Living with a marathon runner

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Training. Marathon training to be exact. It’s long, hard and at times lonely when you’re friends don’t run. This isn’t a personal attack, but more of an insight into living with a marathon runner.

To say I NEVER thought I’d still be running almost three years after I decided I wanted to train run a half and full marathon is nothing short of an understatement. The plan was to train, run both … then get on with the rest of my life. I was a sprinter, so even running 200m was a long ting. Why do I want to run twice the distance I was happy with? No, that’s long.

It has been increasingly difficult to negotiate social circles as a result of my continued interest as I’ve become increasingly serious about lacing up my shoes and taking a couple of hours away from everything. It is no longer “just a hobby”, instead taking up a huge part of my life. I run every Sunday, sometimes I run two/three times a week. My Saturday nights are usually spent at home chilling and drinking water for the following morning long run instead of in a bar somewhere. I tried the “drinking the night before and waking up still drunk or hungover” thing and running 15 miles and I did it. Numerous times. Yes, I can do it, but if I want to improve, it’s not advisable. Sweating out the alcohol is cool, drinking double the amount of water you need the morning after to rehydrate to replace the fluids lost from drinking alcohol and have enough to run with when you’re as small as I am isn’t cool at all. And I don’t actually enjoy that all now if I’m honest. Waking up and chanting/meditating with a clear head before I start my day is something I love.

I’ve missed birthdays and other celebrations, or attended for a short time to be met with disdain when I leave early. So I’ve just stopped going. And that’s been difficult. I do like spending time with friends and celebrating with them, I don’t see many people outside my running circles that often, but training for a race that you’re basically running non stop for four hours is life consuming. Especially if you want to do it properly.

A long run on a Sunday is where most of us get the “proper” mileage in and that takes planning: routes that aren’t boring, accounting for tube closures or events if you’re running in central London, something scenic as you run (I mean if you’re running twenty miles, running half of that along stinky dual carriageways aren’t exactly helping the situation, you dig?) Working out all the various gels and drinks to take out with you, do you run with an extra layer around your waist so when you finish you’re warm. Comparing your split times to see whether you’re times are improving week on week.
Even down to trying to get home and cramming things into Sunday evenings when for fear of “not doing much over the weekend” and this is repeated for six months prior with the serious training being at least three months before a race.

It is tough, but it’s something we want to do despite our groaning about it otherwise we wouldn’t do it. This isn’t a justification of missing out, but an explanation that training for these things aren’t as simple as most think. As I’m in the last weeks of training before an important race, my focus as further intensified and it will do so until the start line in San Francisco. I can’t wait until I have two months off to see those I’ve not been able to during training. But I know I will also miss training by the time it’s the second week into that time off, and as soon as January hits I will be back on pounding the pavement again in preparation for London marathon.

It can be hard being the friend, partner or relative of a runner, and we apologise for that. While we don’t expect you to share our abundant enthusiasm for all of the above, we thank you for your patience and once we cross that finish line, we’re all yours. Until the next race. Better still, start running with us.

Angel Dee Review: Integra

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As a former sprinter turned distance runner, I’ve always been taught to look at where injuries are and treat those at the source, so I was very intrigued after reading through Integra’s website and the concept of Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) as it turned what I knew on its head. I headed down to Integra’s space I’m the heart of London’s Brick Lane to meet with the Founder of Integra, Michael Goulden who put me through my paces in what was a very thorough consultation.

MAT is a concept from an American programme and Michael is one of a very few professionals in Europe who hold the qualification of Master Level Specialist in the Muscle Activation Technique. MAT is a biochemically based manual therapy that prepares the body for exercise which ensures the body works more efficiently reducing injury risk and increases recovery time and performance.

Pain in fitness is usually seen as a place to stop and rest, which is fine, but Michael explained that by looking at the muscles and their inhibition when something is wrong (which results in us feeling pain) and looking at that in connection with the Central Nervous System (your brain, powerhouse for the muscular, endocrine, immune and digestion systems), it will point to the imbalances of the joints and muscles usually found elsewhere before working on activating the muscles which have “shut down” causing the inhibition. Pain essentially is a protective mechanism that the brain places on the body to get us to stop. We went through my weekly activity and diary of races coming up as well as lifestyle.
I currently have issues with my left hamstring, so we went through a series of resistance tests to look deeper into the cause. Michael made the point of reminding me to think about why that was; yes, it was due to exercise, but I was to look at why there was pain there in the first place.

Integra’s space is very well laid out and offers a room for examination and an open gym area.

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After a very thorough examination looking at muscle strengths and weaknesses, Michael pointed out my flexibility was very good, considering I run long distances my feet and knees were in a very good place and as an athlete, in fact I had sprinters feet. He noted I should look more at my left hip and part of my glute as that’s where my weaknesses were and not in the hamstring where I feel the tightness. Michael also dispelled the myth about the illustrious IT Band that is the bain of a lot of runners lives. The ITB cannot stretch, so when we feel the pain in that area, it is usually indicative of issues in the muscles usually in the thighs hips or glutes, so foam rolling may not always be the best solution. (At this point, I should add my mind: blown).

This is definitely something I would like to look more into as I continue my Personal Trainer studies, for my personal knowledge about my own body and how it operates as an athlete.

Integra have a “Injury Prevention for Runners” workshop coming up on Saturday 7th September which I would highly recommend for anyone who is a runner or wants to start running. For further information on the workshop click here.

Integra also offer Personal and Group Training. For more information on this and their Muscle Activation Technique consultations, you can find details on Integra’s website.

Angel Dee Review: Gravity Workout

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Last Friday I attended a new class at Gymbox called “Gravity Workout” which was described as ‘body weight training on the frame with the added difficulty of wearing a weighted vest’, and it was just that!

I arrived at the gym nice and early as I was aware of the roadworks in the Farringdon area and descended two floors to the very spacious (read this as ginormous) changing area to lock my stuff away and have a walk around the gym. Going down the dark stairs hearing music pumping from various areas made me feel like I was about to go clubbing which isn’t a bad thing to me at all. The areas are zoned pretty well, with the free weights area looking like Muscle Beach. The boxing ring and punching bags looked awesome, didn’t have time to have a go at the time. I popped my head into the area on my way out and there was a lot going on, vigorous punching with jungle music pumping. Niceness. There is plenty of space to move and a lot of equipment and machines, although the first few trips be prepared to get a little lost as the gym is deceptively large.

Our class was in Area 1 which resembled a scene from Mad Max, I was half expecting someone to shout out ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ as I looked down into the area from one of the free weight areas above. It could look intimidating to the untrained eye, but I think my heart skipped a beat when I walked up the stairs into the area and saw all the bars, medicine balls, boxing pillars and mats. George our trainer threw down the vests from one of the other zones upstairs and when I saw the size of them, I realised this wasn’t going to be an easy class at all. After an introduction we got straight into a warm up incorporating sprint drills and quickly into the main aspect of the class.

We were paired up with one partner in a vest and one without. I went first donning a vest and was paired up with George (of course I was!) and only being 5’2 the vest came up pretty big on me. George gave me a 10kg vest (the vests came in 10or 12kg weights). We went through three sets of five disciplines . Each set consisted of:

Vest
Squats
Slow Mountain Climbers
Static holds on pull-up bar
Lunges
Hip thrust Bridges

No Vest
Jumping Squats
Push-up with extended arm after each rep
Sprint on the spot
Jumping lunges
Opposite arm to leg sit-ups

The first set was for a minute, the second for 45 seconds and the last for 30 seconds before swapping over the vest to your partner and George made sure the recovery between sets were short and sharp. Needless to say I was glad I wore the vest first because but the time I was on the last of the static hold on the pull-up bars I was questioning my reason for being there! But George’s enthusiasm definitely rubbed off onto the group, despite it being hard work the majority of the group were still smiling by the time we finished the session with sprint drills. The 40 minutes went by really fast and my only gripe was not being warned about the holds, it definitely does require gloves or chalk – I had both in my gym bag, the last set was a mess with sweaty hands. George was to me a very good trainer, encouraging without being patronising or pushy.
I would definitely do this again (maybe not after a hardcore session the night before like I did), and I definitely would stretch in the sauna afterward again to help with muscle soreness as my arms are a mess now as I’m typing.

Thank you to George for a dope class and to everyone at Gymbox, Farringdon.

For more information on the Gravity workout, have a click here.

My top 5 workout tunes

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Music plays a huge part of a workout for me. It sets the pace for that days’ sweat fest and can make the difference between a good or a kick ass session. You find your tunes, press play and all of a sudden your making all kinds of gains and setting records.
So what are my go to songs when I need a boost? I’ve listed five below:

1. “Firestarter” by Prodigy
2. “Robot Romance” by Justin Martin
3. “Superthug” by N.O.R.E.
4. “Super Sharp Shooter” by Ganja Kru
5.”Dipset (Santana’s Town) by Juelz Santana

What are your go to tracks when you need to amp up the intensity? If you don’t have any at the moment, get on it and get your playlist sorted! It makes the world of difference, trust me.

Mysogyny in Fitness

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This post has been a long time coming; I’ve been so disgusted with the way social media has been a platform for people to be very mean to others, particularly on their appearance. I’ve waited a while to write though as I didn’t want my anger to allow the piece to become a rant, so apologies to those who have been waiting to read my thoughts. In a short space of time there seemed to be so much going on where women were getting attacked on blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and it became too much. Unfortunately I haven’t really calmed down as it seems there is something else that crops up daily that reinforces my angst in how women are constantly attacked.

I follow a fair amount of fitness people and with my aspiration to enter a fitness competition which has been put back until next year due to my operation these include women that lift weights. It isn’t for everyone I get that, but the really nasty comments I witness all the time about more muscular women are totally unnecessary and are very toxic. So working out “too much” is a no no, apparently … Women are suddenly unattractive when they become stronger, many of those making such comments don’t seem to even run for a bus. Hmm.

Then we have those imbecilic folk that post photos of those that don’t work out at all or are clinically obese making vile comments. One person who does this regularly even defended his position by saying ‘they’ve eaten themselves to that place’ and pointed out the fact that he also posts “inspiring” photos as if that cancels it out before declaring ‘no fks are given’. Many of those photos are women who have clearly injected their breasts and bottoms with silicon and then claim to have squatted their way to fitness. Very fitting from someone that decided they would change their appearance having no sympathy/regard/empathy for those that haven’t gotten to his stage yet. While this is one example, there are many other douchebags that constantly post photos of obese folk and use it as a licence to be nasty. A classic example I personally came across was by a male Personal Trainer who claims to be for the people trashing anyone that didn’t agree with his ethos and described people who went out drinking at the weekend as “tramps” with his own hashtag on Twitter/Instagram no less. Needless to say, I’ve removed myself from that negativity as trying to reason with him fell on deaf and ignorant ears.Then we have another type of trolling that I honestly will never EVER understand. Especially from fellow women. Attacking pregnant women.

I don’t follow many celebrities, but it was difficult to miss all the backlash that went with Kim Kardashian’s (bad) choices in maternity wear and more specifically to her size.
Yes, her clothing has been quite bad considering she is supposed to have stylists around her, and she does insist in wearing clothes and shoes that are far from flattering, but the attacks on her size while she’s pregnant are in my opinion extremely horrible. Before the rise of the “celebrity” culture, women were allowed to look however they wanted. But not now. If you walk into a shop and browse the magazines, there are TONS of front covers with people who have lost their baby weight in six weeks, not to mention the myriad of regimes/programmes helping you “fight the flab” and similar nonsense as if mothers don’t enough on their hands with a baby to look after, they now have to get some start jumps in while expressing Junior’s next feed whilst vacuuming as he sleeps. Where is the time to rest after such a very physical and emotional experience? Just pop out the baby and keep it moving, yeah?

Women are already at a loss where fitness is concerned as we are targeted with fluffy pink dumb bells weighing less than our handbags, being bombarded with images of the perfect body (but only if you’re White, I won’t touch on the very alarming lack of Black faces/images used as inspiration as we clearly don’t work out or anything *side eye*) and patronised by pretty much every angle without this nonsense. Women sweating is a HUGE no-no. We “glisten”. It’s about time we took a stand. Lifting isn’t going to “make you huge” as we simply do not have enough testosterone in our bodies, AND it does the world of good for metabolism. If Zumba is your thing as you like dancing, go for it!! If you prefer kickboxing, do your thing. if you prefer yoga, I’m down with that. My abs have made a come back as a result of that post op. Find what makes you tick and do YOU.

We need to stop listening to men who have no idea whatsoever about women’s bodies telling us how we should look/feel. We also need to stop competing against each other and become more encouraging instead of tearing each other down. We also and most importantly need to realise that whatever way we decide to train as long as it is done properly is the right way if it makes us feel great.

“Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

Yogis vs Meatheads

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During my recovery I have been trying to stay active, I’ve never not kept fit and despite being limited to no weight bearing exercise, I wasn’t going to let that stop me exercising at all.

I have dabbled with yoga over the years and mainly utilised it to stay supple and aid in core strength, but have since relied on it a lot to aid in my comeback. So when I mentioned it to someone who is what you’d call a typical meathead guy that spends hours in the gym pumping iron and he scoffed that I “needed to work harder than that to get back to where I was before my operation”, I was a little (read that as a lot) offended.

I love bodyweight exercise as it means I’m not a slave to a monthly subscription, I can work it around the diary; as a parent that’s quite important, but on the other hand I do love a barbell squat and will be returning to the gym to take on a challenge I’ve set myself which you’ll find out about soon.

I do find that yoga is looked upon as not being ‘hardcore’ enough by a lot of people as the movements aren’t explosive/dynamic enough. I will tell you from first hand experience that this isn’t the case. In fact slow, controlled movements such as a slow mountain climbers (not the yoga term, but I’m not trying to be overly technical here) are far more beneficial than 100 sit-ups. Fact. Spending three minutes in a half split like I did yesterday afternoon during my Vinyasa Flow class was as painful as I’ve felt squatting deep with 80kg on my shoulders. Headstands aren’t to be sniffed at, either. The photo above is cool, no? You should see the outtake photos …

I totally understand that not everyone will enjoy every fitness discipline, but lets be clear here. Whilst it may not give you quick results like say dead lifting 100kg, yoga can build a strong body. Putting my bodyweight training aside, I know I could plank the heck out of the meathead friend based on the fact that yoga helped me get there, and I challenged him to a plank off.

Sadly he declined to take me up on the offer …

Why I’m standing on my head

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You may have seen me tweet or post Instagram photos as I work on getting my headstand game up recently and thought I was crazy, or wondered why I was going back to my roots of performing these in the playground.

As you may or may not know, I had a major setback with my fitness and am still in recovery mode at present. I’m not able to train and whilst I’m now able to run, I have lost my running mojo which hasn’t been helped by my knee. So while pottering around, I saw a yogi posting some really cool forearm poses and decided I would work on getting to that stage again by first working on my balance while toning my arms, shoulders, back and lightly on my core. Balance is to me very important in general as it means body and mind work better together.

After a few days into what is going to a month long challenge, I decided to research the benefits of headstands when practiced properly. I discovered the following:

1. It is very good for the digestive system, the pituitary gland which is important in creating energy is stimulated whilst chilling upside down.

2. The lymphatic system is improved; lymph fluid is a major player in building the immune system.

3. Helps your brain! With the blood flowing towards the brain easier, it gives it stimulation when endorphins are released, enhances concentration as well reduce anxiety and stress.

4. Boosts cardiovascular and lung function.

5. Improves strength in the neck, shoulders, back and core region of the body.

I’m seven days in and I have to say it has been quite fun. When my mum isn’t shouting “boo!” Or “she fell over,” I am seeing improvements already. Will be nice to see how far I get by day thirty.

** update** to make sure you’re doing it correctly, best you give this link the once over

#AbsLikeAngel – Week Two

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Well hello there!!

I have been more than chuffed with the great response from you all with this challenge, thank you all so much.

Am working on the video, due to some difficulties the vid won’t be available until next week, so I have listed a workout below and I will grab a willing victim tomorrow while I’m with my running crew for some photos to assist your workout and will edit this page accordingly.

Any questions, please ask!! Twitter/Instagram: @Angel_Deelight or drop the questions in the comments at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to do the Week One workout you can find it by clicking here. Love and Light. Angel xx

Superman Planks

Like the photo above, smiles are optional. Get into plank position (as always adopt good position with straight back and core engaged.) Lift left arm and right leg, extend and hold position ensuring arm and leg are straight in line with torso. Slowly return to plank and swap sides. Repeat for a minute, rest and do two more minute sets with thirty second recovery in between.

Sit-ups

Adopting good posture and using a chair to hold feet if necessary take your time and get as many sit-ups in within a minute. Core engaged and smile on face.

Side planks

Resting on forearm keeping body straight with core engaged, hold. Switch sides after thirty seconds.

Plank Rows

In plank position lift one arm and raise to chest and hold for a second whilst keeping back straight and engaging core. Swap sides and repeat for a minute.

Alternate Froggers

Adopting the plank position, bring right leg to the outside if the right hand. Bring back to plank position and repeat on the left. Three one minute sets with thirty second recovery in between. Maintain good posture throughout.

Sit-ups

Get as many as you can in a minute. Take care of your back and engaging your core whilst remembering to breathe.

Mountain Climbers

I know how much you loved these last week, as a reward you can go a little faster, but remember good form on these. Get into plank position and slowly bring knee to chest, repeat on other side. This is one repetition. Repeat for one minute.

Abdominal Hold

With your back straight and your abs engaged, hold in the position for a minute. Rest for thirty seconds and do this twice.

#AbsLikeAngel – Week One

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Greetings challengers, I hope you’re raring to go?

Please remember to stretch before and after your workout as well as hydrating. Both very important for your body and overall fitness.

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Abdominal Hold

With your back straight and your abs engaged, hold in the position for a minute. Rest for thirty seconds and do this three times in total.

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Plank

Keeping a straight line from head to toe, rest on your forearms and hold for one minute. Rest for thirty seconds and get three sets in.

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Slow Mountain Climbers

Get into plank position and slowly bring knee to chest, repeat on other side. This is one repetition. Repeat for one minute.

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Russian Twists

Getting into the abdominal hold position, take right hand across your body concentrating on keeping back straight and core engaged, repeat with left arm. This is one repetition. Repeat for one minute.

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Plank Rows

In plank position lift one arm and raise to chest and hold for a second whilst keeping back straight and engaging core. Swap sides and repeat for a minute.

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Sit-ups

Get as many as you can in a minute. Take care of your back and engaging your core whilst remembering to breathe.

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Side Plank

Resting on forearm keeping body straight with core engaged, hold. Switch sides after thirty seconds.

Now get tagging and posting #AbsLikeAngel !!

Twitter/Instagram: @Angel_Deelight

#AbsLikeAngel

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The time has finally come for the “Abs Like Angel” challenge to begin.

There will be workout set for you to do and a new workout will be posted weekly. Ideally try to do this twice a day if you’re able, but once a day as a minimum and add it to your current workout (where applicable.)

As always it is recommended that you consult your physician if you have any concerns and modify your workout if need be.

The “Abs Like Angel” tab will magically appear tomorrow and that’s the best place to post questions as well as under each workout post every week.

There will be a prize awarded to the individual that makes a significant effort. In order to be eligible you will need to tag your photos, blog posts, tweets etc with the hashtag #AbsLikeAngel. Take a simple self shot before you start the challenge and one at the end of February so you have an idea of your progress as well as something for me to judge alongside your online presence throughout the month. Terms and conditions will be on the tab on Monday.

Most of all, enjoy yourselves!!