The Week in Review

So, this has been my first full week as a sports blogger and it has largely been good fun. I hope that I can keep it up. I have mostly discussed my activities rather than equipment, food or some other aspect of fitness and the outdoors. Right now I am mostly enjoying being able to consistently do the sports I love. The last ten years have mostly been devoted to the hard work of raising young children, but now that my youngest has reached the age of five (this seems to be the cut off point from absolute dependency and them being able to function for at least an hour or so without harassing their parents) I have more free time to devote to myself. Well, some free time at all actually. Kids are time consuming and demanding little creatures but thankfully they do gain their own space over the years. I do miss the littlest years when they slept all the time, allowing me to bung them in a papoose and go hiking, but at the same time there is a lot to be said for simply having the time and space to be oneself. You have no idea how much you will miss that until it is thrust upon you.

Roundup

This week was all about getting my running chops back. I have covered 26.82 miles over four runs, which is not exactly a stellar amount but I reiterate that I am only just getting back into this and it is winter which limits opportunity somewhat. I am currently using the school run as a serious window for exercise. I walk the kids two miles to school (purely to tire them out)and then run home. I take the scenic route and have stretched the distance from 3.2 miles initially up to 5+ miles. Very often if I have an errand to do I will combine it into the run. I have no doubt that wandering into the bank in running gear raises an eyebrow or two, but who cares? I certainly don’t. I only cycled one way to university this week due to me having an absolutely paint stripping headache during the day. It would have been dangerous to cycle home so I took the train, which turned out to be wise as I was very unwell when I arrived back. All in all a good week, with a learning curve in there about resting between hard runs/rides (this caused my headache). I hope to push through the 30 mile barrier when running this week. As summer comes I will also throw some long bike rides in there too.

Recommended Listening

I am a machine for devouring music, films, TV shows, podcasts and audiobooks so I am going to post my listening for the week – all of which was consumed during exercise, but not whilst cycling of course. Note that video I just listen to rather than watch.

Music: Dream Theater, The Astonishing

Podcasts: Real Time with Bill Maher, BBC Any Questions

Video: BBC Question Time

See you on the road.

Frozen Roads: Not My Friend

This week’s big weekend run was cut short, rather irritatingly, due to frozen roads. This cost me roughly four miles so it was still a substantial run and easily the longest of my week. I was annoyed at having to reduce my mileage but the map for my weekend run should illustrate that the main hill, Crown Point in Burnley is a pretty remote, intense climb and it is also a place where idiots like to drive their cars at unbelievable speeds. There is no street lighting, no police presence and it is an open country road operating under the UK national speed limit (60 MPH). In short, a frozen road added to those complications is asking for trouble and as such it is a death trap. Cutting my run short was the only sensible option. Had I known that it would be so cold I would have rearranged the run to do 11-12 miles over a different route, but we all would do things differently with 20/20 hindsight I am sure.

Map

Layering

The temperature last night I estimate to have been around -3 so it was very cold. I have spent time in the Arctic Circle at -37 so that is a little perspective for you there, however for running this is serious injury territory if one simply trots off out in a pair of shorts and a jacket. I have been studying the art of layering and this is something that is very important to a distance runner (a term I was surprised to learn means anyone who regularly runs over 3 miles – that does not seem too much to me). To be succinct; cold muscles get damaged very easily and so last night I had only one option: Spandex.

Okay, I am joking. I didn’t don Spandex last night, however decades of cycling in all manner of weather conditions has taught me a lot about how to manage the human body in extreme environments. I am sure it will surprise nobody to learn that the most important principle of keeping warm and injury free is to wear many thin layers rather than woolly clothes or what have you. The top half of the body is relatively simple to do. Wear a base layer, then a running top, then another if you can, then a windproof jacket. That is simple enough. The challenge here is to close off any holes where air can enter and for that I recommend one of the best inventions ever: a snood. Not just any old snood mind, I wear a children’s snood because they are tight and can be pulled up over the face and they will not slide down. This combined with my hat can reduce my exposed face to a slit for my eyes. When I run I wear on-ear headphones for music or podcasts so they clamp the hat onto my head. There isn’t a herd of wild horses that could get through my warmth armour on the top half of my body.

The bottom half is more interesting, and here one must be prepared to look like a bit of a prat. Layered legs have to be aerodynamic which means skin-tight (and I do mean TIGHT) clothing. I have previously cycled and run in subzero temperatures wearing shorts and whilst I never suffered serious injury, in retrospect I have to admit that this was stupid. It no doubt contributed to a good few niggling pains and stretched recovery times. Neither are painful in extremis but they are annoying and can be chronic. So, the solution? One of the best inventions EVER. Layer one for the legs must be compression tights. They cling to and squeeze the muscle, keeping blood flow at the surface and therefore muscles stay warm. Over that I wear my cycling long johns which are essentially running trousers with saddle padding in the crotch. I must get around to getting a pair without the pads. They are the same thing but the padding can be annoying and feels like a nappy, which is not ideal. I stress here that the worst thing to wear would be tracksuit bottoms. They flap in the air and reduce your speed. You will waste a great deal of energy and your running rhythm will be completely out of sync. Yes, you will look ridiculous in tight running trousers but you will be safer, less injury prone and they feel great. Forget form, this is all about function. Tracksuit pants are for recovery or, if racing, arriving and leaving.

Today is my rest day. Tomorrow is my 43(ish) mile round trip to university on the bike so I’ll be posting that tomorrow evening.

First Walk of the Year: Worden Park

I have been a hiker and walker for decades. I spent many a day in the Brecon Beacons or the Lake District, with highlights such as climbing Scafell, Snowdon and the lesser know Cader Idris in Wales. As a man with three children under nine years of age my hiking options are restricted so this year I have set myself the target of taking the children on the walks that Lancashire County Council has posted online (PDF maps provided for free there) before 2016 is over. They are all gentle rambles rather than challenging climbs as you might expect. Today we completed the Worden Park walk, although we had to shorten it by a mile to accommodate a grumpy five year old.

Map

This was a surprisingly pretty walk given the location in Leyland, so I took some photographs too.

Worden Park

Worden Park

Worden Park

Worden Park

Worden Park

Thoughts

This is a gentle starter walk which is ideal for young children and plenty of space for dogs to roam free (and children too for that matter). It is not at all taxing and most of the walk is well sheltered as it takes the walker through a forest. It is a very busy area, even in January so in summer expect crowds. It is a park but the walk takes place in the extended woodland surrounding the area so you will be out of the way of those playing football or whatever.

Not a bad start to the year and hopefully the first step to completing all of the leisure walks on the Visit Lancashire website.

Daily Run: Five Miles Broken

This week I broke five miles on my regular run. I currently run five times a week and cycle one day a week, although the cycling will increase as the weather improves. I cycle to university which is a total of forty four miles for the round trip. I could easily cycle that far every day but right now my schedule lends itself well to running. I have also noticed that running seems to be by far the most effective activity that I have tried in terms of fat loss.

The Map

I am starting to enjoy running for its own sake. This time I listened to BBC Question Time. I like that as it saves me the bother of spending an hour of my relaxing time watching it. This run was performed partly in absolutely torrential rain and this is very good for training in terms of stamina and endurance. Anyone who has lived in the north of England will be accustomed to the rage one feels when it rains all day and then, when one arrives home, out comes the sunshine.

Scheduling Plans

Last weekend I did my first run over ten miles since I broke my ankle and I intend to make this a theme. I cycle on Mondays, run through the rest of the week with a ten miles or greater run on Saturdays. On Sundays I rest. Last week I made the mistake of doing my big run on the Sunday and then cycling on the Monday. This gave me a crippling headache afterwards, likely the result of poorly balanced electrolytes.

I’ll do a few more posts over the coming days. One about diet and nutrition and one about apps and hardware.

Running and Beginnings

So, this is my blog about fitness and the outdoors. I hope you like it. This is my first post so I will explain myself shall I? I am a father of four looking to keep fit through cycling, running, hiking and swimming (and whatever else turns up) and I want to do as many outdoor activities as possible with my children.

Tonight I logged my first run over ten miles in distance since I badly broke my ankle a few years ago. I have cycled miles and miles since then but I find running the most challenging of all the sports I do. I am not up a fast runner, but I want to write about it nonetheless, The route is below. The injury to my ankle was the third serious injury I sustained in a four year timeframe which scuppered the ambitions I had at that time to complete an Iron Man triathlon. This upset me greatly, not only because of the lost fitness (I had trained hard to that point) but also because I was at university at the time and so I had a window of free time when I left that I had allocated to complete an Iron Man, and with this injury and others it passed and I lost a great deal of momentum. I would still like to do it but now my priorities are different. I have young children that I would like to be fit, healthy and outdoorsy so I am starting to break them in to the world I enjoy so much this year.

I sue Runtastic for iPhone to track runs. I originally used Endomondo but it one day decided to stop pushing my workouts to My Fitness Pal and when I contacted them they really did not care at all, so I switched. As a paid user I found that immensely disappointing but there we are. I do not have an Apple Watch yet but I would like to get one since I am not overly keen on wearing my iPhone in an armband.

This particular run is a really hard slog on the outward portion of the journey (around seven miles or so) as it is an extensive climb with a total elevation gain of 1079 feet. This involves two very steep climbs, the toughest part being a section running over a local area known as Crown Point. This location has the dubious association with the practice of dogging – at least that seems to be the prevailing local urban legend anyhow. I have never seen any funny business taking place but there are always a few parked cars dotted about here and there which leads me to suspect that it is more of a lovers lane and that the rest is more to do with mischievous gossip than any real life shenanigans.

This was also my first run with my new Nike Air running shoes and I cannot stress too much the importance of good quality shoes. I have learnt this first hand, having suffered from intermittent metatarsalgia for as long as I have been running. I changed from my cheap shoes to these and the difference is remarkable. I no longer get injured, and whilst many might think this is a coincidence I know better. I run using on-ear headphones and with my old shoes I was plagued by the moving parts of the headphones clicking and clacking all the time. This no longer happens since I got cushioned shows, thus proving that vibrations and impacts are indeed being absorbed by my shoes. This not only stops injuries but also the clicking, something that was driving me insane. Whilst I am obviously running in the dark right now the advantage of running in the Lancashire countryside is that it is beautiful. This is pleasurable and very good for one’s mental health.

My running ability is, by any measure, rated at best as fair to middling. I am a much better cyclist and swimmer but I do enjoy running because it gives me time to catch upon podcasts and audiobooks whilst in a pleasant setting with a good measure of personal privacy, This sort of thing is imperative as a parent because the demands of young children are extremely pressing and relentless. Personal time is very important and running and cycling grant me that in beautiful spaces. I do not listen to headphones whilst cycling for safety reasons, and also because it is important to hear nature. I confess that running is a hard slog whereas cycling is joyous for me. If I could only do one sport for the rest of my life it would be cycling. There is no contest. That is why, when running I listen to media. It is such a hard slog that motivation is challenging for me. Audiobooks and podcasts give me the distraction I need to do it.

That is just about all I have to say for my first post. See you all next time.