Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Deadly Sins of Running

I never thought anything football related would ever make it onto this blog BUT I had a good old read of this article on the BBC site which was inspired by the Luis Suarez biting incident at the World Cup (as an aside can I just say that human bites are really disgusting. Ick.). In the BBC article a former footballer describes what he believes to be the ‘Deadliest Sins’ in football: career ending tackles, elbowing, spitting, racism. It then got me thinking, what are the deadly sins of the sport of running and athletics?

Doping

Ask any running/athletics fan and I think they would say doping is THE cardinal sin. It cheats other competitors and it makes a joke of the sport. Sadly doping doesn’t seem to be going away and the IAAF list is growing and growing, with the addition this week of Ukranian and Trinidad and Tobago athletes. Is it me or are they really not on top of it? Especially when you’re banning people for only 9 months at a time. Hey that’s 9 months free you’ve given them to dope some more!

I hate doping. It sucketh big time. Ask any running/athletics fan what they really despise in the sport and they will always say doping. It is arguably the BIGGEST sin in running.

Punching/Elbowing your competitor

It’s fair to say that it is fairly common at the start of a cross country or road race that many people stick their elbows out. It’s a do or die situation, stick your elbows out or get pushed back or maybe have your number ripped off. It’s fair enough but what is a tad unseemly is to punch a competitor or push them. I was pushed off a course once, it makes you angry but the best way to channel that is to run faster and beat them. Punching someone in the back because they’re Haile Gebrselessie and your nearest rival? That just makes you look foolish, especially when you end up pushing him over the line in first place.

Fighting

I haven’t seen many fights at running or athletics events. I have seen people get a bit heated with officials. Denise Lewis stood her ground, and rightly so, at the Sydney 2000 Olympics at the long jump event of the heptathlon. Coming to blows with someone at the end of your race? It’s not big and it’s not clever. Fighting with your team mate on the track in full view of the crowd? You’ve really not done yourself any favours. We’re runners, we’re meant to be lovers not fighters!

Bigotry

Running and athletics are sports that I like to think of as giving everyone an equal opportunity. They are totally inclusive which is how it should always be. No matter who you are or what you believe in it all gets left behind the start line or in the changing rooms. As competitors everyone starts equally. Which is way I was a bit disappointed by the views aired by a certain champion pole vaulter. And then having the cheek to try and back track the next day. There is no room in running and athletics for that. Fortunately at amateur level I haven’t encountered anything like this.

Cheating

I have been the victim of cheating in the past and it really sticks in the throat. It’s horrible to discover that someone had the nerve to cut a course short to win. And I have heard so many cheating stories this year. There was this story from the London Marathon this year and in Boston we had the bib faking story. There will always be cheats I guess but if you’re going to do it maybe make it believable. The guy from London would have us believe that he could run 13 miles and THEN run a world leading time for a half marathon. Dude had way too many energy gels! And that is what makes us hate a cheater, their lack of respect for the rest of us and because they basically think we’re all stupid enough to believe their excuses (see also Dopers).

Spiking someone

I have been spiked during a cross country race but I don’t think it was intentional. I do know of other team mates who had other runners run so close to their heels that they ended up getting nasty spike injuries. That’s really not cool. Those spikes could easily be a deadly weapon in the wrong hands!

Here endeth my lesson on what I believe are some of the deadly sins of running and athletics. Can you think of any more awful running transgressions? Have you got a tale of a sinful fellow runner? Or….have you got your own confession to make?

 

Learning To Swim with Aqua Passport: A Parent’s Experience

My first experience of sport was swimming. By the time I eight I was swimming regularly with a club and competing (usually getting disqualified though for my rubbish breast stroke legs!). I really believe that swimming helped to set me up with a good level of fitness to take into my other. When I had my children I decided that I wanted them to become competent swimmers and give them an important skill for life.

Over a year ago now my eldest son started having lessons with Hanna who works for Swim Wales. What I didn’t know at the time was that Hanna was developing Wales’ only Government endorsed learn to swim scheme called Aqua Passport, with the goal being to get all children in Wales swimming by the age of eleven. 1 in 4 children under the age of 11 are unable to swim which came as a shock to me because swimming is not just about staying fit but is vital in teaching children how to stay safe around water.

Aqua Passport is being launched by Swim Wales today and is the first scheme to have an interactive website with the aim of keeping children motivated about their swimming lessons. I know already from using the Aqua Passport website that my son loves coming home to check his progress and to see what he needs to do to get to the next skill stage. There are also games on the web site, involving dragon characters, and every time you finish a stage your child can unlock more stickers and games. This is the element that my son enjoys the most from the website.

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From a parenting point of view I like looking through the skill videos and checking what my son needs to work on so that if we go ‘fun swimming’ we can have a quick go at new skills. It helps me to feel involved in his swimming progress too and I can see how far he has come, which thanks to Hanna is a long long way from where he started. He can now swim all four strokes and is very aware of how to stay safe around water. I am extremely proud of him and thrilled to have Hanna as his teacher. I hope to get his younger brother started on the scheme very soon.

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To find out if the Aqua Passport is coming to your area in Wales visit http://www.aquapassport.com. For more information on the launch follow Swim Wales on Twitter.

I have not been paid to write this post. These are my honest thoughts based on our experiences of the Aqua Passport.

 

 

 

In Praise Of Sports Day

It’s probably no great surprise that as a former teen athlete, regular runner and lover of all things sporty that I love Sports Day. I loved it when I was at school. A whole afternoon in the sun, your Mum and Dad come to watch you and you get to run as fast as you possibly can or jump over things, under things and throw random objects. All the stuff that kids are usually told not to do. I know that many people dislike Sports Day because they don’t believe in the competitive element but I think it’s a great reason to embrace all that is great about being a child. Not forgetting that it teaches children all the basic skills that you need to remain fit and healthy: jumping, throwing, balance, running and dodging.

Yesterday it was Sports Day at my sons’ school. I wasn’t able to go to my eldest son’s Sports Day but his Dad went and kept me up to speed via text. I had no worries about F though. He’s 6 and he lives for being active. He goes to rugby and swimming and two of his favourite things are his bike and his skateboard. He even comes out on his bike with me if I’m doing a short run. My youngest on the other hand, still being only 4, hasn’t found out what he likes but he isn’t really ready to focus on anything other than being a 4 year old.

T (my 4 year old) hasn’t really taken to nursery school very well. He’s better now than at the start of the year but he has had me worried a fair bit this year. I’ve worried that I sent him to school too soon or that he would never settle. As like any 4 year old boy he is easily distracted and he doesn’t have much interest in sitting still or being told to focus on one activity for any length of time. So I went along to Sports Day yesterday with a little bit of a worry cluster going on in my head: Will he behave? Will he be disruptive? Will he take part properly or just muck around?

Yesterday I saw a different side to my youngest son. It was as if the competitive element of Sports Day gave him something that he was willing to focus on. His egg and spoon race was won through his patience and determination not to wobble the spoon. His throwing was a show of his strength and power and his flat race? Well I would like to think that his flat speed and competitive streak to cross the line first came from his Mum *ahem*. He came home with a string of first and second badges. I was thrilled for him and he seemed to be proud of himself.

Now this really isn’t about my son coming first or second, it’s about what Sports Day yesterday did for my little boy’s self esteem. This year has been challenging for him, for us as parents and of course the teachers as we have tried to work out how to get him to want to go to school, to improve his listening skills and at times his behaviour. My little boy has occasionally come home so low that I have worried for his self esteem and his feelings about himself. But yesterday he looked so proud and so happy that I was really grateful for Sports Day and for many more reasons other than whether he won. Some of my worries drained away and I feel more confident for his next year in school.

As for the Mum’s race? I came third. The less said about that the better *devises training programme for 50 meter dash 2015*.

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Positive Spinning and Letting it Go.

My blog has been a spilling over with woeful tales of being ill and trying to be mindful. It’s not always fun to read and after all who wants to read about a runner being miserable? Running and miserable shouldn’t even be allowed in the same sentence.

Towards the end of last week I was feeling a bit better so I decided that I should make a concerted effort to make myself feel a bit more positive rather than sitting in the corner sulking.

When I’m injured or ill I stalk social media rather than interact and then get all huffy because I can’t share an amazing run or race that I’ve done. In the last week I took a different approach and had a few giggles with Twitter people and commented on some brilliant blogs. I’ve uploaded a few more pictures to Instagram and shared a new recipe that I discovered on another fantastic blog.

Talking about recipes on blogs, the recipe I have been raving about is a  Sweet Potato and All Spice Muffin recipe from Stephanie’s blog Magpie In The Sky. Stephanie’s blog is full of beautiful posts about running and gorgeous recipes that I want to try. She’s given me a few tips and I hope to make these muffins again with some powdered and stem ginger instead of the all spice.

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I have never tried vegan cooking but this recipe is really yummy and my kids have loved them! There is a satisfaction from giving your kids something they like, especially when you’ve put something in them that you know they wouldn’t normally like. Score for this Mam! Baking is something that I enjoy and you have to be ‘in the moment’ and mindful when you are doing it. And in my efforts to put more of a positive spin on things I really should find more time to bake.

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Another positive thing that I did last week as I was coming out of the fog of illness was to go and buy my new trainers. I need to write a longer blog about this subject, but like a great big penny falling from the sky on to my head, I realised that maybe some of my problems have been down to persevering with running shoes that weren’t quite right for me. I had worried about the fact I had been paying lots of money for shoes and I was determined to make them work. In fact they have been badly badly wrong but instead of whinging and moaning I went and discussed it with a nice staff member at Run and Become in Cardiff. I now have a pair of Saucony Phoenix 7’s. Sorry Brooks, it’s not you, it’s me!

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And then last night I went for a little ‘jog’ just to see how I am feeling after the chest infection of doom. It was laboured but I managed nearly 20 minutes. I ‘allowed’ myself a walk break because I felt fatigued and I didn’t beat myself up about it. My chest felt wooden, it didn’t feel like it was expanding the way it should but I know that’s because I’m only just getting over whatever it me like a bulldozer last week. I was kind to myself throughout the run/jog/walk and had the added joy of discovering that braided hair is pretty awesome for running and makes you look a bit like an Eastern Bloc athlete from the seventies and early eighties. When I wear this style  for running from now on I will be known as Katerina Walkerova (I just need to teach myself how to do it).

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Finally as I was driving the boys to school this morning, all three of us singing Let It Go at top of our voices, I realised that just a week on from finishing my Mindfulness course, being ill and making an effort to be less anxious and more positive I feel slightly more content than I have in a long time. I was told on the Mindfulness course that it’s not an easy thing to do, changing entrenched thought patterns and that you have to make an effort to do it every single day. That is what I have been trying to do this week and I’m going to try and continue to do so.

As we were pulling up towards school the boys were quiet and as Idina Menzel continued to sing some of the lyrics jumped out at me.

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

If you listen to the song it could easily be a manual for Mindfulness. Letting go isn’t easy when you’ve been gripping on to things for so long. Bit by bit I’ve started to prise the tight fingers of anxiety that have been grasping my head and heart. A few weeks ago I would have been giving myself a hard time for not running and my lack of races and training but I can’t help the things that are out of my control.

I want to enjoy running, I don’t want it to be a chore and for that to be true running can no longer be my emotional crutch. I want to be running for the love of running not because I feel I need or should be running. I want to be a happy, contented runner, not one that is frustrated and angry and complaining about how unfair it all is that I haven’t achieved the things that I wanted to. So I need to make positive spinning a habit and on a daily basis just let go of the things that can’t be helped. Then I can run free.

It Hurts: Inspiring stories on the path to becoming and Ironman

I have no current intentions of entering a triathlon. Getting back into running is a feat in itself at the moment. I also do not harbour any future ambitions of competing in an Ironman, although open water swimming is starting to appeal to me a little, being no impact and all.

However I am in awe of people who take part and compete in Triathlons. I think it’s a real test of a person’s endurance to jump from one activity to another and I love to read stories about triathlons. It turns out I know a few ‘real life’ people who have been taking part not not only triathlon, but Ironman distance triathlon. Not long ago an old Uni friend called Dan completed his first ever Ironman. What I didn’t know was that he was part of a research study which wanted to assess how normal day to day people would cope with the demands of training for an Ironman event.

In the end 80 people were picked for the study which was known as the Hertfordshire University Research Triathlon Study or….the HURTS team. They competed in Ironman Barcelona last year and now some of the participant’s experiences have been turned into a book called It Hurts. The other intention behind the project and the book though is to raise awareness and funds to support research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy via Harrison’s Fund.

As I said before, I don’t think I have the burning need yet to take part in a triathlon but I love inspiring stories and I think for £4.61 the book is worth it for the cause it supports.

Check the ebook out here and for more information on Harrison’s Fund and the fight against DMD go to http://www.harrisonsfund.com.

Break

Injured, injured, injured, injured, injured, injured, injured, aqua jogging, turbo trainer, ill, ill, ill, ill……….

The above is what I see pencilled into my diary. I don’t tend to keep a separate training diary, I just write in my normal diary what I’ve been up to and right now going back for ages and ages it is not a lot. It scares me a little to think about the lack of running in my legs. I dread to think what state my fitness will be in when I finally feel able to get back into some kind of training. It is also disturbing me a bit how I’m quite enjoying not training at the moment. I feel like I’m having a well deserved hiatus from all things sweaty and I’m not feeling that guilty. The reasons for my lack of exercise have been completely out of my control and I feel like my mind and body are having a much needed break.

I have almost gone into total running/training hibernation, conserving myself for when the time is right to come out again and bask in a running re-birth. The time isn’t right just yet as I tried on some new trainers today, jogged in the street in them and then had to sit and recover for 5 minutes. After the asthma attack and the chest infection my cardiovascular system is a bit argumentative with me at the moment and after last week I think it’s best to let it set the pace and dictate things.

I keep remaining hopeful that I will get back into running but I start to wonder how many ‘comebacks’ can one little runner have in a few years. My problems have been ongoing and I just don’t seem to get on top of them. But the reason I know I won’t give up is that I have the heart and soul of a runner and those sorts don’t really like giving in, lying down and taking it. I adore running but I know that it won’t be right if I’m not kind to myself for a change. Everyone talks about ‘go hard or go home’ but I don’t think that can work all the time. Sometimes if you do too much of the ‘go hard’ and you end up enduring more of a rocky road than you intended. It doesn’t mean that you’re a wimp, it just means that you’re taking note of what your mind and body are telling you. Sometimes it’s ok to go home, re-group, re-charge and come back when the head and the heart are both ready.

And so I’m going to sit tight, eat well, take my vitamins, get my body exercise ready again and I’ll be back when I’m good and ready. For now I’m just stoking the embers of my running soul, keeping the flames alight enough until they’re ready to rise again. wpid-20140616_142820.jpg

Diversity

 

 

howard schatz

I cannot begin to tell you how many ways I love this Howard Schatz image. It is just one image from his book ‘Athlete’. You can see more of the images in this this Huffington Post article.

It just highlights to me that as a society we are still being duped by magazines and other forms of media into believing that there is only one type of woman who is desirable or successful. This picture demonstrates that elite athletes, just like us normal women, come in all shapes and sizes: tall, short, large, slim, muscular,, slender. We are diverse. There is no ‘ideal’ shape. The shape you are is what’s right for you and your genotype and phenotype will give you an advantage in some sport and activities over someone else. There is no such thing as a wrong shape as long as you are fit and healthy and this image shows that.

In this blog Sam Briggs the ‘fittest women on Earth’ (I could have another debate about that title but that’s another blog) talks about how female CrossFit athletes are trolled for being butch and being muscular. CrossFit athletes are not alone in this because we will all have read about the abuse that Rebecca Adlington, Beth Tweddle and Zoe Pablo Smith have had for not ‘conforming’ to the media driven ideal of what a woman should look like and behave. Even ‘women’s’ fitness magazines are unhelpful because they buy into this ‘ideal’ with their cover models. We are then made to feel that we should aspire to this image, an image which is totally unrealistic for almost all women.

This wasn’t meant to become a long post, it was meant to be a celebration of women of all shapes of sizes and to show that a ‘fit’ woman can be of any shape and size, not just what the media shows us. I can’t lie, I am short and I would be what someone would call ‘petite’ (I hate that word) but my shape and size have been an advantage to me in my chosen sport. It is a sport I choose to do because I love how it makes me feel and I get my buzz from my achievements not from how it makes me look. And as Howard Schatz found in his interviews with the female athletes, their goals were not that different to those of their male counterparts:

“I found that [the women in the project] were simply athletes,” he told Huffpost “Their commitment, their focus in life, their goals for winning and championship were not different from the men’s. [T]here wasn’t a feminine focus, a feminine ambition.”