swimming with the kids (in which I probably swam about a length in total), and neither did I do anything on Saturday. Yesterday though, I had a rather nice cycle.

View from the path

I went through my favourite country estate, downhill towards the coast, along to the High Street for 5 miles, then turned tound and went back the same way. This was an oh-so-clever trick to force myself to complete 10 miles without cutting it short.

In fact I really enjoyed it. Despite the grey skies, there was no rain, and the views were quite impressive, if a little bleak!

Deserted beach (although it's not much different in August)

Bets of all, I cycled up the hill at the end - this was the hill that I last cycled up on 31st of January, and had to walk a part of it. That was after flu and a few weeks off from exercise, but I hated not being able to cycle all the way. Yesterday I was back to normal fitness, as I puffed and panted, but didn't get off the saddle. Hooray!

So 21 miles cycled this week - I am increasing the amount each week since I got back into it - and only 1 trip to the gym. It's back to school tomorrow, so I'll be looking forward to a few more opportunities to get out, and hoping that the weather stays dry for a bit, maybe even with some sunshine at last? Please?!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Maps, dibbers and checkpoints

It's half term this week so we've been looking for things to do together, and while browsing local activities, I read about an orienteering day in our town. It was last Saturday in the grounds of a country estate, and suitable for familes as well as serious competitors. As luck would have it, we had a sunny morning for a change, so after Robbie's swimming lesson and lunch, we headed off.

Hopetoun House and gardens

We've never been orienteering before, and I didn't know anything about it, so we were a bit unsure what to expect. When we arrived, there were a lot of cars and a long queue of people collecting maps and 'dibbers'. Apparently the organisers were a bit overwhelmed by the number of people, presumably due to us all being desperate to get out in the first bit of sun we'd seen for months.

We decided to do the shortest and easiest course, whcih was less than 2km long. We were given a map with 10 checkpoints on it, which we had to find in the correct order, and punch the dibber into an electronic device at each one. At the end of the course we would get a printout with our time and position on.

Checking the map

It was so fun. Robbie was in charge of the dibber, and he got really excited about looking for the checkpoints. Every time he saw one he would shout out triumphantly and run off towards it. We kept stopping to check the map, and even a compass, but in fact the course was really a case of following a footpath round the grounds. Next time we would do a longer and slightly more difficult course.

Punching in at a checkpoint

In fact we're thinking of doing another one this weekend - depending on the weather. I've been told about orienteering before as a way of combining running and kids, and although I wasn't running this one of course, I would definitely recommend it as a great way of getting the kids running about in the fresh air.

Naturally the sun didn't last long, and by the time we finished, it had clouded over and was spitting with rain. I have never been more ready for Spring!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Last week round-up

Another good week - hooray! Last week I managed to squeeze 3 visits to the gym and 2 bike rides around my life. Not bad at all.

At the gym I am mainly using the cross trainer and recumbent bike to get my cardio in. Obviously I can't run (otherwise I'd be outside, not at the gym), and the rowing maching is out because Ms Physio wants me to protect my lower back. The recumbent bike is great, as I can lean back on the seat and not put any strain on my back at all, and the cross trainer seems like the best non-impact running substitute. I did try some fast walking on the treadmill, but my foot started hurting so I abandoned that idea.

On Thursday I really outdid myself, and actually went to the gym at 6am. The reason I chose to get inducted at the gym that is not nearest to my house, was because it's the only council gym that opens at 6am. That choice paid off for one morning at least, as I set my alarm for 5.45am, jumped in the car and drove about 7 miles just to get sweaty early. The only drawback was that I didn't get on the equipment until about 6.15am and I only fitted in 35 minutes of actual exercise before I had to get back home before Pete left for work. Next time I need to get there bang on 6 o'clock. I really enjoyed it though, and came home in a great mood feeling very productive. By 4pm, I was sitting at work, gazing into space feeling sleepy, but it was worth it.

On Wednesday and Sunday I managed to cycle in non-rainy weather. It was very windy on Wednesday though - I had the wind behind me on the cycle over the bridge to Fife, then it totally killed me on the way back. It was exhausting, but I do love that bridge route. Just over 9 miles in total.

Forth Road Bridge

On Sunday we had friends coming for lunch, but I was highly organised, for once. I made shortbread and dessert (chocolate brownies) on Saturday, then went for a cycle on Sunday morning. I still only had time for about 30 mins on the bike, but I really enjoyed it. It was the most exhilerating ride I've had for ages - perhaps because it was only 5 1/2 miles. I undid all the good work afterwards though, with a large lunch of roast chicken and roast potatoes followed by very rich chocolate brownie with cream, then tea and shortbread in the afternoon. Again, worth it.

This week is half-term, so there is no school or playgroup to occupy the kids, so we'll see what I can fit in. Pete has some time off, and his parents are coming to visit, so hopefully there will be some extra childcare options!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The bunny within

When I first got pain in my heel (way back in September, yes it's been over 5 months now), I turned to cycling to maintain my fitness. When I found that I didn't have time to do enough cycling to keep as fit as with running, I turned to Jillian and her DVD.

For the moment, Ms Physio has banned me from various exercises which involve twisting my torso or putting strain on my lower back, so much of the DVD is no longer an option. But now I have found something else. I have joined a gym for the first time in my life, and I have turned into a total gym bunny!

The last time I used most of those machines was when I was at school, although I've been to gyms about twice since then to run on a treadmill. Apart from that I was a novice until last week. I always knew I'd like it, but there are so many reasons why I chose running instead; it's free, it's easier to fit around life, you can do it anywhere etc etc, so I've always preferred that.

Last Monday though, as the rain came pouring down and we even had a few minutes of snow, it was lovely to put on a t-shirt and capri shorts, get in the gym and enjoy a workout without getting wet - apart from the sweat of course. The sky is so grey and gloomy these days, there is little pleasure in the great outdoors most of the time, so it's great to have an alternative.

The gym I've been going to is council run, so it's not hideously expensive (although it's not cheap either), and the clientele is not remotely intimidating. It mainly consists of the over-sixties, which is quite inspiring to see, with just the occasional poseur in a marathon t-shirt (I've got the same one at home so there).

I've only been 3 times so far, but I always get really excited about going. The first couple of times I felt really nervous about going through the doors, but I'm trying to act like a veteran gym bunny now. I've even splashed out on some gym gear - a kit bag!

When the weather gets better and whenever I get back to running, I might cut back on it, but I still think the gym will be a good way to complement running and provide a bit of variety. I'll keep hopping off to the gym for a while yet...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A good week!

So after 6 weeks of virtually no exercise, I have finally got back into it! Since Monday I have managed 2 bike rides and 2 visits to the gym, with a little swimming with the kids thrown in for fun.

This was a great week to join the gym, as the weather has been rubbish. From Wednesday onwards we had gales and rain - not a winning combination. So on my free mornings of Weds and Fri, I was delighted to leave the bike in the shed, drive to the gym and work out indoors. On Friday I did 5k on the cross trainer, which felt like an ok substitute for running. The time was fairly similar to what I would run it in too. Then I had a bit of instruction on using the weight machines. It was quite good fun. I left the foam rollers alone this time though.

Yesterday the weather was better - it was still windy, but I believe I actually spotted a ray of sunshine at one point! Robbie is now having swimming lessons on a Saturday morning, so we headed off to the pool. The rest of us swam in the main pool while he had his lesson, and then he joined us afterwards. He's doing really well, I think. He doesn't have much in the way of technique yet (sadly neither do I), but last week he swam 4 lengths! He stopped for a rest in between each one, but still, I couldn't believe it. Soon my 5-year-old will be a better swimmer than me.

This morning the wind had finally died down, but it was pouring with rain. Nevertheless, I wrapped up warm and got my bike out. I really didn't feel like cycling in the rain - for some reason I think it's worse than running in the rain, which I quite like. I just seem to get wetter on the bike. Anyway, I was glad I did of course, and completed nearly 8 miles in 51 mins.

Rainy windy Scotland

Ms Physio has advised me to build my workouts up gradually again, so I'm trying not to leap back into things full throttle. Next week I hope I'll be able to do a bit more - time depending of course... But I'm happy to have had a fairly good start to my own New Year - starting in February!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Back on track

The fulfilment of my exercise goals didn't get off to a great start on Monday morning when I planned to cycle Emma down to playgroup before embarking on a longer bike ride. As I strapped her into her seat on the back, the whole strap fell away from the seat. I had to take our helmets off and shove her in the back of the car instead. However, after driving home, I still had time for a good cycle.

I wanted to do about an hour's cycling, and that's what I did. I went through one of my favourite routes through the local country estate, which finishes with a long winding uphill path. It was fine, but as I got to the final and steepest part of the hill, I emerged from behind a barrier of trees to be attacked by the wind. It really slowed me down, and eventually I had to get off the bike and walk! I've cycled that route many times, and have never had to walk it before! I was horrified!

I don't know whether it was the wind, the recovering from flu, or just the amount of fitness I've lost over the last few weeks off, but I was not amused. In fact I swore at the wind, quite loudly, and about 10 seconds later, someone cycled past me from behind. I had been sure I was alone and unobserved - damn. Anyway, I did 8.5 miles in all.

Then today was my first visit to a local gym It was 'induction', which basically meant I spent half the time filling in a form and not much time actually exercising. Hopefully it will be useful in future though. The trainer I spoke to seemed to know a bit about plantar fasciitis, which was helpful. I did 10 mins on the bike, 10 mins on the cross trainer, 5 mins on the rower and 5 mins on the treadmill - just walking of course.

I've got my next session on Friday, which is going to focus on stretching and strength training. I'll need to check with Ms Physio which exercises she'll ban first though. I'm not supposed to twist in certain positions, and I have a feeling she won't approve of the rowing machine I used today.

At the end of the session today, the trainer showed me how to use the foam rollers. I've read a lot about using them for injury, especially ITB problems, but I'd never used them before. The trainer said it might be painful, but I lay down confidently on one thinking 'I'm use to sport massages, it can't be worse than that'. Then it got to my quads. Agony. I usually get sore quads after cycling, and this found all the sore spots. I had to stop pretty quickly.

I'm not sure if I'll go for those again, but I'm getting back in the fitness groove!