We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Friday, 11 May 2012

Reading, wRiting and Running - The 3 Rs!

I love books. Every Christmas night, my Mum and Dad would put a much wanted book under our pillow along with new pyjamas (Thunderbird one year). That book was often my absolutely best Christmas present. I can still remember finding the Tales of Narnia and the thrill of reading that first page.

As the summer approaches, another book ritual kicks in - choosing the holiday reading. I love a treat and we've got a long trip this year so I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done.

Books and reading have been a constant pleasure throughout my life.  A good book, a timely learned article or a zippy magazine piece provide insight, company, learning and great, great pleasure. I try to keep my book collection pared down and so the books that are with me have been life long friends and seen me through some tough times. Those books stay with me and tell the story of my life with remarkable accuracy. More recently I've added blogs and downloads and websites to my literary collection. My cup ranneth over when I first downloaded a book en route so I could read it there and then - wow!

So, it's not really surprising that I now have some running books in my book case. My running reading started with Women's Running Magazine and Runners World They broke me into the notion of reading about running. Then I was pointed in the direction of two of the great classics of running -  Born to Run by Chris McDougall and Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and my running has been transformed by these books. 

Some of it has been because I now have some knowledge about running, a bit of science. I now know about the importance of speed work and tempo runs; that you need to get carbs and protein in fairly quickly after a long run and certainly not after a shower, face pack, exfoliation and manicure! Useful stuff that helps you run better and stronger.

But the reading that really inspires my running and has changed me behind recognition isn't about facts and figures; it isn't about the calculations of pace and tempo. What really inspires me is runners talking about their running, their stories about how and why they run. Sure some of these can get quite technical, but the magic is when another runner lets you into what's going on in their head, sharing their experience of running.

There are times when reading the race report is like running alongside someone, without the pain and blisters. You can get a sense of what it's like to run very fast or very long; to run up hills, in the desert. You can run vicariously in every country in the world.  You can learn how to run a great race and sadly too often what not to do.

It was reading runner's blogs that I understood that running a marathon isn't just about when you finish but crossing that line with a smile. I learnt that even the greatest runners have demons to face and their own challenges to beat. I have come to know that being able to run at all is a great privilege and one that we should never take for granted.

Something magic happens when all this running stuff gets into your brain. The other day I didn't leave enough time to get to a meeting. As I charged up the road I hurried quicker and quicker and then without thinking I leant forward, The I leant a bit more and then POW! I was running! Just like Danny says on the podcast, I was leaning like a Nordic skier!  It felt remarkably good, despite (or maybe because of) the heels on my boots and a rucksack jumping about on my back.

Out of the blue the words 'born to run' came into my head.  Of course!  Suddenly it all made sense. Running to a meeting, even fully clothed, is a natural and obvious way to travel when a bit more speed is required (or just for fun).  Usually when I've had to run in work gear it's felt very uncomfortable, not quite natural, but this time it felt just right. I ran and walked all the way and got there in good time, a bit flushed but feeling good. It's actually a bit easier falling forward in high heels and the rucksack holds my shoulders back.  Not a marathon maybe but fine for a couple of miles.

Reading about running counts. It's sort of  like our continuing professional development. If we want to be better runners then we have to learn.  So yesterday when my train was delayed, instead of getting stressed, as befits my new laid back self (did I miss something? ed) I went with the flow and took the chance to catch up on my running reading. I read about Ethiopian runners in the Olympics. I saw a photo of Barefoot Ted and Christopher McDougall at the New York Barefoot Running Festival. I immersed myself in kit, supplements, the barefoot debate and runners. What a treat.

When the train started up again and the journey to work began again, I felt I'd been given a present - a little bit of the working day claimed back for reading about running.  I smiled and that smile stayed with me all day.

So thank you to all your bloggers, runners, writers for sharing your stories, your wisdom and experiences. Thank you for letting me come with you as you train for your first marathon, do a park run or the West Highland Way.  Thank you for helping me learn to be a runner.

Take care and happy running


Monday, 7 May 2012

Running on sleepy: eyes half shut

Okay, hands up who's exhausted? Who would really, really like to catch up on the old zzzzs but is just too busy? Sleeping time gets hijacked when we've lots to do. Up at 4am to get that run in before work. Staying up late to get the ironing done or more pleasurably, to get some time with friends. Every day that sleeping time gets a bit more chipped off it, gradually whittled away, even on a bank holiday! Long gone are the days of sleeping til lunchtime.

I don't know about you, but I've just got used to having less than my allotted 8 hours kip and most of the time it's fine. Less sleep, more time to do things. Lying in wastes time that could be spent doing things - it wastes the day. Yes I am that age and I am now saying things my parents said to me.

Because I'm practicing body-sensing, I'm beginning to understand what sleep deprivation does to me. On our trip to Barcelona in March, the clocks went forward several times so we didn't know which way was up when we got home. Then an early rise for a trip to London, a few a late finishes at work and a long 'to do list'. None of these keep me awake at night, I go out like a light.  No my problem is waking up at 4am. If I've had a long day at work or lots of travelling, that's often accompanied by a night of poor quality sleep, my body restless from sitting down all day, eating crap food and drinking too much tea.  

When I'm tired, things go awry. I struggle to concentrate, I'm easily distracted and I can't resist nibbling on rubbish, high sugar, high fat, junk food. My brain is not engaged with what I'm doing, it floats around on the breeze of random thoughts. Chocolate is eaten with absolutely no conscious input at all, cake slips past the lips barely tasted. My brain is on stand-by and those chattering monkeys rule the roost (apologies for the mixed metaphor there).

So I've been doing some digging round about sleep.  Research shows that we never really catch up after losing that hour when the clocks change. Maybe because I'm a winter baby my body clock is on British winter time, I never really feel right when the clocks are on British Sumer Time. We lose about 40 minutes of sleep every night after the clocks go forward as our body rhythms struggle to adapt. That adds up to a hell of a lot of sleep, especially if we're all paring our sleep down to the bone just to get by.

There's plenty of research that shows that disrupted sleep might not kill you, but it can certainly make your focus a bit blurred.  One study I found recently (www.occdigest.org.uk) showed that a lack of sleep can make us more prone to cyber loafing "frittering away work time on unrelated online activities". Isn't cyber-loafing a great concept,? I don't get time to do it at work (honest!) but I do lot a bit in my own time and it is good sport when you're tired or a bit hungover.

Anyway, they looked at Google's publicly available data for entertainment-related searches and found that these searches were significantly higher after the clocks went forward. The costs of cyber loafing have been estimated at £300m per year. That's a lot of loafing.

One of the theories for 'cyber-loafing' is ego depletion.  Some researchers see will power as a resource that gets used up through effort and sleep replenishes and re charges it. Lack of sleep saps our regulatory resources making us easy pickings for behaviours we need to keep control of - our defences are low. Certainly waking up groggy and out of synch with yourself is not a great way to start the day and is often associated with random thoughts about bacon rolls or muffins.

Lack of sleep certainly saps my will power and gets right at my weak spots. Women's Running magazine cites research that shows that a good sleep helps cut snacking, a real problem for me.  Folks who got less than 5.5 hours sleep a night ate larger amounts of high carb snacks than those who got 8 hours - and don't my scales know it. And this is not counting any impact lack of sleep has on your metabolism, making it easier to out fat on and harder to get it off. 

And of course it can be serious, lack of sleep can affect your running. Running Times had an interesting article on sleep and running.  Decreased sleep for even a few days impaired glycogen synthesis, meaning you're running on a half full tank and may "bonk" earlier than a well-rested individual (stop sniggering at the back). Disrupted sleep undermines our ability to repair training-induced soft-tissue breakdown. Not good if you're putting your body through serious training. 

So, freshly back from a very nice run, feeling replenished and refreshed despite my lack of sleep, what do I make of all of this?  All the advice is about getting to sleep and I don't have that problem, I am out like a light maybe because I already do all the stuff you're supposed to do. My problem is I'm wide awake at 4am wake up and then I start thinking about what I've got to do and the game's a bogie. I think I might just have to love with this for a while, so until I get a cunning plan, I'm going to take two preventative measures.  First I'm going to be limit the amount of running-related damage I inflict on my body. If I'm not repairing myself fully, then I have to watch my recovery times and make sure I take in protein immediately after a long or hard run. Second, I'm going to make the most of those early rises, that bit of extra time, and I'm going to enjoy a run, or get into work early. I'm not going to fret, just go with the flow.

Only two short runs and a spin class this week because of being away at the weekend. So I did 2 faster runs, one barefoot in the beach where I really focussed on form - both quality.  Next week I'm not going to do a long run, I fancy a break from distance, so I'm going to do more shorter ones just for a change and see how my body reacts to greater frequency. I did one today with a cheeky hill in the middle and it feels good.

Have a great week whether you're running, walking, working, playing, whatever.

Take care