Trails v Treadmill

I’ve been planning on writing this post for a little while, and as it’s half term plus I’ve just finished reading Born to Run, now seems to be the ideal time. I toyed with the title Trails Trump Treadmill, but, despite my love of alliteration, the risk of being associated with anything Donald caused me to adjust. 

When I had completed, then blogged about my half marathon, I wondered where to go next with running. As the short days at the end of the year approached, I knew I needed to find a purpose to running to keep me motivated. With the pressure of the half behind me, I realised I could enjoy my runs more, and tailor them to be what or how I wanted. It would be ok to deviate from a structured training plan and run when and where I fancied. I could even pause to admire the scenery and take a quick photo on my phone. 

When it’s cold and dark, early or late, some people choose to run on a treadmill. Now, I remember my last visit to a gym. It was 2003, and for a few weeks I tried to persuade myself that I could be someone who went to the gym. I already knew that I would never be someone who enjoyed going to the gym. Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake alternated on the music channel. I’d complete a circuit of about four machines, including the treadmill, then trudge home. As I was a student I went during the day so the gym was fairly quiet, but I hated it. So dull, repetitive, monotonous. Yes I burned calories, I probably even lost a bit of weight but, looking back, it wasn’t worth it. It was something to endure, feel relief at having completed, and then begin to dread when a day or two had passed and the next workout edged nearer. 

Since 2003 I’ve barely returned to a gym. I can’t imagine I would feel any different now. They don’t fill me with inspiration. About ten years ago I did invest in a cross trainer, which is just about bearable, but if I’m honest is tucked away in the loft. I think I used it once last year to get my steps up to 10,000 after a late finish at school. 

Given the choice, I’d exchange a treadmill for trails any day. The fresh air, the scenery, the sky, the landscape. There are so many reasons I would rather lace up my trainers and opt outside. I love to spot wildlife and birds, and can easily do so in the fields and woodlands within easy reach of my front door. On a recent run near home without even trying I spotted jays, buzzards, yellow hammers, gold finches and long tailed tits. In a couple of months I’ll hear cuckoos at Clumber Park and, if I’m lucky, maybe an occasional woodpecker. Rabbits, hare and squirrels often make an appearance too. All thrown in for the price of going outside for a run. 

I’m currently mulling over everything I read in Born to Run, and in particular what the rationale of my own running is. To me, running on a treadmill lacks the purpose of going outside for a run. The pleasure is removed and replaced with a dreary sense of duty; a box can be ticked when you’ve completed a run on a treadmill – job done, but are you itching to go again? Planning your next route? Hoping for a decent night’s sleep and a clear sky so the sunrise can pave the way for your next run, or are you just glad it’s over? 

Running (with dogs)

Since taking up running last April there have been lots of pluses for me, (fitness, weight, energy levels) but there have also been a couple of minuses. If you’ve been here from the start you’ll know that this blog was first and foremost created as a sewing blog, in order to share my makes with the online creative community. You’ll also have noticed that that type of post has become more sporadic over the past months. Aside from sewing, which I’m still passionate about, though has become something now largely reserved for school holidays, it’s the dogs who have lost out to my new love. Do they still get two walks a day? Almost always, yes. Do they get as many long walks as they used to? No, probably not – although again this is rectified during the holidays.

Wilf accompanied me on my first ever 5k, and trotted along merrily beside me, when I couldn’t possibly imagine running so far without feeling incredibly sick, dizzy and exhausted. But I quickly realised that holding his lead affected my posture, and as I began to try and learn about running, I knew holding a lead was a hindrance and not a help. Last year I worked on my technique, speed and my ability to just keep going. After long/harder runs I would usually walk the dogs after, albeit for shorter times and distances.

Around Christmas, I wasn’t training for anything and had accepted that steady runs are an important part of any running schedule, so I took Wilf out on a 5 mile run. He did great! I used a regular lead that I looped across my body, giving me adequate control over Wilf but enough freedom for him to  run (or at least walk quickly) beside me without requiring constant holding. It wasn’t the most comfortable set-up but it was ok. I did my usual 5 mile route, maybe 30 seconds – 1 minute per mile slower  than my usual pace – and of course we made around 10 stops for Wilf to cock his leg. He kept up with me well and only pulled a couple of times to try and investigate items of interest such as molehills and distant rabbit burrows.

Following this success, I ran a couple more times with Wilf on a similar route/distance, each time he seemed to tune in better to me and my pace and stride. I read something that said it was important to remember that running with a dog meant the dog is joining YOU on a run, when things like stopping to sniff a tree trunk should be discouraged and reserved for dedicated dog walks. One evening, I even bit the bullet and took both dogs out, somehow managing around 4 miles in a not too poor time – although Oliver has since returned to being an incompatible running buddy, confirmed this week when a mile into a run, I was forced to loop back to the house and shove him through the back door – he had no interest in picking up his pace and keeping up with me and Wilfie.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a special cannicross lead, which goes around your waist, attaches to a harness and is very stretchy, to ensure if the dog comes to a sudden halt the runner isn’t yanked to a stop or worse. So far I have worn this a couple of times, and realised part way through the first run that it is something that I need to adjust to, rather than Wilfie – it almost gives him too much freedom, especially for running beside roads – which is our main surface on dark and damp January evenings. Now, about 5 runs in, he is able to match my pace throughout a 5 mile run. He is learning that we only stop for a sniff and a wee when I have slowed down and walked a couple of steps first. I believe that fitness-wise, he would be capable of running twice as far, though I have’t yet experimented with this – but I do plan to.

The downside is that even when I do and have run with Wilfie, Oliver still needs to be exercised. Wilfie adores his walks, and will cry to be taken out on evenings when I would rather not. Oliver, on the other hand, is much more of a fair weather walker – if it’s too damp/cold/frosty, he’s happy to stay home, so a short post-run wander of a mile or so is often adequate for Oliver, fortunately.

As January comes to a close I’m looking with interest at races that I may wish to take part in during 2017. I’ve already spotted one or two where I can run with a dog. I haven’t yet taken Wilfie to Parkrun, but I’m thinking that would be a good way to see how he copes with running in a group – surrounded by people, pushchairs and dogs. If that is a success, I feel like we could make a good team in a cannicross-friendly run. Even off the lead, he just loves to run, too.

Teaching myself to run ~ the story of the Halloween Half

Usually this is first and foremost a sewing blog, interspersed with a sprinkling of teaching. If you’re hoping to read about fabric, patterns and fumbling my way through new techniques, turn back now, as the path of this post is quite different.

In one or two previous posts, and if you happen to follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may be aware that I’ve recently embarked on a new hobby – running. Just over 6 months ago I went for my first run. I got a Fitbit for my birthday in January, and I was curious about the possibility of trying to lower my resting heart rate. I’d never really thought about my heart rate before – but as my resting heart rate was averaging 77-78bpm  I couldn’t help but feel that it was a bit higher than it should be.

I’ve toyed with the idea of running once or twice before, but never with any determination or expectation that I would get anywhere, so to speak. I’ve always walked the dogs, and am proud to have completed the Lyke Wake Walk twice, but I’ve never been particularly fit or sporty. Back in mid April, I laced up my trainers and went outside. I used an app I had seen people use on Twitter – Runkeeper, just the free version. In 35m 3s I ran 3.19 miles. It was hard but I knew that to be able to do 5k in 30 minutes was respectable, and I wasn’t a million miles away. It was a start. I went every couple of days for almost two weeks, then tried a 10k. 6.4miles in 1 hour 14. It was hard but I was amazed I could run for so long without stopping or walking. A couple of days later I shaved that down to 1 hour 8 mins. I treated myself to new trainers, and had my gait checked and running style analysed.

It would be unfair not to mention the rough that came with the smooth. The old analogy of too much too soon definitely came into play, and a couple of months into running – even with shiny new trainers – I began getting soreness in my lower shins. In the night I would be awake after running because they were aching so much. To cut a very long story short, after two trips to a chiropractor and then one to a podiatrist, I finally scaled back my running to enable my legs to catch up with my fitness, which had just about been enough to carry me through those early 10k runs that I wasn’t really ready for. I switched off the announcements in Runkeeper that tell you time and pace and did what I was advised: ran for 30 minutes threes times a week for two weeks. I was running for an amount of time, not a distance and not with pace in mind, which grated on me but I stuck with. Over the next few weeks I upped my time by five minutes each week and then did three runs of that amount of time, and I could very quickly see the difference. I also focussed on my technique and posture, which I hadn’t at all before – who knew you have to learn to run?

Although I was aware that Parkruns existed, they were something I had never considered as of interest to me, but for 5 or 6 consecutive Saturdays in the run up to the summer holidays I woke up early and headed to Clumber Park; my nearest run. I took part in a 10k race two months to the day after my very first run, which took me around 1 hour 5 minutes and was in no way easy. In July I rashly decided that I wanted to do a 5k race in Rotherham that I’d found out about the day before, and got there and registered with literally moments to spare. When the klaxon sounded I realised this was possibly a mistake. It was one of the hottest days of the year and to say the course was undulating was an understatement. Furthermore, almost all of the other entrants were wearing their running club vests: this was a serious race. Yikes. I resolved that as long as I wasn’t last, I’d be happy. I managed to be about 72nd out of 80 – although I was actually thrilled with my time of 29m 30s! On a school night, with no notice or time to psyche myself up, in scorching weather. I was happy.

At the end of July I took the plunge and signed up for the Halloween Half, the local half marathon that takes place in Worksop. More by accident than design, it worked out that that gave me twelve weeks to train, so I installed another free app designed to help you prepare for a half marathon. I opted to run three times a week, as I thought this would be more practical when term began in September. The app was structured around three types of run, each week there was a long run, an interval or pace run and an easy run. No prizes for guessing which was my favourite. The app built up to a maximum time of 1 hour 50 minutes, and then for the last three weeks tapered down in preparation for race day.

Through the summer I continued running. I bought more trainers that were actually suitable to me and my feet and legs (advised by the podiatrist). I went on holiday and loved running in the beautiful Scottish countryside. In September I went on a residential trip to France, and my trainers came too and I followed my training plan and ran on Tuesday and Thursday evening. I surprised myself by how closely I followed the app, each day checking off whether I had completed the run or the rest day. In the full twelve weeks I missed one run – two days before the race my leg was stiff and had worsened during my previous two runs. I knew I would be a fool not to rest it for the sake of an easy 30 minutes, and risk putting my race in jeopardy. I sometimes switched days around, for instance completing my long run on a Saturday rather than Sunday, but I completed all but one of the 36 prescribed runs.

At this point, if not before, you may be wondering why. Why start is one question, but why keep going is quite different. My resting heart rate is lower – 63bpm at the time of publishing this. Also, I believe having an app like Runkeeper is hugely motivational, because the ability to track time and distance enables small gains that may not be felt, to be tracked. With almost every run I have seen an improvement on one level or another. In addition, running is something that is just for me. I’m in complete control, which I find appealing. If I have a bad run, it’s my fault, but if it’s good/faster/easier it’s because of me. I felt fitter and lost some weight, never a bad thing. I began to feel muscles I had never felt before. I felt a sense of accomplishment after each and every run. During training the furthest I ran was 11 miles, in slightly over 1 hour 50 minutes.

As I neared race day I decided it would be fantastic if I could use my first half marathon as a way of raising money for charity, and it would have to be Barnardo’s – the charity my class are supporting this year. I set up a Just Giving page and shared the link on Twitter. Donations began to come through from staff and families from school. I was humbled by how generous people were, perhaps never more so than when a donation for over £100 came through. The message stated that the Mallard pub at the train station in Worksop, had seen my tweet and chosen to donate the proceeds of their charity ale to my page. Completely unexpected. The downside of so much generosity was the element of pressure. If I messed up, if I didn’t make it or if my leg really was injured, I wasn’t just letting myself down any more. Although Barnardo’s would still receive the donations I didn’t want to disappoint so many people.

Race day dawned and at 6.30am, following much research, I ate two crumpets – one with cream cheese and the other with peanut butter. At 9am I headed across town, by car. After parking, collecting race numbers and dropping off bags, there was just time for a quick trip to the portaloos before heading to the start. I had run the vast majority of the course in different sections during training runs, so there weren’t too many surprises. Running as one of 2400 people is quite different though, and I guess looking at the different costumes and listening to conversations that were somehow going on, especially during those first few miles, definitely helped to distract me. I’d been advised to take an energy gel at miles 4, 8 and 12, and I knew they should be taken with water so they don’t upset your stomach. I made sure I paused at each of the three drinks stops, and also treated myself to a sponge to refresh my hands.

From mile 9 the tiredness set into my legs. Even though I had run further than that previously, I knew I was tiring and there was still four miles to go. I could have stopped, or slowed to a walk, but I knew I would see that as either cheating or failure. I kept going. Miles 9-12 were the miles I just gritted my teeth and ran through. They probably felt longer than the preceding 8 miles, and were definitely harder even though the start was hillier. I spotted a familiar face marshalling just before the mile 12 marker and that helped. A big smile from her and a glimpse of her chocolate labrador spurred me on.

With one mile to go and a steady decent I knew all that I needed to do was keep going. I was going to make it. That last mile felt long and I had nothing left to help me accelerate towards the finish. I just kept going. I spotted a friendly face from school and just after that they announced my name right before I crossed the finish line, and then suddenly there were volunteers perched on stools, ready to remove the timing chip from my trainer. I had made it. There was no one there awaiting me, no one to collapse into or high five, and no one there had any energy left to be concerned with anyone but themselves. But I knew people were waiting. I sent a couple of texts and then tweeted my photo – looking worse for wear but done. DONE! And in a respectable time – my chip time turned out to be 2 hours 51 seconds, a fair bit quicker than I had anticipated.If you’ve got this far through this (half) marathon of a blog post, well done and thank you. There have been so many aspects to this race that have surprised me and surpassed my expectations. The total of my Just Giving page continues to astound me – as do the numerous messages of support that I have received over the past days. The page is still open, so if you’ve not had chance to donate I’d be thrilled if you did so. Each donation was the reason I kept going. Hearing people ask me how I got on in the half marathon is surreal. Me? A half marathon? In the same sentence? It still sounds odd, like they are enquiring about someone else. I’ve tried on my t-shirt, and I took my medal into school to show my class. Oh, and I’m now on the lookout for more half marathons. I mean, it would be nice to aim for under 2 hours, wouldn’t it?

Making the Most of the Summer

The summer break is here, and it’s that lovely time when anything seems possible, and I have endless possibilities of things that I could/should/hope to do during the holidays. It’s a time to get organised with practical but necessary stuff; medical/dental appointments, banking and other bits of chores and housekeeping. It’s a chance to reflect on the past year at work and to plan, prepare and refocus ready for the new school year. Aside from these things are all the other things that I enjoy and now have proper time for. I love spending time walking the dogs, and yesterday incorporated a trip to North Yorkshire with walking a few miles across the moors with Wilf. I will be walking both dogs each day, and at this time of year I like to get in the car to take them to different fields and forests. As well as daily walks, I mentioned briefly in my last post that I have recently started running, and as my legs and feet are now feeling stronger, I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my technique and timing over the next few weeks. I’m currently working on running 35 minutes, and will probably do another one before I up it to 40 minutes (I’ve learnt from leaping from 5k to 10k and am now trying out increasing in smaller increments).

It’s a good few weeks since I sewed anything; I’m completely out of the swing of it and need to pick a project to ease my way back in. Running and watching what I eat has meant I’m a little slimmer so I know the first thing to do is to take new measurements, so I can evaluate the sizing of any patterns I choose. I have tonnes of fabric, plenty of patterns, and now time is on my side there really should be no stopping me. The other things I enjoy but often neglect during term time are reading, cooking and blogging, and of course catching up with some of my favourite people. So here’s my plan: to try and fit at least one of the things I love into every day, to make sure no day is wasted – though I’m all for unstructured time and binge watching TV box sets, obviously. If each day I can include at least one – ideally two – of my favourite activities, then I believe it will help me feel both productive and relaxed. So whether it’s walking, running, sewing, reading, blogging or baking, or any combination of those, I’ll be happier, fitter and ultimately will feel like I’m making the most of the holidays.

Sunday Somethings

This is my first attempt at anything resembling Sunday Sevens for a long time, and havinga quick look through my photos I can see there aren’t seven images to share from this week, but there are some, hence the rename. For a proper explanation of Sunday Sevens, particularly what a good one looks like, head over to Threads and Bobbins. 

It’s probably worth mentioning where I’ve been over the last couple of months…I’ve been teaching, sewing, and walking the dogs just like before, but somehow how blogging seems to have fallen by the wayside a little. I’ve completed  up to and including my L Dress (though have yet to blog my G Dress and beyond) and have made another couple of garments besides. As usual, I’m planning to have a major catch up (with everything!) during the summer hols. 

1. Last week the young cherry tree in my garden had some bright red cherries. This week it has some pale coloured cherry stones. I can’t be too annoyed at the birds for a snaffling them.

2. Went for tea at mum + dad’s house, and was treated to a film show. My dad travels a lot and takes lots of pictures; today they arrived in Holland for a few nights so no doubt more photos to follow. 

3. Went on a couple of walks last weekend, one of which was near Wentworth in Rotherham. I’ve been visiting that village since I was very small. Around the Wentworth Woodhouse estate there are loads of follies and monuments. One is even called The Eye of the Needle (topical!) but I didn’t see that one this time. 

4. The biggest change in the last few months is that I’ve started running! Mainly just 5k but a few 10ks, including my first 10k race. If there was an opposite saying to ‘like a duck to water’ I would use that to describe how I’ve got on. Fitness and weight wise I feel better but I’ve had difficulties with my legs – after 2 visits, the chiropractor concluded I’m not built to run. Next stop is the podiatrist and, although I’m currently running less often and less far than I would like, I’m determined to keep going. Here’s Wilfie after a post-work 5k on Friday. 

5. Spent a bit of time tidying up the garden today, things are growing so quickly I can’t keep up. Love the colour of these self-seeding poppies. 

I’m currently out on my Sunday afternoon dog walk, in the sunshine. This weekend’s flown so I plan to mostly relax for the rest of the day, quite possibly with a g+t for good measure. Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend, and have a great week ahead. 

3.7.16 

Sunrise: 4.44

Sunset: 21.34

Instagram ccmercer

New up on the blog today ~ it's the summer so I've been sewing! Could it be the perfect pattern for autumn/winter? Link in profile 🔗
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@sewoveritlondon #heather #heatherdress #knits #sewingwithknits #jersey #autumn #winter #winterwardrobe #cosy Today I ran my third half marathon, in the glorious August sunshine. It was a warm one, but fairly flat, and a lovely way to spend a few hours on a Sunday.
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#halfmarathon #newarkhalf #roadrace #august #feelinghothothot Summer delights homegrown in dad's garden 🌱
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#homegrown #tomatoes #fresh #eatfresh #5aday #runners4runners #runnerbeans #green #vegetables #eattherainbow #Heatherdress #2 is now in progress. Hard to tell from the photo, but it's a lilac-grey jersey I've had in my stash for a while, possibly from last year's #sewupnorth ? I'm planning on the 3/4 sleeve option, and adding 3 inches to the length rather than the 4 I added to version 1. This fabric is a lot less beach than the other, so I'm interested to compare + contrast the two. I'm thinking this one will be more casual, although my stitching needs to be neater as it will be in plain sight on this one 😬 .
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@sewoverit #sewingwithknits #memade #autumn #sewingtheseasons #cosy #lilac #sweatshirt #dressmaking My first @sewoveritlondon #heatherdress is all cut out and underway. I've added a couple of inches to the length, hoping this turns out to be a colourful dress for late summer/autumn. If it were finished I'd be wearing it today - it's torrential! ☔️ Fabric bought on my last trip to @fabworksmillshop .
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#jersey #dressmaking #memade #knits #floral #autumn #colourful #pockets Yesterday I washed all of my class's karate kits. Never one to miss an opportunity to create a comfy bed, Oliver made the most of the heap of laundry for somewhere to snooze. .
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#baddog #laundry #washing #karate #karatekits #summerholiday #rescuedog #luxury

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