Category Archives: gym

Run, run (and reflections)

Goodbye gym, it was fun while it lasted

I ran on Friday – not necessary as one of the challenges I set for this year has already gone by the wayside (and the other will), but I’m sure it’s going to be important to stay as fit and active as possible.

I did my usual 10.2km route (a little over 6.3 miles) at just under 6 minutes a km in cool and breezy conditions.

The fact that some old bloke in Oxfordshire, England went for a run has always been (rightly) irrelevant to the world at the best of times but I think I’m going to carry on doing it, and recording it, for the sake of a bit of normality (for me at least).

We had the weekend up in London checking the flat. We managed to meet one of our sons and I had a really good walk with him along the Thames Path – but we were very surprised at the number of people out and walked back by various back streets to practice better social distancing.

The number of people out helped me decide that I was not going to run the route on the Sunday – in fact, the social distancing advice became firmer overnight so we left the flat and came back to Oxfordshire. I did a run in the afternoon – the same 10+km as Friday but faster, to my surprise.

That made it one session on the turbo, one in the gym and three runs (for a total of just over 16 miles – 28km) in the week.

That was supposed to be the first of the 16 week training plan for the ultra in July. Oh well.

The gym is now shut too. Having been there on Thursday, it actually felt very safe – almost empty and very good for sprays and wipes for the machines. However, I appreciate that these things need to be bans for all or none – there isn’t any scope for arguing a case for an individual gym (!) so, sadly, it has gone for the time being.

If you like irony, on the day all the gyms were told to shut, I got a letter from mine telling me they were increasing the monthly fee.

One trivial thing is that I am reminded how much I love sport. I don’t see loads of it live on TV (I object to satellite stations pricing the terrestrial ones out of so many of the markets so won’t subscribe), but I have the BBC sports page open throughout the day and follow football, rugby and cricket (and many others) on the internet. Now the BBC sports page changes very little, and even then usually for updates that are gloomy, pointless or trivial (or all three). The fact that I miss it is a very small matter – but just one of the things that emphasises the absence of much normality.

Although I am not going to live in a hut in the woods and go off grid, all this makes me wonder whether society (western, first world, society at least) has got too complicated and wasteful (and perhaps indulgent). As a very simple example, I saw the CEO of a supermarket chain saying they had cut the number of product lines they carried to ensure good supplies of essentials. He said that they had carried 60 types of sausage.

Just for fun I also went on a well-known UK sports website. I tapped in ‘mens running shoes’ and it came up with just over 1,600 options (and that just includes model of shoe, nothing about different sizes).

At a supermarket this week, next to empty shelves where the pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, (yes, and toilet rolls) should have been, they had fresh pineapples. It struck me as a telling juxtaposition. I’m not anti-pineapple (I like them a lot) but I seem to remember the excitement, when I was a boy, when the shops got in the new seasonal fruit and vegetables. Now we are horrified if we don’t have kiwi fruit and bananas in December.

I don’t have a rose tinted view of the past and I’m not anti-progress either but we are very wasteful with the built-in obsolescence and non-repairability of much of what we buy and the ridiculous lack of any standardisation in so many areas – I wonder how many different types of car headlamp bulb there are.

I’m not linking the current circumstances to consumerism, or progress (or government covert science experimentation, or the roll out of 5G, etc) but perhaps we will start to value what we have, above what we want but don’t need?

Of course, I know it’s horribly complicated and our money helps the third world farmers, etc – I don’t have a solution and nor am I bright enough to understand the whole problem, I expect.

I will now shut my laptop, put my mobile phone in my pocket and drive my car to the supermarket to get some floor cleaner. I fear I’m a hypocrite – but perhaps I might not be beyond making some modest, sensible, changes.

Keep calm and hoard toilet paper … but community spirit thrives. (Turbo, gym)

I took my life in my hands on Tuesday and drove to our nearest large town to do some shopping. It was like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie – I found it reassuring that nothing had changed.

Only joking Swindon, you know I love you.

With just the two of us, and with both of us retired, we tend to eat fresh food, with several trips to the shops a week to buy it. That’s probably not the right shopping model now. I managed to get some stuff that we needed – but the shelves were notably depleted.

I hope someone is going to do a study of what keeps selling out fastest and what people are thinking when they panic-buy (here it includes toilet rolls, sanitiser, antiseptics, paracetamol, bread, dried pasta and pasta sauces – noticeably, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of panic-buying of fruit and vegetables). Madness. The shortages that the hoarders and panic-buyers are frightened of, wouldn’t happen but for the actions of the hoarders and panic-buyers.

With one of the key national strategies to fighting the virus being to travel less, I suppose the usual panic-buying of fuel may not happen. I am much against any panic-buying and wouldn’t stockpile fuel but I will try to keep the cars’ fuel tanks topped up for the next few months.

I must admit I’ve wondered whether it would be better to get a dose of Covid19 now, before the medical services get overwhelmed. Although old, I’m several years short of 70 and am in good health so, if I’m going to get it (and assuming I could guarantee a mild dose and subsequent immunity) I wonder if it would be better to get it over and done with? Academic only – I’m not going out looking for it.

Interestingly, I neither know anyone who has it – nor am I aware of knowing anyone who knows anyone who has it. It must be a bit like the ‘phoney war’ when very little happened in the way of hostilities for several months after the declaration of war in 1939. Somehow it makes it even spookier.

On balance, we seem to be in decent shape so far, on a parochial basis. I have two elderly chickens that I thought had been pensioned off from egg laying duties some months ago – but one at least has started laying again. I’ve not told them about the current situation as I don’t want to worry them about their prospects of ending in a pot if food gets scarce.

More seriously, it’s been great to see the village rallying round to make sure the elderly and infirm get the support they need. We have dozens of volunteers on the list and a ‘buddy’ system (with reserve buddies) assigned to particular folks likely to be in need of help. Heart warming to see community spirit in action.

Tuesday, 45 minutes on the turbo. I wasn’t sure about using the gym but it remains open so I went on Thursday after gardening on Wednesday. There were never more than two others while I was there and I wasn’t within 10 feet (about 3 metres) of anyone else. I’d promised my wife that I would not go in if there were many people in it.

Hand sanitiser was readily available and people were good at wiping the equipment down (but nobody was using the same machines as I was anyway). If they advise not using gyms, of course I’ll follow the advice.

The White Horse Challenge sportive has, of course, been called off. Not surprising as it was scheduled for late April. The ultra marathon in July is ‘under review’, according to the website. Although my annual trip out to the alps is self-organised, I’m wondering what travel restrictions will still be in place in mid July.

I’m not sure what this year’s sporting challenges will look like – but perhaps we all have a big enough, and much more important, challenge at the moment. From a personal point of view, I remain less worried about getting the virus (not famous last words, I hope) and more concerned about the elderly and the sick, the health and support services, power supplies and food supply chains.

As of Thursday there were 34 confirmed cases in Oxfordshire (22 cases 4 days ago, and 25 only yesterday) and 3 in Swindon (2 cases 4 days ago).

Stay safe.

Run, mow, the Von Trapp family and ‘to train or not to train’ is that the question?

I woke on Monday morning, not feeling any less healthy than when I’d gone to bed on Sunday night – so I went for a run with my wife in the weak March sunshine. The usual 3.9 miles (just over 6km).

I don’t remember the last time the lawns were actually dry but on Monday they were just about in a state to let me undertake one of the great annual events – the first mow of the season.

Of course, it’s not a quick or easy event but, after charging the battery, pumping two tyres and a trip to fill petrol cans, in the twinkling of three hours I was ready to go.

The start of the mowing season means the renewal of hostilities with the willow tree. On Monday it twice thought it had swept the ear defenders off my head but I caught them on both occasions so that doesn’t count. 1-0 to me, I think and a happy hour or two spent self-isolating on the mower.

With the Corona virus the garden might look very good this year – if gardening is the only thing I’m able to … alternatively it may look terrible if we are all confined within our own four walls for the next few months.

It’s disappointing (but not surprising) that the virus is already party-political. I hold no particular brief for our Prime Minister but I recognise that I don’t know what is the best thing to do – and nor do I expect him to know.

He is, at least, following the advice of the experts who have the key roles (and I’ve not heard it suggested that they are political appointees, or are under political pressure to come up with any particular advice) so I’m not sure I can expect much more of him at the moment. I hope the experts are as good as we need them to be.

No doubt, with hindsight, we will all be experts.

On that topic, I read that the Austrians have banned gatherings of more than 5 people. I assume that either doesn’t apply to domestic matters – or that the Von Trapps were the last Austrian family with more than 3 children.

The French have just closed all their ski resorts. I spoke to a friend out in Les Carroz, where we skied in January. He confirmed the inevitable – the snow and weather are now the best they have been all season.

At the moment there is no news on either the sportive due to be held in late April, or the ultra marathon in early July. Do I train as if both are going to go ahead or do I ease off to make sure I don’t weaken my immune defence system by training too hard?

Both events involve a decent number of contestants (about 600 for the sportive and 2000+ for the ultra?) but with both the people are spread across many miles of road/Ridgeway for most of the time. However, the starts and finishes and food stops will cause bigger groups – and will there be spare medics to make the events safe? Maybe that’s the key point – do we want stretched medical staff to be pulled away from the front line fight against the virus?

If the UK moves to cancel large gatherings in the fairly near future I guess the sportive will be off – but the ultra might be late enough to survive the cull? Hard to say but at my cycling club we are going to discuss whether we should cancel our own (smaller – about 200 riders) sportive scheduled for later in July.

One thing I think I can be sure of is that I’ll be in a worse state if I don’t train and the races are on, compared to training and then finding they are cancelled.

Looks like it’s carry on training for now, without going too mad with it. Of course, if we go the way of Spanish restrictions, it will not even be possible to go for a training run. I’m wondering whether it’s wise to give the gym a miss for a while.

So far in the UK we are just at the ‘stop non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel’ stage. Pubs, clubs, restaurants etc have not been shut but the advice is to avoid them. There’s a danger we are being treated as adults – will we live up to the challenge that poses?

‘Corona virus lockdown – lite’.

Virus locally

On Monday the news showed 24 cases of the virus in Oxfordshire (up two from Saturday) and 2 in the nearest large town, Swindon (unchanged).

No Madrid, no sport – but an unexpected run (all put into a proper context by the pandemic)

If there was one (very small) bonus from our failure to fly to Madrid on Friday (the 13th, appropriately) it was that I had an extra weekend to do some exercise – if that was indeed a bonus.

The take-away fish and chips on Friday night was good, and all the better for being washed down by a bottle of champagne, but I’d have preferred to be in Madrid eating tapas.

I was in two minds about whether it would have been better to have been on a flight an hour earlier on Friday, so we would be in Madrid now. However, it is now very clear that being here at home is much better, given the huge jump in Spanish cases of infection – especially in Madrid – and the closure of most attractions, restaurants and shops in the city and the significant restrictions on the movement of individuals within the country. Getting back might also have been an issue.

Saturday afternoon, having run down food stocks ahead of the planned trip, I went to the supermarket. I felt a little left out as I wasn’t panic buying – are people concerned that they will be house-bound or concerned that deliveries to supermarkets will be affected?

After that, feeling rather bereft of sport with just about nothing significant to follow almost anywhere in the world, I did the only sensible thing and went for a run.

I was half expecting to see television cameras broadcasting my run as a highlight of the BBC’s sports coverage for the day, but none appeared. Shame – I think I was probably in the top 20 sporting events taking place in the UK on Saturday (nearly).

I did the 16.8km (10.5mile) route I did 11 days ago – but this time with regular faster bursts between telegraph poles, road signs, trees, etc. True, an observer might not have known when I was on a faster burst, but I knew.

It seems to have worked – I ran 20 seconds per km faster than last week. Reasonably consistent too – every km between 5:50 and 6:19.

That suggests to me that my ‘recovery’ speed between bursts can’t have been much different from my normal run pace. In turn, that might indicate that when I think I’m running at a good solid, constant pace, I’m really not working as hard as I think I am.

Of course, all the training for the ultra in July might be in vain if it gets cancelled. Our younger son is running a half marathon Sunday (but it’s now much more surprising to find an event still going ahead than one that has been cancelled or postponed). I’m expecting ever-increasing measures to restrict anything that would result in a significant group of people getting together.

I had intended to run on Sunday but I could feel the previous day’s run in my legs so I stayed in on a cold and windy day and did various exercises, including the plank routine, press-ups, sit-ups, lunges and some work with my weights.

In the evening some excellent friends took pity on us for missing out on Madrid and invited us over for supper. How kind of them.

Not an ordinary week by any measure. Two turbo sessions, one in the gym, one ride outside and one run. All put into context by the world situation with the coronavirus.

Stay safe out there.

Well done British Airways

A word of praise for British Airways. Although the passengers (two other couples were in exactly the same situation as us) at the gate got the change in Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice on travel before the gate staff, they reacted quickly and got our bag off the plane.

(Odd how I was travelling with one 7kg bag to go on the plane with me and my wife had a 16.5kg hold suitcase … and my bag included a full set of running kit in case I could get out into the Retiro park on Sunday morning).

By the time we had got back to the departure lounge we’d had a text message from BA offering us cancellation of the trip and a full refund. They got us back through airport security and reunited us with our case. While our failure to fly wasn’t our fault, it wasn’t theirs either – so well done BA. Much easier than an insurance claim.

Virus in the area

As of Saturday there were 22 virus cases in Oxfordshire (population about 690,000) and 2 in Swindon (our nearest sizeable town – over 220,000 people).

24 cases too many, of course.

Turbo and not Madrid (but so very, very nearly)

After turbo and gym sessions to start the week, the much needed variety of the ride outside on Wednesday has revitalised my training and even (slightly) changed my view of the turbo trainer.

I’d got very bored with the turbo and having enjoyed my ride outside, logic might suggest that should have made it even harder to get back on it. However, it didn’t seem to work that way and I got back on the turbo on Thursday and even managed to summon the enthusiasm for some intervals to lighten what had become a bit of a one-paced slog.

I did 45 minutes for 22.32km @29.8kph (13.9 miles @ 18.5mph). The intervals even helped with the total distance. (Note to self: keep cycling on the proper road bike – its carbon fibre saddle requires a certain amount of hardening of the backside.)

The rest of the day was full of domestic chores preparing for a long weekend in Madrid. It had been a slightly nervous wait with the developing Coronavirus pandemic but we’d signed up for alerts to Government advice. We checked the governmental website on Friday morning and left for the airport.

Perhaps we should have cancelled?

I’m not fully aligned with the ‘flu is worse and we don’t get all excited about that’ brigade because the new virus still has some unknowns and no vaccine as yet, but nor do I want to overreact.

On the other hand, I’m not one to take silly risks (except when it comes to sporting challenges). On balance, as we are both fit and healthy (and my wife a few years younger than me) we decided to go and enjoy a slightly warmer climate and different culture for a few days.

To be honest we were less concerned about catching the virus than we were about being caught up, quarantined in a hotel for 14 days. After all, we could just as easily catch the virus the UK and we had insurance.

The drive to Heathrow was good, we parked, dropped off the bag and sailed through security. In the departure lounge I again checked the government website and nothing had changed so off we went to departure gate 48.

The moment we arrived at the departure gate, the news broke that the UK government had changed its advice on travelling to Spain – the new advice was not to travel to parts of Spain (including Madrid) unless the travel was essential.

Travel against government advice would have invalidated our travel insurance – exactly when we might have needed it most – so we did not board the plane.

Airports are funny places once you don’t fit the normal process. Our bag was taken off the plane but we had to be escorted back into the arrivals part of the airport in order to leave.

We were told that Heathrow limits such movements to 6 passengers per hour – what on earth would happen if a big Boeing failed to leave and deposited 500 passengers into the same boat? Presumably, Tom Hanks takes them through ‘The Terminal’ process.

As it was, we waited an hour to get into the next group of 6 to be escorted through a few checkpoints to the arrivals areas, and then had to wait while the suitcase was brought back to the baggage reclaim area.

We left the house just before 9am and we got back at about 5pm, having been nowhere but Heathrow airport.

As it is, we are in two minds – if the news had broken just minutes later, we’d have been on the plane and committed to going. We might have had a great trip.

On the other hand, we hear that much of Madrid is shut – particularly the galleries, museums and many shops and restaurants. Equally, we might have been been more likely to get the virus or to be caught in a quarantined hotel for two weeks.

On balance, probably best not to have gone. We celebrated by having a take-away (my first and probably one of six in the year) and a bottle of champagne.

Disappointing and frustrating for us, but not a patch on the disappointment of anyone who has trained for things like the London Marathon, and even less comparable to the suffering of those caught up in the worst areas and those who have the disease or those with loved ones who have died from it.

My thoughts are with you all.

Stay safe, people.

Turbo, gym, cycle OUTSIDE (who’d have thought it possible?)

On Monday I could feel the previous day’s 22km run in my legs but nothing was particularly painful (and even the knee didn’t hurt any more than normal so I’ll take that as a bit of a win).

The weather remains pretty poor so it was on the turbo in the early evening but I’m getting very bored of it.

There is a perfectly harmless game show on weekdays for 45 minutes, starting at 17.15. If I cycle for the duration of the show I get a decent, distracted, 45 minute ride. If I want to go longer I have to start before the programme starts – if I start cycling when the programme starts I struggle to carry on after it finishes. Subconsciously, I must associate the end of the programme with the end of the turbo session.

On Monday the trick worked – early start and then 1 hour for 27.56km (17.2miles).

On Tuesday the ‘finger socks’ arrived. I know that the ‘go to’ brand is injinji – but they seem really expensive so I disguised my inherent meanness as mere caution in case I didn’t like them and went for something cheap from the internet. Apart from putting them on being every bit as difficult as getting a small child into a pair of gloves, I think they are really good. I’ll try them on a run later in the week.

Tuesday also saw me at the gym for an hour.

I know I’m probably doing too much training (13 days out of 14 now) but I can see the end of the week being bad and the flip side of the excitement at taking on challenges is the fear that I won’t complete them.

It’s fear that I’ll fall ill or get injured and won’t be able to train, or fear that my knee won’t let me run more than three times a week so I won’t be able to do the ultra marathon training properly.

Yes, I appreciate that excess training is likely to bring on the injuries or illnesses I’m concerned about – but my lucid moments only last a short while and I tend to forget that insight.

I fought back by deciding not to do the turbo session I’d planned on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday a few strange things were going on – it wasn’t raining, it wasn’t freezing, the wind dropped below 20mph and I went for a ride outside. My first since October!

I was fairly sensible apart from when I found myself at the bottom of the Uffington White Horse Hill and could not resist riding up it (about 1km at 9%) and on a wind-assisted stretch with 6.2km at over 40kph (nearly 4 miles at 25mph). In all, 42.8km in 1h 44minutes with 490m of ascent (26.6 miles and 1600 feet).

It was really enjoyable – I think the riding outside idea could catch on.

Gym, run, torn toenails, turbo, run, gym, turbo, run (a decent week … apart from the toenails)

Saturday and Sunday had seen my first runs on consecutive days for a long time. My knee wasn’t entirely happy with that so, rather than push my luck with another run, I went to the gym on Monday morning.

I had a good 50 minutes but it was noticeably hard – all thoughts of making Monday the week’s double exercise day were abandoned. I am concerned about these occasional outbreaks of common sense.

Tuesday was fairly cold and blowy but dry. It didn’t look like the rest of the week was going to be much better so I went for a run anyway. Again pushing the distance a bit – 16.85km (about 10.5 miles) at about 6:20 per km (a bit outside 10 minute miles). Not fast but a pretty consistent pace and it’s about distance not speed.

It was a decent run apart from the fact that, inside the first 3 miles, one toenail started attacking its neighbour and I finished with two torn nails and two bloodied toes. One of the toes has previous convictions and I’m thinking of trying a pair of ‘finger’ socks to stop the fighting.

OK, it’s not the most severe injury I’ve heard of recently (and I sympathise with those who have suffered worse) but it is closer to home.

Turbo for 45 minutes, 21.95 km (13.6miles) on Wednesday – shorter because of the longer run on Tuesday.

Thursday morning was cold and wet but we’d agreed to run and did our usual 6.24km (3.9miles). It was probably a good thing that I’d committed to run with my wife as, alone, I’d have found an excuse not to.

We had an excellent evening with friends over for supper but, with an effort, I managed to get myself to the gym on Friday morning for an hour’s weights. That went OK but I added the 5 minute planks routine on at the end and found it really hard.

I was feeling very jaded after 10 successive days with some form of exercise but I pushed myself to make it a double exercise day and got on the turbo in the evening (45 minutes for 21.7km – 13.5miles). That made it 12 sessions in those 10 days.

At least that was in the knowledge that a rest day loomed as we were having one of my goddaughters and her family over for Saturday lunch. I was ready for the rest on Saturday and had an exceptionally good day, before rounding off the week with another run on Sunday.

It started mild and windy, rained a little at the 3 mile mark, rained heavily and holizontally at the 6 mile mark but finished dry.

Again, I pushed the distance a bit – 22.11km (13.75miles). Yet again, not fast but consistent – no km faster than 6m 10s and only one of the 22 outside 6 minutes odd (and that was 7m 02 sec).

In all, three runs and over 28 miles, two gym sessions and twice on the turbo. That’s me done for the week – shattered.

Turbo x2, run x3 (one snow, one hailstones, one weak sunshine), gym. A very good week (it’s not all about training)

The Thames, with Hammersmith Bridge on the right. A bit sunnier this morning – lots of rowing activity as the Boat Race approaches at the end of the month

Following two rest days I was back on the turbo on Wednesday, pushing the session out beyond what I’ve been doing recently – 1h 15min for 34.45km @27.6kph (21.4 miles @17.1mph).

That’s part of my plan to increase the length and intensity of the training – but I wish I knew how the turbo equates to cycling on the road.

Of course, there are no uphills or headwinds on the turbo – but equally, there are no downhills or tailwinds. Also there are no junctions or red lights which might provide a short break – one appropriate word for the turbo is ‘relentless’.

More importantly, in the absence of things like power meters, it is hard to gauge the strength of the resistance the turbo provides.

By feel, my turbo offers a good deal more than the normal resistance of cycling on a flat road. That’s backed up by the fact that I’ve not got into any of the bike’s three top gears with this turbo trainer. Cycling in a lower gear but still managing somewhere in the range 17-19mph (27.5-30kph) suggests that I’m working significantly harder than I would be out on the road. The turbo has no adjustment but seems to be set to replicate rolling resistance, the resistance of the air, plus a constant upslope of perhaps 2%?

I wonder if that’s true – or whether I’m deluding myself.

We woke to a dusting of snow on Thursday but we’d planned to go for a run and, slightly reluctantly, kept to that for a gentle 6.2km (just under 4 miles). It was surprisingly enjoyable, proving (yet again) that the hardest part of most runs is getting out of the door.

I decided to make Thursday ‘double up’ day for the exercise so I got on the turbo later for 45 minutes: 21.75km @ 28kph (13.5miles @ 17.4mph).

Gym on Friday morning and then a leisurely day doing domestic stuff before we drove to London. Our older son and his girlfriend are on holiday in South Africa so on Saturday we went to check on his flat, to provide some rations for when they get back and to explore the area. It’s proved to be a great choice for them – walkable to both of their offices in the east of the city – a ‘young professionals’, up and coming area rich in ‘artisan’ type businesses – bread shops, gin distilleries, food outlets and a great weekly market.

We had a very enjoyable morning doing the Spa Terminus and the Maltby Street Market and then back to our place.

Frustrated at missing out on my favourite seaside run on Monday because of the weather in Bournemouth, I was determined to have the pleasure of running along the Thames since I was up in London.

Although the weather wasn’t looking too good, later in the afternoon I ran to Hammersmith, over the bridge, down the Thames Path on the west side of the river, across Putney Bridge, up the Thames Path on the other side and back via Hammersmith and Baron’s Court. A bit over 10.85km (6.75miles) at 4 hour marathon pace.

It was terrific – although I could have done without the rain (which turned to hailstones just after Putney Bridge). The roar as I passed Craven Cottage Football Ground was particularly encouraging but I admit that could have been for the match (Fulham v Preston North End – final score 2-0 to Fulham) and not for me.

My knee hurt that night and I couldn’t get it comfortable in bed for quite a while. Despite that, early on Sunday morning my wife and I went for another (shorter and more gentle) run down the Thames Path – 6.4km (4 miles) in a cold breeze but weak sunshine.

Brunch with our younger son and back to Oxfordshire.

Not the heaviest week for training but really enjoyable, and I know which is more important.

Little and often – or fewer, bigger chunks?

On Sunday my wife went up to London for a couple of days, and after my run I went down to Bournemouth. I sorted out a few bits on Monday and thought about a run along the promenade.

If I’m down in Bournemouth, I love to run along the sea front but this time it looked like a run would be foolish for at least three reasons:

  • first, because it would be the 9th day in a row with exercise
  • second, my knee was complaining a bit after Sunday’s run
  • third, the weather was a little ‘frisky’, with rain lashing down and 60 mph gale force winds.

The English Channel is aptly named in the way it funnels the wind along the coastline. Once I followed someone riding a bike into a strong headwind along the promenade, until he gave up pedalling, got off the bike and pushed it.

This time I decided that discretion was the better part of valour (doublespeak for ‘I wimped out’) and the running kit stayed in the bag. Getting back to Oxfordshire I resisted the temptation to do a session on the turbo – a real rest day! I won’t deny the feeling that I should have done something, but I’ll get used to it …

… and I did. I took Tuesday off too.

That brings me to the question posed in the title: would I be better off doing, for example

  • 6 days of exercise with medium length runs (c 6-8 miles) and 45-60 minutes on the turbo, or
  • 4 days with longer runs (9-12 miles) and turbo sessions of over an hour, with more rest days
  • days with multiple short sessions?

As a simplistic example, if I wanted to run for 6 hours a week, would it be best to run for three 20 minutes sessions on 6 days, or six one hour runs across 6 days, or four 90 minute runs across 4 days?

As always, I expect the answer starts ‘It depends …’.

Several short sessions in a day, compared to the same time spent in one session

I can see that several shorter sessions in a day might keep the heart rate up for longer, and I understand why some people would be able to fit them into a working day more easily – and even find it easier to get motivated for a short session. Personally, being retired, the time is less of an issue and I think I might struggle with several short sessions (to say nothing of the washing of smelly kit).

One shorter session on more days a week, versus fewer longer sessions with more rest days

With the importance of rest days, I guess fewer, longer sessions might be better? Also, that feels like a better use of time (change, warm up and stretch afterwards just once for a 2 hour session instead of twice for two one hour sessions?) …. but are longer sessions likely to be riskier from an injury perspective?

I have no idea as to the correct answer but I keep reading that training for the ultra needs time on your feet, running when already jaded and ever longer runs to help replicate the race day itself. Feels like fewer, longer sessions are what I’ll try in the next few weeks.

I expect that all approaches are reasonable if not taken to the extremes – I once ran a marathon with a chap who decided that running one half marathon each week would be good training. It didn’t end well …

Gym, turbo, run – it’s OK, but is it enough?

By last Thursday evening, I’d had 7 exercise sessions in 7 days (and a 7 hour drive on the one rest day), so on Friday morning I did the sensible stupid thing and went to the gym.

I know about the benefits (indeed, the necessity) of rest but it is easy to feel that you need to make up for lost time – and I’m feeling that after Christmas, the knee ligament sprain and skiing. The best thing about the early morning gym visit was that the absence of any other exercise on Friday made it almost feel like a day off.

Of course, knowing that I should be taking rest days is not the same as actually taking them. Instead, I followed normal procedure and did an hour on the turbo, in a pool of sweat, for 28.44km (17.7miles) on Saturday afternoon watching more of the 6 Nations rugby. Good to see Rome bathed in sunshine as Oxfordshire was grey and battered by high winds.

Sunday continued with the wet and high winds theme of the last three weeks but I wanted to get in a third run in the (Monday to Sunday) week. I waited for the wind to drop below 40 mph and for the rain to stop and headed out for the same run as Wednesday, 13.4km (a little over 8.3 miles). Still running slowly – but faster than Wednesday.

I sometimes wonder if the first mile of a run will ever get any easier. It takes that long for my breathing and pulse to settle into a more comfortable rhythm. I’m sure it would be easier if all runs from the house didn’t immediately go up a small hill. Equally, it would help if I warmed up properly but I always have the foolish feeling that, with only a finite amount of energy to play with, I don’t want to use any of it before the run.

That leaves the week with 4 turbo sessions (90km – 56 miles), 3 runs (nearly 33km – over 20 miles) and 50 minutes in the gym lifting heavy bits of metal.

Despite all the recent activity, I’m not sure I’m in great shape for the forthcoming challenges:

  • The sportive towards the back end of April is about 150km with quite a bit of climbing – but I’ve not been out on the bike since the Lake District in October
  • The 16 week training plan for July’s 50km ultra starts in a couple of weeks but I doubt I’ll be up to the first week’s 31 miles by then.

Hmm. Realistically, the short term aim will have to be 3 runs a week, aiming for over 20 miles in total – and getting on the bike twice a week for a couple of hours in total (if indoors) or 4 hours (if the wind and rain are kind and let me outdoors). In addition, I’ll try a visit to the gym – and get back to running to it.

Importantly, I’ll try to remember that nobody is paying me to do any of this – it’s my choice and I’m supposed to be enjoying it.

More good news on Friday was that I’d recommended that two of the children we’d been working with on the balance bikes on Wednesday, should be tried on bikes with pedals on Thursday. Both cycled unassisted – bravo to them.