5 top tips for your first spin class

I can’t believe I only took my first spin class yesterday. Whilst I’ve been a keen cyclist for years, and have wanted to try spinning for months, having heard how tough it is from friends I’ve felt a little bit too intimidated to go by myself. (The woes of joining a different gym…)

spin

The great thing is that it wasn’t intimidating at all. In fact, now that I’ve tried it, I can honestly say that spinning is BRILLIANT! Loud music, a fun instructor, and some challenging intervals (I might have stayed in the saddle for one of the hill climbs…) made it a perfect weekday workout. Though I’d rather have gone to the morning session, as I’m not my best after work!

All that said, there are a few things I wish I’d known beforehand that would have helped me to get a bit more out of the class.

1) POSITION IS KEY. 

Try to avoid leaning your weight on the handlebars when out of the saddle. Instead, move back slightly so that your weight is over the saddle, and use your abs to keep yourself upright. The handlebars are really only there for balance – leaning on them too heavily won’t just hurt your wrists and hands, but can also throw your posture off, putting extra pressure on your knees. Let your core and leg muscles do the work.

 2) AVOID THE HUNCH.

Following on from the first point, focusing your weight towards the front of the bike can cause you to hunch your shoulders. Relaxing your upper body will make it easier to keep a good posture, protecting your knees and engaging your core.

3) REMEMBER YOUR KNEES.

When settling in for those long, gradual climbs, shift your weight as far back in the saddle as you can. This will take the pressure off your knees, and will get your glutes and legs working. You should also make sure that your knees don’t start to angle out to the side as you get tired – focus on your posture and form, and reduce your resistance or speed if you need to.

4) CHECK YOUR CADENCE.

The instructor will remind you of this during the class, but it’s worth bearing in mind from the start. Stick to the cadence set for each exercise; pedalling too fast will put you at risk of injuries, and won’t offer any additional benefit. It’s far better to increase your resistance, and focus on maintaining a steady rhythm.

5) ENJOY YOURSELF!

This goes without saying, but an exercise class should offer you a good time as well as a good workout! Nobody cares how sweaty you are, how fast (or slow) you’re going, or what your wobbly bits look like in lycra. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with the regulars – I sat out one of the hill climbs, and stuck with a comfortably hard cadence and speed for my fitness level. Everybody has to start somewhere! Just enjoy the music, listen to the instructor, and remember to breathe! 😉

Have you tried spinning? What tips and tricks would you add? I’d love to hear!

Advertisements

Race Review: Women Only Brutal 10

This event could have gone one of two ways.

One: The half a dozen colleagues (and my Mum) who I managed to rope in with me could have loved it, and I would feel smug for having found a few more people to drag along to various running events through the year. (As if they’d stop at just one – we all know how addictive running can be!)

Two: They could have hated it, and never trusted me again. Very possible.

How I managed to convince them in the first place, I don’t know. Running 10k through waist-high mud and ice-cold water and up hills in the middle of January doesn’t sound hugely appealing on paper. The event website didn’t entirely help my cause:

The Women’s race is set for the coldest and wettest time of the year so you can be assured of all the elements contained in a true Brutal race. We have a fantastic Brutal course which is designed with two x 5km laps, which allows runners to get the maximum sogginess, mud and climb available. The climb on the course comprises of short sharp hills, the wet will be in abundance with many large and long water areas and the mud will make even the lightest trail racers feel like lead.’

Especially when a couple of said workmates had never run 10k before, so would have to train for the event beforehand – pushing through the early ‘why am I doing this I hate running everything hurts LUCY YOU SUCK!’ stages without pulling out.

Luckily, I was sensible and signed them up and got their money before I sent them the link to the event website.

We lost one along the way, but last Saturday we were 6 strong, and felt suitably badass (and a bit concerned) when we clocked the temperatures – -3 the night before, with highs of 5 degrees that day. Ouch.

The event had a great atmosphere, with loads of people in fancy dress and war paint. Luckily, there were plenty of Brutal newbies, so we didn’t feel out of place! There were also tons of portaloos, and the registration and bag drop process was quick and painless. The warmup was great, led by one of the military guys (though we couldn’t hear him very well, and instead just copied what the people around us were doing).

B8G0mv4CQAAVuo3

Can’t take credit for this photo – check it out on Twitter.

Within a kilometre or two, we were into the first water section. My initial reaction was ‘so much for waist high!’ and also, ‘holy ****, COLD!’

The water sections were iced over at the start, and had to be broken up by a Range Rover before the runners set off; when we reached them, there were still huge chunks of ice floating past us (I’m talking a cm thick and up to a foot square). Despite the cold, we were having a great time! Being a women-only event, it was all rather civilised – people moved aside to let the faster runners past, helped each other through the obstacles and chatted and laughed (and screamed!) along the way.

brutal1

Then we reached the mud. By the second lap we actually looked forward to the mud, as it was warmer than the water! However it was also very soft and deep, and if you stepped in the wrong place you would disappear up to your hips or higher. Might have made that mistake… But at least we didn’t face plant!

Brutal Women Only 2015, Long Valley #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

The army guys were brilliant at motivating us along. On the second lap, one of them headed over for a high five before shouting ‘You own this course! This course doesn’t own you!’ (Pahaha). One of my friends got a ‘DECIMATE THAT HILL!’

… Adding those to my mantras!

I’ll admit, we didn’t manage to get much of a rhythm going on this course. When we weren’t wading through water or mud, we were making our way up stupidly steep hills in the woods, over tree trunks and through rough undergrowth. It was hard work, but was broken up in the first lap as there were loads of 5k runners – we found that we had to stop and wait at most of the obstacles for the crowds to clear. Definitely appreciated the forced breaks, but if you’re going for a good time, be warned – there were lots of bottlenecks.

brutal3

After the last muddy section of the loop, you think you’ve made it – and then you turn the corner and see what looked like a river ahead of you. It was deep, wide, and extremely cold. (The momentarily-can’t-breathe kind of cold).

Brutal Women Only 2015, Long Valley #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

After that, it was just a few metres to the finish line, where they announced each runner as they came through. Lovely touch! They had water, squash and bananas for us at the finish – and volunteers were peeling the bananas for us as we were so cold and stiff!

It’s worth noting that there are no changing facilities at the event – people were just getting changed in the car park. Believe me, you’ll be so eager to get into some warm dry clothes that you won’t care by the time you get back to the car!

Overall, we LOVED this event – and are already looking for others to sign up for! If you’re interested, you can find more information on the Brutal Run website.

If you need more motivation, the medal and tshirts are brilliant:

brutal5

Paris Marathon Training: Over half way!

(Well ok, technically I’ve still got weeks and weeks to go – but I’m over the 13.1 mark!)

The past couple of long runs have been a bit of a way off what I thought I’d be capable of by now. Lots of 12:00+ minute miles, heavy legs, aches, pains and grumbling.

As a result, I was quite nervous when I headed out this morning for 14 miles – I had no idea if my body would even cooperate over that sort of distance. But I figured I’d give it a go anyway (despite the SNOW as I left home!)

Miles 1-3 were uncomfortable, to say the least. I was supposed to do the first 10k as an out-and-back along the river path, but it was iced over, so I turned round and headed for my standard (hilly!) loop instead. My calves were extremely tight, and my legs were aching and heavy – I was really worried that I’d have to cut the run short. The weather went from snow, to sleet, to rain, to wind, to rain, to (finally) sunshine.

Miles 4-5 were better – after a few breaks to stretch out the niggles, my legs loosened up a bit and things started to settle. Still a bit tired and heavy, though.

I met my friend at 5 miles, as she wanted to run a 10k (I was supposed to do 7-8 before I met her, but thanks to the route change and various breaks I fell behind a little.) Chatting took my mind off the legs, and we settled into a comfortable pace quite quickly, which was nice. A runner passed us in the opposite direction at about 8 miles and my friend called out ‘HIGH FIVE, DUDE!’ (it worked), which made me laugh out loud. Just what you need on a long run! 🙂

It was at this point that I went to take one of my gels, only to realise it went out of date last June. Running fail. Luckily, by tweaking my route a little I could stop off at Sainsburys for CHOCOLATE at the 10 mile mark – obviously the most effective substitute 😉 This meant that this was the furthest I’d run since Brighton without a gel, and I was pretty impressed to find that I felt pretty comfortable from miles 6-10 without one! Peanut butter on toast for breakfast was clearly a good call.

14milesI counted my friend down to the end of her 10k, which was mile 11 for me – and she waved me off for the last 3. Those were a lot tougher than the rest, and I ended up taking a short walking break almost every half mile. At 13, I passed her (we were doing laps of the park – her walking, me running/jogging/shuffling) and she gave me a cheer, which was hilarious but brilliant 🙂 When I saw her next, I was 0.9 miles from the end and she jogged alongside me, with a ’14 miles! Yeah! You can do this!’ and a bit of a whoop and a cheer. Got quite a few looks for that, but it gave me the energy to pick up the pace for the last stretch! (Why can’t every run come with a cheer squad!?)

When I looked at my Garmin, I saw that my final mile was under 12:00 – a great sign, given that the last 2 were shorter runs and much slower. But it wasn’t until I got home and uploaded my run data that I realised just how much of an improvement this week was:

14m split

An average pace of 11:32 (30 seconds/mile off last week’s moving pace average, despite the breaks), and an average moving pace of 11:14!

I was even more excited to see that the average moving pace of FIVE of those miles was under 11:00, and only one was over 12:00!

I guess the hard work is finally starting to pay off 😀

 

Paris Marathon Training: Long run #3

Yesterday, I managed my first double-digit run since Brighton.

This time, I made sure I went out earlier in the day, so that I could make the most of the river path and the disused railway (now a footpath/bridle path) that stretches from Shalford all the way down towards the south coast. As I had 12 miles on the plan, my turn-around point was just short of Cranleigh.

The river path was a whole lot of this:

run12-0

Somehow, I managed to NOT fall flat on my face – so there’s that!

After about 2 miles, I turned off the river path to join the footpath:

run12-1

Last year, I did almost all of my training runs on pavements along main roads and residential streets. Whilst running off-road is a little tougher on the legs, and takes a bit more concentration, it’s SO worth it. I’ve always been an avid road runner, but the miles and miles of beautiful. peaceful countryside might just convert me! It’s a shame that it’s too dark to run this route during the week 😦

I was extremely lucky this weekend, as I managed to convince my boyfriend to cycle (well ok, there was quite a lot of free-wheeling…) alongside me for company. What a difference it makes when you have someone smiley and chatty to keep you going on a long run! Plus, it meant highlights like him accidentally squirting one of my gels down his front when I offered him some 😉 However, it’s worth noting that when a very tired runner says ‘are we nearly back to the road?’ a better response than ‘eeerm, probably?’ is something like, ‘YEP! Also, you’re super awesome!’ (P.S., you’re allowed to lie).

The first half flew by, especially as the river path was so slippery and muddy – good distraction! It was also surprisingly busy – I spent the first mile or so dodging walkers and cyclists and dogs (one dog ran right into me, though luckily that was on the footpath rather than inches from the river…), and trying to keep my footing in the mud and puddles. (Good practice for the Brutal 10! Eeek!)

run12-2

I’d stashed some dark chocolate along with a second water bottle in my boyfriend’s rucksack, and had some at half-way. It was a brilliant little treat after 6 cold miles! And I think my body is still getting used to the gels. I made the mistake last week of taking one in a single go, forgetting that I need to take them in small doses over about half a mile to prevent a stitch. Luckily, I tend to only make mistakes like that once!

I’ve been taking it easy on the long runs so far, as I’m still trying to adjust to the training volume after having 2 weeks off over Christmas (boo, cold!) But I’m feeling stronger every run, and the post-run recovery is going well – though I should probably foam roll and stretch a bit more! I managed to keep my splits fairly consistent yesterday:

12m

Check out the average moving pace for miles 9 and 10! Skills!

Whilst I want to eventually get my long runs back down to the 10:30-11:00/mile mark, for now I’m happy to leave the speedier miles for the mid-week sessions 🙂

Training for a second marathon

There are upsides and downsides to training for your second marathon, compared to your first.

One the upside, you know what to expect.

On the downside … You know what to expect.

I’m only into week 3 of my marathon training plan, and it’s already had all manner of ups and downs. Week 1 – Christmas week – was spent fighting off a nasty cold, with all of the Lemsip, Strepsils, ‘hot toddys’ (port, hot water, brown sugar and cloves – genius!) and cups of tea I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, the cold lasted the best part of 2 weeks – so with Week 1 written off completely, Week 2 started off with a 4.5 mile walk along the Devon coast:

devon1

.. Which was followed by an unpromising 2 miler on the Tuesday with my Uncle. It was icy and freezing cold, even in the number of layers I had on, but luckily the cough held off until I got home, and I managed the 2 miles (with a steep hill thrown in) without walking breaks.

Did I really run a marathon less than a year ago? What happened!?

On Sunday, I gave the long run a go. Having missed the first one (and having slacked on the base building), I aimed for 9. I managed 9.4 – they were slow, uncomfortable and miserable, but they were better than nothing.

run1

I was quite pleased with myself, given the lack of training over the weeks beforehand!

Then I heard that my friend (running her first marathon in Paris with me) had managed a 12 mile run at my 10k PB pace. Suddenly, all of my insecurities and worries came back.

Has missing the first 2 weeks of training set me back too far? Will I still be able to reach my goals for Paris? What if my speed doesn’t come back?…

Having run Brighton last year, I know how much training I need. I didn’t do enough last time round, and I found the marathon much harder than I should have. I know that if I don’t knuckle down and start ticking off my training sessions, I’m going to struggle in Paris. I can already feel myself slipping into the same pattern as last year, and I need to snap out of it and push just a little bit harder. After all, it’s more than worth it – there’s no better feeling than training hard, and having it pay off on the day. Surrey half was that race for me in 2014 (SO excited to run it again this year!) – and I really want Paris to be even better.

Last summer, another friend and I started running to work again once a week, after a 2 month break. The first week was awful, and we averaged over 12 minute miles; but by week five, we were consistently under the 11:00/mile mark, and the love for running was starting to come back. I think that’s what I miss, more than anything – the joy I used to find in lacing up my shoes and heading out for a few miles. But then my friend’s words came back to me:

But our fitness .. We’re chasing it down right now! And each run we do, we’re catching it up!

At the end of the day, I know I’ve got it in me. I just need to get on with it – and leave the panic for the taper!

Are you training for anything at the moment? How’s it going?