Monthly Archives: December 2012

Oregon Circuits (or The last time training almost made me vomit)

I have been wallowing WALLOWING, in injury and self pity. This blog is meant to be about running and although injury is unfortunately part of that journey I wanted to remember some happy running memories. I am aware that the title includes the word vomit and that the word happy shouldn’t necessarily sit alongside that but bear with me.

The other evening I was chatting to a patient about training and ways to improve strength, speed and endurance in a short space of time. My patient was talking about different types of circuits and interval training and I was trying to remember sessions that I had done to share with him. We were talking about fartleks and 800m reps when I recalled the Oregon Circuit session. Oregon Circuits you ask? Imagine having trained so hard that your legs feel like they might fall off. Your jaw is aching from the way you gritted your teeth, you have a headache from the mental effort and you feel nauseous and on the point of hurling. I know what I describe sounds horrible but this training session blew me away and made me think ‘Hell yeah, that will definitely make me a better runner’.

So what is an Oregon Circuit? The Oxford University Cross Country club have a word document  on it with the words ‘Be afraid, be very afraid’ next to it. The Run Britain site has great advice if you want to try Oregon Circuits. Apparently they are named after the University in the US where they were invented (makes sense). Basically it is a session where you combine fast running with various circuit exercises and drills e.g. press ups, burpees, squats. I think the length of the run can be anything you want but the session I did went something like this:

A 400m run followed by about 10 circuit exercises, such as 20 burpees, 20 press ups, 30 squats, 40 squat thrusts and so on. Repeat this pattern 4 times. Rest for 10 minutes and then repeat 3 more times.

I’m not lying when I tell you I did feel like I was going to be ill during the 400m reps, after the 400m reps, during some of the exercises and for a little while afterwards.

The first time I did this session I was quite conservative with my 400m reps as I wasn’t sure how I would handle it and my aim was to finish the session. It’s always the unknown that makes me nervous with these things so second time round I felt more mentally prepared and my 400m rep times were much faster. I think I managed a 71s rep at one point. I haven’t been able to run that quickly over 400m for years!

The hugely experienced coach I have trained with recommends Oregon Circuits for improving your overall fitness in a short space of time. Plus the literature I’ve read points to Oregon Circuits as being a great way to build speed endurance and on improving your general conditioning. You don’t need any equipment for this session so you could literally go to your local park and use a football or rugby pitch as your fast run and select the circuit exercises to focus on the areas you want to work i.e. a mixture of core and legs or just legs.

So that’s the session that almost made me ill, known more readily as Oregon Circuits. Give them a go because doing these was the last time this injured runner felt amazing and like she was getting somewhere (goes back to grumbling about being injured).

Here’s a video I found online of a group doing a variation of Oregon Circuits:

Toddlers are bad for running health! Fact!

Well I am a runner who’s not doing a great deal of running.

In the last few weeks my calf had vastly improved and I was really starting to up my mileage. I had managed a couple of 50 minute runs. Not on consecutive days as I would have liked, but I was getting there. I was even getting the bounce back in my step. The air was cold, it was wet, I had a new gorgeous purple Nike running jacket and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

My calf was pain free and I felt like my fitness was returning. The plan was to get my running up to an hour or just over and then head back to winter training at the track. Like I say, that was the plan.

About ten days ago I picked up an over tired toddler from his playgroup. In my innate wisdom *cough*  I decided it would be a good idea to walk him to the shops to buy some treats. I wanted to have a nice  stroll there and back but my 2 and a half year old had other ideas. Over tired toddler became grumpy, lazy toddler having a tantrum.

‘Lift me, lift me’

‘No’

‘Pwease Mammy, lift me, up, up’

The walk to the shops usually takes me 20 minutes there and back. We were nearly an hour into the ‘stroll’ and I just wanted to get home. So I succumbed to toddler pleas  tantrums. I took the daft decision to lift him and my bag of shopping at the same time. I leaned over and scooped him up in one arm. He went all floppy and became a dead weight. I felt a small twinge in my small back and , unsurprising really, put him down. Like a mean mother I made him walk the rest of the way while feeding him strawberries to give him motivation.

Over the next few days my back niggled but I put it to the back of my mind. By the weekend I thought it was ok and headed out for a run. Because obviously running makes all niggles go away, everyone knows that *ahem*. This run was ‘kill or cure’. I managed to run for over 8 miles with only a slight calf niggle and nothing, NOTHING, in my back. I felt great. The best I had felt for two months. I was positive and excited about getting back into things.

Yeah right. My 8 mile ‘kill or cure’ run ended up being of the ‘kill’ variety. Seems I’m just not on the running luck list right now. For the rest of the weekend my back and right buttock became more and more painful. Not just an ache but a sharp, searing pain with an occasional pull in my leg. I couldn’t sit or stand. The only way I could get comfortable was to lie on my stomach. It was aggravated even more by a round trip I had to make to London, a 2 and a half hour drive each way. Just brilliant.

I tried stretching. Made it worse. I tried some of my own self physio tricks, Made it worse. I have been waking at 4am in pain for nearly a week now. There’s only so long you can lie there before you just think ‘sod this’ and get up. I have a hot water bottle attached to my back and I’m popping painkillers like they’re sweeties.

Oh. Dear.

Winter training is running away from me and I feel quite gutted. There’s not a lot I can do about it other than wait and rest. I wouldn’t mind if I’d actually done this running but to do it lifting one of my children makes me feel a bit silly. I’m a mixture of frustrated and cross with myself. Yet again my running trainers are sat there going unused because right now I’m a runner who can’t run.

I feel bereft. Lost. Pissed off. Knackered. Grumpy. And I have learnt a lesson the hard way: always take the stroller because toddlers can be bad for your running health.

Running Highs and Running Lows: 2012 edition!

This year has been a bit up and down both for my family and for my running. In my profession we always talk about reflecting on our actions and what has happened. Reflection is a useful tool so I thought I’d reflect back on my running journey in 2012.

Running Highs

Edinburgh Marathon 2012

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I had always said I would run a marathon but had never actually got round to it. When the rejection  magazine came through again from the London Marathon my husband put me on the spot and asked why it had to be London? Truth is it didn’t have to be. So I looked for another Spring race and Edinburgh became ‘the One’.

Training for the Edinburgh Marathon was an incredible experiences  It challenged me not just physically but mentally. Marathon training takes you to some dark places. You have moments of self doubt and fear but also excitement and anticipation of getting to the start line. I think if you train for a marathon you can discover that you are stronger than you think you are. Once I crossed that line the elation was immense and I now know that I can tough it out when things get hard. For a first marathon I can’t recommend Edinburgh enough. Thanks to one of my favourite places I can always call myself a marathon runner.

The Track

2012 saw me gather up the courage to return to go to an athletics club and join a training group. The last time I did this was in my early twenties. In my thirties and two children later I wasn’t sure if I should but the marathon had given me such a boost I thought ‘Hell why not?’.

I love training back on the track. I love wearing spikes again. I love the interval training and I relish the burning and the feeling of nausea because that’s when you know you’ve trained hard. I may never be a champion of anything but hopefully next year I can run for the club at some local meetings.

Dragon CrossFit

I discovered Dragon CrossFit via my husband who had worked alongside Andy, coach and owner, at a local rugby club. I was hugely sceptical at first because I had never heard of it and, as a runner, have a long standing dislike of being in gyms. What I discovered was an amazing fitness community full of fantastic people.

I truly believe that the strength and conditioning I gained from training here helped me stay injury free for my marathon. I’ve also learnt a huge amount and gained some new skills. I can proudly say that I can snatch, power clean and dead lift. I never thought little old me would be doing anything like that. I could watch the Weight Lifting at the Olympics and really appreciate what they were doing. I’ve also met some brilliant people at the classes and I am missing it so much while I’m waiting for the latest injury to settle down!

The London Olympics

Ok, I know I didn’t run in them and I know it’s odd to include them in my own running highs but hear me out.

When I was twelve I watched Sally Gunnell win gold in Barcelona. I was a young athlete and Olympics Champion was the ultimate title for any track and field athlete. When I watched the Olympics I knew that one day I wanted to be in the stadium watching.

Fast forward to 2012 in London and we were there! I spent a whole day inside the Olympic Stadium watching heats and finals. I saw Mo Farah in his 5000m semi final and Usain Bolt in his 200m semi. I also watched some nail biting women’s finals in the 400m hurdles and the 200m. I have never been in a stadium where the crowd was so loud and the atmosphere so electric. As an amateur runner and lover of athletics, watching the elite at the Olympics was literally a dream come true.

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Sharing running with my children.

Thanks to running my two boys have an understanding of what it means to exercise. My eldest asks to come with me and my youngest at not even 3 runs to fetch my trainers when he sees me in my running gear. They may hate running when they’re older but a running high for me is that they see me trying to be healthy. Hopefully they will take my habits on board, whatever the sport or activity may be.

The Gear

I’m a lady. I like shopping. I like clothes. And I love buying running gear. There has been some great running gear out this year. I have plundered my bank account and caused my running gear drawer to over flow with running goodies. Ahead of the game still, I feel, is Nike. Their range for women tends to extend beyond bright luminous pink, something that other brands (hint hint Ron Hill) could learn from. I am currently loving my Nike purple waterproof running jacket. There’s something about new running gear that makes your following run feel a little bit better.

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Running Lows

Brighton Half Marathon

I didn’t go into this race in February as prepared as I would have liked. I wasn’t feeling it mentally and I wasn’t happy with my preparation going into it. There was some confusion with markers during the race which meant we ran further than we should have. On my watch I ran just under 1.40 on the day at the 13.1 mark. The official time had me at 1.43 which was then adjusted to 1.40. I’m not happy with my time for the half. I know I can go quicker. I will come back to half marathon distance again but for now I want to cover the shorter endurance distances. Halves and I have unfinished business! Oh and the goody bag was essentially a plastic bag with a Sweat Shop voucher in it. Disappointing! I did spot Katie Price’s pink 4×4 though and I beat her so every silver lining. Um, yeah, anyway…..

Injury and Illness

Woe is me. The end of 2012 has been a bit unlucky for me running wise. I tore my calf end of September. I was also beset with vomiting bugs and recurring viruses so I had the best part of six weeks off. I started training again and everything seemed fine until I injured my back. The running gods are vexed with me I tell thee!

The suspicion is for my back is that it’s disc related which might make people recoil and think ‘Oh no running over for good!’. The irrational side of me thinks that but my sensible Physio side, with my knowledge of spines and tissue healing knows this isn’t the case. I have my own Physiotherapy appointment booked in and reading this blog post over at Running Physio has helped put my mind at ease.

So that was my year of running. I haven’t achieved as much as I would have liked but running isn’t going anywhere. As it’s December I might just knock the rest of 2012 on the head from a running point of view, get my back sorted and start afresh in the New Year.

What were your running highs and lows this year? Do share!