Saturday, 31 January 2015

Half full, or half empty?

Quite a few times recently I have been referred to as a “half full” person and I think that’s something I can take as a complement.   While being optimistic and hopeful, I believe this has some real tangible benefits which might be worth outlining”
I cannot prove this scientifically but I do believe people can make themselves ill by believing they are ill, or perhaps wanting to be ill.  I have seen this amongst some of the people I work with and it’s almost as if some might talk themselves into being ill and are wanting sympathy and understanding from those they meet.  In fact some people can appear to be constantly ill with one thing after another and relentlessly let every one know about it.
Conversely I think people can stay well and healthy by thinking in a healthy train of thought.  Likewise being positive and optimistic might help recovery from some illnesses or (and I cannot speak from any experience here) recover from operations and injuries more quickly.  Arguably some people recovering from serious situations might be more determined to recover and prove everyone wrong through being bloody-minded and utterly determined.
Now I know I have no evidence to back any of this up, apart from my own observations.  If you’re a Doctor or a medical type person, please feel free to correct me!   I am sure I’m being overly simplistic, but I don’t want to be.  Neither do I want to be glib or disrespectful to anyone.
Being a runner
Half empty, half full
Half empty, half full
Life is full of decisions.  A few people may have little choice and are forced into exercising like running through some kind of necessity.  Other people choose to be a cyclist etc for a whole variety of reasons.
Could I argue here that people who choose to be a runner do so through being naturally optimistic and positive in their outlook?  After all, it would be so easy to think of reasons why you shouldn’t run on a particular day.  “Oh it might rain, or be a bit windy” might be heard by some and yet many a runner will totally disregard these things and go ahead anyway, in preference to using another form of transport.
There are times when it has been pouring with rain and I have decided to go for a what-the-hell bike ride or a run, just for the fun of it.  On one level that might sound ridiculous and yet you’ll have to believe me it can be fun, memorable and exhilarating at times.
And then there is the unexpected.  You never quite know who you might meet or get to know.  Even though you might be running over familiar routes there is always the chance of something new and different happening.   Also there is always the option of looking out for a new track or footpath that you’ve never run down before.
Typing this has caused me to remember the time, last summer, when I cycled to work in Stevenage one day.  Now I am fortunate in having many different routes which I can take and there is a network of little country lanes around my part of the Hertfordshire / Bedfordshire border.  I am still getting to know these lanes and on this particular day I deliberately had no map and decided to do some exploring on my way home with some “where does this go?  I wonder what’s along here?  I bet there’s a nice view from the top of that hill”.
Problem solving
Running few bring up few challenges and problems.  Are these obstacles?  Or are these challenges which need to be solved?
This is where running succeeds over cycling.  You don't need to worry about your means of transport, after all modern bicycles are a bit on the fragile side and do need a fair bit of attention.  I ride one bike for 99% of the time and there always seems to be something needing attention.  This is general maintenance rather than dealing with a breakdown and it seems this is far more than with my car.  If I have to do anything with my car in between the 10,000 mile services, that troubles me.  And yet a bicycle in that time would need tyres, brake pads, a chain, cleaning etc etc.   But these are not problems.  Taking care of a bicycle is enjoyable and gives good results.
And as for actually solving problems, this happens in abidance!  I can set off for a run with all kinds of things bugging and troubling me.  And then something magical happens: I work through these issues and things always become clearer and I end up feeling able to solve things.  Also a brilliant way of keeping things in perspective and not allowing things to become bigger than they really are.   
Surely no one disputes the immense benefits from running?
So, are runners and cyclists naturally “half full”?
I am a runner and a cyclist.  I believe I am naturally “half full”, optimistic, sees good in people, likes people, likes new experiences (but not quite everything!).  I’d like to think this is a common trait amongst runners, cyclists (and bloggers!).
Am I right?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Which is harder?

Crikey, I have recently entered the Milton Keynes Marathon, this will be the third time I've done this event.   I didn't do it last year as I concentrated on cycling so I could compete in the Coast to Coast in a Day event.  This was 150 miles on the bike over a very hilly terrain.

So, which do you think ought to be harder?  Running a marathon or cycling 150 miles?

My gut reaction is a simple answer – running a marathon is easier, for me.  And then the more I thought about it afterwards the more complex the comparison seemed.
Firstly, to cycle 150 miles it might be worth considering what is involved.  It took me a little over 13 hours to complete the hilly distance earlier this year and this included four feeding stops (probably about 15-20 minutes at each) and a ferry trip across Lake Windermere.  Compared to the 700 other cyclists this time was slower than average, even when taking my age into account.  Getting ready took several months of training, gradually increasing the distances to the point I was fairly comfortable covering over 100 miles in a day – building up gradually is the key here, with a number of shorter rides in between the longer weekend rides.  The shorter rides are important, either for simply keeping those muscles, ligaments etc in good shape, for getting used to some steep hills or some brisker rides to keep my heart rate up to a higher level for a longer period.
For running a marathon, the format is remarkably similar.  I aim for a long run at the weekend and shorter runs during the week and these involved a few hills (which I absolutely love), some shorter sprints (bringing a dose of the Runner’s High) and simply a few short jogs around my local neighbourhood to stay fairly supple.
In running a marathon, it takes me about four hours, give or take a little, to run the 26.2 miles.  This is running at a steady, constant pace throughout.  There are no stops for feeding or drinking – this is done on the move and “little and often” seems to suit me best.  The only possible reason for stopping briefly is to use a Portaloo or at the direction of a marshall, so really it is non-stop, all the way.
The events – how they might compare
The Coast to Coast in a Day is not a race, although there is a hint of being in competition with each other or, at the very least, in competition with the clock and yourself.  After all everyone is given a timing chip and cyclists are identified as gold, silver or bronze according to their time.  You have a fairly broad window in which to start; if I remember correctly this is over two or three hours.
Running a marathon is completely different.  Everyone is lined up against the starting line waiting for the gun to send everyone off.  We also have timing chips which generally differentiate between the chip time and the gun time, since it can take several minutes to actually get over the start line owing to the 2000 – 3000 other runners.
Coming in towards the finish line is also different.  With the marathon it is a case of one last push in trying to shave off a few seconds and come in with a real rush of the Runner’s High and the need to walk or jog a little to aid recovery.  After a long 150 miles the applause was just the same but the focus is on having completed the gruelling challenge and never mind the time.
The mental challenge
It is easy to chart a physical training programme and record your progress, increasing long ride miles each week or two (20 miles, 30 miles, 80 miles, 95 miles….).  Training ourselves mentally for the challenge is more subtle and less easy to pin down.  It is influenced by personality, natural determination, how easy it is to do physically and a whole range of other factors.  And yet we shouldn’t under estimate what part this has to play in an endurance event.  Being physically fit is essential, yes of course, but I would argue you must be mentally prepared as well.  In preparing mentally for a challenge, it is not simply a case of building up the miles.
Taking part in running a popular marathon you’re surrounded by other runners, pretty much all of the time and the effect is to sweep you along.  I tend to run a little faster in this situation, which I suppose is part of the general idea.  This doesn’t stop the occasional feeling of being low and down, this can happen at various points when it seems a struggle.  Cycle events are at times more solitary with people starting at different stages and the field stretching our more easily.  It could be argued that the mental challenge is the biggest challenge of all; having the grit and determination to keep going when it all seems to be too much; this used to be referred to as “character building” by unhelpful, well-meaning people.  Sometimes the monotony of the cycle training used to get to me, particularly on the same roads, in the same bleak weather, the same irritating rattle all added up to be uninspiring at times.  I used to allow my mind to wander onto other things, quite often cycling-related and tried to be positive and this generally worked.  Nevertheless there were low periods when it seemed sensible to ask “why am I doing this….?”
It was using my bike on the cycle turbo trainer which was arguably the most difficult.  I still do not like it and find it very unmotivating.  I can only see it as a means-to-an-end.  Some people I know rate spinning classes quite highly and enjoy them, so this could be a possibility in the future.
Sometimes thinking of some kind of a reward is motivating. When I used to be out cycling last winter – and not always enjoying it – I used to think of that red hot shower I’d have when I got bcd to warm myself up, or that lovely coffee with a slice of cake containing 1000 calories.  I used to think of losing a little more weight.  When I did the Coast to Coast I “gave myself permission” to go and buy myself a carbon fibre bike afterwards (and I still haven’t got around to this and I doubt if I will).
Sometimes any of us will hit a bit of a wall, when our energy levels seem to drop and legs feel like jelly.  Generally this lasts about 5 – 10 minutes and occurs around 20-30 minutes in if I’m running and a little later if I’m cycling.
It is also a tricky challenge in the training, for either discipline, when you’re out in bad weather slogging away and questioning why you’re doing it – I find this is a healthy question to ask and reflect on.   It was during the Coast to Coast cycle ride that I once hit a low patch, somewhere in the second half when I found myself cycling alone – this was unusual in that event.  I also remember feeling a bit fatigued and had cramp.  That was the lowest point and probably the most testing. It was also a point where I had to stop because I had cramp in my upper right leg which was extraordinarily painful (I still remember that!).  And yet no matter how bad it became, there was no way I was going to give up: I knew I was being tested in a way.
So, which is the most difficult then?
For me, it is cycling 150 miles.  Running a marathon seems “easier” by comparison.  However, that’s just me and thank the Lord we are all different.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Running before breakfast

One of the nice things about being a runner is that I'm often asked for advice, tips and so on from friends, colleagues and occasionally through my blog.  The latest question is about running before breakfast i.e. running on an empty stomach.

My answer
Yes, it's fine to do this and I'm speaking from my own experience only here.  For new runners it makes sense to try by "trial and error" to find what's right for you as an individual.  Personally, I like to run without much in my stomach.

In the summer I like running early in the morning, before breakfast for a number of reasons and I have never had any problems in terms of fuelling myself.  I do, however, normally have a mug of tea before I set off but this is about 10 - 15 minutes before I head out.

Normally my pre-breakfast runs in the summer are between 60 and 90 minutes (i.e. 6 to 10 miles).  It's never hot so I have never needed to take any water with me.

If I run a little later in the morning, say 10 or 11am, well it makes sense to have a smallish breakfast at 8am.  That gives enough time for me to digest the food.   For these breakfasts I would normally have a little muesli, with my usual added mixture of ground flaxseeds, a little oat bran and a piece of fruit.  This is washed down with a small glass of smoothie and a coffee and our usual time reading of a passage from the Bible.

Normally I think we will have sufficient fuel stored in our bodies to go running before breakfast.  When we run initially, we use oxygen in our muscles and carbohydrates to fuel us.  As runs become longer we start to draw on fat reserves in our bodies.  Although there isn't a tap which suddenly gets turned on, we need to be running for a while before much fat is used.  When we start burning much fat depends on the individual and a number of other factors i.e. weight, body composition, fitness levels and so on.

But you can take some fuel, if you want
For longer runs or races i.e. marathons, half marathons, energy gels are a good idea for on-the-go fuel.  Click here for some examples of these which are worth trying - important not to take these for the first time on race day, in case they don't agree with you.

Energy gels are easily carried and use, also quick to digest.

If you are diabetic, or have some other medical condition, only you will know the right approach here.  As I said, all I can do is relay my own experience.

Previous post
I have touched on this subject once or twice before, you might find this helps:

When is the best time to run?

Ever done a Bleep Test?

The Strava view of my Bleep Test
Well I can tell you Thursday night's training was fun, once again courtesy of the seriously serious Reggie and James who work together as excellent coaches.  The first challenge for us was a Bleep Test and we were accordingly split into two teams.  I was in Reggie's Reprobates.

You have two parallel lines, 20 metres apart, with cones etc to mark where they are and a coach is positioned at each line to make sure everyone plays by the rules (as if!).  The idea is that you run back and forth in time with the bleeps which gradually get faster and faster.  It starts off fairly easily so there's little more than a jog needed to cover the 20 metres.  Every few bleeps you hear "Level 2, Level 3" and so on, indicating you're moving up to the next level which is slightly faster than the one before.

James fixed up a ghetto blaster so we could all hear the bleeps and this was all done on a tennis court, as you can see on the above image is from the Strava App.  Mind you, the photo is a little deceiving as it was pretty dark and frosty but you can get the drift of how it has picked me up in running back and forth.

Once you have arrived at the line late three times, you're out and the coaches made sure of this.  For myself this was easy to determine as I seriously over-shot the line on one of the sprints and that then put me way behind, so the next two sprints had me out.  I made Level 8.5 which put me roughly in the middle of the field.  I take my hat off to Charlie who kept going until he'd almost doubled my score (this is a reminder of youth - done so effortlessly, without breaking into a sweat).

I am not sure if it was universally liked by the others, as there was a faint groan when it was suggested it could be repeated NEXT YEAR.  Never mind NEXT YEAR, I'd quite like another go, now I know what's involved and even better would be in daylight so I don't over shoot the line again - I might even make Level 9 (he says optimistically, ahemmmmm).

If you're a runner or vaguely interested in fitness, it is worth doing and I can see these are positive reasons for doing so:

  • Great fun, especially in teams
  • Warm up is built in with a gradual build up, although there's nothing to stop anyone from warming up more fully beforehand
  • A great test of speed, cardiovascular ability and agility
  • It doesn't go on for too long, therefore great to combine it with other forms of exercise or training
  • You have a score which you can remember.  Then next time you'll see the difference
  • It tests outright speed, acceleration and agility in turning around
High recommended!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Raspberry smoothie recipe

Raspberry smoothie

My Mother-in-Law is a bit of a hoarder at times and this applies to her stash of frozen raspberries, as well as 40 year old home made mead in her cellar.   So I'm thankful for a couple of things: firstly that she doesn't read my blog, secondly she's happy for me to work my way through her frozen raspberries.  They are now mainly of 2008 vintage, as the younger ones have now been consumed.
I do like raspberries, one of my favourite fruits and they do remind me of summer so much.   Below I will expand on their health properties along with the other fruit.  Firstly, here's my recipe for one of my favourite smoothies:
4oz Raspberries
1 Pomegranate
Quarter of a pink or red grapefruit
Apple juice and/or water for preferred consistency


Couldn't be easier.  Wash or defrost the raspberries.  I normally check them over as raspberries are a soft and delicate fruit, so avoid any bruised or damaged fruit.  With the pomegranate, cut into quarters and spoon out the pink flesh, discarding the skin as best you can.  Pink or red grapefruit is best and use about one quarter, peeled and cut into small slices.
Put all of the fruit into a glass jug, add some juice or water gradually and then use a sharp hand blender to whizz them all together into a scrummy smoothie.  I don't mind having a slightly thicker, soup-like smoothie but I imagine many prefer a more liquid consistency.

Why this smoothie is so good

Above all else, this is a kind of "cleansing" smoothie and delicious.  This is why:
Rasperries contain Vitamins C and B3, folate, biotin, folate, manganese, citric acis, fibre and some sugars.  Also, according to Eating for Immunity by KirstenHartvig, raspberries activate the body's natural self cleansing ability and improve the health of the skin, hair, sweat glands, nerves, liver, bone marrow and mucous membranes.  Actually their usefulness for the body goes much further and at least this will give you an idea about their precious health-giving qualities.
Grapefruit is a very powerful detoxifying fruit, even on its own and helps to remove harmful microbes and strengthen the immune system.  It also has Vitamins A and C, potassium (helps deal with my frequent cramp) and a number of other nutrients.  Of course, grapefruit is not to everyone's taste; I will have it because I know it's good for me and it's quite nice and refreshing on its own.
Pomegranate is a funny kind of fruit that takes a bit of work to get the edible flesh out.  I think it tastes quite nice, sweet but not overly sweet or sickly.  I always had it in the back of my mind that pomegranate was a protective fruit benefitting the prostate gland.  From this NHS article it appears this might be the case but research is not viewed as conclusive at present.
Water and a dash of apple juice helps make the smoothie the right consistency and sweetens it a little.  I hope you like my raspberry smoothie recipe - let me know!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Run with us - Strava

There's probably a time when all runners need a reminder about how great running is, or perhaps need some inspiration and a nudge to simply get out there and run.

I love this short film by Strava, it's just under two minutes and a wonderful bit of filming in some stunning scenery.  Well worth a look.  I particularly like the opening words of "I like to run by myself, fast and far and free" which brings back a whole load of the memories I have from fantastic runs.

These runs are locked into my memory, nobody can take those away from me and sometimes I will day dream a little and re-live them.  That is such a precious thing and I guess all runners will have memories of their own special runs.

Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Running at Weston-Super-Mare

Weston-Super-Mare, January 2014
You might think running in January at Weston-Super-Mare sounds a bit optimistic.  January and February are normally the worse months of the year for weather and even on "good" days the conditions can be pretty hostile to runners.  Right? No, wrong.

Sure, it can be rough by the coast with Atlantic winds battering anyone brave enough to run along the seafront - but it doesn't have to be like that.  We were in Weston-Super-Mare this last weekend and the weather was perfect and I could squeeze in a couple of runs.  Exactly the same weekend last year in 2014 was also nice, although you can see from the above photograph, the tides were pretty high then.

So what is there at Weston-Super-Mare?
Weston-Super-Mare is in North Somerset and grew into a significant seaside town in the Victorian era.  The main feature is the promenade, a wide pavement which is about two miles long with views across the bay.  The Severn Estuary is famed for having a particularly wide tides - when the sea goes out, it goes a long, long way!  Needless to say the town has been the butt of such jokes for many-a-year and deservedly so.

From the north end of Weston Bay there is Birnbeck Island and the old pier (currently looking very ropey and probably destined to fall into the sea in a rough storm). Marine Lake is a little further south and that's where the proper promenade starts.  The promenade passes the Grand Pier with all of the usual seaside ice cream shops (looking much smarter these days) and then on to the quieter Beach Lawn area to the southern end passing by some smart apartments.  When I say it is looking better, I do mean that although it is fair to say there is some trashy tat still around, especially near the Grand Pier.  

You can go further on along the beach towards the village of Uphill at the mouth of the River Axe.  This is all flat, quite varied and always something different to see.  

All this gives a runner a few miles of flat surfaces, leading to Personal Best (PB) potentials.  If you look carefully, there is a little sign on the sea front wall by the Winter Gardens telling you it is exactly one mile from the Royal (the apartments at the southern end of the promenade) and this is useful for timing a fast one mile sprint.  My PB is 6 mins 24 seconds, I'm no Roger Bannister!

It's not all as flat as a pancake
Most seasoned runners like to take on some hills as part of their training and I too love running up and down hills!  To the north of Weston there are Weston Woods and the sharpest road climb I know is Monks Hill at about 30% incline but there are plenty of others around which will test the fittest of runners.  

Monks Hill is actually from Kewstoke and at the top it's near one of the entrances to the Woods and I also like to cycle up this road from time to time.  Mind you, you need to watch out for cyclists on their BSOs (Bike Shaped Objects) when realising their brakes are inadequate coming down and their legs/lungs are equally inadequate for riding up.  

At the southern end of Weston Bay there is the hill of Uphill (now that sounds a bit odd, I know).  From here there are some fantastic views across the Somerset levels to the south and well worth taking a look on a clear day.

And other runners
As an occasional visiting runner along the seafront, I'm always amazed at the variety of other runners.  Right from those who are taking their first steps (wobbling along slowly, overweight and carrying a water bottle) right up to faster, lean runners.  You get men, women and teenagers.  You get single runners and couples, sometimes small groups.  Sometimes events are staged (5 and 10k races are often popular) which also brings quite a mixture.

The thing about the runners I have come across is that they're a pretty friendly bunch, always exchanging a "hiya" or at the very least a knowing nod.  I have noticed cyclists also seem to respect the runners.

Promenade -v- beach?
These days I normally tend to stick to the promenade: it's fast, wide and flat.  

If the sea is in - and it looks nice - I'll run alongside the very edge of the water, sometimes splashing my way as the small waves run up over the sand.  This is a lovely thing to do, in fact everyone should do it at some point.  I challenge you to resist thinking of the opening scene from Chariots of Fire....

So there ya go
Weston-Super-Mare, often knocked and ridiculed as a holiday destination and all the cheap seaside tat, is actually a nice place for running, in my humble opinion.


Friday, 16 January 2015

Running, the great leveller?

This week I have had two post-work runs, each 5 miles and so a satisfying 10 miles.  A further 2 or 3 miles are also in the bank through running last night around our neighbourhood (this was on account of getting to the Kayak club running far too late, another story!).

Those after work runs are fantastic, although it sometimes takes a bit of effort to change and start off running in Stevenage in the dark.  Sometimes it seems so tempting to simply jump into my car, turn the heater up, windscreen wipers on, radio and lights on to drive home.  And yet, I have NEVER, EVER regretted any of these runs.

The Leveller?

This is the thought that occurred to me as I was running this week.  Running.  It's simply me, my feet and the path ahead, that's all it takes.  It is so simple and yet also marvellously complex with all of those muscles, bones and everything else pulling together.

The fact that it depends on just me is important.  Once you have a pair of running shoes, you don't need anything else (although proper kit does help you stay more comfortable).  Because of it's simplicity, running seems a more honest sport than, as an example, cycling.

With cycling you need a bike and I think this makes quite a difference in performance.  With running all you can buy to make a difference is a different pair of shoes and I doubt that there's much to choose from different shoes in terms of performance through being cheap or expensive.  And then there are the super light wheels, aero dynamic spokes, helmet and so on, all making a slight difference.

None of this really applies to the runner and I believe this is one of the reasons why I like it some much i.e. it's an honest sport and that's the way I like it.  Simple as that.  No gears, no need for super-light this or aerodynamic that.  Just me, my feet and the path ahead.  Beautiful.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Running along the Busway

Take one disused and over grown railway track, add some investment with a lengthy period of planning and construction, the finished result is an efficient guided Busway connecting Luton and Dunstable.

As good as the Busway is, that is not the end of the story.  Running alongside the length of the Busway is a cycle track which is well used by cyclists, dog walkers and runners alike.  When the Busway was first constructed and opened, there was a fair amount of controversy for one reason or another but this has all settled down during the first year or two.

Since the construction of the Busway, an additional path has been constructed connecting Halfmoon Lane with the Busway, which is undoubtedly helpful for local people in that area.  Having run along this, it is well-placed and in-keeping with the sensitivities of the chalky Blows Downs, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Having a traffic-free track which is largely flat is ideal for commuters, recreational and sporty types alike.  At all times in the day, you'll see quite a mixture of local people using the Busway cycle track and it's well used on the whole.  There's quite a bit of variety from the urban area in Luton through to the quieter and more scenic stretch alongside Blows Downs which is on the edge of Dunstable.

While I have used the cycle track for cycling to work many times, I have also come to appreciate it as a runner.  The gritty, gravel surface is ideal as a running surface at any time of year but in the winter it's brilliant - no slippery frozen ice rinks!  In most parts it is wide enough for two runners to be side by side and still get passed by a cyclist.

Strava is a smart phone App which tracks where you've been on a run or a bike ride, some people use it for walking.   You can even set up "segments" which are stretches of road, paths etc with a start and finish and then your time will be logged on these segments.  You can compare your performance with other people who also use Strava and this adds some interest.  I set one of these up a while ago, starting at the Great Northern Road entrance to the Jeans Way entrance which is about 0.6 mile away, as shown on the map below.

Strava screenshot of a "segment" where runners can compare themselves with others

Almost immediately I was out performed by some other local runners until one day in December 2014 when I ran well, thus beating the others and becoming the Course Record holder.  At the time of writing, 22 runners have tried this on 68 occasions.

Cleverly Strava segments don't work for cyclists on the Busway, although it works in every other way.  This is because of an agreement with Strava and local authorities to avoid certain routes becoming a cyclist's race track.  For runners, there's no problem, Strava works just fine.

One of the lovely things about the Busway is seeing it through the different seasons.  In summer there is a blaze of brightly coloured flowers, in autumn the colours are mellow and warm.  Winter can be wonderful with those mists and frosty days leading to the hope of spring.  Each run seems to be different, never the same twice.

The serious bit
The Busway is a significant, far sighted transport corridor connecting Dunstable and Luton together.  It is true to say it was expensive, but surely this must be seen as an investment for the future?  Besides replacing the many bridges along the entire length must have been hugely expensive on their own.

Aside from the buses, the real success must be in the numbers of local people using the cycle track, especially towards Dunstable.  Cyclists, dog walkers, runners etc all benefit from the traffic free route and it's common to see many people out there getting some exercise on the track.  It is so easy to get onto the Cycle track for a run, this is our equivalent to being at the seaside with a promenade.

I find it so encouraging to see other runners using it.  Although we don't necessarily know each other, it's great to know other people are out using it, especially when we can compare segment times with each other!

The public health benefits are undoubtedly there for the taking but it must be difficult to assess the real value in this sense - it contributes to our well being, the place where we can breathe some fresh air and get some exercise.  As the cycle track is a spin-off from the Busway itself, I wonder if this is where the REAL benefit will come in years to come in terms of our health, fitness and general well being?

Related: My other blog contains more cycling-related posts about the Busway, including quite a few comments: please click here.  For all of my other cycle related Busway articles, click here.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Missed that training!

Well.  The plan last Thursday was for Hannah and myself to be in the "outside" group for our training session at the kayaking club (actually this is the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club).  I should say that during the winter months, the midweek training involves running, circuit training and so on as it's not really possible to paddle safely on the water in the dark - paddling takes place at weekends and in daylight.  The winter training programme therefore maintains all-round fitness, which is never a bad thing.

I had left work a little early, got home, collected Hannah, changed into my sporty gear, had a quick snack and then drove over to Linslade.  Turned out we missed Reggie and the group by a minute or so and we chased after the them having been pointed in the right direction.  This turned out to be a bit of a wild goose chase, completely in the wrong direction!  I accordingly gave myself a "talking to" for not knowing my way around better.

Chastised by the coach!
And then yesterday we bumped into the coach.  This being the utterly Sincere, Seriously Serious and Super Stern Reggie who said "Where were you on Thursday? We thought you were training with us".

I explained about missing them by a couple of minutes.

"We were even one minute late leaving the Club House..." he said in his seriously serious way.

All was not lost, Hannah and I did have the wild goose chase run, even catching up another runner in case he too was late in joining the group and would actually have known which way to go.  He actually pointed us in the completely opposite direction, so we stood even less chance of catching the group.  This was a shame as I know Hannah and I would have enjoyed it and the session would have been of benefit.

Back at the Club House
We got back to the Club House where another group was doing some indoor training, using paddling machines.  These give the opportunity for a good work-out and an opportunity for other coaches to examine the padding form more closely.

I also had a go on a rowing machine.  There's no doubt paddling does work many of the different muscle groups: legs, core, chest, shoulders, arms and even hands are all exercised.

"So what's the deal about this group training then?"

There are so many benefits to group training, whether it's for kayaking, or running, or whatever your sport.  It's good and I reckon these are some of the reasons why:
  • I always run faster when I'm with others.  Yes of course this applies when I'm racing but also on the odd occasion when I run with friends who are established runners
  • The miles drift by almost unnoticed
  • You encourage each other i.e. just as you can be encouraged, you may be encouraging others
  • You can become accountable to each other at different levels; you don't let your friends or team mates down 
  • You can bring the best in each other; the camaraderie, the sportsmanship
  • Different people have different strengths with different things (stamina, speed, motivational chit chat, imaginative ways of training and of course, local knowledge of place names, roads etc!) and these can all work together for the greater good
  • You can pick up hints and useful tips
  • You can look out for each other, making sure everyone is okay and respond if someone needs some help (it might, perhaps, be a serious matter one day)
  • Socialising is important and contributes to well-being.  This can be personal well-being through to the well-being of a local community and in my view, this should not be underestimated
  • It's fun
"But I'm a loner!"
For people who run, they will already know it is undoubtedly a great time to be alone with your thoughts.  I do value this.  I have written so many times before about how wonderful this is and how running is a fantastic tool in problem solving, seeing things from a different perspective and generally "mulling" things over.

And yet running with others does have it's place, even for the most dedicated lonesome runner.  None of us should exist without social interaction, it's good for us and others for many different reasons.  Also running, or training more broadly with others, is a good way of gauging where you are - how fast you are, how you shape up compared to others.

Next time.... yes next time we will try to be on time for you Reggie!

Related: other posts about running alone - click here