Training for a 5K Race: My First (Unofficial) Park Run.

So Saturday marked my first unofficial Park Run of 2017, and I say unofficial because I forgot to print out my little scanner code so I won’t get a time on the website but I don’t mind because both Scott and I recorded it individually; I recorded it on my FitBit Blaze and he recorded his on the Nike Running App.

IMG-20170812-WA0001-01(The starting line for the Park Run and of course, full photo credit goes to Scott because he’s taller and he’s better at getting overhead shots of the crowd.)

We arrived just on time, just after the little talk the volunteers give to the runners so we made our way around to the starting line and the laps themselves weren’t too different to how I had been running. The only difference was that we were starting at the western point of the pond and running down the hill to the pond towards the end which meant we had to run up the steep hill twice. The run was very similar to my one apart from those few points though, which I felt at ease with.

At the very beginning I had some of the self-critical thoughts and doubts creep into my head thinking that there was no way I could do it and they seem to creep back at the exact same place for the second (and final) lap. I’m glad I pushed through the thoughts but it’s not the nicest mindset to be in, it might just take a while for that to pass, right?

20170812_102727(It was quite a cloudy day and it wasn’t very warm but that worked in my favour during the run, because it seemed like the perfect temperature.)

One thing that I’ve found is my FitBit seems to be slightly off and I had noticed this a few times but the run on Saturday seemed to confirm this. The run altogether is 5K exactly yet my watch is knocking 0.1miles off my time which is quite frustrating so if you see me posting my watch times and it only says 3.02 miles, it’s really 3.12 which is just over 5K.

So what was my time? Well I’m so happy that I hit another Personal Best because Scott said to me just before the end, “You’ll be so surprised at the end.” and I said that I was preparing myself to be disappointed. When you’re running in a big group of people, because there are so many people in front of you, you feel like you’re running too slow and I always look back to that very first slow run that I spoke about so I always feel like I’m running at that speed.

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My time was 35:42 according to Scott’s app, and it’s almost ten seconds more on my watch because I was so happy to finish that I forgot to hit the pause button, so that’s why there’s a few extra seconds on. According to Scott, from the first run we done together, I was doing a 14 minute mile and on this particular run, my average was 11:26 a mile, so quite the drop in times! As you can see from the watch statistics, it says 3.02 miles when really it was 3.10 miles so I’ll have to see if I can fix that somehow. It syncs with my GPS on my phone so I’m not sure what’s going on with it.

Thank you so much for reading today’s post and if you want to catch up on the previous posts of the series, they are all be linked below:
Training for a 5K Race: An Introduction and My First Run.
Training for a 5K Race: Running and Negative Mental Health.
Training for a 5K Race: The Lone Run. 

Training for a 5K Run: The Lone Run.

So with less than two weeks to go until race day, I need to up my running game and this is my third run since signing up to the race less than a month ago. This was my first lone run because Scott had to work so I thought it would be good experience to see where not only my head would be but how far my own motivation would take me, even though on the day of the race, I know he’ll be there.

20170717_210915(How pretty are the swans?!)

If you remember back to my second race, I wasn’t in the greatest place mentally but I’m very happy to report that my head was in a much better place for this run. I described it as “losing motivation” to Scott but he said it’s more self-doubt that anything. I got round about half way of the course (I say “around”, I only checked my distance twice because I didn’t want to get too obsessed with checking it) and I felt like I couldn’t do the full distance. I added a few more hills into this run than previous two so I felt the extra challenge of those and I think those were fuelling the self doubt.

Running on my own definitely wasn’t as lonely as I thought it might be. I’m quite used to my own company anyway but I thought since I was in a public place, I might feel it more but surprisingly I didn’t. I had my music playing throughout so I didn’t feel like I needed conversation because of that. Something that I’m still struggling with is my breathing; it might sound silly but controlling your breathing while running is quite challenging. Thankfully because I have my headphones on, I don’t hear the very heavy breathing noises but if I didn’t, I don’t think I would be able to hear myself think.

IMG_20170811_064507_229(The evening’s statistics on my FitBit!)

As you can see with my FitBit above, my numbers were thirty seven minutes and forty eight seconds. As with the second run I ran a little further than the 3.1 miles so if you scale my numbers back to exactly the miles to match 5K, I would have completed it in the thirty six minute mark which matches my last run. I was really happy with my results; I didn’t expect the same timings because I didn’t feel like I had went at the same pace.

20170717_210217(The waterfalls in the park are so peaceful especially in the evening.)

Overall, I’m really happy with how the run went. I’m very happy that my time stayed the same and I’m glad that I was able to push past the self doubt because that’s probably something that will always play on my mind (and it’s not something that happens when I’m just running either). It’s less than a week and a half to go now until the race, exciting!

If you want to read about my introduction to this series, you’ll find it here and if you want to hear about my raw, emotional experience when running, you’ll find that post here. Thank you for reading the series so far, I can’t wait to share the rest of the journey with you!

 

Training for a 5K Run: Running and Negative Mental Health?

Have you ever had a negative run or ran when your mental health was very low? There’s a saying that goes “The only workout you regret is the one that you skipped” and when you hear people telling you that exercise is one of the the best anti-depressants, one would assume that the majority of your problems go away if you just “run it off”. 

Mental health is something that I talk about on the blog sometimes but in general, I try to keep my “online presence” very positive, or as positive as I can be. I made the decision over the last year to not be so open about my negative mental health because it’ s very personal to me and because it can be very hard to deal with, I struggle to share that with the people around me, never mind the Internet. 

Today I’m going to open the lid of that box and share my experience of what it was like running when I was at a very low point. 

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Scott had planned out a run for us but I didn’t know where it was or how long it was going to be. It was a Friday night so while I should have been happy that I had finished work for the week, I could relax and enjoy my second run of my 5K training; that reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

He was my only motivation getting ready because I knew he was looking forward to it, and I had been all day up until that night but all I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry until I fell asleep. He brought me down to where we were going to run and it’s actually a really nice towpath that we’ve walked before so I was familiar with the scenery. 

I’m a tracker. I like to track my progress in almost everything I do and running is no exception so when my fitness tracker wouldn’t work, that made me feel slightly worse that in the end, I gave up with it. It came round eventually but I really didn’t care at that point, I just wanted to run. 

20170610_094301(This part of the path is further on down but I took a few photographs from our last visit.)

People say running is good for your mental health, it clears your head and helps you gain perspective on what’s going on negatively. Mentally, running made everything worse. I can’t describe when you’re in such a negative place how many little moments, big moments, negative thoughts, self-critical thoughts and imagined scenarios pop up in your mind.  I lost count; it’s a very scary place to be in because you feel out of control and that night I was. I tried to control my breathing but then my breathing started to get so short and quick that it was almost turning into a panic attack. I cried quite a few times on that run, and I really tried to hide it but I don’t think that worked on Scott. 

I knew I was running faster than the first time and because I was embarrassed of my time last time, running faster gave me that motivation to not get that time again. I felt like I was running away from everything; I was running away from my responsibilities’, my past, my scenarios that I made up in my head that had become so real, my thoughts, my emotions and I thought the faster I run, the faster my head won’t be spinning with these thoughts.  It’s like being in a trapped room that you can’t get out of.  

He stayed quiet for most of the run which is what I needed. I know there are the type of people who want the comfort, the cuddles and the supportive words and I admit, I can be one of those people sometimes. More often than not, I just need to be on my own, in silence while I try and let the very negative emotions pass, and if I need to cry, then I cry.  

I started to crack almost half way through thinking I couldn’t do it anymore, I almost just sat on the ground and cried but I felt like I would have disappointed myself if I didn’t finish the run. I continued with Scott until less than a mile away and I was so close to saying “can we just stop now?” when his phone lit up and said “only 0.85 miles to go until your destination”,  and I just knew I couldn’t quit then. 

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We finished the run and Scott asked me did I know what pace I was doing or did I even know what time we had hit. I didn’t know because I wasn’t paying too much attention to my watch or even the time. We had knocked off six minutes from our overall time, so almost two minutes from each mile which was incredible considering how disappointed I was with our Monday night run. It was actually around the 36 minute mark from his phone but I didn’t hit my watch off at the 5K mark, so I did in fact do the run in faster than this. He kept saying how proud he was of me and how well I done, and it was genuinely so lovely, I’m glad I made him proud despite how I felt.

So did I feel better once I finished my run? Physically, yes. When you finish something like a run or a really stressful workout, you do get this wave effect that passes through your body and physically, it feels like it’s breathing a sigh of relief. How did I feel mentally? Nothing; zero, zilch. I still felt sad, I was disappointed in myself for not being able to control the way I reacted to my feelings. I was tired but it wasn’t from the running. 

I understand that this training series is meant to be about my running progress and how excited I am about my first trained 5K but I would feel like an absolute fraud if I either didn’t tell you about the run at all like it didn’t happen or I decided just to leave out how I really felt. My mental health is something I’ve struggled with for over a year now and this was one of the many days where it bared everything, so while it might not be the nicest thing for me to type out and relive, it’s an experience I got through, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing?

If you want to catch up on the first post, that was based around my first run and it was a general introduction into what I’m training for, so you’ll find that right here.  Thank you so much for reading, I know it wasn’t my usual content, but I appreciate you listening to what I had to say.

Training for a 5K Race: An Introduction and My First Run.

You’ve read the title and you’re probably thinking, “Why are you trying to train to run just over three miles?” We all have to start somewhere don’t we? As you’ll read in my new monthly intentions post going live on Friday, I have signed up to a 5K with my boyfriend in August so I have just over a month to build up my stamina when it comes to running.

20170717_211842-01(I’ll take this view over jumping on a treadmill any day. So gorgeous!)

If you read my tweets or watch my Instagram stories, you’ll know that I love the gym. Of course, there’s some days I don’t have the greatest workouts and other days, I’m already looking forward to the next one. For me personally, I believe the gym and running are on two different levels; I’ve ran two different 5K’s before in fact. One was a ParkRun and the other was a charity race for Mo-Running (I wrote a blog post on the build up to it but I forgot to write about my experience during it. If you want to read the blog post, it’s right here!) but I went into those very blind. I probably ran faster than I should have, and ended up having to walk part of the way, so that slowed me down and then I dreaded starting to run again.

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(I live in these shoes. I walk to work in them, I run in them and I do any cardio in the gym in them. They’re a great all rounder, except for weight training.)

You might be asking “what’s different this time” and I have someone by my side training me. My boyfriend has ran many marathons and even ultra marathons; he absolutely loves running and coming from a weight loss background too, he’s had to build his fitness up so that includes starting from a pace where I’m at right now up until the level he’s currently at, so I’m in very good hands. (He has a blog too which centres around fitness, food and weight loss so you’ll find it right here!) We’ve been on a few runs together over the last few months and as silly as it sounds, he’s taught me how to run. Running isn’t just running, there are so many other elements to it, which I’ll talk about in a later post. This is just an introduction to how I’ll be training and I wanted to talk a little about how my first run went.

As I mentioned above, I’ve taken part in 5K’s before but Scott said to start this fresh because the time I hit on Monday night can be my new personal best. The last few months for me have been particularly challenging when it comes to the word “goals” so this new personal best isn’t a goal to beat, it’s something to aim towards but not beat myself up if I don’t achieve it the first time around.

Scott taught me to build my running up by using the analogy of “If you can’t hold a conversation, slow down” so over the past few months, I’ve been taking this on board and it’s really helped. I think my problem before was I was just going too fast, I didn’t know what my pace was and I just wanted to finish but exhausting myself wasn’t going to help that. So we stuck as a pace that was comfortable for me, there were a few hills to go up and down, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get out of breath especially going uphill but they weren’t very steep.

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(Excuse the quality of this particular photograph: It was late at night when I was trying to take the picture and Instagram tends to lower the quality of your image now too.)

So here’s my stats. from my first run: I use the Blaze in the FitBit series, I’ve had it for almost a year and I love it. Not only do I track my runs but it’s in constant use in the gym and I’m accountable for my steps every day thanks to it too. For just over 5K or 3.1 miles, it took just under 45 minutes altogether. When I first seen my result, I was really disappointed; Scott had set a “estimate” aim of 36 minutes and in my head I thought “That seems achievable” so imagine my disappointment when I see almost 45 minutes pop up. I didn’t even try to hide the fact that I was annoyed and I really couldn’t hide it. I was so certain that I would hit the aim, and having had a rough memory of my last 5K, this was a slower speed, so the self critical thoughts creeped in, despite having a “body high” after running the distance.

20170717_210540(One of the gorgeous perks of running in the evening.)

Having had the time to reflect back on the experience I’m not as disappointed: I ran continuously without breaking for a walk, it was my first 5K in just over a year and my body needs to get used to running so going at a slower pace is what it needs right now. Taking all of that into consideration, I didn’t do too badly. I’m still a little let down with myself but that’s more of a mental thing for me that I’m working on.

Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post. I’ve been wanting to write about fitness for the longest time on the blog and I’m so happy that I’m finally doing it. I think it’s always great to read about other people’s experiences, so if you have a running blog or if you’re a runner and you’re wrote a blog post on it, please send me it! I’d love to give it a read ❤ 

Why I Enjoy Yoga.

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It was my second yoga birthday last week and last year I shared my story on how I got started (which you can find here!) and advice for those who are thinking of trying yoga for the first time (and you’ll find that right here!) So this time I wanted to share the five things that I enjoy the most about yoga.

1) It’s something to look forward to every week.

Now in my New Year’s Resolution post, I said that I wanted to incorporate more yoga into my home life but for right now,  I love having something to look forward to every week. I go on Monday nights after work so even though almost everyone hates Mondays, this softens the blow a little.

2) My progress is amazing!

I’m doing poses that I couldn’t do two years ago or even a year ago. I can straighten my legs in poses that I had struggled to do with a bent knee. With practice and constant progression in class, I’ve surprised myself and to me, that’s exactly what I want get out of learning any new skill. If you’re not learning then what are you doing?

3) I am “in the moment”.

I can only ever remember two yoga sessions I had where I couldn’t stop worrying about what was going on in my life and therefore, I didn’t enjoy the class. The majority of the time however I can completely zone out of my life for an hour and take every moment as it comes. I want to do that more this year and because yoga has already incorporated this element, I think I’ll find it easier to do it in other parts of my life.

4) It improves your gym workout.

I taught myself to sit up straighter on the rowing machine because of yoga. My posture when I’m doing weights is much stronger now because of yoga. My stretches at the end of my workout are now longer and more effective because of yoga. When people say it can change their performance in the gym, they really mean it.

5) It’s the start of a bigger journey.

I don’t know if I would have dived into the world of mindfulness and meditation  if it hadn’t have been for yoga. Mindfulness was really opened up to me in therapy but it was talked about during our weekly yoga classes from time to time. Meditation is something that we take part in at the beginning and the end of the class so when I do it at home, it’s second nature to me.

What do you love about yoga? Let me know your thoughts on all things yoga, good or bad, I want to hear them!

(Featured image source: unsplash.com)
(Top Image Source: Pixabay)

I’m taking part in #MoRunning 2016!

I’ve been saying from the get-go that I want to incorporate more fitness on the blog. Fitness used to be such a huge part of my life; it still is a part of my life but I’m slowly building it back up again, which is fantastic for me, I’m really happy about it. A lovely woman involved with the Mo Running team emailed me and asked me would I be interested in taking part in the Belfast Mo Running event and I said yes!

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If you’re not sure what Mo Running is (I personally had never heard of it until last week), it’s a charity run to raise money for the Movember Foundation. You might have heard of Movember because you’ll probably find a lot of men in your life growing their beards (or lack of!) out until the end of November and then shaving it off at the end. I seen it a lot last year!

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So of course I’m taking part in the Belfast event for the 5K. It’s taking place on Sunday 6th November (2016) in Ormeau Park at 11am for the 5K and 11:10am for the 10K. Registration opens at 9:30am and closes at 10:45am, and if you’ve ever been in the Ormeau Park car park on a busy day, you’ll know it can be a pain to park in, so I suggest getting down early!

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I’ve only ever done one 5K ParkRun which was great but stopping a lot did happen, so that’s why I’ve decided to stick to 5K this time. I’ll maybe venture into 10K next year though (or I might even have perfected loads of 10K’s by then!).

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If this sounds like something up your street, you can sign up for the Belfast 5K (which will cost £19.80 including the admin fee) or the 10K (which will cost £24.20 including the admin fee) on the Mo Running Belfast page. If you’re not from Belfast, don’t worry! There’s loads of other locations around the UK too and you can find out where they are right here!

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this post and I (of course!) will be donating money to the charity involved in this year’s run because it’s an amazing cause and I’m really glad to be involved.

All photography credit goes to Ryan Richards at FStop Photography for the photographs taken at last years Mo Running 2015 Belfast event.

So you want to try yoga?

I’m not an expert in yoga at all but if you read my first yoga birthday post, I have some quite fresh experience in getting into the lifestyle, so I thought I would give you some advice if you’re new to yoga or even if you want to try it, but don’t know where to start.

Do your research.
Do you know anything about yoga? Do you know what type of yoga you would like to do? Have you done it before? Is this your first time or are you getting back into it again? These are all questions you have to ask yourself while researching about the practice.

Find classes in your area.
I’m all for watching videos online, I think it’s a fantastic resource and with so much free content out there, I don’t think you should let it go to waste. HOWEVER, for yoga especially, I think it’s an absolute must to go to a class and learn how to do the poses correctly. You will never know if you’re doing it right if you’re watching it and trying to copy it, you could end up hurting yourself.

It shouldn’t cost the earth.
It doesn’t have to be expensive either; depending on the area you live in, you can find affordable classes with experienced teachers. I live in Belfast so I learn through Yoga Belfast who have a range of classes for beginners right up to intermediates, in a range of areas, and are affordable too. There’s some drop in classes and others were you can sign up for a certain amount of weeks. There are many other yoga companies in Belfast of course, but I haven’t had any experience with them.

Get the right gear.
You don’t have to buy a £200 yoga mat, you don’t have to spend loads of money on new workout clothing, but make sure you’re equipped to work out properly. You don’t need to worry about trainers because yoga is done in either socks or in your bare feet. Try to avoid very loose clothing but don’t go really tight either, try and find a nice balance in between the two. I personally don’t like the cheap foam yoga mats because they can slide back on the floor (First week I went to yoga, this actually happened, so personal experience is talking.) but I got a good yoga mat from ASDA and it wasn’t expensive at all. I’ve heard TKMaxx or Sports Direct do some nice ones too.

Practice makes perfect.
This speaks for itself really. You can’t expect to get better at anything if you don’t practice. You’ll mess up, you’ll fall over, you’ll lose your balance, your posture will need corrected, but you know what? That’s okay, if you learn with someone who is willing to show you the ropes and if you’re willing to put the effort in, even one or two times a week, then you will gradually get better.

I am very thankful to have introduced yoga into my life, I don’t know what I would do without it. It has helped me physically; I’m now more flexible and that is particularly helpful when I go to the gym too. It has helped me mentally; I still get stressed and I still panic but yoga helps to bring me down (If only I could do yoga in work every day, now that would be heavenly!). I believe yoga is for everyone, no matter what your age, gender, flexibility, fitness level, lifestyle, whatever it is. It’s such a good focus for people to get stuck into and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I hope my advice has helped even just one person, good luck!