Category Archives: Gym Bunny

Stories about my random keep fit methods!

A mountain bike without the mountain, please!

Race for Life 2011

Yes, my face goes that colour every time I run!

38 minutes 6 seconds is never going to gain me entry into the Olympics, but last Sunday I finished the St Albans Race for Life 5k, six and a half minutes faster than last year.

As proud as I felt at that moment for raising money for charity and not giving up, I also hated every minute of running round that course, so I’m officially switching from being a ‘runner’ to being a ‘biker’.

Yes, that’s right, Other Half and I have invested our pennies in two brand new mountain bikes that arrived this week – I say pennies when in fact it was many pounds; I cannot believe how expensive it is to get a decent mountain bike! After many, many, many hours of research (“By me!” shouts Other Half in the background), we did get a great web deal on two 2011 Merida Matts 20-MD mountain bikes that were £200 cheaper than their usual selling price. There are a few reasons we are trying out the bike route:

  • Biking has GOT to be easier than running for no other reason than I find running really hard!
  • My sister’s Other Half got a bike 2 months ago and has totally transformed into a ‘Slim Jim’ – we want it to be our magic weight loss bullet too!
  • We have lots of cycle paths near to where we live that don’t involve big hills – I’m a fan of flat paths/gentle slopes (as a beginner!)

It’s just a case now of literally getting on our bikes, in our padded shorts… (more on that after the first ride!)

My current mountain biking kit for beginners: 2011 Merida Matts 20-MD Bike

Running 5k (away from peanut butter!)

Since coming back from holiday in April half a stone heavier, (all that lovely American food was worth it!), my fitness regime has taken a bit of a nosedive. I haven’t had the desire to get back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon yet, so I’ve been relying on sporadic gym visits to get me back on track.

Peanut butter on toastAlas, I’m only human, and I’m not working out enough to combat the speed I can eat peanut butter on toast! To spur me on, I’ve signed up again this year for the St Albans Race for Life. The thought of running a 5k where I MUST BEAT last year’s time, is enough pressure to get my trainers back on!

Being a great fan of ‘The Biggest Loser USA’ and MTV’s ‘I Used To Be Fat’, I’m mortified to see people weighing twice as much as I do, running 5K in half the time it takes me! Ok, so these people work out for 6 hours every day with a personal trainer by their side but even so, I was feeling pretty inadequate.

For all you treadmill junkies out there, I usually run on a 7.2km speed and build up slowly to 8.5km by the end. If I complete the 5k (because sometimes I haven’t got the stamina to run more than 3k), it takes around 45 minutes. To up the ante, my speed is now 8.5km for most of the run with a quick sprint right at the end, in desperation to get finished! This takes about 35 minutes.

I’m never going to break any Olympic speed records at this rate, but as long as I can run the whole way AND beat last year’s time, it will be a great achievement for me! Why not donate the cost of one cup of coffee to a great cause? £2.50 can help to make a world of difference in cancer research… If you’d like to sponsor me, follow this link

Thanks to for the image!

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

So, as the countdown to my holidays is getting ever closer, hitting my weight loss target looms further away…

I’m at that really rubbish stage where I only have 4lbs left to meet my goal, and it has stubbornly eluded me for the past few weeks. I decided to go bikini shopping to celebrate the weight loss I’ve achieved up until now, and feel I must make a complaint on behalf of all ladies out there:

Lighting and mirrors in shops are NOT flattering!

Despite being a fairly slim size 10/12, the harsh lighting and mirrors made me look as though I hadn’t even bothered to give up muffins, orange kitkats and the odd piece of cheesecake for the past 2 months! Every bump and dimple I own (plus many more I didn’t know I had) were highlighted under the vicious strip lighting in the tiny changing room.

This was in a huge department store (who you would assume had money and consumer flattering sense at their disposal), and I felt like diving straight into a Starbuck’s skinny latte and a full fat cinnamon swirl!

Fortunately, after 1 hour 20 minutes of intense trying on (because bikini shopping is a serious business!), I settled on two lovely bikinis and a matching bag. Doing a quick fashion show back at home for Other Half in   
softer lighting, made me look and feel a million times better in my new purchases.

If Mary Portas needs a new cause, changing rooms and strip lighting is top of my list – JUSTICE FOR NORMAL WOMEN’S THIGHS!!!

I ran the Race for Life…

On 18th July 2010, I ran 5km non-stop in the Race for Life! It was an amazing experience to be part of such a great atmosphere, with thousands of excited and inspiring women all around me.

Waiting for the race to start

Waiting for the race to start...

At the start of the race, we split ourselves into running, jogging and walking groups and I optimistically plumped for jogging. Plugging into my iPod and GetRunning app, I quickly realised that many others in this group jogged for the first 300m or so and then started to walk, so it was a case of weaving in and out to keep up my own constant pace. The first kilometre felt good and I started to feel confident that I could comfortably run the whole way, that was until I encountered the first set of hills. It’s true to say that during my last few successful 5km runs in the gym, the treadmill gradient started at 1, but I kept wimping out part-way as I got tired and was lowering it back to the flat. I regretted this previous laziness every time I encountered another steep part of the course, but the few downhills section were a welcome relief!

Running with a smile...

Running with a smile...

I had wonderful support from Other Half and the in-laws, they were there at the start line and to my surprise, popped up in 3 different places along the way to cheer me on. They also documented the changing colour of my progressively rosy cheeks through the medium of photography!

Still running but the smile is waning a little...

Still running but the smile is waning a little...

Despite all of the pre-race training, I still found the distance tough. There was no miraculous floaty feeling to get me round the course however, the thought of having to tell people that I didn’t run all the way was a constant mental boost to keep my legs moving!

At 4km I was feeling really tired and the next 500m seemed to take forever. I was jogging really slowly when suddenly, I turned the corner to see the finish line up ahead. From nowhere, a burst of energy appeared and I sprinted all the way to the finish line. My time was 41 minutes 52 seconds, no record breaker I know, but actually quicker than my best ever time in the gym, despite all the hills and lack of air conditioning!!

I completed the Race for life!

I completed the Race for life with rosy cheeks and a jubilant smile!

I collected my medal, goodie bag and hugs and kisses from Other Half and the in-laws. It was a great feeling to have run the whole way, as well as raising close to £100 for Cancer Research.

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Is it the first step towards running a marathon? Absolutely not! 😮

Race for Life is coming…

I haven’t blogged for a few weeks about my 5k training as I’ve encountered a few interruptions! During the month of the house move, training was cut down from four times to twice a week and, one week was missed altogether. The Race for Life is less than a week away and I’m feeling nervous that I wont be able to run non stop the whole way because;  

  • I can consistently run for 30-35 mins at 8km an hour in the air-conditioned gym but this only equates to about 3 1\2k
  • I consistently run at a slower speed than 8km an hour outside!
  • The weather is currently lovely and I’ve never run in 11am strong sunshine
  • I still manage to get the DREADED STITCH or a sugar crash during random runs, and I never know why as I eat pretty much the same every week!

If I’m honest, a big part of me hopes to find some sort of inner strength to overcome any of these niggles on race day. In reality, when I run out of energy by 3km at the gym, I stop running and start walking..!

How to experience a completely legal high…

OMG (and I never say that!) but somehow, I managed to run 5k all in one go!

It was only on Friday just gone, that I had celebrated achieving a private milestone of running for 28 minutes without stopping. As it was outside, I had no idea how far it was in distance but, the voice prompts of the Get Running app spurred me on to reach my brand new time goal. After a couple of rest days, I started the new 5k programme Nick the Trainer had given me and, he wanted me to run 4k all in one go. “But how?” was my question when he presented the challenge, I had never run more than 3.2k in one go before and, was always ready to die by the end. He advised me to run at a slower pace than usual and walk some of it if needed, just to get to the end of the distance. So with this in mind, instead of my usual 7.6km per hour treadmill speed, I went down to 6.6km per hour and plugged my headphones into an old episode of Friends…

As I approached 28 minutes, I couldn’t believe I still felt comfortable compared to that same time on Friday’s run (and believe me, I run even more slowly outside!) I sensed a bubble of excitement inside me that I could run 4k in one go. Although looking red and sweaty on the outside, my breathing was steady and the DREADED STITCH had still not arrived at this point. I got to 4k and adrenaline kicked in, I still felt great and started to hallucinate that I had super running powers; it ticked over in my mind that mildly boasting about running 6 or 7k would be even more impressive. Luckily, the running fairy heard my crazy thoughts and brought me stright back into reality – the DREADED STITCH kicked in, I was breathing much heavier and, continually looked at the distance as I willed that 5k to greet me.

At 48 minutes, I had completed my first non-stop running 5k. I was so happy that I couldn’t stop grinning! I rushed over to tell Nick the Trainer and, he was able to confirm in his official trainer capacity, that the daft look on my face and, inability to stop hopping around on the spot meant I was experiencing a true runner’s high…

New trainers make you run faster…

… or at least that’s what I always thought when I was a kid! Since faithfully training for my 5k run over the past few months, I felt I could justify a new pair as I’ve managed to break through the ‘just a running phase’ barrier. Nick the Trainer recommended Sweatshop, so Other Half and I drove over to the Hatfield branch to see what was available. We were welcomed by Sue the Manager who has the most incredible trainer knowledge ever! We both had our running gate assessed (for free), by jogging on the instore treadmill with a video camera at our feet, recording our every step. The results showed that Other Half had a normal to mild over-pronation which meant he required overall support in his shoe. I, on the other hand, have low arches and this caused me to show up as a massive over-pronator – this means I roll my feet in as I run. Now, before you start thinking I’m a bit of a weirdo, most people are also over-pronators to some degree, so this actually makes me ‘normal’!  

As a pair, we presented quite a challenge when it came to sizes – Other Half is a 7 (most men’s start at an 8), I’m an 8 1/2 (most girl’s stop at an 8), so we expected choice to be limited, however, Sue the Manager was more than happy to order in multiple pairs in our specified sizes. We both tried on many pairs (even if the size wasn’t quite right) to gauge the difference between gel support (like Asics) and air support (like Nike). Both work well, it simply came down to preference once you have the shoe on (gel supports can sometimes feel more prominent inside of the shoe). We ran on the treadmill to see which styles gave the best support and, corrected my over- pronation. It is amazing how much difference a pair of well supported trainers makes to your running style! Other Half settled on a pair of Nike+ that were in his size, and I was stuck between a pair of Mizuna and Nike+, both of which made me run properly and were top in my style stakes. Sue the Manager said she would order them in for me and give me a call when they arrived.  

10 days later, I went back to the shop and tried each pair on, mentally
comparing the two and crossing off a checklist in my head;  

Most comfortable – both
Most stylish – both
Most supportive – both  

Hmm, I am rubbish at making decisions and missed the wise words of Other Half, who always thinks of something that makes me sway one way or the other! I walked round and round the shop with 1 of each shoe on, trying to decide and failing miserably. Sue the Manager came to my rescue by suggesting I run on the treadmill to directly compare which felt more comfortable. It was a genius solution as after 10 seconds, I could tell that the Mizuna’s fit me like a glove. 

New Mizuna trainers!

New Mizuna trainers!

I paid £85 which I thought was a reasonable price for the trainers, you also get a 30 day guarantee so if you have any problems with them, they will help you find and swap to a better fitting pair.  

Best of all, the great advice came free from Sue the Manager. I don’t know if this sort of knowledge is standard in all Sweatshops, but her customer service, attention to detail and, willingness to help us find the perfect footwear for our needs was second to none – I can’t imagine shopping anywhere else for all my future running requirements.  

Yesterday, I did the first outdoor run in my new trainers. Despite sporting a freshly burst blister (from work shoes) on each foot, they didn’t rub at all. Imagine if you could jog comfortably in slippers; that would describe the effortless, cloud-like feeling on my Mizuna shod feet!

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20 minutes and counting…

Since identifying that I might actually enjoy running, I’ve started going to the gym without a dread of ‘I can’t do it’, more a wonderment of ‘Wow, this running lark is getting a little bit easier!’ After completing my cardio, I jumped onto the treadmill for the 20 minute rolling hills program (still thinking ‘eek, gradients!’) Annoyingly, I had forgotten to pack my headphones so could only watch the tv screens ahead of me and listen to the gym soundtrack which luckily, was pretty good. I did a steady 5 minute walking warm up and then started to jog.

The usual routine consists of me telling myself not to look down at the time/distance for as long as possible, because once I have, the countdown to finishing starts in my head and I seem to be checking every minute before I get to the end! This time, I decided to jog and only look at the time when I got to the point of tiredness and wished it would stop. Now, I can only guess but after about 10 minutes, I was still running on changing gradients and feeling comfortable, it was really strange as over the past 6 weeks, I could only identify with running for a few minutes and then really wanting to stop! I kept jogging and didn’t check the time because by now, I had made a pact with myself that I could get to the end of 20 mins without stopping.

Curiosity about the remaining time was killing me but, I refused to look as I needed to proudly tell Nick the Trainer and Other Half that I ran 20 minutes and it wasn’t a struggle. Suddenly, the treadmill slowed down and that was the end of my programme, woo hoo! I can genuinely say the first 18 minutes were comfortable and, it was only the last two where I could feel the familiar pain of the DREADED STITCH starting and I was breathing more heavily.

After many weeks of complaining to Nick the Trainer that I wasn’t making any progress, out of the blue, my running gene has finally kicked in! Next step; getting fitted with real runners shoes (cause I’m a proper runner! :o)

Overcoming the 5k barrier…

I’m faithfully following my 5k running plan and at the gym last night, I bumped into Nick the Trainer. He asked how it was going and I proudly told him that I had my first outdoor jog under my belt! I also told him I felt that I wasn’t really improving very much as I get to 3k and, can’t wait to stop. (Thinking about it objectively of course, I have improved as I didn’t use to be able to run 1k without stopping, but that’s the perfectionist in me!) Nick the Trainer suggested it was time I got over the psychological barrier of never having completed a 5k and, should come in and do an exclusive session on the treadmill, jogging and walking as needed to complete a full 5k. With this idea firmly planted in my head, we parted company and despite having already done my weights, I decided I would have a go at the full distance.

I had previously been running 3 x 1k with a 2 minute walk in between each km, so I thought I would see how far I could stretch that. I did a warm up walk for 0.2k, ran the first km and walked for 0.2k, repeated this a second time, ran the third km and walked for 0.25, ran the fourth km and walked for the final 0.15k – in 40 minutes I had walked and jogged my first 5k!

It turns out that Nick the Trainer knows his stuff! Although my plan is to be able to run the whole Race for Life 5k without stopping, just knowing that I can complete it in one gym session was another huge confidence boost. Tonight, I went for my second ever outdoors jog and the 20 minutes constant running wasn’t quite as painful as the first time round. As I completed my 5 minute walking cool down, a strange thought entered my head: I think I might actually start to ENJOY running in the very near future..!

Pounding the pavements for the first time…

After singing the praises of Nick the Trainer to my Other Half, he decided to book in for a session to try to sort out his problematic running gait. It was during this time, Nick the Trainer asked him if I had been doing 5k training programme no 4 – running outside for 30-40 minutes. Other Half laughingly told him I had only done the outside running programme from inside of the gym on the treadmill and, proceeded to relay the conversation to me when he got home that night. Feeling slightly shamed at this truth and worried about letting Nick the Trainer down, I decided that Monday was the day to try it out…

I usually go to water aerobics at the gym on a Monday lunchtime, so I decided I would leave early and jog there instead of driving. The route is pretty flat, snaking through an industrial estate so I wasn’t battling rolling hills on my first go. I was however, carrying my gym bag full of swimming gear and despite the padded straps being on the tightest setting, it bounced around like a hyperactive child on popping candy! I quickly got hold of the excess loose straps and tied them together in front of me to make the bag more fitted to my body and, this really helped give some stability. I also used my Get Running app to give me verbal updates about how long I had been running for, I needed all the motivation I could get when I couldn’t see time or distance ticking away like I do on the treadmill.

Straight away I found that I run more slowly outside, it turns out that when I don’t have a rolling pace to keep up with, my own pace is even slower! This proved to be advantageous in the dreaded stitch arena – I didn’t get one for the whole run, yay! BUT, it made absolutely no difference to the time it took for my tomato coloured jogging face to arrive i.e. within about the first 5 minutes! Despite the goal being a 30 minute jog, I could only manage 20 minutes and thought it wise to sit down outside of the gym for 10 minutes, in an effort to reduce my face from scarlet to a more palatable fire engine red…

The pool had never been so welcome, despite a 45 minute session of water aerobics in front of me and a 40 minute walk home afterwards. As I started to sink down under the cool water, I swear a little bit of steam came off my rosy cheeks!