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Half marathon

My first half marathon: Great Manchester Run

A couple of weeks ago (Sunday 20th May), I took part in a massive personal challenge – my first half marathon (The Great Manchester Run). I wanted to share this on my blog just to show that with hard work, anything is possible.


My first half marathon – training

I love to push myself and completing a half marathon was one of my goals for this year. So back in January, I signed up to the Manchester half marathon, which gave me 5 months to train. I’m the sort of person that when I set a goal, nothing stops me from achieving it. So I downloaded a half marathon training app (I used Asics, thought it was really good) and started my training. To be honest, I was already doing quite a lot of running anyway. In January I joined a run club, so I was running a couple of times a week with them and doing quite a few 10k races and Park Run to keep my fitness up. Over the next few months I was running several times a week, as well as mixing in some strength training and classes at the gym.

When it got towards April, I started trying to build the distance up a bit. I’m fine with running 6-7 miles but I’m not really used to doing any further than this. Hence why this half marathon was such a challenge for me. Over the couple of months leading up the race I used my Sunday’s as a practice for longer runs. I started with 8 miles and built up to a 10 mile run a few weeks before the race. To be honest, I really, really struggled with the 10 mile run I did in training. I felt ok in terms of my fitness, but it was my legs. They just hurt so much and I struggled to physically keep running. I now know that this was due to me not fuelling properly during the run or taking any water with me (schoolgirl error!). I’m not used to long runs so I didn’t realise I’d need some sweets or energy gels during the run.

The longer training runs knocked my confidence a bit. I had to slow right down to keep going for 10 miles and I really struggled. I also ran out of time leading up to the race so only managed to do one 10 mile run before race day – I would have liked to fit a few more in to be honest or get a bit closer to the half marathon distance. Basically, I did not feel ready for it! But I read somewhere that if you can run 8 miles, you should be able to safely complete a half marathon. So this reassured me a bit.


My first half marathon – preparing for race day

The days before the race I tried to prepare as best I could. It was going to be a hot day (typical!) for the race, so I made sure I drank lots of water in the days leading up to it and avoided alcohol. I also made sure I ate as much as I could, especially carbs like pasta.  I also toned down the running and exercise about 4 days before so that I wouldn’t be tired and have sore legs on the day of the race. The night before, I got all my kit ready and packed my back pack that I was taking. I made sure I took plenty of water, some sweets (jelly babies and Haribo) to have while I was running, some spare clothes, suncream as it was a hot day and some post race snacks. I then got an early night as I had to get up at about 5am for the journey to Manchester! But could I sleep? No way!

On the morning of the race I kept hydrated on the journey to Manchester. I was so nervous I felt sick. I have done plenty of 10k races before but I was worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 13.1 mile distance, as it’s something I’d never done. I was also worrying about when to eat my sweets during the run to keep my energy up, and about how hot it was as I’m not used to running in the heat.

Luckily we arrived in Manchester with plenty of time to spare and I had time to go to the toilet (twice) as I had drank so much water! I have taken part in this event before – last year I did the 10k – and I just love it. It’s so well organised and the atmosphere is amazing. So as soon as I saw all the crowds and headed to the start area I started to feel more excited than nervous and like I could actually, maybe, do this.


During the race…

My strategy for this race was just to complete it, without stopping. I didn’t care what time I got. I just wanted to complete it, as it was my first one, to prove I could do it.  As I normally run around 9 – 9.30 min miles during races, I thought I’d be best going slower (for me) and aiming for 10 minute miles, which is what I did during training. The last thing I wanted to do was start off too fast and then burn out. I also decided I would have some sweets after about 40 minutes of running and then after about 60 minutes and so on, to avoid what happened in my training where I felt like I couldn’t physically go on after 10 miles. I had worked out that I would probably finish in around 2hr 20 mins if I went steady and this factored in possibly having to stop and/or walk a bit.

I started steady and luckily, as I was in the group that were expected to finish in over 2 hours, everyone was running at a similar, steady pace to me. This helped as I felt I was in the right group and  it meant I didn’t get caught up trying to run too fast.

My first half marathon 2

In all honesty, because I was running slower than I usually would for a shorter race – I found it quite enjoyable mostly. I just took it steady, had my sweets for energy and took all the water that was offered. It was very hot though with limited shade and I found that side of it pretty tough. I kept going and felt fine until I got to mile 10 – yep, the milestone! After mile 10 I really started to struggle, my legs hurt so much and it was a struggle to keep going. I didn’t stop though and pushed through the pain.

By mile 11/12 so many people had started to walk and some had actually collapsed at the side of the road and were receiving medical attention, which shows just how tough going it is really. I carried on pushing through the pain and when I got to mile 12 and realised I only had 1 mile left, I think adrenaline or something must have taken over! My legs were still hurting but I started to speed up again and did the final mile almost a minute quicker than the previous 2. As soon as I saw the finish line I went for it – I really don’t know how I had the energy but I just sprinted as fast as I could towards the finish line! Once over it though I could hardly walk and sort of hobbled towards where they were handing out the medals and finishers packs.


After the race…

As I was hobbling towards the meeting point I checked my watch and I just couldn’t quite believe it. I’d completed the half marathon in 2 hours 8 minutes, which I was over the moon at. I had been expecting about 2 hours 20 minutes as I thought I’d have to walk at some point. If I had been able to hold my pace between miles 10-12 then I would have probably finished around 2 hours 5 minutes. Plus if it was cooler maybe even quicker. I’m so pleased with myself it’s unbelievable. I still cannot believe that I’ve been able to train and run a half marathon, after having scoliosis surgery. It took me about a week to recover from it – my legs hurt pretty bad for at least 4 days  – but I’m so proud of myself. In fact, I have even signed up to another one at the end of the year 🙂

My first half marathon

 

 

Half marathon training – 3 weeks to go

So, at the start of this year I (stupidly) signed up to run a half marathon in May – The Great Manchester Run. I wanted to push myself and see how far I could take my running, and after running several 10k races, a half marathon seemed the next logical step. I must admit, I didn’t expect May to roll around quite so fast!

It seemed ages away when I first signed up back in December. I thought I’d have ages to train and build up my distance, but the reality is I haven’t done nearly as many longer runs as I’d like to have done by this stage and I’m starting to panic that I won’t be able to do it.

I thought I’d do a quick post to show what training I have been doing, using this last week as an example. I have been loosely following an Asics training plan for the past 12 weeks, but I must admit that I haven’t managed to do every run due to life getting in the way.

The plan generally consists of 4 runs a week, including a longer run on a Sunday. I have adapted it slightly by mixing in some intervals as well as strength training in between runs such as body pump, yoga or some weights in the gym.


Half Marathon Training – 4 weeks to go

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles fast)

Sunday  – 9 miles  (steady pace)

Monday – BODY PUMP (strength training)

Tuesday – REST DAY

Wednesday – Intervals (Treadmill – 3.7 miles) + strength training

Thursday – Run Club Run (5 miles – steady pace)

Friday – Gym – Strength training


Half Marathon Training – 3 weeks to go

So the plan for next week is as follows..

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles fast pace) – DONE!

Sunday – 9/10 mile run (steady pace)

Monday –  Body Pump / strength training

Tuesday – REST DAY

Wednesday –  3 mile jog (slow pace)

Thursday – Run club (7.5 miles – steady pace)

Friday – GYM – Strength training

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles – fast pace)

Sunday – 11 mile run


So that’s what I’ve been doing pretty much over the last 12 weeks, although I’ve only just started to up the distance from a couple of weeks ago.

I just hope I can do this!! If I do manage to complete this half marathon, it will be a huge achievement for me. I never thought anything like this would be possible after my scoliosis surgery. I’m so nervous about it right now.

Oh and just in case you are interested, when I do strength training at the gym this includes the below. I tend to do this in between running days or if I can’t get onto body pump. Currently aiming for twice a week.


Half Marathon Training – Strength Training

Chest Press – 3 x sets of 12

Leg Press – 3 x sets of 12

Lat Pull Down – 3 x sets of 12

Shoulder Press – 3 x sets of 12

Low Row Pulley – 3 x sets of 12

Squat Thrusts – 3 x sets of 12

Squats – 3 x sets of 12

Plank – 3 x 1 minute


I’ll update how I get on after the event.. eeeek!!! Never give up on your dreams! 🙂

Louise X

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Half Marathon Training Plan

Running and mental health

Running and Mental Health

Running and Mental Health


It’s Mental Health Awareness week 14th – 20th May 2018, so to raise awareness I thought I’d write a post on the effect running has had on my own mental health. It’s well documented that running can be good for mental health, and everyone has reasons why they run.

For some it’s to lose weight, keep fit or socialise. For others, it’s escapism from a stressful job or the strains of everyday life. Personally, I run for a mix of reasons, yes I do it to keep fit but also because I enjoy it, running makes me happy and when I’m running I forget about everything else.


How I discovered running…

I have suffered with anxiety, depression and low self esteem over the years, as a direct result of having scoliosis. I first discovered running about 3 years ago, 5 years after my scoliosis surgery, which I had to fuse my spine straighter in 2010.

My friend was taking part in a Race for Life 10k event and asked me to join her. At the time, I was a bit dubious as I had never done any running before and the event was only 5 weeks away. However, me being me, I agreed to take part to support her and started training.

In the past, I had always avoided running. With having scoliosis, I knew that it probably wasn’t the best for me due the impact on the joints and spine. I didn’t want to let my back stop me though! After training for just 5 weeks, I completed my first ever 10k in 1 hour 17 minutes, which I was incredibly proud of at the time.

After this, I was addicted. I guess I couldn’t believe what my body had achieved, despite my scoliosis.

Since then, I have completed many 10k races in under an hour and I have a wall full of medals. I regularly take part in Park Run, I’m a member of a running club and I’m training for a half marathon in May.

Running has helped me to overcome so many obstacles and has gotten me through some incredibly tough times.

Running and mental health
Night Trail Running!

 


How running saved me…

Last year, I had a particularly tough time following the break down of my 13 year relationship. At the time, I was feeling so alone and pretty depressed. I hit rock bottom, started binge drinking and I was hardly eating. I would say that running helped to save me from a downward spiral and possible break down.

Luckily, in December, I started pulling myself together and signed up to Run up to Christmas, which I spotted by chance on Instagram. This is a virtual running event where you had to run a certain amount of kms between 1st – 25th December. I chose 50km. The cost of entering went towards supporting Mind, the charity for mental health, and you got a cool medal if you completed it.

For me, this was brilliant as it kept me distracted during a difficult festive period and forced me out in the cold and snow. I suddenly had something to aim for again. There was also an online community, which made me feel less alone and I started connecting and chatting with others taking part. It also motivated me to attend my local Park Run on Christmas Day to get those final kms in,  instead of moping around feeling depressed.

Run up to Christmas
Run up to Christmas medal

A Fresh Start…

In January this year, I also forced myself to join a run club and have met lots of other like-minded people.

I was terrified the first time I went, but it has helped my well-being immensely. I now feel part of a community and less alone. When I attend races and Park Run I actually recognise people and people say hi to me, rather than just going and running on my own like I used to. This has all worked wonders for my mental health and I’m in a much better place than I was last year as a result.

Running and mental health
Air Products 10K with my run club

I now run about four times a week, a couple of times a week with the run club. Running gives me something to focus on and seeing myself improve over time makes me feel so good about myself. It also reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible, despite my scoliosis and anything going on in my personal life.

If I’m feeling anxious, low or having a bad day, I’ll go for a run. It’s my way of managing stress and anxiety and it works for me. After going out for a run or completing a race, I feel on a high all day and those endorphins are highly addictive.

Running and mental health
Running and mental health – Tatton Park 10K

 


Miles for Mind

To raise awareness of mental health and to give myself something to aim for in May, I have signed up to Miles for Mind. This is another virtual running event and I’ll be aiming to run at least 75 miles throughout May. With 50% of profits going to Mind, who provide advice and support to those with mental health problems, it’s definitely a worthy cause.


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Running and Mental Health

China Trek Day 2 - Gubeikou

Trekking the Great Wall of China: What to wear

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may know that last year I took part in a trek across the Great Wall of China to raise some much needed money for the Scoliosis Campaign Fund. Since then, I have been asked on several occasions about what to take and wear whilst trekking the Great Wall, so I thought I’d put a bit of a post together based on my own experiences.


Trekking the Great Wall of China: What to wear

What to wear when trekking the Great Wall of China will depend on what time of year you go, I did my trek in October, and the weather was pretty good. However, the weather can be changeable and so layers are a must. The following advice is based on my own experiences trekking the Great Wall in Autumn, for other times of year you would need to adjust accordingly (i.e. shorts for summer, thermals for winter). For my trek in October, I took the following items:


Trekking trousers

You will need a couple of decent pairs of trekking / hiking trousers ideally with pockets. I found pockets important for easy access to my phone (for taking pics!)  I bought some where the legs zipped off, so that if I got too warm they doubled as three quarter length trousers. The main thing is that after hours of walking, you need to be comfortable. So either trekking trousers or sports leggings that you’d wear for running or going to the gym are ideal. You should also take some waterproof trousers just in case. Luckily, I didn’t need mine but they are useful to carry in your day pack in case of heavy rain, which can and does happen in October.


Thermal base layers

I took a few thermal base layers to wear under my T-shirts. I usually wore a thermal base layer, a t-shirt and a light fleece to start with and then de-layered pretty quickly as we started walking up hill. Most days I just wore a t-shirt and then put a fleece on when we stopped for lunch and it got a bit chilly. Layers are a must because you really don’t know what the weather will be doing. When we were there it was in the high teens and sunny most of the time but we were really lucky as the week before they had torrential rain. I bought my thermal base layers from the Mountain Warehouse off Amazon but you can get them in lots of sports shops. They come in handy for running too and I still use mine when running or hiking in the winter.

 


Wicking T-shirts

As above, you’ll need several wicking t-shirts to wear over your base layer. I had some running t-shirts which I took but make sure they are the wicking material which helps you stay dry when you start sweating.

 


Day sack (30L)

You need a decent ruck sack for carrying your layers,  lunch/snacks any first aid equipment and your water. You’ll probably need around 1-2 litres of water but more if you’re trekking in the summer. I bought a Karrimor back pack from Sports Direct which had a section for a  water bladder.

I would recommend taking a water bladder as it’s so much easier but you don’t need more than 2 litres if you are going in October. Although mine leaked a few times so I’d recommend putting it in a plastic bag just in case. I would also recommend a back pack that has loops for tying your walking poles and also straps for fastening around your waist and chest for support.

If possible, try to get some advice about your backpack and how to wear/pack it to avoid injuries and strains, I didn’t do this and ended up straining my shoulder muscles, so it’s important trust me! It’s also worth taking a waterproof cover for your ruck sack just in case.


Walking Boots

Walking boots with ankle support and a decent grip are ESSENTIAL. Some parts of the Great Wall are very uneven and the steep parts can be very slippy, especially if it’s wet. I’d recommend going to an outdoors shop such as Mountain Warehouse, Go Outdoors, or Sports Direct and trying them on before purchasing. You should also wear them in before your trek to avoid blisters.

 


Walking Socks

As above, you’ll need at least 4/5 pairs of decent walking socks. You can’t wear normal socks as they will rub and give you blisters. I bought my walking socks from Sports Direct and they were fab. I was surprised actually as I had no blisters at all the whole time!


Walking Poles

Walking poles are essential if you are trekking the Great Wall of China, they really help to take the strain off your knees and I really think they saved my life on some of the really steep bits!! I would recommend lightweight foldable ones that you can attach to your back pack when you are not using them. Again, I bought mine from Sports Direct (Karrimor ones) and they were a good price but you can get them from Amazon or most outdoor shops if you don’t have any already.


Fleeces

I took a few lightweight fleeces as well as one really thick one that I travelled in/wore in the evenings. When trekking, thinner layers are better so lightweight fleeces are preferable – they are easier to whip off and carry in your back pack too. I didn’t wear my fleeces much when trekking, it was mostly when we stopped for lunch as it usually felt cooler when we stopped. Also, some parts of the wall are high up in the mountains and so it naturally gets cooler the higher you go.


Waterproof

I took a lightweight waterproof jacket – you don’t need anything too big / heavy. just something which will keep you dry and that you can easily roll up and stuff in your back pack. Mine is a Karrimor one from Sports Direct and is quite thin but you can layer up with fleeces underneath. If you were going in the winter you may need something warmer but for spring/Autumn a thin waterproof with layers should suffice.


Running/walking belt

I didn’t actually take one of these but it’s something I wish I had taken and I’ve since bought one for my running / walking. Other members of the group had them and they are just useful for putting your phone/camera etc in so you don’t have to keep stopping to get them out of your bag. If you have trousers with pockets it’s less of an issue but having things in your pockets when you’re walking for miles can be uncomfortable. I’ve found some examples of what I mean on Amazon here – running / walking belts but I recently bought one from Sports Direct similar to the one below and I think it is brilliant.

 

 


Hat/Scarf or neckwarmer/Gloves

It can get cold higher up on the wall so it’s worth taking some warm gloves, a warm hat/bandana to cover your ears and a neckwarmer or scarf. To be honest, in October I didn’t need these items much but they are worth taking in your back pack as the weather can change quickly and it can get cold if the fog rolls in. Depending on the time of year, you may also want to take a sunhat and sunglasses as the sun can be quite strong. It was sunny/bright most of the time we were there and so I wore my sunglasses most days.


Other useful items

So I think the above are the main things, some other things you may need are as follows:

  • First aid kit including plasters and blister pads, just in case
  • Your usual toiletries/medications
  • Suncream
  • Insect Repellent with DEET
  • Deepheat – I used this ALOT it was a lifesaver
  • Antiseptic hand gel
  • Water bottles if you are not using a water bladder
  • Camera, or you can just use your phone
  • If you are using your phone a lot, consider taking a powerbank to keep your phone nicely charged so you don’t miss out on any photos!

Well that’s the majority of it and you obviously need all your travel documents and a Chinese Visa. If you have any questions about my trip drop me an email or put a comment below and I’ll get back to you 🙂

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Trekking the Great Wall of China - What to Wear

Chester 10K medal

Chester 10K

So, this year I have set my sights on completing at least 10 10K races/running events as part of my 2018 goals and Chester 10K was race number four. So far the others include Tatton Park 10K  (which I’ve done twice this year) and a night trail run at Lyme Park.

I was nervous but excited to take part in the Chester 10k, mainly because it was quite a big event and it’s also the first one they’ve held in Chester.


Chester 10K: Before the race

The race started at 9.30am and the weather was actually terrible. It was so, so cold with a biting wind and torrential rain/sleet. I did think about pulling out at one point but I’m the type of person that, once I’ve committed to something, I’ll stick to it. So I wasn’t going to let a bit of rain put me off!

Chester 10K bib
Chester 10K bib

The starting point was at Northgate Arena in the centre of Chester. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, warm up, go to the loo, take a selfie (obviously) and head to the start line for 9.30am. When I arrived I was shocked at how many people were there and the nerves hit me again! Luckily we were able to wait inside before the race because it was pretty cold!

Chester 10K - pre race selfie
Chester 10K – Pre race selfie!

 

I didn’t have a particular time in mind for this race. I’ve (unfortunately? stupidly?) signed up to a half marathon in May and so I thought I’d just use this race as part of my training and take it easy. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of course difficulty and hills etc so thought I’d just go with the flow. 🙂

Chester 10K at the start
Chester 10K: at the start

Overall though, despite tough conditions, I really enjoyed the race. There were a few, short, sharp hills but it was mostly flat with some amazing downhill parts (they are always the best!) It started at Northgate Arena and we then ran out of the city down some country lanes and it finished back in the city centre near the town hall.

I seriously did not set out to run quicker than normal but I was surprised to see my pace was much quicker than usual as I checked my watch throughout.

I found it (relatively!) easy to keep a quicker pace and I do think it’s because I have done Tatton 10K twice this year now in horrific weather and for me this is a much harder course with longer, gradual inclines.

Chester 10k also had the amazing crowd support, which always keeps you going when you want to stop!

The final mile did feel tough though and I was so glad when I saw the finish line. I was soaked through from the freezing rain and my hands were so numb even though I was wearing gloves. As I approached the finish, I gave it everything I could, sprinting over the line even though I felt sick.

I was so shocked that I managed to get a final time of 55.44!!! This is my quickest EVER 10k time, the fastest before this that I’d done was around 57-58 minutes. I really did surprise myself and it just goes to show what you can do if you work hard enough.

Chester 10K finishing time
Chester 10K finishing time

I didn’t set out for a PB but I’ve been training hard over the last few months in my new running club, despite the horrible weather. Over the last few months I’ve forced myself out in the dark, rain, snow and wind to do interval training and took part in several 10K races which all help to improve speed and stamina. Sometimes though, I find when I don’t put too much pressure on myself to get a “good time” and just go with the flow and enjoy the run I end up performing better. I really enjoyed taking part and the medal and finishers pack were awesome too!

Chester 10K finishers pack

Chester 10K me with medal


What’s next?

I now need to step up the distance for my half marathon at the end of May. I’ll be sharing some posts on my training soon but this will involve longer runs and also strength training.

When I ran my first 10K race a few years ago I completed it in 1hr 17 minutes. I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve managed to achieve in the last few months with my running and in the years following scoliosis surgery. I never, ever thought I would get this far with my running/fitness and I’m so excited to see how much further I can go. 😀

I wanted to share my results from the Chester 10K to show that anything is possible if you work hard enough.

Never give up on your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.

Louise X

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Goals 2018

January Round-Up: Goals and achievements

Well I can’t believe that January is over, in some ways, it’s felt like the longest month ever… in other ways, it’s gone super fast. I thought I’d do a quick post to round up January and summarise what I have achieved this month, as part of my overall goals for 2018.


January Round-Up: Goals and achievements

In some ways, January has been a difficult month for me. At the back end of last year, my long term relationship of 13 years ended rather suddenly and I’ve been finding it all really difficult to deal with. January was therefore somewhat of a fresh start for me. I’ve moved into my own flat and I’m now living by myself for the first time ever which was kind of scary at first, but also kind of liberating.

I’m now getting used to living alone, looking after myself and focusing on what I want to achieve. I’ve always given myself multiple goals to achieve throughout the year. I find that this helps to keeps me motivated and keeps me going, which at the moment, is more important than ever.

Anywho, I wanted to list what I have achieved in January, partly to make myself feel better that I haven’t completely wasted the month moping around…!


So what goals did I achieve in January?

I have basically thrown myself into running and achieved the following…

  • Ran a 10K race (in under an hour) – Tatton Park 10k
  • Ran a 4 mile night trail run (which was VERY challenging!)
  • Joined a running club and I’ve been 3 times so far
  • Signed up to a half marathon in May
  • Signed up to loads of 10k races and running events throughout the year
  • Ran a “virtual” 10k and got a medal for that

What’s next for February?

Well, I really need to get my ass in gear and start training properly for the half marathon, as it will likely come around fast. I also need to make sure I do more strengthening exercises at the gym, such as core classes, body pump etc to support my running. I also need to start looking after myself more, eating better to support my training and cutting down on wine… boo!

What goals did you achieve in January? Let me know in the comments below!

Louise X

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Medsmart App: Review

Wow! I can’t believe that January is almost over, where has this month gone seriously?

So as part of my blog strategy for this year I want to start reviewing and recommending products and services that will benefit those of us with scoliosis and chronic pain. The other day I came across this really useful app called Medsmart, which basically reminds you to take your medications.

Now, I’m really really lucky because at the moment (touch wood) I do not need to take painkillers for my back. I manage my pain through regular exercise and only really take painkillers now and again. However, when I saw the app, I thought that some of my readers may benefit, especially if you take quite a few different painkillers for your back.

The app is free on Android and Apple and once you download and register you are greeted with your medicine cabinet (shown below)..

Medsmart

 

 

It lets you add your conditions, scan in your medicines and set reminders for when you take them. It’s really easy to use and I think if you take several medications it would be really useful. You can also set up multiple profiles and medicine cabinets which would be useful for families for example.

Anyway, just thought the app looked good and might be useful to my readers so if you are interested in trying it out, it can be downloaded for free below:

Medsmart Meds & Pill Reminder

 


Have you tried Medsmart or any other medication trackers? What did you think? What can you recommend? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Louise X

 

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Reasons to try Virtual Running

If you’re struggling to stay motivated with exercise this January you might want to try virtual running / walking events.

My first experience of a virtual running event was when I signed up to Run up to Christmas in December. I haven’t divulged much on this blog, but to be honest I have had a pretty rough time in my personal life since I got back from China in October. I injured my shoulder in China which meant I couldn’t run, and I had some other major stuff going on too – as my long term boyfriend left me and I had to find somewhere else to live quite quickly. You may have noticed the lack of posts recently, well this is why. But I’m slowly getting back on top of things 🙂

By December, my shoulder was feeling better and with everything going on I really needed a distraction from Christmas itself. So I decided to sign up to Run up to Christmas – I figured it would give me the motivation to get back into running when it was cold and dark outside and it would also keep me busy and so I didn’t have to think about Christmas.

 


What is virtual running?

The gist of it was that I had to run at least 50km between the 1st and 25th December. It cost £12 but this went towards Mind charity, plus if you completed the challenge you got a really cool medal at the end, not to mention a sense of achievement. 🙂

With it being December and having a lot going on (I moved on 22nd December), as well as some pretty bad snow half way through the month I was pretty chuffed with myself when I managed to complete the challenge. I did do a few treadmill runs when it was bad weather but these count too! I also did Park Run on Christmas day!

I really enjoyed taking part in this virtual event and what I loved about it was the sense of community and encouragement from others taking part. There was a group on Strava and a hashtag on Instagram which meant it was easy to find and chat to others taking part in the challenge. Virtual running is also good because you choose when and where you run and you can fit it around your life and commitments. You basically run/walk/cycle and record your activities on an activity tracker such as Strava or Garmin. When you’ve completed your challenge you upload your evidence and receive your well earned medal in the post.

What I have since realised is that there are LOADS of these virtual challenges. For 2018, I have signed up to one called Your Mile Challenge and my target is to run 1,000km by the end of the year. I also signed up to a virtual 10km race in January and got a cool medal for that too! Many of these virtual running challenges will also give part of the entry fee to charity so there’s a feel good factor as well 🙂

Winter 10K medal
My January 10k medal

As part of the Your Mile Challenge, you can also sign up for monthly challenges and do a certain amount of miles or km for the month. If you meet your target you get a medal. There’s also a Facebook group where people taking part share their achievements too. You can also invite your friends to join you too which makes it more competitive and keeps you going 😀

I find these virtual running challenges really help to keep me motivated and give me a reason to get out there and run – especially when it’s cold and wet. If you’re not into running you can also walk, cycle or swim to get the miles in – it doesn’t have to be running.

I thought I’d share on my blog because I didn’t realise these virtual events and communities existed until recently but they really can be excellent for motivation if you are struggling!

I’m hoping with my target of 10 10km races and a half marathon this year, that I’ll meet my 1,000km target for the year. I’m using Strava to record my progress, if you’d like to follow me you can do so here.

Why not give it a go this winter? Alternatively, you can sign up for monthly challenges, or do what I’ve done and sign up for a yearly target.

Happy virtual running / walking!

Louise 🙂 xxx

I’d be interested to know if any of my readers have tried virtual running / walking / cycling and which ones they have tried? Let me know in the comments below! P.s. These are some of my favourites so far… 

Run up to Christmas

Your Mile Challenge 

Virtual Run Challenge

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Reasons to try Virtual Running

Tatton Park 10k

Tatton Park 10K: 1st 10K of the year…

So this year I have set myself the challenge of completing at least 10 10K races (and a half marathon… eeek!).

I feel like I really need a new challenge after The Great Wall of China and this is kind of part of that. I’m also planning some other big events later this year because I love to keep pushing myself (watch this space!)

So a couple of weeks ago (Sunday, 14th January) I completed my first 10K of the year at Tatton Park in Cheshire.

It was a good way to start the year and kick start my running again. I had a few months off from running after China as I injured my shoulder. To get back into it again, I took part in a virtual running event called Run up to Christmas in December, where I committed to run 50km between 1st – 25 December.

I also started up Park Run again later in December and even went on Christmas Day!

In all honesty, I was a bit nervous about doing this 10k so soon after Christmas. Despite the running I had done in December, I hadn’t done a 10k race since July last year.

I also hadn’t been doing more than 5k-6k in my recent runs and so wasn’t sure how I’d cope with the 10k distance. To be honest, I was planning on running this 10k at a comfortable pace and using it as more of a training run for my half marathon training.

On the day, it was an early start for a Sunday with the race starting at 9am. We arrived at about 8.20am and had time to collect our bibs and visit the toilet before the start. Tatton Park is a lovely setting with a beautiful lake and we even spotted some deer on the way round!

Overall, I found it pretty tough. It was mostly a flat course too but had a couple of sneaky, gradual, evil hills!! I was surprised at myself as I managed to maintain my Park Run pace (and in some instances go a bit quicker) for the whole 10K, when usually after Park Run I feel like there’s no way I could carry on!

It’s amazing how much more you can push yourself in a race environment. I find I always run quicker during races than I do if I’m just running by myself.

In the end I managed to complete the race in 57mins 56 seconds! This is amazing for me and pretty close to my best ever 10k time. I was really proud of myself especially as I didn’t do any specific training.

Tatton Park 10k finish

So, what’s next? I really want to improve my running further. I have signed up to a few more 10K races and a half marathon and so will need to focus on training for this over the coming months. I have also joined a running club and been a few times – I’m enjoying it so far as it’s so nice to run with others and meet like minded people.

I’m planning on documenting my half marathon training on here, so if anyone has any tips – let me know in the comments below. I’m pretty nervous about it!!

Until next time!

Louise X

 

2018 goals

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Firstly, I would like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year 🙂

I cannot believe that it is 2018, seriously where is the time going? I always use this time of year to set myself some goals for the year ahead as I find it really helps to motivate me.

I also look back at the previous year and reflect on what I’ve achieved. If you have been following my blog, you’ll know that 2017 was a huge year for me. In terms of my back, it’s the year I pushed myself the most by setting myself a massive personal challenge – to raise money and awareness of scoliosis by trekking the Great Wall of China. This was without a doubt the highlight of 2017 for me and it’s made me want to keep pushing. If I can do that, what else can I achieve? I believe I (and you!) can achieve anything I set my mind to.


So what else did I achieve in 2017?

I had a quick look at the goals I set myself in 2017 to see if I achieved them, they were as follows..

    • Focus on getting STRONG – I will be doing the 30 day plank challenge throughout January. I will also continue to go to Body Pump twice a week and gradually increase the amount of weights I can lift. I am determined to be strong enough to do a push up!! (Still can’t do those!)
    • Related to the above, I’m determined to get into Pilates too.
    • I really want to do a massive personal challenge of some kind and raise some money for Scoliosis Association while I’m at it (any ideas people? Let me know in the comments!)
    • I’m thinking of signing up to a 10K race or half marathon. A half marathon might be a bit much but I like to push myself 😉

So how did I do? Well, I completed the 30 day plank challenge. I continue to go to Body Pump classes and have noticed a dramatic increase in my strength. I still haven’t taken up Pilates though, this is something I intend to do this year for sure. I completed a massive personal challenge by trekking the Great Wall of China, and I managed to raise over £1,400. I completed not one 10K race, but I managed to do 4 10k races, a 5k mud run and a 5k colour run. I also completed 17 park runs.

My other goal was to focus on and grow this blog, and I’ve managed to increase my blog visits to over 5,000 a month (from pretty much zero!) in the space of a year by writing and following my blog strategy.


My goals for 2018

RUNNING

Complete a half marathon (huge challenge for me!)

Do at least 10 10K races / running events

Improve my running speed – target 25 mins 5K by end of the year (currently around 28mins)

Join a running club

Complete  a Tough Mudder

Go to as many park runs as I can, including trying some different ones, with the aim of reaching 50 park runs

Run 1000km in 2018


FITNESS / other challenges

Focus on increasing my strength – more body pump / strength work at the gym

Start core classes at the gym

Start Pilates classes – finally

3 peaks challenge – at least climb a few more mountains as I love Snowdon

I would love to do another massive personal challenge like Machu Picchu – watch this space!!


TRAVEL

Take at least a month off for travelling – I love travelling. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years and I feel like I’m finally at a place in my life now where I can do it and achieve my dream.


PERSONAL

Get a tattoo – something related to scoliosis and my China Challenge would be good as a reminder of what I achieved.

I’m really proud of what I have achieved with my blog in 2017 and I intend on continuing to grow it further in 2018.  I have lots of ideas and will be working on a 2018 strategy over the coming weeks but if there is any content you’d like me to include, please let me know!

Just comment below or send me a quick email. I love to hear from my readers as it really does mean a lot that people actually read it! You can also complete my quick blog survey.

Also, if you or someone you know has scoliosis and you would like to share your story or write a guest post I would love to feature it on my blog, so please get in touch 🙂 I would also love to collaborate with other bloggers in 2018 too and attend some blogger networking events.

helpformyscoliosis@hotmail.co.uk

That’s all for now,

Happy New Year!

Louise X